Monthly Archives: November 2007

IM WA: The Howls of the Wind

It’s 5am and I’ve been up since 3am. Couldn’t sleep anymore so I got up and read some, and had breakfast.
Yesterday, the wind had picked up enormously. Not an expert at predicting wind speed, I thought that it must have been well over 30 MPH. As I fell asleep, the howls of the wind were blowing outside my windows.
Today, at 5am, when supposedly the winds are supposed to be dying down towards race day, I hear them howling still outside the windows. It’s an omimous sound, and I can only hope that the wind does not appear tomorrow on race morning. I shudder to think about cycling in that kind of wind, not to mention braving the white caps which I am sure are out on the ocean right now.

IM WA: Freakin’ Flies

Here is the SCROUGE of western Australia:

These flies are EVERYWHERE. They’re not like house flies that you find over here in the U.S. House flies just fly around and eat rotting stuff. These flies LOVE to come over and land on you. They basically need protein to lay eggs, so they would rather lick your sweat, your tears, saliva, nose mucus, or even your blood. They are so freakin’ annoying because you can’t make them go away. They are everywhere. They don’t bite you – they land on you and tickle you and….LICK you to get all your nice bodily secretions so that they can lay eggs and make more of their annoying selves.
When we’re walking around here trying to do our Ironman thing, these little flies never stop pestering you!
Find out more about these annoying flies here: Australian Bush Fly.

IM WA: Registration and Shopping!

Getting down to the expo to register, we see the partially constructed area:

Standing in line was weird. The N-R line had nobody in it. Doesn’t anyone have a last name that begins with a letter from N through R? On the other hand, the last names were all piled in D-H, I-M, and S-Z. Geez. We waited forever for our race packets.

Yes I shopped. Not much to buy this time, but I did get some hats, a cool shirt and jacket. Socks are always key, especially when they have the race name. I dumped the Ironman bag and look at all this promotional stuff. I need to be careful not to throw away something important!

IM WA: A Dip in Rough Waters

This morning a bunch of us went for a swim and it was truly a rough experience.

The rain started coming down and the wind whipped up the water. What’s up with the rain!?!?! Isn’t there a drought in Australia?!?!? We went out but it was hard negotiating the 2-3′ waves. I think I swallowed quite a bit of water! In the pictures, you can see the mile long jetty along which we swim. We didn’t make it all the way around as it was rough enough just getting out about half way.

After we got out, it got even worse and I felt for the other triathletes coming in to take a dip; there were white caps by the time we left. Supposedly the rain will stop later today. We should be having great weather and can only hope the wind will also die down too.

So far, there seem to be many Bay area folks here at the race, some in the group photo above. Nice to have fellow Californians around!

Today we head for registration and, of course, shopping at the expo!

IM WA: Sydney Qantas Lounge, On the Way to Perth

The flight over from LAX was uneventful. I’m glad I had a whole row to myself and curled up lying down thankfully, instead of sleeping sitting up. As we pulled into Sydney, the clouds were puffy and inviting.

Customs was very strict. They made sure there wasn’t any dirt on anything. I thought they would make me unpack my bike totally but thankfully they just peaked in at my tires and made sure they’re pretty clean. Of course they’re clean! I washed down my whole bike before coming here, including the tires! But looks like I got all my racing nutrition into the country, so that’s one headache gone.
Now I sit in the Sydney Airport Qantas Lounge enjoying free WIFI and blogging away about my impending race.

Why are all airport lounges outside the US so much better? It’s so spacious and airy in here. There is a kick ass cappucino machine that makes incredible drinks. Coffee is so much better ANYWHERE outside the US.
Sitting here in the peace and quiet of this swank lounge, I again reflect on 2007. So much I’ve learned about myself and my body, and what it is capable of, and where to go next. 2007 was the first year I’ve attempted two Ironmans, and it’s been a real experience seeing if my body could take two Ironmans in a year without a down season break in between. That, and racing in between Ironmans, has taken its toll on my body but I am confident that the fitness has been cemented in after each race. It’s managing the damage on my body after each race, and learning how fast I can come back, and figuring out how to maintain fitness which has been a challenge.
Kinesio-tape, Graston, ART, and then couple that with proper training – it’s been a real experience. I do hope I can reach a point of fitness where I can race more, and race faster. Next year I will be taking a lot of downtime, and using the early half of next year to build up run speed. I look forward to that, as I think my running strength needs to be built up considerably.
For now, I focus on Ironman Western Australia coming up this Sunday. Early news says the course is really flat, and I hope I can maintain speed without over-cranking my left leg where my kneecap is still bugging me.
1 hour before I hop on the connecting flight to Perth.

