Racing for a cause

In just a few weeks, the family and I will be moving to the Jackson, MS area, where I will start working at Jackson State University. As the typical triathlete, I had to check what races were within driving distance,
and since I was looking for an Ironman for the end of the season, Panama City Beach was just calling me. Of course, I never anticipated that the race would fill up in a heart beat. I never even got close to
being able to sign up. Within seconds, the site was on hold, and that was it. I thought ‘Ni modo’ (that’s when you’ve lived in El Paso for a while) I will race somewhere else. Beach to Battleship maybe.

Then a friend of mine suggested: how about racing for a cause? Actually, despite having been in the sport since 1993 (when you could sign up for an Ironman pretty much at anytime), I didn’t know this was possible.
It happens that Ironman Florida partners with The Children’s Tumor Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding effective treatments for neurofibromatosis, and helping children affected by the disease, along with their families. Racing for something more than just trying to see whether you can finish, how fast you can go, how many in your age group you can beat, or whether you can qualify for Kona. This
suddenly sounded far more exciting and worthy than doing an Ironman for selfish reasons. Not long ago, we lost a great guy to cancer. He was barely 32, and I used to be his babysitter. One year of battle against cancer.
One year of hope. One year of treatments, successes, and failures. I wasn’t there to see him, but talked with his mom on a regular basis. He was a very fine young man. And frankly, it’s way too young to go.

Therefore, I have decided to sign up for the race through its charity partner and raise $5,000 by September 1, 2014. Although some of my work is in cancer research, I have zero experience with fundraising. But then most patients
have zero experience dealing with cancer, and they have no choice. They have to do it. A concern I had initially was how much of the money raised actually goes towards helping the children and their families. A quick
Internet search showed that the Children’s Tumor Foundation is actually one of the best charities to give to. According to Charity Navigator, the Children’s Tumor Foundation scores a near 64 out of 70 overall rating (for FY 2012), and nearly 80% of its budget is spent on the programs and services it delivers, versus paying for administrative costs of all sorts.

Rating of the Children's Tumor Foundation

Rating of the Children’s Tumor Foundation

When training gets a bit hard, when racing gets a bit hard, I will surely have a different perspective on how hard it really is. After all, I am healthy and do this because I want to. When it hurts, it’s not real pain, more
like discomfort. Besides, the discomfort can be adjusted easily. Just slow down a bit. The mental gives up a tad? Get some sugar in, and it comes back. The children and their families don’t have these options. They have to deal with the
physical and mental pain. Research will alleviate physical pain. Support will alleviate mental pain. But unlike Ironman and its selfish quest, they’re in for a real fight. And we can help them.

If you decide that you would like to support (no amount is too small), please go to my CTF page: DONATIONS

Corey’s IMAZ Race Report

Pre-race: Got up at 4 AM after actually getting some decent sleep, rare for me when I have to get up really early. 1 cup of coffee along with an egg, slice of bacon, and a sprinkle of grated cheese all on an english muffin. 3 Ensure plus drinks as I got ready. About 150 calories of Infinit as I set bike up, used the last bit to wash down 2 gels about 20 mins before swim start. About 1,600 calories in total before the start.

Swim (1:16:13 – 847 OA/113 AG): After feeling a little panicky the day before at the swim practice, I was really worried about the mass start. Not sure what happened, but I was really calm race morning. Knew the water would be cold at first, but perfect for a full wetsuit swim. Unlike at the practice swim, I got my DeSoto wetsuit top on right so the front wasn’t pulled up and feeling like it was squeezing my airway. Hopped in the water and swam to the right side of the middle area, about 3 to 4 people back from the start line. I know I’m not fast and I didn’t want to deal with all the people jamming to the right since I’m not a fan of major contact in the water. It is hard enough for me to keep good form without contact, if people are swimming on my legs it is impossible.



