Posts Tagged ‘Tips’

That Voodoo That I Do

Posted: November 10, 2017 in Equipment, Gym, Injuries and Owies
Tags:

And so it begins – the official off-season training program.

In truth, it actually started a while ago but I have begun to get myself back into a daily/weekly routine enabling me to cover all my swimming, biking, running and strength-building bases and already, these workouts comprise approximately 12-15 hours of my week.

I know, I know…I’m bat shit crazy but I’m owning it.

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

One of main priorities right now is to repair the badly atrophied muscles in my legs following my Iron Disaster this past June; my right leg specifically.  To that regard, I have added a new toy to my daily strength-building program – be it core at home in my basement or with the weights at the gym – the Voodoo Band (or “Voodoo Floss”).

voodo

And no, sadly, a “Voodoo Band” is not the name of some hip and rocking swing band.

Essentially, a Voodoo Band is an essential tool that, really, should be a staple tool in the gym bags of every athlete looking to improve range, restore joint mechanics, or unglue matted down or previously injured tissue.

Or so the advertising websites tell me, anyway.

What is really is, is a thick stretchy compression band that one can wrap around their limb (in my case, the muscles of my right thigh and Iliotibial band area) to allow the re-perfusing of tissues that have become stiff or gone cold after injury, and by compressing swelling out of tissues and joints.  Because the Voodoo Band can be used while actually performing the movement the athlete is trying to change, its effect on sliding surface and restoration and tissue mobilization is (apparently) unmatched.

I was first introduced to the Voodoo band on one of my visits to Legacy Health & Performance when Dr. Burr pulled one out during one our sessions.  My first instinct was to cower in the corner like a whipped puppy seeing as how the band – at first glance – kind of resembles something a headmaster might use to discipline an errant student.  Likewise, I’m pretty sure I saw this thing in a fetish video once at a Stag party years ago.

Either way, I was not exactly looking forward to it.

Thankfully, Dr. Burr started to wrap only the muscles of my right leg in it before asking me to perform a series of movements that, prior to this moment, had ached whenever I performed this same movement.  And low and behold, the pain had almost subsided entirely once wrapped in this thick rubber band.

Okay, that’s cool.

Had someone told me about the benefits of the Voodoo Band without my actually having tried it first, I would have assumed that naming it “Voodoo” was just a great marketing ploy to entice lay-people like myself into purchasing one and trying it out but, hey, there is definitely something to this bad ass looking stretchy thing.  Not long afterwards, I saw the band mentioned again in a book (also recommended by Dr. Burr) I had started to read called ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ by Dr. Kelly Starrett.  In fact, there’s a whole section dedicated to it.

If you believe Starrett, the Voodoo Band is the be all and end all of helping to cure what ails ya, runner-style.

And you know what?

I do believe him.

This Dr. Starrett fella sure doesn’t look like your typical emaciated, skinny-ass, sleek, greyhound looking Kenyan marathoner.  No, sir!  He’s a large, burly, ripped muscle guy with tattoos.  The kind of tattoos that mean “watch out, motherfucker!”  and not “hey, let me read you some poems about my vegan bicycle”.  Upon first glance, you might better picture him as the kind of person you’d expect to murder you while quietly humming to himself as opposed to out running endless hill repeats in the back country.  In other words, if this guy can run regularly and naturally, and without injury, then there might just be something to this whole Voodoo thingee.

What have I got to lose?

According to Starrett (and Dr. Burr), the Voodoo band is an instrumental tool in restoring the sliding surface between the layers of fascia, creating a omnipotent shearing effect that unglues those sticky sliding surfaces, helps to restore range of motion, floods the affected area with nutrient-rich blood, and helping to reduce swelling while reviving the joint.

Sounds totally boffo, right?

But what’s all that mean?

Well, beneath the skin there are two thick “layers” of fascia. The layer associated with the skin is the Superficial Fascial Membrane. There is another layer which is very closely associated with muscle and skeleton, called the Deep Fascial Membrane. The deeper layer is not simply a “wrap” around muscles and soft tissues, but is also integrated within these structures to pass force and information in every direction.

The superficial fascia is attached to the dermis via “skin ligaments”, called the Retinaculum Cutis Superficialis (RCS). The superficial fascia is attached to the deep fascia via more soft tissue bridges, call the Retinaculum Cutis Profundus (RCP).

Still with me?

Fascial layers are densely populated with all sorts of receptors, most notably mechanoreceptors. In case you didn’t catch that, this means that fascia is like a loud-speaker to the brain, saying “Hey, something is moving down here in your less intelligent tissues. Howzabout you get involved, all up in here?”.  Stack that with the fact that joint capsules (previously thought to be our main source of proprioception) are considered to provide strong feedback only during end range stretch/compression, I think we can safely assume that fascia is a key component in neurological feedback loops, especially related to movement.

So, how does this apply to the Voodoo Band/Floss?

It’s simple really.

voodoo-flossThe strong elastic compression will quickly alter fascia’s relation to all other aspects of the neuromusculoskeletal system when you move with it on.  It would likely take some tension out of certain areas of the fascia, shifting it to other areas via strong intra-sling/intra-layer tension redistribution and inter-layer shear.  Yeah, it’s all about the tensegrity, baby.

So what does this mean now?

Basically, it can massively alter neural input by making a quick change in the mechanical transmission of the fascial system (and its many mechanoreceptors) when moving underneath some strong compression and “stretchy-pulley forces”.

