Vakava Team Photo
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
As I whined to several of you about, I had a catheter ablation performed on my heart in mid-November in order to hopefully cure my atrial fibrillation. This problem started becoming noticeable soon after I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 2006. My heart would skip around randomly at a high rate, and for no good reason. Within about a year, this was happening to me about every 7-10 days, and the episodes lasted for up to 24 hours or longer. When it happened, I couldn't even walk up stairs without getting winded. Then I could go out the next day after it was over and pound a 20 mile run...it was weird.
After my collegiate track/CC teammate from Notre Dame, Ryan Shay, died of a heart attack in the Olympic marathon trials in November of '07, I decided I had to get checked out right away. (Incidentally, the last time I saw him was when we went out to dinner after that Twin Cities marathon the year before.) The doctors told me I had "A. Fib" and sent me on my way. I didn't try drugs until the summer of '08, and then added another drug in October of that year after I had to walk away from the start line of the TC 10 miler because an episode started minutes before the gun.
The drugs didn't work well, so I went to Mayo to have the surgery done. I was out for about 8 hours, during which time the burned the portions of my heart containing bad electrical pathways in order to "open" those circuits. That's my extremely dumbed-down explanation, but the hope is that this stops the conduction of the erratic electrical signals that caused my Afib. Now, about 6.5 weeks after the surgery, I'm still Afib-free.
However, two things are holding me back on the athletic front. First, my phrenic nerve was damaged, so my right diaphragm is partially paralyzed. It pushes up against my lung rather than going down when I breathe. Second, I started noticing lately that my heart rate is weird. My resting rate now is 90 (which is not so surprising since my resting rate when I'm healthy is usually way up in the 70s), but the absolute max I've been able to hit so far is 165, which I confirmed by wearing a monitor during a skate interval session on Monday. That is over 20-30 bpm lower than what I'm pretty sure it should be. I know it was generally not too difficult for me to stay in the 170s or 180s for sustained efforts before the surgery.
The doc thinks that it's possible my sympathetic nervous system was affected during the ablation, and along with the phrenic nerve, it should heal over several months. But for now I'm left with a couple barriers to any success this season. I'm going to keep training hard and hoping things come around by late February for the big races. In the mean time, if I miss some Wednesday workouts (like tonight), it is likely because I'm still trying to do my own stuff where I experiment and watch what happens with my max rate. Hopefully things will get better soon, and I'm left with a strong Afib-free heart.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
1. It has been a long time since my last post here.
2. Unfortunately it was even longer since my last time on snow.
I am currently up in Hibbing, MN doing required outreach as a part of my last year in dental school. The dentistry is great - I have been seeing more patients than I usually would at the school clinic, and the clinic itself is quite nice. When I learned that I would be heading to Hibbing in December I thought "well at least they will probably have more snow than the metro". Unfortunately I was wrong. So while my wife is shoveling out our house in Red Wing, and the Vakava team is doing intervals on snow in St. Paul, yesterday I was double poling back and forth on a little used road not far from the clinic. At least I was on snow (Hibbing got less than an inch from the storm that buried parts of the Midwest = lots of new "speed grooves" in the rock skis). It had been 5 weeks between time skiing on snow!
Today I tried to drive to Giant's Ridge today to ski under the lights. But as I tried to coast to a stop at a stop light my car started to accelerate on its own! I grabbed the floor mat to make sure it was not caught on the gas pedal, but that was not the problem. I put the car in neutral to see if that solved things, but that just made my car jump to 7000 RPMs (but at least I wasn't accelerating anymore). All I could do was shut the car off and steer to the side of the road. When I tried to start the car it immediately jumped to 4500 RPMs. After getting the number for the towing company from my wife I tried to start the car one last time. After some clanking and grinding the car seemed to be running normally. I had a dilemma. I wanted to ski, but I was 20 miles into a 40 mile trip, and it was probably a lot better to be stranded in Hibbing (where I at least have classmates with cars) than at the Ridge (even if the do have lit trails with some snow). So I aborted my ski for the night and drove back to Hibbing. Fortunately the dental clinic here is one building over from the auto mechanic school at the community college, and they will be able to look at my car tomorrow. Hopefully they can figure out what is going on with my car, because I have 5 pairs of skis in the back, and I am craving getting on some more snow!
