July 21, 2019

Go West Young Men (via the Triple Bypass)!

Last month I completed the Triple Bypass.  The “Triple” is one of Colorado’s “epic” rides and one that had been on my personal “to do” list for a while.  The event is fairly straightforward: ride from Evergreen, Colorado to Avon, Colorado while climbing up and descending down three major mountain passes—Squaw/Juniper (11,140 ft.), Loveland (11,990 ft.), and Vail (10,560 ft).  The course covers 120 miles and offers nearly 11,000 ft. of climbing.

The 2011 Triple Bypass Route Map (courtesy of www.teamevergreen.org)

Although I had spent a considerable amount of time on my bike in early-2011, I didn’t train specifically for the Triple.  The Triple, while it certainly captures the attention of elite riders who wish to “race” the course, it is more an “everyman” event—this was especially true for me, as I simply wanted  to put some miles in and enjoy the ride.  More importantly, I was planning on supporting my friend Paul Hardcastle, who, against my recommendation against it, had managed to gain an entry to the inaugural “double”: a westbound Triple on Saturday, followed by the eastbound Triple on Sunday.  I had hoped to join my friend Roy Swanson and other members of “Team Glxy” for some miles.

For those thinking of tackling the Triple, I would recommend a periodized training plan to get you ready for a very long day in the saddle (depending on your existing level of fitness, 3 to 6 months of consistent training should provide ample training time).  Close-in training rides such as Deer Creek Canyon, High Grade, City View, as well as the climb up Squaw/Juniper pass (west out of Evergreen or east out Idaho Springs—my personal favorite) will go along way toward getting you ready for the climbs encountered on the Triple.  Don’t forget that in addition to the 50% mental, 50% physical equation, long sustained efforts generally depend on having a solid nutritional plan in place (one that has been repeatedly practiced during your training while working under demands that are similar to those likely to be faced on race day).

Paul arrived at my home shortly around 4 a.m. (Paul is my neighbor, so he walked over in the dark) and we loaded up and made our way to Evergreen.  Fortunately for me, we were able to forego the obligatory stop for Paul at Starbucks as the Evergreen location was not open at this early hour.  The morning was both crisp and cool (and dark) and, after hitting the Porta-Johns and packing up our nutrition and “layers” (an essential for any ride in the Colorado mountains), we headed to the “open” starting line.  I had hoped to get going closer to 5 a.m., but we ended up making it to the start closer to 6. We met Roy and briefly chatted before he disappeared up Squaw ahead of us.  Paul and I found our place among the mass of nearly 3,500 riders and moved up and over Pass #1.  After a blistering descent down Hwy. 103 we coursed through Idaho Springs and moved through the remainder of the course that took us through Georgetown, Silver Plume, and Bakerville.  Although there were a few stops along the way, we didn’t really hit the aid station “scene” until we made it to Loveland Ski Area.  After a short break for some lunch (I think Paul ate a pizza and perhaps had a beer … just kidding), we managed to meet up with Roy who elected to join us for the remainder of the ride.  As always, it was great to see Roy, an accomplished and capable cyclist, not to mention a quality guy.  We also learned that Roy was being “supported” by his family … Roy’s wife, their young daughter, and his parents were jumping from aid station to aid station so that they could share in the day.  As I looked out over I-70 I couldn’t help but think about my wife who was traveling (or at least would be shortly) along the interstate corridor to meet me in Avon.  My goal was to be waiting at the Westin to help her unload the children for our weekend mini-vacation in the mountains (as check-in was 4:00 p.m., we needed to make the ride in about 10 hrs.) … we needed to get going!  Next, it was up and over Loveland pass—a first for me on two wheels.  Another screaming descent followed, with a second reunion with Roy’s support team at another well stocked aid station at Summit County H.S, leaving us a final up and over … Vail Pass.

Paul Hardcastle, me, and Roy Swanson ascending Loveland Pass

We traded mountain roads for a more congested bike path and coursed up and up until we made it to the top of Vail Pass.  A final push was all that remained  AND it was supposed to be all downhill.  I checked my watch … I knew it would be close and elected to push a bit to get to Avon to meet my family.  We pushed a lot … in fact, at least to me, the final 20-plus miles in to town seemed to be the most challenging of the day.  After a bluebird day with the only threat of some precipitation contained in distant clouds that managed to stay away, the wind had picked up and turned into a formidable foe.  We systematically took our turns at the front and pulled each other (as well as considerable group of hanger-oner’s who were comfortable letting us do the work) into Avon.  Again, the elevation map clearly shows a gradual descent all the way into Avon; however, it felt more like a gradual climb to me!

The 2011 Triple Bypass Elevation Map, East to West (courtesy of www.teamevergreen.org)

We arrived at Avon’s Elementary School after nearly 9 1/2 hours in the saddle (with a total time of around 10-ish) … I didn’t really keep any telemetry for  the actual time; but I know that it was approaching 4 p.m. when we crossed the finish.  Roy’s “crew” was waiting to greet us and after exchanging our post-race congratulations, Paul and I headed across Nottingham Park toward our hotel.  I spent my final moments with Paul trying to gauge how he felt and encourage him to accomplish the “double” as he had planned—unfortunately, this was not meant to be (Paul rode home with his wife the next day …).  Just as planned, I found my wife in the circle drive and proceeded to help with check-in, the day was officially over!

Paul Hardcastle, me, and Roy Swanson atop Vail Pass - 2011 Triple Bypass

The Triple is a beautiful ride and, while both the distance and the elevation seem daunting, it is a ride that can be enjoyed by a great number of cyclists (just consider the actually numbers, with more than 5,000 riders participating in the solo west, solo east, and combined double offerings).  Mark your calendars as registration opens in early-January and the ride take place in early-July!  For more information visit Team Evergreen.

 

 

XTERRA Mountain Championship — Beaver Creek, Colorado

Images from this year’s XTERRA Mountain Championship race:

With the demise of XTERRA Buffalo Creek (my absolute favorite Colorado XTERRA—2009 marked it’s final year, pending new developments, see text box below), the Beaver Creek Mountain Championship has earned an annual place on my race calendar (I competed here in 2009 but unfortunately missed last year’s race).

Robert Martinich, the ever-capable and dedicated race director sent out the following e-mail of January, 2010:

As some of you know from news reports last October, the owners of Wellington Lake closed the lake to the public until further notice.  That means all scheduled activities at the lake were cancelled.  The owners/shareholders (city of Thornton, city of Brighton, and a group of farmers) wanted to re-evaluate the activities at the lake.  Please note:  All of this information is from my one source who is not on the Board of Directors; I am not getting much information directly from the Board of Directors of the lake.  My contact with the Board of Directors informed me in late October that the Board wanted to continue allowing the Boy Scouts and events like XTERRA Buffalo Creek to continue at the lake and that they would try to have a decision by December.  However, I still have not heard of the Board’s decision regarding use of the lake and property for XTERRA Buffalo Creek.  My source believes that a decision will likely come towards the end of January.  I realize that many of you rely on this race to compete for points in the XTERRA series and are now making plans as to which races to compete.  I have worked very hard over the past 6 years to make XTERRA Buffalo Creek a top notch race for you in the series, and will try to accommodate all requirements set by the Board of Directors of the lake.  I appreciate your kind emails and your patience.  I will let you know as soon as I know.

And, with that, that was the last I have heard about this TERRIFIC XTERRA: featuring lake-side camping at the venue, a COLD swim, a blazing fast bike course with a grueling ascent to mark the finish, culminating in a scenic and feature-filled trail run—I wish Robert the best and hope that this race returns in the future!

This year’s Beaver Creek Mountain Championship failed to disappoint.  The Beaver Creek venue is exceptional, both from an athletic challenge standpoint and venue—the Colorado mountains in the summertime just invite XTERRA.  The full course event challenges athletes with a 1 mile swim (2 laps), 15.5 mile bike, and a 5.75 run, while the sprint race (short course) includes a 1/2 mile swim (1 lap), 9 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.

As always, a very capable field assembled in T1 along Nottingham Lake in Avon, CO to start the COLD swim.  During race check-in the day before (held up on the mountain in Beaver Creek) my wife and I ran into our good friend Lee and Myra.  We learned that their grandson would be competing in his first XTERRA and we managed to spend some time with him and our friends prior to my wave start.  The canon fired and I plunged into the alpine “lake” and started the first of two busy laps (the swim venue is small and the swim course stays crowded throughout the nearly 1 mile swim—1500M to be precise).  Once out of the water I acknowledge the “chill” before setting off on the 15.5-mile bike (with + 3600 feet of elevation gain, with the majority of it coming early during the course of a nearly 4 mile climb).  I put some gas in the tank early as I rolled out of Avon and start the ascent (Hammer gel, of course).  Almost immediately I felt the effects of both the altitude—the race begins at approximately 8,000 feet (Avon is + 7431 feet).  I managed to ride the majority of the route with only a small “hike-a-bike” during the steepest section of the initial single track climb.

The Denver Post featured a beautiful photo gallery of the images from the ’11 event that can be viewed here.

I put the long climb behind me and focused on working my way to T2.  Although the route features additional climbing, competitors follow the scenic “Village to Village” trail before a fairly steep descent into the village.  The route at XTERRA Beaver Creek is not technical (the “Cinch” – “Corkscrew” – “Cinch” connection that funnels athletes into T2 is the only exception), but it does require concentration and solid conditioning.  After dumping my bike on the downhill section that leads into T2 the last time I raced here, I redoubled my focus to make a clean ride.

Once cleanly through T2 I headed out on the run that I knew would be a punishing, lung-busting 5+-miles.  This year’s course did not fail to meter out significant punishment (the elevation along the 10K route approximates 1,300 feet of elevation gain).  I tried to run the entire course; however, some of the steeps during the first third proved too much … I downshifted and transitioned back and forth between a run and uptempo hike.  I pounded down the downhill sections (there are fortunately a couple along the route) and saved just enough “gas” to sprint to the finish.

