Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Say Nuclear

I am really going to miss President Bush 43. And I am not intending to open a political discussion, I will keep those opinions to myself (for now at least). Regardless your political bent, you are going to have to admit we have had a great 8 year run of jokes. How long will we have to wait before we can start in on Barack?

Actually what made me think of this has nothing to do with politics, I am just trying to lighten up the mood before I begin what some will consider a very serious post. So mom, as you read below, feel free to go back to the video frequently, it should help to put things in the proper perspective.

On Monday at 7:30 am I am scheduled for a Thallium Stress Test (sometimes also referred to as a nuclear stress test). My physician and I agreed it would be wise to do this test based on an episode of lightheadedness and shortness of breath after my December 21 run and my cardiac risk factors. (I'm a male over 50, taking blood pressure and cholesterol meds, have a stressful job, am 'overweight' and have a family history of coronary artery disease and diabetes).

So out of an abundance of caution we started the process by requesting a preapproval from my health insurance, and after an initial refusal they did relent and authorize the test. Here's a desription of the test from the American Heart Association website:

Thallium Stress Test

What is a thallium stress test?

thallium stress test

This is a type of nuclear scanning test or myocardial perfusion (mi"o-KAR'de-al per-FU'zhun) imaging test. It shows how well blood flows to the heart muscle. It's usually done along with an exercise stress test on a treadmill or bicycle.

The thallium stress test is useful to determine:

  • Extent of a coronary artery blockage
  • Prognosis of patients who've suffered a heart attack
  • Effectiveness of cardiac procedures done to improve circulation in coronary arteries
  • Cause(s) of chest pain
  • Level of exercise that a patient can safely perform

When the patient reaches his or her maximum level of exercise, a small amount of a radioactive substance called thallium is injected into the bloodstream. Then the patient lies down on a special table under a camera ("gamma camera") that can see the thallium and make pictures. The thallium mixes with the blood in the bloodstream and heart's arteries and enters heart muscle cells. If a part of the heart muscle doesn't receive a normal blood supply, less than a normal amount of thallium will be in those heart muscle cells.

The first pictures are made shortly after the exercise test and show blood flow to the heart during exercise. The heart is "stressed" during the exercise test — thus the name "stress test." The patient then lies quietly for 2-3 hours and another series of pictures is made. These show blood flow to the heart muscle during rest.

What does the thallium stress test show?

  • If the test is normal during both exercise and rest, then blood flow through the coronary arteries is normal. The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle.
  • If the test shows that perfusion (blood flow) is normal during rest but not during exercise (a perfusion defect), then the heart isn't getting enough blood when it must work harder than normal. This may be due to a blockage in one or more coronary arteries.
  • If the test is abnormal during both exercise and rest, there's limited blood flow to that part of the heart at all times.
  • If no thallium is seen in some part of the heart muscle, the cells in this part of the heart are dead from a prior heart attack. (They have become scar tissue.)

What if I can't perform an exercise test?

Sometimes you can't do an exercise test because you're too sick or have physical problems. In this case, a drug such as dipyridamole (di-pi-RID'ah-mol) or adenosine is given. This drug increases blood flow to the heart and thus "mimics" an exercise test. Then the thallium test is given.

Hey by the way I like the idea of a drug to mimic exercise. Why aren't we all using this every day?

Anyway, I scheduled the test as soon as I got the preapproval. In the meantime I am doing about 8 hours a week of intervals cycling and running, and I feel fine. Actually, I feel great. I am even kind of looking forward to this test, treating it like a race of sorts. Maybe I can get them to give me a max heart rate measurement? I will ask them to snap a few photos and post a report.

The worst thing I can see so far is, no caffeine for 24 hours before the test, and its the day after the super bowl, so I need to go easy on the chicken wings and Toasted Lager Sunday night.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Grease the Groove Take Two

Its been about 5 weeks since I posted first about the 'Grease The Groove' training method. It's supposed to foster neoromuscular facilitation, a big name for a simple concept: alot of reps of an excercise, with light enough resistance so you don't reach failure, is an effective way to improve your performance at that excercise.

