Monthly Archives: January 2011

Still want to be an Ironman?

By Pete Williams

This video has been circulating for a few weeks and summarizes why many people, even avid triathletes, have no interest in doing an Ironman triathlon. The entire video is dead-on and hilarious but the portion about the expenses is especially pointed. We’re guessing the legal eagles at the Tampa international headquarters of the World Triathlon Corporation must not be pleased.

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Florida Athletes Get Dirty

Warrior Dash participants celebrate victory

By Pete Williams

If it seems like no Florida running event is complete without mud, fire pits, and crazy obstacles, that’s because the genre has mushroomed in the Sunshine State for 2011.

Organizers of the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash runs have expanded to Florida. The Florida Dirty Duo has branched out from its Sarasota roots, hosting an event near Tampa last weekend and adding a Miami date (May 8 ) to go with its annual Sarasota event (May 22).

Muddy Buddy expanded to Miami in November with its first-ever race at Zoo Miami to go with the annual spring event at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports near Orlando, which moves this year from Mother’s Day weekend to April 9. The second-annual Miami Muddy Buddy will be Nov. 20 and Competitor Group, owner of the series, reportedly is scouting for a third Florida location.

The proliferation of down-and-dirty adventure runs is a reflection of the overall running boom but also the desire on the part of many athletes to run off-road in less-competitive events that bring back the joy and silliness of childhood.

Such races typically combine 5K trail runs with Survivor-style obstacles, including at least one where getting muddy is inevitable. Such events are perfect for newcomers to running as well as hard-core endurance athletes looking for a diversion from heavy training.

“When you’re a kid your parents always told you to stay out of the mud,” says Thierry Rouillard, whose TNT Sports Marketing puts on the Florida Dirty Duo. “With these events it’s encouraged.”

Indeed, silliness is mandatory. At the Warrior Dash, which makes its debut this weekend in Lake Wales, participants receive a fuzzy warrior helmet for finishing a 5K course that includes a dozen obstacles, including navigating under barbed wire and leaping over fire. The series, which began in the Midwest in 2009, attracts more than 10,000 per event, some no doubt inspired by the one free post-race beer per person.

“The camaraderie and spirit is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at a race,” says Alex Yount, race director for the Warrior Dash. “At the same time, there are some obstacles that are extremely demanding.”

Tough Mudder, billed as “Burning Man meets Ironman” is the longest mud event at 7 miles and 18 obstacles, including several involving fire. Tough Mudder had not announced a specific Florida date, but organizers have committed to the Sunshine State for late 2011 or early 2012.!

The Spartan Race is a scaled-down version of the legendary Death Race, the annual Vermont event considered the toughest endurance sport in the industry outside of the Tour de France.

If you’re inspired by the tale of King Leonidas and the brave 300, the 5K Spartan Race is for you. Designed to “test your resilience, strength, stamina and ability to laugh in the face of adversity,” it will debut in Florida in Miami on April 23.

“We knew people would talk about the Death Race but few would participate,” says Joe DeSena, who created both events. “The Spartan Race was meant to pull the rest of the world off the couch and get them dirty and living life.”

DeSena, a successful Wall Street trader who now operates several successful businesses in Vermont, launched the event in part to help fight the obesity epidemic.

“Look at the history of the Spartans,” he says. “They weren’t enamored with money, possessions, and lavish displays of food. They were very fit and we’d like to wake people up and return to that.”

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Does Your Healthy Diet Promote Kidney Stones?

By Pete Williams

Kidney stone diet: protein powder, berries, chocolate

If you’re a nutrition-conscious, water-chugging, avid recreational athlete, you probably think you’re immune from kidney stones.

So did I, at least until I was brought to my knees New Year’s Day by the worst pain of my life – a kidney stone that turned out to be 1 cm in diameter – about the size of a 3D dime.

After three weeks and two surgeries, I’m stone free. Like any stone sufferer, I’m willing to do anything to avoid another stone, especially considering 50 percent of us will have another stone within five to 10 years.

Dietary changes are a must, though there’s no one-size-fits-all game plan. Some people, regardless of genetics, are more prone to becoming “stone formers.”

“You and I can follow the same diet and you’ll develop stones and I won’t,” says James Borin, a urologist at the University of Maryland medical center in Baltimore.

More than a half million people annually are hospitalized annually with kidney stones, a pain often compared to childbirth. The number of kidney stone episodes is on the rise. Male victims once outnumbered women 3-to-1, but now the ratio has closed to almost 50/50.

