Saturday, January 9, 2010

Be The Rubber Man

Being flexible is so important. Flexibility can help you increase the length of your stride while running making you faster and more efficient. It can help strengthen your muscles and more importantly can help prevent injury. Being fast is great and is something most of us strive for. This year I plan on running by Craig Alexander so fast in Kona that he thinks I'm on wheels. Wait a minute. I won't be in Kona. Oh well, maybe next year, and the only place I will be running by Craig Alexander is when I am transitioning to start the bike leg of the race as he finishes bike and heads off to start his run.
I have been doing some reading and have found a number of different options on the topic of stretching. Some people say don't worry about it and others say you must take the time to stretch. I am going to take the advice of those who say stretch, because I have personally felt the effects of not stretching. Stretching for triathletes is extremely important and necessary because of the way we treat our bodies. When we swim, bike or run our muscles expand and contract over and over again in the same way. This creates tension and to add to that, most of the time you are not fully extending so you are pulling that tension in. When I think of how flexibility will make me fast I always think of a runner I saw coming towards me in an out and back 5 mile race. This guy was absolutely TRUCKING. Each one of his steps was so much longer than mine even though his legs were shorter.
This year the number one goal is to stay healthy. If you are healthy you can train and be better prepared for each race. Last year I didn't stretch enough and end up with some lower back problems and the year before that I had some hip problems. I always experienced these problems in the late winter or early spring when the training really started to ramp up. The reason most of us including me don't take the extra time to stretch is because we don't think we have the time. I know when it is time to put in a long work out I am thinking to myself that it is time to go because I have a number of other responsibilities on my plate. You know what I am talking about. You have to work, take care of our families, cut the grass, trim the shrubs or fix the pipe that just burst under the sink.
I almost injured myself last week. Manuel and I put in four long runs and I increased my weekly distance by much more than 10% and as a result my knee hurt for a few days. Fortunately I did a lot of stretching and I think I have avoided an injury that would keep me from training.
What I find works the best for me is taking 15-20 extra minutes to put on my iPod and use the time to relax and stretch out before I start my work out. I also put in some extra time while I am on the floor playing with my one year old daughter. Some times she does bring a challenging element to stretching by climbing on my face or pulling on the limb I am trying to stretch out but it is better than doing nothing at all.

Monday, January 4, 2010

How Did It Start?

The other day someone asked me how I got into triathlon. I guess I should answer that question for anyone who is interested. I always ask other triathletes how they got started and everyone has a different story. Some people want to get into better shape, just want to try or want to add something to their life that they can control while fighting cancer.

My triathlon seed was planted in March 2006. My father had been having some kidney problems and as a result his kidneys shut down. He had two options. Option one; spend the rest of his life on dialysis. Dialysis is like a part time job. My father spent about 12 - 16 hours a week sitting in a chair so a machine could do the work his kidneys could no long do. It doesn't sound so bad, but it was. The process knocked him out for at least a day. The dialysis took the bad stuff out along with the good stuff he needed. Option two, was to have a kidney transplant. He said he would not continue to do the dialysis so the transplant was the only option. My mother wanted to donate but the doctors would not allow her to because of her blood pressure. Mom's blood pressure wasn't high but it wasn't were the doctors wanted it to be. My father did not want to take a kidney from any of his children because he was worried about our health. The good news is you only need one kidney, so you can give one away. If one goes bad, they both go bad. Also, if you are a donor you go to the top of the transplant list if your organ fails in the future. Once my father got all of the facts he felt a little better but still wasn't 100% on board. My siblings, their spouses and I all got tested to see who was a match for Dad. Fortune tally we all matched Dad. Now we just needed to figure out who should donate. In my mind it had to be me. I am the youngest and my job allowed me to take the time off from work because most of my job is done out of the office. Everyone agreed and I went ahead with the rest of the compatibility testing.

I knew I would have to be in top physical condition for the doctors to agree to take a perfectly good kidney out of my body and give it to my dad so I started running. I hadn't run more than a couple of miles in years and I could tell by pain in my legs the day after my first run. I didn't think I would hurt so badly because I had spent a lot of time weight training over the years but I didn't do much cardio training.

Each week I ran a little further until I got up to about 3 miles. About the same time the Rochester Chase Corporate Challenge sign up link appeared in my e-mail at work. I signed up for the race along with a number of my coworkers. This was the first time I had shown up for a road race with the plan of running it as fast as I could. I finished 3rd place with in One Communications and the race bug bit me. I had a great time running with all the other people and pushing my self to run faster than I thought I could. I did a few more 5K's that summer and decided that I wanted to take it to the next level and do a triathlon.

I spent about two months looking for the bike I wanted and landed a great deal on a Serotta in September 2006. I had wanted a Serotta since I was about 15 years old but could never afford one. This is not a tri bike but I didn't know how I would feel about the sport once I competed in an event so I bought an aggressive road bike that I could ride just for the fun of it as well.

I had not ridden a bike in a competitive nature in 12 years and I quickly remembered how hard it was to keep moving at a good pace. I had taken spin classes with my wife a few times but spin class doesn't even come close to riding a real bike. Don't take it the wrong way when I say it is much harder than spinning. I leave the room after spinning soaked in sweet and tired but the muscle fatigue you feel on a real bike is much different.

That October I donated my kidney to my father on October 27. The transplant was an instant success for him. The doctors said that the new kidney started trying to fill the bladder before they could finish stitching it up. My father’s recovery went well as it most often does for the recipient of a kidney. The donor is usually the one that suffers the most.

I was not allowed to life anything over 20 pounds for about 6 weeks. I could not run for almost 3 months. I don't need to tell you that I was really out of shape. On top of that I got promoted to Branch Manager in Buffalo but I live in Rochester so I added 2.5 hours of commuting to my day, every day. I was in Buffalo for about 1.5 years and during that time I did some running and some cycling but not enough to keep my in the kind of shape I wanted to be in. I eventually requested to come back to Rochester when my wife became pregnant with our daughter. Once I lost my 2.5 commute I started running and cycling a lot more.

So I had the run and bike part down. Now I just needed to get into the pool. I had never been a swimmer and had no idea how tough it really was until I got into the pool for the first time. I swam one length of the pool (25 yards) and had to stop and catch my breath. That was a huge wake up call. The full Iron Man swim is 3,872 yards. I needed to spend some time in the pool. I started attending Masters Swim which is a program at the YMCA were you swim with good swimmers who will push you and us a work out put together by the staff at the YMCA. With in a few months I could easily swim 1,000 yards and was ready for my first triathlon.

During the summer of 2008 I finished my first two Sprint Tri's and tri bug had bitten me. Since then I have completed a Half Iron Man and hope to complete a Full Iron Man this summer.

My fathers need for a kidney and my desire to help forced me to improve my lifestyle. As a result my father is a healthy 75 year old man and I am a much healthier person than I was 3.5 years ago.  You could say we helped each other.