The Easy Revolution- CS500 Review

By Mitch Anderson

New toys are fun. New toys with a technological edge always make me lick my lips in delicious anticipation for about 30 seconds…then I try to set them up and start to cry.  Such a pain- is the satellite picking me up? Oh, is this accurate? Why isn’t it picking up my heart rate? Not so the Polar CS500.

It comes in some packaging that would make a Mac buyer proud, all shiny and well presented. Indeed they show off the cadence and speed wireless units alongside the spanking diamond shaped receiver unit. It’s not just any old receiver for a few different reasons. No satellites required- it measures your wheel diameter and is accurate within 1mm, rather than 1metre like a GPS.

So what’s new? Firstly, there is the size of the display- roughly three times that of a wrist watch. It means you can easily view all the numbers at a glance, in clear digital outputs. No searching for the cadence, distance, speed, average or heart rate, you can see all in the same way a conductor has a clear view of all the members of his orchestra. The 20/20 view of the unit is then held in a vice-like grip by a new connection mechanism. It is solid as a rock, and made so it simply slides from the cradle with the poke of a finger- but will never accidently disengage. You need an accurate poke of the finger to achieve that.

Nor does the CS500 rely on a rubber band to attach any of it’s parts- this is all done with accurately position zip ties with the rubber sleeves provided to protect the frame. With the receiver so easy to remove, it simply transfers between bikes, and with a few clicks of the similarly novel screen buttons, you can attribute another wheel diameter with Bike 2. Or 3. It does mean the purchase of speed and cadence transmitters, but they’re easily attached to the subsequent bikes.

The buttons are ingeniously hidden on the underside of the screen, and are pressed into the cradle unit which acts like on a pivot. So forward and back are just a nudge on the edge of the screen, rather than the need to find a button and press it accurately.

Finally, the connection to the computer has been vastly improved. No infra red. No plugging small connectors into the receiver- just a USB stick that automatically detects your unit when you put it into connection mode. The data uploads to the net (via websync) so you can use a PC or a Mac. That’s right, no need for endless dramas- it’s all set up on your own private web page through polar which stores your data while you’re roaming about. It took me all of 5 minutes to set up my account and get the unit to send my training and display it on graphs as I specified. Now I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a running unit which uploads in the same way, and disposing of an infra-red stick forever.

Polar, thanks for simplifying my training life, and not ruining a tech experience for me!

 

 

 

Unskilled and unaware of it?

My Identity Crisis

By Mitch Anderson

 

I’m having a bit of an identity crisis. Sure, I know my name, age and date of birth…but they’re some of the things that even deranged, mentally ill patients can memorise! Seriously, I’ve tried to interview and assess patients who have a mini-mental state score of 3/30 (that’s bad news if you ever hear it by the way), but the three points they get right are those three facts. So I’m not really patting myself on the back. That said, I can still name the prime minister (Whitlam), write a sentence that makes sense and draw two intersecting octagons…so my psyche must be as solid as a rock.

 

I guess there’s a few reasons why I’ve been going through said crisis. But before we proceed I want to point out that it’s not an existential crisis. I think I’m just not smart enough to have one of those. Besides I’m much too busy worrying about where my next meal is coming from to get concerned about the whole ‘why have I been put on this earth?’ caper. It’s already clear to me that I’m here to get my next meal.

 

No, my crisis is related to my occupation, which has waxed and waned over the last 2 years. Scratch that. Make it fourteen years. Frankly I blame the University for not setting me straight earlier. I started as a physiotherapist…morphed into scientist…then jumped on the medical bandwagon, mid-PhD. Granted, with that history, this isn’t the first time I’ve had this kind of dilemma! Mum and Dad have 687 more grey hairs and 20-odd wrinkles that are solely attributable to my inability to select a single career path. Or maybe it’s just they had such a boring time at all those degree conferring ceremonies. In all seriousness, I know why people order their testamurs online. It’s because those ceremonies suck your will to live. The only bright spots come when (A) you get given your piece of fancy paper with you calligraph-fied name on it and (B) hear about the guy who just spent 6 years on his doctorate of philosophy defining the six different ways of interpreting the word Hmmm! And it’s only a bright spot because it sucks to be him way more than you! Hmmm…

 

So why the crisis? It’s not because of the economy, I have still have a job to go to. Surprise, surprise, people are still getting sick. Actually, they might be getting sicker because of the stress of having no jobs and no money. And that ain’t going to change any time soon. Beside that fact, my skills are hot! Fresh out of the oven of internship. Let me tell you, that year certainly changes your perspective on a few things. It gives new meaning to the word busy, defines unsafe work hours and realises time-management habits relating to all aspects of life (including showering and toileting). It certainly made me realize that after my six long years of medical school and internship, all I wanted to do was become a professional person in a well-respected area. That’s right, I was going to turn up to work in lycra every morning a professional triathlete.

 

I have to admit, the mention of what I was planning to do with my life at the end of the intern year caused much pause among my peers (“You have a better option, you bastard”) and consternation of my mentors (“We helped you get to the point of helping others so you can go off help yourself. Very selfish.”). Both criticisms seemed fair enough, but I could hack it. Even my parents seemed to think it was an ok idea. They had thawed on the whole pro thing in Austria 2006, when I was treated like a triathlon God! That’s right- the organizers gave me a hire car AND accommodation. I had made the big time and clearly on my way to the rock’n’roll lifestyle of the not so rich and famous, I put in my resignation at the hospital and started off my new life as a happy pro triathlete. And for six months, I was living the dream.

 

There’s something I’ve noticed during my time working in palliative care, that just before someone dies, they come good for a short period. It’s a bit of a mean tease actually, analogous to a lap dance. My wife’s grandfather John was up and eating a cup of yoghurt the day before he died of eosophageal cancer, espousing “Don’t worry, I’m building myself up again!”. Similarly my grandmother had her zenith winning the local pennant golf tournament a mere month before she passed from breast cancer. I had my six months in the sun, and then my new career got very sick….and very nearly passed away.

 

I have learnt in the last six months both the origin of the phrase ‘achilles heel’ and my love of the sport of triathlon. The former definition is absolutely because the things take so damn long to heal and the latter, because I’ve missed training and racing so much. In the period of healing, I’ve taken on a new job as an owner-builder, which is not a career I’m going to return to if I can help it. I’m also working as a doc at the Repatriation Hospital one night a week, which is helping me avoid down-skilling and providing some lovely interactions with some veterans at the end of their lives. I think I’ll be happy to head back to medical work…but only after my triathlon career is dusted. And that’s not yet.

 

As a postscript, I just bought a t-shirt (online) with “Not A Doctor” written on it’s front to wear to my next triathlon. And I’d like to thank Cameron McKenzie for stimulating the title and vibe of this article. He sent me a wonderful paper (below) which he may or may not believe pertains to his career or mine. Or both. Any way you look at it, I’m a professional triathlete who moonlights as a doctor when injured. And he’s a completed law student (who studied in Berkely) who reads human psychology papers by night and works as a chef all day.

 

Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own

Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments, J. Kruger and D. Dunning, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1999, Vol. 77, No. 6. ] 121-1134

 

 

Gut Mechanics

By Mitch Anderson

 

“You put the fluid into the top hole and it mostly goes down your food pipe. Some comes out (from down below), and some comes out when you sweat. In between, it’s just a little bit of magic worked by your guts.”

Andrew Smith, age 5.

