Monday, September 24, 2007

The (Literal) Costs of Doping

Given the state of doping in cycling, I spent some time this summer researching what it would take to establish a drug testing regimen for our training group. Gordo posted the article here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My buddy Nich, me, Bob, Larry, and Charlie

The applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort.
American Heritage Dictionary

The last few weeks have been a combination of easing back into pediatric orthopaedics and writing/thinking about human performance. One of the topics that I’ve been writing about is bike fitting. You will see some upcoming blogs about the evolution of my bike position since my first Ironman and my experience with my bike fit with Dr. Andy Pruitt. I have to admit that this is particularly on my mind because my back has been a wreck over the past few weeks. After a summer free of any discomfort, my back has been killing me since the coast to coast drive from Penticton, BC to Winston-Salem NC. Unfortunately it hasn’t eased up. The mental yearning of wanting to head out for a spin on my bike is greatly outweighed by the literal pain in my back. Combine that discomfort with the more aggressive position on my P3 and you might conclude that I haven’t been out much since IMC.

But the legs and mind vetoed the backs misgivings this weekend and I went out for one of our staple IM triathlon rides on Saturday with my buddy Nick. I had intended to go out on my own for an easy couple of hours, but he convinced me to go with him as he was riding with a couple of older cyclists in town.

Fortunately I didn’t know either of these guys well beforehand or I would have likely bailed right from the start. Bob is a 65 y.o. multiple time age state cycling road and TT champion and Larry is a 67 y.o. equally accomplished cyclist (I didn’t get an opportunity to get your racing results—sorry Larry). Both have similar backgrounds in that they were competitive marathoners into their 40’s before taking up cycling and smashing the rest of the master’s cyclists. Bob is a retired DVM (veterinarian) and Larry retired from the construction business. Both are incredibly nice guys and really a joy to ride with. What was impressive to me was their ability to combine a comfortable, yet powerful bike position that allowed them to push up big inclines in their aerobars. I’ve only seen a couple of people who can ride hills comfortably in the aerobars as well as these guys (one who comes to mind is a guy who smashes IM bike courses with ease and hails from a Nordic country on the Scandinavian peninsula).

This experience substantiated my bike fit ideas that are the culmination of both experiences italicized above. That is, to continue riding healthy into the next few decades, I need to find a position that doesn’t place tremendous strain on my flexibility and structure. For some, this will also be aerodynamic. For those of us who are less flexible, we are likely better off in a position that is ergonomic. In an endurance event like Ironman, reducing the fatigue and strain on your body will pay dividends at the end of the day.

This is a tough realization for a guy that wants to ride faster and who reads slowtwitch. But, I also know that the countless hours spent in a position that results in increased strain on my system is unlikely to be one that allows me to remain healthy enough to continue to enjoy the sport. If, in the long run, the 5 minutes I lose in an IM bike split gains me a few decades on the bike like my cycling buddies, I will happily make that exchange.

Larry was kind enough to provide a link to our cycling route. We usually begin and end the ride from town, so it is about 20 more miles. But for those who want a link to our Bakery route with elevation, check out this link.

So here’s to Bob & Larry. Thanks for the great ride and confirmation that riding my bike will lend itself to balance in the coming years.


Monday, September 10, 2007

End of Summer Progress Report

There have been 2 events that have radically changed my triathlon experience. The above picture is John and I following completion of the first one, Epic Camp 2005. I have some very fond memories of that year...

Progress Report
I’ve had many people’s dream summer, spending nearly every day the past four months constantly learning about endurance training in a real life lab. I surrounded myself with folks who have real life knowledge about “what it takes” to succeed in Ironman racing. I spent time gathering their individual accounts of the training methods and the recovery techniques required to progress in the sport. I sincerely thank all the members of Team Good Guys for their patience and openness this summer.

