The Doctors, and Heart Rates  

Posted by FLATOUT JIM in ,

My wife is a fan of a show called “The Doctors” a talk show brought to you by the creaters of Dr. Phil, so you have an idea where it is heading.

I don’t get to watch often, but on Friday, I caught the head doctor talking to a group of 3 women, and talking about exercise and heart rate. Now I don’t know about menopause, or Biodenticals etc. But I know training and heart rates, so I gave a listen.

I am not a doctor, but In my 6 years doing triathlons, I have done a lot of reading on the topic of heart rates and heart rate training. One of the first lessons I learned when researching heart rates is that you can use calculate it, by taking 220 and subtracting your age. The second lesson I learned is that this formula is about as useful for determining training heart rate as the Wheel of Fortune.

So what method do you think “The Doctors” recommended on their web site? The old unreliable 220-age.

This annoys me because these guys are paraded across the stage and introduced as all knowing and wise because they have medical degrees. The scary thing is that for the same reason, they have the power to make people believe in things about their health when it really isn’t true.

Dispensing incorrect advice about getting your heart rate up during exercise is dangerous enough. Immagine if they were to advise on topics that could really affect your health. SCARY.

If you did catch the show, please please please check back later this week to see my post on heart rate training to see how experts in the topic propose to set your heart rates.

Battered by yet another winter storm  

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Battered by yet another winter storm, with an even worse one to come on Sunday. Fun weekend.

Yesterdays was not brutal by any stretch, but bad enough for a snow day for the school kids. Including my 8 year old head coach/son. I left work early to try and clear the driveway before the precipitation turned to rain, and the snow in my driveway turned to slush.

Good plan in theory. I only got my snowblower about 50 feet before I started to feel a burning tightening in my lower back. I sound like such an old man, but that’s ok because right now I feel like an old man. I can’t bend over, and can’t straighten up. It even hurts to use the potty. The snowblower was supposed to prevent all that. CRAP!!!

I think I’ll go home early today, and lie flat on my back in bed, take some powerful drugs and see if I can recover enough to get on the floor and do some stretches. My live at home yoga instructor/wife said that I should be doing more core work. Well she is always right, but this time she is even righter.

Please wish me well. I really want to recover soon. I haven’t been to a masters swim since last year.


HBC Run for Canada Cancelled  

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Any of my Canadian friends reading this, should go check out the latest release from HBC regarding the hugely popular Run for Canada.

If you go to the site, you will see a square badge in the top left hand corner, with a black background, and a swirl of green red yellow and blue, over the initials Hbc, and a caption to the right stating “Great things for Canada.” But the “Important Notice” is anything but great for Canadians. It starts with how The Hudson Bay Company is proud to celebrate its long standing connection with Canadians beyond the walls of the store, then slaps you in the face with, by the way, we are concentrating on the upcoming 2010 Olympics, and therefore are cancelling the Hugely popular Canada Day fun run where ordinary Canadians, most of whom will never even get close to an Olympic games, could celebrate being a proud Canadian with their entire family, enjoying a healthy activity.

I still haven’t figured out how I am going to tell my 8 year old. He has participated two years running and is already asking about next year. Now I have to find a way to break it to him that what was turning into a bit of a family tradition, is no more.

The so called reasoning is that are focusing on the upcoming Olympic Games, and somehow that’s supposed to make it ok. My 8 year old won’t understand that the run, his run has been cancelled in favour of an event that he will most likely, never ever have an opportunity to participate in.

As for the Great things for Canada, in my opinion, that’s a little hypocritical.
Oh and by the way, there is also a contact link on the page as well. I have already sent my opinion.

Spin Class and Bib Shorts  

Posted by FLATOUT JIM in

I find it a little hard to get motivated this time of year. It’s cold out, and most of the time, training is done alone. My Tuesday spin class is one of the only opportunities I get for adult socialization, so I do look forward to it.

I have discovered that a good pair of bib shorts can be your best friend during a tough spin workout. If you don’t know what bib shorts are, they are padded cycling shorts with a high cut waist and shoulder straps. the straps along with the high cut is what makes them awesome. It keeps them from shifting and bunching, and keeps the chamois where it needs to be. If you do know what they are but don’t have a pair, or if you have a pair but are saving them for the open road, try them at a spin class.

