Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1984 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon

The Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon was a full Ironman distance race held from 1983 through 1988. It was one of the first Ironman distance races held in a place other than Hawaii, the birth place of the Ironman, and it saw many of the world's top triathletes race along salty ocean and windswept roads of the flexing muscular arm of the Cape Cod peninsula. Dave McGillivray started the race in 1983 (article posted here) soon after Julie Moss crawled across the finish line in Hawaii as he became the big promoter of triathlon racing in New England.

Today's triathletes would have a hard time recognizing such an old-school triathlon. In this second edition of the CCET in 1984 the water was 61 degrees, but we wore no wetsuits. My strategy to ward of the cold water was to just put an extra latex swim cap on my head. There were no aero bars or lightweight disk wheels for our bikes. I was riding a Centurion Elite bike that had cost me less than $300 the previous year. We used toe clips to hold our cycling shoes to the pedals. During the race, there were no power bars or energy drinks. I believe all that we drank was water and we ate sandwiches, bananas, cookies, or whatever else was handed to us on the course. It would be a couple more races before I discovered the pleasure of eating up a bag of jelly beans throughout the cycling leg of this race. The cost to do the race was a mere $75.

However, while the 1983 race had been an eye-opening endurance event for many of us first time competitors, by 1984 we were learning how to train and race and had probably put more time into our training knowing that such an event even existed (the 1983 edition had been announced in April of that year at the Boston Marathon. Still, I am sure many triathletes of the day where just self-coached like myself in one or two of the disciplines. I was a runner who taught myself how to swim and bike and had never even  trained with another biker or swimmer at this point. Heck, I didn't even know any bikers or swimmers and most regular people weren't even sure what a triathlon was. My philosophy was just to get out there and do it. In the summer, I would swim, bike, and run as much as I could and I had a blast doing that.

I recall the cold flat water in 1984. Boy, was it cold. I felt more like a racer than the mere survivalist I had been in 1983 and I remember trading places throughout the run with the lead woman Margo Thornton (Webber). I also went a lot faster than I had in 1983 and improved my time by 2 hours and 45 minutes, but everyone else went faster two. Triathlons were becoming a sport in New England and the CCET was the big daddy of all New England races.

The winners of the 1984 event were New England's top triathlete Marc Suprenant and Margo Thornton-Webber who was hit by a car on the bike leg of the race.

Here is a the race video as presented on a Boston television station.

Watch 1984 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon in Sports  |  View More Free Videos Online at

The ocean was cold and still.

I was always happy to survive the swim!

Bike to run transition.

 Trying to find my running legs post transition.
Marc Suprenant was the winner.

 Gary Passler finished 2nd for the 2nd year in a row.

 Women's winner Margo Thornton-Webber

George Luckhurst (pictured) finished one place (5 seconds) ahead of me.

Banana on the helmet for future race director Richie Havens.

The course map.

You will notice that the athlete in 202nd place was a guy named Pat Griskus. He was the first amputee to finish an Ironman distance triathlon at this race and later finished Hawaii in 1985 and 1986. In 1987 while in Hawaii training for that years event, he was struck and killed by a truck. There is a triathlon named in his honor.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A runner again!

Last weeks running:
Monday: 8 miles
Tuesday:8 miles
Saturday: 8 miles
Sunday: 8 miles
Total: 32 miles

Someone on a labral tear message board asked a question this week about how long it took post surgery till you felt like you could run like you used to again. I had surgery in July and ran earlier than most within a few weeks post surgery. I had done an 8 miler within two months and have tried to get the running thing going, but the day I felt like a runner again was a couple of weeks ago when I got 43 miles in during the week. Each run was a struggle to get out the door and to keep moving, but there was a point during the last 8 miler of the week with about 3 miles to go for the day that I lost track of the physical part of trying to run and got lost in my thoughts. Before I knew it, I was home without recalling much of those miles. That was when I knew I was back. I am still slow and plodding on my runs, but each run since then I feel a tiny bit better and I have lots of moments when I don't have to think about running, I just do it! I am a runner again!