Once across the finish line I was created by my wife and children … it really doesn’t get any better than that.  I managed to once again meet up with Lee & Myra (Zack also had a successful race, finishing the “sport” course in just under XXX).

Beaver Creek: Two Races in One

Another benefit of the Beaver Creek XTERRA is that it features a half-marathon (along with a 10K option) trail run on the following day.  This works extremely well for my family.   Two events, one on each day of the weekend, allow me to race the XTERRA on Saturday while Hope watches our children and then Hope can run the trail run on Sunday while I takeover as PIC (here, instead of “Partner in Crime” … “Parent In Charge”).  The half-marathon run integrates much of the XTERRA off-road triathlon course while adding more time climbing (the race features nearly 2,400 feed to elevation gain) while the 10K race retraces the full XTERRA off-road triathlon course from the day before.

Hope’s account of her half -marathon experiences follows:

Waiting to start the half-marathon along with my fan club.

Sunday provided  another blue sky day in Beaver Creek.  My husband and two children escorted me to the starting line of the Beaver Creek XTERRA Half Marathon.  It is a rare occasion when both my husband and I get to race, so this weekend was special.  Brian had completed the XTERRA triathlon the day before, leaving me to fulfill my  commitment to the half marathon trail race.  I had been training all spring to shed the baby fat from “No. 2” and had built up my mileage so that 13.1 miles wouldn’t be a stretch for me.  The race gun went off and the winding gravel and dirt climb started straight away.   I quickly realized that 13.1 miles on pavement/trail and 13.1 miles on a trail at altitude are vastly different (really … I know that).  I had vowed to not walk for quite a while if I could help it, but when the walkers started passing me I figured a long stride walk might be the better choice (I tried, but failed, to not go anaerobic).  After the long initial climb the course opened up to beautiful rolling terrrain.   Although the morning had started on the cool side,  the heat started coming on, but much of the course remained shaded in by trees.  During the middle of the race, I was joined by a pack of other athletes (which for me usually consists of fit older men and younger women who aren’t that fit) formed together—as usual, we engaged in the “pass me, pass you, pass me” game.  I maintained a run whenever possible and walked as the altitude strapped me with fatigue.  At one point I recall thinking, “How can an entire race be up hill?”  “My” personal race came down to me and another “girl.”  We were neck and neck through the final third of the course and I found myself fading as I tried to best “my” competitor—I couldn’t go any faster.  She seemed to have gained a second wind.  There was one difference between us, I had a Polar watch with mileage data and she didn’t.  I sensed that she thought the end was near, almost finished, but I knew we actually had about 4 more miles.  That explained why she was pushing so hard!  You won’t believe this, but out of nowhere, her boyfriend/husband appeared, cheering her on.  As she passed him she called out, “Am I almost done?!”  “About 4 more miles!” he yelled back.  Immediately she faded.  I never saw her again on the trail and ran to the finish alone.  I crossed the finish line and rejoined my family to celebrate the experience and “my win.”

The Beaver Creek race venue provides something for everyone (complete information can be found here).

 

Highlights from the NSCA Endurance Symposium

Earlier this year I attended the NSCA Endurance Symposium at the NSCA headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO.  I have long-held a respect for the NSCA and have been a member since beginning my training career (I am also a candidate for the CSCS certification and expect to take the exam sometime of the course of the coming months).  I received notice of the two-day endurance-specific symposium from the USAT and jumped at the chance to attend.  Continuing education is frequently a mixed bag, i.e. some are great, some are o.k., while still others are nearly a complete waste of time.  The NSCA event fell solidly in the first category—it was great!  What follows are some of the takeaways that I found noteworthy:

Note: If you ever get a chance to visit the NSCA’s headquarters, do so—it is a beautiful training facility that is appointed to train athletes at the highest level.

The symposium featured four primary presenters: Benjamin Reuter, PhD, CSCS, *D, ATC; Matthew Rhea, PhD, CSCS, *D; Robert Seebohar, CSCS; and Randall Wilber, PhD, FACSM, with Sam Callan providing only a short presentation on the current state of technology used to monitor training (e.g. HR, GPS, Smartphones, and power meters) along with the attendant issues surrounding data transfer and management.   You can view the complete bios of the presenters here.  In addition, participants were provided with an opportunity for basic instruction on a few of the fundamental, compound Olympic lifting moves, namely the barbell squat and power clean.

Benjamin “Ben” Reuter, PhD, CSCS, *D, ATC, presented “Introduction to Endurance Training,” and “Injuries and the Endurance Athlete.”  A couple of my takeaways:  First, Reuter correctly defined endurance sports as “specialized movement” that places specific demands an athlete’s structural and metabolic systems.  These structural demands are fairly easy to conceptualize, as specific modes of activity (e.g. swim, bike, and run) place unique demands on the athlete’s body.  Metabolic specificity is a bit more removed from the mind of the typical multisport athlete; however,  it should frequently be at the forefront of an athlete’s mind when training.  Specifically, Ben emphasized that while three different energy systems function to meet the energy demands (by way of review: phoshagen, glycolytic, and oxidative systems) and all these systems are functioning all the time, each contributes a different portion of the energy necessary required depending on the stress placed on the body.  I frequently reference this concept with my clients and attempt to have them visualize the three energy systems distributed along a sliding scale.  Each contributes a different proportion of the energy required depending on the specific stress/activity the athlete is engaged in during a particular movement or training period (e.g. the phosphagen system primarily contributes to a single resistance training repetition; cf. the oxidative system primarily contributes to the energy demands of a multi-hour run or bike).  An understanding of the roles these separate but interdependent energy systems play and then training with metabolic specificity can lead to training breakthroughs.   Second, Dr. Reuter reviewed the common contributing factors to movement impairment and injury: muscle length, as well as muscle performance capability at different lengths (that is, a muscle can be weak or strong at specific lengths), joint mobility/flexibility (or lack thereof), anatomical impairments, psychological impairments, developmental factors, and environmental factors.  Frequently an athlete faces one or more of these issues on an ongoing basis and, as a result, one or more of these factors often degrade the endurance athletes training and racing experience and outcomes.  In combating these issues, either singularly or collectively, one can improve his or her “endurance performance.”  Note: There is a difference in “endurance training” and “endurance performance” training.  I frequently explain the difference between the two to my clients by means of the analogy of comparing what the posture and running technique of a marathon runner typically looks like at mile 1 of a marathon versus what his or her posture and running technique look at mile 26 of a marathon—in most cases these two pictures are very different.  The marathoner who completes the marathon has arguably completed sufficient “endurance” training; however, if posture and technique are severely degraded from the start to the finish then perhaps the athlete did not complete sufficient “endurance performance” training.  The elements of “endurance performance” training typically include resistance, flexibility, and balance training (there are certainly others that I incorporate into the endurance performance training mix).  As Dr. Reuter correctly highlighted, a typical endurance athlete overemphasizes cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic training and underemphasizes underlying biomechanics of the modes of activity that they participate in (e.g., the skeletal, muscular, and nervous system components of movement).

In my opinion, Matthew Rhea, PhD, CSCS, *D was the star of the weekend.  Although each of the presenters made significant contributions, Rhea zeroed in on the benefits of rational, programmed, and functional strength training for the endurance athlete (an area of particular interest to me).  As with each of the other presenters, Dr. Rhea managed to illuminate some key points.  First, stress is stress—meaning that when designing any training plan, it is important to consider all of the program variables (i.e., resistance training can’t simply be added “on top of” an existing periodized endurance training program).  Ultimately, the reasoned application of stress provides the basis for any training prescription.  Second, Rhea exposed the longstanding fact that most studies that relate strength training and endurance performance go the opposite way from what might reveal a benefit to the endurance athlete.  Specifically, “most studies have merely looked at the interference of aerobic training on anaerobic properties [e.g., strength, power, and hypertrophy], fewer have examined the potential positive effect of these anaerobic modalities on endurance performance.”  Rhea, is a serious student of the literature, and he synthesized various research studies into a type of meta-analysis that revealed that among highly trained runners “strength training” (i.e., explosive and heavy load weight training) improves long-distance  running economy 3-8% (with a mean of 4.6%).   Note: similar efficiencies have been shown with cyclists and nordic skiers (where both specific biomechanic economy and muscular power improved).  Accepting the positive relationship between increased muscular strength and improved muscular endurance, the question becomes when to add the resistance training?  Base, build, and peak phases all provide opportunities to apply resistance training to the endurance athlete and, while the addition of resistance training may open the door to overtraining (this is most common in highly-trained athletes), additional research has shown that there is a corresponding decrease in common overuse injuries!  The application of any strength training program must be rational and tailored to the fitness and recovery capacity of the individual athlete.

Two key takeaways from Rhea’s “Program Design” and “New Updates on Prescribing Cardiovascular Exercise” that are worth highlighting.  First,  when designing a resistance training program for an endurance athlete, it is important to focus on movement patterns and not muscles—the key is to train specific movements that are most likely to translate to endurance sport activities (this is includes training both the prime movers and the associate stabilizers, thereby gaining both muscular endurance and postural/biomechanic efficiencies).  Rhea’s point translates well into a definition of the often used term “functional fitness.”  With permission, I have reproduced Rhea’s slide below:

Differences between functional and dysfunctional fitness (courtesy of Dr. Matthew Rhea, PhD, CSCS, *D)

Accepting the distinction and focusing on “functional” training, subsequent program design ultimately should balance the overall training stress applied, include a variety of training stimuli, and the selection of specific resistance exercises should focus on sport-specific movement patterns, core stabilization (as this supports biomechanic efficiency in every mode of activity), as well as dynamic movement patterns.  Finally, the takeaway from Rhea’s “Cardiovascular Exercise” presentation will not make many of my multisport friends very happy.  This is because the conclusion that Rhea has drawn from studying the latest literature, as well as in his personal coaching practice, is that it is necessary to train with a much greater degree of precision when prescribing exercise intensity  than previously thought—simply piling on additional miles is not the answer and will not lead to the desired training/racing breakthroughs! (Note: Rhea is a principal in the development of a testing system, see Race-Rx).  The following two slides (again, reproduced with permission) highlight the essential points:

The all to common "add miles" approach to endurance training (courtesy of Dr. Matthew Rhea, PhD, CSCS, *D)

The need for precision in prescribing training intensities (courtesy of Dr. Matthew Rhea, PhD, CSCS, *D)

Robert Seebohar, CSCS presented “Nutrition for the Endurance Athlete.”  Although I have a had the pleasure of hearing Bob speak before (he presented at the USAT-Leve I certification that I attended in Seattle, WA), it was good to  hear Bob’s latest thoughts on athlete nutrition.  Note that Bob has an active coaching practice here in Colorado and his book “Nutrition Periodization for Athletes: Taking Sports Nutrition to the Next Level” is a concise and useful guide to customizing nutrition for optimum performance—it is in my library.  Additionally, I frequently refer clients who are struggling with nutrition issues to Bob as he is a valuable and experienced resource.  At it’s essence, Bob presents nutrition periodization as a means to “support the body’s energy needs associated with the different training volume and intensity stressors throughout the year to elicit positive physiological responses.”  In sum, I couldn’t agree more!  To dig deeper into Bob’s methodology purchase his book (add it to your collection) and visit his vibrant website, www.fuel4mance.com.