Yes, that’s the technical term.

What’s the ultimate take-away here:  looking at the Voodoo Band simply as a compression mechanism is quite simplistic, since the vast majority of users will wrap themselves up and move. 

Even simpler put:

Compression + Tension + Movement = Fibrosis release.

So wrap myself up and move I will.

Through a whole host of movements actually; squatting, lunging, and stretching specifically.  And here’s the important part, it feels good – during and after.  In a few short weeks I have noticed a significant improvement in all my former “ouchie places” and the power I once had is now beginning to restore itself and this pleases me.

And even when the pain and discomfort is no longer prevalent or a problem, I’m still planning to keep with the Voodoo Band during my strength routines as a pervasive action in order to stave off future injuries and that definitely can’t be a bad thing.

Oh, and hey, I also figure walking around the gym or at home with this bad ass thing wrapped around me isn’t exactly going to damage my street cred any as a total shit-kicker either, could it?

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

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2017: What I Learned

Posted: November 4, 2017 in In Transition
Tags: , ,

My competitive season is all over.  Actually, in truth, it was over a long time ago but it hasn’t been until now that I’ve sat down to reflect on it all.  What I do know for certain is that there were certainly a lot of big successes, as well as a lot of even bigger failures and now is probably the time I should try to make some sense of it all regarding what I learned before I try to get back into any disciplined and structured training program.

This is no easy task I assure you, considering that I started the year injured (click HERE) and, of course, there was the whole ultimate bullshit enchilada that went down this past June (click HERE).  But having said that, there were definitely successes in these setbacks and I feel it’s important to know what they are so a) hopefully, I don’t repeat them again, or b) if they do happen, I will know how to deal with the situation.  This information is essential as far as I’m concerned if I’m going to continue growing as an athlete and, really, as a person.

First off, let’s just get it out there.  I haven’t competed in a triathlon – of any distance – in two years.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I have in any way not done anything.  In fact, I have trained very hard at being Ironman ready for two years, but I just haven’t been successful at actually being able to test this fitness on the field of battle, per se.  That’s right, for two years I have trained up to 20 hours a week and endured all the pavement pounding, the wear and tear, the mental and physical fatigue and what have you, for TWO-FUCKING-YEARS.

You could say that in the past two years I have become somewhat of an authority on how to train for an Ironman without actually having to race one.

Not that I’m bragging, mind you.

Sure, one year the event was cancelled last minute (click HERE) and the next, well, I ended up running my body over an industrial cheese grater seven days from the big event but, still, it’s frustrating.  But I’m choosing here to look at the positives and use it to fuel me into the 2018 season.

So what did I learn?

  1. Less is more

Especially in 2017, I trained actually less hours than I have previously and ended up in probably the best shape I have been in since Ironman Wales.  Sure, I still had some long days but those didn’t really come until just over a month out from my “Go date” (July 8th).  Of course, I had a lot of help thanks to an amazing coach and a great support team but previously, I would be running and spinning ridiculous mileage by the time the New Year rolled over and would maintain that right up until my taper.  I was more often than not exhausted, fatigued, grumpy, and not loving the process.

This was though was the year that I forgot about distance and time and, instead, focused on quality and form.  In other words, I trained smarter.  Each session had a point, a focus and a goal and none of those were time or distance related.  Over the winter months, I was only cycling one hour sessions twice a week and then riding my mountain bike on the weekend to and from the pool.  I ran only three times a week and the same with swimming.

During this indoor period, I focused on anaerobic and strength conditioning on all my swim, bike and run workouts, as well as improving my overall mental toughness; things that would serve me well come April when I began to transition outside and into my longer, suckier training sessions.  Instead of saying I swam for two hours, or ran 25 kilometers, I would say that I swam, biked or ran until I had achieved my intended goal for that workout – whatever that was at the time.

That’s a huge paradigm shift in thinking for someone who was used to measuring their success in kilometers or hours.  However, success is not measured in time or distance, it is measured in your ability to achieve the focus or goal of the workout.

Therefore, he (or she) who accomplishes the goal most often on a regular basis- wins.

  1. Core

This is likely the smartest thing I did all year.  In lieu of being sidelined from my running in January, I embarked on a 28 Day Challenge, which ended being stretched out to 100 days.  In doing so, I immediately noticed that I was swimming, biking and running (once I started) significantly better because my overall core strength had improved drastically.

Essentially, any forward momentum starts and ends in the core and the stronger my core, the longer it could hold its form while going forward be it swimming, biking or running, meaning the longer I continue with unnecessary wasted effort.  This means longer hours, longer distances, with less wear and tear.

How awesome is that?

This realization is pretty much the foundation that I preach to anyone and everyone who will listen these days.

Basically, do your core workout EVERY day – without fail.

  1. Learn the difference between “Fitness” and “Training”

Yes, there is a difference.

A big one.

Largely this discrepancy occurs now thanks to Garmin and other workout tracking applications that ask you to classify your activity under one of these two banners, or something entirely difference.  Usually, the weekly workouts I do will fall under one of these two main categories.  Previously, I would classify everything I did as “training” since it was part of my weekly plan, and I believe that most triathletes make this same assumption.  However, I have now come to recognize that the two are not the same thing, like, at all; apples and oranges actually.