 

Hmmm…sounds suspiciously like a five year old giving a low down on absorption of fluid doesn’t it? Yes indeed, that would be the description given by 5 year olds and unfortunately most triathletes if there was a test before race start. Probably they would avoid the comment about magic, but hey, you can call it magic, god’s divine work or evolution. Whatever floats your boat. It would be much more useful if they knew what I was about to let you in on…

 

Gut guide for the unitiated:

1.     Fluid and glucose can be absorbed in your mouth (especially sublingually)

2.     Nothing gets across the oesophagus, it’s just a muscley tube.

3.     The stomach is a mixing and mashing bowl for food and fluid.

4.     The small intestine is a conduit for glucose, fats, protein and electrolyte.

5.      Your large bowel is the super-supper, taking up water and electrolyte.

 

So what possible advantage is conferred by the five facts you’ve just learned? Let’s go through one by one.

 

If you are having a ‘bonk’ then the mouth is an ideal place to start. That was indeed a smutty double entendre about foreplay. It was also a tip that chewing a jellybean or running a gel around your mouth is an ideal way to quickly reverse the debilitating fuzziness associated with a bonk. When you’re having an acute hypoglycemic attack (especially when racing), the quicker you can begin to think clearly and reverse the cause(s) the faster you’ll get to the finish line. Take advantage of the fact that your mouth is highly absorbent, especially under your tongue, where blood vessels are abundant. They get the oldies to place a pill under their tongue to dilate the heart blood vessels for this very reason. If you don’t get some glucose into your blood quicky, then those neurons in your brain will continue to make your head woozy and as such, a poor decision maker.

 

The oesophagus is just a tube to deliver food and fluid to your stomach. But it can be a very important barometer for how your stomach is going in its tasks. The oesophagus has a valve at the lower end, called the gastro-oesophageal sphincter, which is code for the muscle bound link between the stomach and oesophagus. This is like bouncer which should only let food/fluids into the stomach, not out. But when the stomach is full and not emptying as it should, there may be a quantity of fluid refluxing up the oesophagus. It’s called throwing up in your mouth a bit! We’ve all got that feeling at some point in a race (or at the pub!), where it just doesn’t feel like it’s going down anymore, and that’s probably because gastric emptying has been delayed. It’s a warning sign, take heed!

 

Now comes crunch time. The stomach and how it works. The stomach is like a super bag, which can withstand extreme conditions on the inside. The acidity in the stomach can get as low as pH 3.0…which is like the stuff they use to splash on your face in a mafia hit, only it’s not burning you on the inside. I apologise for the offensive nature of that analogy, but it does give you an indication of the extremity of the conditions down there. This acidity helps break the food down into its components so that it can be more easily absorbed at the next step. In concert with the Mafioso acid, it also plays some heavy handed tactics on the contents by mashing it up with some of the muscles in it’s wall, mixing the contents into a homogenous mass of peas and carrots. The more fluid you put into the gut, the more quickly it will bolus the volume through into the next chamber (within reason).

 

The stomach also has a remarkably expandable fundus, which can grow and grow, when you eat and drink vast quantities at Christmas time. It’s the bit which expands up and makes it feel like it’s hard to breath. It feels like that because it pushing on the under-side of your lungs! It’s gives you the deformed E.T. tummy look. This is especially useful if you’re trying to carb-load, but not so good if you’re racing and trying to get said food and fluid into your blood and muscle. This is another excellent alarm bell to notice- if you feel like ET, something not working so good in the guts.

 

The stomach acts like a reservoir for the small intestine, the filter of your guts. The small intestine douses the flames of the Hcl (hydrochloric acid) with high pH bile, assisting with the break-down of fats. Then the cells in the wall of your intestine start doing their work, allowing specific transporters and gaps between the cells to take up fats/protein/carbs/salts and water. The water is absorbed mainly lower down in the tract, as the body prioritises the good stuff. If you truly want to make the gut work like a well oiled machine, you should take in salts (esp. sodium and potassium), glucose and water. Any other substance takes longer than these three gems, which are key to the continuation of aerobic exercise in endurance races.

 

Now the reason we have specially formulated sports drinks, is that they are composed of the most easily and quickly absorbed substances across the membranous wall of the small intestine. Carb’s should be 6-8% and sodium and potassium in a ball park which doesn’t unduly raise the concentration of the solution. Increasing the concentration (or osmolality) will slow absorption and cause there to be a banking up of fluid in the tract. If you add fats or protein (like an energy bar) or a carbohydrate load (like a gel), then the process will be further slowed. In training, this is fine, you’re taking it easy…but racing is a different story. If you don’t manage it carefully, the gut can be deprived of adequate blood supply to the cells which do the job of processing the contents of the intestine. This slows the process and can cause the throwing up in your mouth/ET stomach syndrome! Not cool and certainly not the way to make you run faster off the bike.

 

So here is the crux of the problem. You need to match and monitor the amount of blood being sent to your small (& large) intestine, plus the blood to your skin for thermoregulation (maintaining body temperature), plus the blood being sent to your muscles for exercise with your chosen exercise intensity. This is a complex task when you’re going at a high pace and trying optimise for many other aspects. But it’s the absolute key to racing well. If you can get your head around the finer aspects of the gut or at the very least be able to heed the warning signs of a woozy head, vomit in your mouth or E.T. guts, then half the battle is already won.

 

Next week (or month) we’ll consider the colon (or large bowel), perhaps even to high-school level (!) and talk about some more advanced aspects of food, fluid and their fascinating fluctuations!

Eating’s Not Cheating

By Mitch Anderson

 

In my last conversation with you gentle readers, I covered simple ways to lose weight through exercise and diet. At the completion of said article, I made a rash promise to discuss dietary origins of the derriere of Serena Williams and the thighs of Monaghetti. I intimated that I would prefer the former over the latter, and my preference has remained unchanged throughout the last month. I’m happy to go on record that they remain an astonishing piece of anatomy, both (her buttocks and his quads).

Truth be told most elements of these individual’s body shapes have been genetically pre-determined, so please don’t think that the next few paragraphs will allow you to magically transform your back end into something akin to Ms Williams. That said, there is a certain amount of streamlining which can take place through eating the right foods at the right times.

If we go back to first principles, the diet is made up of three macro-nutrients (main elements): carbohydrate, protein and fats. These are absorbed in the gut (as recently discussed) then mainly processed in the liver (some in the kidneys) and then utilised by the cells all over the body. If consumed in excess, the nutrients are stored as fat. The deposition of this fat is non-negotiable- we humans have a thrifty phenotype which ensures the waste not/want not principle is followed always! Fat, carbohydrate and protein is not excreted unless it’s a waste product (almost never) or there is an illness in the body. The excess nutrient is stored in gender-specific sites- men typically have trunkal obesity, whilst women store on their backsides and thighs (as if I had to point that out, sorry ladies).

So in part, your somatotype (body shape) is genetically determined…but you have the ability to mix and morph your shape through both training and eating. Or not eating. There are three described shapes: endomorphic (fat), ectomorphic (skinny) and mesomorphic (schwarza!). Most people are a combination of two elements, though endo and ecto do not have any intersecting elements on their venn diagrams! Obviously, there are extremes to each somatotype. Endomorphs seem to be prevailing in Australian society, though this shape is not helpful in triathlon (except for the down-hills!). Ectomorphic type in the extreme is anorexia- where wasted muscles are unable to drive the skeleton at any great speed, so again a no-no for training and racing. Mesomorphism extremo is truly Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he would find it hard to drag that chassis around Kona.