Along with his notable Qlympic credentials (a veteran advisor for athlete of five Olympic Games), Randall Wilber, PhD, FACSM used both science and “real life” experience to highlight some salient points in his presentations entitled “Overtraining: Causes, Recognition and Prevention,” “Altitude Training in Preparation for the Competition at Sea Level and Altitutde” and “Environmental Factors and Endurance Performance: Heat/Humidity and Jet Lag.”

Overtraining: Undoubtedly overtraining is a significant negative training response; however, there is a fine line between productive training, overreaching, and finally, overtraining.  The distinction between overreaching (the step just before overtraining) and overtraining is dramatic and significant.  Overreaching exhibits over the course of a few days (at most), is reversible with added recovery, and is a generally positive training adaptation necessary to improve performance; however, true overtraining is long term (lasting weeks or even months in severe cases), is irreversible with added recovery, and is a negative training adaptation that results in a performance suffers chronically and will serve to end an athlete’s competitive season.  Athletes that slip across the divide that separates overreaching from overtraining exhibit numerous performance, physiological, immunological, biochemical, and psychological symptoms.  These symptoms range from consistent decreases in performance compared to previous efforts or competitions to a persistent apathy and lethargy.  After reviewing the often complex symptoms and physiological models of overtraining (of which, I might, add Dr. Wilber identifies the endocrine system as the primary driver), he outlined 7 strategies to keep avoid falling into the overtraining trap.  (Dr. Wilber presented 5 models of overtraining: 1) glycogen depletion (chronic), 2) immunosuppression (elevated stress hormones), 3) autonomic nervous system imbalance, 4) central fatigue, and 5) elevated cytokines.)  Here are the strategies: 1) recognize the overtraining risk factors (note that many of the risks factors are associated with the personality type that of individuals that are commonly drawn to multisport/endurance endeavors, e.g., perfectionist, Type-A, or as I like to classify myself, “Type IA—a play on the slow twitch muslce fiber type, and excessive motivation, etc.), 2) rely on a scientifically sound training program (i.e., a periodized program that allows for sufficient recovery), 3) utilize detailed monitoring of training repines[s], 4) nutritional intervention (increase carbohydrates), 5) monitor biomechanical and biological markers, 6) application of specific training guidelines during systemic (providing the answer to the question, “Should I train when I am sick?”), and 7) recovery techniques (including passive rest).

Altitude Training: I can only hit the “highest” (ha) of highlights here, as the application of altitude training is an exceeding complex training prescription.  Dr. Wilber’s most fundamental point: everyone can benefit/achieve a positive training response from altitude training if it is carried out correctly.  Although I won’t go into the physiological details here, three important nutrients may likely need to be supplemented prior to and during altitude training; specifically: 1) water, 2) iron, and 3) carbohydrates, as each support energy production as the lower partial pressure of O2 results in the body’s hemoglobin molecules to be less saturated with O2.  Hydration is critical as respiratory H2O loss is magnified at altitude (cool dry air) along with urinary H2O loss (the byproduct of increased energy expenditure).  Sufficient iron levels are critical when training at altitude, as iron plays a critical role in energy production that is amplified at higher elevations.  Also, relative to training with metabolic specificity, carbohydrates must be increased when training at altitude to meet increased energy demands (they should be the preferred substrate when training at altitude).  Finally, Dr. Wilber provided the following answers to the four “million dollar questions” surrounding training at altitude: 1) What is the optimal altitude at which to live/sleep/train?  Answer: 6560 – 8200 ft.  2) How long does the exposure need to be?  Answer: 3-4 weeks at > 22 hrs. per day.  3) How long does the training effect last after returning to sea level?  Answer: 3-4 weeks, but the training response is highly dependent on the individual.  And, 4) Is simulated altitude (hypoxic tent/or other training aid) effective?  Answer: Evidence suggests so, but the necessary “hypoxic dose” must be obtained (it appears that this beneficial effect can be obtained in fewer hours per day, 12-16 hrs., but a higher simulated altitude must be used, e.g., 8200-9840 ft.

Environmental Factors: Heat/Humidity and Jet Lag:  Dr. Wilber again did not disappoint in bringing the science to two common training issue: 1) racing/competing in a hot and humid environment, and 2) racing/competing after a long flight.  Interestingly, the battle to racing at a hot and humid venue can be won even if you don’t live in a rainforest!  Dr. Wilber presented four strategies: 1) natural acclimatization (i.e., go to the hot and humid race venue and train there in advance), 2) pre-acclimitization (simulate conditions in advance of arriving at the race venue), 3) euhydration and thermoregulation (whereby fluid is preloaded, pre-competition and replaced, post-competition to keep the athlete’s body in a normal state of hydration), and  4) pre-cooling and cooling (use of ice vests, whole body COLD water immersion, ice packs, etc.).  Although it requires careful planning, an athlete can acclimatize  to these foreign conditions by following a relatively short program where both the training duration (up to 90 minutes) and training intensity (up to race pace) are gradually increased while simulating the race venue environment (note this is typically achieved by wearing additional layers of cotton clothing—cotton, not the pricey technical stuff that we typically train in, is in order here).  The goal of each of these strategies is to maximize performance while minimizing performance degradation or producing any of the specific types of heat illness (e.g., heat cramp, heat syncope, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, or hyponatremia).  Our Olympic athletes, under Dr. Wilber’s care, follow a complex schedule to “align their bodies with their destination” (utilizing a sliding schedule of gradually adjusting the sleep-wake cycles and is supplemented by the use of artificial bright light exposure).  Of three variables that can be managed by the traveling athlete: 1) the time leading up to departure (e.g., the week prior), 2) in flight activity, and 3) post-arrival (the 1-3 days, or more, before competition begins; the “in flight” and “upon arrival” are the most critical.  Dr. Wilber reviewed the use of several ergogenic aids for the in flight leg, including compression hose/suits, nasal air filters (he personally recommended the use of the “Breathe Pure” brand), nasal saline spray, anti-bacterial hand gel, melatonin, prescription sleep sids (e.g., Ambien), the use of caffeine, as well as the timing and composition of in-flight nutrition—each can be used by an athlete to mitigate the negative effects of lengthy air travel.  The “upon arrival” time must also be managed to ensure solid performance.  As a general rule, Dr. Wilber suggested that high intensity training should be avoided for the first few days, while bright light exposure (assuming a substantial time in the air) should be administered.  Apparently, an athlete who has been exposed to potential jet lag may exhibit reduced fine motor skills and impaired coordination, thereby opening up an increased risk of injury.

At the end of each day’s presentations, attendees were treated to some hands-on experience in the beautifully equipped NSCA training center.  Technique and modes of teaching proper technique for plyometrics, physioball exercises, dumbbell resistance exercises, and barbell Olympic lifts to endurance athletes were presented and practiced.  These techniques and exercises were presented as a means to improve performance and injury prevention as it applies to endurance athletes.

One view of this extremely well-equipped exercise facility where the practical sessions took place.

I want to extend a special thanks to each of the presenters who shared their expertise and knowledge on these fascinating endurance sport topics.  For more information, please contact the NSCA.

A second view.

 

ChiRunning (and a local “ChiRunning” guru)

The cover of "ChiRunning" yes, it's one word!

I read Danny Dreyer’s “ChiRunning” last year and practiced many of his concepts from time to time, but I never made a concerted effort to master the “Chi” (pronounced chee) techniques.  The subtitle of his transformative book provides additional insight into what “ChiRunning” is all about: “A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running.”  Sounds good, right?  Over the course of my running life, I have thankfully remained virtually injury free.  Don’t get me wrong, I have experienced bouts of the usual suspects of runners’ injuries: IT irritation, a prickly piriformis, some isolated foot pain (that, unfortunately, progressed into some metatarsalgia that now has me seemingly forever stuck in custom orthotics), a tight shin/antirior tibialis or mild calf pain, but really, that is about all.  However, as I grow older and despite my best efforts at “spreading the stress” the idea of wholly “injury-free” running intrigued me.  Also, facing heavy run volume in anticipation of both the TransRockies Run and a late-season Ironman brought the idea of working a bit harder on the concepts Danny outlines in his book.  To that end, I did a quick Google search and learned  that a master instructor of the Chi program lived right here in Denver, Colorado (actually, Lakewood): Mary Lindahl.  More on that in a bit.