There are things you do for the purpose of being fun, active and being involved in a healthy lifestyle (fitness) and then there are things you do to best simulate the conditions you can expect come race day (training).  While the two are definitely symbiotic of one another, not being able to distinguish the difference between the two can be completely counter-productive to your training program.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that my inability to know the difference between the two is what led me to my first injury this past January.

First, however, let’s discuss the difference.

“Fitness” workouts are the things you do to maintain your physical and aerobic abilities, as well as burn some calories.  Things such as yoga, core, anything regarded as “recovery” or “easy”, and maybe weights.  The aim and focus here is to take things easy, and just enjoy the process and not psyche yourself out that you didn’t go hard enough or long enough and therefore the workout didn’t accomplish anything, or it was a failure all together.

Total bullshit.

“Training” workouts simulate race day conditions, be it anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, etc.  They are definitely not the workouts you look forward to but definitely they make you better at coping with the physical and mental stresses you can expect to endure on race day.

Here’s an example:  my typical Saturday workout will see me riding out to the local Port Colbourne pool 20 kilometers away – fitness.  When I get there, I will complete a structured long swim of 3000-5000mtraining.  Afterwards, I ride home again – fitness.

So why is this difference important?

Well, the main goal of the day is to complete my long swim that simulates race day conditions.  The rides out and back (be it on my classic steel or mountain bike) are simply for fun and all at an “easy-does-it” pace.  Consider it my warm-up and warn-down if you will.  Having said all that, anyone who has ever ridden 20 kilometers in -20° weather through snow will immediately know that this it is not necessarily “easy-does-it”.  So, yes, there is something beneficial to be gained like bonus strength conditioning in the legs and an immediate development of one’s mental toughness of riding in less than ideal conditions.  But it was not the immediate focus of the day; it was an accompaniment.  Not everything needs to be balls-to-the-wall.  In this case, it was just a bonus to be out and moving the legs, but it was not necessarily “training”.

Adopting the mindset that everything is “training”, inevitably leads one to think that everything has to be hard, long and/or difficult and that will also inevitably lead one to needlessly over-taxing the body and one’s stress (Cortisol) levels, and injury will inevitably be the result.  Take my word for it.  So learn to accept that some things are for fitness only and don’t necessarily have to be performed at 100%.  For anything less that race day simulation, just enjoy the experience, give yourself some credit for simply doing it, and give your body and brain a break.

In actuality, all my bike riding since mid-August when I finally returned to riding have been done on my steel bike at an easy pace – and I love it.  LOVE.  IT.

  1. The Double Run

This was a new tactic I employed this year.  When my coach first introduced this into my training program come May I think I had an immediate heart attack.

You mean, you want me to run twice…in a single day?

Excuse me?

Surely you jest.

But she wasn’t kidding.

The goal here was to a) train the legs to perform fatigued, and b) get in some added mileage on the day while minimizing your chances of getting injured.

The premise goes like this:  head out early in the day for a long run; long being the length of time you can hold your ideal race pace.  Once your body begins to shut down and your pace goes to shit, call the workout off.  On some days this will be either longer or shorter than the previous week but distance isn’t necessarily the focus here.  Later in the day, once you have recovered head out a second time and do a second, shorter run, again at pace and again until your form collapses.  This process begins to build muscle memory (and the necessary strength conditioning) on how to hold your form while fatigued and, eventually, those second runs begin to feel better than the initial long run in the morning.

Word.

In a few short weeks, I went from running 15-20 kilometers in the morning with another 2-3 kilometers in the evening, to running 25 kilometers in the morning and another 10 kilometers later on for a larger daily mileage and – here’s the thing – the second run even felt good.

Imagine that!

Was it fun in the beginning?  Fuck no.  But after the initial shock of the first 2-3 weeks wore off, those double runs begin to feel – dare I say it – awesome.  And that translated to immediate confidence that I could manage the entire marathon at the end of the day without having to needlessly suffer.

  1. Mental toughness – it’ a thing

I’ve preached about mental toughness before (click HERE) so if you’re still not doing it, well, that’s your loss.  You need to train your brain to cope with the stress the same way you train your body.

All those motivational videos you see on YouTube will likely not be of any use out on the road, or during your event.  Instead, you should have a mental strategy of what provides you mental strength in the moment that you have already tested in battle (ie. your daily workouts) that you can then draw on when the shit begins to hit the fan.

The last thing you want going through your head at the end of the day is how much something sucks. There is nothing productive in that.

  1. Get in the pool.

Now.  Go do it.

You can pound out another long run (if that’s your thing) or spin for four hours (because it’s warm and convenient) and deal with the wear and tear afterwards, or you can wake up early, drag your butt in the pool to develop your form and technique (because it’s  hard), and reap the low-impact cardio and strength benefits by learning how to get out of the water feeling good, strong and confident.

Remember, if you don’t get out of the water – you never get to the bike, the run or the rest of the race.

Period.

  1. Shit happens.

More than anything, this was my single most learning opportunity this year.

I fractured my hand seven days from my Ironman.  I was in the best shape of my life and in the blink of an eye, it was over.  My realization now though now that the frustration and disappointment was worn off is that I had a great plan, a great coach and, ultimately, a recipe that works.

To quote from a cheesy Rocky film, “life will beat you down and keep you there.  It’s about taking the punch and keep moving forward”, and that’s what I’m trying doing baby.

I will rise again.  I will tackle this Ironman again sooner than later.  I will persevere.