Mine are Cannondale brand, and they came from my LBS, I really wanted the Sugoi, they had a really really thick chamois, but my size was not in stock.

These are the most comfortable things in the world when you are sweating through a tough spin workout. Wearing a good comfy pair of bib shorts can make an hour workout seem like an hour and a half instead of two hours.

Fettuccini Alfredo  

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Our recipe archive is a big yellow file folder on top of the microwave, and after a bit of a hiatus, we dug this one out. Its a Fettuccini Alfredo, its pretty good, and pretty healthy. The ingredients are,

2 Quarts Chicken Broth
8 oz Pasta, Whole Wheat Fettuccini or linguini
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/2 cup Low Fat plain yogurt
2 TBSP Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic
3 TBSP Parsley
2 TBSP Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste

The Pasta
The chicken broth is for cooking the Pasta. Bring the stock to a boil in a pot large enough to cook all the pasta with a little cooking oil to prevent it from sticking together. Add the Pasta and cook until Al dente, Firm but Tender.

The Chicken
Mince 2 cloves of the garlic, and throw it in a large skillet or frying pan with 1 TBSP of Olive Oil, then throw in the two chicken breasts. Cook on both sides until done through, but be careful not to overcook. Remove from the skillet or pan, cut into strips and set aside.

The Alfredo Sauce
Mix the sour cream and yogurt together in a small dipper, and heat it up over low heat. Add in 1 TBSP of the Parmesan, and add in a ladle full of the chicken stock that the pasta is cooking in. (The Starch from the Pasta in the Broth helps thicken the sauce.) Only heat enough to blend in the parmesan.

The Dish
Mince the remaining 2 cloves of garlic, and add it to the skillet along with the remaining TBSP of olive oil. Sweat the garlic a little, then add in the sauce, cooked pasta, and chicken. Mix it all together, in the skillet. Serve topped with a little of the remaining parmesan and a little parsley. We also threw in a couple of cups of broccoli. You can also add a little salt and pepper to taste.

This makes about 4 servings, although the amounts of chicken and pasta can be adjusted to suit your training or family needs.

Please Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Age and Beauty  


The older I get, the more of a soft spot I have for the experienced athlete. The people who, seem to be able to excel in their chosen field of performance, despite their age.

And that’s another reason why the Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship was such an awesome experience. It’s always exciting to watch an up and coming athlete grow into a champion like Craig Alexander, but for me it is equally exciting to see someone who has been paying their dues for a while, finally get their payoff.

In 2003, in my second year in triathlon, I travelled to Corner Brook for the ITU World Cup and Corner Brook Triathlon. It was such a thrill to see professional athletes from all over the world preparing for the upcoming 2004 Olympics in Athens. Names at the event that year included Andy Potts, Jill Savage, Hamish Carter, Bevan Docherty, Sheila Taormina, and Joanna Zeiger. It was like watching an issue of Triathlete Magazine come to life.

In T3, while making the turn around the end of the bike racks, there was a collision between Joanna Zeiger and another athlete, and Zeiger fell and badly cut her lower leg on one of her front sprokets. It happened right in front of me, and it was nasty. A race official came over and started to tend to the tear stricken injured athlete, when out of the blue, she decided, enough of this BS, got back up on her feet, racked her bike, changed into her racing flats and started out onto the very tough hilly 10k course.

On each trip through transition on each of her three loops, the bleeding on her lower leg appeared to be getting worse and worse. By the time she finished, you couldn’t tell what brand of shoes she was wearing because they were soaked with blood. She finished the race and placed somewhere in the mid twenties, and then was sent straight to the med tent, and I am sure from there, went on to The Western Memorial Hospital. It was Corner Brooks version of Julie Moss.

When I qualified for Clearwater, One of the first things I did was check to see what professionals would be attending. I am not only an athlete but a huge fan of the sport, and I relished the opportunity to be able to compete in the same event as a lot of my favorite athletes. I found out Joanna Zeiger would be there, and I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to see her place here after watching her persevere in Corner Brook.

Things don’t always work out that way, but sometimes they do, and you get to see something special, like someone who has been paying in for so long, reap the rewards. Joanna went on to win the female pro division, in a time of just under 4:03. After the race, at the awards banquet, I couldn’t help but feel a little vindicated and reassured that hard work and perseverance does pay off.