First, the book. Dreyer, in slightly more than 200 pages, identifies the likely causes of the pain that sidelines 65% of all runners each year (this is Dreyer’s number, citing that almost two thirds of all runners will have to stop running at least once during a calendar year due to injury), namely, “poor running form and poor biomechanics” coupled with an untenable allegiance to “power running.”  While I am not personally into any of the spiritual “zen” of Dreyer’s methodology, who can help but like one of the quotes he uses to introduce the “revolution” of ChiRunning: “A good runner leaves no footprints.”—Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching  Essentially, Dreyer portrays power running (the type that most of us do) as a violent “might makes right” or “no pain, no gain” affair where a runner continually strives to develop more and more leg strength and leg speed to run both faster and farther.  In contrast, Chi technique harnesses the power of “relaxation and biomecahnically correct running form” to help a runner move more efficiently, while placing far less stress on the body; the result allows Dreyer the freedom to label Chi as “no pain, no pain”  running.

 From “Chi Running” by Danny Dreyer

The five key principles of ChiRunning:

(I)     Cotton and Steel: Gather to Your Center

(II)   Gradual Progress: The Step-by-Step Approach

(III) The Pyramid: The Small is Supported by the Large

(IV) Balance in Motion: Equal Balance and Complementary

(V)   Nonidentification: Getting Yourself Out of the Way

The four Chi-skills:

  1. Focusing Your Mind
  2. Body Sensing: High-Speed Access
  3. Breathing: Tapping Into Your Chi
  4. Relaxation

If you can make sense of the five key “principles” and four “skills” without more, then you are far more sophisticated than I am.  No worries if you are with me, as Dreyer artfully explains the five principles and then provides instructive exercises that draw you into a basic understanding of the Chi skills.  Next, and also supported with helpful exercises, Dreyer dives into the “physical aspects” of ChiRunning.  Here is where the reader is treated to the actual Chi technique that rests on corrections in posture, adjustment of forward lean, position and movement of the legs and arms, and, finally, a guide to developing a Chi running program.  The remainder of the book features useful tips on everything from purchasing shoes, optimizing race nutrition, and even insights to diet, with Dreyer emphasizing the benefits of a “clean” (i.e. “high-quality foods) and predominately plant-based nutritional strategy.

The clinic:  As my wife, Hope, had also experimented with ChiRunning, she eagerly joined me for a clinic with Mary Lindahl, Master ChiRunning and ChiWalking Instructor (Mary routinely offers group clinics through the Denver area in addition to private training).  Mary has a tremendous running bio.  She has been running since 1976 and, at the time of our meeting, had completed 30 marathons—Mary is also a perennial Boston qualifier!

We arrived at Mary’s home in Lakewood shortly after 8 a.m. and were warmly greeted with a smile and the friendly company of Mary’s dog “Haley.”  We gathered around the kitchen table and talked a bit about our respective backgrounds (both running and non-running alike) before digging into the ChiRunning material.  Mary provided us each with a ChiRunning handout (primarily a concise handout of the Chi technique).  After some initial video analysis, we proceed to essentially work stepwise through the material that is presented in Dreyer’s book.  While Mary’s style is laid back and encouraging, she clearly demonstrates a mastery of Dreyer’s technique.  As we progressed through the material and exercise, as well as additional video and analysis, my wife and I gained more an more efficiency—we both began to “feel” the technique!  We worked consistently for more than 2 hours, progressing through each of the five ChiRunning principles and the four ChiRunning skills, concluding with some work in Jewell Park on ascending and descending steep terrain (i.e. hills). Outside of the principles and techniques, of particular note (and I will suggest of particular use) were the exercises used to transition both “in” and “out” of a run.  The “in” exercises included a series of pre-run “body looseners” that consisted of ankle rolls, knee circles, hip circles, pelvic circles, spine rolls, dynamic moves to work the shoulders and upper back, and “grounding stance”—each move is designed to setup the body to initiate the run in ChiRunning form.  Mary had set the stage for our running session by introducing us to these pre-run techniques.  On the other end, the “out” exercises included additional “body sensing” and static stretches designed to target the calfs and achilles, hip flexors, hamstrings, adductors (these are the muscles of the inner thigh), and quadriceps.

At the end of the day, we had collectively introduced, reviewed, and implemented each of the major principles (or “focuses” as they are known in the Chi) that “is” ChiRunning.  I felt as though I now had a sense of the techniques, whereas before I had been simply doing my best to translate the techniques from the text alone.  Mary served as a warm and talented guide to these techniques.  I knew going into the clinic that ChiRunning is a process and, as a result of Mary’s guidance, both my wife and I had moved further down the road to achieving the many benefits from working the ChiRunning techniques.

Mary Lindahl, Master ChiRunning and ChiWalking Instructor

Mary’s running bio: I can tell you exactly when I started running.  Frank Shorter had just won the silver medal for the marathon in the 1976 Olympics.  I learned that a marathon was 26 miles that day and I went out to see if I could run one mile.  I did and was hooked from that day on.  I ran 6 marathons during the next 2 years before I was sidelined by debilitating IT Band Syndrome.  I saw doctor after doctor and tried everything Western and Eastern medicine could offer to try and solve my knee pain.  Finally, in 2004, I found Chi Running and learned that the answer had been inside me the whole time.  I just needed to change my form!  Not only had I found the cure for my knee pain, but I’d found a new career as well.  I had recently retired from the University of Alaska Fairbanks as a Finance Professor and decided I could combine my love of running with my love of teaching.  I also knew that the best way to learn something was to teach it – and I had a lot to learn.  I needed to change just about everything in my running stride; and I needed to learn how to relax and feel what was happening in my body.  My knee pain disappeared after the first few months, but I was just beginning to learn what ChiRunning could do for my health, my energy, and my enjoyment of other activities.  Applying the principles of ChiRunning has become a way of life for me rather than a goal to be obtained.  It has changed my view on aging and I now look at this as something I can improve on for the rest of my life.  I have assisted Danny at workshops all over the U.S., Costa Rica and Ireland and traveled with the Dreyers to the Tai Chi Camp in China that was organized by George Xu.  As a Master Instructor, I am teaching some of the upcoming Instructor Trainings for Chi Living, Inc.

I still love running marathons and finished my 31st one on May 1, 2011 at the Colorado Marathon in Ft. Collins—and even qualified for Boston again!  I especially love teaching Chi Running and turning other people on to the efficiencies of this form.  All of my workshops include both a before and after video gait analysis that we watch in slow motion.  It can be very revealing!  Please call or email if you have any questions about my upcoming workshops or if you would like to organize your own small group: (425) 457-6567 in Lakewood, CO or runninginbalance@gmail.com .

You can view my “before” video as I work through some of my “gears” (ChiRunning utilizes a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. “gear” progression for running speed) here.  As a shortcut, within the Chi system, a slower running speed utilizes less forward lean and a shorter stride length which equates to a lower gear.  Conversely, a higher running speed utilizes more forward lean and a longer stride length which equates to higher gear.  Regardless of the gear, the tempo or is maintained at a consistent 85-90 rpm.  At the end of the day, I had made significant improvements to my form and Chi technique.

 

Zero Calorie Run?: Epic Endurance Cheyenne Mountain Trail Run – 25K

Paul Hardcastle, Michelle Grubb, Hope Beatte (my wife), and me pre-race in the parking lot at Cheyenne Mtn. State Park

Last Saturday I joined my wife, Hope, along with our friends Paul Hardcastle and Michelle Grubb for the inaugural Epic Endurance Cheyenne Mountain Trail Run 25K.  Epic Endurance is the brainchild of our friend Andrea Watkins and her new boyfriend, “Steve 6.0” … those are her words NOT mine!  Let me say at the outset that Andrea and Steve picked an outstanding venue.  Cheyenne Mountain State Park (one of Colorado’s newest) is located just to the southwest of Colorado Springs, CO and offers nearly 1700 acres to explore with over 20 miles of trail access.  Cheyenne Mountain offers an elevation of 9565 ft.

The morning arrived cold along with a potential for precipitation of the blowing, frozen kind (i.e. snow).  Although the skies eventually cycled through overcast to bouts of blue with intermittent snow—really, it was an ideal day for a trail run.  The parking lot featured lots of energetic, albeit cold, racers and many familiar faces as volunteers, our friends Beth Tennant, Tyler Walton, Barry Cross, and Anthony Beeson were just a few of the friendly faces that had turned out to support Andrea and Steve’s first race.  And now, a note about my personal guilt: I felt really bad about racing and not volunteering; however, when I had asked Andrea about how I could help, she had encouraged me to race.  However, even before I set foot to the starting line, I felt uneasy about being a competitor and made a personal commitment to serve as a race volunteer in subsequent years.

A bit about the lead photo on this post, the one withe the smiley face made out of various high protein, high fat, and low carbohydrate foods: Over the course of the last several weeks, I have been experimenting with elements of a “slow-carb” nutritional strategy, purposely training and racing on lower quantities of low glycemic index (GI), complex carbohydrates and higher quantities of “healthy” fats.  This nutritional plan also features scheduled “high carb” days to replenish my body’s energy stores, every 7-10 days.  The net effect or this type of nutritional strategy, when combined with metabolically specialized training, is an increase in the body’s ability to spare carbohydrates while relying on large percentages of fat as an energy substrate.  Note: To see one of the most dramatic slow-carb protocols, see pages 70-99 of “The 4-Hour Body” authored by the ever-controversial, but highly motivated and energetic Tim Ferriss.

The actual ingredients of my breakfast included 3 hard boiled eggs, 11 grams of Brazil nuts, 11 grams of organic whole almonds, 2 T (32 grams) of almond butter, providing approximately 652 calories and an approximate macronutrient breakdown of 14 grams of carbohydrates, 54 grams of fat, 36 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber.

There were two primary ideas behind this fueling strategy: 1) I wanted to provide a mental challenge to run 25K (15.5 miles) without an appreciable carbohydrate load, and 2) I wanted to test my own endurance while using a virtually no-carb pre-race meal and without the addition of on-course fuel (thereby testing the limits of my personal glycogen stores).