I am wanting to develop the ability to do pullups and so i designed my little 6 week plan to build up to some minimal number of reps. I started at the most minimal possible number, that being zero.

Now, 5 weeks havng past, I can report some progress. Very little progress actually, as I have just barely completed the first 2 weeks of my plan. I do notice greater strentgh in my upper arms, shoulders, back and lats. However I think I do need to rethink before continuing.

The GtG plan I had received from an online friend involved daily work, with reps varying in number as a percentage of a 2 minute max test, and sets at different time intervals each day.

While the suggested reps were quite reasonable, i found that some of the frequencies wouldnt work for me in my office, where I will be doing this workout. 15 or 20 minute breaks are just disruptive. 60 or even 90 minute intervals make more sense.

Additionaly, because my pull up bar is in my office, i would have to go in every day in order to maintian the 7 day a week schedule. I'd rather not. In fact I have come to beleive that days off are of great value, even from things you really enjoy :). They allow for recovery and rehabilitation from stress. One day off of a specific excercise for each 3 days on, at least for me, seems to work.

So here is the new plan, to start tommorow with 'Australian Pull Ups'

Day 1 test Max reps in 2 minutes. Remaineder of day do 30% of max every 60 minutes
Day 2 50% every 60 minutes
Day 3 60% every 45 minutes
Day 4 OFF
Day 5 25% every 60 minutes
Day 6 40% every 60 minutes
Day 7 20% every 90 minutes
Day 8 OFF
Day 9 Test max reps n 2 minutes. Remainder of day do 35% every 45 minutes
Day 10 55% every 90 minutes
Day 11 65% every 60 minutes
Day 12 OFF
Day 13 45% every 60 minutes
Day 14 25% every 120 minutes

Let's try that and reconvene in 14 days.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Monty Python - Lumber Jack - More amazing video clips are a click away

Em, no. I mean logging workouts. When I first started running, I would log my workouts, but as my workouts became more frequent and I started to get a good 'feel' for what I was doing, I stopped. When I started doing triathlon, again I started a little online journal to keep track of my work outs and progress, but again, I stopped after a while.

Now I am back to using an online log, and here's why.

  • Ironman training is serious! I should probably keep track of what I do.
  • I am going to want to look back on what I did this year, because I am already thinking about 2010 and beyond.
  • I bought a plan (from Endurance Nation), something I have never done before, and I want to be sure I do all the workouts as prescribed.
  • Having work outs to check off, and a place to ad details, adds accountability.
  • An online log allows other people to check up on me, another layer of accountability.
  • An online log, as opposed to an old fashioned paper log, provides so many more options, is secured from loss and accessible wherever there is Internets excess.
I had a few choices. the EN plan was available for download directly into Training Peaks, saving me all that data entry time. I am training with power and so I am using Cycling Peaks WKO+, which goes hand in hand with TP. However, not all of my pals use Training Peaks. Instead, it seems that the online triathlon world that I live in is pretty well tied in with Buckeye Outdoors. So thats what I am using to log my work. In addition, some neat functinality there include:

Log multiple workouts in a day, including time, distance, heart rate wattage and comments.
Calculates estimated calories for most workouts.
Daily sleep, energy level and hydration record.
Food log including USDA and custom food data.
Can set up coach relationship with access to planned and completed workout data.
Ability to set up teams with exclusive access for team members to view and comment.
Blog widget thingy lets me show my worout log over there on the right --->

There's a bunch of other stuff it does that i dont even know yet. The guys who built the app are triatletes themselves, so really understand whats needed. And while they are providing it for free, they are constantly makign updates, many times at the request of their users.