It takes all types in triathlon, but a mix and ecto and mesomorphism (leaning to the ecto spectrum) is the perfect type for success from a physical perspective. Staying light (by keeping away from any endo tendencies) is important to maintaining efficiency. Keep in mind that we are ignoring physiological aspects of performance. Exercise tends to drive your shape too. The old adage, use it or lose it is most apt. You’ll notice that cyclists have little in the way of upper body mass (ecto) yet their lower limbs (meso) are way out of proportion with their heads and arms!!! Wearing a helmet definitely doesn’t help…In any case, the arms waste away because they’re not being used, whilst the legs build from all the hard effort. A similar pattern is seen in distance runner’s, with a slightly finer build in the legs.

So how can you get your body looking like Basso or Jan’s? WELL we all know the answer to that question! Obviously it’s the exercise stress in combination with careful eating of food type and timing. Exercise causes damage to protein structures in muscle (and other) cells, which requires replacement. If the muscle is to become stronger and bigger, then obviously a larger amount of protein should be ingested. The protein can be of animal or plant origin, depending on the time of day. Eggs are an ideal source of clean protein, especially the whites- they allow you to dose neatly too: one for a short session, two for a longer session and two plus a white after a long ride. The yolk has fats (cholesterol) which will be incorporated into the lining of cells, so don’t fuss too much. It’s the butter on your bread that is doing the damage, and probably the quantity of bread itself.

Carbohydrate should be scrutinised for type and timed with precision through your day. Early in the day (up to lunchtime), an intake of complex carbohydrates will be slowly absorbed and utilised by your body for energy. Cereals and whole-grain breads are a perfect source. However, if you whack too much into your mouth in the evening, then mass storage is it’s likely prospect. As a consequence, I run on the following principles when picking when and how to mix my protein and carbohydrate. After a heavy or long session, I try to replenish some carb and some protein through milky drinks (low fat), eggs, toast and yoghurt. If it’s getting towards the evening, my focus changes drastically. I try to have a small amount of lean meat, followed by a large volume of salad and vegetables. And if I’m going to be doing a long session the next morning, I might add 1/3 of a cup of rice to the meal. This miminises the chances of storing unwanted carb as fat overnight, and also supplies my muscles with a source of protein for rebuilding during rest. The protein helps you to feel sated, as does the large volume of ruffage/fibre in the vegies.

In the end, you need to eat for function as well as enjoyment. Streamlining your physique is an important part of training as well as aging! So try to pick some elements in your diet which serve a purpose in your day and avoid the nasties which are commonplace empty foods. That way over time, you’ll have a bum like Gail Devers or some quads like Deeks, which will serve a purpose for your sport, rather than being added as another endomorphic Australian statistic.

 

 

Running Biomechanics

By Mitch Anderson

 

OK…it’s kind of a bland topic, and non-specific too. In fact, how did I get stuck with this stinker? My editor must really hate me. Maybe it’s my penchant for abuse of non-deserving individuals? Either that or it has some serious triathlon relevance. Then again, she’s kinda sickly and pasty, what can she know about triathlon? I guess I can have a dip at it, otherwise she’ll be grumpy. Don’t want that. Hmmm.

 

So why should a triathlete think about their biomechanics? Probably because we’ve all been running since we were kids and don’t think about them at all! You spend hours every week working on swimming technique…think about pulling up and down on the pedal making perfect circles with each foot…why then shouldn’t you think long and hard about the way you run? There are, as I consider it, a number of vital things to think about when you are running, rather than just putting one foot in front of the other. So here they are:

 

Heel strike: This is the first part of your running stride cycle, and as such, very important. Every shoe is advertised in terms of ‘heel-counter technology’ or ‘more gel in the hind foot’ or ‘we care, so there’s more air!’ I have to admit, I made that last one up. But the point is, you must have a well cushioned hind foot or heel on your shoe, or you’ll likely blast it to smithereens! Replacing shoes regularly (3-4 months or every 800-1000km) is a good way to ensure you avoid initiating heel damage…and you start off your stride with a stable base.

 

The control muscle for this action is the tibialis anterior muscle…that’s the one running down the very front of your shin bone. To improve the strength of this muscle, try some down-hill efforts- start with a few, then build from there. Importantly, you must avoid your toes slapping down onto the pavement as you run. For fifty strides (then increasing), try and control the flattening of your foot onto the footpath.

 

Mid-stance: This is the middle of your stride, and where your body comes into line over the knee. The key to maintaining good form here is two-fold. The first point is to make sure you are in a strong pelvic position over the knee, making sure you are not shunting your hips across too far from that central body line. The second is to have some stable shoes in the mid-sole, so you’re not collapsing your arch. The best way to test a shoe for mid-sole stability is to place a hand on the heel, and a hand over the toe and then rotate the shoe in opposing directions. This should feel stiff and strong.

 

It is vital to control your hips in this part of your stride, or ITB and knee problems are a surety. Try getting someone to video your from the front and behind on when you are running in a straight line (I recommend doing this on a track). It’s amazing the number of little changes you can make to glean extra seconds of efficiency in your stride. In order to strengthen the pelvic muscle’s that control mid-stance…how long have we got??!! All abdominal exercises will help. Using a step in front of a mirror, then placing your foot onto the floor by just touching your toes then back up will do it. Attention must be paid to keeping your pelvis flat and in the mid-line.

 

Toe-off: The end of the stride, setting you up for the all important heel strike on the other leg. This is a hard one to control, and has a lot to do with small and large muscles in your lower leg. These muscles are tibialis posterior, the calf and flexor hallicus longus. Hmmm, better to just say muscles on the inside and back of your lower leg. What is easier to grasp, rather than the ridiculous latin names of your muscles, is the importance of this part of your stride. If you have no control over these muscles, you are putting more strain on the bones and ligaments in your feet, leaving yourself open for injury!

 

So how to strengthen this complex of muscles? Obviously specificity is one way…that is, going running. But volume will not always do. Try some shortish up-hill or flat strides: again, fifty at a time building up. If you’re obsessed with the gym, then find a good solid step and do some heel raises with your heel hanging over the step. Try not to hang onto anything when you do this exercise, as triggering you proprioceptive (or position sense) controls is also important.

 

There are two factors that make up your running speed: stride length (distance per step); and stride frequency (no. of steps per 100m or minute).  You can measure both of these easily. Check your stride length by counting no. of steps per 400m lap of the track…then you’ll also have stride frequency. As for using these measures to improve your running, that remains controversial. If you think about adding 1cm per stride over a marathon, for the same frequency, you’ll cover the distance faster. But will you? It may not be as energy efficient to alter your stride length, as to alter your frequency. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that maintaining cadence over 10km at the end of a triathlon may also maintain your run speed. Trialling these minor alterations in training with a heart rate monitor may give you an indication of whether or not a change of either will work for you.

 

 To finish up, apologies to Megan for giving her a spray at the start of this article…it’s actually quite an interesting topic, and she’s not really sickly or pasty at all. Also, if you want to learn more about your run biomechanics ( and you’re worried they might be contributing to an injury or inefficiency) then go along and see a friendly physiotherapist or podiatrist, who will be an expert in analysing your technique on video. Good luck on the running!

Dealing with Injury- Ode from a Cripple.

