Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not all Cows are alike; New L'Etape DVD and Nerve damage?

Eat To Live ImageNot all cows are alike
I've recently read a book that my old friend Roger bought us as a gift (well, actually, he first attempted to bring us an orchid that unfortunately didn't survive the car ride up from the city, so the book was sent as a replacement).  The book, "The 150 Healthiest Food on Earth" by Jonny Bowden, was a quick read.  Bowden, a respected Nutritionist, basically tells the same tale as my favorite book in this genre of books- "Eat to Live", by Joel Furhman (a MUST have for anyone looking to live a healthier disease free life.  Furhman's the guy that Dr. Oz goes to for nutritional guidance.  I actually once visited Furhman at his medical office in New Jersey.  Nice guy and incredibly knowledgeable on all things related to diet and nutrition).

The one chapter in Bowden's book that I found completely fascinating was the chapter on Dairy. (But for my Achilles heal called Ice Cream, I swore off dairy many years ago.)  As crazy as this may sound, my hypothesis was this- humans are the only animals that consume dairy after the babies grow up.  (I can't think of any other animal that drinks its mother's milk after they're weened.) Thus, I thought that it wasn't natural to consume milk. On top of that, I wasn't into the consistency of milk.  Bowden, a guy who's into raw foods, gets into the benefits of raw, organic, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk from grass-fed cows. As it turns out, the "pasteurization" process destroys, enzymes, vitamins, milk proteins and kills beneficial bacteria and promotes pathogens.  I was amazed at several things: the deficiency of nutrients in grain fed cows (i.e., nearly ALL milk products you purchase in a supermarket come from grain fed cows); and the amount of growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics consumed by those cows.  Bowden points out the many benefits to consuming products from cows that are fed grass: beneficial fats like Omega-3's (which are absent from grain fed animals), high quality whey protein, highest quality calcium, conjugated linolenic acid, a healthy fat that has anti-cancer properties, etc.  All this said, I'm putting aside my long-standing hypothesis about milk and it's consumption by adults (and the few dangers that exist in consuming unpasteurized milk products- pregnancy isn't one that I have to worry about) and have decided to add several raw grass-fed dairy products to my diet: raw milk (in place of soy milk for my morning shakes), plain raw yogurt and raw unpasteurized cheeses. Whole Foods Market is great for finding many of these products.  We'll see how it goes but almost 2 weeks into the experiment and I'm feeling good (i.e., bodily functions haven't changed nor has my weight).

L'Etape DVD
This is an image from the DVD
 As for my training, I'd say it was another "good" training week.  For the most part, I kept to the right food choices, more P90X sessions, and more importantly, more time on the bike.  I've found 2 additional videos (one I could download and one that's arriving as a DVD) that will really add to the training time on the stationary bike. The first is from Epic Rides. I downloaded the "Bear Tooth Pass" climbing video. (Bear Tooth Pass is a famous 11,000 ft pass in Wyoming that's absolutely beautiful.)  Great workout. The DVD I'm really waiting to receive is from called L'ETAPE DU TOUR 2011 - THE RECON.  So these guys went out and recorded the actual ride that I will be doing this July, made an instructional/workout video and put it up for sale. (I love the Internet...) How cool that I get to preview my ride? Very.  If you get a chance, click on the link and watch the video. Once I get the DVD and watch it, I'll be sure to post my impressions of the video, and more importantly, the 205km ride that awaits.

Nerve damage?
Since my surgery I've had this odd sensitivity on my elbow (you know, the bone you call the funny bone) and on the back side of the forearm (neither are near the incision area). It's so sensitive that the touch of a shirt provokes a burning sensation on the skin. In addition, a small section of my skin in this area (again, away from the incision area) feels "dull" or numb, as if not all my nerves are firing.  Called the Dr. and he indicated that this "sometimes" happens as there's a nerve that can get damaged or cut during the procedure I had. My condition "usually" goes away, but it can take months.  In the meantime, he's prescribed Lyrica (generic name is Pregabalin).  Here's the official word on what it's used for:

Pregabalin is used to relieve neuropathic pain (pain from damaged nerves) that can occur in your arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, or toes if you have diabetes or in the area of your rash if you have had shingles (a painful rash that occurs after infection with herpes zoster). It is also used to treat fibromyalgia (a long-lasting condition that may cause pain, muscle stiffness and tenderness, tiredness, and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep). Pregabalin is used with other medications to treat certain types of seizures in people with epilepsy. Pregabalin is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants. It works by decreasing the number of pain signals that are sent out by damaged nerves in the body.

