Category Archives: trialthon

Runner’s gadgets

I dream of gadgets that keep track of training I used to log. Then upload it to my computer and it does all the analysis and planning for me. I shoot out of bed awakening from the deep dream state, shaking my head of the fog…reality begins to set in as I look at the log book.

Here’s a not-so-dramatic excerpt from The Runner’s Edge, regarding runner’s gadgets and is with the permission of Human Kinetics.

‘The stop watch may become the “8-track” of the running world, but that doesn’t mean runners need to be tech geeks to keep up. Stephen McGregor, PhD, lead author of The Runner’s Edge (Human Kinetics, 2010), claims that by using speed and distance devices, runners of all levels can maximize performance.

“If you can work a stopwatch, you can learn how to manage your performance effectively with a speed and distance device,” says McGregor. “And don’t worry: This process will not strip running of its charming simplicity.”

A speed and distance device measures elapsed time, distance covered, speed/pace, and elevation change. Many devices also have the capability to estimate calories burned and monitor heart rate-and some even track changes in VO2max.

McGregor claims that the real benefit to speed and distance devices, however, does not show up on the device, but on a runner’s computer. “The power of the devices really begins with downloading workout data from the device to the computer,” he explains. “Performance management software allows you to determine appropriate pace targets for all of your workouts and refine those targets as your fitness changes.”

McGregor gives advice to people who are interested in purchasing a speed and distance device. He and coauthor Matt Fitzgerald analyzed the five basic brands on the market.

Garmin — The manufacturer of GPS devices includes the GPS inside the wrist display unit. The authors give Garmin’s Forerunner line high marks for accuracy, reliability and ease of use. Some Garmin speed and distance devices can be mounted on a bike handlebar and used as a cycling computer.

Nike — The Nike+, developed with the Apple computer company, sold nearly half a million units in its first three months on the market in 2006, and almost all Nike running shoes are Nike+ compatible. The authors, however, warn that the Nike+ is not suitable for more serious performance management because it becomes increasingly inaccurate as the runner’s speed varies from the pace run during initial calibration. “We recommend that Nike fans wanting to commit to digital performance management purchase the Triax Elite,” says McGregor.

Polar — Runners who place great importance on measuring heart rate while running should consider Polar, according to the authors. Polar integrates a heart-rate monitor with each of its speed and distance devices and McGregor and Fitzgerald believe they are the best heart-rate monitors on the market. One of Polar’s speed and distance devices has options that allow it to function as a bike computer and power meter. The authors also commend Polar’s performance management application, Polar Personal Trainer, hosted online at www.polarpersonaltrainer.com.

Suunto — A latecomer to the speed and distance device market, experts widely agree that Suunto running products are as high quality as any. One of Suunto’s unique advanced features estimates excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) and use these data to calculate the training effect of each workout.

Timex — The display watch aspect of Timex’s speed distance devices makes them a good choice for runners who place a high value on the wrist display quality. “They are light and stylish enough to be worn all day, they have the ‘takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’ factor,’ and they have a better variety of information display options than other devices,” says McGregor. “You can even configure your own custom display so that the watch shows the information you want to see where you want to see it.”

Each model comes with performance management software, but McGregor also highlights Training Peaks WKO+, which works with all speed and distance devices. Training Peaks has cooperative relationships with most of the device manufacturers, who readily admit that WKO+ is far more powerful and sophisticated than their own performance management offerings, according to McGregor. “Because of this fact, and because you can create a basic Training Peaks account for free, we encourage every runner who uses a speed and distance device to also use Training Peaks WKO+, whether or not they use their device-specific performance management application as well,” he adds.

In addition to specific device guidance, The Runner’s Edge includes sample training plans and periodization guidelines–scalable to various fitness levels–for 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon runners. A special chapter for triathletes explains how to integrate swim, bike, and run training within a unified performance management system.’

Rules of Training

For many, this is the season they rest or maybe you’re thinking about racing next year.  If you’re coming off a long rest or starting here are the “Cardinal Rule of Training” excerpt from Joe Friel.  Although this excerpt is about cycling, the principles apply to fitness in general.  This excerpt from Cycling Past 50 is reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.

“Since 1971, I’ve trained and coached athletes in a variety of sports
with abilities ranging from beginner to professional. Some became
national- and world-class competitors; others achieved less impressive,
but no less important, personal goals. All improved their physical
abilities in some way.