By Mitchell Anderson (Physiotherapist)

 

Spending days on the couch with an injured ITB (knee) has sent me round the twist. Or rather doctors orders for six weeks on the bench (no running or riding) has afforded me time to pursue topics which otherwise may never have graced the pages of Triathlon and Multi Sport magazine. After reading this, you may adjudge that to be a most unfortunate doctors’ order indeed. My injury-plagued madness is in full evidence in the following meandering, so for those with little stomach for prose…adieu!

 

 Ruin hath seiz’d thee, shapeless Quad! For confusion of thy nervous state, And fann’d by contraction most odd Has shock’d patella to a painful state. Rest, nor Physio’s twisted stretch, Nor even thy icing, Mitch, shall avail To save thy lost summer from nightly fears, Sour injuries curse, or Triathlete tears!” Such was the wound, that sent me far afield To find sports of scatter’d fun array, And douse the boredom rest doth yield I found much less toilsome rehab. to play. As Doctor stood aside in speechless cool; ‘To arms!’ cried Mitch, diving head-long into freezing pool.

 

Everyone has been injured at some point in their sporting career. If not, then more power to you, luck must be a lovely bedfellow. But for us mere mortals dealing with it when not if, it occurs, is of paramount importance. Failing prevention, swift action and thorough rehabilitation are the important aspects I would like to discuss.

 

Prevention

 

Injury prevention is an obvious, yet very difficult task for most triathletes. Often injuries result from unforeseen or unexpected circumstance: a rolled ankle in a pothole; a car darting out of side-street; or a foolish stubbed toe on the pool deck. Accidents are events that take place without foresight or expectation, so don’t waste unnecessary worry on the mechanism of an accident once it has occurred. On the other hand, choose your moment for fatuous or imbecilic behavior carefully, as idiocy is not grounds to palm off injury as ‘unforeseen circumstance’!

 

Undertaking three different modes of exercise increases the number of required body parts which must be kept in perfect working order. Taking care of a whole body means stretching, massage and strengthening all need to be incorporated into training time. If you only have an hour to go running, it means utilising fifteen of those precious minutes to cool-down, stretch and drink properly. From a physiotherapy and epidemiological point of view, stretching prior to exercise does not reduce the risk of muscular injury (Shrier I. 1999). So perform an adequate warm-up (jog to a light sweat) and worry about stretching post exercise. Returning tired muscles to resting length and filling them up with precious carbohydrate are important steps to stave off injury in subsequent sessions.

 

Action

 

R.I.C.E. (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) should be your first action, or reaction to an injury. Reducing the time it takes to apply this simple principle, will reduce the severity of bleeding and damage to the affected tissues. Inflammation and its’ consequences (i.e. swelling) are the target of this action in the first seventy-two hours after the injury. Rest means discontinuing any activity which aggravates the site of trauma for this period. No pain equals gain, so don’t go running or riding if you have an injured leg…and don’t go swimming if you have a sore shoulder. Sounds simple enough, but too many people assume (read ‘hope’) that the pain will just go away. If your pain disappears during training, it’s likely to be an inflammatory based injury which will flare on the cessation of activity- the damage is not gone!

 

Ice the area and its’ surrounds using the principle of twenty minutes on forty minutes off, three to six times over the three days. To maximise its cooling effect (which is to reduce blood flow and therefore swelling), elevate and compress the limb with a towel whilst icing. Ice can cause damage if it is applied directly to the skin, so make sure you use a damp cloth as a protective layer. Many people underestimate the efficacy of compression- it can be applied for the whole seventy-two hours, unlike ice or elevation, so strap the limb up with an elastic bandage. Make sure it’s not so tight that your leg becomes numb or your toes start to turn black!

 

Being injured whilst holding a bachelor of physiotherapy is a difficult combination, but initially it helps me to squirm out of going to see a health care professional for a diagnosis. Likelihood is that you don’t have the same excuse, so make sure you go to have your injury assessed by a physiotherapist, doctor or other qualified medical personnel. A sports physiotherapist is the best, first port of call when you have a musculo-skeletal injury, though if you suspect a fracture, hit the doctor for an x-ray (not literally).

 

Rehabilitation

 

You cannot race a horse that is a cripple, so rehabilitate your injury. It is worth taking time and effort before resuming normal activity, to prevent recurrence of, or biomechanical problems related to, the injury. I certainly went to get some guidance from experienced sports medico.’s, even though I thought I knew a fair bit about what had happened and what I should do. When my injury persisted, I went to more than one. I also forked out money for a weekly, eye-watering rub from masseuse Charlie ‘le beguiling basher’ Bottero. He seems to take much satisfaction in assisting my rehabilitation! Athletes I know baulk at paying for health care (particularly massage or physiotherapy), whilst being happy to fork out thousands of dollars for bikes and related equipment. Spending fifty dollars a week on a massage for your personal machine is worth every cent, particularly if it can help prevent or heal an injury.

 

I also tried a number of strengthening and treatment techniques, some less conventional than others. These included cortisone injection, swiss-ball, acupuncture, ultrasound, iontophoresis and hacky-sack. Of the bunch, hacky-sack was the most enjoyable, and possibly most effective- it works on strength, speed, agility and flexibility in one complete work-out. It even incorporates six-minute ab.s! OK…maybe not the six-minute ab.s part…

 

Lastly, I’ll leave you with some words from the hymnsfather of modern English prose, John Dryden: ‘I am a cripple in my limbs; but what decays are in my mind, the reader must determine.’

 

References:

 

Pinadaric ode adapted from Thomas Gray, Odes by Mr. Gray (Strawberry Hill: R. and J. Dodsley, 1757). D-10 4088 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). First Publication Date: 1757.

Shrier I. Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of local muscle injury: a critical review of the clinical and basic science literature.Clin J Sport Med 1999 Oct;9(4):221-7

Ward & Trent, et al. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907–21; New York: Bartleby.com, 2000 (www.bartleby.com/cambridge/).

 


Rage Against the (Roadie) Machine: Get into Winter Cycle Racing!

By Mitchell Anderson

 

On June 11, 1992, teenagers had angst, protest, and anger taken to a new musical level by the Rage Against the Machine (RATM) release of ‘Killing in the Name’. Lead singer Zack de la Rocha used RATM to espouse a great number of left wing political views such as concern for the working class, addressing environmental issues and working toward a fair manner of collective coexistence. Whilst Zack and I don’t agree in all political views, these seem quite sound, particularly considering the current global climate. But what has this got to do with triathletes and cycling? Let’s focus on collective coexistence.Not surprisingly, the title ‘Rage Against the Machine’ title is a political overture. The “machine” can be defined as a state propaganda system of media, corporations, and government. Or just as easily, the state’s cycling community. “Rage” directed at the machine, means demonstrating, by any means necessary, one’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. Well, triathletes, now is the time to start your protest by the most effective means…participation.

 

In Melbourne, the divide between cycling and triathlete communities is as wide as that between  RATM and Nana Mouskouri! The ‘roadie’ community seems reticent to recognise and accept triathletes as their peers, despite similarities of the two sports. In fact their eastern bloc ice-cool attitude actively discourages triathlete participation. This seems incongruous, as swelling the ranks of winter bunches with triathlete domestiques would do nothing to harm the competition and viability of cycle racing. I hope to highlight, with sound physiological and sociological evidence, the incentives to discontinue this discriminatory culture. Failing that, the most stubborn of heads might be turned by an appeal to better capitalistic nature!