Of the gazillion side effects, the one I like the best is: "Lyrica may cause suicidal thoughts or actions in a small number of people, about 1 in 500".  I don't know about you, but 1 in 500 seems like a lot.  How about this one: "If you have suicidal thoughts or actions, do not stop Lyrica without first talking to a healthcare provider."  Are they for real? No suicidal thoughts or actions (or other side effects) just yet, but I've put Melisa suicide watch just in case.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some midweek thoughts...

What a day. For those of you who don't live in the NYC area, what I would call a "weather" panic hit the area earlier today. I think most of the area received warnings from the local media indicating a crazy snow storm. Result? Office closes early. So, I came home a bit earlier than usual tonight.

Not sure if you're following, but Alberto Contador (yea, the 2010 Tour de France winner last year who had the rivalry with Lance) was suspended from cycling for 1 year, AND, stripped of his 2010 TdF title.  (For the full story, read this: Contador Stripped of TdF Victory).  With cycling being one of the most regulated sports, I'm just completely blown away that anyone would dose.  Then again, I think "who cares"? Is it really any different in any other professional sport? This also gets me thinking about Lance.  Did he dose too? He won, what, 7 TdF titles?  Can someone be that good w/o drugs?  Although he's accused of taking illegal performance enhancing substances, he's never tested positive (to date that is). So does that make him the greatest cheat, or is he simply the greatest cyclist (dare I say athlete) in history? And if he were ever determined to be a doser, then what of Livestrong? 

Training since Saturday has been good. Several P90X sessions: Shoulder and Arms (again), and Ab Ripper X. (Someone posted this video online. To watch, click here- Ab RipperX). Can't say enough about this routine. Tony's the man.  I wish I could do all of the other videos, but can't weight my right arm, thus anything that requires both arms- pushups, pullups, lots of the floor exercises, are a no go. But, in time I'll get back to working all of that into the routine.  2 of my favorite DVDs are Core Synergistics and Plyometrics. I digress....

Cycling this week has been good (so far). I've been using several videos that are absolutely awesome to watch.  The company who produces these videos is I've got three of them so far: "Local Hero", "Angels" and "The Hunted".  All offer a bit of a different experience. Definitely make the time pass by quite easy. This weekend I'll stack 2 videos back to back to get a longer workout in. While they aren't perfect, they certainly beat any other video I'm familiar with.  (That includes any of those Spinning workouts you'll find out there.) Let's not get me started on "Spinning" which I've had major issues with for some time. (I'll leave that for another discussion.)

The elbow is actually feeling a bit sore. Maybe cause I've stopped taking meds. But, the wound itself is where I'm feeling it. No surprise I guess. (Suppose I need to remember that when someone takes a scalpel to your arm, it's going to be sore no matter how nice it looks.)  Swelling is really reduced but still have a couple strange deadspots on the back of my elbow (i.e., it feels like certain areas are partiallly numb, like my nerves aren't firing on all cylinders.)  I'll give it another week before I start worrying.  Still wearing my robocop arm brace, which at least lets me wear real dress shirts.  But I kind of like the excuse of wearing short sleeve shirts in the middle of winter.

Finally, I just want to go on record to say I really appreciate my family & friends. Thank you.

Let me leave you with the new recently revealed 2011 Garmin Slipstream Team Jersey.  This is what the team will be racing in this year. You like? Dislike?

2011 Aero Jersey
Be back soon....

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Sutures come out...