BOOM…the canon sounded and the flurry of feet and arms and snorkels and freaking out people began. I just tried to get out somewhat quick and find a bit of room. After about 5 minutes it started to clear some and at that point I just tried to find the feet of someone moving faster than me. I went a good bit of time without much contact and just fell into a comfortable stroke. It got very congested at the first turn buoy and I was pretty much funneled right into the mess. I made sure to keep wide on the second, but it didn’t matter, there was much more congestion on the return leg. I just tried to not get too pissed about the people grabbing ankles or the sudden kick from the side from the guy who decided to bust out some breast stroke (breast stroke should be illegal in close quarter swims, I have been kicked way too many times by someone suddenly changing to it). Last turn and a quick shot to the finish, out of the water and I look at my watch…1:16 something. Was hoping to get under 1:15 but not too bad, especially for feeling completely fresh and ready to ride. Saw Nicole as I ran into transition and it made me feel good to have her there cheering me on.

Bike (5:11:47 – 264 OA/38 AG): Ran into a busy transition area, found my bag, and headed to the changing tent. Noticed a couple people changing outside of the tent and decided it was a good idea since things were so busy. I am much more used to changing while standing than sitting down in a tent anyway. Got my swim stuff into the bag, ran right through the hot and nasty tent, handed my bag to a volunteer, and my bike magically appeared in front of me. Off I went!

I had been having problems with my Garmin Edge 810 dropping the Ant+ signal since getting it (Edge 800 was much more reliable) and it didn’t let me down, I started to drop readings immediately. Regardless, while it was working I could see I was in the 200-210 watts range, it felt good, and I knew I just had to keep it there until 112 miles had passed. I had all my nutrition on the bike, 2 bottles of Infinit concentrated to 1,000 calories per bottle. I did have a X-Lab Torpedo mounted to the front, loaded about half with water just in case. I mainly just drank at aid stations though, and would sip the additional water sometimes after taking in some nutrition since it was concentrated and pretty sweet. I got a little ahead of myself and finished the first bottle with about 10 miles left to the turn around, on the second loop, which marked the half way point. So I grabbed a bottle of Perform there and downed it instead of water, so probably an additional 50-75 calories before chucking the bottle.

Another challenge faced once starting the second loop was the formation of draft packs. I had heard it would happen, but I was pretty shocked at the level of willing and blatant cheating. I would approach one of these pelotons and get stuck. It is hard to pass 10-20 people all in one shot without blowing up. I’d wait till things broke up a bit and then go for it, it would require a sustained surge in power which wasn’t really how I wanted to ride. In addition, once you made the pass you had to keep the power up or you’d just get passed right back because the cheaters were not interested in dropping back after a pass as required by the rules. On the out portion of the third loop, I got passed by an outright pace line of about 15. As I got passed I eased up to get legal, then another rider passed, then another, another, another…WTF!? I finally told one of them they were riding in a freaking pace line and he just grumbled something as he went by…sigh… Once the little climb to the end kicked up it broke up and I passed most of them back. I hope they started to draft off me at the turn around, because it was bathroom time…

I didn’t realize it at first but the wind had kicked up on the last loop. There was a tail wind going out on Beeline, I just assumed all my careful wattage monitoring and nutrition planning that had me feeling strong. Hit the turn around, time to get up to 30 mph and really cruise, nope…not on this loop. There was a nasty head wind on the portion back to town and you had to work to keep the speed up. The wind made it easy to want to get back into town and start the run. Consumed about 2050 calories on the bike, and averaged an estimated 206 watts AP/210 watts NP. (I average 90/91 rpm when I race, my computer had an average of 82, so I figured my ANT+ signal was dropped ~9% of the time. So I used 1.098 x 188/192 to get those estimates)

Bike note: It is REALLY hard to piss while riding a bike. It is really hard to piss while not pedaling and standing up. It is still hard to piss while surrounded by people, on a bike, with something kind of like clothes on…letting loose just doesn’t come natural. This is not something I had practiced and don’t intend to. It was something I had resigned myself to. It was so difficult that I failed on multiple occasions and had almost decided to stop on the second loop to hit a porta potty until I saw the line. Once things got bad enough it finally happened, oh sweet releif. Just remember to “flush” when you get water at the next aid station.

Run (3:17:22 – 49 OA/5 AG): Hit the dismount line, off the bike, hand it off to a volunteer and start to run into transition. Okay good…legs were still working properly. I had passed enough people on the bike that a volunteer was there to grab my run bag and follow me into transition. Bikes shoes off, shocks on, shoes on, new sunglasses, hat, 2 packages of Shot Blocks, and I was ready to go. About a quarter of a mile into the run I got to the first bank of porta potties, oh thank goodness! My head was screaming to hurry, HURRY…my body said no way. I only wanted to stop once and figured if my first mile was the slowest of the marathon, then I did something right.

