Monday, August 31, 2009


S: 25,000 yds
B: 8h 5min
R: 7h 29min

Total: 22h 9min

Coming off Elite Nationals I got back into things right away. Unfortunately a slip up in the sleeping schedule meant a rough couple of days in the middle of the week but I was able to catch up over the weekend thanks in large part to an awesome post pancake nap on Saturday.

It looks like I had around 60 miles of running in 6 days which is getting close to respectable. Hopefully that will translate to some fast finishes in the last few races this season. Speaking of running, this Saturday is the Monte Sano 10k where David will likely jog with me for a little while before romping to a resounding victory.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Todd Williams talk

Last night Puma sponsored a talk at Fleet Feet Huntsville by Todd Williams. For those that don’t know Todd, along with Bob Kennedy, basically was elite distance running in the US in the 90s. For much of the decade, he owned the 10,000 meters on the domestic level, winning 4 US 10,000m titles, two of which were Olympics Trials. He also finished 9th at the 1995 World Cross Country Championship (often considered the most competitive race in the world) and still holds the American record for 15k, 42:22, which he set at the Gate River Run. So needless to say, he has a seriously impressive resume.

While that is all well and good, what I find most impressive was that all of this success was despite the fact that he was not incredibly fast coming out of college. He never won an NCAA title and while his track times were impressive for most (13:44 for 5k, 28:18 for 10k) they certainly weren’t world beaters. However, Todd worked hard in high school, worked hard in college, then continued to work hard post collegiately and kept improving until he was one of the best in the world. Pretty cool if you ask me and just another example that consistent hard work pays huge dividends over time.

Last night he spoke about some of his experiences in high school and it was evident that he is very competitive. The main theme of the talk was that you should always be working towards goal you set for yourself and even if you don’t achieve them, that doesn’t mean that you should give up on continuing improvement. He repeated stressed the importance of hard work and consistency. I particularly liked this as it is what I tell people all the time when they ask how I got fast.

After the talk we went for beers and talked football.

I’ll end with a quote from an excellent interview with Todd from right after he retired:

“But the training never really changed. I think it was just years and years (added together that was key). I started in 1990 with my hundred mile weeks, and I would run between 85 and 115 miles per week the majority of the year and then I'd cut it down a little before the races. I just ran extremely hard.

As for specific workouts, I think that that's probably a just of waste of time to say. I'd do the 3 times a mile, 16 times a quarter, hard tempos of 30 minutes or longer. You know, the standard workouts.

There's really no magic to it. I was just fortunate enough to stay healthy and push the envelope as hard as I did. I mean even on my off days a lot of times I was probably pushing my threshold.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

USAT Elite National Championship

Well, my first draft legal race is in the books and overall it was a pretty positive experience. It was a lot of fun and I really wish I had the time/resources to do more ITU races.

The race started at the gloriously late time of 2:15 in the afternoon which meant I had all morning to wake up and warm up. Aside from the race start time, race prep and warm up was pretty normal and before I knew it, we were being called to the starting area to be introduced. That was, admittedly, pretty cool.

After a short delay (during which our feet were burning on the hot pontoon) the gun went off and we all dove into the river. After a minute or so, I realized two packs were forming and I was behind both, on the right side of the left pack. The only problem was that the left pack was only a few athletes while the right one contained a much larger group. Additionally, I knew the current would be less closer to the shore (the right group) so I veered off that way. I caught and passed a couple of guys before coming up to someone I thought was swimming a pretty good speed. Unfortunately, at this point I looked up and realized the main pack had already gapped us. So less than 5 minutes into the race and I was already (more or less) out of it. This just affirmed what I thought... I need to get my 200 speed faster. Back to the race, I sat on the aforementioned guy's feet until the last 400 or so when I went outside and sprinted for the finish.

Out on the bike, there were two guys not too far ahead and another coming behind. I chased up to the two and after catching them, the guy behind me caught us. Shortly after, we came to "the hill" the first time and all I wanted to do was make it up. I did, and was happy to still be in the group. I stayed with the pack and we ended up picking up a few people and even dropping a couple of guys. On each lap of the six loop course I just focused on doing whatever I needed to to make it up the hill without getting dropped while also trying to push the pace on the flats. Oh, and trying not to crash. That was a goal as well. All in all, I was surprisingly comfortable on the bike and really just wished I had been in the bigger group that was about 1min 30sec up the road.