God willing, of course.

Wil. E. Ridiculous

Posted: June 22, 2017 in In Transition
Tags: , , ,

I’m pretty fortune to live and train where I do (click HERE).  While I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as “the country”, there is certainly enough of it around.  And while it may be true that there are certain risks that one has to assume when training in a, well, let’s call it “rural” area as I do.  I have learned to deal with coywolves, dogs and dog shit, chipmunks, asshole drivers, moron pedestrians, tourists and rutting goats.

That’s pretty much the full gamut of what this area has to offer hazard-wise.

However, there is one potential danger in particular that has surfaced recently and has me a bit flummoxed by the reaction it’s been getting.

Coyotes.

No, not the coywolves as I mentioned up above – them bitches are scary – just your ordinary, average, disinterested urban coyote.

I’ve never mentioned them before as a “threat” because I just don’t see them that way.

I mean, were you ever stressed or threatened by this guy in the past:

wile-e-coyote

Hell, no!

I figured that if I ever did run into a coyote I’d just wait for it to strap on a rocket pack and roller-skates and then just stop short on a cliff edge so that he overshoots me before stalling over open air and then falling to the ground with a puff of dust.

Easy.

However, on the rare occasion I do see them they are usually heading in the opposite direction in order to avoid me – and quickly, I might add.  I guess I can strike a rather menacing image when wrapped in a Lycra cycling kit and wheezing like an asthmatic gorilla.

So I keep telling myself anyways.

Anyhow, lately with all the construction in the area lately sighting a coyote isn’t the rare thing it used to be.  Sure, we hear them almost every night prowling the fields behind our house but we never actually saw them very often as they are typically nocturnal.  Now, well, we see them a bit more often as they are no doubt becoming a bit displaced with this ever-changing environment.

Just last week, upon completing an evening run a coyote popped out of the underbrush just ahead of me and, seeing this fat, spandex-clad train wreck heading right for it – beat it off back into the bush again.

I will say, however, I’d be lying if I said that my heart didn’t skip a beat.

Regardless, beat it I did in true Michael Jackson form, so I kept going and never thought another thing about it.  After all, the coyotes have always been here and aside from their middle of the night howling, they’ve never posed me any real serious threat.

Unfortunately, all the tourists coming back into town now that the summer cottage season is upon us don’t exactly feel the same way.

Suddenly coyotes are a HUGE threat.

giphy

So much so that they have recently posted a memo, warning dog walkers about coyotes in the area as well as discussing what they should do if they encounter one.

And me being the sarcastic dick I am, find this a bit funny.

I understand that coyotes are more or less disinterested in humans but dogs on the other hand, well, add a dog to the mix and their interest could surely be piqued.  Especially given all the fluffy little frou-frou lap dogs that the tourists like to tout around on their fake-diamond studded leashes.

In that case, Fifi is essentially a harnessed appetizer prior to the evening’s regular meal.

Common sense might suggest to normal people that one probably should not walk their little mutt after dark, especially in poorly lit areas or along out-of-the-way places – but tourists are seldom normal nor do they occupy anything resembling common sense.

No, instead they issues memos about what to do when you do exactly  that and then  run into the proscribed issue.

Smart, right?

Told you I was a sarcastic dick, didn’t I?

Anyway, I’m making the correlation here that if a coyote were brazen enough to go after Fifi with its owner around in close proximity – stupid as they may be – perhaps I should heed more notice seeing as how in my running tights, I might also be mistaken for a moveable feast.  Maybe there would be some token takeaways – weak as they may be – for me to better educate and prepare myself for future encounters of the canid kind.

Among these brain nuggets are the following:

  1. Stand tall and be assertive.  Coyotes are wary of humans and your presence enough be enough to ward it off.  Maintain eye contact.  Do not turn your back on the coyote and do not run.  Running away can trigger a coyote’s prey drive and cause him or her (nice that they’re not perpetrating any gender stereotypes here) to chase you.

 

Yeah, as a runner – that helps me not.

Anyone who’s ever seen me at any significant distance into a run knows that “tall and assertive” is not my jam.  At best, I look like Frankenstein with a bad case of scoliosis lumbering through the street.  It’s all I can do to remain upright, much less assertive about it.

And running away?  Ha!

As long as I don’t fall over and freely give up my soft mushy underbelly I’d be doing well.

  1. Haze the coyote until it leaves the area.

 

Haze?

You mean like dress it in drag and make it chug a tallboy through a funnel?  I’m figuring that in doing this there is a significant risk that the coyote might enjoy this too much and never leave the area.

Just sayin’…

If what they mean to say is to make a ruckus as to deter the coyote coming any closer, believe you me, I will be emitting a full range of cries, grunts, wails, screams and screeches.   I will be a literal cacophony of despair.  I will make a racket that would have any Einstürzende Neubauten fan handing out ear plugs and it will come naturally, I assure you.

So, if anything, what did I learn?

Absolutely buckus.

However, I now definitely know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if a coyote should ever make his presence known and decide that I should represent some sort of tasty victual, I’m more or less screwed.

At best, I can scream my ass off and try to stand fully erect but, honestly…why bother?  At that point in the workout the chances are good I’ll be more content to just roll over and accept my fate as the main course at the coyote buffet.

Thankfully, the chances of any of this actually happening are slim to none so I’m not really worried about it.  Unless of course, for what forever reason, I decide to strap on a pink leash and harness and crawl around the Friendship Trail in a pair of furry underwear.