After I returned home, and got my family and I straightened away, I went to her web site, and sent her a congratulatory email. Much to my surprise, she sent me a reply the very next day from her blackberry, thanking me for the email.

Joanna, if you ever get a chance to read this, once congratulations, and best of luck, next year, maybe, just maybe, Kona will be next.

Newton Gravity and New Balance 800  


On page 88 of the February 2009 edition of Runners World, you’ll find an article entitled “A Step Forward? Shoes for midfoot strikers offer mixed results”

The article reviews Newton Gravity, and New Balance 800, two brands of shoes designed and built for runners who run with a fore or mid foot strike. The article begins with the statement “While most runners land on their heels, a small percentage of biomechanically blessed runners land on the middle of their feet.”
The article goes on to describe how the shoes are designed to work similar to the bare; Reports on lab tests with nine different runners; and then concludes by saying that there is room for improvement.

Although the article does describe good points and bad points for each shoe, I have some issues with it, starting with the opening statement. It is probably true that a majority of runners are heel strikers; the article almost singles out midfoot strikers as a subgroup of freaks, “biomechanically blessed.” I think there are way more midfoot strikers than the authors think. In fact, if you were to look at the top finishers in any race, anywhere in the world, I bet you would find that forefoot strikers would be the norm, and heel strikers would be the exception. I am talking about the 2 to 3 hour marathoners, or the 30 to 40 minute 10 kers. Just watch the next televised race on TV. The front of the packers are certainly not striking with their heels first.

The next issue I have with the article is how they describe the inflexibility of the midsole and how it “doesn’t bend effectively with the foot as it flexes through the toe off. “ The running stride as taught by the Pose method incorporates a lift of the foot as opposed to a push off of the toe. As for the sole being too stiff, I use Newtons, and I don’t find it a problem.

Finally, there is not much in the way of details on the nine testers. There is no background on their running technique. Remember, these shoes were designed and built for a specific running style. If the testers do not run with this style, the review is invalid. It’s the same as having 9 truck drivers test drive F1 race cars, or 9 hockey players test figure skates. And I know for a fact that Newton goes to great lengths to ensure anyone inquiring about their products understands this. Just check out their web site, or better yet, give them a call.

I would advise anyone contemplating trying a pair of these shoes to try the shoes on their own, and form your own opinion. Don’t base your final decision on this article. I run with a mid foot strike, and I use Newtons, and love them. Stay Tuned for a comprehensive review of the shoes.

Swimming and Fear  


I have talked to various runners and cyclists about the idea of trying a triathlon, and I have found that there seems to be a common barrier to new people entering the sport. That barrier is the swim. People are quite confident that they can train for and complete the distance for the Bike, and the Run, but the thought of completing a swim of distances of 500m or 1500m or even 2.4 miles for an ironman seems like such an unattainable goal to those not coming from a swimming background.

I can sympathise. I felt exactly the same way. In fact I still remember my very first open water swim. A fellow new athlete, along with a third experienced athlete, started out onto the first leg of the 1000m loop from our local race. The plan was to see how we felt after a few minutes, and If we weren’t comfortable, we would all turn back.

As it turned out, I was a much better swimmer than I thought I was. I was more than prepared, and more than capable. When I decided to stop and look up to see where I was, I was surprised to find that I was almost 2/3 of the way across the pond, and by then it was just as well to keep going.

The key to getting to that point was lots of practice, and lots of time in the pool. That makes this post timely because since it’s the dead of winter, it’s the right to get in the pool.

Growing up, swimming wasn’t my sport. I never had the opportunity to be properly coached and learn proper swim technique. I learned to swim and stay afloat, and have fun at the pool, and later in life, I had even taken some adult lessons and they helped a little, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon Total Immersion that I really progressed my swim.

I bought the book, and started in on the drills. I understood the philosophy, it made sense to me. I followed the drill progression to the letter, and within about six to eight weeks, I felt comfortable enough to venture into the slowest lane of the masters swim.

That was six years ago. This past November, at the Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship, I set a PR for a half ironman swim of 34:17. I considered that to be a huge success, and I am convinced that a big part of my success is returning to drills and slow swimming every fall and early winter. Pace time is not important at this time of year. Stroke count is key, and getting efficient and smooth is the focus.