 

Physiologically, cyclists and triathletes can be best described as isomers. That is, any two substances that are composed of the same elements in the same proportions but differing in properties, because of the arrangement of atoms. In an isomeric fashion, triathletes and cyclists have very similar components. Their bodies are analogous: overly lean physiques; muscular lower limbs; with puny arms and chest. Let’s face it, you’re not going to pick out a spunky cyclist or a triathlete because of their beach muscles!

 

On a macroscopic scale, cyclist and triathletes both ride bikes, with the same size wheels and similarly constructed frames. Technological advancements in cycling (componentry weight in particular) are passed down from the professional level to elite triathletes. Not that triathlon should be regarded as cyclings’ hand-me-down cousin. The tri-bar or time-trial bars (a P.C.C. or Politically Correct Cycling name) were a revolution in the cycling world when Greg Lemond smashed the 1989 Tour De France field. ‘Use-specificity’ for this particular piece of equipment is important, so let’s get this issue out of the way. Cyclists become increasingly nervous and verbally abusive if a triathlete tries to slot into a bunch with aero-bars on the front end. Note to triathletes: ‘Don’t get down on the aero-bars in a cycling bunch’. Note to cyclists: ‘They’re not going to be used in the bunch’. End of story. Triathletes can handle bikes just as aptly as cyclists, so the moronic comments and abuse should stop. I bet no-one takes the mickey out of Lance Armstrong when he uses tri-bars in training!

 

Armstrong is the best example of a triathlete developing into an outstanding cyclist, but closer to home is, triathlete com cyclist Kristjan Snorrason (seemingly a wise move, since Snozza’s running left a lot to be desired!). In the opposite direction, wunder-biker Steve Larsen, previously a professional cyclist and mountain-biker, has startled the triathlon world with consistent performances in all three disciplines of triathlon (particularly in Kona and Lake Placid 2001). Peter Reid’s relationship with Armstrong coach Chris Carmichael (albeit short-lived) is another apt example of the cross-over potential between the two sports.

 

Inherently, both sports rely heavily on the aerobic energy system. That is, the better your capacity to supply muscle with oxygen the faster you are likely to go. Based on an educated-hunch, Peter Reid and Chris McCormack’s VO2 would rate in the mid-eighties (oxygen uptake in mL.kg.min-1), matching cycling animals like Lance Armstrong and Jan Ulrich in the lab. Fat-burning (or lipolytic) enzymes would be uniformly up-regulated in both sets of legs, although it is on a microscopic level that differences might begin to appear. Type 1 or slow twitch fibres, would be well developed in both cyclists and triathletes. However, fast twitch fibre type IIb (fast glycolytic) may be better developed through specific sprint training in cyclists, to allow for a fierce change of pace. In contrast, a triathlete may have focal development of class IIa fibres (fast-oxidative) to maintain a high lactic threshold during time trials. This may explain the propensity for a triathlete to be dropped quickly, when attacks are coming thick and fast.

 

Financially there are plenty of incentives for both camps. Cycle race entry is cheap. The classics like Melbourne to Warnambool (270km) cost $35, which is remarkable in comparison to Ironman Australia’s imposing $500. More entries per race, means more prize money for winners (in stark contrast with triathlon!). Bolstering numbers in races also means increasing club memberships. Cycling race licences are compulsory and expensive, at approximately $200 (including club fees), however the club infrastructure is very well developed and supportive. Caufield-Carnegie actually provided athletes with air-fares to Mooloolabah for the recent Australian Club Championships. Some bike stores would also be well advised to limit the anti-triathlete sentiment as improved sales of 10 speed record and other euro-equipe could seriously improve monthly figures. A sterling example of cross-cultural sporting focus is SBR, luring potential buyers with free espresso and a large range of european and american rigs.

 

Finally, triathletes must be bold and go where not many have gone before. Physiologically and psychologically, triathletes have a strong and similar make-up to cyclists. Furthermore, cycle racing is the perfect winter pass-time to improve biking efficiency and keep motivation high. It can be exciting and difficult, dangerous and fast. To quote Zack de la Rocha: “We’re not going to play to the mainstream. We’re going to hijack it.” Maybe not ‘hijack’, but participate. Remove the aero-bars, maximise your confidence and get into the thick of it.

Bomb the (bike) Base

 

By Mitch Anderson

 

Most regular readers would know I have a penchant for relating pop-culture and training ideals. For those of you who enjoy my use of this relationship, please continue on with the following ‘bug powder dust’ reference. For those of you who are irritated by popular culture, I apologise in advance, so either ignore this month’s offering and skip onto Rod’s physiology or be thankful I haven’t taken the ‘it’s-that-time-of-year’ approach to base training!

 

So, the classic track by ‘Bomb the Bass’…Bug Powder Dust, which has been remixed by everyone from the LA Funk Mob to the legendary Kruder and Dorfmeister (in the classic K+D sessions) is:

 

“Bug powder dust, a mug one jism, the wild boys running round into some trippin’ , letter to control about the big brother, trying like hard to not blow my cover”

 

Obviously some of the trip-hop nomenclature is beyond the scope of this article (i.e. I don’t know what the heck any of that lyric means), but I REALLY like the song. So the take away message is: even if you don’t understand the scientific minutia pertaining to the physiological mechanism of base building (i.e my lyrics), following a base program can still be very successful and enjoyable process (i.e. you can still enjoy the song).

 

So ten to twelve weeks of bombing your bike base is extremely important from the time you buy this magazine (September, October and November). It’s not too late to really prepare well for the season ahead…honestly! I believe you’re better off spending the time from now until December doing LSD (long slow distance) training, so that you have a launch pad to peak in March and April (by doing intervals and brick sessions), when the important races start happening (National and State Titles).

 

So what is base training? Inherently training for aerobic (oxygen buring) or endurance exercise should improve the efficiency of your muscles (heart and skeletal). This efficiency gain is brought about by changes in both in your cardio-respiratory system (heart and lungs) and the your muscle’s ability to extract oxygen. To get a little bit more techo., your heart increases it’s ability to pump out blood (increased cardiac output) and the a-V O2 difference (muscular ability to extract oxygen) improves. The number of blood vessels supplying your muscle with blood and thus nutrients, is increased, as is the amount of enzymes required to break down fatty fuels. If you still don’t get it, this all means that your VO2max or maximal oxygen uptake (in mL.min-1.kg-1) increases as you do aerobic training, and THAT’S A GOOD THING! Your base period needs to be skewed towards increasing your aerobic capacity (VO2max).

 

Aerobic training or LSD is predominantly done at low intensity. But what is a low intensity? For those who use a heart rate monitor, it’s less than 70% of your maximum heart rate. For those of you who don’t, it means that you should be able to speak a full sentence when you are riding along, without feeling out of breath. For the pedants among you, it’s a sentence of ten words or so! Another guide to the intensity of your session is rating of perceived exertion (RPE). This is a scale from 6-20, dreamt up by a scientist by the name of G.A.V. Borg in 1982, where 7 is very, very light and 19 is very, very hard. Anything more than a 14 on this scale is too hard for optimal increases in aerobic capacity. In a canny twist, add a zero to the RPE and that should be your heart rate. A final scale is speed of your bike on a flat, wind-free terrain. Keeping in mind gender (men tend to be 10% or so faster than women, though not always) and fitness differences (the more highly trained you are, the less likely you are to need my advice! And the faster you will be cycling), aerobic pace should be between 22 and 32 km.h-1. In essence, the training intensity should be easy and you should feel as though you could keep going at that pace ad nauseum  (for most of the day!).