I felt good, the first mile clicked off…8:18, not bad with the bathroom break. Then a low 7 mile, then another, and another, I got worried I was going to fast but it felt “easy” so I kept with it. Things slowed a bit after crossing over to the other side of Tempe Town Lake, more turns and rollers, but still in the 7:2x range. The hill on Curry Rd. knocked me into the 7:40s but it wasn’t bad and the downhill portion got me back into low 7s. Then the “rock” appeared in my shoe. I was very worried about a rock coming up through one of the drain holes in my Saucony A5s and it looks like it happened. I put an old pair in my special needs bag so I figured if I couldn’t knock it lose, I’d swap shoes. There’s Nicole! Was so happy to see her there cheering, it can’t be overemphasized how important it is to have someone special there waiting and cheering for you, a HUGE motivator. I asked for my special needs bag since the rock was still bothering me. As the volunteer got it, I sat down and looked…there was a little pebble stuck in one of the holes, so I took my sunglasses off and used the arm to pry it out. Got up, said I didn’t need my bag and took off. Ahhhhh, things are feeling better…oh wait…nope, they are not.

At this point I realized it wasn’t a rock, but a blister forming down there and it really hurt like a bitch. Whatever, my feet hurt in general, and in waves. I made it a couple more more miles trying to feel good about being on my second loop. At mile 15 I realized I wasn’t happy, at mile 16 I became more unhappy, at mile 17 I saw Nicole again and must have put on a good face since she said I looked good, better than at 13. Things got very hard, my pace slowed even though the effort was there. At mile 18 I told myself “8 more miles, you do that on your lunch break”, that helped. At mile 20 I told myself “only a 10K left, that’s easy”. As I was getting ready for the mile 23 sign to come (just 5K and some steps to go!!!), I hit the Curry Rd. hill again. It was the first time I considering walking a little…I mean just a little, what harm is there in that??? NO! I ran on and racked up my second slowest mile at 8:08 min/mi, still doing something right! Time to just cruise in…

…of course it is never just that easy. As the 26 mile sign is approaching I see I can catch someone, glance at the calf…ah crap, my AG. I have a technique for passing people in my AG, I do it with authority…more authority than I really possess, I just pretend for a bit so they don’t try to keep up. I didn’t have much in me, so I just passed…and listened…footsteps fading…whew! Okay, now I can really cruise in. Oh damn it, there is one more person I am catching. Oh double damn it, it is a woman. Oh triple pisser, spectators on the side of the road are now pointing out that it is woman and that they know I really want to catch her. I have been “chicked” before and it will happen again, there are just some extremely fast and impressive women out there. That being said, I was going to pass her and didn’t want a finisher picture with me legging it out at the end so I finally uncorked what I had left. Seconds after that, made a left and down the finish shoot. I heard my name and my town and then it was time to remove the chip. I usually take it off myself, I decided to let the volunteer do it this time, I didn’t know what was going to happen now that I stopped moving.

And this is how you do it

And this is how you do it

Post race: The “rock” on the bottom of my foot was a glorious blister. The good thing is that it hurt worse than anything else. The tortuous workouts that Francois had given me all year prepared my body to handle the race injury free…well minus a doozy of a blister. Visited World of Beer in downtown Tempe after dropping my bike off with TriBike Transport the next day…awesome! This was unexpected, but even had to check about Kona slots after finishing 10th in my AG. There were only 5 and no roll downs, so not even close, but still kind of fun to think that I had a chance. Then just spent some time with Nicole in Phoenix eating and drinking at better than expected restaurants. Off to Vegas for some “recovery” time with good friends. Now…well…I ran on the treadmill today. Maybe a turkey trot???

Overall (9:51:04 – 114 OA/10 AG): I signed up for Ironman Arizona only after meeting two criteria I set for myself: Finish a full marathon, which I did in the 2011 Tucson Marathon and finish a 70.3 distance race in under 5 hours, which I did at Timberman in 2012. I signed up thinking I would be able to go under 11 hours in a 140.6 race. I trained hard for the Boston Marathon in April of 2013 and was very happy with my results. Then started to train for Ironman Arizona, had some good results along the way and was able to finish the race in under 10 hours which far exceeded my goal.

