Friday, August 31, 2007

GREAT workout

I knew taking off some time from work would help with my times, but I was shocked this morning. The schedule had a 45 min run with 10 min fast. Rather than run in the afternoon heat, which has been my habit to get used to the heat, I decided to run in the morning. On the way out, I did 8 minute pace and on the way back, 7 and even sub 7 pace! Since this was at the same HR I was doing 12 minute pace just a few weeks ago, I'll have to say I was beyond thrilled. So thank God for keeping me injury free and on schedule.

So contributory reasons were probably the shorter run, lower temperatures, the taper and running in the morning instead of later in the day. Wouldn't it be great if I just broke through a plateau with three weeks to go?

I'm thinking that maybe a "straight swim" of over 1.2 miles would be useful. And a massage. Who would have thought I would spend more on massages than race entry fees?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tapering -- Finally!

Well - you can't swim when there's lightning out, and you can't taper without a race. I'm just over three weeks out from my iron-distance race and my body is finally overcoming the training load. Now it's just three weeks of easier workouts as I heal up going into the Redman. I'd say that things have gone pretty well so far. Lots of training, not so much injury and sickness, good recovery. When you're dog-tired, it's hard to see the end.

I took a half day off from work today and I'll do the same tomorrow so I can ease into the Labor day weekend on a good schedule. Just a four hour ride and a two hour run. I'm going to have to do it all indoors I think because the weather is going to be rainy again.

I hope I'm still feeling sluggish up until the day of the race - that way I won't feel like I want to burn anything extra or do anything truly stupid. "The hay is in the barn," as they say.

I better not eat dumb, either. Mental note...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Elite Athlete surges after diagnosis

I saw this article on Pubmed about a college volleyball player who was diagnosed with Celiac her sophomore year. Several things interested me about her case.
  1. She had a low hemocrit count on her complete blood count (CBC) before she was diagnosed. Me too.
  2. She fell asleep at all times after intense workouts before she was diagnosed. Me too.
  3. She lost about 20 pounds on her way to a diagnosis - and the medical team thought she had an eating disorder. That didn't happen to me, but it really irks me that medical teams go to anorexia and bulimia right away. Celiac is pretty common, too.
  4. They thought it might be cancer. Me too.
  5. She rebounded and surpassed her original fitness level after diagnosis and going on a gluten free diet. Me too.
What I'm thinking may be useful here from a medical perspective is the low hemocrit count and the sleeping thing. In athletes (and others?) the hemocrit may presage (or present with) the illness. This is critically important, because doctors will order a CBC for just about anything, but not a Celiac panel. As far as the sleeping goes - I recall the moment I realized I was really improving was the Saturday I did my 15 miler followed by activities with the kids all day, followed by a date with my wife (concert). As I was sitting in the chair at 10:30 pm, I realized I hadn't needed a nap that day. In the past, 15 miles had meant at least a two hour nap.

So my (not a doctor) advice for you is that if you need sleep after your workouts and have a low hemocrit count, get tested for Celiac. Any medical researchers want to pick this up?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Doctor with little clue

Oh wow. I couldn't get over an article I saw in Running Times about Celiac. The Celiac runner had put on 10 pounds, and it was obvious that the doctor answering the question almost totally missed the boat. Doctors need to get away from "go see a nutritionist." It's just Celiac shorthand for, "My medical education is woefully incomplete." (In fairness, it seems that the magazine is doing better with their recent articles, so maybe they are learning...)

My answer:
There's two issues here - the weight gain and the carbohydrate intolerance.

First, I have heard a lot of stories from people who gain weight after diagnosis. I call it healthy weight, because your body is healing and finding out about all those nutrients it has been missing and packing them away in various places. Of course, to doctors, all weight gain is baaad, even though their studies are based more on BMI than on body fat %. So take that advice with a grain of salt (mine, too). But those 10 pounds require some thought. Here are some broad outlines:
  • Calorie, portion sizes and food habits need to be relearned as the small intestine heals in the newly diagnosed. Since your body is absorbing more, it can get by on less.
  • You may notice an improvement in recovery times, but there may be some issues with the added weight slowing down your times. This balancing act will be something you need to manage.
  • Your body may go through some remarkable changes (like being a teenager all over again). Expect it and adjust your training schedule.
Second - how do we fix the carbohydrate issue?
  • Newly diagnosed Celiacs tend to screw up adhering to the diet (by accident), so look for gluten in the carbs you are eating.
  • If the carbs are gluten-free, it may be something else, like soy. That reaction may have been muted when your autoimmune system was beaten down, but now is rearing its head.
  • Try some safe carbs one at a time. I have a protocol I use. Eat it once at home with no workout to see what happens. Then eat it before/during a short workout. Then eat it in the last hour of a long work out. Then eat it to start a workout.
  • Not everybody likes gels. Even the GF ones make me sick. For my carb replacement, I like Shot Blox, among others, depending on workout length.
  • Electrolyte imbalances can make you sick, too.