Friday, October 30, 2009
This week has been rainy. Last night's rollerski with Vakava was a classic workout on the big river trail with 30 minutes of "on" interval time. It was also our last week on rollerskis (it gets dark too early, especially with daylight savings ending this weekend). Fortunately we were able to avoid most of the heavy rain, but it was still very wet. Some how I managed to lose a rear fender off the back of my marwes during a ski last week, and I sure missed it yesterday. Without the fender on the wheels seemed to take the water on the road and just dump it down the back of the cuff of my classic boots. I was sloshing in standing water in my boot after just a few minutes. It did motivate me to double pole more and DP kick less - double poleing kept my feet in place and the water was able to warm up around them better.
Here's hoping for snow soon so that we will have fewer weeks of dryland at como park... :)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Watching a running race on rollerskis actually works quite well - assuming there are parallel streets to ski on. I would watch the race go by (taking Nichole's long sleeve, or handing her a gel as needed), then I would head over to the parallel street, hammer for a mile or two, and head back to the course to cheer again. She got the feeds that she needed, and I got to see her at many different points of the race while getting a decent workout in the process (I'd call it natural intervals).
The most entertaining part of rollerskiing along the race course was the looks I got from the spectators (and a number of calls of "hey, thats cheating"). I guess there are not a lot of rollerskiers in Des Moines. Even funnier were the looks I got from runners - especially the Kenyans in the elite pack. They looked at me like I was crazy. I definately don't think there are many rollerskiers in Kenya.
Near the end of the race I got back to the car, back into running shoes, and back out to watch the last half mile. Nichole was hurting pretty good at that point (i.e having a hard time running in a straight line), and it was nice to have the mobility to be able to jump the finish barrier to help her hobble to a cot in the medical tent (she was fine after some rest). Her race went well. She finished in 2:55:53, which was not quite as fast as she was hoping, but still a new personal best, and it puts her less than 10 minutes off the Olympic Trials standard.
Check out her blog for the first hand account
Monday, October 12, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Training is going pretty well. I think I'm a little behind last summer at this time due to a strained ab muscle and a few other things but I'm feeling good now and hoping I can have a good fall. I did intervals yesterday with my new heart rate monitor - yes, I guess I am a technology resistor - and was surprised that I could not get my HR above 170. I'm either a wimp or I have a low max HR. Regardless, I figured that today should be a recovery day. I lifted weights in the AM and this afternoon went out for a relaxing skate in North Oaks, throwing in a couple of pick ups. During one fast pickup on the flats I flushed an owl. A big one. As I watched it take flight right in front of me I noticed a snake dangling from it's beak. Most of my memorable wildlife sightings are great all around experiences but this one left me with a puzzling combination of awe and eww.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Overall my training has been going very well. This has been my best summer ever - even better than my summers during college. My goal at the beginning of the year was to train one hour a week more that what I had done the year before, and so far 26 weeks into the training year I am already 42 hours ahead of last year. A lot of that has been on rollerskis (I have nearly doubled my hours on rollerskis this year compared to last year), but I have also increased my running (100 miles more this year than this point last year).
Hopefully the training will show up in the ski races this winter, but it already has been showing in running races this summer (my PR in the half marathon has come down 2 minutes), and our rollerski time trials this summer. Yesterday was our second Afton 2 x 5k time trail. It is 5k skate followed by ~20 minutes of recovery followed by a 5k classic time trial. We do this 2 or 3 times a summer, and it allows for pretty good comparison from year to year and at different points in the season. Yesterday I did not feel really great in either the skate or the classic, but I did feel strong. My times were really fast. I set new personal bests in both skate and classic by almost 30 seconds (and I have done this course a number of times over the last couple of years). Conditions were ideal yesterday, so that was probably worth a couple of seconds, but it is a good indication that I am in much better shape than I have been at any point in the last 2 years. Bring on the snow!