A brief biochemistry lesson: Glycogen is a “secondary” fuel source that is primarily stored in the muscle and liver (compared to glucose which is the “primary” fuel source that is made available to the body via the blood) and the average individual stores approximately 1500 calories of glycogen—this is highly variable and is determined by both genetic and lifestyle factors (think training and diet); but sufficient fuel to provide a couple of hours of sustained, moderately high intensity workout.  Note that only the glycogen stored in the liver can be made available to other organs.  The body has three principle energy systems: the phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative (each is always “on” but the amount of energy supplied by each is dependent on both the intensity and duration of the activity  the body is engaged in, e.g., complete rest versus heavy resistance training or sprinting versus running a marathon).  The energy systems fall along a continuum that places the phosphagen system on side, fully engage during high intensity but short duration exercise, and the oxidative system on the other, providing the predominant proportion of fuel during low intensity but long duration exercise.  The glycolytic system fall in the middle, being further divided between slow- and fast-glycolysis.  Each of the systems are “on” all the time, but each contributes to the body’s energy needs at different levels based on the demands being placed on the body at any given time.  Glycogen, or lack there of, is principally involved when an athlete hits the proverbial “wall” or “bonks.”  In this situation, energy expenditure outpaces energy (caloric) consumption and the athlete’s stored glycogen levels.  Not only does this have dramatic implications for the athlete during a training or race event, but it makes proper recovery nutrition paramount.

Running strong without any nutrition!

So as the mass of runners crossed the starting line, I set out on my personal quest to see when I would hit my wall.  The run from the parking lot along the park’s access road provided immediate elevation gain—it went UP—before quickly yielding to near perfect single track.  Once we made the single file line, the elevation continued to come.  I ran with Hope for a while as Paul and Michelle jockeyed for positions in front or behind us—I really had no idea where they were (only later did I learn that Michelle had bowed out early on due to some intestinal issues—I am sure that she will return next year to give it another go)!?  I was running free without pace of mileage data, only heart rate and felt strong.  Hope was now behind me and I started to really enjoy the trail experience, dodging roots and rocks, quickly changing direction, and following the trail as it coursed up and down.  Relatively early into the course I managed to hook up with a group of runners who was pushing the “perfect” pace (i.e., a bit faster than my comfort level) and provided an opportunity to draft … not that you can really draft in a running race, but I find there is a certain mental benefit and ease that comes by running on the end of a faster pack of runners.  This is especially true for me when running trails, as if I see that the runner (or runners as it may be) that I am following is making efficient foot placements, I can kind of put myself on autopilot.  Note: I still stay focused on where my feet are landing, but my mind seems to get a mental cue from observing a good foot placement in advance.  Has anyone else had this experience or is it unique to me?  Our group began to separate from the other runners (mind you, the runners ahead of me were three women … and all very experienced runners) and the pace continued to increase.   We were all running with iPods, but brief conversation was still manageable.  “You all are great trail runners,” I shared and then added, “thanks for the pull.”  To which I received a “glad to have you along and we will look forward to you leading us along in a bit.”  I promised to head out front and, at about mile 8, I did.  I worked out ahead and eventually pulled away from my little pack, only to assure them before I left that they would see me again as I was conducting a little experiment.  I passed all the nutritional goodies at the aid stations and only took water but continued to feel strong until about mile 13.  My wall appeared and I, as I had predicted, the other runners that initially followed, then paced, and eventually moved away from started to catch up and then overtake me.  I crossed the finish at 2 hrs. 47 minutes and 27 seconds after I started (12th in my division and 45th overall).  Paul finished at 2:53:04 and Hope followed at 3:24:39 with Michelle getting the DNF (really, it was DNS, “Did Not Start” as the nausea, etc. had plagued her almost from the start).

A word from the race director:

The Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race was my first attempt to organize a true race experience.  After spending years organizing teams of athletes to train, travel, and compete nationally and internationally event directing seemed the next logical step in my career.  My mission for Epic Endurance Events is to create an environment where competition is fierce but the race is also accessible and supportive to runners of all abilities.  For me this means support is available for every person on the course, whether you are in first place, in the middle of the pack, or the last finisher across the line.  The course will be challenging and well-marked.  Food and water will be available to you (even if you choose to pass it up!) at aid stations, volunteers will be on the course, and GOOD post race food and drink will be there for you when you cross the finish line.  Placing you in the race to hear your experience on the course was critical to building the race and achieving my goals.  I would have been crazy not to take advantage of your experience and knowledge as an endurance athlete.

This year [2012] I am looking forward to having you out there as a volunteer supporting our runners.  Your support means a lot to me, but more important, your support means a lot to all of the folks who made the decision to come run with us.  I wish you the best in your endeavors with your new blog.  I have no doubt you will inspire, encourage, educate, and support people in their endeavors to be fit and healthy.

See you at the races!

-Andrea

Owner | Race Director

Epic Endurance Events

www.epicenduranceevents.com

The Takeaway:

My experiment was just that, a bit of experiment and a change from my usual routine.  Several weeks of lower- and slower-carb  (complex, low-GI carbohydrates) nutrition combined with an ultra low-carb race day breakfast had shown me that I had a “range” of nearly 3 hrs. of moderately high intensity exercise.  My experiment also solidified the importance of “good” carbohydrates on the athlete’s table as part of an ongoing training, recovery (they really can’t be separated), and race day nutritional strategy.

I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with the organization, the venue, and the execution of this inaugural event … congratulations Andrea and Steve 6.0—I will tell as many people as I can about this great new event and will look forward to seeing you next year, as a race volunteer, that is!!!

Shannon Sharpe and you? … and me?

The December 21st, 2010 edition of the Wall Street Journal featured the following article as part of its regular “What’s Your Workout” column: “Football Player Leaves the Field, Not the Gym: After a Stellar 13-Year Career in the NFL, Shannon Sharpe Maintains a Severe Fitness Program and a Disciplined Diet.”  For those of you that may not know, the “What’s Your Workout” column appears regularly in the WSJ and highlights the workouts and fitness routines of a wide variety of individuals … stories that encourage us by revealing how other “real” people stay in shape.

I frequently reference the Shannon Sharpe piece to my clients as an introduction to the concept of physical and nutritional discipline, especially to those who are looking to make significant “lifestyle” changes.   The article and my attendant comments have been so well received that I thought it could prove useful to a slightly wider audience.

The article highlights five noteworthy points that I want to share: 1) Shannon plans his workouts in advance (e.g., sets out his clothes the night before); 2) he focuses on intense cardio exercises—Shannon obviously understands the benefits of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training—I have provided an excerpt from “Total Heart Rate Training” by Joel Friel, the “father” of heart rate training, see “Misconception #2,” that explains why this is important and the quasi-myth of the fat burning zone); 3) he has unshakeable discipline which has a way of influencing others (e.g., see the comments concerning Marino, Brown, and Esiason); 4) he devotes one day each week where he emphasizes cardio (an important part of developing a useful aerobic base); and, perhaps most importantly, 5) Shannon makes his nutrition a priority and his pocket book backs up this commitment—he has made a choice to purchase high quality food (i.e. average weekly food bill of $600); also, he understands the basics of metabolic efficiency/metabolism (eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day) and meal timing; note that he also avoids late-day spikes of insulin by utilizing low glycemic index carbohydrates and making sure that the majority of his complex carbohydrates are routinely consumed by noon).

 

From “Total Heart Rate Training” by Joel Friel

Misconception 2: To Lose Weight, Exercise in the “Fat Burning Zone”

The myth of the “fat-burning zone” has been around for a few decades now, and, like most myths, it has an element of truth to it.  It’s true that when you exercise at a low intensity your primary source of fuel is fat.  So why isn’t going slow always the best way to shed blubber?  Let’s examine what happens during exercise.

The body has two primary sources of fuel to use during exercise—fat and glycogen.  Glycogen is a form of carbohydrate stored in the muscles.  During aerobic activity both glycogen and fat are used simultaneously to provide energy.  At low intensity a greater percentage of fuel comes from fat, but some of the energy is also supplied by glycogen.  As the intensity of exercise increases—for example, going from walking to running—the body gradually begins to use more glycogen and less fat.  At very high intensities, such as long sprints, most of the energy is supplied by glycogen, with relatively little coming from fat.

Still sounds like slow exercise is the way to go, right?  Read on.

The confounding factor has to do with how many total calories are burned during low-intensity and high-intensity exercise.  When you are going slow, fewer calories are used per unit of time than when going fast.

Let’s say, for example, that there are two 150-pound people, each with 30 minutes to exercise.  One walks and the other runs.  Our walker covers 2 miles and burns about 200 calories.  Of these, 70 percent came from fat, for a total of 140 fat calories used.  The runner covers 3 miles in the same 30 minutes and consumes 330 calories, with 60 percent of them derived from fat—198 calories.

What is comes down to is this: Do you want a big slice of a little pie, or a small slice of a big pie?  While you’ll usually take the pie any way you can get it, the bigger the pie (the higher-intensity workout) is definitely the better for burning fat.

And there’s more.  For some time after the workout, perhaps a few minutes to a few hours, your metabolism is elevated above baseline levels.  Suet is melting away even though you are sitting at your desk.  The higher the intensity and the greater duration of the workout, the higher the metabolism and the more calories that are burned.  When it comes to counting calories, high intensity results in more calories expended than staining in the so-called fat-burning zone.

That doesn’t mean you should always exercise intensely.  When starting an exercise program, going slowly reduces the risk of injury.  Also, easy exercise days are needed after hard days, to allow muscles and other systems to recover.

Nutritional Discipline and the Glycemic Index

Shannon has made a commitment to his nutrition that he backs up with his time and financial resources.  Shannon tries anticipates life events (e.g., travel, work assignments, and family commitments, etc.) and takes nutritious foods with him.  He also emphasizes meal timing, spacing 5 to 6 meals out throughout  the day and, in his own words, tries “to get all my complex carbs in by noon.”  By utilizing lower glycemic index complex carbohydrates earlier in the day, Shannon effectively avoid the consequences of the blood sugar roller coaster ride that most individuals take every day.  Instead of spiking his insulin levels over and over through the day, Shannon gets his complex (or “good) carbohydrates in early in the day to fuel his active lifestyle and avoids the associated fat storage that results from bringing high loads of carbohydrates in late in the day.  Note that this is the opposite of what most individuals, instead, many Americans allow themselves to feed on a near constant supply of simple sugars (“bad” carbohydrates) throughout the day and then top it all off with a high carbohydrate (usually the processed white stuff) at the very end of their day—the consequences of this habit are visible our waistlines, hips, and buttocks … just look around!?

