A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On the Road Again

Yes, after just three weeks of recovery I am back on the road again. No, not on my bike (I wish). Just back on the business travel road. It has been an eventful return to life on the road featuring prime beef, tornadoes and charbroiled oysters!

After a three-day trip to Columbia, Missouri, I am now in New Orleans for the 2008 National Beef Ambassador competition. But first stop was cousin Wiley's new bachelor pad in Clayton, MO. Determined to experience the semi-urban lifestyle, Wig and I walked to the local Straub's market to pick up some USDA prime beef ribeye steaks. Back at VC's flat we met up with KL and enjoyed a glass or two of fine California wine while grilling the ribeyes to a perfect medium rare and watching the Colorado Rockies sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The next morning I drove to Columbia, MO, for a series of trainings at the Missouri Beef Industry Council -- and a series of severe storms that brought tornadoes across Missouri. Fortunately the tornadoes bypassed Columbia, but I woke up the next morning with an ear ache that led to a trip to an urgent care facility today in Kenner, LA. Yes, Louisiana.

After leaving Columbia yesterday afternoon I caught a flight from St. Louis to New Orleans. Somewhere in route, my ear ache turned into an ear infection. So I had to go to an urgent care facility today -- my second trip to an "emergency room" in the past four weeks. But this time it wasn't in an ambulance!

I can't remember the last time I had an ear infection. I actually wonder if it is related to my bicycle accident. Seriously. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I have only been able to sleep on my left side. The infection is in my left ear, which has spent the past three -- almost four -- weeks pressed against my pillow for 6-8 hours every night!

Whatever the cause, it's not fun to be sick in a strange town. It took three hours to find a doctor to look in my ear, tell me it looked "nasty," give me a shot of steroids and prescribe antibiotics. But with the help of the Louisana Cattlewomen I made it to the urgent care factility, saw the doctor, and got my prescriptions in time to enjoy a dinner of charbroiled oysters at Drago's in Metarie.

So here I am tonight. Sitting in my hotel room, drugged up, stuffed full of oysters and ready to get home to my family, unpack the suitcase and enjoy the rest of the weekend sitting on the couch watching football with a broken collarbone, infected ear and grateful heart. Hey, at least I'm here, experiencing the ups and downs, joys and sorrows and aches and pains of life!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Takes Heat Over Marathon

I find it interesting to read all of the news coverage about the Chicago Marathon -- most of it criticizing organizers for their handling of the unusually high heat and humidity during the race this past Sunday. Some people seem to think the event was too big, some think officials should have cancelled the race sooner and still others think it should not have been cut short. I think they're all a bunch of Monday morning quarterbacks who should sit in their Lazy Boys and find something else to write about.

First of all, the runner who died had a common heart condition known as mitral valve prolapse. We had a man die of a heart attack in a 5K race in Kansas City two years ago in optimal weather conditions. Was the race too big? No. Too hot? No. Was the death the fault of the race organizers? No. Obviously, a death in a race is tragic, but are we going to start requiring every participant to pass a physical? I sure hope not. Even that would not prevent injury or death.

Second, the heat and humidity were high, but not terribly unusual or life threatening. According to the chart below from WGN-TV and the Chicago Tribune, the high temperature was 84F at noon with a heat index of 92F, which means the relative humidity was about 70%. And it was only 83 F with a heat index of 89F when organizers decided to close the course to runners not past the halfway point around 11:30 -- three and half hours into the race (which is not unreasonable).

Sporting events like this are held all over the country in worse conditions, just not as high profile as the Chicago Marathon (in other words, the media doesn't pay much attention). For example, the Vineman 70.3 Half Ironman triathlon in July featured temps and humidity near 90. According to my MotionBased track of the event we reached a high of 89.6F and 88% relative humidity. I ran those numbers through the National Weather Service's Heat Index Calculator and came up with a heat index of 116F! No wonder I felt like I was dying towards the end of the run!

But I didn't die because I stayed hydrated. Heat becomes deadly when you sweat excessively and don't replace fluids. When you become dehyrdated, heat remains in your blood and your organs slowly cook (see below). The one valid criticism I have read is there wasn't enough water available on the course. That is a problem and is probably why many runners were unable to finish. Even then, I understand many runners were using the water cups to pour water on themselves - which may feel good but does nothing to prevent dehydration. That's just selfish and stupid and not the fault of the organizers.

So I have decided that criticizing the organizers is unfair. The criticism really belongs on the backs of the participants who failed to prepare properly, stay hydrated and didn't stop themselves before their body shut down on its own. The bottomline is every participant needs to know their own abilities and pay attention to warning signs.

