Thursday, September 29, 2011

About Being Fit vs. Being Healthy

Of course you're fit.  You swim, bike and/or run for hours and miles at a time.  You can out-endure anyone close to you without even trying.  Your physique is envied by models everywhere.  You can lose weight without even trying and your body fat percentage is the goal of every top professional athlete.  Yes sir.  You're fit alright.

But are you healthy?

I have been thinking about this for a while now and even more so after the unfortunate death of a triathlete at the start of Ironman Louisville this year.  Of course we're fit, but are we healthy?

Those of us that got a late start in the sport, have a lot of ground to make up.  As for me, I was overweight (198 lbs), in pain from bulging, herniated and ruptured discs.  I have had numerous surgeries on my toes and ankle, leaving a constant nagging, if you will, on my lower extremities. Add to that the fact that I have high cholesterol due to family history and the very unhealthy diet that I followed for many a day.  In 1988 I had an asthma attack which landed me in the emergency room, at which point my cholesterol was discovered to be over 500; "a walking heart attack" I was told I was.

In 2006 I turned the corner and saw the light.  It was there blinding me, much like a train coming at you in a tunnel.  I did not want to be in pain any longer.  I wanted to watch my daughters grow, get married, have kids.  I wanted to travel with my wife; go places and do things only imagined impossible up to that point.  So I joined a gym.  I was 52 at that point.  I decided to get fit.  And healthy.

I changed a lot of my habits.  It was hard, but it had to be done. No ifs, ands or buts. It had to happen.  And slowly I started loosing weight, cholesterol started coming down hard (and staying down), pains turned to aches which are easier to manage.

I began to get fit.  But was I healthy?

My doctor suggested I see him twice a year vs once.  Due to the new stress I was putting on my body he wanted to make sure my ticker was ticking just fine.  I obliged.  He was keeping a close eye on me, for which I was very thankful.

I have done a couple of stress tests over the past couple of years.  Surprising the heck out of the techs performing the procedure.  So, as far as we can tell... yeah I'm fit and I'm healthy.

Most of the deaths at triathlons occur in the swimming leg of the event.  There's just to much going on at that point for an unhealthy heart to handle.  I understand that all the tests in the world cannot guarantee diddly-squat... but you know what?  I like my chances now a whole lot better.

Which brings me to the point...  Of course you know you're fit, but do you know you're healthy?  Go see your doctor more often.  Don't ignore, as much as us Type A personalities want to, unusual pains.  Chances are that they're nothing, but why take the chance?  When was the last time you had a stress test?  Call your doctor's office, have them schedule one... today!

Yes sir, you're fit alright.  But are you healthy?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

About A New Contributor To This Blog

I am extremely blessed to have access to this platform to document the musings of a journey that started some four years ago and has taken me through some fantastic and unbelievable places accompanied by some equally amazing family and friends.

This vehicle has also provided me with the opportunity to be a source of information and in a minuscule degree a source of inspiration to anyone who is in need of a "little push".

But I know my limits.  There are areas in which I am not versed well enough to be able to intelligently discuss.  One such area is Nutrition for the Endurance Athlete.  This area seems to be a topic that always draws plenty of discussion and interest, specially from those new(er) to the distance running or triathlon life style.

This is where my friend Corey Irwin comes in.  As a professional healthy gourmet chef, author, and running and wellness coach, Corey actively promotes total body fitness, balanced nutrition, and long range, preventive health via her nutrition/recipe and running websites.  I am lucky to be able to announce that Corey will join this blog as a contributing author.  Please watch for her upcoming posts.

Chef Corey Irwin
Corey Irwin, Runner

To learn more about Corey and her upcoming cookbook, visit her "about me" page to link to one of her websites and/or blog.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

About Ironman Pride

Three weeks and three days ago I completed one of the worlds most grueling events known to mankind:  the "Ironman".  If you missed my race report you can find it here for this entry is not about the race, or the journey to get to the race, but about the pride of becoming an "Ironman".

There are as many reasons why anyone would take on a challenge of this magnitude as there are people taking on this challenge, and it has been said that it's one of the most difficult things to try to explain, specially to those who do not understand the idea of pushing oneself to unknown limits.  I for one, gave up trying to explain.  Here is how I chose to handled it.

Life has changed post Ironman.  There's a huge sense of pride in having accomplished something that someone like me could have never imagined possible when I started doing triathlons in 2008.

And expressing this pride has come in many different forms.

In addition to the usual and obligatory IM merchandise; visor, hat, shirts, tee shirts, Finisher's Jacket, cycling jersey, coffee mug, car sticker, key chain, etc, etc, etc, I had a tattoo inked on my left calf.

Blood, Sweat & Tears
But this did not come without much thought and consideration.  Most of it done pre-Ironman.

During the course of those eleven months spent getting physically and mentally ready, I researched the idea of the tattoo.  Read countless accounts of why people get them done and why others choose not to and came to the conclusion that this would eternally be a sign and a stamp of something I did... that very few even attempt.

Through this research I found that those that chose to get a tattoo quietly expressed their opinion while the loudest voices came from those that frowned upon it.  Why?  I can't figure it out.  It is after all, as it should be, a matter of personal preference.

It's been a bit over two weeks since I got inked and it has been a conversation starter.  Folks that know that it means congratulate me and want to talk about the experience - not the tattoo. Folks that don't, ask... and I tell them.  With my head up high.  Proud to be an Ironman.

Friday, September 9, 2011

About "Post Ironman Doldrums"

dol·drums... A period of stagnation or slump.  A period of depression or unhappy listlessness.

I've been feeling a somewhat blue, so I went to the doctor,  he diagnosed me with a slight case of "Iron Deficiency".