IM WA: Getting that Gaunt Look Again…

I’m less than a week away from Ironman Western Australia (IM WA) and down in LA with all my typical Ironman equipment.
I look in the mirror and see my face kind of shrunken in, as if my flesh is disappearing. It always seems to get this way right before a long event like a marathon or Ironman. My physical therapist tells me it’s because I have reduced volume during my taper, and now fluids don’t collect in my muscles because I am not damaging them as much during the taper process. Consequently, I see my weight dropping by several pounds in the weeks right before a race. It’s kind of remarkable. I hang near 148-150 lbs for many months and then it all flies away until I am almost 145 by race morning, and usually the week after as well.
Another stupid thing. I get to LA, on my way to Australia and I realize that…I forgot my bike helmet! AUGGGH!!! What an idiot I am. I call all over LA looking for an aero helmet and finally find one in Redondo Beach at the Triathlon Lab. What a life saver! I pick up a Limar Cronos aero helmet there.
Otherwise, I battle little aches and pains here and there. I always worry about them because I do not know if they will be OK or flare up during the race. Racing while in pain is not good; you have enough pain from maintaining a pace and you don’t need other pains to distract you.
News from Busselton and Perth. Customs at Perth is super strict. Hope they don’t take all my powders and gels. A buddy of mine arrived there a little while ago and drove the bike course; he says it is pancake flat. I hope it’s true. Plus it’s pretty hot in Perth right now, but Busselton is much cooler on the coast. At least the Australian drought means that it’s extremely doubtful we’ll have rain on race day.
Tomorrow, I hit the 1030p flight to Sydney. It’s one long ass flight.

Graston in the Privacy of My Own Home

The other week I went to my physical therapist and in a sudden moment of inspiration wondered why I couldn’t do Graston at home. I asked him if other patients had pondered this, and also remembered when my other physical therapist once told me that she had done Graston at a race with a butter knife. It seemed possible, and that between visits to their offices, Graston would be an effective way to manage tightness and getting the muscles to calm down in case they get really over-tight during workouts. So after my treatment, I took a picture of a typical set of Graston tools:

This trusty set cost over $4000! And is only available to licensed practictioners of Graston. Well, I wasn’t going to get a set that way for sure. Undaunted, I headed down to Westfield Valley Fair Mall and checked out Williams-Sonoma. There were plenty of kitchen gadgets there for sure, but nothing seemed sturdy enough to mimic Graston tools. I then went over to Pottery Barn and found what I was looking for in their dinnerware section. The utensils of various sizes and shapes were perfect! And even more perfect was the fact that there was a holder full of single utensils; I didn’t have to pay big bucks to buy a 4 place setting set! I could buy singles. So I selected a bunch to try:

Graston’s set: $4000+, my set: $22!
The hard part is seeing if you can get the same effect with the shape of the utensil, as you can with a Graston tool. Through experimentation, Graston tools were organically derived for many purposes by a physical therapist who was also a metalworker. So I started applying these tools to my body to see which ones would work best.
My favorite is the one at the bottom of the picture. It is the spoon which has a square-ish shaped handle. I also bought a butter knife with the same handle and the back of the blade is actually pretty good, but just a bit dangerous when you’re using force against your muscles; butter knives are much duller than steak knives, but you can still cut yourself! Still, I may try to file down the blade so it is less sharp. For now, the spoon works great. (By the way, spoons are allowed on carry-on luggage unlike butter knives so I can bring this around with me when I travel.)
It is the edge that is the secret. If it’s too rounded, you can’t dig into your muscles enough. And if it’s not sharp enough (with a broken/not-razor edge), you can’t feel the vibrations of the tool which signal you passing over adhesions in the muscle. If you examine Graston tools, you’ll find that their edge is actually a (small) rounded edge with a bladed area of about 45 degrees. It allows you to make these “slicing” motions into the muscle, as if you were trying ot shave off a chunk of flesh.
One downside of the spoon; it is too small to get a good grip on to really start digging into your muscles. Graston tools are much more beefier and you can get your whole hand around it to really apply some force to your muscles. When the tool is not so beefy, it is hard to really get force. Maybe that’s ok; I am still gunshy about really putting lots of scraping force into my muscles for fear of screwing myself up! But hey, what’s life without some adventure?
What I’ve learned about applying Graston to yourself in the privacy of your own home:
1. Get Graston done on you first. Don’t attempt this without watching someone who knows what they’re doing and feeling it done to yourself. It’s the best way to learn about how it should feel from the patient side. Plus, you can watch and remember the motions and strokes, and how to apply the tool to yourself. You need to learn the various methods of moving or not moving your muscles during application, what to be careful of and what is ok. You can also get a sense for how much force should be applied, and also most importantly, learn what adhesions in your muscles feel like.
2. Develop a sensitivity for feeling adhesions and knots in your muscles with your fingers first. Take some lotion (I use Aveeno) and rub it on the muscle. Then run your fingers across the muscle. If it feels relatively smooth, it has little or no adhesions or knots. But if it does, it can feel like a surface of small potato chip crumbs as it makes this crinkly kind of feeling when you move across it. It can also feel like a bunch of nodules, or it can be one big harder area.
Then develop the sensitivity with the tool itself, as it scrapes across muscles. It will feel as if you’re running the edge across a surface of small gravel sometimes, or just a rough surface. Try also running it across other muscles, like your forearm which, for me, is pretty smooth. Then you’ll know what non-adhesion filled muscles feel like. Another way to find adhesions and knots is to use a foam roller. This is especially good for larger muscle groups. When you roll onto a big knot, it will feel like a big hard lump and will be painful when you hit that area with the roller.
3. When apply my spoon, I generally keep to the larger muscle areas and shy away from joints. I don’t like the thought of accidentally affecting the tendons or hitting a nerve bundle or bone. That would not be a good thing.
4. I usually start off lightly and slow in the stroke. I can gauge how my muscle feels with the spoon being applied and make sure there aren’t bruises or some kind of acute pain there as I move the spoon across the area. I don’t like to overtreat areas as that may cause greater damage. I also keep away from areas that are bruised, either by me, or from a professional ART or Graston session. You gotta let bruised areas heal; it’s not good to keep bruising them up. Bruises tend to restrict motion.
If, after the lighter and slower strokes, I do not feel too much extra pain, I apply more pressure to get deeper into the tissue. Sometimes I increase the speed of the stroke and sometimes I keep it slower. There is definitely an upper limit to speed and I think that extra speed does not work well. It seems to be more the pressure and amount of strokes than stroke speed.
After a few strokes, I feel the area with my fingers. I almost always feel a smoothing out of the area as the adhesions get broken down. I then do another set of strokes, feel the area again, and maybe I’ll do it once more. I don’t have a set amount of stroke-and-inspect sets to do; it’s kind of something I just know that I should stop or go one more. Definitely doing too much is a bad thing.
5. After scraping the muscles, I often will get some more lotion and apply some long, massage strokes to clear out some any fluids that may have accumulated and to help blood flow into the area.
6. I also vary my muscle condition, scraping it in stretched and contracted positions. I also sometimes flex the muscle to really tighten it as I scrape; very tough since it hurts a lot! But varying muscle condition sometimes exposes adhesions which are not apparent while in a rested condition.
7. I find that results are often immediate. Certainly, after a few hours, many aches and pains and tightness magically go away. Wow! All from a spoon and some lotion!
8. You’ll find that you’ll never be able to use as much force as another person scraping your muscles. You really don’t need that much anyways.
9. I also know that there are areas I can’t self treat because I can’t reach them, or I can reach them but I can’t apply enough force on the spoon to make a difference. These are areas like my lower back and my hamstrings. Bummer!
By the way, I can’t recommend this to anyone. If you do something wrong, you could really hurt yourself. Treat this article as a curiosity and for knowledge purposes only. Go find a great Graston practictioner and get treated the right way.