 

Another tip is to hit the hills for at least one weekly session over the next few months. Varying grades of ascent will mean different muscle groups are emphasised throughout the session, building efficiency in all muscle groups. Furthermore, this has the benefit of varying cadence, which is also ideal for working on pedal stroke efficiency. Unfortunately, hills alone are not enough for improving your pedal stroke, so practicing single leg drills is highly recommended. Incorporate 100 pedal strokes or 60s of  single leg cycling, trying to make a fluid circle (pulling up as well as pushing down on the pedal) on both left and right leg, taking care to particularly concentrate on your non-dominant leg. Five times on each leg, a couple of times per week will do the trick. A word of warning for hill climbing, it might be steep, but it does NOT HAVE TO BE HARD. Also please note, YOU ARE NOT LANCE ARMSTRONG, but you can be like him. Climbing should take place in the aerobic range, making full use of those larger sprockets on your cassette…there is a 21 or 23 chain ring on your bike for a reason. Stay in the saddle and make use of it, at a moderate to high cadence!

 

So over the next twelve weeks, aim to push out your longest rides by adding 1/2 to 1 hr per weekend. During the week add 15 minutes per session, time permitting. Take plenty of carbs for those longer weekend sessions, have more in your pocket than you think you will need. Making your training easy, by following the intensity guides should mean you won’t get sick or injured. Speaking of which, it’s also prime time to make sure your set-up is right (speak to an expert, there’s always one in your local bike shop-just ask them, they all think they’re experts!). If you need new cleats, now is the time to put them on. If you are advised to change your set up, only move your seat or stem by millimetres not centimetres.

 

So start bombing the base now (secret kilometres, provided your cover is not blown), and you’ll be stronger and set-up for the season proper!

 

 

  Gut ThresholdNutrition PrinciplesBy Mitchell AndersonMy favourite ad on television has just started being re-run after at least 12 long months in absentia! It’s the HBA advert, where a small boy talks about a nasty experience with a crocodile. In a twisted little voice he says: “Crocodile came along. Bit me into parts. I mean pieces. Bit my guts out. Then my head went one way, my legs went the other way!” Minus the crocodile, kinda sounds like doing a triathlon. Your gut is twisted every which way whilst you’re exercising. This article will explain why!So really, I want to talk about the concept of ‘gut threshold.’ I’m certainly not going to claim this description as my own…but I haven’t heard anyone else talk about it in this manner!! The term ‘gut’ globally describes your stomach and intestine. To start, the key is the word threshold. In VERY simplified terms, the way your gut works is almost digital. It’s either emptying, or it’s not. You either feel distended, or you don’t. It reaches a point (or threshold) and then shuts down. The very worst thing that can happen during an endurance event is for your gut to shut down. No gut equals no nutrition. Absorption of gut contents is affected by three main factors: thermoregulation (relying on heavily on environmental temp.), exercise intensity (relying on your aggro) and concentration of gut contents (relying on what you’re eating/drinking). Largely, it’s good to try and keep the first and last in check, so you can maintain exercise intensity…therby maximising performance.So if you can think of gut threshold in a way similar to lactate threshold- you reach a point of deflection on a graph where your lactate begins to rapidly accumulate in the blood. This means you have to slow down. Similarly, if you push your gut over threshold, if exercise continues…you’ll have to slow down. If you get too dehydrated or take in concentrated solutions, then intensity will suffer due to gut shut-down. Blood that was being sent to your gut is being diverted to muscle (for exercise) and skin (for thermoregulation). So let’s think more about factors effecting gut emptying and why it’s important.It’s really not that difficult to understand why gut threshold is important. The three contributing energy systems during exercise are: fat, protein and sugar. Protein is not a vital piece of the exercising pie, but the others are. Fat is stored in limitless supply, some more limitless than others (!), but you have a finite level of access. Furthermore, it is a difficult substance to absorb across your gut membrane, as it requires processing prior to absorption. In addition, this absorption happens in the intestine, not the stomach. Carbohydrate, on the other hand, is readily absorbed across the stomach membrane utilising swanky co-transporters. These suck up carbohydrate and electrolyte and water, dumping these vital components straight into the blood stream for use. Your brain and exercising muscle demand glucose in mass quantities. Quite differently from fat, carb’s are in limited supply in the human body (stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle), so any additions are greatly beneficial. If you run out, then you’ll hit the wall.The stomach is the first port of call for anything you pop into your mouth. Food and fluid shoots down your oesophagus and is processed by the stomach first. It mixes and mashes and adds acids to break the food into small parts. I mean pieces. So when you are racing, anything you pop into your mouth that isn’t glucose (or fluid and electrolytes), I think of as a distractor. Essentially I mean protein, fats and fibre, none of which are absorbed across the stomach membrane. There are a few reasons why they’ll behave as distractors. They’ll block the efficient absorption of the essentials, by not being absorbed until the intestine. They act to increase the concentration of the solution inside the gut, thereby dragging fluid from the blood to assist in equalising the concentration. Furthermore, they aren’t needed by the body to perform exercise (there’s plenty of fats running around already, you don’t use much protein, and you sure as heck aren’t worried about your bowel health with the fibre )…so why eat them?The fact remains that palitibility is the main stimulus for eating and drinking during exercise. So whether or not you like the taste of something. The real trainability of the mind lies in ensuring you stay positive and receptive to carb/electrolyte/fluid, rather than allowing your mind to force you into eating sub-optimal food and drink like bars or other solids. I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat what you like during training (especially on the bike), the intensity during training is much lower and shouldn’t be pushing your gut to the limit. I’m talking about racing and utlising largely liquids, allowing you to load your stomach optimally, rather than adding fibre. Furthermore, using sports drink in the correct concentration (6-8%), and gels (plus or minus salt tablets) will provide you with every nutrient you need in a race spanning 1h to 15h. They will also assist in adding nutrients in the correct concentrations.So try and push your gut to it’s limit in the same way you push your muscle to it’s limit. Manage it at gut threshold, so you’re always pouring in as much water/carb/electrolyte as your membrane can absorb. Minimise the number of distractors. Maximise your performance. Race well. Stay away from crocodiles. wintermaintenc.pdf Holding Summer Form ALL Winter

By Mitch Anderson

 

Forget the miracle pill or diet…it’s the same old problem every year. You spend six months training, racing, getting ripped to within an inch of your life and then winter happens! “Too cold today. Too wet today. Hmmm…pass that donut can you my pretty?!” Come October, you’re a butter ball and have to get back onto the track for real! So how do you maintain that summer form all through winter? First, you get yourself a solid retreat on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Ok, that’s a bit rich, let’s say you head off to Colorado or Hawaii? Kidding, lets keep it real for the masses.

 

Assuming you’re stuck in your current residence, with the same family, job and life. We have to make a list of goals for maintaining form. Break it back to the basics: swim, bike, and run in the sub-sets of endurance, strength and body mass.

 

First principle is Endurance:

On the whole, the best way to maintain endurance is to maintain the same rate of training all year round. This is not always possible, so I like to think about holding key sessions for the winter period. Each discipline should be approached in a similar way.

 

Swim: Pick your longest set for the summer, and reduce it by 10%. Try and do this session once a week, every week. The key is not to miss a session on any week. If you only swim once a week, at least you will maintain the neural pathways of a long set. That said, frequency is the mainstay of swimming well…so try and get in often for short swims (aside from your key session). That way, you’ll only have to do your head in once a week in the pool.