For anyone out there considering giving triathlon a try, but who might be apprehensive about the water, get in the pool, start practicing, consider some lessons from a qualified instructor or coach with adult experience, and get it done. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Gordo Has a New Web Site.  


Check out Endurance Corner by Canadian Long Distance Triathlon Guru Gordo Byrne.

During my training for Ironman Florida, Gordoworld was my number one bookmark. I think I read every article and blog posted on the site. It was a constant source of information, and inspiration. I have to admit that I did not follow all of his recommendations such as the modified Paleo Diet, and I didn’t have enough time to undertake the volumes of training he did, but what I found more interesting were the reasons and philosiphy’s behind why he trained, ate, and coached the way he did.

Gordo has taken a lot of his most relevant information from his Gordoworld location and re-organized it. In his own words, “The new site is a free resource for Endurance Training, Triathlon and Nutrition. I have taken my most popular writings from the last ten years; reworked them and published into a single location”

I’ll spare you a full career summary of Gordo, but I will say that what drew me to his writing was the fact that like me, he was an ordinary guy who decided one day that he was tired of being out of shape. He completed his first Ironman in 1999 in just over 11 hours. His best result so far was a second place overall at Ironman Canada in 2004 in a time of 8:29.

Gordo is also a co-author of Going Long. A must read for anyone considering a long distance race. His writing partner is none other than Joe Friel, author of The Triathlete's Training Bible.

Check out both of his sites, and go back often. And here’s wishing Gordo much success in the upcoming season.

Winning and Losing  


Before Christmas, on my drive in to work, one morning, I was listening to The morning show with Geoff Gilhooly on CBC radio, I heard an interesting conversation with Robin Brown, host of the CBC sports program, “Inside Track.” She was in town for an appearance at a reading of a Christmas Carol.

Robin talked about her trip to Beijing, and her coverage of the Olympics. And she recounted what she felt was her most memorable story. Adam Van Koeverden was a heavy gold medal favorite in a couple of events, but uncharacteristically bonked in his first race. He then had to regroup, and motivate himself, and rebound with a silver in his next event.

Robin commented on how hard this was for Van Koeverden, and how this was really uncharted waters for him. He had really never failed at anything he had attempted, so losing the gold medal in the 500 was really a blow.

That made me think about competition, and winning, and losing, and what it all means. I wondered what would be the long term effects of him having to rebound after such a disappointing first effort. How different would he have been if he had lived up to expectations and won gold in both events?

I thought about Michael Phelps. What if he had fallen short of his goal of 8 gold medals? What if he had been a close second in his last event? What if he had missed the gold in his first event? How would he have been different, not only as an athlete, but as a person. Would he be able to rebound from a disappointing result and carry on with success, after all 7 gold medals would still be quite an achievement.

Sometimes coming second is not such a bad thing. There is a striking difference in Canada and the US. In the US it seems to be all about the numbers. Being number one doesn’t just mean winning a gold in your event, or being considered the best in the world among your peers. I think that in the US, winning gold means the country is one medal closer to being better than all the other countries. It only becomes noteworthy if you set a world record, or achieve something extraordinary like winning 8 gold medals. If you don’t set a record, or if you medal in some obscure sport like air rifle, or rhythmic gymnastics, you go virtually unnoticed. I am not knocking it, I am just stating what I think is reality. After all, it’s hard for people to get excited about a bronze medal in female wrestling when the rest of the world is focusing on Michael Phelps.

In Canada, I don’t know if it’s because we have accepted the fact that we won’t win the numbers of medals as the US, or if we are simply wired differently, but I really think we actually appreciate more, the come from behind sprint by Simon Whitfield in Sydney, or the bronze by Silken Laumann in Barcelona after a serious crash with another boat in training nearly ended her career just two and a half months earlier.

Losing is not the end of the world. And sometimes it can be more valuable in defining a person’s character than winning. The key is how you deal with it, and if you can learn from it, and take those lessons and make yourself stronger.



After another holiday season packed with too much wine, too much turkey, and way too much chocolate, I found myself looking to once again start clean, and get back to real food. In my quest to find ideas for wholesome healthy meals, I trolled the online versions of the usual lineup of multi sport related magazines, Triathlete, Inside Triathlon, Bicycling, but I found the best source of food ideas and recipes to be Runners World.

