Death in Triathlon

is always news, because it is news, and because it happens so infrequently. Last weekend saw at least two deaths in races, the most prominent was the death of 75-year-old Jim Hix in the USA Nationals. Jim had to be rescued from the swim and subsequently pronounced dead. At the time of writing, no cause of death has been established.

The other death I was able to find was that of Dr Mark Wladecki during a triathlon in Gibsonburg Ohio at the White Star 5K and Multisport Festival. According to the press write-up, 60-year-old Wladecki "failed to stop at a stop sign" during the bike section, and was hit and killed.

For those of us that are triathletes, and cyclists, death reports are a stark reminder of the risks we take. Recently while a volunteer Captain, running VIP Services for the Boulder Ironman 70.3, I got to witness, first hand, my first death in sport.

At the time, my first reaction was what was going on, as a saw the rescue team on jet ski's converging fast at a pint not far from the finish of the swim. I was almost shocked to see how they cut through the swimmers. It was quickly obvious this was indeed a rescue, and this excused the speed and danger the other competitors were put in.

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  • Current Location: Louisville, CO
  • Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
  • Current Music: Cocomotion (album) El Coco

Wildflower Experience tech shirts available

We have a couple of #wildflowertriathlon #wildflowerexperience tech t-shirts that don't fit... A women's medium and a large. The large is only slightly bigger than the women's medium. I think the large may be kids sizing, it's definately not men's. They are free for local pickup, otherwise I'll mail them out for a PayPal $3.99 - neither says long course..

Leave a comment, or email me.
  • Current Location: Boulder, CO
  • Current Mood: Selling baby

Wildflower Longcourse 2018 - Race report

I don't have a race report on Wildflower Long course when I did it in 2003, I didn't start on livejournal until January 2004. Just after deciding to enter for the 2018 race, as motivation for a formal comeback post-heart attack, I wrote up this article for 303 Triathlon. It was poorly formatted when posted, but you get the idea.

Wildflower 2003 for me had all been about an epic journey to an epic race. As it turned out, the race was subject to major run course changes due to rain leading up to, and during the race. I remember not being as prepared as I'd liked to have been; breaking a front wheel spoke and it buckling, and struggling on the run up a massive hill twice instead of once on the regular run course.

From memory, my result(7:22) was a reflection of the very tough run course, and the broken spoke and buckled wheel. I could beat it, even post-heartattack and 15-years later. How wrong I was.

In my 19-years or so of triathlon, I've had some pretty disappointing results. I've DNF'd a few times. One of the first being the MiamiMan in 2006 (race report here). Most of my poor race results were really no more than being too blasé and not treating the course with enough deference. That was in the end my story of Wildflower 2018 Long Course.


IMG_20180501_174354.jpgWe rented a 32ft RV from Cruise America and loaded it up with 2-race bikes, and 3-mountain bikes to get around on while we were there. The drive was a frantic one, across Colorado, through Utah, across a tiny part of Arizona, through Nevada and into California. It involved a overnight stops and a lot of gas. Overall it was a 1224-mile journey that took just over 2.5 days. The return was pretty much the same.

While the ratio of travel time to race weekend was far too much travel, it was definitely the easiest to get to the race with a LOT of stuff. We had limited time as we'd taken A. out of school, with permission, and she had a concert on the Wednesday after the race, which was a must. So 5-days traveling for a 3-day race weekend. The RV was definitely the right way to go, just not on such a tight experience.

Cost wise, for 3x airline tickets, and transporting 2x race bikes, we might have got there quicker, but probably not cheaper. Admittedly the fooot to the floor driving burned a lot more gas than a more leisurely drive, but at $1600 for the RV, $600 for fuel, and another $600 for camp sites, a good deal.


Wildflower isn't just a race, it's an experience now. That's the official branding. There are way more options for camping and "glamping" now than there were back in 2003. Kates coach, Allison Freeman, wrote up a before and after on Wildflower that are worth reading.

Suffice to say, the key to a good experience for me was to get a full RV hookup site, at a decent rate. Mission accomplished, we even got some shade from the trees. In fact, we were not far from where we'd been in 2003, except this time we had a sewage dump.