Yesterday was my visit to Dr. Altchek's office where my suture was removed. I had one of the nurses take a couple photos (one before and one after).  In the first image, this is what my elbow looked like after they cut away the partial cast, gauze and ace wrap. A bit swollen, and bruised, but overall better than I thought.  The 2nd photo is after the nurse cleaned up the elbow and removed transparent bandages.  (That blue "string" is the "Suture". If you haven't had surgery before, the suture is basically the thread they use to hold the wound closed.) To my absolute surprise, removing the string/suture was nearly painless.  Gotta give the doctor insane amount of credit, as you can barely tell where the incision line is. (Sure I can feel it.) Hopefully it will heal looking as clean as it does now. (And finally, I get to shower w/o a bag on the arm.) I did ask the nurse to take a photo of Altchek's bike in his office, but I'm told his bike wasn't there, but was home. Oh well.

After that, I was fitted with what I would call the Robo brace. Very cool to look at. Works well too. Essentially, it allows me to move my arm up and down, and allows my wrist to rotate, but it limits the movement b/n 15 and 105 degrees. That's almost a straight arm to just past 90 degrees. Not so bad.  I took a photo of my Robo brace when I got back to the office. Now I can wear real clothes again! Still have to use this contraption (and sleep with it) for the next 3 weeks, at which time I'll start my physical therapy.

Well, I'm excited to get back to my training program tomorrow, now that I can sweat and not worry about getting the incision wet. Will focus on keeping weight off the right arm, but plan of hitting it hard.

In the meantime, wishing you all success in achieving your training and nutrition goals. If you don't have any, now's a great time to start. Nothing major, just simple baby steps works best.....  Supplement recommendations for this week? Astaxanthin and high quality medical grade Omega 3 Fish Oil.  (I take 2 types- Omega XL, and Carlson's.) Go google it. Absolutely has changed my life. Be back soon....

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK day

6 days after surgery
Thought I'd start today's blog with a photo of the brace/cast on the arm. Not much to see (yet).  Sutures get removed on Thursday (1/20). Curious to see how big (or small) the incision is (and where it was made).  I "think" I know where Dr. Altchek did his work but can't be sure since the pain is generally in one area but not really specific. (BTW, Melisa thinks Altchek looks like a young Charlton Heston.  What do you think?)  Funny note about Altchek: I never doubted Altchek's credentials (his resume is serious stuff- Co-Chief of Sports Medicine at HSS (Hospital for Special Surgery), NY Mets doctor, pitchers in the waiting room on my first visit, etc.), but what closed the deal for me was the super high end Colnago carbon road bike hanging in his office on one of those floor to ceiling bike stands. How cool? (I'll see if he'll let me take a photo of it on Thursday when I see him next.)  The paint job on it is complete custom to HSS.

This is Bandido thinking I'm going to give him a treat. 

So today started with Bandido (the dog) waking me quite early. Good thing since it took me a minute to get the bike set up in the basement with the appropriate support and balancing equipment close by. (By balancing equipment I mean a step stool and chair so I can get an assist getting on and off bike, and a place to rest my hand comfortably as I ride.)  For those of you bike geeks looking at the photo, yes, my bars are quite high in relation to my saddle. I did that intentionally before last week's surgery thinking it would relieve weight off of the one good hand as I train.  It's a pretty upright position but so far so good.

For the workout, I started with a P90X "Shoulders & Arms" workout. Obviously only worked the left side. That was a bit odd but it felt good since it's been 1 week since I did any type of training.  For those familiar with P90X, I'm on my 2nd cycle. The first 3 month cycle went great with all the results to show for it.  Until I did it, I would laugh at the infomercials too, but I can attest that it does everything it said it would: my strength and endurance on the bike and on runs are better than I can remember; weight dropped fairly significantly (lost 13lbs), and generally feel great. Tony Horton (the video's MC and trainer) is the real deal for sure. I'm a month in on my 2nd cycle.  For those unfamiliar with the P90X program, it's one of the best strength, endurance and flexibility programs out there.  The program is 3 months in length, and can be repeated as many times as you'd like.  I never get bored with Tony- he's strong, funny and motivating.  OK, enough of that.  If you're curious about the program, feel free to ask.