I have to thank my wife for not only putting up with me being gone so much while training, but also dealing with my sometimes less than pleasant attitude during those really heavy training weeks. She is also the best cheerleader and race day helper that someone could ask for. My coach, Francois, also deserves a good deal of credit for torturing me in such a way that I got faster than I thought I could be. Lastly, thanks to my friends that offered advice, raced with me, and cheered me on along the way.

Casey’s Austin 70.3 Race Report

Since I’ve really been slacking with updates (mostly because there are way too many things going on at the moment), here is the easy way out: Casey kicks butts at Austin 70.3, and achieves his first next year’s goal already. Time to rethink the goals for 2014 mate!

Pre-Race: I was very nervous for the weeks prior to the race. I had been going for Sub-5 for years and had never been able to achieve it. I felt this was my best shot. I wasn’t able to eat much race morning, but did eat a few grapes and about 180 calories of Gu Chomps. My wave did not go off for over an after the race started, so I had a lot of waiting around to do. Parking was a nightmare. I made it to transition with 15 minutes to set up.

Swim: 35:00 minutes. I got out fast, but had issues staying on course. I felt like I could have swam straighter. I accidentally started then stopped my watch during the beginning of the swim so I have no swim data. I also had no overall swim time. Much of the back half of the swim was spent passing earlier waves of swimmers. I tried to stay calm and not burn all of my energy.

T1: When we came out of the water I asked a guy in my wave what our time was so I had an idea that I came out at 35:00. The run up to T1 was very long and transition was muddy. Everyone had to carry their bikes in T1 to avoid stickers.

Bike: 2:34:49. I couldn’t clip during the first ½ mile due to mud in my cleats. I stopped at that point and had a volunteer help me clean them out. I tried not to go too fast early, but averaged 220 watts (92% FTP) during the first 20 minutes, so I knew I had to back off. At that point, I settled in and tried to relax. The power meter helped tremendously. Much of the bike was spent passing earlier waves. At about the 2 hour point things cleared up and I was able to push by myself for 30 minutes. I averaged 214 watts (89% FTP) during that stretch. Biking outside is much different than on the trainer. The trainer is more a steady consistent effort. Outside comes with harder efforts with micro rests. Much more akin to interval sessions.

T2: I was happy with my time when I got to T2 and felt I had a chance at Sub 5. I still was not 100% sure of my overall time, but I knew I was close to 3:15.

Run: 1:41:00. It is a hilly run course and I took the first two miles far too fast. At that point, I tried to find my rhythm and settle in. I tried to keep a steady pace and rhythm the entire run and was able to do so. I felt comfortable at a 7:42 average. I kept watching my current pace and average pace. I tried not to deviate too far from the mean. I tried to keep my feet dry, which I was able to do. I am used to being passed on the run. Now I am the guy doing the passing. It was a nice feeling. I felt as if I had the energy for the entire run and only ran out of energy around mile 11. At that point, I ran on adrenaline which was enough to carry me to the finish line.

And that's the smile of a first sub-5h Half IM

And that’s the smile of a first sub-5h Half IM

Post Race: At this point, I am sore, but excited about getting faster. I am already looking forward to next season.

How precious is your time Mr. Driver?

I just spent 2 weeks in Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada side, and I must admit that despite the lack of shoulder in some areas around the lake, and a relatively heavy traffic, compared to say, Columbus Highway, NM, but still far better than San Francisco. I was very impressed by the courtesy of the drivers. They slowed down when passing. They gave at the very least the 3 feet they are legally required to give us. And, they waited when it was not safe to pass. What a treat.

Back in El Paso, Texas, and just a total of 5h on the bike this weekend. Yesterday was a nice little ride around Anthony Gap, up Transmountain Road East, and today an easy out and back on NM 28. These roads are far less traveled than around Lake Tahoe. They also see far less cyclists, even though our community is growing. However, they do see their fair share of pretty angry drivers who seem to believe that:
1. We do not belong on the road;
2. We should ride only on bike paths or on the sidewalk;
3. We should definitely get out of their way because they sure ain’t slowin’ down.
And probably another long list of beliefs related to wearing lycra, riding little bicycles, and pretending to be professional bike racers.
I’m not going to address this long list of beliefs: they’re entitled to them, regardless of how stupid they are. However, we have the right to be on the road (yes, we pay taxes, and yes, believe it or not Mr Big Truck, most of us actually own cars, some of us even have trucks! Crazy eh?) However, ‘nonuvya’ wheels belong in the bike lane when there is one.