After doing packet pickup, it was quickly obvious the worst thing about the "experience" was no printed race guide, and very poor cellphone coverage. That meant that even the easy questions couldn't be answered unless someone nearby knew the answer, or you went down to the Expo and asked at the information booth.

Information on when shuttles ran, if you could take bikes on the shuttle, how to get to Transition on race morning etc. were all much more difficult than they needed to be. This information could have been included in a single page insert available at check-in, or instead of being information that was dynamically fetched in the Wildflower app, it could have been built-in.

Overall though it was a great experience. Easy in, easy there, and easy-out late Sunday afternoon.


There was no day-before transition check-in, and so it was up early, prep everything and head down on the bike. The road down is not the easiest to ride down with a backpack full of race stuff.

I hadn't really studied the course, afterall I don't remember it being that tough from 2003.  The water was lower than I remember it in the lake, but not nearly as low as recent years. This made the run from the swim on concrete actually both hard, and fairly long. The start was pro's first, followed by a stream of age grouper waves. Disappointingly, the older male age groups started near the back, before the Mountain Bike Triathlon started. My age group, Men 55+ was the last long course age group, except the relays.

This I think will have meant a lot of the volunteers and the race organizers will have made the day longer than it need be. More on this later.


When my wave started, I stayed to the back and swam a pretty good swim. Although we were swimming into the sun for half the course, the bouys were easy to see and the course uncomplicated.

My swim felt OK, no hyperventilating and heart pounding moments. No major clashes with other athletes, just a steady swim. I found myself coming out of the water in 41:53 for the 1.2-mile swim, just under a minute slower than 2003 and at time that put me in 12th out of 33 in my age group.

All good so far.  As I said earlier it was a long run up the boat ramp and into transition. I was pretty breathless by the time I got there. I was out of T1 in a pedestrian 4:48, slowest in my age group. My heart rate had climbed to a race max 202BPM during the run. No wonder I was breathless.


I had bought my standard Guru Merus tri bike setup. With a standard 53/39T and an 11/25 cassette. How wrong could I have been. Frankly, I should have bought my Felt AR2 road bike. It has an 11/29 cassette and would have been a more comfortable ride, and definitely better for the climbs I'd completely forgotten about.

It took me nearly 8-miles to get my heart rate under control. This was especially true since within the first two miles there was an enormous climb up Beach Hill. For every section where I thought I was flying, there were two sections where I felt I was going to fall off my bike I was going so slow. Two thirds of the way up Nasty Grade, I watched one rider after another in front of my bail, I did the same. It was a long slow walk to the top.

I saw a fellow competitor act like a complete ass on the course. She had been standing at the side of the road and a pickup truck was following a slow moving, a safely passing grey saloon car. Everytime the car slowed, the truck honked and got irritated. When they got to her, she stepped out into the road and blocked the single lane. As the truck finally passed, she threw the contents of a water bottle at it. I was too far back to see if that actually hit. When I caught her a little later I made a mental note of her number. When the race photographs came out, checked it was her and emailed her Tri club and the race directors.

Towards the end of the bike, and especially in the last 5-miles, I picked up speed and got through to the dismount line. My bike time was a disappointing, 4:31 for the 56-miles. Again the slowest in my age group, and nearly an hour slower than my 2003 time.

In transition I wasted time trying to find a referee to report the rogue competitor to, couldn't find anyone, and left. Shortly out of a 6:02 T2, not the slowest but bottom five I started to meet a few other runners.


Out on the run course it was brutally hot. This was definately something I didn't experience in 2003. When I came off the bike, the temperature had been 93f without a hint of a breeze.I had a plan for sunscreen for the race, but changed it at the last minute.

This was a serious mistake. I'd felt weak and slighty disoriented in the latter stages of the bike. I was sure though this was because I'd been out longer than planned, not that I'd got sun stroke. I had. This was very reminiscent of the 2006 MiamiMan triathlon. Another long course race, another bandly managed sun block race.

I took this picture 6-days later at the pool. Not only is the burn still visible, but you can see where I had blood blisters on both shoulders. For a "former" redhead, this was a serious mistake.