A Look at My “Food Ethic”:

The beauty of being both an observant and dedicated athlete is that you learn a great deal by trial and error.  I have developed a personal “food ethic” and an approach to nutritional excellence by referencing countless resources and through much trial and error.  However, recently I discovered a collection of books that fairly summarize what I have come to discover on my own.  If you are looking for some nutritional guidance, I can highly recommend the following resources: 1) “In Defense of Food” by Mark Pollan (there are many other titles that have shaped my food “ethic” but this is a really important work), Pollan’s mantra of “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” resonates with me.  I will also recommend “Ultrametabolism” by Mark Hyman, M.D.  Although styled as a weight loss book, this book provides a healthy outline for increasing vitality and sports performance.  As for endurance sports-specific, check out Bob Seebohar’s book,  “Nutrition Periodization” (it has it’s value, although I don’t agree with everything).  There is SO MUCH information in this area (much of which is conflicting, contradictory, and/or confusing), but you have to just dive in and start building a nutrition foundation.  First rate nutrition, especially for those who are looking to move beyond the standard energy balance concept of “calories in versus calories out”  (which unfortunately, is the bedrock principle of managing body composition—new nutritional science continues to suggest that both what we eat and when we eat it impacts body composition), involves a significant investment of time, money, and self-discipline.

Note: There is no magic contained in these books; however, these titles, admittedly in there individually incomplete and sometimes inconsistent ways, provide a foundation for my current personal nutrition philosophy, particularly, a type of “food ethic” that I subscribe to and one that I hope that you find beneficial to your own pursuit of wellness!

I devote a considerable amount of time and financial resources to both food selection and preparation.  As a means of cutting down on the time spent in the market, I have compiled a couple of grocery lists that use to guide both my family’s and my clients’ shopping (as I cycle through nutritional periods, these lists cover both my more plant-based nutritional “periods” as well as those that include lean, organic animal-based proteins).  Remember, keep it fun … I always try to bring home one new food that I don’t eat regularly each time I visit the market (preferably one that doesn’t have a label on it or come in a box).  I hope that you find these lists helpful:

Grocery List for Clients

My Family’s Personal Shopping List

Shannon Sharpe Article, citation (I would have liked to have provided an active link to the article or provided a reprint; however, the the WSJ charges dearly for such access.  If you are unable to locate the article, please send me an e-mail and I will provided it to you via my WSJ account):

Football Player Leaves the Field, Not the Gym.  (2010, December 21).  The Wall Street Journal.  (Western, ed.) p. (   ).  Or online:  Murphy, Jen. (2010, December 21).  Football Player Leaves the Field, Not the Gym.  The Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved March 31, 2011, from: http://www.wsj.com.

My Oatmeal

A lively variation, with the addition of walnuts, of my "standard" oatmeal.

I love oatmeal … period!  It is a staple in our home and recently, due to the urging of one of my personal training clients, I put pen to paper (or, as it turned out, fingertips to keyboard) and put together my basic oatmeal recipe to share.  But, what if you don’t share my enthusiasm for this anytime shape and say, “BUT I DON”T LIKE OATMEAL!”  Saying you don’t like oatmeal is akin to someone saying that she doesn’t like beer … there are a lots of styles and flavors of oatmeal (and beer)—BTW it’s is ok if you still don’t like beer (but give oatmeal a chance).  And listen, when I say oatmeal the kind that comes in the little single-serve packets, that can be prepared in 2.5 seconds by adding a 1/4 cup of tepid water, and have sugary sounding names like “Cookies & Cream” or “Maple Sugar Whatever” is NOT what I am talking about!

Before I bore your with the “why it’s good for you” stuff, let me add a few of the practical reasons that I really like this power food: 1) it’s scaleable, meaning you can enjoy a little or a lot depending on your caloric needs for the day, 2) it’s portable, it goes with you in almost anything (e.g. a cup, a bowl, a resealable container, even a Ziploc®), 3) it’s widely modifiable – you can prepare it coarse or “al dente” or cook it to oblivion, you can add almost anything in the cabinet or refrigerator to it or serve it “neat.”

So, why is oatmeal good for you anyway?  Oatmeal is a low calorie food, a single cup (prepared) has only 130 calories.  Oatmeal offers an abundance of fiber and even protein with a low associated amount of fat.  As a high-fiber, complex carbohydrate, oatmeal has a relatively low glycemic index (GI) and therefore is more slowly converted to simples sugars (this offers a muted insulin response).  Additionally, its high magnesium content supports the body’s utilization of glucose; consequently, oatmeal can help reduce the risk to Type 2 diabetes.  As a general rule, oatmeal can be considered a gluten free food; however, for the truly gluten intolerant or those that have been diagnosed with celiac disease the avenin protein can present a problem (avenin is one of the prolamine proteins that is potentially toxic to those with acute sensitivities).  Oatmeal is rich in plant lignans which have been shown to offer benefits for the prevention of both breast cancer (and other hormone-dependent cancers) as well as heart disease.  Oatmeal is rich in antioxidants.  It has been shown to lower the risk of heart failure by up to 30% (it is important to use the whole grain variety versus any processed or refined “quick oats”).  Oatmeal has even been shown to augment the body’s immense response to disease.

 

Brian’s Standard Oatmeal: 

Enjoy hot or cold, this dish can be enjoyed right off the stovetop or easily prepared the night before and consumed as a cold cereal the next morning.  Use this recipe as a base and feel free to mix it up, adding additional fresh/frozen fruits (e.g. blueberries, strawberries, gogi berries, raisins, dark chocolate, etc.) or nuts (walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, etc.)—use your imagination and experiment!

3/4 cup (dry) Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Old Fashion Rolled Oats1

1 medium banana

1 T chia seeds

1 T NutriBiotic rice protein powder (or substitute a natural whey protein)

1 slice organic cheddar cheese, sliced/shredded (or substitute Jarlsberg “Lite,” low-fat mozzarella, etc.)*

1 tsp. Udo’s 3-6-9 oil

1 T finely ground flaxseed

1/2 cup organic whole milk, preferably non-homogenized (or substitute almond, soy, or low-fat milk)*

1/2 cup prepared cranberry sauce or fresh variety (a tasty antioxidant) (e.g. Whole Foods, whole berry variety)2

Cook oatmeal as directed (using water) … don’t overcook (stir in protein powder once oatmeal is fully cooked or, omit protein powder in this step and simply sprinkle it over the bananas). Place chopped banana and chia seeds in the bottom of the serving dish. Pour the oatmeal on top and immediately add the sliced/shredded cheese. Top with flaxseed, Udo’s oil, milk, and add the prepared cranberry sauce.

Approximate Nutritional Information: Total calories: 755, Carbs: 100g, Fat: 24g, Protein: 37g, and Fiber: 14g.

1Any “thick,” NOT quick-cook or instant, oats will do (Whole Foods sells thick cut oats in the bulk foods section), note that the thick varieties can be prepared in 5-10 minutes on the stovetop … I often do this the night before while prepare the evening meal).

2For an additionally healthful preparation, you can make fresh cranberry sauce by purchasing frozen cranberries and gently boiling them on the stovetop. Alternatively, feel free to replace with 1 T of dried cranberries (also available in bulk at WholeFoods).

*Surprised to see dairy here (i.e., cheese and milk)?  Well, dairy can have its place on the training table and it is a good source of protein and calcium, as well as additional calories when needed.  I for one do not buy the whole “avoid saturated fats at all costs mantra”; however, I do believe in nutrition periodization, i.e., cycling macronutrients in order to best support a given particular training goal, cycle, or volume.  Bottom line: whatever side of the dairy debate you decided to “whey in” on (ha … couldn’t resist), don’t skip the oatmeal!

Some interesting resources on the issue of magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and saturated fat, see:

Carvil P, Cronin, J.  Magnesium and Implications on Muscle Function.  Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2010; 32 (1): 48-54.

Spano M. Functional Foods, Beverages, and Ingredients in Athletics.  Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2010; 32 (1): 79-85.

Siri-Tarino P, Sun Q, Hu F, and Krauss R.  Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 91:502-509.

Snowshoe + Snow Mountain Bike + Nordic Skate Ski = Winter Triathlon

A selection of the rental skies available at Ski Cooper: the "Madshus" 185s were my weapons this year

Over the weekend I competed in the 3rd annual Aria Spa & Club Winter Triathlon.  Hosted at Ski Cooper’s Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, this annual event offers an excellent winter challenge and a great off-season training day.  The weather was perfect, the sun was out above a crystal clear blue sky and the snow was FAST!   This marks my second year of competing in this winter madness and the experiences from last winter really paid off.  Although nearly thwarted by I-70 ski traffic (I left my home at 6:00 a.m. and did not arrive in Leadville until 9:15 a.m.), I arrived at Ski Cooper approximately 1/2 hour before the starting gun (Bruce of Pedal Power  ALWAYS starts his races on time … this year was no exception).  After a quick run into the Nordic center to grab my rental Nordic gear, it was off to set up my transition area.  Snowshoes on feet with neoprene booties … check.  Mountain bike with helmet and gloves (AND tires set ridiculously low to 12-15 psi) … check.  Nordic ski boots unlaced and ready to go … check.  “Alright folks, let’s gather around” … Bruce calls the racers together at the starting run.  “3, 2, 1 … shoe!”