Coming off the bike, I was ready to roll. Initially the legs felt OK but by stomach wasnt feeling great. The solution? Ignore it and run faster. Two things stand out about the run: the water bottles and the fan support. We were handed full water bottles rather than cups with water in them and that made drinking a lot easier. The water was also ice cold, which was pleasant on the hot afternoon. The best aspect of the run, though, was the copious amount of friends out on the course. This, along with the 4-lap configuration, meant that I felt like I always had someone yelling at me, which was awesome. I saw a lot of familiar faces out there and the encouragement provided really helped me get through to the finish. So after holding it together and passing a few people for 3 laps, I tried to open it up on the 4th to attempt to reel in 3 guys within a minute in front of me. However, it was a bit too much to ask. I did pick it up a bit but it wasnt much and I think the guys in front had similar thoughts. Having no idea what place I was in, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the announcer state I was crossing the line in 12th place.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is "Health Food"???

On the front of the Personal Journal section of today's WSJ, there is an article entitled, "High Fiber Foods May Be Easier To Stomach This Time Around." The article overviews how food companies such as General Mills Inc., Kellogs Co., and Danone SA are developing new "high-tech" methods of producing fiber so that they can add it to their packaged foods in order to make them "more healthy." This is being done because fiber is the latest "ingredient de jour" and adding fiber to an otherwise "unhealthy" food all of the sudden make it "healthy." According to the article, "Packaged foods making fiber claims was one of the fastest growing categories in the US in the past year, increasing in unit sales by 10.2% in the 12 months ended Aug. 8th..." Also, "Consumers respond better to positive messages. They feel like they're losing something if you take away the salt, sugar, or fat," says Mary Ellen Camire, a professor at the University of Maine. So the companies are developing new processes to create tasteless, textureless fiber and add it to an unhealthy foods in order to magically transform them into "health" food!

This is just another example of food companies modifying food products to make them more "healthy." Are diets high in fiber good for you? Yes. But I would say that is because most diets high in fiber also contain lots of fruits and veggies, not modified food products with extra fiber (and still all the sodium, sugar, and fat, as mentioned above.) Does this processed fiber added to refined sugar and processed oils really constitute healthy eating? Of course not. But who said advertising had to be truthful?

The article is online, so you can read it if you choose but I'll end with some awesome quotes. Gotta love the oxymorons!

"Consumers are demanding more nutrition from their packaged foods, and food manufacturers hope that adding ingredients such as vitamins and fiber to foods, rather than merely removing unhealthy fat, sodium and sugar, will help stimulate sales."

"New grinding processes helped General Mills better shape fiber particles to reduce grittiness in the newest Fiber One cereals, says John Mendesh, vice president of research and development for the cereals division."

"Ingredient makers have also developed new sources for fiber powders and liquids beyond the traditional wheat and oats. They're extracting fiber from corn, seaweed and roots of herbs such as chicory or using bacteria to synthesize fibers"

"The nice thing of a lot of these [fibers] is, they're kind of easy to sneak into a lot of these products," says Joanne Slavin, a nutrition professor and fiber researcher at the University of Minnesota. Today, "you can make really good white bread and people don't know they're eating fiber."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Q: "Does beating everyone in the world except a few guys from east Africa mean anything to you?"

Dathan Ritzenheim: "Well I'd like to beat those guys, too. Craig Mottram used to say, 'I don't want to be known as the best white guy in the world,' and I dont want to think of it that way either."

That quote was from Ritz's interview after he finished 6th place in 10,000m at the World Championships. Ritz, who had just set a ~12 sec PR on a steamy night in Berlin, could've easily looked back on the performance and spoke about how pleased he was with it. Instead though, he spoke about looking ahead, getting better, and taking on the best in the world.

The full interview is below and the above quote is ~ 7:30 in. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


S: 25,200 yds
B: 10h 21min
R: 4h 20min

Total: 21h 19min

Swimming last week was, in a word, awful. I was down at the Gaylord National for the DOD Corrosion Conference (fun stuff, I know...) and initially I was looking forward to being able to get in some decent pool time. Before the trip I looked into the pool situation and noticed, according to the hotel's website that one of the amenities was a "Junior Olympic-sized 24-meter lap pool." That sounded pretty awesome and I was looking forward to the fact that I could just head straight down from my room rather than having to drive somewhere and hope was up to date. Well, the pool was there as promised but I think my definition of "lap pool" may be a little different than the Gaylord National's.

The pool was indeed 24m long (or at least as far as I could tell) but it was also only 3.5 feet deep and not exactly optimized for lap swimming. First of all, it lacked gutters and lane ropes making the water choppy at best. It was also missing lane lines but contained plenty of chlorine, making it very difficult to determine where the wall was for a flip turn. The part of course were the days when there were kids in the pool at the same time and I was left wondering whether or not they would decide to walk out in front of me while I was trying to get in a workout. Ahh... the joys of working and training.