One of the first recipes I tried was KOTO KAPAMA (CINNAMON CHICKEN). The sauce was a spicy tangy delight, and the flavour of the sauce was absorbed by the chicken. I served it on a plate with Couscous and steamed vegetables.

The recipe lists the nutritional information for the chicken without the skin as Calories: 360 Protein: 40 g Carbs: 18 g Fat: 11 g.

I prepared it just like the recipe, starting with a whole chicken, and cutting it up into pieces. This made the prep time a little long, and I am sure you could substitute a pack of fryer parts or even your own favorite parts like breasts, drumsticks, or thighs.

The positives, MMMMMMM Good. Even my 8 year old son liked it. Plus I had to open a full bottle of wine, to get half a cup. I couldn’t let the rest go bad, so I had to drink it. Like I need another excuse to drink more wine.

The negatives, The prep time was a little long. Especially if you start with a whole chicken and cut it up yourself, however, I made it on a Sunday afternoon, so I had ample time, and next time, I think I’ll make double the batch, and freeze some.

Definitely try this one, and let me know what you think.

Winter Workout  


It’s Newfoundland, It’s the middle of the winter, it’s sub zero and icy and snowy outside. Cycling on the roads is pretty much out of the question for all but the most hard core. So the rest of us are doomed to the basement on the trainer or spin bike.

If you are doing one or two mid week 45 to 60 minute spins or maybe even a spin class, here is an idea for a weekend spin.

Get a movie and pop it in the player for a 90 to 120 minute spin. But make sure the movie has a couple of scenes in there that you can use to do a specific skill like a climb, spin-up, or tempo effort.

As an example, a couple of weeks ago, I popped in a copy of the classic cycling movie Breaking Away
The running time is about an hour and a half. After a 10 minute warm up, I spun through the movie at about a low zone 4, but during every cycling scene like the tractor trailer chase scene, I hammered it out at tempo, zone 5b or better for as long as I could hold pace.

The classic hockey movie, Slap Shot
is another good one (I am Canadian afterall) Every time there was a scene on the ice, same thing, hammered at tempo. When a fight broke out, I got up out of the saddle for a climb. This one ran for almost two hours, and if you know the movie, there are lots of fights, so it was particularly tough. I have to admit, I cut it short at about 1:45.

If you try this, It’s very important to keep the effort at zone 4 during the bulk of the spin. This is your go to target zone. It’s important to make sure you do a good warmup, and include some short 30 second hard efforts, or your heart rate will never get up to the zone.

Try it and Let me know your favourite movie, and I’ll post it here.

Favorite Workout  

Posted by FLATOUT JIM in

One of my favorite workouts is what I call a "half and half." I started doing this workout during my 2008 Ironman Newfoundland 70.3 preparations.

In recent years, bricks have gravitated towards medium to short transition runs of no longer than 20 to 30 minutes, after a medium to long bike ride. The rationale is that the benefit of a long run after a training ride is outweighed by the penalty paid in a longer recovery period. But out of the necessity for me to get in quality run sessions midweek while still maintaining a bike focus, I decided to experiment with some bricks, and came up with this one.

I call it a half and half because the session is done with equal time on the bike and on the run. I did mine as a 45 minute ride and 45 minute run. The key to getting maximum benefit out of the session is to set up the run with a good effort on the ride, then follow with a quick transition, and then a tempo run.

By cyclist standards, A 45 minute ride is not much. However the idea is not to use it to build cycling endurance, but to ready your body for the run session to come. On the bike, I usually do a 10 to 15 minute warmup, and then a couple of good efforts, either some short hill climbs, or better yet, some short intervals, in the aerobars, at race pace or better, on my race bike. The finish is not so much a cool down as a 5 or 10 minute spin, same as you would do at the end of the bike leg of your A race.Once I get home, I transition into my running shoes, and then do a loop from my house. I head out, and try to get my legs turning over, and deepen my breathing. Once I settle into a good strong pace, I concentrate on holding it for the entire loop. The distance is roughly 9km, and at tempo pace, I am usually about 42 to 43 minutes.

This is a great 90 minute workout, and helps you build some speed at distance, as well as getting in an extra bike ride. Again the key is to concentrate, and focus on a couple of good efforts on the bike, and then on holding pace on the run.

Once the snow disappears, give it a try, and let me know how you make out.