I don’t know who learned more – me or
them. My lessons came from observing how small changes in training
brought big results. Some riders obviously had a lot of potential when
they came to me. They were highly motivated and did challenging
workouts, but for some reason they weren’t getting all they could from
training. At first this was perplexing. How could athletes with such
great potential achieve so little? After years of reviewing hundreds of
training logs, I began to see patterns and understand why a person with
latent ability was not coming close to attaining it. He or she was
breaking one of what I call the Cardinal Rules of Training.

No
matter what you want from riding, there are three rules you must obey.
Breaking any of these means, at best, limited improvement, and, at
worst, overtraining and loss of fitness. The Cardinal Rules of Training
are as follows:

  • Rule 1. Ride consistently.
  • Rule 2. Ride moderately.
  • Rule 3. Rest frequently.

These may seem overly simple. Sometimes, however, the most
important things in life are the simplest. Such is the case with
training.

Rule 1 is based on the premise that nothing does
more to limit or reduce fitness than missed rides. The human body
thrives on regular patterns of living. When cycling routinely and
uniformly progressing for weeks, months, and years, fitness steadily
improves. Interruptions from injury, burnout, illness, and overtraining
cause setbacks. Each setback means a substantial loss of cycling
fitness and time reestablishing a level previously attained.
Inconsistent riding is like pushing a boulder up a hill only to see it
roll back down before reaching the top – frustrating.

Riders
who violate the first rule of training are usually frustrated. The
solution to their problem is simple: Train consistently. “Okay,” they
say, “but how do I do that?” Good question, and that leads to the other
Cardinal Rules. The second Rule, ride moderately, is the first step in
becoming more consistent. This one usually scares highly motivated,
hard-charging cyclists. They can see themselves noodling around the
block in slow motion and not even working up a sweat. However, that’s
not what moderate means.

Moderate riding is that level of
training to which your body is already adapted, plus about 10 percent.
For example, if the longest recent ride is 40 miles, then a reasonable
increase is to 45 miles next week. That’s moderate. A 60-mile ride
would not be moderate and could lead to something bad, such as an
injury or overtraining that forces several days off the bike and a
lapse in consistency. Another moderate change is steadily progressing
from riding flat terrain to rolling hills, to riding longer hills, to
riding steep and long hills. Going from riding on the flats to steep,
long hills is not moderate.

Consistent riding also requires
frequent resting. That means planning rest at the right times, such as
after challenging rides or hard weeks. Chapter 7 discusses this
misunderstood concept in greater detail. Rest taken in adequate doses
and at appropriate times produces consistent training and increased
fitness.

Even though the Cardinal Rules of Training are basic,
if you follow them, fitness will improve regardless of what else you do
on the bike. They are deceptively simple to read about; incorporating
them into training is a different matter. At first, it may be difficult
to ride moderately and rest frequently. Keep working at it. Old habits
are hard to break. When you initially train this way, it’s better to
err on the side of being conservative with moderation and rest if
you’re a rider who has frequent breakdowns and missed workouts. With
experience you’ll become better at determining what is right for you.

Although what we have discussed so far came strictly from experience,
the following basic components of training come mostly from science.

F.I.T. for Riding
Even though moderation is necessary, it’s obvious that a portion of
your riding must be somewhat stressful to cause a positive change in
fitness. Moderate stress comes from carefully manipulating three
workout variables:

  • Frequency – how often to ride
  • Intensity – how hard to ride
  • Time – how long to ride

Frequency
The first question to ask
at the start of a week is, “How often should I ride?” Training to race,
for example, in the United States Cycling Federation’s national
age-group championship, requires a different response to this question
than if the goal is general health and fitness. The higher the goal for
ultimate performance, the more often you need to ride.

Potential is an elusive concept: an ability that is possible but not
yet realized. None of us ever knows how close we are to our potential.
We do know, however, that getting there demands many sacrifices, one of
which involves being on a bike several times a week instead of sitting
in front of a TV nibbling on potato chips. When it comes to frequency,
there are suggested minimums and maximums, depending on goals. If your
reasons for riding are strictly health and basic fitness, the minimum
number of rides each week is three. This assumes you ride only and
don’t cross train. Because training in other aerobic sports has a
cardiovascular benefit, you could get away with riding less frequently
and still improve the most basic elements of health and fitness.