Speaking of labral tear surgery, American record holder and America's top sprinter Tyson Gay had labral tear surgery a few weeks earlier than I did. According to the Boston Globe, Tyson is still working on his recovery and with the Olympics looming ahead, he still is not ready. Of course, the speeds and dynamics of sprinting is much different than the forces I am putting on my hip while jogging along. One month before our surgeries, a high school runner in Falmouth, Ma. also had surgery for a torn labrum. The Cape Cod Times reports that he now has the number one hurdle time in all of New England just 8 months post surgery. That is a pretty quick turn-around for an athlete performing in such a complex hip twisting event as the hurdles, but he also is a sprinter and long-jumper. I don't know the athlete, but he runs for Falmouth High School, the same school I started running for back in 1973.

Here is this week's edition of Running the Show as presented by Athletics Now:

This new book from the author of The Entrepreneurial Patient blog is a must read book for anyone with hip problems and is thinking about about arthroscopic hip surgery or has had arthroscopic hip surgery for a labral tear or FAI.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why are the Kenyan runners so great?

Man On A Mission from jamieleedalton on Vimeo.

I can't recommend this full length video "Man on a Mission" enough. It is presented and narrated by the great Eamonn Coghlan and highlights  Brother Colm O'Connell and his work at St. Patrick's High School in Iten, Kenya. Iten is a small town of about 4000 people, but is also the focal point for so many of the world's greatest runners. After watching it just once, I have to say it is one of the best documentaries on running that I have ever seem. There is the history, with videos and interviews with greats like Kip Keino, the wisdom and techniques of Brother Colm, the beautiful Kenyan landscape and people, and the immediacy with filming and discussions about the most recent Kenyan star David Rudisha.

There is no one secret to the Kenyan success in distance running. As Eamonn Coghlan says it is a "perfect storm" of many elements, but the simple approach to training that Brother Colm espouses with the basics of an inner calm mixed with courage that has helped propel many Kenyan greats over the past 20 something years to the elite world stage.

Brother Colm wants his athletes to be relaxed and not intense about their training. He doesn't want them imagining the exertion or the pounding effects of running, and this means a lot of slow running for his charges. In fact, 800 meter world record holder David Rudisha is asked at times to work out with younger runners to keep himself grounded. At the beginning of the documentary, Brother Colm is seen telling his proteges that he wants them to learn about the sport and that he is just not interested in putting on a training camp.

 Having visited Kenya last summer and having taught  in Kenyan schools, I must say that the intensity of the athletes looking at the coach at this point in the film so reminded me about the students I taught in the slums of Nairobi and how they hung on every word I said. There were no distractions. As an elementary school teacher, the biggest battle I face is that kids today can't sit still and concentrate, let alone care about what a teacher is saying. The Kenyan students are masters of knowing how important it is to listen to a teacher! My favorite part of the documentary is when Eamonn Coghlan goes into a classroom at St. Patrick's and asks how many in the crowd of students are great athletes. Now this class is in the hotbed of the greatest distance runners on the planet. I am sure the slowest person in the room could be a top runner for any high school in America, however only a few hands shot up. Then Eamonn asked (it was a chemistry class)  how many of them are great chemists. Hands shot up around the room. Yeah, that is the Kenya I remember. They are more interested in academics than sports. Do you think you would get the same response in a classroom filled with America's best high school football players?

Brother Colm also talked about his training system that he calls FAST. It stands for Focus, Alignment, Stability, and Timing. He has them run slowly as he gets them to focus the eyes, work on the core with alignment and stability, and then work on the timing of their feet on the ground. Maybe you have seen videos of the Ethiopian runners doing similar slow running drills with their arms rotating around like clock hands. Brother Colm explains that this is to distract the body so that the core is strong so that when they race they can be "locked" into position.

You will learn a lot from watching this video. Brother Colm is a calm and relaxed coach who had done much to bring about the dominance of the Kenyan runner.