5K Snowshoe

The shoe course climbed quickly up groomed trail before splitting into a steady climb of single track.  The abundance of consistent snow throughout the winter offered a great base and the trail varied from packed steps to deep plunges through powder.  I quickly settled into a comfortable climbing rhythm and tried to keep my heart rate in the mid-130s (I let it drift upwards a few times), knowing that I needed to conserve energy for my weakest discipline—the Nordic skate skiing.  I kept a steady pace, only slowing to walk/climb the steepest sections.  I have included a short video clip of one of my walking climbs below:

 

10K Mountain Bike

After ditching my snowshoes and grabbing hydration along with a quick bite of solid food, I was on my bike and away (after the 10K hike-a-bike last year, I abandoned my clipless peddle system in exchange for big platforms … this made the transition faster and provided great stability out on the course).  I transitioned away from the Nordic Center and out onto the road leading to Ski Cooper.  The out-and-back course provided some really fast cruising at both the beginning and ending sections of the bike, as the course followed the snow packed entrance road.  Once on the Nordic trails, my bike setup hooked up and I made good time.  In stark contrast to last year’s first race, I rarely struggled for traction and made short order of the bike course.  See the Flip video I managed to shoot while cruising along on “Fish Flats”:

 

8K Nordic Skate Ski

The best comes last at these events!  I slipped into my boots and grabbed my skis with more confidence this year.  I had travelled to the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center earlier in the week to take a second skate ski lesson.  Unlike last year, where veteran athlete and instructor Roxanne Hall had guided me through my initial Nordic skiing start, this year I gained further instruction from Coach Don Quinn.  Don is a Nordic skiing master and an all around nice guy.  We reviewed the keys to efficiency on the skis: balance and a feel for the snow as well as the mechanics of the V1 and V2—we spent the remaining time working on general skiing and climbing (my weakness).  My time with Don paid huge dividends this year during the race.  Where last season I frequently had to remove my skis and walk, this year I skied the entire course!  Once out the starting chute for the ski, the course turned into a long climb (better than 3K uphill … as a guess).  I went anaerobic pretty quickly and did my best to conserve energy for the remaining 5K.  At the mid-point, this year’s course offered some welcomed downhill and I did my best to take advantage of the “free speed.”  I made good time and by maintaining a steady pace and focusing on the techniques Don had taught me earlier in the week I was actually able to overtake some other skiers.

I crossed the finish line (which, I might add, rests at the end of a steep climb) and nearly collapsed.  Unlike last year, where I finished second to last, the post-race party was still in full swing with competitors and families enjoying a BBQ on the deck of the Nordic center.  I will be planning to compete in BOTH of the winter triathlons next season … I think!? (the Street Swell Winter Triathlon takes place at the CMC campus, also in Leadville, CO, on February 19th, 2011).  I am also committed to devoting additional training days to improve my Nordic technique next season and am already researching the purchase of my own gear.  Another great Leadville event … I can’t wait for next year!

Gear Notes:

In addition to the terrific conditions and great weather, some gear changes also contributed to my overall improvement this year.  As I discussed in my early summary post that highlighted last year’s event, I once again elected to use Bontrager XDX TLR 2.4s mountain bike tires along with a container of Super Juice Tubeless Sealant and pressures set at 1 Bar (14.5 PSI)—again, just the right setup on the bike!  As an FYI, I save this tire setup exclusively for the snow!  I also abandoned my clipless pedal system (I use Crank Brothers titanium egg beaters on my MTB) and instead substituted a large platform pedal—this allowed for a reduction in my transition time (I simply transitioned directly from the snowshoes to the bike) and provided for quick dismount/remounts when the snow became sketchy.  A quick word about Nordic skate skis.  Based on my discussion with Don, select a true “glide” skate ski (not a “waxless”/no-was ski that you will quickly outgrow).  As far as the bindings, Don has skied forever on the SNS (Salomon Nordic System) binding and highly recommends it (note that the NIS:Nordic Integrated System and the NNN:New Nordic Norm exist as other binding/boot options).   At approximately 5′ 10” and 170 lbs., I ski  a 185-188 cm Nordic ski, with a poles in the range of 160-165 cm (a “rule of thumb” is that the pole point, when turned over on its end, should approximately rest under the chin).  As always, I relied on my Crescent Moon Gold Series 12 race/running snowshoes … they never let me down!

Bikram What?

—"Very hot and sweaty" after my 1st Bikram (hot yoga) class)

During the first week of November I participated in my first Bikram yoga class and I could not have selected a better studio: Yoga on 6th (now iLiv Yoga).  Self-described as a “warm, inviting space,” Yoga on 6th (located in the Cherry Creek Shopping District at the corner of 6th and Detroit) offers a wide variety of yoga offerings, including the very popular “hot”/Bikram yoga.  Although I had practiced other styles of yoga over the course of the last several years (e.g. Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga/Power), this was my first shot at the Bikram series.  How did I get here?  Well, to make a long story short, my sister (who lives in an uber-trendy area of Northern CA) was planning a visit for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  She had mentioned Bikram many times to me and had urged me to give it a go.  I am consistently encouraging my sister to experience new things and I wanted to reciprocate … I figured it would give us something to chat about over the holiday.  Not only did I find a great studio, but I had the good fortune to have Elizabeth Van Genderen as my instructor (a runner who uses yoga as a compliment to her running)—if you have an opportunity to catch one of Elizabeth’s classes you won’t be disappointed and will emerge as a better practitioner of the Bikram series.

Well, my first class certainly exceeded my expectations.  From the first moment I was challenged.  The room was heated to a balmy 105° and packed with yoga practitioners (alive with a great mix of students of all body types and levels of proficiency).  I have a confession to make, despite my attention to stretching and other forms of “self-care” I have the genetic flexibility of an icicle.  I followed E’s cues and went to my own space and attempted to cultivate “serenity without seriousness.”  The sweat came on quick and within the opening couple of series, the sweat was pouring off my body—by the end of the hour-and-half class I was drenched.  Repeatedly throughout the class I caught myself watching drops and rivulets of sweat pour of my appendages and running onto the floor … fascinating!

Following “Breath of Fire” and a final savasana (aka “rest pose”) I emerged from class with a bit of nausea that quickly passed and immediately lead to a sense of tremendous well-being—I felt energized and fully alive in an organic physical sense.

What follows is a review of the 26 Bikram poses and some of my personal reflections and challenges.  The Bikram series is split into an ordered succession of standing and sitting poses.  Note: I included the formal Sanskrit names as part of an intellectual exercise, as they simply passed by me during class … I simply wanted to add a bit of clarity.

No. 1: Standing Deep Breathing/Pranayama

An introductory pose, exposing the stiffness that I carry in my shoulders—almost all of my male clients (myself included) have significant restrictions in the shoulders, this pose serves to open that often restricted and, despite it’s large range of motion, unstable area. (Remember the thought, “What we gain in mobility in the shoulder joint comes at a cost of stability.”)  Although I don’t have any known restrictions in my neck, this pose also presents immediate challenges when attempting to keep the elbows level to the shoulders when exhaling.  A great pose to initiate focus and concentrate on 6-count breathing—serves to elevate body temperature.  This pose caught me a bit by surprise, as the veterans knew how to channel their breath and make a very vocal inhale and exhale sound … something for me to explore further.

No. 2: Half Moon with Hands to Feet/Arda Chandrasana with Pada-Hastasana

A great core move that exposes limits in flexibility while providing strengthening to the core.

No. 3: Awkward Pose/Utkatasana

An alignment pose that offers tremendous strengthening potential for both the lower body and core.

No. 4: Eagle/Garurasana

What’s not to like about a pose named “eagle pose”—one of my favorites.  Provides a great balance challenge as well as targeted flexibility work for the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbow, and wrists (each areas where the multisport athlete typically exhibits restrictions).  I am currently unable to “wrap” my non-working leg, instead it stays in place above the knee.

No. 5: Standing Head to Knee/Dandayamana Janushirasana

Another fantastic balance pose.  Here, once again, I am currently unable to make the hand to ankle connection to achieve the full expression of this pose.

No. 6: Standing Bow/Dandayamana-Dhanurasana

Ditto on this … unable to connect my hand to my ankle (I am exploring this pose further by using a strap—I use this one because I like the name).

No. 7: Balancing Stick/Tuladandasana

In addition to developing concentration on balance, this pose has the added benefit of rapidly increasing one’s heart rate.

No. 8: Standing Separate Leg Stretching/Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Pashimotthanasana

This complimentary pose addresses the elevated heart rate and provides a great opportunity to focus on spinal alignment (this pose is a great compliment to many of the vertical pushing exercises/Olympic lifts that are frequently part of my resistance training routines).

No. 9: Triangle/Trikanasana

This pose offers a shotgun effect … it works the entire body; however, it appears to offer tremendous benefits for hip flexibility (a potentially beneficial pose for us runners).

No. 10: Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee/Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Janushirasana

This pose particularly challenges the muscles of the spine and legs.

No. 11: Tree/Tadasana

Another of my favorite poses … who doesn’t like finding a strong “tree-like” balance?  Bikram practitioners suggest that this pose helps one to develop grace … I agree.

No. 12: Toe Stand/Padangustasana

A pose designed to develop patience … that is an understatement as, at this early level of my Bikram practice, this expression is way out of my reach!

No. 13: Dead Body-“Corpse”/Savasana

A resting pose used between the sitting series that facilitates a drop in heart rate.  I personally feel that the real power of this pose come from concentrating on feeling the floor supporting the entire body.  There is tremendous benefit to coming in and out of the poses, at E’s urging, I tried to consciously alternate the direction that I moved in and out of savasana.

No. 14: Wind-Removing Pose/Pavanamuktasana

Provides a self-massage of the internal organs, especially targeting the liver and intestines.

No. 15: Cobra/Bhujangasana

A focused strengthening exercise for the spine.  I personally feel this is a great pose for cyclists.

No 16: Locust/Salabhasana

Another terrific pose for spinal strengthening.

No. 17: Full Locust/Poorna-Salabhasana

This pose offers a variety of hand variations that I explored during my initial class (very similar to a training exercise called the “superman”).

No. 18: Bow/Dhanurasana

I simply can’t connect to my ankles here.  This is a capstone pose that combines the development of the “cobra” and “locust” series into a final, full spinal compression.

