Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Discuss" is Such an Interesting Word

The other day on Face Book a member of a group I'm in posted the following:

Well...when I read the article I was instantly riled up.  I wanted to "discuss" but I was on my phone and I can't type very fast with one finger (no I haven't yet learned how to type with my thumbs!).  So, I waited until I had the time to pick this "article" apart word by word.  As I sat down today to "discuss"...I quickly realized my diatribe would be longer than a simple Face Book comment would allow, so, in true Dana fashion, I'm "discussing" the "article" here.  ((I have a hard time calling what was written an "article" much the same as I will "never" call a blog post of mine, full of personal opinion, the same.))

Indulge me as I go point by point. 

The linked article within the article titled "Excessive Endurance Training Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing, Research Suggests" says (although I find it hard to believe) that Micha True would run 100 miles A DAY.  It goes on to say "chronic excessive endurance training" blah blah blah.  Well...what the heck are they calling "chronic excessive endurance training??  Someone on the couch could look at the training I do and give it that label, while I think I'm barely giving enough time to get by.  Also...correlation is NOT causation.

Back to the original article...Ben Greenfield says: "Specifically, completion of an event such as an Ironman triathlon (or even a relatively shorter marathon) was shown to cause structural heart changes and elevations of cardiac inflammatory biomarkers."  Nope...that's not what I read in that article.  Already I don't trust this guy (and, unlike Eric, I have no idea who he is...). 

He goes on to correctly state the linked article says there is as much as a 5-fold increase in the prevalence of a-fib.  Well...okay...where did that number come from??  I haven't been able to find that figure anywhere (maybe 30 minutes of web-surfing wasn't long enough to uncover it?).

"For those of us wanting to be around to see our grandkids, this is important information to consider."  Really?  Can you say FEAR MONGER??   After I finish my diatribe I'll link an abstract as a rebuttal to that preposterous statement...

"What this ((the "fact" that Kona-bound athletes train an average of 3 hours a day)) all means is that an Ironman triathlete falls quite perfectly into Dr. O’ Keefe’s category of high potential for cardiac abnormalities."  Really??  I've read and re-read O'Keefe's article and I'm not finding the same information Greenfield did.  In fact, The Science Daily article ends with this statement:  Lifelong vigorous exercisers generally have low mortality and disability rates and excellent functional capacity, Dr. O'Keefe notes.

By the way...there is a video download of Dr. O'Keefe speaking of his findings you can find HERE.  If you take the time to download and listen to what Dr. O'Keefe is saying, it doesn't match up with the picture Greenfield paints in this "article".

Okay....moving along...trying to remember the request was to "discuss" not "debate"...

Greenfield sites an athlete named Sami Inkinen and himself as example of why less training equals better results (not exactly what he SAID, but what he's implying by his "minimalist IronMan training strategies").  But...did you get the part where he called himself and Sami "exceptions to the rule"?  Are there athletes out there who can "not train" and "do well" at any given event?  Sure there are.  But, for the rest of us normal people the 10 strategies Greenfield lists just simply won't work.

I'm sure these "strategies" are what the FaceBook poster wanted to, here I am, I don't know 500 words into my rant...about to "discuss".

Strategy 1: Do Short Swims.  Greenfield says you should only have one long swim (no more than 60 minutes in duration) a week and then "pepper" brief (15-30 minute sessions) throughout the week (he gives two examples of 1K swims.  If I thought for one second swimming 1000 yards or meters a few times a week coupled with one intense interval session would allow me to successfully complete 4,224 yards in a mass start open water IronMan swim...I'd be all over that like white on rice.  But, that doesn't make any sense at all.   Maybe if I had been swimming my whole life.  Maybe if I didn't care about performance, or, I don't know, drowning.  (Sorry...fear mongering myself I guess!)  Can anyone become PROFICIENT let alone competitive in something with such little practice??  Maybe with natural ability and talent....but not for the average triathlete.