In the end, this really just makes me appreciate the Nat that much more.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Huntsville Sprint RR

Saturday morning I raced in the hometown race, the Huntsville Sprint Triathlon, a low key race with a lot of beginners. Starting with a three mile run on a hilly cross country course, followed by a short six mile bike, and concluding with a 400m pool swim, this is a pretty unique race. Although the race is short, the order makes it particularly painful.

My day got off to a rocky start as my front carbon clincher Bontrager Aeolus 6.5 was flat when I tried to inflate it. No worries; I was home and had plenty of spare tubes. After a quick change, I inflated the new tube and thought I was ready to roll. All of the sudden, I heard a loud “BANG!” signally another flat on the tube I had just inflated. “Stupid biking!” I thought. Sick of screwing with tubes and tires, I swapped my race wheel for my training wheel and was finally ready to go.

Arriving at the race, I set up my transition before taking off on a warm up jog. Incidentally, for this race, “setting up my transition” consisted of laying my bike on the ground as there aren’t any bike racks. The of course really just adds to the low key, grass roots feel of the race.

Standing at the starting line, I knew I’d be in for a tough race if I wanted to be the first person across the line. A couple of my training buddies put together a relay team which the race director aptly named, “Beat Hodges.” Considering the fact that the three of them, in the individual sports in which they were competing, can handle me pretty easily, I knew I was pretty much SOL seeing that they’d be fresh for their respective legs and I’d have to do all three.

As the gun went off, David R, my training partner and runner for the “Beat Hodges” team, took off. Behind him a pack of three or four quickly formed which I was a part of. After about half a mile and with the initial sprint wearing off, I moved to the front of our pack to maintain the pace. By the half way point, I had maybe a 5-10 sec cushion over the next guy behind me so I just kept the same effort level through to the finish. Rounding the last turn, I could see David finishing in a bit under 16 minutes. That was the last I saw of team “Beat Hodges.” By the time I crossed the line, the clock was right around 17 and Craig A, their biker, was long gone.

The ride was, as usual, painful. I spent the first half searching for my biking legs after the run but once they finally appeared, I only had a couple of miles left. No complaints here though… the shorter the bike the better!

Off the bike and into the pool, I was feeling pretty good about the win. My main focus was to get my breathing under control and make good flip turns under the lane ropes, as last year I popped up right underneath a few. I had a nice smooth swim and that was that; the race was seemingly over as soon as it had started.

Team "Beat Hodges" (David R, Craig A, and John K) and me

After the race it was great to hang out with friends and see so many first time finishers. Although the race was relatively short for me, for a lot of people this was their first experience with triathlon and it was really cool to see them finish. The weather was awesome and everyone I talked to had a great time so hopefully the race can get bigger in years to come.

Monday, August 10, 2009


S: 32,500 yds
B: 11h 26min
R: 3h 8min

Total: 23h 7min

And there it is, the week by the numbers.

On tap for this week is a trip to DC for the NACE DoD Corrosion Conference Monday through Thursday before the hometown race, the Huntsville Sprint Triathlon, on Saturday.

Mtn Lakes RR

On Saturday morning I headed over to Lake Guntersville for the Mountain Lakes Triathlon. Like the Music City Tri a couple of weeks ago, this was another Team Magic race with a $1700 prize purse. The differences were that this is a sprint and it is located a little closer to home. Close enough that I actually got to sleep in my own bed the night before.

As usual in the Team Magic races, a TT start was on tap for this morning. Unlike last year though, Timex teammate and uber swimmer Bruce Gennari was starting ahead of my rather than behind. He has won this race a few times in the past so my main focus was to try to catch him before the finish and hold off others from behind.

The college kids went off first so Bruce at #38 was one of the first non-collegiates to start. About 20 seconds later I barreled into the water wearing #44. After navigating around some of the college kids I came out the lake and sprinted into T1, hoping to at least catch a glimpse of Bruce. He was exiting as I was entering so I was pleased that I had mitigated the damage on the swim.

Out on the bike I just wanted to keep it close. After passing the last of the college kids and fast swimmers, I could occasionally see Bruce up ahead on the long stretches of the road. Nearing the end of the bike, a couple people caught and passed me. The first, Jay McCurdy, was #42, so I knew all I had to do was out run him for the win. The second guy caught me with about half a mile to go but he was #70, meaning I’d have to put some time into him on the run to make sure I had a enough of a cushion to cover the starting time gap.

