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Q&A: Swollen Fingers?

Posted by rayzwocker Jul 5, 2011

I have a question. When I walked this morning my fingers swelled up. Why is that? How do I stop it from happening again?


Short answer? The heat. The swelling is a hormonal response that will lessen as you get acclimated to the heat. The mechanics of the response is that your heart is pumping blood into the extremities, but there's not enough venous return to the heart. Hormones regulate the dilation of the capillaries and your endocrine system hasn't figured out what to do about the heat yet. The vessels need to dilate to cool you off, but doing so allows more blood into the fingers.You haven't compensated yet by "learning" how to get the blood out of the fingers. Opening and closing your hands several times and/or holding them over your head will help. So will pumping your arms more (and holding them higher) when you walk. But in a few weeks you'll be acclimated to the heat and it'll stop happening by itself.

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Just an update... I'm actually doing a lot more writing on the long-shelved "The Complete Guide to Competitive Walking" that should have been available oh, about two years ago! Cavan put the kaibosh on my writing, for the most part, but now that he's two and it's summer, I have a little more time to write. It's actually progressing and I hope/expect to have the book out this fall. I should also have a DVD as well. It's almost entirely scripted, I just need to find the time to do more filming and produce the thing. Thank you for your patience. (And to the impatient, thanks for nagging me enough to get off my duff and start writing again!) The Complete Guide to Racewalking being offered for sale on Amazon for $1000 is a strong motivator! (FYI, I don't see a cent of any of these sales. I only have about three copies in my possession, and I'm not selling!)



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This is really just a test. I want to see what it looks like to add video to my (extremely infrequent) blog posts. Maybe this will spur me to blog more often. This is a video I made of my Long Island Team Challenge team's trip to Kona this past weekend for the half-marathon.


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OK, I'm a bit frustrated.  I do dynamic flexibility drills  before nearly  every workout (occasionally I'll skip them on the days I  do long easy  walks). I go to the track and do intervals once or twice a  week. I've  played and re-played Elaine Ward's racewalking video and  have read and  re-read Dave's books (which are now held together with  rubber bands); I  do my best to pay close attention to technique. I  stretch for 5 - 7  minutes after each and every workout. I wear  lightweight racing flats  for the intervals. I try to get enough rest  (sometimes a little tough  with my work schedule, but I do my best). Yet  I don't seem to get any  faster. It seems like I've been stuck at about  a 14-minute mile (in the  5Ks) for eons. My 1/4-mile intervals have  been roughly the same for  about 2 months.

Any ideas?  I'm 57 years old and this spring got back into   racewalking after being away from it for several years. Is it possible I   just don't have the speed gene? I see the race results Dave posts  here,  so I know it can't all be my age. There are folks in their 60s  and 70s  who can kick my butt! Do I just need to be patient and continue  to do  what I know to do and over time it'll come? I know I'm fitter  than I was  this spring -- but don't seem faster. I would so love to do a  35-minute  5K.

June Kohler--South Bend, IN


The keys   to high speed racewalking are technique and high-end neuromuscular  training. Both   are handled with very short intervals. 400m is waaay too  long. You need   to be able to walk fast for short bursts (:15 - :30  seconds) before   you will be able to walk fast for longer distances.  Think about adding   some shorter intervals (100m and shorter) to your  training program,  and  do these frequently. They are safe to do (after  warming up)  several  times per week. Just don't do them when you are very  tired.  (For  example, give yourself a recovery day after your long day  or any  other  hard days before doing short, fast speed work.) I would add  some  fast  sprints before any speed or tempo workout as part of my  warm-up.

Good luck, Speedy!



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Posted by rayzwocker Apr 26, 2010

After completing my last pre-World Cup über-long workout on Saturday--a reasonably fast 40k--it's taper time. I hope to get in one more 30k and a couple of hard 20-25k walks, but it's time now to cut back on the training and focus my full energy on acclimating to the conditions.

I learned a good lesson in 1996 when I had the 2nd fastest time going into the Olympic Trials and somehow found a way to finish dead last. I set myself up to do so by getting myself into amazing shape by training at 8,700 ft. of altitude at the Mexican Olympic Training Center, but utterly failing to acclimate to the conditions under which I would be racing at the Trials in Atlanta. Ironically, I had been living just outside of Atlanta, but I felt I needed to do something beyond what my training partners were doing so I took the chance. I was training with some of the best walkers in the world at the CDOM (El Centro del Deportes Olimpicos Mexicanos,) but the cool, dry mornings in Mexico City, and the blood-thickening effects of the high altitude training, left me poorly acclimated to Atlanta's heat and humidity.