Strategy 2:  Mostly Bike Indoors.  I'm sorry, I can't resist breaking this one all the way down.  What Greenfield says is in black, my response is in RED below:
Cycling can involve dressing, prepping tires, getting gloves or toe warmers, filling water bottles (yes...all true, only one of these things would not be true of indoor cycling...I don't know of anyone who cycles in the nude at home, who doesn't have to load a bike on to a trainer--which for me means changing a wheel, or who doesn't get a water bottle ready for that trainer fact, when I ride on the trainer, I also have to set up fans) meeting with a group (you are ASSuming people can't ride alone??) and other activities that can take 15-20 minutes (again...trainer rides can take me even longer than that to set up...maybe that's just me?) before you’re even on the road training. And once you’re finally out there, traffic lights and stop signs can significantly detract from the efficacy of your workout.  (...hhhmmm...ever thought about planning out your ride so you aren't dealing with traffic lights and stop signs?  Oh, wait, that would take more time, huh?)

So if you want to maximize your cycling bang for your buck, find a room in the house (he must have a bigger house than I do...) to be your “pain cave”, set up an indoor trainer, and do 1-2 short, intense indoor bike trainer sessions per week. You’ll stay focused and structured with this approach. For these, I like indoor workouts like 40-60 minute Sufferfest, Spinervals or Computrainer sessions.  (Ah...yes...Computrainer, because everyone can afford one!)  Am I saying you have to train for hours a day on the road?  Of course not, but if you want to prepare your body to be on the bike for 5-7 hours, you better be getting some long rides in.  YES, I COMPLETELY agree quality over quantity...but you have to get used to riding in the elements if you are going to compete in them.  The thing I have found that derails me the most is wind.  If I didn't train in wind I would NOT be able to ride in wind.)
Strategy 3:  No Early Season Long Bikes.  Okay...I can say I agree with this sentiment. 

Strategy 4: Bike Alone.  Okay...I completely agree with this statement, for the most part.  But not for the reason he states:  "group rides not only require lots of time investment to get a group together and head out for the session, but these rides also include lots of drafting, socializing and pace fluctuations."   I'm sorry.  I'm sure he's trained many a great athlete.  I'm sure he's written many a popular "article", published in well-respected magazines.  But, come much time is invested in posting on FaceBook "I'm riding from this place at this time...all the cool kids will be there"?  But, to say an athlete who is training for IronMan WILL be drafting, socializing and allowing their pace to fluctuate because of a group is idiotic.

I agree you should train alone because you will race alone.  You need to be focused in your training time and not chatting and group-dependent.  However, riding in a group can be safer (it's much easier to see a group of riders than it is to see one; remember when I needed a TIRE in order to complete a ride...if I had been alone I would have had to call for a ride home) and a group ride can make you ride faster than you normally would out of fear of being dropped (or out of a desire to keep up with the big fish).  If you can't be honest in your training, you certainly won't have the results you want come race day.  Yes, bike alone, but WHEN you bike with a group, make sure you are fulfilling the purpose of the training session.

Strategy 6:  No Long Runs (with long run being defined as 2+ hours).  He says "short and intense runs of 80-90 minutes are all you really need to get you ready for the Ironman marathon."  For the most part I agree with this...however, I think you can achieve the same results of a long run by stacking several shorter duration runs (doing say a 45-60 minute run in the morning, again in the evening and then again the next morning with conscious attention paid to recovery between them-ice baths, compression, foam rolling...).

Strategy 7:  Run On Short Courses.  Greenfield says, "you should stay away from long courses, like 3+ mile loops or lengthy trails, because the longer the course, the more likely it is that you’ll take your time and run it slow. Instead, choose to run on tracks, neighborhood blocks, or short loops, which are far more conducive to brief, high-quality and intense intervals." comes back to being honest with your training and knowing the purpose of the session.  I can get brief, intense intervals ANYWHERE.  I don't have to make myself dizzy running around a track.  I think more often than not people who run on short courses will end up cutting their sessions's too easy to leave or quit.  If I'm running 10 miles, most of the time I'm going to run five out and five back.  Getting tired at mile 7 is all the more reason to PUSH myself. again, honesty is the key.