Other than achieving high levels of fitness, another frequency issue is
how to get in shape the fastest. When first starting to train on a
bike, five or six rides each week will cause the most rapid change in
fitness. Scientific research shows an increase in aerobic capacity, one
measure of fitness, of about 43 percent for novices training this
frequently. Three to four rides each week bring a 20- to 25-percent
improvement.

If you already have a high aerobic capacity from
many weeks of consistent training, all you need to maintain it is four
rides a week. High-performance racers, however, usually ride five to
seven times a week.

Intensity
Regardless
of training frequency and time, the single most critical training
variable is how hard and fast you ride. There are several ways of
measuring intensity. The one you’re most likely to have available is
heart rate. The greatest changes in aerobic capacity come from training
at high heart rates, in excess of 90 percent of maximum. Although the
highly motivated athlete often seeks such benefits, frequent training
over 90 percent of maximum heart rate obviously violates the Cardinal
Rule of moderation and will eventually lead to inconsistency and loss
of fitness.

The key to cycling intensity is knowing when to
ride at higher heart rates and when to slow down. So, 90 percent plus
is the high side, but what about the low end? Riding less than 50
percent of maximum heart rate has little or no impact on aerobic
fitness. Such low-effort riding is of little physiological value
except, perhaps, for recovery.

Getting intensity right is the
trickiest aspect of training. Later, this chapter will teach you how to
use a heart rate monitor, and chapters 5 and 6 will pull all pieces of
the training puzzle together with suggested routines based on riding
goals.

Time
The duration of your rides is
the second most effective variable in improving fitness. In fact,
there’s good reason to believe that longer, slower workouts are
equivalent to shorter, faster training sessions in improving aerobic
capacity. Because lower intensity workouts are easier on the body, most
athletes and coaches recommend building a base of endurance with long,
steady rides before starting to do high-intensity workouts, such as
intervals, later in the training year.

The length of your
rides depends on what you’re used to. In your first five years of
cycling, you should be able to increase riding mileage or time by about
10 percent over the previous year’s volume. However, if you’ve ridden
for several years, there’s a limit to how many miles you need to
improve. Through experience, you may have already discovered that limit
- due primarily to an inability to recover and go again.”

Connection between diet and muscle cramping

Base training starts soon if it hasn’t already which brings on longer bouts of exercise.  The longer you go, you more you need to know how your body’s chemical reactions are happening. This excerpt from Vegetarian Sports Nutrition is reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.

“If you look at the information presented in most exercise physiology
and sports nutrition books, you will notice an obvious omission of
discussions of muscle cramps. This is probably because little is known
about muscle cramps. Nonetheless, I am a true believer that imbalances
of fluid or the mineral electrolytes—sodium, potassium, calcium, and
magnesium—in the diet should be ruled out as contributors to all
nocturnal and exercise-associated cramps.

Fluid Imbalances and Dehydration
Whether fluid imbalances and mild dehydration can trigger muscle
cramping is open to debate. Although we know that muscle cramps can and
do occur with severe dehydration and heat injury, there is no
conclusive evidence that consuming adequate fluid with or without
electrolytes will prevent typical nocturnal or exercise-associated
cramping. In fact, studies have found that runners, cyclists, and
triathletes who develop cramps during an endurance event are no more
likely to be dehydrated or to have lost greater amounts of bodily water
than are those who do not develop cramps during the same race. In my
practice, however, I have noted anecdotally that maintaining a proper
fluid balance indeed helps many endurance and team athletes avoid
cramps, particularly those that occur after exercise or when sleeping
at night. In one case, I worked with a male tennis player from
Switzerland who had a history of severe cramping and fatigue after
practice that was relieved by a regular and diligent fluid-consumption
schedule. In her book, well-known sport nutritionist Nancy Clark tells
an amusing story about a runner who eliminated his painful muscle
cramps by following the simple postexercise advice to first drink water
for fluid replacement and then have a beer for social fun.

Sodium
Sodium is one of the main positively charged mineral ions or
electrolytes in body fluid. The body needs it to help maintain normal
body-fluid balance and blood pressure, and in conjunction with several
other electrolytes, it is critical for nerve impulse generation and
muscle contraction. Sodium is distributed widely in nature but is found
in rather small amounts in most unprocessed foods. In most developed
countries, however, a significant amount of sodium is added from the
salt shaker (1 teaspoon [6 g] contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium) or
by food manufacturers in processing (as listed on the food label).
Because sodium intake can vary, the typical Western diet contains 10 to
12 grams of salt (3.9 to 4.7 g of sodium) per day.