In that event though, the tourists might want to include on their next memo about what to do should they encounter me.

Tightwad Triathlete #11

Posted: May 31, 2017 in Financial, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

I have just survived my first four week block of my Ironman build and while there have definitely been some setbacks and failing points (as is part of the whole journey) I have come out the other side more or less unscathed and successful.  It was during this period that one of my biggest challenges from the past reared its ugly head once again… namely adequate fueling and nutrition.

This has always been a huge challenge for me.  Most notably (and recently), it cost me a decent outing at last years Around the Bay 30k event (click HERE) where I totally bonked and died a horrible painful death in the back 10k worth of hills.

Yup.  1 cup of cluster; 2 cups of fuck.

Never…

Again.

But, hey, sometimes you just have to chuck these experiences in the “fuck it bucket” and instead use them as a learning opportunity.

And as I am now in my big distance builds, nailing this fueling and nutrition thing down is 100% crucial.  Not just in order to accomplish the big workouts, but so that I have an absolutely sound strategy in place for my Ironman race itself that enables me to perform to my full potential.

It’s crazy how fast my morning caterpillars of “can do’s” turn into the beautiful and mysterious “fuck it fly” by the mid-point of my workout if I haven’t fueled properly.

Now, I understand all the available products on the market: gels, chews, power bars, and the like.  And while I’m not disputing the validity and effectiveness any of these products, who the hell can afford all this stuff?

Think about it.  For a 4-5 hour bike ride, I’m going to need approximately 2000-3000 calories so when you do the math by breaking down these calories into, say, GU gels which provide approximately 100 calories, that’s potentially 20-30 gels.   And at approximately $2.00 a pop, that’s potentially a $40-$60 training day.  And then there’s the long run, the time trials, the long swims, etc., over weeks and weeks of training.

Holy shit!

You practically need to be Daddy-fucking-Warbucks to afford that.  Hell, why not just fuel with Beluga caviar and crystal flutes full of Dom Perignon?

By the time I arrive at the starting line I’d inevitably be this guy:

homeless man

What I’m delicately trying to say is that I’m a cheap bastard (click HERE).

In past experimentation’s I have used dried dates (click HERE).  But even still, that’s a shitload of dried dates to be eating for the course of a long workout.  And one can only have so much fiber before one starts to run into, how do you say… really serious issues?

Note:  that fart isn’t really a fart and you might have to leave a Hoboken Squat Cobbler by the side of the road.

There has to be a better solution.

So I started looking at what exactly does my body need?  Essentially, once it starts going (assuming I’ve already had a healthy breakfast or feeding prior to heading out) it needs quick burning carbs to continually stoke the fire and keep the engines running.

If only there was somewhere you could go to find plentiful options of quick burning carbohydrate sources?

Enter Bulk Barn to the rescue.

Behold:

bulk-barn-inside-3

When it comes to choices of quick burning carbs, your local Bulk Barn is essentially the equivalent of Shangri-La, Valhalla, Nirvana, El Dorado and the Garden of Eden all packaged up in a flimsy clear plastic baggie.

It’s a literal plethora of Swedish berries, fish, jelly beans, jube jubes, wine gums, and an entire Noah’s Ark of gummy critters of all shapes and sizes.

DAH-ROOL.

Yes, yes, I hear you all crying out:  “But Terry, that’s not healthy!” 

So let me be 100% perfectly clear here:  I do not give a fig newton about “healthy” when I’m fueling for long workouts.  All I care about is that it’s convenient to access and eat, it keeps me going, and it’s tasty.

And candy just happens to check all those boxes. Unlike honey dates and chocolatey protein bars, chewy candy does not melt.  If you’ve ever had tried to pry open (and eat) a baggie of chocolaty goop that has melted over the course of a 2 hour run, you’ll understand.  At best, most chewy candy might get a bit soft but that just makes it easy to scarf down and it’s easily packaged and retrieved from little baggies which are also conveniently available at Bulk Barn.

Win.

It also has the four essential things that I basically need to keep cycling or running:  calories, sugar, carbs and sodium.  I mean, really, the idea is to rapidly bring up your blood sugar without causing GI issues (ie. digests quickly).

Candy does that!

Here’s the nutritional breakdown for a single Swedish berry:

Swedish Berry

So a small handful of, say, 7 Swedish berries would equate to 91 calories, 14 grams of sodium, and 21 grams each of carbs and sugar.  You know, that’s pretty close to what I would have spent on a single GU gel…except much cheaper, and much tastier (my opinion).  AND, I don’t have to stick to just Swedish berries either.  No, sir!  I can pre-prepare my little baggies with whatever type of candy I want meaning that every mouthful every 15-20 minutes is something to look forward to.  Variety is the spice of life after all, right?

And it works!

Well, for me anyway.

Oh, and Peter Sagan also swears by them as well.  And if it’s good enough for one of the best long distance cyclists in the world currently, then you bet your sweet bippy it’s damn good enough for me.

I feel like a rolling Willy Wonka factory on my long bike rides.

Of course, you don’t necessarily want to fully rely on candy as your fuel source, you still need “real fuel” as a nutritional base – especially during long workouts.  However, you can top off your glycogen stores with candy if you feel your energy levels dropping, or if you need a boost to keep up with powerful surges, particularly in the last hour of a three-plus hour effort.