Here is a newly published book: Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Freeze Your Buns 4

Last week was a lighter week of running. I had two teeth extractions and two titanium screws put into my jaw so that also got in the way of training.
Last week:
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: 8 miles
Sunday: 3 miles: Freeze Your Buns
Total: 19 miles

The running is getting easier. An 8 miler is now doable without much limping or soreness at the end. I consistently feel a little bit stronger on each run and my form is getting better. At the fourth Freeze Your Buns (results) race my goal was to break 23 minutes. I ran 22:55 and for the first time post surgery got under 23 minutes. However the 5 5k race I have run since the surgery in July have been the slowest 5ks I have ever run in my life. I actually looked forward to this race before the start (an old familiar feeling) to see what I could do rather that just entering to plod along. I felt better in the breathing department  and although I have a long way to go to get where I want to be, I can sense improvements coming. On the other hand, I have never been beaten by so many little girls in my life. Where are they all coming from?

Here is the new edition of Running the Show produced by Athletics Now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How Somatics Can Help Runners

I wanted to highlight a recent and important blog post by Martha Peterson called How Somatics Can Help  Runners. I have been on a years long search to find the best ways to recover my stride as a runner. I have found many useless ideas as well as many promising exercises that may help this aging beat-up runner get back to the form and feeling that I lost along the roads and trails of New Hampshire. I really like Somatics and Martha Peterson's book "Move Without Pain" and her  DVDs which are an integral part of helping me get the "feel" back into my legs and my whole body as I make my journey back into running. The book is clearly written and has the photographs and instructions to help you understand the movements and how to do them properly. It also presents the rational for learning Somatics. I highly recommend it to any athlete that wants to explore and restore lost movement patterns. I ordered my third DVD, Pain-Free Athletes: No Pain, All Gain last week and like the previous two DVDs, Pain Relief Through Movement: The Basics and Pain-Free Legs and Hips, that I have, I learned all sorts of new ways to move and the timing of doing the movements (go slow and don't force). Sometimes a new movement just reaches out and immediately my body says, "Ahhhh!" like it reopened up a new possibility of movement that I had been guarding against. As I am building up my running, post hip surgery last summer, I have a lot of patterns to relearn and years of compensations prior to the surgery that I have to erase.

In her new post, Martha writes about deals with the issues of sensory motor amnesia with runners. That is my story with so many years of my running. She says:

  • When you’re injured, your muscles reflexively adapt and learn to move differently. This is called compensation.
  • Long term compensation develops into sensory motor amnesia (SMA).
  • Running while compensating for an injury doesn’t doesn’t change what your muscles are doing; it only creates more compensation.
  • You must first eliminate the compensatory pattern (the SMA), and then you can regain your original running form.
Anyone that has run with me could probably "see" this with my form and could hear my complaints through the years as I tried to figure out what was wrong with my running. It is not long-lost cases like mine where it is so obvious that something is wrong. On the running message boards and forums, I see so much written about inactive glutes, a loss of coordination in leg while running, or many other posts asking for help about injuries. I wonder how many runners just "quit" when they lose the feel for running or can't get out of an injury pattern? I think Martha's ideas and Somatics could help a lot of athletes, injured or not. The movements are simple, painless, and powerful and the payback for doing them may keep you running for a long time.

When you read her post on running, you will discover some of the reasons that runners can start creating compensations that may eventually derail their running career: running on injuries, running on paved slanted roads, running with limited hip movement, and running with orthotics or supportive shoes. These are just a few of the things that many runners are guilty of doing on a regular basis. We are not invincible. Eventually these may lead to injuries or compensationary patterns that we can't get out of. As you can see by the credit at the end of Martha's post I tried to give her some feedback while she was writing this post, but I really want to thank her for her insights as she answers my questions and gives advice and encouragement.  Currently I am rethinking my use of orthotics while running.

Martha gives a few Somatic exercises that may help runners prior to going for a run or post run. It is just a starting point. You can search her site and find videos or descriptions of some of these and other movements. I would highly recommend trying out one of her DVDs along with her book. I would also suggest reading through her blog and website. The original book by Thomas Hanna on Somatics is called Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health. I find Martha's book easier to read and it certainly has better and easier pictures to follow, but is it is the source book from the founder of Somatics.