I should have full results from the TT later today.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I'm new to the group, and since I have to be out of state this summer (unfortunately), I thought I should post something so I'm not totally forgotten so soon after I met most of you...
Summer has been hectic...here's a summary: I was married on May 23rd in Minneapolis, and then left for 10 days in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Less than a week after I returned to Minneapolis, I left for 10 days in Japan. I presented a paper at a circuit design conference, but figured as long as I'd be half way around the world, I really had to spend some time touring. Less than a week after I got back from Japan, I moved to Austin, TX for a few months to do another internship with IBM Research. I'm about ready to finish my PhD in CMOS circuit design at the U of MN, but it's not a great time to be looking for jobs, so I'm kind of waiting out the worst part of the recession before finishing up. Therefore, coming back to Austin (for my 3rd stint here) provided me with a chance to get some more experience and earn a decent paycheck for awhile.
The summer in Austin is always a killer, but this summer has been one of their worst ever. The high temp has been over 100 almost every day since I arrived at the end of June. And, no, it's NOT a dry heat. So although the temps "cool down" to a little under 80F in the early morning, the humidity is usually ~80%. There is no choice but to deal with this if you want to run or rollerski outdoors, so we just get used to it and accept that paces won't be quite as fast.
Although some weekend traveling has interrupted my training schedule a couple times, here is a normal week for me now:
M: 11-12 mile run, lift
Tu: 11-12 mile run with 30 min tempo (~5:30 pace), lift
W: 1:10-1:20 rollerski
Th: 10 mile run with speed work (track or fartlek), lift
F: 11-13 mile run, lift
Sa: 15+ mile run
Su: long-ish rollerski (hope to be getting this to 2.5+ hours soon)
Hope you are all enjoying the cool weather up north!
ps. here are some pics from my travels:
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
My plan for yesterday was to try and get a short run in once I got home just to clear my head before I started studying for this morning's TMD/orofacial pain exam. All was going to plan when at the Franklin Ave light rail station (I ride the train to a park-and-ride every day) it was announced that the train would be going no further. Apparently there had been a crash further down the line. When this happens buses come and shuttle people to the next stops, but there are thousands of people that take the train, and the people around me were mumbling that the last time this happened the buses never really showed up. So I decided that I should at least start moving towards my car, since walking put me closer to home than standing waiting for a bus that I did not know if it would ever show. When I got to Lake street I could see a news chopper hovering over the next station. I figured that that is where the crash was, and about this time I also figured I should really try to use my time wisely and double-task. So I cinched up my back pack and started to run. I am sure I got some strange looks from the cars on 55 as I ran along with my backpack and lunch pail, but because of the crash I was actually going faster than they were. The crash site its self was pretty bad. I guess some guy decided to try and drive around the crossing arms and drove right in front of an oncoming train (really, how stupid can you be?). I just kept on running to the next station, and since I was now on the opposite side of the crash, I was able to catch a bus to my car. All total I got 20 minutes of running in, and although that really is not much to write home about, what I have learned is that 20 minutes is better that nothing (a point that Chad Giese drove home earlier this year in talking about his transition to full time job with a young kid), and that fitting in little extra workouts can add up. Its why I do push ups in the morning while waiting for my oatmeal to cook in the microwave, or do pull ups every time I go down to my basement. If I can't always block out big chunks of time to train, I just train when I can.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday was the first long group rollerski of the summer. Last year these group skis got very popular, drawing in most of the top skiers in the Metro at one point or another (with our biggest group being 28 people). Every year we move the start date further up the calender than the last year, so I wasn't sure how many people would be up for the long group skis on August 1st, but there must have been some pent up demand since we still drew a group of 12, including olympian Carolyn Bramante and national champ Caitlin Compton, among others.