For the second mile I ran alongside these two guys. One, #1517, Jim Crane from LA, was in my age group; the other, #1500, Robin Bittner, also from CA. We passed the photographer, and were running parallel to the shore, well before we got to Beach Hill, I glanced at my watch, did a mental calculation and decided to quit. Despite their offers to walk with me for a while, I declined, knowing there is not only no way I'd beat my 7:22 time from 2003, but also I was likely to be out there for maybe another 4-hours and wouldn't make the cutoff.

Given the heat and my heart attack, and that with a 4:55, and 6:02 half Ironman distance races in my record, I had nothing to proove. I walked back to the expo area, handed in my chip, in exchange for an iced towell and set off to find Kate and A.

Robin Bittner was in the 55-59 age group, and finished in 8:55:51. Jim Crane from my age group, 60-64, finished in 8:44:07. First place in our age group was Phil Furness in 5:48:14, and the last place finisher, finished in 9:21:05.

The cutoff for the longcourse race was 5:30pm. Given the 9 a.m. start time, anyone who went more than 8:30pm should have DNF'd. Making the older men go last, was a mistake. It should have meant 72-year old Ben Gribb, the only competitor in the 70-74 age group, DNF'd with an 8:47:57 finish, Robin, and Jim from my age group, as well as upto 20 ther men and a number of women also be DQ'd.

However, this isn't Ironman. They let people finish with friends a family, they let people who passed the cut-off finish and keep their results. And that is a big part of the Wildflower Experience, I can only recommend it.

Kate may race their again, I won't though. Never say never, but I just don't see me ever doing a long course triathlon again. I've said that before though. If I do though, next time I must choose the right equipment.

Next day I felt fine, and we were up early to support Kate as she did her first ever Olympic Distance triathlon, She'd trained hard, and got the result she deserved with only the run coming in outside of my projected time. She'd used a roadbike with compact cranks. Smart woman. I'm very proud of her. It's for her to decide to post pictures and race details.

Wildflower Longcourse race results are here.
My Garmin Connect race data is here(and public).

  • Current Location: Bradley, CA
  • Current Mood: Going up in smoke - Eddie Kendricks
  • Current Music: Did I mix this up with mood?

Walnut vs LDL Cholesterol

As previously discussed, cholesterol has been my downfall. The cause of the high LDL and low HDL has never been diagnosed. It's just been about changing the numbers to favor better heart health. Diet and drugs, drugs and diet.

The statin I was prescribed Atorvastatin (sold as Lipitor and generic) reduced the LDL, but they also significantly reduced my HDL. HDL, aka the good cholesterol, carry the LDL plaque to the liver for disposal. Worst of all for me the common side effects of fatigue, joint and muscle pain. I'm convinced, but I have no data to prove it, that despite a winter of base training, the Atorvastatin also meant I suffered from muscle wasting.

Having read this, extolling the virtues of the humble Walnut for managing cholesterol, I decided to look for the research to  support this claim, and quickly found.

  1. Walnuts Decrease Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Summary of Efficacy and Biologic Mechanisms
    Penny M. Kris-Etherton

    The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 144, Issue 4, 1 April 2014, Pages 547S–554S,

  2. Njike VY, Ayettey R, Petraro P, et al Walnut ingestion in adults at risk for diabetes: effects on body composition, diet quality, and cardiac risk measures BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care 2015;3:e000115. doi: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2015-000115

After reading the studies,I decided to give it a try, after all the statins were destroying my ability to train, and thus race. As a result causing a high level of frustration and depression. Before stopping taking the full dose of the Atorvastatin, I got a lipid panel Cholesterol test.

I waited 30-days for the Atorvastatin to clear my system, got a 2nd cholesterol test, I'll call this the waiting period. I then bought 8lbs of shelled Walnuts from Spouts Farmers Market, at the time they were $5.99lb. I carefully weighed a small empty glass, then weighed it again full of Walnuts. Almost exactly 6oz.

Starting May 1st 2018 through to and including June 23rd 2018, everyday, around lunchtime I'd eat 6oz of Walnuts. I'll call this the Walnut period. It turns out because I was on a generic statin, it was actually more expensive to eat Walnuts than take the drug. The price per pound of Walnuts varied over the 6-weeks at Sprouts it fluctuated from $4.99-$6.99. At 6oz per day, a 7-day supply of Walnuts would average $20. Where as a months supply of Atorvastatin would be $19.50.