After a quick T2, Jay and I were out on the run with #70, Joseph Welch, a bit behind. I passed Jay about at about the ¾ of a mile mark and set my sights on Bruce. By about mile 1.25 I had reeled him in, giving him a nice slap on the ass for his efforts. My only worry now was the aforementioned #70. The run was an out and back so I got a check on the gap and it appeared I’d be OK. Of course you never know. I wasn’t feeling particularly great on the run but maintained my pace and hoped it would be good enough for the win.

After finishing, I waited for a couple of minutes for #70 to cross the line and after some quick math, realized I had probably held on for the 'W'. Sure enough, I was first while Jay barely held off Joe to take 2nd. Too bad they didn’t start together… it would’ve been an awesome finish!

Full results can be found here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In Defense of Food

A couple of weeks ago I read In Defense of Food by Micheal Pollan. The main theme of the book is that the typical American’s diet (the Western Diet), and more importantly the way Americans get their calories is inherently flawed. A combination of misguided government policies, strong lobbying from the food industry, and societal changes in how food is consumed have led to a system which produces mass quantities of low quality food at an incredibly inexpensive price. The problem is that this system is making Americans unhealthy by increasing rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

The chief government policies which have brought about this problem are the huge subsidies paid to farmers to grow corn, wheat, soybeans, and rice. Of those, corn is king, receiving over 60% of the money provided by the government for farm subsidies in 2004. Farmers of fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, receive no subsidy from the government. This makes highly refined sugars (high fructose corn syrup), vegetable oils (corn, soybean), and a myriad of processed foods relatively cheap in comparison to other real foods.

Because these products are so cheap, food producing companies can take them, add a bit of artificial flavoring, and turn them into a wide array of different food products. As an added bonus, they can also add vitamins and minerals and tout their nutritional qualities. This approach is brilliant from a business point of view because the food products can be modified to include the vitamin/mineral/nutrient de jour with only a slight modification to the manufacturing process.

Finally, too many people just look at food as fuel rather than enjoying what it is: food. In our culture, a large number of people eat on the go rather than sit down and enjoy a meal. Additionally, “healthy” somehow means processed, low fat substitutes with lots of added vitamins and nutrients rather than real food. This fits conveniently into the “on the go” lifestyle most Americans are accustomed to.

The result of the combination of these market forces and cultural norms is a diet that is high in processed carbohydrates and refined oils but remarkably bland. As a result, most Americans end up eating too quickly, getting hungry again, and eating more. This is accompanied by huge swings in insulin production and an increased caloric intake. Making matters worse, a huge number of these calories are derived the aforementioned subsidized products, resulting in very little variety in most peoples’ diets.

Pollan goes on to give further evidence of why this diet is so bad but he didn’t have to convince me. Finally, he finishes by providing four basic guidelines to follow, all of which I found very sensible. Overall Pollan does a good job of summarizing the various forces involved with most Americans’ relationship with food and the effects of that relationship on their health.

Of course I picked a bad time to read this with the health care debate heating up. Then, last week, it was reported that health care costs in 2008 due to obesity (diabetes and heart disease) were a staggering $147 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a b. Congress is looking for ways to cut costs across the system but while diet and exercise are occasionally mentioned as partial solutions, they are often scoffed a “drop in the bucket.” That, or they are attacked because, “the government shouldn’t be able to tell me that I cant eat a cheeseburger!”

The problem, of course, is the government, through their aforementioned subsidies, is making that cheeseburger, fries, and coke, unreasonably cheap and not holding anyone accountable for eating it. Americans pay less for food per person than all other civilized nations yet we are more overweight. Part of the solution to health care (in addition to changing the award structure to reward effective doctors rather than those who do prescribe the most procedures) is to rethink the entire food chain and give people incentives to eat more real foods. The easiest way to do this would be to lower corn subsidies, making real food more competitive and unhealthy, processed foods more expensive, driving more people to choose real foods.

Sadly though, none of this will happen. First of all, very few senators and congressmen/congresswomen are willing to even push for personal health accountability because a large number of their constituents are fat. Even they were, the agricultural lobby would block such a notion in a heartbeat. If they can convince people that taxpayers should pay them to grow corn in order to fuel for our cars, there is no hope for a policy that will raise the price of the food that makes up the majority of most Americans’ diets.

Monday, August 3, 2009


S: 28,900 yds
B: 9h 1min
R: 4h 53min

Total: 21h 30min

The week, by the numbers. This Saturday I'll be racing the Mountian Lakes Triathlon at beautiful Lake Guntersville. With a lot of friends racing, it should be fun!