Because
sodium plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and fluid
and electrolyte balance, the body has an effective mechanism to help
regulate the levels of sodium in the blood on a variety of sodium
intakes. If the sodium concentration in the blood starts to drop, a
series of complex events leads to the secretion of a hormone called
aldosterone, which signals the kidneys to retain sodium. If sodium
levels are too high, aldosterone secretion is inhibited, which allows
the kidneys to eliminate some sodium through urination. Another
hormone, called antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also helps
maintain normal sodium levels in body fluids by signaling the kidney to
retain water and sodium. Typically, levels of both aldosterone and ADH
increase during exercise, which helps conserve the body’s water and
sodium stores.

Actual sodium-deficient states caused by
inadequate dietary sodium are not common because the body’s regulatory
mechanisms are typically very effective. Humans even have a natural
appetite for salt, which helps assure that they take in enough sodium
to maintain sodium balance. Indeed, I have great memories of eating
salty tortilla chips wet with a little water—so more salt would
stick—after long cycling races in Arizona. Thankfully, these
sodium-conserving mechanisms are activated in athletes who lose
excessive sodium and other electrolytes during prolonged sweating.

Although muscle cramps are reported to occur during the
sodium-deficient state, some researchers believe that alterations in
sodium balance are not involved in exercise-associated cramps. This is
despite the fact that significantly lower postexercise serum sodium
concentrations have been found in endurance athletes who experienced
cramps during a race compared to those who did not develop cramps. One
of the reasons this is downplayed may be because serum sodium
concentrations remain within the normal range, despite being
significantly lower in the athletes with muscle cramps.

Nevertheless, it is important for athletes to consume enough sodium to
replace what is lost through sweat. Despite the regulatory mechanisms
discussed earlier, it is possible for vegetarian athletes to be at risk
for muscle cramps and other problems because of low sodium intake. The
reason is most likely because they ignore their salt craving
cues—eating mostly unprocessed and unsalted foods—while continuing to
lose considerable salt through sweating. The recommendation set by the
USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep sodium intake to 2.3
grams or less per day is not appropriate for most athletes because of
their higher sodium losses. Thus, while it is not likely that low
sodium intake is the cause of cramps in most athletes, it is certainly
possible that a vegetarian athlete prudently following a low-sodium
diet for health reasons might experience muscle cramps that would be
relieved with more liberal use of the salt shaker.

Potassium
Potassium is the major electrolyte found inside all body cells,
including muscle and nerve cells. It works in close association with
sodium and chloride in the generation of electrical impulses in the
nerves and the muscles, including the heart muscle. Potassium is found
in most foods, but is especially abundant in fresh vegetables,
potatoes, certain fruits (melon, bananas, berries, citrus fruit), milk,
meat, and fish.

Potassium balance, like sodium balance, is
regulated by the hormone aldosterone. A high serum potassium level
stimulates the release of the hormone aldosterone, which leads to
increased potassium excretion by the kidneys into the urine. A decrease
in serum potassium concentration elicits a drop in aldosterone
secretion and hence less potassium loss in the urine. As with sodium
and calcium, potassium is typically precisely regulated, and
deficiencies or excessive accumulation are rare. Potassium
deficiencies, however, can occur with conditions such as fasting,
diarrhea, and regular diuretic use. In such cases, low blood–potassium
concentrations, called hypokalemia, can lead to muscle cramps
and weakness, and even cardiac arrest caused by impairment in the
generation of nerve impulses. Similarly, high blood–potassium
concentrations, or hyperkalemia, are also not common but can
occur in people who take potassium supplements far exceeding the
recommended daily allowance. High blood–potassium concentrations can
also disturb electrical impulses and induce cardiac arrhythmia.

Even though little evidence is available to support a link between
potassium intake and muscle cramps, it is quite interesting that most
athletes—and non-athletes alike—think that the banana is the first line
of defense in preventing muscle cramps. If only it were that simple.
Furthermore, athletes following vegetarian diets are not likely to
experience muscle cramping as a result of low potassium intake because
the vegetarian diet provides an abundance of potassium. An athlete who
is recovering from an intestinal illness, restricting calories, or
taking diuretics or laxatives should, nevertheless, make an effort to
consume potassium-rich foods, particularly if he or she is experiencing
muscle cramping. Because of the dangers of hyperkalemia, potassium
supplements are not recommended unless closely monitored by a
physician. The recommended daily intake for potassium is 4,700
milligrams per day for adults.