For the purposes of getting in real fuel, I have resorted to using something else: Nutella, or as I like to call it, “Nectar of the Gods”.

As with candy, I realize that it’s not “healthy”.  A two-tablespoon (37 gram) serving of Nutella contains 200 calories including:  99 calories from 11 grams of fat (3.5g of which are saturated) 80 calories from 21 grams of sugar.   Oh, and there’s also 2 grams of protein (slow burning fuel) to boot.  Not necessarily significant, of course, but it’s worth mentioning.

However, all I really give a shit about is whether or not it keeps me going?

And to this I say:  Abso-fucking-lutely!

But how do I manage to consume Nutella while cycling/running you ask?  I mean, it’s not like I can simply bring a jar of Nutella and a soup spoon with me is it?

Well, my ingenious (if I do say so myself) solution is make these little “Nutella bombs”.

IMG_1748

Bonus marks for having a Minion.

Basically, I just heap two- tablespoons of the good shit into the corner of a plastic baggie (also conveniently found on the cheap at Bulk Barn), tie the baggie off and, BAM!, the perfect little portion of hazelnut goodness.  All I have to then do then is pull one of these “Nutella bombs” out of my bento bag or fuel belt, bite the corner out of the baggie and squeeze it like a lime wedge on dollar beer night into my piehole.

Done.

From an ordinary 750 gram jar of Nutella ($4.99 at Bulk Barn) essentially equates to approximately 20 Nutella bombs.

That’s only 24 cents a bomb.

Booyah!

Bang the Drum Slowly

Posted: October 17, 2016 in Injuries and Owies, Swim
Tags: , ,

I get that injuries and ouchies are a part of triathlon.  I get it.  Really I do.  I have an entire category dedicated to them in this blog alone (click HERE).  But worse than the stupid self-inflicted injuries that come of my either doing too much, or doing it too soon, or just my being a dumbass, whatever, are those injuries that I unfortunately incur at the hands of someone else; another dumbass, if you will.

Those injuries, well, they tend to really bug me.

I have recently fallen to one of these types of ouchies which is now threatening to set back my regular swim training.

It began about two weeks ago when after one of my pool workouts, my right ear became plugged with water.  This in and of itself, is nothing to freak out about and I have long become accustomed to it happening periodically.  I figure that when one tends to spend stupid amounts of time submerged in contained bodies of water it’s bound to happen eventually – and it does.  What typically happens then is that a day or two will go by before that little pocket of water in my ear shifts and drains out my ear canal in a teny tsunami of warm fluid which, truthfully, feels awesome.  I figure most swimmers will liken this to a total “eargasm”.  Once this happens, usually after we’ve been lying down on that blocked side for a spell, all is right with the world again.

Sometimes, however, that blockage is a bit more stubborn and simply refuses to give up its stored up bounty of fluid – this is what is referred to as “Swimmers Ear”, or acute otitis externa.  This is highly annoying and exactly the case I found myself in exactly one week after that original blockage.  The symptoms can stem from echoing, itching or clogged feeling in the ear – and lots of discomfort (often a signal of an inflammation of the skin within the ear canal that occurs when water gets trapped there).

I my case it was “all of the above”.

Of course, I could have been doing lots of stuff during that week to be proactive (click HERE) but, as I’ve stated before, I’m a dumbass, and often when the opportunity to be smart and act accordingly comes along, I tend to fold like a Renaissance triptych.  I figured it would just unblock itself eventually.

It didn’t, and so a week later, on a Thursday morning, bright and early, I got up at 6:00am, poured myself a coffee, grabbed my book and headed to the local Urgent Care to have tie issue, hopefully, sorted out.

After about two hours, I was met with by the attending physician in an examination room who proceeded to attempt to flush out the blockage with a syringe full of warm water; not an altogether pleasant experience, believe me.  What he was trying to do was wash out a build-up of excessive wax that had gathered in my ear naturally, as protection against moisture and infection.

In this case, though, my bodies wax manufacturing system was working on overdrive and had instead build it up to the point that it was not allowing what water that did manage to breach its defenses, back out again.  I guess when it comes to wax manufacturing, by body runs with the efficiency of a Japanese auto factory.

What came out of my right ear as a result of the doctor’s “syringing” looked like something you might place on top of a birthday cake and light except, well, much nastier.  Almost immediately afterwards, I was rewarded with that warm gush of fluid out my ear and – low and behold – I could hear normally again.

Winning.

But then it all went horribly wrong and downward spiraled into a total Yakov Smirnoff opening for the Spin Doctor’s at the Iowa State Fair-like shit show.

You see, we decided that, hey, we may as well do the other ear while we’re at it.  After all, if one side is totally gummed up with wax then the other side can’t be too far off, right?  So we opted to give my left ear the same working over with another syringeful of water.

Unfortunately, this did not go as smooth as the other ear.  Within seconds of blasting the water into my ear I experienced an intense pain that was on my Top 5 of all-time painful moments.  Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of my life I have shot an arrow through my hand, subjected myself to being tattooed (click HERE) and endured being kicked square in the Charlie Brown’s by a scorned Eva Roditis on the schoolyard playground back in Grade 3, and this pain was definitely worse than any of those.

Much worse!

If the pain wasn’t enough, hearing (well, barely hearing the doctor that is) the doctor mumble “uh oh” definitely didn’t help matters any.  I definitely felt warm fluid coming out my ear but, but this fluid ended up not being water or another wax build-up, but blood…lots and lots of blood.