Ever since ending up in the medical tent for two hours after the ''96 Trials I've been fairly fanatical about researching my upcoming race conditions and trying to replicate them as closely as possible in my training. With the upcoming IAAF World Cup of Racewalking 50k in Chihuahua Mexico, the name of the game is heat and altitude acclimatization. Heat is easy. I just got off the treadmill, having completed 12k in an unventilated room wearing long sleeves and a winter hat. I have a clinic in Austin, TX this weekend and the locals will no doubt be scratching their heads as they see me buzzing around Town Lake in a jacket, tights, winter hat and gloves. Heat is easy. Altitude is a bit trickier. In a past life I would "simply" spend 3-4 weeks in Albuquerque, but with a wife and new baby at home those days are long gone. Luckily, my brother John the elite duathlete has an altitude-simulation tent that he's let me borrow for the month. I have no idea if the thing works. I mean there's a motor that's making noise and there seems to be some manner of air being pumped into the tent, but whether it's any different from the air in the rest of the house is anyone's guess. But I'm all for the placebo effect, so don't let on if you have any information that John is pulling my leg with this thing. I'm also a little skeptical that sleeping in the tent (to the extent that I am sleeping, with an 11-month-old in the  house!) will be anywhere near as effective as actually training at real altitude. But the point is you gotta try.

Like I said, the altitude is tricky, but there are other things you can do to get ready for the conditions under which you will be racing. A little reconnaissance will usually reveal the likely weather conditions, elevation profile, the event's sports drink and gel sponsors, race time, and other tidbits that will help you to be at your best on race day. Head to the race web site and do some research, then try to replicate race conditions as closely as possible in your taper weeks. Train at the same time of day (taking into account time zone changes,) on similar surfaces and try to replicate the atmospheric conditions when possible. If the race is local, do some of your training on the course, or parts of the course, if possible--not just for the physical benefits, but for the psychological benefits. There's nothing like having real visuals to work with when doing pre-race visualization exercises!

There's really not a lot you can do in the last couple of weeks before a race in terms of fitness gains by doing more hard training. The best use of your time is to rest up by cutting back on your mileage; do a fair amount of training at your expected race pace; STRETCH to maintain, or even make gains in flexibility; and finally, do anything you can to acclimate to the conditions. And in that vein, I'm off to bed, sleeping tonight in Chihuahua. Or perhaps La Paz...

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Posted by rayzwocker Dec 9, 2009

There’s nothing like coaching young walkers to reenergize your desire to train and compete! With more and more demands on my time it’s getting harder to find the time to get out and train. I can always make time, but I need to be motivated to get out there. Ironically, being named one of the coaches for Team USA at the World Cup in Cheboksary Russia two years ago killed my motivation to train for the 50k Olympic Trials. I had lost sight of what was important: Doing my best at the Olympic Trials vs. trying to earn a spot on the team for an amazing trip to Russia. With making the team being my primary motivator, I forgot why I do this: to see how fast I can make my body go, and hopefully beat as many other bodies as possible! When the going got tough I wasn’t able to slog through the long hard miles in the dark and cold of December and January in New York and wound up dropping out at the Olympic Trials at 40k.
I’m coaching a number of young walkers now, and it’s great to see the fire that drives them to walk faster for the sake of walking faster rather than to see what extrinsic rewards they can win. Sure, they want to qualify for Nationals and make international teams, but they really want to push their bodies to see how fast they can go. I had lost that intrinsic motivation in 2007/08. Last night I faced the ultimate test of whether that fire was still there. It’s once again time to ramp up the long workouts to get ready for the National 50k, which is fast approaching on February 7th, but dang it, last week I was named the Manager/Team Leader for the 2010 World Cup! With the extrinsic reward of a trip to the World Cup removed since my spot is now secured, will I have the motivation get out and train when the going gets tough? Apparently so! With a winter storm forecast for Wednesday, I had one shot to get in a solid 30k workout on Tuesday afternoon between returning home from the Las Vegas Half-Marathon late Monday night and flying out to my “World Class Racewalking” clinic in Aruba early Thursday morning. I was dehydrated from the flight and three days in Las Vegas, I got out of the house way to late to do the workout in daylight, and I hadn’t gone more than 24k in training thus far. It’s getting too late in the game to just wiggle my way through long slow distance miles; with the 50k only eight weeks away it’s time to start hitting long miles as race pace and faster. I wasn‘t sure I’d be able to get through 30k at any pace let alone at a fast clip, but I sure as heck didn’t want to try again the next day in a tropical storm or in Aruba in 85-degree heat. I started off at 5:45 per km (Olympic Trials qualifying pace is 5:45 per km.) After 10k I was feeling pretty good so I kicked it under 5:40. By mid-way it was dark and getting cold. I stopped to drink at 18k, and standing in the dark and cold with four more laps of a 3k loop remaining I had a momentary crisis of confidence. My hamstrings were tight, my hands were cold and the internal negotiations started. “Two more laps and you’ll have 24k. That’s as much as you’ve done this season, and the pace was pretty good…” “That was a pretty good pace for 18k, maybe you could do an easy 30k in Aruba on Friday…”
Then I thought of all the walkers I’m coaching and what I tell them: “No excuses! Sure, the weather is crappy, but the guy you’re racing next month is training in it—or he isn’t, and this is your chance to get ahead!” That was all it took. I was going to do 30k if it killed me! And you know what? It didn’t.
In the end I hit every 5k faster than the one before, and completed the workout at an average pace under Olympic Trials qualifying pace. I only have time for one or two more 30ks and a 35k before walking the Phoenix Rock & Roll Marathon on January 17th. Inspired by the athletes I coach, I’m going to nail them all!