Kidney stones form when there is not enough fluid in the body to flush out waste. Your kidneys, along with the ureters and bladder, serve as your body’s plumbing. When there’s too much waste and not enough fluid, it’s as if hair is clogging the drain. Some stones pass on their own, but for others it takes a plumber – a urologist – to remove the stone.

More than three-quarters of kidney stones are calcium oxalate. Oxalate, a waste product of metabolism, combines with the calcium you eat to make the crystals that form the stone.

You might think high-oxalate foods would be things that are bad for you anyway, but that’s hardly the case. The bad list includes chocolate and cola drinks, but also spinach, nuts, sweet potatoes, and most berries.

Do you like salty foods? Those too are dangerous.  “We’re salt-loving creatures,” Borin says. “The kidneys will suck that sodium up and exchange it for calcium, which gets into the urine.”

Calcium is the most debated area of kidney stone research since it’s believed that both too much and too little calcium can contribute to stone formation.

At least there’s protein, right? Nope. Protein is a hot spot for kidney stones since animal protein, whether from red meat, chicken, fish, or elsewhere, is metabolized to oxalate. A high-protein diet, therefore, increases risk for stones.

Like to drink? Alcohol itself does not contribute to stone formation. But it makes you pass more urine and lead to dehydration.

The more I read about kidney stones, it seems the only way to prevent them is to become a vegan – a vegan who does not eat nuts and is allowed only a few fruits and vegetables.

“Fluid intake is critical,” says David Goldfarb, a New York nephrologist and member of the American Society of Nephrology. “If you ate a lot of spinach and drank a lot of water, the fluid trumps everything else.”

Unlike urologists, whose specialty includes the surgical removal of kidney stones, nephrologists are kidney specialists who typically stay out of the operating room. A urologist gets rid of the stone, but a nephrologist shows the patient how to avoid becoming a urologist’s repeat customer.

It starts with the patient filling a jug with urine for 24 hours. A Chicago company provides a kit, including a special FedEx package. From there, the nephrologist can perform a urinalysis and determine what dietary changes should be made.

I have yet to undergo this process. But I’ve spent a lot of time pondering what aspects of my diet could have caused the stone.

At first I was puzzled. I don’t drink coffee, tea, or soda, nothing but water and an occasional glass of wine. I have no family history of stones, and eat a balanced diet of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. My dairy/calcium consumption, if anything, is low.

What could go wrong? Plenty, as it turns out, and I have lined up some suspects:

SPINACH: I eat a lot of spinach. I use it as the base of my salad and saute it in olive oil several nights a week to go with chicken or fish. Have I amped up my consumption of spinach over the last year or two? I’m not sure that I have.

NUTS: I once ate unsalted nuts like candy, figuring they were a healthy snack. But several years ago I shifted to snacking more on fruit. That rules out nuts. But fruit?

BERRIES: As with spinach, I didn’t realize there was a downside to eating berries. I eat a lot of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries. I also consume a fair amount of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. Like spinach, berries are high in oxalate. Over the last year, I’ve gotten into the habit of purchasing frozen berries and substituting them for desserts. So it looks like berries were a contributing factor to my stone.

WATER: When you drink only water, you must drink enough, right? Not necessarily. The guideline is that you must drink enough to produce at least 2,000 ml of water a day – enough to fill a two-liter bottle. Of course, drinking that much does not mean you produce that much urine, especially if you’re a Florida-based triathlete who sweats out a lot of water.

Goldfarb recommends drinking three liters of water a day, which should produce two and a half liters of urine. (He has patients use plastic urinal bottles to keep track.)

“It’s easy to say, ‘drink more water,’ but that doesn’t mean anything,” he says. “You have to be quantitative about it, not every day, but on a regular basis.”

One way to determine if you’re drinking enough water is to examine the color of your urine. It should be clear.

Bottom line: I’m not drinking enough water.

CHOCOLATE: Time to come clean. Chocolate is my Kryptonite. And I’ve been known on occasion to raid my wife’s baking cabinet, where she keeps the chocolate chips. I do so at night, compounding the problem.

ENERGY BARS: What’s wrong with energy bars? Nothing other than the chocolate, nuts, and high-protein content. I average two a day, at least one too many.

PROTEIN: The U.S. recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. As a 167-pound endurance athlete, I can bump that to 1.2 grams per kilo or 91 grams of protein per day.

For years, I drank meal replacement powder shakes after workouts. They tend to be fairly balanced between carbs and proteins, containing roughly 30 grams of protein. I probably managed to stay under 91 grams of protein daily, even with my regular consumption of fish and chicken for lunch and dinner.