Oh yeah did I mention its FREE.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hydrostatic Weighing

One of the things I am keying on in my preparation for Ironman is 'body composition', or to put it more simply, body fat percentage. I want to have more muscle carrying around less fat, that just makes sense. I will be faster and able to go longer with that greater efficiency. I also know its healthier and more attreactive to have a flat stomach!

In early December I set some benchmark measurements, including this dubious online calculation of Body Fat Percent:

My weight is now 220 pounds, up 10 pounds since early October. I measured by body fat percentage last night using an online calculator. The tool uses weight, age and some body dimensions to estimate percent fat. I scored 26.6% (fat). Not sure how accurate the percent is, but the component measurements were as follows: waist (belly) 45 hips 43 forearm 12 wrist 7.5

Last night I remeasured and got

waist (belly) 45
hips 41
forearm 12.5
wrist 7


The acuracy of this type of circumfrence test is dubious. Some basic assumptions are made, not the least of which is the accuracy of the measurements in each test, and compared between tests. The difference between these two tests is 1.8%. This could be real prgress, or a difference in the tightness of the measuring tape. That said, I do believe its helpful to periodically measure my waist along with stepping on the scale to guage my progress.

This morning I made my way over to Adelphi University and the Human Performance Program labs for actual hydrostatic weighing, the second most accurate means of measuring body composition. (The most accurate method is cadaver analysis, probably the least popular method). Hydrostatic weighing involves measurement of body density and the application of a mathematical formula to estimate fat mass, and thus the percent of fat compared to the total body mass.

I met one of the two grad students who would conduct the test, in the lobby of the new Phys Ed complex. She walked me down to the locker room, told me to change and meet her in the lab, behind the bleachers at the far end of the basketball courts.

Awesome Human Perfomace grad students
Courtney and Sarah administerd my test

I had my VO2 max testing done here two years ago, in Woodruff Hall, next door. That building is under renovation, and until that's done, the Human Performance lab is in the equipment closet! It's clean and orderly, but yeah, mats and cones and so forth in there. Off to the side there's the tank, a Detecto scale and a couple of computers.

The Tank

First they weighed me, wearing only my swim suit. Next they measured my lung capacity, by plugging my nose, having me take a huge breath, clamp my mouth around this hair drier looking thing and blow out as much as i could. My "vital capacity" was 4810 ml. I believe this must be used to calculate the volume of my body without air in my lungs.

Now I climbed into the tank. It was hot! 34 C or 93 F!!! The tank has a swing hanging in the middle, which is attached to the scale. I hung out in there to get rid of any air bubbles in my suit, dunked my head to get the air out of my hair, fill up my ears.

Next I needed to expel all the air from my lungs, remain completely underwater and not touch the swing seat, so they could get the tare weight (weight of the scale without me on it).

Now the hard part. I put a weighted belt around my waist (this belt was on the seat when measuring tare weight), sat on the swing, exhaled as much as i could and stayed under the water without touching anything inside the tank except the scale. Sarah watched me to see when my bubble stopped, and Courtney watched the monitor which lit up when the swing was completely still. There is a learning curve involved with this, and you don't realize how hard this is, to get all thew air out of your lungs and then hold it, without moving.

We did probably 10 or 12 trys at this to get 10 good results, and ended up averaging the two best readings of the ones we kept. The ladies did their calculations and determined the following:

Weight 217 lbs
% Body Fat 31%
Estimated fat Mass 67.27 lbs
Estimated Fat Free Mass 149.73 lbs
Target Weight at 10% Body Fat 166 lbs.

This 31% number is higher than I expected, based on the online tests and what i have read is 'average'. So I am glad I did this, it really does give me a good benchmark to work from, and a little kick in the ass as well, to shed some of this bodyfat. i think I can still use the online calculator on an interim basis to see where I am at.

On the other hand, this suggestion that my ideal race weight should be 166 lbs...quite frankly i do not see how that coudl be right. Thats 51 pounds ligher than I am today. Ok, maybe over time I could get there, but just imaginign that change between now and July, you'd have to consider checkign me into a clinic for eating disorders. I would be emaciated, a concentraion camp survivor.