 

Bike: Again, pick your longest summer bike, but reduce it by 25%. Try to do this session every second weekend. But here’s the kicker, look at the weather every Wednesday. If it looks fine, do the long one. If it looks average, do a shorter ride (50% of longest summer ride). Do not skip a ride because of the weather. If you don’t have a jacket, buy a good one OR invest in a fancy wind trainer. I prefer the former option- you never know when it’ll rain on race day, so you might as well get used to it (also, a jacket is cheaper)! Do a longer ride every weekend it is good weather. Swap a Saturday with a Sunday if you can get better weather. This will see your endurance maintained all winter. Try and fit 2 shorter rides in the week.

 

Run: Pick your longest run for the summer, and reduce it by 25%. There is no excuse for not doing this every week, whatever the weather. Running is a heat generating tool and it doesn’t take that long. You should always do your long run once a week- no excuses! Take it slow, and build that aerobic base. No-one is timing you, so set PB’s for lowest heart rate for same run time if you can. Rug up for another couple of 50% or 60m runs a week.

 

Second principle is Strength:

Strength is gained and maintained by stressing your muscles (a principle called overload). You can do this in the gym or be sports specific. I like getting in the gym on the crappier days and just for a change of scenery. I like the strange looks from the schwarza types, I can see them thinking, “Who invited the puny dude with the funny tan, his whole look is bringing me down. Arggghhh…best I just look at myself in this mirror again…oh, yeah.” You know the types. So ignore them, and do a strength session over lunch. It should only take 45 minutes. Don’t forget to go to fatigue on the abdominals.

 

Swim: Try using pool buoy and bands (B&B) on your short sessions. Fill up the arms with lactate by doing power pull with the B&B. For those uninitiated, essentially that’s breastroke arms only. Try skulling for strength too (feet forward is best).

 

Bike: Single leg cycling is a great drill for strength and technique. Try 100 revs each leg by five, every twenty minutes on the trainer (or road) to break up a boring ride. Try and avoid listening to the headphones too…concentration is an important element of this exercise. Use gym sets including squats (double leg), heel raises under load, quads/hams over fulcrom, short seated row and leg press. Get someone who knows to show you how to so them properly.

 

Run: The long run will help maintain strength, but some specific gym work never went astray. Focus at all times on your vastus medialis oblique (VMO), the little bit of muscle that overhangs your knee-cap. It is crucial for healthy knees. Single leg squats over a step are great, as are bent knee heel raises. The latter can help to prevent stress fractures and shin splints. Heaps of abs too…I firmly believe you can do 20 minutes every other day to keep the physio away. Finally, don’t forget to warm down properly post training- calf, hamstring and quad stretches are vital.

 

Third principle is Body Mass:

Rather than approach this from sport specific point of view, I’ll be general. Don’t worry about putting on some puddin’ in the winter. It is completely normal and t is helpful for a number of reasons. Keeps you warmer is the most important one. Means you float better in the pool. Acts as a limiter of weight gain. You release a hormone (leptin) from your fat cells which tells your brain to stop eating…so a few more is helpful, but not a lot more. As with anything, moderation is key. Being a blimp in October will not be helpful, but being hard on yourself all winter to maintain 5% body fat will not be of assistance either.

 

The only aspect I haven’t mentioned is keeping buff by going to the salon for tanning and waxing all winter. Every 6 weeks, I like going to Merlene at the Happy Waxers in Prahran to keep my kini and tan lines looking svelt. She’s also my analyst, so we talk some mental health too. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything!!! Good luck over the winter, stay on the track for your key sessions and stay out of the tanning salon! Check out www.mitchanderson.com.au if you have questions or interested in race reports all winter!

 

 

 

 Articles  

Race Day Fluid and Carbs, More or Less?

Race Day Summary.

By Mitch Anderson

 

It’s really hard to get it right. It’s really hard to give people direct advice to get it right. But if you can just understand how the system works, you’ll be a lot closer to almost getting it right. If you could jump on the scales at the end of each hour, the job would be so much easier. So how much fluid with how much carbohydrate and electrolyte? I’m going to try and make this clear in physiological terms and practical terms.

 

What type of fuel to put in?

Imagine you gut is a filter. It is essentially a water filter, then secondarily an electrolyte and glucose filter. Then, and only then is it a fat and protein filter. The latter items require the most time and remain the most complex items to filter. Indeed they are not required on race day, because you don’t burn much protein (it is not a significant contributor to metabolic requirements) and you have more stored fat than you can use in a day (try a week!). Fat and protein clog the filter, do not use them on race day (unless you’re racing for fun, not performance).

 

Water never truly clogs the filter. You can drink water almost as much as you like. It even helps when the filter is blocked, by flushing carb and electrolyte through the system. It helps because it dilutes the contents of you gut. The advice on your gel packet reads: “take with water” for this very reason. Water in excess can be a problem with causing bloating the gut, or the other extreme water intoxication (which makes you wee and bleeds sodium from your body). But on the whole, water is helpful.

 

Carbohydrate and electrolyte do clog the filter, but not as much as fat and protein. There are specific transporters for these substances in your gut membrane. In fact, there are co-transporters which take all three (water, sodium and glucose) in one hit. This is another reason why water should be added to your gut contents when you take a gel. In addition, glucose and electrolyte are vital to maintaining the metabolic output of your muscles. Neither are stored in huge amounts in you body, like fats. This discrete supply means you should focus on their replacement (with water) on race day.

 

How much fuel to put in?

Everyone has heard the old chestnut about ingesting 1g CHO per kilo of body weight per hour. This is an excellent guide to quantity, but does not take into account the entire story. Other things to note are: electrolyte quantity; mode of ingestion of carb.; exercise intensity; mode of exercise (bike or run); training state; clothing; timing of the race; early/late in the race; length of the event; heat; wind; and topography of the course. There are bound to be a few I’ve forgotten, but these are the main variables.

 

AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH! How do you get it right? Firstly, remember how the filter works. Don’t clog it with protein or fat. I make a concerted effort to load my system with some sodium prior to races (esp. long hot races), so that I don’t have to load my gut with extra salt tablets on race day. Don’t be fooled by these tiny tablets, they can make a big difference to the efficiency of your gut. There remains some controversy about whether or not the gut works better on bolus (large volumes to stretch and activate the membrane) amounts or steady drinking. I tend to use the former, because I have a hardy gut and means I can concentrate on the work at hand. Also, I like to think of my gut as a reservoir, that I can constantly top-up with water or concentrate, rather than let it empty at any stage. Taking gels triggers my mind to take water, because it’s a big load for your gut to handle when you’re at race intensity. The higher your intensity, the more you should be wary about loading carb and electrolyte into your gut. Think about the filter getting finer (therefore more likely to clog) as any of the following variables alter: exercise intensity rises; it gets hotter; topography becomes hillier; it gets windier; it gets later in the race; or it’s a really long race. Essentially all these elements compromise the amount of blood you can send to your gut thereby slowing the rate at which it can absorb fluid.

 

I guess think, think and think some more about what you are doing with your nutrition. Don’t just shovel it in to a schedule of 75g per hour, then get disappointed when your tummy ends up bloated. It’s a complex organ, which interacts with many elements of your race. So treat it with respect, by thinking about your fluid as you put it in. You should always be questioning yourself about the timing and relating it back to how your body is feeling, not behaving like a robot.

 

What are the over fill danger signs?