But anyway, let’s go to the main point. Today, someone passed me very close after honking a couple of times. It was a really shiny red truck. I’m guessing its owner is someone extremely important because when he passed, he said ‘get off the road you [long list of expletives that lacked both wit and style] you’re slowing everyone down here!’

Yep, indeed! The road looks busy on this picture. I’m sorry I slowed you down for your very critical heart surgery you were about to perform to save someone’s life. But even if it were the case, let’s do some quick math here. And for the sake of the argument, I’ll look at the worst case scenario. Let’s assume that I wasn’t a 142lb rider, riding on his own, but in a group of 30 traveling at 20mph (typical on this road during the weekend). And let’s assume that you’re really important so you’re going 60mph, a full 10mph above the speed limit (you know your shiny red truck is allowed to do this because it’s red and shiny, and you’re a heart surgeon, duh!) And let’s assume it takes you a whole 1/2mi to pass the group. I’m really looking at the worst case scenario as you can see. The 20mph group will travel 1/2mi in 1min30. You would travel the 1/2mi in 30secs (at 10mph above the speed limit). So, you’ve actually lost: 60 seconds. Just one little minute. You didn’t lose 10min, or an hour. Just one minute. Today, you waited about 2secs to let that other car coming in the other direction go through. 2 seconds! So the question is this: was that very important heart surgery enough to justify potentially injuring (or killing) someone?

Is your time (the few seconds you need to pass a group of cyclist) really more precious than life? Food for thought Mr Shiny Red Truck…

Trail running and triathlon

A few months ago, Maya and I decided that it would be pretty cool to celebrate our anniversary running a 30km (18.6mi) trail race in the Bay area. It seemed like a great idea at the time, until we realized that there was close to 4,000ft of climbing announced in just 30km (my Garmin reported 4,700ft after correction). And for good measure, Lil’ G would run his first trail run also. A nice 5mi with 1,000ft of climbing, with absolutely zero training aside from hurdles in the spring. To make sure that none of this happens without a significant amount of pain, we added an easy 5mi run along the Bay followed with nearly 12mi of walking and strolling in San Francisco, the day before. Oops.

Course around the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Course around the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Some serious climbing

Some serious climbing

We showed up a bit late (as usual), no real time to warm up (as usual). Last recommendations for Lil’ G: pace yourself! A kiss to Maya, and boom, it was on. The first couple of miles were uphill, and fairly steep, with some sections with stairs, some rocky sections, and all this in pretty chilly and wet weather. That said, the scenery was absolutely amazing:



The first 4.1mi went rather smoothly, taking the lead despite barely hitting 9min/mi (racing trails forces you to rethink what decent pace means). As soon as the downhill started, 2 guys caught back to me. I expected that since I can’t run downhill to save my life. And this little going away on the climbs, getting caught on the downhills lasted until mile 14. At this stage, one dude passed me when we bumped into a large group of runners racing the half, and with the single track trail he was able to run away. That’s my excuse anyway, but my legs were dead anyway. I just settled down, enjoyed the scenery for the final 4.6mi with enough of a gap to hold my position for a 2.28.54, a minute behind the winner, and with 30secs or so ahead of 3rd.

300yds to go

300yds to go

Despite being really cold, and not really prepared or even in good shape for that matter, I really enjoyed the race. Friendly chats after the run, people congratulating each other regardless of time and placing, just for lining up, and doing it. People happy for others, rather than people comparing times. It made me think of triathlons a few years back, when the atmosphere was friendlier (in my opinion), there was less fluff and more oomph. When it was about doing it the best we could, given the conditions, with or without a wetsuit, and without riding in a group of 200. That definitely makes me think that a trip to Celtman or Norseman is needed soon!

Maya was a little bit less fortunate. She got lost in a tricky area, added some extra running, and after realizing this, decided to just cruise back over the course, and enjoy it as much as possible. And Lil’ G scored his first AG win (13-19) and 16th overall. Not bad for a hurdler!