That calculation assumes my lean body mass remains static. In other words, lose fat, do not gain muslce. Is there maybe another way to view this? What if I maintain my fat body mass and increase the lean part? With that sssumption, I simply need to add muscle until I weight 670 pounds. This also assumes that a 10% body fat is desired. Is it?

Ok maybe a different approach. Based on those charts you see in the doctors office, for my height I should weigh between 174 and 188, assuming a 'large frame'. So couldnt we just say that instead of being overweight, i am just under height. If I could get up to 7 feet tall I'd be perfect.

On the way back to the office, I stopped at the deli for a ham and swiss in rye. Enjoyed it. Last time I will do that for a whiel I guess. As much as I hate the idea of it, tommorow I start counting calories.

Has anyone seen my patootie?

Because one of mine froze. I think it might have fallen off out by the garage.

My training plan calls for a run today, and I really am trying to get my work in early in the day. So for this 45 minute run, what I think of as a 'tempo/interval' type workout (WU 15' w strides, 4 x 1 mile at threshold pace with 4' recovery, 15 minute easy warm down), I set my alarm for 5:00 am.

I woke early, a little chilly and hearing the wind whistling outside my window. Waited for the alarm, turned it off and reset it for 6:00. Still cold, the wind still howling, I got up to walk the dog, meditate and reassess.

According the the local news it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill. I aint doin that.

So me and Brandy shared our morning banana, read email and overnight blogs and forum postings, and i rescheduled for tonight, when it will have warmed up to around 25.

The thing about this plan I am on is, I am urged to keep about 24 hours between workouts for recovery, and i have a bike workout scheduled for tomorrow, a day off Friday and then the 'big' days on Saturday and Sunday. I plan to cut out of here by 4:00 pm so I hopefully get done before dark. A hearty dish of chopped beef, tomatoes and rice will be waiting for me when I get in.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One last recipe post, for now, then its back to 'serious' triathlon stuff (as serious as that can be, considering its me doing it).

Pasta Profundo Inverno

You can use whatever veggies you want for this dish. Make it an adventure and enjoy. I used

1 bunch Swiss Chard chopped
1 medium Eggplant peeled and cubed
1 medium Zucchini peeled and sliced
2 cloves Garlic chopped
yellow Onion sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half
olive oil
salt, pepper, oregano, basil and crushed red pepper
2 tblspn white wine
half a box whole wheat pasta

This is quick. Saute the garlic and onion in oil until soft. Add eggplant , zucchini and the chard stalks and cook a while. add remainder of chard and the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil and crushed red pepper. Cover and allow to cook down. In the meantime cook the whole wheat pasta for 5 or 6 minutes. Drain and add to the vegetables with a splash of white wine, cover and heat through, tossing in the pan, about 5 minutes. Serves 4.

The photo is a little fuzzy, as the fam was hungry and it did look good.

Bon apetito.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Triathlete Test Kitchen

As you know, if you've ever asked me which discipline of triathlon I excel at, it's eating. I'm serious and I do not restrict this activity to races. I eat every day, several times a day.

I really like good food, and so in the 14 years that I lived as a bachelor on my own I developed some basic home cooking schools. Watching Julia Child and the Grahm Kerr and Jeff Smith on public television, I developed the nonchalance necessary to adventure culinarily beyond the basic 5 or 10 dishes my mom made for us growing up. I am not afraid to try new things, and thankfully I have rarely created non-edible meals.

Recently we have been receiving this box of fresh organic produce every week. Each delivery is a little different, and this has been a boon to our dietary variety. We've started eating kale (yesterday's Kale and Keilbasa Stew), eggplant (baba ganoush) , and a variety of squash, and fresh fruits.