Then it was onto the bike:
10 minute warm up at 70% Threshold Heart Rate ("THR") w/ high cadence
10 minutes at 75% THR w/ high cadence
3 x 12 minute intervals at 90% THR at 60rpm with 5 min rests in between each interval
10 minute at 75% THR w/ high cadence
10 minute cool down- high cadence

The basement setup: a bit rough but it works (so far)
Very good first day of training. I was careful not to weight the right arm much if at all.  However, I'm a bit concerned with the sweat factor.  Although I have a fan blowing on me when I ride, my post-Op instructions say not to get the inside of the cotton and/or ace bandage wet.  Not sure if it's bad for my suture.  Anyone know? I'll call a friend who's a surgeon but wasn't sure if that was a very bad no no, or just a "don't get it wet in the shower" type of thing.  Oh well, it's off to dinner and then try to figure out what I'm going to wear tomorrow as a shirt to work.  I went into the office last Friday (why I have no idea) and wore the one button down shirt that this thing on my arm could fit in.  I guess I could wear it again tomorrow, but what then for Wednesday?  I assume that Thursday they'll be putting on a much smaller thing after removal of the sutures. But until then, I've got to cover 2 days at work.  Short sleeves maybe? Talk soon... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week One: Where do I start?

Each year, the organizers of one of my favorite sporting events, the Tour de France (the "Tour"), organize an amateur race/ride on one of the Tour's big mountain stage rides.  This race/ride s called L'Etape du Tour ("L'Etape").  Usually held in the Alps or the Pyrenees, this is one of the only ways an amateur cyclist like myself can get a taste of what it's like to ride one of the toughest mountain stages of one of the greatest annual athletic events. 

The Idea:
My wife (Melisa) and I have been talking about taking a vacation to Paris (and France in general) for years. Growing up with a French mother, speaking the language (although Melisa is sceptical of this fact) and having been to France several times growing up and in my 20's (although it's been a while since I've been there), the draw to go back there never took precedent over my desire to see other places in the world.  Having said that, I've always dreamed of sitting along the Champs Elysees on a beautiful July day watching the Tour come riding into Paris on the final day.  (Certainly more of a dream for me than going to, say, the Superbowl...)  Watching the Tour on TV year after year, I've wondered what it would be like to ride one of those great mountain stages. (If you've never seen the coverage of any of the mountain stages of the Tour, make sure you tune in this summer- more drama than any of those nutty reality shows).  So enough already we said- this year was going to be the year that we went to France to watch the Tour as part of our French holiday.  Then, only weeks ago, I learned of L'Etape.  Was it really true? I mean, I knew of tour companies that created vacations around the Tour- they follow certain stages of the Tour, and some, even allowing you to get out and ride certain legs of the Tour.  But, a full-on organized race/ride for us mortals? In my mind, you couldn't imagine the timing of this information. Thus, with a few clicks of the mouse and the payment of the entry fee, the idea of riding L'Etape became reality: a trip to France to incorporate culture, Paris, the Tour, and now..... L'Etape.  Now, figuring the rest out....

Not a writer by any stretch of the imagination (my wife, Melisa, will be shocked to learn that I've even considered keeping a regular journal on any subject), I'm interested in taking myself out of my natural comfort zone and have thus started this blog to keep a record of my journey to L'Etape.  I guess it's best just to jump right in.

2011 L'Etape:
This year the Tour organizers have provided 2 different L'Etapes (or as they refer to it, "Acts"):  the first "Act" takes place on July 11, 2011 and travels over the famed "Alp D"Huez", probably the most famous (and most difficult) mountain stage in the Tour's history.  Unfortunately for me, our goal was to see the Tour finish up in Paris on July 24th. (For a schedule of the Tour, click  on this link: Tour Schedule). For me to ride the first Act would mean I'd have to be in France for more than 2 weeks (when factoring in travel days, etc.) which was not possible with my work schedule. Thus, it was Act 2 for me- 208km from Issoire to Saint-Flour: Sunday July 17, 2011.  Here's a profile of the race:

What are my goals with L'Etape? As much as I focus much of my daily thoughts on health, nutrition (and my next ride, climb, run, etc.), I'm a realist.  I have no delusions regarding my current ability, age, time constraints, etc.  That said, I'm very competitive by nature and constantly use goals as a motivation tool.  Without these self-imposed goals, I'm lost.  So here it is: I'm throwing down the personal goal of finishing in the top 20% of this year's finishers at L'Etape.  (So, if there are 5,000 riders, I'm looking to finish in the top 1,000.  Is that realistic?  Not sure at this point. I'm going to do more research to see how well others I have fared over the years.)