Many of these experiences have been accounted on preceding and upcoming entries. The cliff notes for the summer don’t do justice to the personal experience. Some might be disappointed to find that I don’t have any new found wisdom to become more fit and race fast. Most of those who “are in the know” might not find this surprising. To quote a good friend of mine, “there is no easy way”. This applies to becoming fit, losing weight, or racing fast. Though there are quirks and nuances about every successful person’s path, but they are similar in that Ironman success demands years of persistence and consistent, progressive training.

Some might disagree…there are those out there who report fantastic success on little training and no significant triathlon background. And to be fair, none of our training group is considered a “superstar”…you know, the guy or girl who wins an Ironman on 1st or 2nd attempt. So perhaps my experience is skewed by my lack of association with this sort of individual. But I’m satisfied short of these few exceptions with my assessment.

Without exception, Team Good Guys had great results this year…, Gordo padded his racing palmare with another win at the Napa Half IM, Justin Daerr reach the 9:00 barrier at IMC, Brandon took 1st Elite at Racine and 2nd Elite at LifeTime Fitness, Dennis took at 11th age grouper at Buffalo Springs half, and Billy Edwards went top 10 at CdA and got a Kona pro spot. I believe these collective experiences are valuable because they represent the gains that are possible by those willing to work hard. I can substantiate that this type of success is possible for those who surround themselves with the proper support and have a desire to improve.

Though I can’t provide a new training plan or regimen that is going to revolutionize the sport, the experience has given me the opportunity to recognize the nuances that assist in continued improvement or lead to subsequent failure. I don’t anticipate the learning process will ever stop, but I feel this summer was replete with invaluable lessons.

I was also fortunate to gain additional perspectives from athletes who dropped into train intermittently. Tim Luchinske, Marilyn MacDonald, Chris McDonald (who won his first Ironman at Kentucky this past month), Brent Sheldrake, Mark van Aaken and many others shared some their experiences. The recurring theme repeated itself in that each of their successes were the result of remaining healthy over a long period of time in order to gain the aerobic endurance to continually improve.

I learned an invaluable lesson as well from Monica Byrn. She comes closer than any of the above of meeting the criteria of a superstar. After a stellar, record setting swim background in high school and college she had immediate success in short course triathlon. After an unfortunate bike wreck resulting in a shattered wrist, she switched to long course to avoid the bike hazards inherent to short course racing. Her impact in long course triathlon was equally impressive, leading IM Hawaii multiple times before ending up with a top finishes. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury has hampered her for the past couple of years and has been recalcitrant to every traditional treatment method. Observation of her continuing recovery has been educational: the elite athlete’s frustration of injury, the failure of the medical profession to facilitate her road to recovery, and the mental fortitude necessary to persist down that path.

Another good friend and mentor experienced a similar physical setback this year, Kevin Purcell. His recovery mirror’s Monica’s in the positive mental approach required to progress forward, over and around life’s obstacles.

My experience has been influenced beyond my immediate circle. I spent time with Mat Dixon at the Endurance Performance Training Center in San Francisco and he has been gracious in lending his expertise. They have an incredible team and a first rate operation. Anyone interested in improving their performance that lives on the West Coast should take the opportunity to spend some time there.

Locally, I got a 3-D bike fit with Dr. Andy Pruitt and Todd Carver at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. They have the highest level of technical gadgetry available to accurately assess and successfully incorporate medical expertise into your fitness program. This is an exciting area for me as it compliments my interest and background equally.

Amidst the current affairs in cycling, my interest in the illegal practices of doping was piqued. Dr. Steffen Presten (team physician for the top US cycling program, Slipstream) referred me to their experts on the matter. They educated me on the reality of PED testing. The complexity of maintaining a clean sport is overwhelming and a real challenge. My take on these last 2 experiences will be forthcoming in articles for the Alternative Perspectives column on Gordoworld.

The experience isn’t over and I look forward to trips planned to the USOC training center, additional bike fitting instruction from Dan Empfield, and more practical experience with testing protocols. Stay tuned.