Midway through 2009, I stopped buying meal replacement powders and began purchasing various whey protein products, chocolate-flavored, of course. To get the same amount of powder in my shakes as an MRP packet, I dumped in four scoops of whey, which comes to 108 grams. Even worse, I threw a fifth scoop into my breakfast oatmeal.

Even though I knew that probably was too much, I didn’t realize the danger of excess protein. That, combined with increased consumption of berries, an existing diet high in spinach and chocolate, and inadequate water formed the perform storm – or stone.

“It could be something as simple as your body was able to keep up with this for some time but something changed and it pushed you over the edge,” Borin said. “The good news is that some behavioral modification goes a long way.”

Fortunately there are plenty of healthy foods that don’t promote kidney stones. They include lettuce, mushrooms, onions, avocado, cauliflower, oil and vinegar dressing, citrus fruit, watermelon, small deck-of-cards size portions of chicken and fish, peas, wild rice, and tomatoes (but not tomato sauce).

According to the book No More Kidney Stones, the definitive resource on the topic, there are plenty of foods that are not nutritious but at least they have low oxalate content. These include white flour items such as bagels, English muffins and rolls; syrup, pancakes, waffles and French toast.

I think I’ll stick with oatmeal, which thankfully makes the cut.

My upcoming tests with the nephrologist will paint a clearer picture of what I need to change. For now, I know that what I thought was a healthy diet was almost tailor made for kidney stones.


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Losing my marble

By Pete Williams

My kidney stone

Some women describe the pain of kidney stones as worse than childbirth. If that’s the case, I have an even greater appreciation for the labor process.

I rang in the New Year with the worst pain of my life. Shrieking, cursing, I-want-my-mommy pain that made my appendectomy pain from a decade ago feel like a mild tummy ache.

More than 500,000 people annually visit the ER with kidney stones and this year I became one of the first.

Sitting in the ER begging for pain relief, I literally screamed for my mother, a nurse who had died 20 years ago to the day (at 51). Mom was a health nut, and even though I won’t die of ovarian cancer, I’ve always followed her lead when it comes to diet and exercise.

Kidney stone? I don’t drink coffee, soda, or tea. I drink only water, except for a sprinkle of skim milk on my oatmeal and an occasional glass of wine. I’m a triathlete, the co-author of fitness books and a guy who catches grief from my Sunday morning cycling group for ordering egg whites and dry wheat toast. I rarely eat red meat, consume little dairy, and get accused by friends and family of taking my nutrition way too seriously.

There were warning signs. A week before Christmas, I felt flank pain for several nights in a row. Friends who have endured stones told me to drink more water and lemonade. I did and figured I passed the sucker. After all, more than 80 percent of stones pass on their own.

Instead, a CT scan revealed a stone nearly 1cm in diameter, too big to pass. Because my right kidney was swollen and inflamed, a urologist put me under and installed a stent, a straw-like device that goes from the bladder to the kidney, stretching the ureter in the hopes of letting the stone pass, or at least allowing me to take a leak relatively (relatively) pain free.

For the next 10 days, I lived with a stent. The doctor laid out the two popular ways to deal with big kidney stones. The first is non-invasive. Shock waves are used to break up the stone and hopefully you pass the pieces. My stone was too big for that.

That left ureteroscopy. With the patient under anesthesia, the urologist sticks a long, narrow device through the urethra, bladder, and ureter and takes aim at the stone. He lasers that bad boy and the pieces go flying. (The video is pretty cool.) Some remnants he’s able to extract with the laser but the rest, mostly dust, you pass easily.

At least that’s the theory. I woke up four hours later and struggled to take a leak. A nurse pulled out a device from the Bones McCoy collection and scanned my bladder – 500 ccs. Not good. The urologist said that if I wanted to go home, he’d need to install a catheter.

My wife had gone to pick up the kids from school and I pondered my options with Dad, who in a weird way had appreciated the distraction 10 days earlier of not having to think of the 20th anniversary of my mom’s passing.

I nodded at Dad and stood, my backside exposed. Dad handed over the plastic “urinal” bottle. Now I had always thought the term “pissing razor blades” was an exaggeration. It’s not. I screamed and cursed as 400 ccs of crimson filled the bottle.

An hour later, I headed home, again with a stent inside me. This time, the stent hung out of me via what looked like high-test fishing line. The idea was that I’d return to the doctor in a week and he’d yank the stent right out, assuming the X-rays were clear.