Google is the place I start when looking for a proper way to consume the latest 'new' food. Last month we were confronted with 2 weeks worth of yams, and I found the recipe shown below for "Southern Sweet Potato Bread with Pecans" on


  • 1 1/2 cups organic unbleached all purpose four
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cupcanola oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 C). Grease an 8X4 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a Medium bowl stir togther the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar. Add the eggs, oil and milk; mix well until well blended. Finally, stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, pecans and golden raisins. Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow bread to cool in the pan at least 15 minutes before removing. For best flavor, store overnight before serving.
This came out great. Maybe too great. allrecipes provides nutritonal data for its recipes.

Nutritional Information
Southern Sweet Potato Bread with Pecans

Servings Per Recipe: 12

Amount Per Serving

Calories: 322

  • Total Fat: 17.5g
  • Cholesterol: 36mg
  • Sodium: 144mg
  • Total Carbs: 39.4g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.2g
  • Protein: 4.2g
I can easily eat 2 'servings', and in the context of my off season training I really need to watch my calories. So I am working on eliminating some fat and some sugar. The holistic guru suggested eliminating all the oil and half the sugar and replace with some unsweetened applesauce. I tried this, and it came out ok, but not as good as the original. It was denser, did not rise as much, and the texture was more moist and pudding-like than a bread should be. I tried again using half the oil and half the sugar and some applesauce to acheive the same batter consistency. Still no good.

The great thing about this project is, as the guru suggested, i always make the original version at the same time so I can compare them side by side. So no shortage of sweet potato bread here. If anyone has a suggestion on ways to eliminate oil and sugar from such a recipe, I would appreciate hearing from you!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Busy Winter Sunday

Busy day today. Dawn is in Orlando recovering from yesterdays Disney Half Marathon (unofficial 2:15, respectable!). Kristen and I are doing the normal Sunday routine, but shorthanded, so its a challenge to keep focused to get everything done. "Everything" includes:

Clean bathrooms
Dust and vacuum
Clean Kitchen
Go to church
Bring Christmas decorations to storage
Deal with icy sidewalk and driveway
Grocery shopping
Cook dinner
CYO swim practice

Aside from that, I also need to ride 1 hour on the trainer (MS: 1 x 10' @ 95-100%/Z4-5, 5' Easy, 2 x 12' (3') @ 85%/z3. Remainder of time at 75-80%) and watch the Giants beat Eagles.

And do this blog entry.

Here's dinner

Kielbasa Kale Stew (from

  • 6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds kale - rinsed, dried and chopped
  • 2/3 pound kielbasa sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  1. Place the potatoes into a large stockpot, over medium high heat. Add butter and water, and bring to a boil. Cook potatoes until tender. Reserve liquid and mash potatoes in the pan until smooth. Return the potato water to the pot and stir in salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Stir in the fresh kale and sausage and simmer for another 30 minutes. Serve hot.I like to have a roasted garlic chiabata with this.I get them at Stop and Shop in the bakery section, warm them up in the microwave.
Southern Sweet Potato Bread with Pecans for dessert. This recipe also from allrecipes, i will post tommorow.

Go Big Blue.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I am a rookie.

I always kind of liked the idea of being a rookie. Like a rookie cop or a rookie baseball player. The word conjures a vision of a young newbie, with the basic, essential training and abilities to start, but still a lot to learn. Endless possibilities, hope for something great, but no guarantee. Promise in a pair of pants.

So it is with excitement and anticipation I bring you news. I am one of two "Iron Rookies", selected at random, to be followed by TriBoomer on his weekly podcast The Stay Tuned Report. You can listen to the introduction on podcast #22. You'll also get to cyber-meet the Running Jayhawk, the other selectee.

I think this will add another aspect to my iron journey, another opportunity to take time out to look at how I am doing, how this affects the people around me, to share with others this very positive experience, and to perhaps make a positive impact on someone I wouldnt have normally come into contact with.