The environmentalist in me, also had concerns about Walnuts. industrial growing of any nuts is notoriously water intensive. I have blood pressure amd cholesterol numbers going back as far as 1994. The older numbers are measured in mmol/L and I only have LDL but they can be converted.

This week I got the results from the Walnut period and they are clear. My HDL is up from the statin period, and only slightly down from the waiting period. My LDL is down from waiting period, but up from the statin period. For the last 5-8 years my diet hasn't really changed. I don't use artificial sweeteners, never add sugar to anything, focus on low sugar, low carbohydrate foods, have never smoked, and drink only infrequently.

Date Total HDL LDL Triglycerides Notes
August 2012 219 63 148 Reference worst case test
Feb. 17, 2018 149 34 101 Statin period post CVD
Mar. 28, 2018 214 59 139 Waiting period
Jun 23, 2018 201 51 131 90 Walnut period

Despite my initial jubilation about the results, on reflection, there is no clear conclusion I can draw from this. First, it's a single test, compared to 14 prior tests over 24-years that show a year on year gradual increase in LDL. Secondly, the results are statistically only a minor variation rather than a significant one. I need to go back and lookup triglyceride numbers from the tests I have them for.

The only seeming side effect of eating the Walnuts was an increase in facial hair growth. Seriously. What was best is there was no trace of fatigue and given my workout and training schedule, I perceived an absense of DOMS. This could be attributed to less intensity and less duration based on my earlier problems with the statins.

Travelling with pounds of Walnuts isn't practical. For now I've gone back to a 20mg statin. Next I need to schedule and review my health and heart health with a cardio specialist. My plan is to try to mix walnuts and a low dose statin to see how that works out.

I'm behind, as always on race reports. Wildflower Long course didn't go well; however last Sunday, I had a great Sprint triathlon. I need to write both of these up.

  • Current Location: Bouler, CO
  • Current Mood: Moving on
  • Current Music: FRA/DEN World Cup 2018

Wildflower: Week -8 Training

Sat 10th: Hard Ride - 2hrs
Sun 11th: long Run - 7.1 miles
Mon 12th: Rest Day
Tue 13th: Swim, 2275m as 400m WU, 18x100m
Wed 14th: Run, Intervals at lake. 4x 1/2-mile
Thu 15th: Swim, 2,500m standard long swim, split with thumbs
Fri 16th: Long run - 6-miles
Sat 17th: Bike, hard, 1:28hrs
  • Current Location: Boulder, CO
  • Current Mood: Looking Back
  • Current Music: Don't Look Back in Anger - Oasis

IM 70.3 South Africa Roads

The Herald Live reports that road work/repairs are to start on a major section of the road for the Ironman 70.3 Worlds this year. As previously posted, the new course is a compromise between the course they wanted and a course they can afford to repair.

Ironman South Africa Managing Director Keith Bowler was present in an orchestrated announcement, between the Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, race sponsors Standard Chartered Bank and Ironman. The plan is to shut, rebuild and re-lay both sides of a section of Heugh Road.

The new course saves R175 milllion in repair costs, which is great news for local tax payers, who would have otherwise had to foot the bill. Aksed about the ipending "day-zero" where water effectively runs out, Economic development, tourism and agriculture mayoral committee member Andrew Whitfield said he was putting his faith in local residents conserving enough water for the race. Well, thats ok then.
  • Current Location: Boulder, CO
  • Current Mood: In a galaxy far far away
  • Current Music: South African Man - Hamilton Bohannon

Supplement Warning: MetaSalt

I've long been a carbo pro user, so I was especially disappointed to see that their MetaSalt Brand had been added to USADA's High Risk List.

I wrote this earlier for 303 Triathlon, I've no idea if/when they'll publish it and thought it worth sharing here.


AUTHOR: Mark Cathcart

Every now and again a triathlete is suspended for failing controlled substance test. More often than not, the announcement is made by the IRONMAN® Anti-Doping Program and sometimes from USAT. This week, it was announced that American professional athlete Lucas Pozzetta accepted a six-month suspension for an anti-doping rule violation after testing positive for a prohibited substance from a contaminated product.