Is this possible? Could this be true? Who me? Depressed? Anxious? Exhausted?   Somewhere along the line I heard that this could happen but no one is certain of how and when... or why?  Most importantly, once I  recognize it, how will I deal with it?

I have just completed one of the most amazing, mind boggling event of my life.  This was my goal, this was my thing.  I trained and I trained hard.  Day in, day out.  For months at a time.  My family began to wonder when and if they were going to get me back.  And just like that... after 15+ hours on race day, I crossed the finish line.  I became an Ironman!

So why the feeling of emptiness?  What's missing?  Shouldn't I be relieved that the pressure of the early morning / two a day training sessions are behind me?  Logic would tell me that it should.  Or could this be the problem?  All that free time.  Things were simpler then, my day was planned, there was no time to waste.  And now there are several hours of daylight left and I have nothing to do.  Nothing to do, but think.

I haven't had much of a feeling of depression.  I have been left wondering "what now?"  For me, there's nothing out there bigger or better than becoming an Ironman.  It was a goal I worked for for several years.  Methodically, purposely, one day at a time, one workout at a time.

So, what's next?  I know I have to schedule something, I have to plan something, I have to have a purpose.  I am not one to, although I should be, just train to train.  I am an objective type person, I need a goal to achieve, something to chase.  But everything seems to pale in comparison.   I have to get over this.  I have to get past this.

I will be running the Nashville Half Marathon in November.  I will be doing P90X for the second time or Insanity for the first time during the winter months.  As for next year, I'd like to do two Ironman 70.3 races.  I am looking at Ironman 70.3 Florida in Orlando on May 20, 2012 and Ironman 70.3 Augusta late September 2012.  Additionally, I'd like to do a few local sprint and Olympic distance races as well as the Country Music Marathon 2012.  Oh yeah, I'm doing the Ragbrai with my wife and some friends, and maybe just maybe the Cherohala Challenge.  I understand this is an aggressive plan and that something may have to give.  I'm okay with that.  And what about another Ironman in my future?  You bet!

And the lingering feeling that nothing will be as good as the Ironman?  Well, I just have to remember that "The Goals Did Not Become Less.  I Became More."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

About "Hot Toe Syndrome" In Cycling

You may have heard of this syndrome.  You may have not.  You may suffer from this,  You may not.  Either way if you're an avid cyclist or long distance triathlete, I think you will benefit from my experience.  Read on my friend.  Read on...

Throughout the past four years I have been battling a condition which in the cycling world is known as "Hot Toe Syndrome".  In a nut shell, it's a "burning sensation" or feeling that starts in the metatarsal area, or the ball of the foot and radiates to the toes.  At times the pain is so intense, it's debilitating.

I first noticed it when I participated in my first Metric Century Ride on Saturday, August 23, 2008.  At that point I thought that it was my inexperience on the bike that caused the pain.  I would find out as time went by that this was not really the case.

I put this issue out of my mind because it did not present itself again until I started training for Ironman 70.3 distances.  At which time my bike training rides began to get longer.  With time and a little attention, I noticed that the burning aggravated itself after 3 hours, more or less, on the saddle.

So I started asking questions and researching the issue on line.  I went to my local tri shop and picked their brain.  They really had little knowledge of the problem so I went to the local bike shop.

Here I was told that my bike shoes were the wrong shoes.  The toe box was to small.  My toes needed room to expand.  So new shoes I bought.  I was told that I may have to consider inserts to change the pressure points.  This is the first time I heard "pressure points".

I rode with the new shoes and it seemed to solve the problem.  The bigger toe box seemed to be the answer.  For the time being.

As I entered Ironman training bike distances, the issue came back with a vengeance.  On a century ride early in the season, the last 40 miles or so were pure hell.  So were the next two centuries.  Time was running out. Something had to be done about this, and quick.

I submerged myself in the Internet.  Hoping that I would find a "magical" solution to my problem.  "Surely, I'm not the only one suffering from this issue".  Everything I read, everything I learned kept coming back to the "pressure point" topic.  No one answer was offered anywhere, because everyone is different, but the same advise kept coming back... make sure you have the right shoes, make sure you have the right clips, make sure the clips are in the right place, etc., etc., etc.

I went to a third shop and they looked at my bike, my shoes and my cleats.  They had nothing new to offer.  According to them, everything seemed to be just the way it needed to be.

There are no other shoes in the market that offer a bigger toe box.  The clips had been adjusted on the shoes several times.  There was nothing else to do here.  So the owner at the local tri shop suggested I try a shoe one size larger than what I needed.  He let me borrow his old pair to try on in an upcoming century ride.

During said ride the problem seemed to have been solved.  One foot did not hurt, the other one did.  The pain, however did not show up till much later.  The larger shoe did not give me a good feel for the bike, it was not firm and I felt uncomfortable with it.  All I thought was creating another problem while trying to solve this one.  So I returned the larger shoes.

And then it came to me!  Just like that, out of no where...yes, in the middle of the night.

The only thing I haven't changed in this equation is the socks!.  Yes, I ride with socks.  I use a cycling sock which is a compression sock.  Compression.  That's what made me realize that maybe this was the problem.

So I took the socks off.

Next time I went out I went sock-less.  PROBLEM SOLVED!  No pain!  Zero.  Nada.  Nothing.  Zilch.  WOW, could this have been the answer all along?  I was sure hoping it was.

AND IT WAS! As it appears the sock was creating undue pressure (compression) around my toes!  Yes, it was something that simple.

Every ride after that, long, short and everything in between was sock-less.

An on August 28, 2011 at Louisville Ironman?  Yeah, NO PAIN!