Oh yea, I forgot to mention.  For years now I've had chronic pain in my right elbow. It's gotten so painful that I've stopped bouldering and climbing.  Even going out for rides (road and Mtb) provides a hefty dose of pain.  After visiting my Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. David Altchek at Hospital For Special Surgery, he confirmed that I had a tear in my tendon and a glob of scar tissue that he says has been there for a long time. So, last Tuesday, Jan 11th, I had surgery to repair the tendon and remove the scar tissue.  Recovery, I'm told, will take a full 4 months to get to full strength.  Oh well.  As Tony Horton says (from P90X fame- luv this guy and his program: you'll see more of Tony's program incorporated into my training below), "modify, modify, modify...."

The Equipment:
2011 Cervelo R3
The bike in my kichen...
Currently my plan is to bring my road bike with me to L'Etape.
For those equipment geeks, here's the component build out:
Headset- Cane Creek IS-3
Seat post- 3T Dorico Team
Shifters- SRAM Rival
Front/Rear Derailleurs- SRAM Rival
Brakes- SRAM Rival
Crankset- SRAM S900 Compact  (50/34)
Bottom Bracket- SRAM PRessfit BBright
Handlebars- 3T Ergonova OE
Stem- 3T ARX Pro
Saddle- Specialized BG Gel
Wheels- DT Swiss 1450
Cassette- Shimano 11-27
Tires- Vittoria Open Corsa EVO CX 22mm
Heart Rate Monitor/GPS- Garmin 800

Training Regimen:
Having raced many 12 hour, 24 hour and multi-day Adventure Races (think Eco-Challenge, Primal Quest, etc.  For more on AR, see: Adventure Racing), I've come to understand that the stresses of events like L'Etape are mostly mental.  Yes, there are physical struggles along the way (especially if your pushing yourself to do the best you can), but I believe that the limitations we place on ourselves are mostly mental barriers.  Putting aside things that aren't w/n my control  (unforeseen accidents, injuries, equipment failures, etc.) I'm not spending much time worrying if I can "finish" this event; rather I'm focused on making sure I'm as mentally and physically prepared as I can be to really enjoy myself.  Sure it's a going to be a sufferfest, but let's suffer in style, right?

So the basic training plan I'm going with comes from Tim Marsh's informative guide to L'Etape: "Guide To Tackling L'Etape". A fantastic read on all things regarding L'Etape (traveling, logistics, where to stay, training, etc.)  It's available via book or pdf.  It's a basic 16 week program. Although I've got longer than that, I'm giving myself a bit longer due to the recovery of the elbow, additional P90X workouts and general unexpected downtime.  I'll post my training logs and thoughts as I go.

I'm not going to say much here other than whenever I train (whether it's on runs or rides) I use exclusively Hammer Products.  I've used Hammer products and supplements for years in training and racing and can't say enough about the quality of their products.  So I'm not going to change anything here since it always works.  As for my normal meals, I eat a fairly vegetarian diet (plus fish).  I try not to over think this, but attempt to consume "real" food; that is, eat food in the form it was raised or grown.  Pretty simple.  As for supplements, I completely believe in their effectiveness.  I take lots of supplements daily and have for sometime. (Here's a short list of my favorites: L-Carnitine, DMAE, MSM/Glucosomine/Condroitin, Astaxanthin, Omega 3 Fish Oil, Folic Acid, B-6, Chromium Picolinate, R-Lipoic Acid, Quercitin, Co-Q10, Turmeric, and Diindolylmethane and Whey Protein Isolate).

So I think that's enough for the set up.  Be back soon......