First climb of the 5mi

First climb of the 5mi

This same weekend: Stefan improved his Half IM time by 12 minutes. Owen shaved another 5 minutes off his Half IM time. Both at Victoria Half. And Corey went 2.16 and change at NYC Tri, a solid 5min improvement. A very satisfactory weekend I must say!

Review: Zoot Ultra TT 6.0

Usually, I don’t write reviews first because I always find something to nitpick about, and second because that’s not my job (i.e. I’m not paid to do that). However, every so often, a company listens to customer feedback, and actually improves their product. A couple of years ago, I tried the first iteration of Zoot shoes (I forgot which model). Zoot clearly focuses on the triathlon market with its laceless shoes and their various versions. Their original shoes had an incredibly high back of the shoe, going way over the Achilles tendon. It included some cutout to quickly put the shoes in. However, it proved to be a not so great idea. There were numerous reports of people getting irritated Achilles, even in a non-injury prone crowd and in my case, one run was enough to convince me that my old injury would flare up in no time (and it did!)

Then came the 2012 season. The line up included only shoes with much lower back, but still that triathlon oriented design, no laces (Ultra Speed 3.0), or just an elastic (called QuickLace in the case of the Ultra TT 6.0):


Zoot actually listened to the feedback and modified the back part of the shoe. Doesn’t it feel nice when a company listens to the feedback its customers provide? Bottom line is: it’s a great running shoe for training, for tempo training, and for long course racing, although heavier athletes or athletes with heavier strides may also want to use this shoe for short course racing. The drop (11mm front – 21mm heel) is a bit more than I typical like, but still very acceptable. Plenty of room in the toebox even for those with wide feet, and a 9oz verified weight in size 9.5. The ride is comfy with a good compromise between cushioning and dynamics. Additionally, with these colors (and a bright pink/blue combo for the women’s model) you’re easy to pick out at a race. My only slight issue is that I like to run trails, and usually with the same shoes I use for the road, and the elastic lacing system is not well suited for that, as anything that gets stuck in the QuickLace system will make it go loose. And since I need to nitpick a bit more, the outer sole is a tad fragile and will not tolerate much trail running, if you leave in the Southwest, and have access to rocky trails only. But then I could just listen and run trails with…trail shoes.

Happy Running!

Some more results

First, a big congrats to Owen S. who improved by a solid 20min over the Half IM distance, last weekend, at the Shawnigan Lake Half Ironman, dropping to a 4h55 personal best. After a somewhat slow start this season, and a couple of setbacks, this is going in the right direction at last.

This weekend, Mike C. decided to race against coach’s advice, but still did pretty good. Nowhere near where he should be, but after some unexplainable health issues, straight out of the X-Files, it’s good to have him back racing and moving. Jeff B. took 14th OA at the ripe age of 65, and managed to improve by 4min40 over a sprint distance, 11min minutes from the 25yo winner. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me! Little disappointment for always consistent Kristoph who tackled Quassy Rev3 Half Ironman, and just had an off day. It happens, yet, it’s very difficult as a coach to take this as anything else but a failure on our end. Was there too much work done, not enough rest? Did I overlook something important? Surely, Kristoph and I will talk in the coming week to figure out what happened. Finally, Corey took 6th OA at the Great South Bay Sprint Tri, with a very solid run, as usual this season.

All in all, a pretty good coaching week.

IMTX and Zofingen

Two big races this week: Ironman Texas and American Zofingen, and definitely not the same conditions.
Arnaud was tackling Ironman Texas for the 3rd time this year with very realistic goals to break the 10hr mark by a handful or minutes. However, Ironman racing doesn’t let you always do what you want. After a swim 4min faster than last year, Arnaud posted a solid 5.12 bike split, despite a flat costing him about 7min. A bit faster than last year without a flat. Unfortunately, a uncooperating diaphragm made the run much slower than anticipated, and despite big improvements on the run this year and a low 2.50 marathon in Houston, Arnaud was reduced to slow running and walking, in very hot conditions. Nonetheless, he still clocked a 10:30 for 19th in his AG (same as last year). It’s only a matter of time before he can smash the 10hr mark, without breathing issues, and in cooler conditions. The quote of the day post race was this: “Thanks for everything, François. I’m a little disappointed by the run, as I don’t think it reflects all the progress we made this year, but it’s been a lot of fun getting here.”