The discussion on these long skis often involves how fast we (as individuals) should be going. The course that we take around Afton always includes plenty of out and back sections that allow for regrouping, but some people are better at going there own pace than others. I know that I have probably "won" a few to many hills on these long skis. Caitlin is inspiring on these long skis not for how fast she goes, but for how slow she takes these long skis. She is a master of the "ski slow to ski fast" mentality. My struggle is always how to adapt this to my training. She is training twice (or three times) as many hours as I am in any given week, and she has to keep her long skis easy so that she can hit her intervals hard. I am often not able to get in a workout every day, and so have more recovery built in to a given week, but does this mean that I should be taking the long skis harder? This week was easy to go slow since I raced a half marathon the day before (and set a new PB by over a minute!), and needed the recovery. Next week will be the real challenge to hold myself back.
Anyone have any thoughts?
Monday, July 27, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Instead of skiing in I got to sit in my car and watch the clouds roll through and dump quite an impressive amount of rain. Fortunately by the time that we were supposed to start it had pretty much passed, and we were left with just a drizzle.By the time we finished our warm up the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. It actually got pretty hot! (or at least muggy). The time trail went well. My arms could definitely feel the 2:45 classic ski from Sunday, but I was still able to post a personal best time in the skate race (the classic was a bit slow for me). Dave should send out results in a day or two.
More pictures:It was Cheryl's birthday, and that meant treats! But don't try to steal any of her brownie - she will cut you!
Monday, July 20, 2009
This year, even my mom has gotten into the act. She has always been an avid walker (and she can really move!), but she never did much more than the occasional cross country ski in the winter. However the past couple of winters she (I think feeling a little sorry for Nichole, as well as wanting to improve her fitness) has been out more, and even got skate equipment. My dad and I have been giving some pointers, but this spring he (and Greg) managed to talk my mom into joining Sisu Skiers. She has loved it so far! She got a pair of Marwe combis, and has been going out on her own and practicing. I worried about how she would get the balance (since she has had minimal skating on snow experience, and she had a pretty serious knee injury in the BWCA a couple years ago), but she has actually picked that part up quite well (I think years of downhill skiing and some limited rollerblading with my sister have helped). The irony is all that worrying about rollerskiing didn't account for other freak accidents... since last Thursday at Sisu Skiers practice (a dryland practice at battle creek) one of the guys there accidentally ran into her and she landed awkwardly on her arm. Unfortunately the ensuing trip to the ER revealed that she broken the end of her radius at her elbow, and her rollerskiing will be on hiatus for the near future. Hopefully she will have the speediest of recoveries, since I know she would much rather be out with her group of Sisu Skier newbies.
Winter days on snow are wonderful, but not nearly so when spent alone every day. I just want to thank my family for participating in this great sport, and in doing so supporting me and all the fun I have skiing.
Hopefully I won't kill you all in the process :)
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Norway's obsession with nordic skiing makes most folks' obsession with nordic skiing look like child's play. Thus, the conference had a relatively high number of skiing-related presentations (many by Norwegian researchers, quite a few Swedes, a couple Finns and an Austrian if I remember all... topics covered biomechanics, physiology and coaching, among others).
One of the themes that stuck out in the presentations on training was volume and intensity of training. There was, an entire session on training to achieve optimal adaptations that, after "careful consideration", I chose to attend over the other 7 sessions happening at the same time (well, in reality the skier-magnet in me didn't really give me any other choice...). Other presentations were linked into sessions on physiology, coaching/testing, etc. The presentations discussed, for example, how high intensity training improves VO2max more effectively than moderate intensity training, and how long slow distance (LSD) training is essential for VO2max development/maintenance in even highly trained individuals. These presentations confirmed most of what we already understand about adaptations to training and there were no groundbreaking secrets on how to train, though throughout the congress, some new methods for the assessment of the effectiveness of training and what is going on at e.g. the neuromuscular or cellular level, were presented.