Strategy 8: Lift.  I think Greenfield once again ASSumed people would not click on the link he provided when he said "multiple research studies have shown"...I didn't read all the studies...but, as you can see for yourself, a quick glance says these articles are NOT about lifting weights as related to IronMan athletes.  Greenfield suggests 1-2 full body weight training sessions a week.  I agree strength training has its place in the plan, but how often and for how long is highly individualized. 

Strategy 9:  Recover.  Again...I agree with the sentiment, but not everything Greenfield has to say.  YES, by all means recovery is a HUGE part of any plan.  But, it should be built in so to speak.  This is where a good coach comes in.  A good coach is going to be paying attention to all the factors that play a part of proper training, and recovery is one of those factors.  However, I don't know of any taper that should last 3-5 weeks.  I do have a lot more to say on this point, but I'll save it for another day so I can get on with the "discussion"....

Strategy 10:  Diet.  And, yet again...the gist of what is being said--essentially lower carb intake and PAY ATTENTION to what you are eating--is spot on.  But his statement, "...especially if you’ve grown accustomed to eating anything you want, then training your ass off with chronic cardio to burn those calories."  ASSumes that's what us normal, hard training athletes are doing.  Eat to train don't train to eat.  Period.

I think this article is like a sexy deodorant or toothpaste ad.  It sounds really appealing.  Train less, get better results.  There's an aspect of that which is MUST have a purpose for every single training session you set out to complete.  But if "easy" really worked for most people, everyone would be doing it.  I'm sure if you interviewed every IronMan finisher you'd find a huge range of training philosophies out there, some work for one person but not another.  Knowing there is not a "one-size-fits-all", cookie-cutter training plan that will work for every single athlete is why coaches have jobs in the first place.   A good coach will get to know what works for each individual he/she is training and won't try to stuff everyone into the same plan.  That process takes time and trust and honesty.  If my athletes** aren't being honest with me about what they are doing in training, there's no way I can effectively train them to reach their goals! 

Thanks for hanging with me through this "discussion"...let me know what you think.  Come on, you don't have to write a novella in order to "discuss" it!!  :D

**yes, I did say "my athletes"'s another post I've been working on, but I PASSED MY USAT LEVEL ONE COACHING CERTIFICATION TEST!!!!  I'm officially a coach now!!!  (more on that later!)  :D

Monday, September 3, 2012

Birth of an Idea

Conception always starts with an idea.  It may be the idea of what the outcome will be, or it may be an idea of just having a little fun, but there's always an idea that drives it.  Even before the idea comes the introduction.

The Dixie Daredevils' Hood to Coast race actually started at a community Fourth of July cookout.  That's where I met Casey (AKA Turtle).  She said she had just started running.  I had started running seven months earlier but was coming off five weeks of being sidelined due to injury.  A few months later I told her about a movie I thought we should go see about a crazy relay race out on the West Coast.  She was as excited about it as I was since we shared a common running obsession.

The only day the movie was to play (January 11, 2011), the roads were icey and snow covered.  Being from the south, I knew there was no way I would be able to get us to the theater.  Thankfully Casey was very adept at driving in the snow, being from Ohio and having lived in Virginia prior to moving here to Huntsville.  We sat down to watch "Hood To Coast, the Movie", from the opening scene to the closing credits we were enthralled.