Good Day/Bad Day

Training for an Iron-distance triathlon results in having to make trade-offs. I think one of those happened this weekend. I'm in the middle of the toughest part of the training cycle. I ran a 10k Friday (in the heat), a 20K Saturday (in the humidity), and then tried to be up for a 5 hour bike ride on Sunday. It didn't happen. I pretty much quit at 2 1/2 hours. I could have 'gutted it out' - but I was already enervated. Sometimes you just have to know your body and know when to pack it in. Better luck next week, eh?

I signed up for the sleep-in option on the Austin Celiac Awareness Race - Got Guts 5k. It's the first time I've slept in for a race (on purpose...). It made me remember the one time I woke up half an hour before the gun for a marathon. I ended up running a bit more than just 26.2 that year, and my chip was probably the last one over the start mat.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two hours at the melting point of Iron

I think it was Churchill that said that "The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare." While he was talking about war, the notion seemed to equally apply this past weekend as I am doing the workout buildup phase for the iron-distance race in just over a month. Because of my illness, I needed to both re-invigorate my mileage and my ability to handle the heat. So the perfect workout weekend was 9 miles in the humidity-soaked Houston air on Saturday, followed by a 75 mile ride on Sunday out to Sheridan.

One of the things about acclimating to the heat I find fascinating is that my body slows down (dramatically) to compensate for the lack of cooling. I noticed this phenomenon the other day when I was up on the reservoir. In the sun, I was only able to do twelve minute miles, but in the cooler shade later in the same run I was able to go at sub 10 minute pace for the same heart rate. The same thing happened this Sunday on the bike ride. As the heat index climbed close to 100, my speed slowed down. It wasn't hard on my (already tired from the Saturday run) legs, but it was slower. I noticed some mild dizziness and nausea, but nothing too bad. Still, for two hours in the very heat of the day, I slogged into a headwind, making what felt to be slow progress. Slowing down was mentally pretty wicked, too, because every mph slower you go, you add minutes to your finishing time. Don't give me grief about that, though. I had plenty of electrolytes on board and calories, too. (I joked with my wife that I had more 'points' on my bike than she eats in a day). It's interesting to me that my body almost appears to rock back and forth over the heat threshold the same way it does over an anaerobic threshold.

I've concluded that the race day temperature is one variable that really matters for a nutrition plan, because cooling and fluid intake (plus electrolytes) depend on it. Unlike the anaerobic threshold, which depends on fitness, "heat fitness" depends on heat index and, more importantly, is a variable that the racer doesn't control. So my ever-sage wife asked me what this "heat training" was going to be good for in September. Sure enough, when I checked the average high temp for race day it was a mere 82 degrees! So I should be well-ready even if it is blasted hot when the gun goes off. Yay.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A month of undertraining...

I have two children and so usually any little bug that runs around visits the house. We had a squirelly little bug. You'd get sick (and very tired) for a week, then for the next two weeks it would just make you very tired at random times. So basically, just when you think you are over it, you'd go down hard and sleep for ten hours. This made it hard to work, because you never really know when you're over it.

And you certainly didn't feel like working out. And you didn't feel like training in the heat. Two and a half weeks went by and I was wondering if I could even be ready for an iron-distance tri in September in OKC. But my wife (thank you) remininded me I had been training a lot and that it would be okay. After I reviewed my training schedule I decided she was right, so it's great to have her perspective. I did have to alter my training schedule and my expectations a bit, but I'm still good to go.

I'm also trying to figure out the balance of calories, liquid, electrolytes and temperature for my nutrition plan. If anyone has a good approach to that, I'm all ears -- please leave me a link.