Thursday, May 29, 2014

2014 Pole Pedal Paddle

Seems like last year we had months to prepare for the PPP; this time, it was about two weeks. Fortunately, we’ve got a good template to follow: take what we did last year, then wash/rinse/repeat.
I decided not to mark the run course on Friday night. I’d still have to verify everything on race morning, and I didn’t want the local hooligans having a chance to mess things up. So I had an extra glass of wine and went to bed early.

Race day, around 0530; I hope Molly’s prediction of 73 degrees comes to pass, because it is positively frigid right now. But it sure is pretty in Farewell Bend Park; clear, crisp, and oh so quiet. All that will change shortly.
 The Aid Station food delivery arrives, and what do I see? The entire Evans family wearing Vibrams on their feet. First big smile of the day!

It didn’t take long for me to mark the course (or to experience the first injury of the day). Evidently, I’ve forgotten what every kid knows: be careful when using chalk on pavement.

Is there anything better than coming across a pristine PortaJohn and being the first to use it?

One of my run course volunteers, brand new to town, just finished a night shift and came straight out to the race. Volunteers are awesome!
While riding the course on my bike and making sure things are set, I come across this couple; Austin and Renee. They run an athlete recovery lounge in town; I might need to go there later. And Renee is a professional runner. Later, I see her absolutely destroying the course with something like a 5:15 second mile. Serious wheels!

I really don’t know what to say about this guy
Under the Healy Bridge with a mile to go in the run, there’s a string quartet playing Irish folk music! I swear, Bend is the best place in the world to live.

Here’s German guy Rolf: two years ago, he was starting the run long after course marshals told us the race was over. See, Rolf had finished the bike leg, then ducked into a pub to see the results of the European soccer championship. When the match went into extended overtime, he stayed at the bar while consuming multiple beverages. Then he finished the race in dead last, but with a big smile on his face.

Best dressed support staff EVER.
A fairly straightforward day, as evidenced by my car at 3pm. Contents include extra lunches and t-shirts for volunteers, course signs, orange duct tape, chalk, flour course marking, emergency phone numbers, and who knows what else.
Everything a good Sherpa needs!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Recovery in Style...

What do you do when the legs are sore or fatigued, and you're in the middle of an intense training cycle that's only going to get more intense?

I know: you wear your compression socks, you put your feet up, you try to sleep more, and you hope like hell that you feel better in the morning.

That's what most people do, because it's all they CAN do.

But what if there was a place you could go? A self-service kind of place that gave you a range of options, not to mention every recovery tool on the planet?

Some might call such a place Fantasyland.

In Bend, Oregon, we call it Recharge.

The brainchild of Austin and Renee Baillie, this concept is so brilliant that it makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Walk in, pay a nominal daily fee or a monthly/annual membership, and go play. Virtually everything you could possibly need to force the lactic acid out of your body is located here. 

For starters, they have a nice array of nutritional products, from Picky Bars to Pocket Fuel to Honey Stingers and much more.... they also have some homegrown Paleo Bars that hit the spot so perfectly after a depleting workout.

Then there are the toys...pretty much every device you'll need to coax your body back into shape. You'll recognize some of the items here: medicine balls, kettle weights, balance boards, and more.

There are two devices in particular that deserve extra notice. One is the vibrating (!) roller; oh man, this thing is amazing. More stimulating than a standard foam roller, you'll get much deeper into the muscle tissue. You should see the face of someone using this device; it almost should be done behind closed doors.

The other toy is the white clampy-looking thing in the picture above, hanging on the black mat in the upper right. It's called an R8 Roller, and it is simply amazing. Essentially a spring-loaded C-clamp with skateboard wheels, you open the jaws and put it where things hurt. Think of a stick roller that is fourteen hundred times more powerful and takes a tenth of the effort to exert force. The R8 is that good.

Pure genius; I've worked up a sweat using standard rollers and without getting very deep into the muscle. This R8 does all the work for you....I can easily roll it across my quads and hamstrings with one hand. Brilliant concept: designed by Jeremy and Adriana Nelson in Boulder (friends of Austin and Renee), this device is possibly the single-best recovery aid I've ever used.

And then there are the boots....

Yes, I know: that's what certain industries call 'the money shot.' The bread and butter.

Many endurance athletes are familiar with these bad boys. Basically, it's a blood pressure cuff on steroids; there are sleeves that will fit your legs, hips, shoulders, whatever hurts. You hook up an air supply from a control unit about the size of a lunchbox, and the boots cycle through compression and release, compression and release.

 I cannot stress enough how incredibly effective these boots are. And relaxing, too: it is SO easy to fall asleep while getting squeezed by the leg sleeves. Then you'll wake up feeling like your body is on the way back. Recharge even has a version that circulates ice water through the boots along with the compression; we call that "the squeeze and freeze."

Renee, a professional marathoner, actually carried the boots while traveling and set up shop right in the middle of Newark Airport while waiting for a flight. Hey, we runners are used to getting funny looks shot our way...

The piece de resistance is at the back of the lounge. First, an infrared sauna that heats you from the inside out. More effective than a standard dry-heat sauna, the IR penetrates the muscle tissue more effectively with less dehydration.

Then, after a quick shower in the adjoining locker room, it's into the tubs (Renee is sitting on the red tubs in the shot below). Cold and hot contrast tubs, side by side. I have a serious love-hate relationship with these two; the cold, while 'only' 55 degrees or so, will elicit every four-letter word in my vocabulary upon entry. Five minutes later, the move into the hot side is blessed relief.

I'll typically repeat that cycle two or three times; after a half hour, my legs are tingling and alive. It's an addiction, I tell you: my drug of choice. And as you can see in the picture, the lounging area can be a social hotspot of sorts. A person in the boots or the tubs is a captive audience, and it's really nice to trade ideas and listen to the way other people train.

I would be remiss without mentioning the other huge benefit of Recharge, and that is the amazing hands-on repair courtesy of Austin Baillie. A former collegiate runner at UC Boulder (no further cred needed), he is a certified massage therapist who counts something like 25 Olympians as his current or past clients, including two-time Gold Medalist Mo Farah.

Austin is a master of leverage and technique: with my eyes closed, I'd swear he weighs 300 pounds and holds a grudge. He'll go to any level you want, and HE WILL FIX YOUR BODY. I went to him with a calf strain and a marathon in seven weeks; three days after he worked on me, I ran 18 miles with no discomfort at all. The man knows his stuff.

After having opened Recharge just last August, their business has been booming. They are in the process of remodeling a much larger space nearby that will include all of the above plus room for cardio, yoga, etc... And they have licensed their business plan to a new location near San Francisco: some cyclists who came into town for a race fell in love with the concept and begged the Baillies to share their brilliance with the world.

I've told friends in faraway places about Recharge, and they practically cry with jealousy at the genius of the concept.

Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out on life. Then I go to Recharge, and everything makes sense again.