One presentation that stood out for me in a practical sense was one in which the researcher presented three colored charts of yearly training volume (intensity was denoted by different colors) from some TOP level skiers in Europe (I mean world-class here). The next slide was yearly training volume and intensity from a research project done in '99 using top US skiers. The main difference between these plans/training logs was the amount of green on the charts. Green was the color used to denote low-intensity distance training, of which there was significantly more of on the Euro charts than the US chart. While many training methods can produce good skiers, and while there are interindividual variations in training responses, I found it interesting that many of the best skiers in the world really do ski EASY (LOTS of green on their charts which is equal to about 75 to 90% of training volume performed below 2mmol blood lactate). The key observation here was not that total training volume between the Euros and the US differed, but that there was a lot more low intensity training visible on the Euro charts than on the US ones. Could this difference in volume of low intensity training be one of the keys as to why Euro skiers have traditionally dominated the podium? To my knowledge there are no studies directly comparing training between skiers from different nations (and which method(s) might be more effective), but from an observational standpoint I would venture to say that it makes a difference.
In my skiing experience, long slow distance workouts didn't always end on such a slow note even if they started out in the zone and I'm betting I'm not the only one... The competitiveness of a team and multitasking (thinking about the homework/upcoming exam/*insert something else that could make your mind spin here* while skiing) can gradually work you out of the zone as can the expectation that you always work as a team. In college, we logged our hours of training as "easy" when we skied for 3 hours even when the heart rate monitor average BPM didn't necessarily agree...this means that the training volume I had at moderate and high intensity was greater than my training log will let you believe....of course I should have known better, but hindsight is always 20/20 (If you want to read more on that on a "personal level" I wrote a series of six "ski lessons" last year after going to a Finnish Ski Association Coaching Seminar. (the views expressed are mine alone) Here are the links:
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
I know others have made dramatic improvements as well. My husband has wondered what the point of a team was for an individual sport. I think this proves it's worth.
June '07 - out of shape and just getting back on roller skis after a 12 yr. hiatus - pitiful
June'08 - getting much better
June '09 - that's more like it!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Now, there's no reason to wait for that post-rollerski beer! At last, I no longer have to act ashamed whenever people discover my hydration bladder is full of Summit Pale Ale —I'm simply ahead of my time. Our pal Science now says that beer, yes beer, is more effective for rehydrating the body than plain ol' water. I think I'm not alone when I say that this qualifiesas news on par with peace in the Middle East.
Researchers at Granada University in Spain found this Nobel Prize-worthy discovery after months of testing 25 student subjects, who were asked to run ona tread mill in grueling temps (104 degrees F) until they were as close to exhaustion as possible. Half were given water to drink, and the other half drank two pints of Spanish lager. Then the godly researchers measured their hydration levels, motor skills, and concentration ability.
They determined that the beer drinkers had "slightly better" rehydration effects, which researchers attribute to sugars, salts, and bubbles in beer enhancing the body's ability to absorb water. The carbohydrates in beer also help refill calorie deficits.
Based on the results of the study, researchers recommend moderate consumptionof beer as a part of athletes' diets. "Moderate consumption" for men is 500ml per day, and for women is 250ml per day. Goodbye Gatorade, hello Sam Adams. This opens the door to a whole raft of new athlete beer sponsorships. Hopefully we'll see Lance replace the water bottle on his bike with a 40 of St. Ides in the next few months. (In fact, maybe that's why he didn't win the Giro d'Italia.)
This of course doesn't mean anything for hydration outside of strenuous exercise, but I'm not taking any chances—best to start hydrating now. [cracks open bottle of Newcastle].
John S 2:47*
(! = personal best time, * = first time on course)
After the time trial we went up into the neighborhoods and worked on double pole kick technique, with some pick-ups thrown in.