If you’ve never pushed your gut or your body to it’s limit, then this won’t have happened to you during exercise. But everyone has had gastro in their lives! Remember what your stomach feels like when you try to drink that first cup of fluid? That’s your warning sign during exercise, that your gut is not emptying. The sooner you can diagnose yourself as having a gut which is delayed, the sooner you can put into play the elements to unblock the filter. If you spot it early, STOP the carbs and electrolyte, and add a bolus water. You’ll feel the plug pull out and your gut starting to empty again. Slowing down will also allow more blood to be sent to your gut, and aid emptying. The slowing need only be transient (~5-10min), which is a hell of a lot faster than walking on the course at the end of a race. If you don’t feel your gut until it’s quite bloated then slow down, stop drinking and wait. If you feel alright after ten minutes, then start to add water in small amounts. Keep the brakes on your pace until your gut is tolerating fair doses of water.

 

In summary, it’s not a simple case of following a recipe. Your stomach works in mysterious ways, and has good days and bad. But getting in touch with the ways it works in you is crucial to racing well. I can highly recommend race simulations during training where you trial strategies of fluid and gels. Steer clear of the fats and protein, and you should be able to get close to getting it right! 

Blowing it!

Physiology of Cycle Pacing

By Mitch Anderson

 

You’ve done it. I’ve done it. Everyone has done it. We’ve blown our race to bits with a pacing strategy that led to being too fatigued for the run. Or we’ve blown our strategy and that left way too much ground to make up on the run. I have to admit to cursing myself with alarming frequency on making the first option error! It’s very infrequent that you hear a triathlete (who hasn’t won the race!) exclaim that their pacing strategy was perfect, leading to an optimal run. So what is the best way to eke out your best performance…according to the science?

 

For starters, ignore the hype. I’m thinking the likes of “Megaburn 2001- A Speed Odyssey”. It’s not about the new carbon aero bars or latest aero helmet. Trying to get your best possible performance is not related to weight, tyre pressure or wheel diameter- heres the proof! Dr Tim Olds and his colleagues mathematically modelled what alterations needed to be made to you or your bike to improve 40km TT performance by 1%. This is assuming a flat course for an average man.

 

1     Increase effort by 3% VO2max.

2    Reduce rider weight by 5kg

3    Reduce bike weight by 18kg 

4    Use a 51cm front wheel

5    Inflate tyres by an extra 35psi

6    Ride at an altitude 375m above sea level

7    Reduce barometric pressure by 23mmHg

8  Flatten your back by 4 degrees

 

So, let’s move onto the aspect that can improve your performance by at least 5%. That’s right 5%-getting your pacing right is where this is at! Sid Robinson and his mates undertook the seminal study in 1958, where three of his well-trained athletes were asked to perform a timed 1200m run with three different pacing strategies- fast start, slow start and even pacing. The fastest start produced the worst performance (on average), whilst the even paced effort proved the fastest strategy.

 

This was confirmed in cycling by Dr Carl Foster, who in 2000 compared fast and very fast starts, with slow and very slow starts to an even-paced time trials effort over 4000m on the track. The difference between the slowest (very slow start) and the fastest (even-paced) was 4.3%. Fast forward to 2007, IM Australia.

 

 

 

This is a hilly course, where the wind gets up throughout the event…so how best to pace the 180km? Doctors Robinson and Foster suggested evenly is fastest, but were they right? Please see exhibit A and B, bike times for the top ten placing men and women from IM OZ- at 30km time gates. I chose this cohort because I thought they might exhibit successful strategies we could copy to run faster. Indeed, they had most of the fastest runs of the day…so the strategy must be working! The first thing to notice is that every woman accelerated markedly comparing sections 1 and 2. Indeed, whilst the men rode 1min quicker back into town (on average), every woman rode 4min quicker! Let’s just say, men are fast starters. It’s clearly a pro tactic to blow the opposition out of the water in the first 60km. But that’s not necessarily the most energy efficient tactic.

 

This allows the elites to make a selection and coast together with the fastest riders, as is the strategy for the swim for most athletes. This swim phenomenon was confirmed by Vleck and colleagues in a 2007 paper over Olympic distance, which correlated swim pace in the first 200m highly (0.88-0.97) with swim finishing position. You can see the athletes riding together in each graph…they have almost identical splits for sections 1 through 4. But it’s in sections 5 and 6 that the real changes occur.

 

The ‘out’ section (1,3,5) was into a strengthening head-wind, whilst the ‘back’ section was with the wind (2,4,6). So how were athletes best served in pacing these environmentally distinct sections? Hard with the wind and easier into the zephyr? Or hardest into the wind and relaxing on the down-wind? Pacing during a head-tail wind 16km time-trial was simulated in a study by researchers Atkinson and Brunskill published in 2000 using computrainers. They proved that pushing evenly into the head-wind compared to the tail section (at a high power output compared with the average) was the fastest strategy. The slowest was even pacing across the whole distance. They suggested utilising power was the most effective manner to optimise performance in difficult environmental conditions. The effect is mirrored when riding hills (up/down corresponds closely with head/tail) and Atkinson further proved this with his colleagues in 2007, measuring acceptable power variations while riding in undulations. 

 

To illustrate the head-tail wind aspect, here are my SRM numbers for each section:

Head rpm Tail rpm

1) 284W 98 2) 278W 97

3) 272W 94 4) 264W 94

5) 284W 95 6) 235W 86

 

You can see that I cruised the tail-wind sections compared to the head, and lifted my effort into the wind. The wind got stronger through the day (especially down-wind on section 6) and I coasted with Shortis and McKenzie for the last 20km. At the risk of blowing my own trumpet- each of my 30km splits into the wind were within 30 seconds. Even paced and I rode the fastest split of the day, allowing me to optimise my bike split and save precious energy for the run. Not that my run was the fastest…but as fast as I could run given my training.

 

km

men

women

 

 

Exhibit C: Men vs Women

 

 

Lastly, as a point of interest, lets look at the difference between the men and women on average. Women seem to pace their races both similarly and differently to the men. Indeed, they push the head-wind and coast the tail, but not nearly so much as the men. The female times average 6min slower into the wind, but only 4.5min slower with the wind. It’s why I think we see a reduced gap in running times with the elite men and women, as compared with the bike. Women put less wattage into the bike (as evidenced by not pushing so hard into the wind) and spend this saved energy on the run course. In any case, men and women all slow-down as the ride progresses due to pacing errors, purposeful or otherwise…it’s certainly a matter of physiological intreague!

 

References:

 

Atkinson G, Brunskill A. Pacing strategies during a cycling time trial with simulated headwinds and tailwinds. Ergonomics. 2000 Oct;43(10):1449-60.

 

Atkinson G, Peacock O, Law M. Acceptability of power variation during a simulated hilly time trial. Int J Sports Med. 2007 Feb;28(2):157-63. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

 

Foster C, Snyder AC, Thompson NN, Green MA, Foley M and Schrager M. Effect of pacing strategy on cycle time trial performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2000. 25:383-8.

 

Olds TS, Norton KI, Craig NP. Mathematical model of cycling performance. JAppl Physiol. 1993 Aug;75(2):730-7.

 

Robinson S, Robinson DL, Mountjoy RJ and Bullard RW. Influence of fatigue on the efficiency of men during exhausting runs.

J Appl Physiol. 1958 Mar;12(2):197-201

 

Vleck VE, Bentley DJ, Millet GP, Burgi A. Pacing during an elite Olympic distance triathlon: Comparison between male and female competitors. J Sci Med Sport. 2007 Mar 9


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