Calcium
As discussed in chapter 6, the vast majority of calcium found in the
body is found in the skeleton where it lends strength to bone. Calcium,
however, is involved in muscle contractions, including that of the
heart, skeletal muscles, and smooth muscle found in blood vessels and
intestines, as well as the generation of nerve impulses. Blood calcium
is tightly controlled and regulated by several hormones, including
parathyroid hormone and vitamin D.

Although impaired muscle
contraction and muscle cramps are commonly listed as symptoms of
calcium deficiency, many exercise scientists feel that low calcium
intake is not likely to play a role in most muscle cramps. This is
because if dietary calcium intake were low, calcium would be released
from the bones to maintain blood concentrations and theoretically
provide what would be needed for muscle contraction. This thinking,
however, does not completely rule out the possibility that muscle
cramping could be caused by a temporary imbalance of calcium in the
muscle during exercise. Certainly, we know that people with inborn
errors in calcium metabolism in skeletal muscle (which will be
discussed later) are prone to muscle cramping.

Despite so
little being known about low calcium intake and muscle cramps, calcium
is one of the nutritional factors people most associate with relieving
cramps, second only to the potassium-rich banana. Although to my
knowledge studies have not assessed whether dietary or supplemental
calcium affects exercise cramps in athletes, a recent report found that
calcium supplementation was not effective in treating leg cramps
associated with pregnancy. On the other hand, anecdotal reports from
athletes are common. Nancy Clark tells of a hiker who resolved muscle
cramps by taking calcium-rich Tums and of a ballet dancer whose
cramping disappeared after adding milk and yogurt to her diet. Because
calcium intake can be low in the diet of some vegans and vegetarians,
inadequate calcium should also be ruled out in vegetarians experiencing
muscle cramps.

Magnesium
In addition
to its role in bone health, magnesium plays an important role in
stabilizing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source for muscle
contraction, and also serves as an electrolyte in body fluids. Muscle
weakness, muscle twitching, and muscle cramps are common symptoms of
magnesium deficiency.

Limited data have suggested that
magnesium status is indirectly related to the incidence of muscle
cramps. In these studies of endurance athletes, the athletes who
developed muscle cramps were found to have serum magnesium
concentrations that were different from their competitors who did not
cramp. The research, however, presents a confusing story because serum
magnesium was significantly lower in cyclists who cramped during a
100-mile (160 km) bike ride and significantly higher in runners who
cramped during an ultradistance race. In both studies, serum magnesium
remained within the normal range but was low-normal in the cyclists who
cramped and high-normal in the runners. Interestingly, studies in
pregnant women have found that supplementation with magnesium (taken as
magnesium lactate or magnesium citrate in doses of 5 millimoles in the
morning and 10 millimoles in the evening ) show promise for treating
pregnancy-associated leg cramps. Research, however, has not addressed
whether dietary or supplemental magnesium can prevent or reduce muscle
cramps in athletes.

Vegetarian athletes are not likely to
experience muscle cramping as a result of low magnesium intake because
the typical vegetarian diet is abundant in magnesium. Low magnesium
intake, however, is possible for people restricting calories or eating
a diet high in processed foods. Low magnesium intake should be ruled
out in cramp-prone athletes.

Carbohydrate
Inadequate carbohydrate stores have also been implicated as a potential
cause of muscle cramps. Theoretically, it makes sense that hard-working
muscles might experience cramping in association with the depletion of
its power source—carbohydrate. While all athletes should consider the
recommendations presented earlier to optimize performance, athletes
with a history of cramping during prolonged exercise should ensure that
they consume adequate carbohydrate during exercise and in the days
before and days following an endurance event.”