The string was knotted in two places and tied underneath me. I didn’t consider this engineering until I woke up screaming in the middle of the night, no doubt after an enjoyable dream. I had raised the mast, forcing the string and the knot to move until it couldn’t go any further.

For the next week, I cleansed myself of impure thoughts and wondered why we don’t rig stents to sex offenders. This strategy didn’t work at night, however, and I never slept more than 90 minutes at a clip.

My doctor was off on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, but agreed to let me see one of his partners in the interest of getting the stent out a day early.

As I approached the medical building – Day 17 since the ER visit – I looked forward to ending the ordeal. Free at last, indeed.

I looked terrible as I posed for another X-ray, which I took upstairs to the urologist. At some point, I stopped shaving and assumed a uniform of sweat pants and ball caps. The nurses eyed me suspiciously, but my pinch-hit urologist had a puzzled expression on his face as he looked at the X-ray.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

He checked the date on the X-ray, which still showed the stone. “Maybe they re-printed the one taken before the procedure,” he said.

My eyes widened as he called radiology, which confirmed the worst. The X-ray was accurate.

I’m not proud of what happened next. Seventeen days of pain, frustration, sleep deprivation, and fighting off arousal boiled to the surface and I went HBO, dropping more per-minute f-bombs than Rex Ryan and Bruce Boudreau. I’m pretty sure I used the phrase “miss the target?”

To get me out of the office, the doctor sent me back to radiology for another X-ray, which was not needed and not taken. But that bought enough time for my actual doctor to arrive. His surprise appearance disarmed me and he quickly talked me down.

We compared X-rays. The stone was smaller, but still there. It likely was two smaller particles, each 3-4 mm. He could pull the stent and hope I passed them.

“Or you could be back in the ER tonight cursing my name,” he said.

Another ureteroscopy, which would have to wait three days since I had been off antibiotics for several days. This time, no lasering was needed. The doctor simply grabbed the particles with the scope. When I woke from my third anesthesia of the month, I was thrilled to not feel – or see – a stent. Best of all, some preemptive medication kept me from passing razor blades again.

The doctor recommended I stay the night as a precaution and, naturally, I shared a room with a poor old guy who screamed all night. So I continued my month-long process of making up 2010 reading. (Thanks to Bill Madden, Dirk Hayhurst, Tim Dorsey, and Maureen McCormick for getting me through the month!)

I also read No More Kidney Stones, the definitive book on preventing reoccurrence. About 50 percent of kidney stone sufferers have another one within five years.

By now, I was ready to give up any food to avoid a sequel. It’s not that easy since just about everything is linked to kidney stones, including many foods that appear in any healthy diet. In fact, much of my diet is on the bad list.

I had not worked out in three weeks, dropping seven pounds, but felt flabby and bloated.

As I left the hospital on Friday – Day 21 – I felt relieved but confused.

What could I eat now?

(Part II: The Anti-Kidney Stone Diet)


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Florida SUP Guru Trains Marisa Miller

By Pete Williams

St. Pete SUP guru Brody Welte received some nice pub in the new issue of Shape magazine for working with SI swimsuit model Marisa Miller on a core-based workout geared toward stand-up paddle boarding. The 32-year-old supermodel is a big fan of SUP. You can read the story HERE:

Also here are two videos of Brody showing the basics of SUP and some of the exercises in the article.  Click on the “Celebrity Trainer” tab you will see the two videos.

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YOLO Board Race Series Rolls into Clearwater

By Pete Williams

Every time I watch a stand-up paddle board race, I can’t help but think I’m watching the beginning of something big. The sport is still in its infancy, especially here in Florida, where industry insiders believe the sport has its biggest upside because of our year-round warm weather (relatively speaking) and calm surf.

Last Saturday Brody Welte staged the second of his four-race “Yolo Board Winter Race Series” sponsored by the folks at Yolo Board, the Santa Rosa Beach manufacturer who quickly have become the board of choice among Floridians.

I’m on the IR with an injury, though I’m not sure I would have braved the wind. Thankfully, a few dozen more serious athletes than I did. Kudos to Bev Buysse and the folks at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center for supporting the race. What a perfect venue for SUP. Check it out:

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St. Pete Beach 5K/10K Classic Returns!

By Pete Williams

The St. Pete Beach 5K/10K Classic returns this weekend after a one-year hiatus due to the illness and passing of event founder Wendy Johnson. Wendy’s husband, Al Johnson, is serving as race director and talks to us during an episode of The Fitness Buff Show about the return of the event and how much it meant to Wendy. Listen HERE:

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