Casey's immediate reaction was, "WE HAVE TO DO THIS RACE!!"  I told her I wanted to do it some day, but with a daughter in high school it didn't seem feasible in the near future for me.  Not only that, I explained to her how hard it is to get into the race.  There are more than 2,000 teams who try to enter, but only about 1,000 who get to do it.  They have a mail in registration that is only open one day.  Every team wanting to race must have their entry post marked and mailed in on that day.  The top six teams from each division from the previous year's race are given a guaranteed entry, and then the remaining spots are filled by a lottery system.  I went on to tell her it might be possible for us to get a spot on an existing team, but we may not end up on the same team going that route.  (Teams end up looking for runners to fill holes in their roster.)  Her eyes were bright with excitement and confident enthusiasm.

The very next morning Casey called.  Almost shouting she said, "I found a way we can do it!!  All we have to do is raise $15,000 for American Cancer Society by August and we will get a guaranteed spot in the race!"  I told her I couldn't do the race that year because my daughter was going to be a senior; then she explained further.  We had to raise the money by race day 2011 for entry into 2012's race.  I'd like to say I was as certain as she was that feat was possible.  I wasn't.  Then the part of the equation she doubted came out when she said, "but, can you find 10 other girls who want to do this race?"  I laughed.  "Are you serious?  It won't be a matter of finding 10, it will be a matter of limited it to 10!"

Casey was very new to the running community.  She hadn't yet made all the running friends she has today; she didn't know the obsession we shared was as widely held as it is.  I, on the other hand, knew, without a doubt, filling our team would be the easy part.  I told her we'd have a team by the end of the week, and we did.  The idea was conceived.

Just like the gestation of a baby is marked by trimesters, each with their own set of challenges and rewards, the progression of the idea of doing this race to getting to the start line was marked with the same.

At our first meeting we came up with our team name.  We wanted something that would caption our drive and our southern, Alabamian origin.  Dixie Daredevils fit the bill nicely.  Heather Armstrong volunteered her brother to come up with a logo for us.  The specifics about how we could raise the money needed to be entered into the race were discussed.  Conception gave way to concept and plans were set in motion.

Over the next eight months we sought out corporate sponsors, we sold raffle tickets, we passed "The Shoe", we held a Fun Run and a Pub Run (also a fun run thanks to the Rocket City Hash House Harriers who organized it for us), we Zumbaed, we hosted a Premier Jewelry and a Pampered Chef party, and we had a lot of meetings along the way!  We lost some teammates who were replaced by others, but we were ever driven to our fund raising goal.  On Casey's 30th birthday, the money raised at the Pub Run (which was originally going to be a simple birthday party but quickly turned into a fund raising idea) put the team's balance over the $15K mark and put us in the race!

Once our American Cancer Society commitment was fulfilled, we turned our attention to the idea of working for the money to get us all to the race.  We had high hopes of earning enough money to pay for the vans, gas, hotels and airfare, although we knew it might end up requiring each of us contributing a chunk of personal funds.  The next ten months were tough for most of us on the team.  Job changes, divorce, the birth of the youngest Dixie Daredevil, moves, significant others being deployed, stress fractures, all happening alongside each of us training not only for this race but also for our personal fitness goals.

Any woman who has ever been pregnant can tell you the joys and the challenges of being "with child".  I remember when I was pregnant with my son.  The first trimester was exciting and fun, but also scary and uncertain and marred slightly by morning sickness.  The middle months were the best.  Everyone could see my growing belly, I felt fantastic, I had more energy than I had in a long time, and I loved everything about the process.  The final months were a struggle to say the least.  By the time my due date came (and went) I was ready to have the process be over.  I was ready to be done being pregnant.

I think the birth of the idea of this race was no different for any of us (except maybe the newest member of our team, Patti, who came onto the team in the final stages).  We were ready to get to the start line.  At 9:30am Pacific time, the gun went off at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and Ashley started the first leg of the race for our team.  Just under 30 hours later, Melissa crossed the finish line at Seaside finishing out our endeavor.

Ironically, the day my son was born I started thinking I might want to do this thing again.  Remember when I told you the top six teams in each division get an automatic guaranteed entry into the next years' race?  We came in sixth according to the posted results....