Walk on!


Dave McGovern

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Fitting it all in...

Posted by rayzwocker Aug 26, 2009

I don't know how people with "jobs" do it. I don't have to get up and go to work every day, but it seems like there's never time to do everything I want to do. My next book should have been out a year ago, there's half a script to a DVD on my laptop, and despite renewed motivation, it's hard to find the time to get out the door to train every day. And don't even get me started on the state of my vegetable garden and the pile of unfolded laundry in Cavan's room. It's all about priorities. Family first, of course, but making the time to work out could keep you alive longer, and that's not a bad thing, plus your mood and energy will be better, making you a better spouse, lover, employee, and everything else you are to the people around you. So the book, the lawn, the laundry can wait. I'll be at the track...

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Sounds like WCR Racewalkers ROCKED at Huntington Beach! I don't have results yet but I know Mike Tarantino won the whole shootin' match and Karen Karavanic won her age group. (I'll let he divulge or not divulge what age group that is!)



If you raced in HB, please send in a race report, race results, photos, etc.!






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Snow Day!

Posted by rayzwocker Mar 2, 2009

The groundhog was right.... Winter is retaining its grip on the Northeast and we're expecting over a foot of snow here on Long island today. Bad news for racewalking, but great news for Monkey, our Labra-mongrel who loves to run in the snow. I recently found a very well hidden preserve only half a mile from the house that has several miles of wooded trails. It's not very heavily used but most days we can expect to run into another free running canine or two. I don't have snowshoes, but after the winter we've had they're on my list for next year. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If you can't racewalk, go for a hike, snowshoe, or find some other fun cross-training activity to keep the blood pumping. Monkey's giving me The Stare. Gotta go!

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Step up!

Posted by rayzwocker Feb 20, 2009

So it's come to this...


The USATF National 50k took place last weekend in Santee, CA and the results were less than stellar. With marathon walking becoming more and more popular, this shouldn't be the case. There are more people walking long distances now than there were thirty years ago, but whereas we had 39 male starters in the National 50k in 1979, we had four (4!) this year with only one finisher under 5 hours compared to 19 under 5:00 in 1979. As recently as 1999 we had 15 finishers at the USATF 50k under 5 hours. The problem (?) may be that marathon walking has become so popular that now most of the racewalkers who enjoy walking long distances are racing Disney and the Rock & Roll series instead of our National 40k and 50k Championships. I've racewalked a lot of marathons over the years, but for the most part I've done them as training for the 50kone of the two Olympic distances for male racewalkers. We had five spots open for a free trip to the Pan Am Cup in El Salvador in April and only Philip Dunn earned a spot on the team. Aren't there some marathon walkers out there who want to step up to 50k? And what about half-marathoners? Why not try a 20k?the other Olympic distance for men, and the only Olympic racewalk distance for women. Half-marathon walking and marathon walking are thriving in the US, but elite racewalking seems to be withering on the vine. It's okay to continue walking in running races, but every once in a while, please, support your local racewalks and National Racewalking Championships!


Walk on!



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Posted by rayzwocker Jan 28, 2009

I'm just back from coaching a new group of walkers and runners at the Miami Half-Marathon. I'm the National Walk Coach for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's "Team Challenge," and their run coach for Long Island. The weather here is awful but I can't wait to get out and train. Every time I come back from working with beginners I get a big shot of motivation. There's nothing like being around the excitement that beginners feel when they participate in their first event. I wish I could bottle it. But even though I can't, I can continue to work with beginners through the Team Challenge program, and continue to work with beginners and more advanced walkers at my World Class Racewalking clinics. After 25+ years racewalking, I find it's a whole heck of a lot easier to get other people to walk faster than it would ever be to get myself to walk faster than the times I walked 10 years ago. So I'm off to Phoenix this weekend for my annual Arizona clinic and look forward to getting another boost out of spreading the news about fast, efficient racewalking. You can do the same. Tell someone about racewalking today. Helping others is the best way of helping yourself!


Walk on!


Dave McGovern

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BAM CASTING, L.L.C., is currently seeking the following :


Do you believe you could be a




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Our Judges for this project are:  Jackie Joyner Kersee - Track and field

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Finally, a blog!

Posted by rayzwocker Jan 14, 2009



For years I've been asked by my clinic participants to create a blog. I thought it was a great idea but inertia has always been a major force in my life. Once I get going on something I can keep on track but sometimes it takes me a while to get going. With the recent demise of Walk! Magazine I've lost a great outlet for my musings. Although I am writing a new book, there's no immediate feedback in books. Hopefully I'll have something of value to say.



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