Even today my throught is still a bit scratchy from breathing hard during the TT - maybe that's because my body is not used to 1k sprints... got to love the taste of blood in your mouth at the end of a sprint.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The first bit I will contribute here from the world of sport science deals with nutrition and recovery (inspired by a blurb in a recent email from my ski club here). The sports drink and nutritional supplement market is a huge money-maker, but are expensive sports drinks worth it? Supplements and sports drinks can certainly play an important role in an athlete's nutrition/recovery; however, the use of lots of supplements suggests that one does not trust their own nutritional choices (paraphrasing the head coach of the Finnish Natl team as well as my dad here...). A well-balanced and adequate diet that is made up of a variety of foods should be able to reasonably fulfill your daily nutrient requirements and besides that, the bioavailability of nutrients is typically higher in foods than in pills and powders. (The mini disclaimer: some supplements may be necessary, for example, calcium and iron for women...).
A recent study by
A quick explanation: Long bouts of endurance exercise deplete muscle glycogen stores (your fuel) and increases the rate of protein synthesis while at the same increasing the rate of protein degradation (which typically exceeds the rate of synthesis). In order for the muscles to recover from endurance exercise (so you can get back out there and do it again), glycogen stores need to be replenished and a positive net protein balanced needs to be achieved. Glucose is needed for glycogen synthesis and amino acids are needed for protein synthesis, so simply put: carbs and protein are needed for recovery.
In this study by Kammer et al., subjects randomly performed two trials after whcih they were given either Wheaties and non-fat milk or a commercially available sports drink. Similar positive results were achieved with cereal and milk as with the commercial recovery drink. This suggests that cereal and milk are an effective recovery food. (A
For more details on these studies, my embedded links should bring you to the articles. Until next time, eat your Wheaties (or insert other whole grain cereal here)!
Monday, June 8, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LjSzV1R8Us (check out 1:43 into the video)
Not bad technique. The skier/Jedi is Alex Reich of Mahtomedi (11th at the MN state meet in 2007).
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Mary Beth was also in the area helping her sister clean up after all the flooding in the Fargo area, and decided to jump into the 5k to run with her niece. So just for good measure she won the race (19:40). Her 13 yr old niece was 4th! :)
Friday, May 1, 2009
The turnout was very promissing, and better than I was expecting (I think even Dave was pleasantly suprised). There were 4 potential new guys, and 4 potential new ladies (one of them being my wife Nichole). If they all stick with the team for the long haul it would be fantastic for the group. I personally couldn't stop smiling on the way home from the practice at the thought of the the new guys joining Derek, Andy, etc. and I on the Burlington Road hill for some epic intervals later this summer. I am excited where the Vakava team is headed, and not just because most of the new skiers were under the age of 30 and fast (there was one new master skier too - and I think that having the wide age range that we do is a very important and fun aspect of the group). What the turnout last night says to me is that Dave and Mark are on to something, and what we are doing in Vakava is something that other skiers want to be a part of.
The 2009-2010 looks to be a ton of fun!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I saw a bumper sticker once that read, "God put me on this Earth to accomplish a certain number of things and right now I'm so far behind I'll never die." Ain't that the truth!
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I dont know if I should jinx it by even saying it, but I am ready for the snow to be over so that the running will be a little better. Nichole and I, along with Nichole's running buddy Jenny, did a long run this morning. I did 14, Jenny did 16, and Nichole did 22 miles. Long days like this would be nice to do along the minnesota river on the woodchip trails, but this spring has made things very muddy, so we stuck to the roads and paths. The water still did find a way to complicate things when one of our bike paths near the river was still under water. This meant running right by 35W for a while and then jumping a fence (see Nichole's blog for more info on that adventure) to get on dry trails. I am hoping all this running will pay off later in the summer. My total training hours for March 2008-Feb 2009 was 328 (although I don't count any time lifting in my hours). This is still a little less than I think is ideal (I would like to be closer to 350-375hrs a year), so my goal is to increase most of my weeks throughout the spring and summer by an hour per week. So far so good, since I have hit 5:50, 5:20, 3:10, 4:30, and 7:00 so far this year, and that is already 5.2 hours more than 5 weeks into last year. We will see if we can keep that up, but I think it is doable, and a sane way for me to break it down (52 weeks in a year, so just bump up one hour a week).
First get-together of the year for the Vakava Team is this week. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again, plus some new faces (including my wife Nichole!).