The Chicago Marathon is yet another example of where we need to accept a little more responsibility for our own health and safety. It's time to stop suing McDonald's for obesity, blaming Crocs for elevator accidents and criticizing race organizers for Mother Nature. I certainly know I will be more careful the next time I ride my bike (and will continue to wear my helmet)!


P.S. Overhydrating can also be dangerous. Excessive water consumption can result in a condition called hyponatremia, better known as water intoxication. Hyponatremia occurs when the sodium concerntration in plasma falls too low, probably as a result of drinking too much water while losing too much salt.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An Exercise in Empathy

If you ever get to feeling too comfortable in life, try wearing an immobilizing sling on your good arm for a week (you can borrow mine when I'm done with it!). It's a great exercise in empathy. Consider the millions of people living with disabilities for their entire lives. We live in a two-handed, walking upright world of sight and sound. Losing any one of those abilities requires you to adapt in a big way. I'm thankful my disability is temporary.

Over two weeks have passed since I collided with a car and broke my right collar bone. I believe my body's natural healing process is working as intended. I can tell because I no longer feel the sensation of the broken bones rubbing together, catching, popping loose, etc. The broken area seems to have stabilized. The initial pain has moderated to discomfort. No longer a pain in my shoulder, the break is now more just a pain in the butt!

Every little task is tougher -- shaving, brushing my teeth, putting in and taking out my contacts, buttoning my shirt, grilling steaks, typing on a computer (ever tried hitting "control/alt/delete" with one hand?). I'm getting pretty good at doing all these things left-handed, but I'm sure it will go back to being the lazy limb once my right is functional again. Sleeping is still difficult, since I can only lay in one position comfortably. But I'm even getting used to that.

Not being able to drive is the biggest inconvenience. I hate being dependent on Leslie to drive me around. One side benefit, though, is commuting together. We're saving gas money and spending more time together. We should keep this going after I'm able to drive again, but probably won't because she won't let me listen to my radio station and I take up the space where she keeps her "stuff." Major issues ;)

Every time I feel like complaining I think about my friend Eldon Roush, a Cat 3 cyclist who was in a serious accident during a race this past April 28 near Lawrence, Kansas, breaking his C5 and C6 vertebrae. The doctors say the odds are that Eldon will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, but he is determined to beat those odds. Leslie and I went to school with Eldon at Ottawa University, where he played on the OU Braves football team. We reconnected when we moved to KC 10 years ago and as I got into cycling and triathlons, Eldon always encouraged me and would invite me to ride with him, even though it meant he'd have to slack off considerably in order to avoid leaving me in the dust! And now Eldon encourages me and so many other people who are following his road to recovery.

To read more about Eldon's inspirational story, log on to http://www.carepages.com/, complete a short, free registration process, and enter the Carepage name "eldonroush." You will be inspired by Eldon's faith, determination and positive attitude. Here is the most recent entry from his CarePage:

26 September 26, 2007 at 07:48 PM CDT
Sometimes I feel like Job, the bible character. It seems like so many things have been taken from me in order to test whether or not I still believe in God. So much of my life was built around the ability to walk. I loved the outdoors; everything outdoors and this was taken from me. Other things, too numerous to mention have also gone wrong since that April morning, yet, so many things have been given to me in return. Friends, family, and people I do not even know have willingly given us money, remodeled our house and offered up their prayers. The weekend of September 8th was yet another example. A charity ride held in conjunction with the Tour of Missouri (pro bicycle race) was held to raise money for me to cover medical expenses. The initial estimate was that about 100 – 200 riders would attend. That Sunday, over 600 riders showed up – what a truly amazing and overwhelming sight. That Tuesday, the first stage of the race held on the Plaza, Janet and I arrived on the Plaza to find a huge banner that said, “The Tour of Missouri Supports Eldon Roush”. Again, this was a humbling honor and a testament to God’s power. Truly, like Job, what was taken from me has been rewarded back to me thrice.

I would write more updates, but I feel that since the progress happens more slowly now that I would be wasting everyone’s time. Every week, though, I am able to look back at the prior week and see that progress has been made. Every therapy session we work on standing and walking in the parallel bars. I have gotten to the point where I can stand without any assistance from the therapist (my hands are on the bars, though) work on balance. We then take steps. My ability to stay up is good, but I am still having a really hard time lifting my foot up enough to move it forward. When I can lift it up or the therapist lifts it up for me, then I am able to kick it forward. When we are not working on standing, then we work on core strength. I do things like crawling and then standing in a kneel position. All of this is so very hard. If you want more updates or other stories from me on a more frequent basis, then let me know with your feedback. By the way, last Saturday, I was able to get on my riding mower and mow the yard. What a great feeling to do something for a change. Never give up, never stop trying.

Keep the faith, Eldon. We are all pulling for you!