No. 19: Sit Up

The yoga sit up is only indicated for those without pre-existing back issues.  This is a dynamic move that is simultaneously combined with two strong exhales in order to facilitate the clearing out of the lungs.  Like savasana, the sit up allows a transition between poses and I attempted to alternate coming out of the sit up on both the right and left side of my body.

No. 20: Fixed Firm Pose/Supta-Vajrasana

I am unable to get my butt to the floor … I have to use a prop here (i.e., a yoga block).  This pose offers great potential for increasing flexibility in my knees.

No. 21: Half Tortoise Pose/Ardha-Kurmasana

A relaxation pose that offers a significant challenge to the core musculature.  The challenge is to allow the knife edges of your palms to connect with the mat first … slowly lower using only your core.

No. 22: Camel/Ustrasana

A spine “healing” pose that certainly compresses the lower spine and associate internal organs (e.g., the kidneys).

No. 23: Rabbit Pose/Sasangasana

This pose creates a healthy tension between the hips and the heels.  When correctly expressed, there is almost no weight in the head.

No. 24: Head to Knee with Stretching Pose/Janushirasana with Paschimotthanasana

Wow, I know that you are not supposed to judge during your yoga practice, but I can hardly get my head past my hips, much less in contact with my knee!

No. 25: Spine Twisting Pose/Ardha-Matsyendrasana

A luxurious twist and compression.

No. 26: Blowing in Firm Pose-“Breath of Fire”/Kapalbhati in Vajrasana

Like the initial breathing series, this one caught me a bit off guard.  This is a dynamic and vocal series that challenges the core and facilitates breath control.

I really enjoyed my introduction to Bikram, this was in no small part due to the great studio and excellent instruction.  One can certainly debate the pros and cons of pushing flexibility in a heated environment, but I personally liked the challenge and the opportunity to push my flexibility a bit.  The 26 poses each offer significant challenges and I am looking forward to learning more.  At its core, all yoga offers an opportunity to develop and progress one’s kinesthetic/proprioceptive senses (I understand both the distinction between these terms and the controversy surrounding using these terms interchangeably).  The ability to appreciate and precisely discern the relative position of one’s body parts in time and space (whether or not they are in motion or not) is an advantage for any athlete.  I believe that there are tremendous benefits to be achieved by learning to control our posture, whether on the yoga mat, in the weight room, participating in our favorite sport, or simply engaging fully in the activities of life.  Like other forms of yoga, Bikram practice offers countless opportunities to make and progress the mind-body connections and progress our overall level of fitness.

Elizabeth Van Genderen (Bikram instructor at iLiv Yoga)

Teacher Highlight: Elizabeth Van Genderen (an instructor that I admire as she is constantly progressing her own knowledge base and bringing her “best” to those that participate in her classes).

Elizabeth Van Genderen began practicing yoga in 2000, being especially drawn to Hot Yoga for the physical benefits that she felt complemented running. Two children and five marathons later, she received her Hot Yoga Certification from CorePower in the Spring of 2008.

She continues her education on her mat by attending numerous yoga workshops, training: in Mysore, India with Sharath and Saraswathi Jois; senior western teachers Tim Miller, Richard Freeman, and Annie Pace; and Bel and Emily Carpenter (Bikram).  The treasures from practicing the Hot Yoga series continue to reveal themselves throughout her practice.

Elizabeth underwent knee surgeries on both of her knees in 2007, so she knows first-hand and speaks to the healing value of Hot Yoga, and the need for patience in our postures to ultimately allow for deeper openings.

Elizabeth creates an environment where postures are appreciated on a breath-by-breath basis. She strives to bring more awareness to the breath and to specific alignment throughout the series which she finds serves us in and out of the asana room.

Elizabeth teaches at iLiv Yoga located at the corner of 6th and Detroit on Mondays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.

iLiv Yoga (6th and Detroit) in Denver, CO

Hot Yoga Studio Update: Since my initial class I have participated in Bikram classes on a nearly weekly basis.  Although I would certainly benefit from a  more frequent/dedicated practice, I am realizing benefits from these initial steps.  I am now promoting Bikram to my clients as a way to progress their strength, flexibility, and general well being.  I am appreciating the benefits of Bikram practice, i.e. the release of toxins, improved flexibility and increased range of motion, stimulation of weight loss, and development of additional muscle tone.  I have personally devoted this year to broadening my yoga practice as a supporting activity for both my endurance and hypertrophy goals.

At the start of ’12 (the first week of January), I learned that iLiv Yoga had emerged from the start of Yoga on 6th.  iLiv has built on the success of the former studio and upgraded its facilities (e.g., new paint, new furniture, an even “cleaner” feel).  Fortunately, Elizabeth continues to teach at iLiv and is devoted to her teaching practice at the new studio.  If you are one of my clients, please ask me to attend a complimentary class at this great studio.

Planning Next Year’s Events

Over the course of the past couple of weeks I have started contemplating the upcoming race year and am working to finalize what the 2011 race calendar will likely look like.  I am always thinking  a few years in advance and this year was no exception … I had already committed myself to GORE-TEX™ TransRockies® Run and Ironman Cozumel, what follows is my expected race calendar for 2011 as well as some thoughts for 2012 and beyond.

(1) Pedal Power: 3rd Annual Aria Spa & Club Winter Triathlon – Januray 29, 2011

This race is quickly becoming a classic Colorado winter race and training event.  After competing in both of the Pedal Power winter events last year, I am electing to compete only in the event held at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center.  I will certainly need to work on my Nordic skiing in advance of this one—last year I fnished second to last!

(2) Beaver Creek 10K Snowshoe – Jeremy Wright North American Snowshoe Championships – March 6, 2011

Again, this year I elected to cherry pick a single snowshoe race from this exciting series.  The Jeremy Wright Championship race follows a spectacular and challenging course in and around McCoy Park (Nordic and snowshoe center at Beaver Creek).  These events offer some great high altitude training and a terrific mountain scence and family-friendly vibe.

(3) Cheyenne Mountain 25K – April 23, 2011

While not part of my original 2011 race calendar, early in January of 2011 I learned that my good friend Andrea of Epic Endurance Events had taken the  plunge and would be putting on her first race as “race director.”  Andrea is offering both 25K and 50K distances.  My wife and I will both be running the 25K distance.  The field is limited to 300 … let’s make sure the race sells out!

(4) Triple Bypass (assuming that I get a slot) – July 9, 2011

This event/race is part of my quest toward becoming a stronger cyclist.  The Triple serves up three classic Colorado mountain passes over the course of 120 miles in a singe day: Juniper/Squaw Pass, Loveland Pass, and Vail Pass.  Last year, the race sold out in a matter of 2 and 1/2 hours—I hope I get in!

This year’s Triple Bypass registration offered several different options: 1) a WEST option, 2) a EAST option, and 3) a DOUBLE option: riders who are ultimately selected for this option will ride the WEST course on Saturday and then turn around and ride the EAST couse on Sunday.  I put in for the WEST and EAST option, 1, 2.  Good news!  I will be riding the classic WEST option this year!  Not so good news for my training partner Paul … the DOUBLE for him, just a month out from the TransRockies!?!

(5) XTERRA Beaver Creek, CO OR Leadville Silver Rush 50-Mile MTB Race – July 16, 2011

A choice will have to be made!  Both of these races take place on the same day and each provides unique opportunities to get on my mountain bike and move me closer toward my goal of being competitive in next year’s Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race (again, assuming that I get a slot).  The BC XTERRA race is in my opinion is epic and offfers a great family-oriented weekend.  The Silver Rush offers a preview of some of the most challenging sections of the 100-mile distance race and would definitely move me closer to next year’s goal.  Note that complete information on all the races in the Leadville Race Series can be found here.

(6) Smashed Prairie Dog (Self-Guided Half-Ironman) – TBD

The official race flyer of the inaugural Smashed Prairie Dog Olympic triathlon ... thanks Hope (don't let the lack of an "official" race event stand in your way ... make your own up and go do it)!

My wife and I hosted our first self-guided triathlon on July 29, 2007 … the inaugural “Smashed Prairie Dog” was an Olympic distance race held at Chatfield State Park.  This year we will be upgrading the distance to a half-Ironman.  This exciting event, where I am guaranteed to finish no worse than 2nd place, will likely take place in  early-August or early-October.  This will be a great chance to run through some of my new training gains in anticipation of Cozumel.

(7) GORE-TEX™ TransRockies® Run – August 21 – August 26, 2011

This is my “A” event for the year.  I am totally gearing up—literally, as well as both mentally and physically—for this race experience and will join my training partner/friend Paul Hardcastle to cover approximately 120 miles from Buena Vista, CO to Beaver Creek, CO over the course of 6 days.  This race is fully supported and we will be dining and camping with nearly 500 other runner competing in the full team TransRockies and RUN3 events.

(8) Ironman Cozumel – November 27, 2011

Ironman #2 … going back for some more!  I added Ironman Cozumel to my calendar in no small part in order to provide my family with a much-deserved beach vacation.  The Cozumel event seemed like a great way to wrap up my training year, realize some improvements from this year’s training efforts and, most importantly, spend some quality R&R time with my family. My wife and I will be traveling with two other families, the Hardcastles and the Grubbs, collectively sharing a beautiful beachside villa, and planning on enjoying the event and the comaraderie immensely.  As an aside, my father will also be joining us in Mexico … he has yet to ever see me compete in an endurance evet, so I am looking forward to sharing that experience with him.

For 2012 I am looking at a single major race and goal: being competitive in the Leadville MTB Trail 100 (again, assuming that I get an entry).  Other commitments for 2012 include the two Pedal Power Leadville winter triathlons (I plan on doing much more Nordic skiing next winter), an odd-ball physical challenge race, the Tough Mudder-Beaver Creek (be sure to take time to explore the course map and roll over the respective challenges—crazy but alluring at the same time),  and the D2R2: Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee.  In addition, I will continue to focus on my hypertrophy goals in 2012 and am also contemplating a plunge into the world of adventure racing.