Physiology of tapering – in brief

It’s about that time of year where you will be racing soon if you haven’t already.  Leading up to your race, you will probably want to know or learn about tapering.  This excerpt from Tapering and Peaking for Optimal Performance is reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1

“The
main aim of the taper is to reduce the negative physiological and
psychological impact of daily training. In other words, a taper should
eliminate accumulated or residual fatigue, which translates into
additional fitness gains. To test this assumption, Mujika and
colleagues (1996a) analyzed the responses to three taper segments in a
group of national- and international-level swimmers by means of a
mathematical model, which computed fatigue and fitness indicators from
the combined effects of a negative and a positive function
representing, respectively, the negative and positive influence of
training on performance (figure 1.1). As can be observed in figure 1.1,
NI (negative influence) represents the initial decay in performance
taking place after a training bout and PI (positive influence) a
subsequent phase of supercompensation.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2

The
mathematical model indicated that performance gains during the tapering
segments were mainly related to marked reductions in the negative
influence of training, coupled with slight increases in the positive
influence of training (figure 1.2). The investigators suggested that
athletes should have achieved most or all of the expected physiological
adaptations by the time they start tapering, eliciting improved
performance levels as soon as accumulated fatigue fades away and
performance-enhancing adaptations become apparent.

The conclusions of Mujika and colleagues (1996a), drawn from real
training and competition data from elite athletes but attained by
mathematical procedures, were supported by several biological and
psychological findings extracted from the scientific literature on
tapering. For instance, in a subsequent study on competitive swimmers,
Mujika and colleagues (1996d) reported a significant correlation
between the percentage change in the testosterone-cortisol ratio and
the percentage performance improvement during a 4-week taper. Plasma
concentrations of androgens and cortisol have been used in the past as
indexes of anabolic and catabolic tissue activities, respectively
(Adlercreutz et al. 1986). Given that the balance between anabolic and
catabolic hormones may have important implications for recovery
processes after intense training bouts, the testosterone-cortisol ratio
has been proposed and used as a marker of training stress (Adlercreutz
et al. 1986, Kuoppasalmi and Adlercreutz 1985). Accordingly, the
observed increase in the testosterone-cortisol ratio during the taper
would indicate enhanced recovery and elimination of accumulated
fatigue. This would be the case regardless of whether the increase in
the testosterone-cortisol ratio was the result of a decreased cortisol
concentration (Bonifazi et al. 2000, Mujika et al. 1996c) or an
increased testosterone concentration subsequent to an enhanced
pituitary response to the preceding time of intensive training (Busso
et al. 1992, Mujika et al. 1996d, Mujika et al. 2002a).”

Ageless Athlete: 52 year old enjoys her 17th Ironman

An amazing story but aren’t all Ironman stories amazing in some regard? It’s about the personal stories, the obstacles, the triumph over themselves if nothing else.

This excerpt is reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.

Ironwoman

Laura Sophiea (born in 1955) plunged into Kailua Bay for the first
leg of the 2007 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and followed a
friend through the chaos of arms and legs splashing through the water.
Almost immediately two men-”big, rude, and mean,” as Sophiea put
it-swam over her. She panicked and began to tread water. Then she found
a pair of quick feet and followed them until the three-quarter mark
where she was kicked so hard in the nose and lips that she saw stars.
She checked for blood and kept going. Sophiea always expects tumult in
the swim of the Ironman and trains in the pool by swimming fast at the
start of her workout and then backs off a bit in the middle before
piling on strong intervals at the end to mimic the mad rush at the
conclusion of the 2.4-mile (3.9 km) swim. 

Next up, the bike. The 112-mile (180 km) ride is famous for its heat
and winds, and in 2007 it was worse than usual. Aside from a 7-mile
(11.2 km) stretch when the coastal breezes were at her back, Sophiea
was buffeted by headwinds and crosswinds over the entire course. She
saw one rider get hit by a car. Sometimes the wind was so strong over
the lava fields that it pushed her bike at will. Usually cyclists share
their annoyance as they pass each other. But on this day, they were
quiet. 

The marathon is what worried her the most. She had torn her
hamstring some three months earlier. Sophiea was 52 years old and this
was her 17th Ironman. She has fared remarkably well over the years
while training for one of the toughest endurance events in the world.
True, there was the time in 2000 when she competed in Ironman with a
broken back. And in 1991, she wondered whether she would be suitably
hydrated if she had to pull off the course and breast-feed her youngest
daughter. But the run would be a test. She had spent hours getting
massages to speed the healing of her leg. And she had practiced
visualization to help her run pain free. She had backed off on her
running from 35 miles (56 km) a week to 20 (32 km) in the final run-up
to the race. She wondered whether the lower mileage would hurt her
endurance or if all of the pounding would harm the hamstring. 