It’s actually less than easy to find out what the contaminated product is, and since I’ve managed and worked with a number of professional triathletes, and am vehemently against athlete doping, I always do my best to keep up to date, especially when it comes to contaminated products. For various legal reasons(I guess?) the products are almost never discussed in the press release announcing the findings. That’s what happened in this case. No named product.

I went and checked the USADA High Risk List and while there is no indication of a link between Pozzetta and  MetaSalt, it’s worth noting that MetaSalt has been updated on the High Risk List (see attached entry). In this case, we had a bottle on the shelf in the pantry. Unfortunately since there is no batch number, or other unique qualifying detail, I can only implore you to discard this if you have it, I did.

Racing Clean is not just the purview of pro’s and age group winners, it is an important stance for all of us to take. It’s not sufficient to just demand more testing, that would come at an enormous cost. It’s estimated it costs some $300,000 to catch one cheat. I don’t want that bill added to my race entry price. Train clean, race pure.

  • Current Location: Boulder, CO
  • Current Mood: Great
  • Current Music: VISIONSMIX by

My drugs and training, racing

I've had a solid block of 10-weeks training in my build-up for Wildflower long-course. I had the help of a coach to get my basic fitness back, workouts every day, sometimes two per day. Short, intense, and hard.

Despite this, I've had a number on incidents where I just "bombed". Sunday was a classic example. I'd done a 32-mile ride Friday, pushed hard at various stages, overall a good ride. Saturday was a day off; Sunday, Kate and I coordinated our long runs, we picked a route where we could split when I needed to run longer.

The run started fine, although it went down quickly. Instead of being able to run 8-10 miles, my legs, especially my quads. My knees also hurt more than normal, but overall I just felt I had no energy, nothing to put back in and start running. It was a long 2-mile walk back home, in a typical 20f drop in temps as the sun went down and the winds came in from the mountains.

This wasn't the first, but it was perhaps the most depressing and frustrating experience I'd had since last summers heart attack. Even a month after being discharged from hospital I was able to compete a sprint triathlon, albeit taking it easy, better than this.

Looking at back at my training data on Garmin Conect, and the actual sessions on Trainingpeaks, there was really no insight into what had happended. I'd just stopped.  After some introspection, I went back to look at the prescribed drugs I'd been taking since my heart attack. They are:

  • Lisinopril 5mg — daily — Lisinopril is an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor used for treating high blood pressure, heart failure and for preventing kidney failure due to high blood pressure. It's a standard prescription after a heart attack, since I have a relatively low resting heart rate, I'm on the lowest dose. No obvious side effects.

  • Brilinta - 90mg - Twice daily - Brilinta/Ticagrelor is used for the prevention of thrombotic events (for example stroke or heart attack) in people with acute coronary syndrome or myocardial infarction with ST elevation. At least as far as I remember, the Cardiologist told me it's to stop the body healing over the stent. No obvious side effects.

  • (Low Dose)  Aspirin - 81mg - daily - Daily aspirin therapy reduces risk of subsequent heart attacks in patients with a prior history of a heart attack, coronary artery disease (like atherosclerosis), or risk factors for developing coronary artery disease. The downside of a daily aspirin, it interferes with your blood's clotting action. For me, that also means I have to carefully manager aspirin use with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Advil). Since I depend of ibuprofen after long runs to reduce the swelling in my knees, I avoid a daily aspirin the day before and the day of my long runs.

  • Atorvastatin - 40mg - daily - Statins are a class of drugs often prescribed by doctors to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood. My cholesterol has been creeping slowly upwards since 1994. My diet and exercise has been great since 1997 but as my cardiologist said "you can't outrun genetics".

The statin has been problematic. When I started on them post heart attack, I had terrible back pain. Over the next few days it spread to my quads and knees. I went back to see my cardiologist, his advice, cut the tablets into as small as I can. Take a piece per day building over time to whole tablet per day. His suggestion was 1/4 of  tbalet per day (approx. 10 mg) a week, then 20 mg per day, then 40mg. If I had problems/pain, back off and go back to the prior dose.