“I think I just perforated your ear drum”, he says casually.

FML.

Not winning.

A ruptured eardrum is a small tear in the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear.  That membrane, known as the tympanic membrane, is made of tissue that resembles skin.  The eardrum serves two important functions in your ear.  It senses vibrating sound waves and converts the vibration into nerve impulses that convey the sound to your brain.  It also protects the middle ear from bacteria as well as water and foreign objects.  Normally, the middle ear is sterile, but when the eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can get into the middle ear and cause an infection known as otitis media.

Yay.

The doctor then informed me that I wouldn’t be able to swim for at least a week.  Shit sticks!  Furthermore, I would also undergo injecting four drops of antibiotics (which, as an interesting side-note here, my loving wife would place under her boob to warm up for me prior to dropping them in my ear – meaning my drops would now become affectionately known as “mommies boob juice” – how emasculating is that for an aspiring Ironman swimmer?) into my ear every morning and evening and then see my family doctor for clearance before getting back in the pool.

FML x 2.

Anyway, another week goes by of being injected twice daily with “boob juice” and I’m back at my family doctor’s (yesterday) to learn that a) there’s still wax in both ears, b) my ear drum is likely not healed yet, and c) I still can’t swim for approximately another two weeks.

FML x 3.

Needless to say I’m pretty discouraged at this point and now looking for viable options to protect my ear temporarily while it heals so I can at least get back in the pool, meaning, I need ear plugs.

Yay, again.

Remember this idiot (click HERE)?

petal-swim-cap-multi-retro-flower-bathing-cap_1

Yeah, I just took another colossus step to becoming them.

Not really knowing anything about ear plugs, I stopped by the local pharmacy to see what options were available.  In fact, there was a whole cornucopia of options; an entire rackful located inside an entire aisle of ear and hearing-related products.  It was like the pharmaceutical equivalent of a “Turducken“.  Who knew there was such a profound market for ear plugs?  But then again, come to think of it, my grandma probably kept her local pharmacist driving around in a Rolls Royce for the last 10 years of her life given how much stuff she had crammed into her ears on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, none looked very promising.  Most were either the variety used for noise protection, sleeping, or as my grandma used to claim, “keeping the wind out of my ears”.   I’m pretty sure one was just a little baggie of candy corn.  However, there was this one waterproof variety of which I was still a bit skeptical:

They’re essentially little wads of soft, tacky silicon that you warm up by rolling in the palm of your hand and then stuffing into your ear to create a waterproof seal.

Like so:

img_1031

I was dubious but I gave it a shot (at home) anyway and, honestly, it felt like I had just stuffed a Gummy Bear into my ear.  Likewise, I was doubtful that they would ever really stay in place in the water and, even then, they were only for a single use only.  Needless to say, I didn’t feel safe actually testing these things in the water so they were more or less tossed into the bottomless abyss of shit under my bathroom sink.

Then I found these TYR molded ear plugs at Team Aquatics in Burlington.  Besides being manufactured by a recognized swim equipment brand name, they weren’t the disposable variety. Instead they were marketed as “long lasting silicone” plugs made for swimmers, by swimmers.

img_1034

These definitely looked more promising.

Among the other benefits listed on the package was “allows hearing during use”.  I like hearing stuff when I swim, so this was a definitely bonus.  I couldn’t hear shit with the other soft silicon Gummy Bear variety in my ears.

However, they were a little more complicated to insert as opposed to just cramming a wad of silicon into your ear.

From the instructions:

“Top straight edge of the ear plug core should be in a perpendicular line with the face.  Outer rim fits into the hollow depression behind the ear canal.”

Umm, okay.

Who knew shoving soothing into your ear could be so difficult?

But then again, the instructions did also add:

“DO NOT PUSH THE EARPLUG SO FAR INTO THE EAR THAT YOU’RE UNABLE TO GET IT OUT.”

Gee, thanks.

Anyway, with a little twisting and prodding I did manage to maneuver them into what I think was the proper “perpendicular line (my) face” :

img_1035

And – get this – I could still hear fairly well.

Cool!

For good measure then, I also threw a swim cap on which I never really wear in the pool just to help keep them in place (hey, I already have plugs in my ears to I might as well go whole hog and look the part of the total swim geek) and entered the pool to give them a trial run (swim?).

Upon my first few laps they felt pretty comfortable actually.  However, that “allows hearing” thing went right out the window as everything sounded more, well, in utero I guess…which, truthfully, was very relaxing.  Maybe it was just because I also couldn’t hear the Ariana Grande bullshit they were playing on the pool deck between strokes anymore, whatever, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

I was a bit worried that maybe they weren’t completely watertight and that water was now leaking into the gaping hole of my tympanic membrane and I – unbeknownst to me – going deaf with each additional stroke so I kept my swim short to a few drills only (1300m).

Upon finishing, I unstuck the earplugs and everything immediately returned to blissful normality; no muting, no sloshing around in the ear, no nothing.

Beautiful!

Besides making me look like a total swim pussy, the plugs had done their job and held tight in preventing water from entering into my ear, meaning, that I can now get back to my usual weekly swim workouts while my ear drum continues to heal for another week or so.

Back to ‘winning’ again!