It turned out it was the front of her legs, the quadriceps, that
seemed tired as she transitioned into the run. She had already logged
nearly an eight-hour day on the course. She was in first place in her
age group. But the woman in second was only eight minutes behind.
Mentally, miles 7 to 14 were the toughest in years-there was still so
much ahead. As the miles droned on, so did the self-doubt. Why had she
taken this on again? 

She tried sipping a Coke, which helped her pick up the pace. In the
final miles, she began feeling better and started to enjoy the race. As
she neared the end, she could hear the music playing. I watched footage
of Sophiea finishing the race on Ironman’s Web site. Thousands of
people lined Alii Drive in Kona and cheered as the athletes passed. The
pace quickened as Ironman announcer Mike Reilly told the runners the
clock was closing in on 11 hours.

The men and women around her were all younger. Most of the finishers
seemed to ignore their fatigue and were bounding for joy as the end
drew near. One man brought in his children for the final yards as
athlete, son, and daughter held hands and crossed the finish line
together. 

“Laura Sophiea from Birmingham, Michigan,” Reilly shouted over the
loudspeaker as she rounded the corner and came into view. Sophiea was
running strong, wearing a white sleeveless top and black running
shorts. 

“Way to go, Laura! Course record holder right here, 50 to 54! Laura Sophiea! Breaking 11 hours!” 

Sophiea had won her age group in the Ironman again, coming in at
10:59:32, maintaining an 8-minute gap on her closest challenger. She
pumped her arms triumphantly and smiled and waved to the crowd. 

Then suddenly she veered sideways and started to fall. Two
red-shirted attendants grabbed her and threw a towel over her
shoulders. Then came a third, a fourth, and a fifth-all of them
struggling to hold her up. In a moment, her joy turned to pain; the
sparkle in her eyes grew as distant as a fallen prizefighter’s. 

Medical personnel rushed her into a tent, where two liters of saline
dripped into the vein of an arm. An hour afterward, she vomited what
little remained in her stomach. 

For Sophiea, it was a typical Ironman finish. For all of her
training and experience, each year she always bonks at the end, sapping
every ounce of energy until it doesn’t matter anymore. She told me her
collapses at the Ironman do not bother her. She even viewed the extra
liter of saline she received as a bonus-a gift-that helped her get back
in the groove for her next race a month later in Clearwater, Florida. 

Ordinarily, she would have flown back to Michigan a day after
Ironman and sleepwalked her way through work for the rest of the week.
But it had been a momentous year. She had taken a leave from her job as
a librarian and media specialist at a middle school. Afterward, she
stayed an extra two weeks in Kona to recuperate and resume training.

Transitions are key for triathlon success

If you’ve raced more than once, you know you easily can spend too mush time in the transition area.  This is a good quick article from the authors of “Championship Triathlon Training“, where you can learn how to save time in the transition area.  It’s the easiest time you’ll make in the race.  It is reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.

The secrets to mastering bricks

Experienced triathletes know that quick transitions are necessary
for low race times. But, according to George Dallam, PhD, USA
Traithlon’s first national team coach, transitions are often difficult
to master because rapid changes in movement put stress on the body.
“When you stop doing one activity and begin doing another very soon
afterward, your body must make adjustments in blood flow, nervous
system regulation, and muscular tension,” Dallam says.

The bike-to-run transition, or brick, is the most difficult to
master, making the body change from a static and crouched position on
the bike to an upright and dynamic position on the run. In his new
book, Championship Triathlon Training, Dallam offers tips for mastering bricks.

  1. Prepare for the bike-to-run transition by flexing and extending
    your back on the bike and maintaining or increasing cadence to
    run-stride rate or above.
  2. Pull your feet out of your shoes while riding and then dismount at speed, leaving your shoes clipped into your pedals.
  3. Run with your bike.
  4. Minimize equipment you will need to put on in the transition area for the run (that is, put on only your shoes in this area).
  5. Put on your running shoes while standing.
  6. Put on any other equipment-hat, glasses, and race belt-while running.

“Once these basic skills have been established, specific transition
training sessions can be instituted for continued improvement in a
race-specific environment,” Dallam says. “These sessions can then be
timed as intervals from entry to exit and can be used as a baseline for
improving performance.”