I've worked up to 40 mg daily, but only through taking 20 mg (half a tablet) in the morning, and again before bed. Overall, I've beed pretty achy over the last 10-weeks, but not enough major pain to have stopped the atorvastatin. Except, as I said as the start of this post, I've been pretty achy, and in probably 3-instances, just not been able to complete a workout that should have been well within my capability by now.

So I've come back to re-considering statin use. On my 3-month appointment, my cardiologist dismissed taking a CoQ10 supplement. He said there was no proof it did any good. And yet, when I first got back to training, I received a recommendation for CoQ10 to counteract some of the impact of the statin from a couple of sports doctors that I respect.

Coenzyme Q10 levels deplete around 40 years of age, CoQ10 is hugely important for energy metabolism and oxidation specifically for heart cells and statins reduce the production of CoQ10. So taking a supplement seemed like solid advice. There were no real side-effects, and so it was a low risk addition. Based on what my cardiologist said, I stopped taking CoQ10.

On balance this may have been a mistake. The general fatigue, and joint piant I've experienced may be a direct result of stopping CoQ10 at the same time as peaking my consumption of Atorvastatin. I did a cholestoral test last week, which came back with HDL 34 / LDL 101, compared to a 2015 test of 51/134. My HDL could do with a boost, but LDL has certainly dropped with statin use.


To try to come to some form of conclusion, I've decided to take an easy week of training. No running, cycling or core work, 2x swim sets. At the same time I've stopped taking Atorvastatin. Come Saturday I plan my first 50-mile ride of the year, followed by whatever I can run on Sunday. At the same time over the past week or so, I've been taking a quality fish oil supplement in an attempt to boost my HDL and also doubling down on reducing all other high fat foots. Statins take about 2.5 days to flush through the system, so by mid-week next week, I'll take another cholesterol test and see where I am.

Effects of Statins on Skeletal Muscle: A Perspective for Physical Therapists - 2010
The Effect of Statins on Skeletal Muscle Function - 2013
Supporting the use of medication with nutrition: A focus on statins - 2018
Evidence of Plasma CoQ10-Lowering Effect by HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibitors - 1993

  • Current Location: Up too late.
  • Current Mood: Cranky - Apparently?
  • Current Music: Who Can I Be Now - David Bowie

Snowman - Post race

If I had a t-shirt slogan it would be:

didn't go as well as I wanted, went as bad as I expected

We arrived in South Denver aka Littleton, on a freezing cold morning with a brisk wind. Apparently we were to be "grateful" that it hadn't snowed overnight. To be honest, I actual was although I'd bought a pair of those cramp-on things that you attach to the bottom of your shoes, but deliberately left them in the car. (never try something new on race day!)

I got in a reasonable warm-up, and then it was line-up time. It was a reasonably small field for a half-marathon in a major city. I know because I finished in the top-100 Men, and was DFL, 94th.

I joined the back of the line-up in my new, post-heart-attack mode, dead last. Two reasons, 1. It would mean I'd likely pace myself better. 2. I'd be able to pass some people without being passed my and endless supply of runners, who were either going out too fast, or where just better than me :)

There was really one section of the course that had any snow or ice, a downhill in the first mile. After that the miles just ticked by on a concrete path next to the river.

It took me a disappointing 1:08:36 to get the first 10k done, that was 6-seconds faster than it had taken me to do the 10k at the same course back in December.

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South African Ironman 70.3 World Championships continues to evolve.

In what must be a face-saving switch, Ironman announced a change to the bike course back in January. Notionally to make the course safer for the athletes, it also conveniently reduced the need for R175 million in road upgrades that a cash strapped city and region couldn't afford.

Interesting they'll be implementing special police patrols to protect those training and racing. The local News24 has a list of the actions to be taken.

The big reason the Cape Twon area of South Africa has been in the news lately though isn't anything to do with the Ironman, it is that they have a severe water shortage and as reported today, pollution problems when an odourless brown water poured into Three Anchor Bay.

With the seasons in South Africa reversed from ours, they still have time to recover with the rainy season and winter ahead before the 70.3 Worlds. Will be interesting to see how it evolves.