Oh, and what does the remainder of this “healing” process look like?  Well, absolutely nothing for the next 10 days while the membrane rebuilds itself and then I have start adding basic cooking oil into my ears to begin loosening up whatever wax that might still be lingering around in my ear.   Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Yeah.

Not so much.

Thankfully it’s not forever.

(edited:  10/19/16)

So after Sunday’s “trial swim” I was up early and in the pool at 6:30am ready to get my swim on.  Unfortunately, after the first 300m or so, one of the war plugs slipped out and, yeah, nowhere to be found, meaning that I was now forced to abandon my planned workout and doing a stupid amount of kicking drills instead so I could keep my head above water.

And you just know how I love  my kicking drills!

After informing the lifeguard what had happened, she put out the APB to all the other bobbers and floaters in the pool.  Basically, the whole pool was not on Amber Alert for my missing plug.

After 20 minutes or so, they were found by an old lady…four lanes over…on the opposite of the pool…on the bottom.

So much for “floats in water”.

Thanks, TYR.  Great job there.

NOT!

On Monday, I took Daisy in for her annual check tune up to in.cep.tion cyclery.  I figured it was high time since I’ve been putting a lot of kilometers on her this summer as I am apt to do every year and, being an older bike, I like to ensure she is in good running order.

Among the list of things I wanted accomplished this time around was to have the rear cassette cleaned out as it appeared as if a squirrel had proceeded to build itself a nest in it for all the gunk and road debris that had built up in it the past few months.  I thought this was normal.  However, upon pick up the next day, Brandon (the proprietor of in.cep.tion cyclery and ‘go-to’ guy for all things bike) dropped a little mechanical science on me regarding how to properly maintain my bike chain and, ergo, my rear cassette.

And, yes, I agree, for most cycle guru’s out there this might already be common knowledge and likely prompt a “What the fuck Terry, really?”  but, for all the other mechanical buffoons out there – like myself – this was a great learning opportunity that I thought I could share; basically, how to properly oil your bike chain.

For most, this probably seems like such a no-brainer thing to do requiring very little knowledge and mechanical aptitude; drop a few drops of oil on the chain, spin the pedals a bit and, Bob’s your uncle, you’re set to go.   How hard is that?  However, as it turns out, I’ve been doing it all wrong.  As I learned yesterday, there is a preferred “process” involved in effectively unfunking (ie. lubing) a bike chain that will both significantly improve your ride as well as limit the amount of wear n’ tear on the chain itself over time.

For the past eight years I have been lubing my chain the same way – the way I was shown how: drop a few drops of oil on my chain where it sits on the rear cassette (see below), and run it through by spinning the pedal backwards.  Presto!

Good to go.

1

Wrong.

First off, you should never drop the oil on at the rear cassette.  What I was basically doing was gunking up my rear cassette so that during the ride all the dust, grit and gravel I was inevitably riding over was being drawn up into the cassette and sticking there.  Hence the rats nest of shit that had built up in my rear cassette.  All this grime was essentially wearing down my chain prematurely each time the cogs passed through this tangled mess of debris.  Secondly, in applying the oil in this manner, I was dropping the oil on the top of the chain.  Now think about it, the top part of the chain isn’t really what comes into immediate contact with either the front or back cassette, or rear derailleur for that matter.  No, the bottom does.  So why am I applying oil on the top then?

Because I’m a total idiot, apparently.

Instead, I should be applying the oil to the bottom of the chain and, then, not over the rear cassette.

Here:

2

This way when you run it through the chain by spinning the chain backwards, it is more effectively lubing the actual parts of the chain that will come into contact with the rest of the bikes drive parts (ie. the cassettes and derailleur’s).

Makes sense, right?

 Let’s review:

3

Now, here’s the critical part.

Once you’ve applied the oil and run it through:

WIPE IT OFF.

Yes, wipe it off.

hioly shit!

I know.  It blew my mind too.

Before you begin riding, take a rag and gently hold it against the chain and continue back pedaling lightly in order to wipe off all the excess oil.  I know this might seem counter-productive, but the only oil that is really necessary is the oil which has seeped down into the chain cogs themselves as that essentially what comes into contact with the cogs of the front and rear cassettes.  Any extra oil on the top or bottom of the chain is only going to serve to further gather up more unnecessary road crap and then proceed to drag it all through the cassettes, which you definitely don’t need.  In essence, once you’ve finished this process, very little oil should come off at all if you were to run your fingers along the chain.  Currently, if I were to do this with my chain (well, prior to today anyway), I would be looking at grease marks which would likely never come off without removed a layer of skin.  And, heaven help me if it gets onto my cycling kit.

Just ask Kelly.

Honestly, how many times have you ended up a ride with that toothy imprint where you your right leg had briefly rested against the chain wheel; affectionately known as a “shark bite”.  Ideally, that should never happen.  Me?  I don’t consider it a ride unless I have to practically take a Brillo pad to my calf in the shower afterwards.

To me, this bit right here was a total revelation.

So I took Daisy out for spin today with her new clean and improved cassettes and here’s what I noticed immediately.  She sounded better and she rode smoother.  Sure, having just had a proper tune up certainly would have had something to do with this but, I’m also wagering that not having to have the chain pass through such crud in the rear derailleur had something to do with it as well.

So for those of you who were either shown how to do this seemingly basic bike maintenance procedure incorrectly, or just plain didn’t know any better (I fall into both brackets apparently)…now you do.

Happy riding.