A couple of thousand miles away, Corey was recovered from a 2.53 Boston Marathon, and ready to tackle the middle distance of American Zofingen. For those who’ve never raced a duathlon, 2 things: 1) they are much tougher on the legs than triathlons. 2) American Zofingen is a classic and a must-do, in New Paltz, NY. Hilly on the bike, hilly on both runs. Cold. Corey raced conservatively, and went a full 40min faster than last year, despite just starting more tri specific training, versus the more run oriented training of the past few months. Very promising with IMAZ coming in November. Good enough for 6th OA and 3rd AG.

It’s not about whether women should or shouldn’t run…

Recently, I read an article titled ‘Why women should not run’. Initially, I found the article amusing. But then I found it really started rubbing me the wrong way, and I decided to answer. What is in the article? Well, essentially a long list of reasons why endurance workouts at the gym are useless, and don’t yield benefits. And then this is followed by a long list of articles supporting the claims.
What is the main idea? The argument is this: too much endurance will lower certain thyroid hormones (T3, T4, TSH, … ) which in turn makes it impossible to lose weight, regardless of physical activity. And that’s where the wheels start to fall off.
Indeed, it is well established that hypothyroidism is often associated with weight gain. However, to reach these levels of low thyroid hormones, you need to be in a very heavy training phase, typically seen at the elite level, where being lean is not an issue (although there are issues associated with being too lean, among women).

This is where things get interesting. The first article cited is “Resting thyroid and leptin hormone changes in women following intense, prolonged exercise training” (Baylor LS, Hackney AC. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003 Jan;88(4-5):480-4.) The group considered in this study consists of females participating in running, rowing, and weight lifting. Yet, the article singles out runners. Interesting. The article also explains that post-heavy training, the thyroid hormone levels go back to normal. But, still, the interesting part is that it includes women who lift weight, and row (which is far closer to weight lifting, crossfit, etc, than to running), and these women show the same drops in thyroid hormones. I look at the entirely literature list actually. Many articles are not women specific, so they are not appropriate to support the article’s claims. Some are rats/mice models. Good try though. Others are well known biochemistry results linking thyroid hormones and thermogenesis regulation. One actually discusses thyroid hormone levels and sleep-deprived young men (I’m still trying to get the link there…) But what thing is missing…

So, the author doesn’t like running, I get it. He wants people to do CrossFit types of training? Fine with me. They are actually pretty decent, provided they come with adequate warm-up, which is something lacking, at least in the sessions I have done and witnessed. The issue I have is when he claims that one training is better than another. Or that his approach is the ‘best in the business’. So, what is missing is well if crossfit, HIIT, etc. is superior (based on the single thyroid hormone levels criterion, which is very debatable…) I guess those who engaged in these activities don’t see drops. Wrong! The author conveniently ignored the work by Pakarinen et al. (88, 91, 93 — pubmed is your friend) showing that the same (reversible) changes occur in weight lifters and other such activities. The article takes a whole bunch of other shortcuts which are more or less entrenched in selective and confirmation bias. Disingenuous at best.

What is the bottom line? All physical activities are good. What is not good though is to present your system or approach as the best there is. Something triathletes used to be guilty of (and still are). And something we see over and over again on the CrossFit fora. All physical activity coupled with appropriate nutrition will help you lose weight, provided of course you don’t overestimate calorie expenditure, and underestimate calorie intake, you balance proteins, carbs, fats appropriately etc. But if you want to be a better runner, running will do the trick much better than CrossFit (see my previous entries on weight training, and the Q&A). If you want to be kind of good at everything including lifting, jumping, being explosive, etc. then CrossFit will do that much better than running.

So, find something you like, move, eat well and be happy.

New article on doping

Occasionally, I write in French. Very occasionally actually. First because it’s a pain to put the accents, cedilles, and other Frencheries. And second, because it feels pretty rusty. Anyhow, if you do read French, here is an article I wrote for Trimes, on doping, ethics, and what our goal should be. If you do speak French, I recommend reading the google translation. It’s a fun read ;-)