Thanks, TriBoomer, for this opportunity. Good luck, Running Jayhawk! I am looking forward to sharing this amazing experience.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

At the tiller

It's interesting how seemingly disconnected actions and occurrences, when looking back on them, form a path to our current location, as clear a wake behind a boat. You set a goal, an intended destination, and then move one step at a time in the direction you think will get you there. When you start out you may not choose the correct way. Sometimes you get distracted or disoriented. You can keep your eye on the goal, but it also can be helpful to look back at where you've been. What worked, what didn't. Hindsight is 20-20.

Last spring Coach Adam from Race With Purpose put out a call to his team to set several goals for the 2009 season. In addition to being the coach for this great group of athletes, he is also some kind of geeky business consultant. Honestly most of the time i have no idea what he is talking about. But one thing he said was familiar. "What gets measured gets done!", he said. Then he went on to describe a system of setting both outcome and process goals. I hope he wont mind if i copy and paste his definitions:

"Outcome goals - End goals, objectives that can be measured, either you did or you didn't. They should be specific, measurable and have a time constraint to them.

Process Goals -
The smaller, behavioral actions that will in the aggregate allow you to achieve your outcome goals. These are the more important of the two types of goals. By achieving your process goals, you all but guarantee you will achieve your outcome goals."

I went through that process and set four outcome goals with associated process goals. Now, as I embark on the 2009 season in earnest, seems like a good time to look back, look ahead, and make necessary course corrections. (The text in red indicates progress to date)

Outcome Goal #1: Improve and maintain flexibility, stay injury and pain free

Limited success so far
a)Daily self massage and stretching

Have done sporadically
b)Develop yoga practice 2-3 days per week

Maybe done once per week
c)Incorporate breathing awareness meditation into daily routine

Successful with this, now doing daily scheduled breathing meditation.

Outcome Goal #2: Reduce body fat to < ls="trans" month="7" day="1" year="09">7/1/09

Body fat now at around 25%, waist at 35.5", cholesterol control FAIL, back on meds daily
a)Make weekly meal plan at home to include “clean eating” principles, low fat proteins, more fruits and vegetables and 6 small meals daily

Started weekly organic produce delivery, weekly meal plan, lots more fruit, eating 1 large meal daily as per ayurvedic principles
b)Make weekly family grocery shopping trip to support meal plan

Sometimes more or less frequent, but this is working
c)Have at least 2 ‘family cooking sessions’ per month, to prepare and freeze meals to support weekly plan

Limited success so far, will continue to try
d)Make 3 day food log at least once monthly as a tool to further refine eating plan

Have not done since summer, will calendar monthly going forward

Outcome Goal #3
: Finish IMLP 2009 < style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">Race is July 27
a)Through fall and winter, train for sub 4:30 Spring 2009 Marathon

Scratch this, a spring marathon doesn't fit into my training plan
b)Participate in masters swimming program fall and winter 2008-2009

Tried this, got insulted by swim coach, then got sick. Scratch this.
c)Maintain aerobic base on bike through winter with outdoor long rides weather permitting on weekends, and evening trainer sessions during the week

Scratch this until March. 3 one hour bike intervals per week as per plan
d)Continue Tuesday night strength and conditioning (track) through winter

Returned last night. this is where its at for the off season. drills drills drills.
e)Identify and procure coaching services no later than Feb 1, 2009 (20-22 week plan)

Done, Endurance Nation Season plan with power, basic balanced plan.

Outcome Goal #4
: Identify a charitable program supporting the development of ‘Youth Financial Literacy’ and develop a giving program to support it
Found several candidates, continuing to discuss
a)Contact centers of influence to identify candidate organizations/concepts

Discovered this wasnt a very helpful strategy, used google instead with better results
b)Establish a meaningful and realistic fund raising target amount

Meaningful yes, realistic? time will tell.
c)Raise donations and awareness in conjunction with IMLP 2009 and RwP among my clients, family and friends.

Need some process goals here.

It's very helpful to not only review progress toward goals, but to reevaluate the goals themselves. I have made some good progress. Now I will be careful not to over correct my course. 199 days till race day.