Pedal the Perimeter - Matt "BikerBroshat" EPIC USA Cycling Trip

Pedal the Perimeter Bike Trip
For readers who may be interested, my cousin, Matt "BikerBroshat" Broshat, is attempting to bike the Perimeter of the USA #PedalThePerimeter. His trip is starting today, August 8th, 2018, and he is planning on taking about 6 months to complete his journey. This will be a self-supported ride with a bike that is built to carry all his gear and camping equipment - it is not a fast bike but he hopes to ride 60 miles a day.

I am sure he will need plenty of help, a wash of clothes, and a place to stay on his route. Being the athlete myself, I know what this is going to take logistically, solo, so there are no hard dates about where he will be, and when, but follow his Instagram account for updates. I am sure he would be appreciative of any support. Matt is a very religious person and kind person who has committed, even in cold and blustery Minnesota winters, to commuting and traveling by bike. His goal along, with a lifetime of experience, is to raise $25,000 for a religious youth group he has been heavily involved in over the years. Stay safe Matt!


2018 NEW Normatec Pulse Review - Gen 2 Pulse vs Gen 1 Pulse (2015-2017)

Enjoying the new 2018
Gen 2 Normatec Pulse System
Although on the surface the 2018 Normatec Pulse looks and functions just like the original Normatec Pulse (2015-2017), there are some nice upgrades to the new unit that are not clearly visible and marketed, but nonetheless are beneficial to the customer. Normatec has been shipping what I am calling the "Gen 2" 2018 Pulse since at least November 2017 so if you bought one direct from them you probably have it, but I thought I would take the opportunity to highlight a few key benefits of the new 2018 system.

My thoughts on this 2018 unit are my thoughts after 6+ months of use with 80+ hours of runtime. I can definitely say that this is the best Normatec Pulse unit yet, fixing the one gripe I had with my original Pulse, the battery. It is worth mentioning that while I discussed the battery limitation in my original review of Normatec vs Air Relax, I have since updated that article to reflect the improved battery. This isn't a complete detailed review of the Normatec system akin to the likes of DCRainmaker's Garmin reviews, but I am happy to answer any questions you have.

2018 Normatec Pulse vs 2015-2017 Normatec Pulse

While the changes to the 2018 Pulse may not seem obvious, there are some significant changes in the 2018 model. The biggest include:
  • Improved Battery - The old Normatec Pulse had a battery that was always in a "low-power" mode even when off.  This led to situations where you might charge the unit but it was dead when you went to use it. This was highly annoying if you were traveling and didn't have access to power outlets such as in an airport, in the car, or on a soccer field. I can say thru testing that this issue has been fixex in the 2018 Pulse.
  • Enhanced Durability - The legs have been reinforced further making them stronger to handle the continuous cycle of expanding, holding pressure, and decompressing, and then doing it over and over, for weeks, month, and years. This may not seem like much, but every pro athlete I know depends on their recovery compression boots to get them thru their biggest training blocks. Failures do happen and it is nice to know that Normatec has worked on increasing durability.
  • Increased Warranty - With the durability enhanced, Normatec was able to extend the warranty from 1 year to 2 years. However, if you have an AMEX card then I highly recommend using. AMEX will double your warranty for free and increase the warranty to 4-years. I have gone thru their claim process a couple of times and it is a great benefit to cardholders.
  • Decreased Price - Despite the improvements, the new 2018 Normatec Pulse is more affordable than ever. Normatec has been reducing the price of the Normatec Pulse over the past few years. While originally it was priced at $1695, it is now $1495. With a readily available discount of $100 that makes the standard pricing effectively $1395.
Battery Testing - 2 hours 51 minutes at level 5 with standard size leg boots

Along with testing the battery to make sure it held a charge over extended periods of time, I also wanted to test battery life. This test was conducted after many months of use and charge/discharge cycles. Battery life will vary on boot size, pressure level, and your own leg size. Personally, I got 2 hours and 51 minutes at level 5 (max is level 7) from a standard set of legs. Normatec claims 2 hours of battery life. 

Leg Fluid Edema Testing - 90 minutes in the boots at level 5, 6, and 7 reduced my calf diameter from 41mm to 39mm

Baseline (top) / After 90 mins (bottom)
Normatec was originally designed for patients with leg edema (swelling). I don't suffer from edema, but I figured I would test how much difference it made on otherwise healthy legs.

For this test, I took a baseline measurement and photo and then sat in the boots for 60 minutes at level 5. I photographed and measured them again and then I got back in the boots for 30 more minutes with 18 mins at level 6 and 12 mins at level 7. I used a Sharpie on the front of my legs to draw support lines to make sure the tape measure was being placed in the same spot for consistent measurement. The results are as follows:

Baseline: 41cm  (left) / 40.6cm (right)
60 minutes at level 5: 39.5cm (left) / 39.6cm (right)
30 additional minutes - 18 mins @ level 6 & 12 @ level 7: 39.0cm (left) / 39.1cm (right)

Normatec Leg Sizing

As a reminder, Normatec leg sleeves come in three sizes. Keep in mind it is not only the leg length but also the width that is affected.
  • Short for under 5' 3"
  • Regular 5'4" to 6'3"
  • Tall for people over 6' 4"  

Tall / Regular / Short

Identify the 2018 Normatec Pulse (Gen 2) vs the 2015-2017 Normatec Pulse (Gen 1)

If you are looking to buy a used Normatec Pulse system, and you want the 2018 features and benefits, you can identify which version is which via the label on the back. You want to see a manufactured date of 2017 or later, plus a sticker at the bottom, with a "Rev 2".

2015-2017 Normatec Pulse vs 2018 Normatec Pulse

Final Thoughts

Lebron James in his Normatec MVP

The 2018 Normatec Pulse is a nice upgrade to a system that was already very nice. Never in my life has a product category been embraced by so many professional athletes in so many sports, including triathletes, marathoners, cyclists, cross-fitters, NBA, NFL, NHL, golf, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, track and field, and even Hollywood celebrities. The overwhelming majority of these athletes aren't being paid for their endorsement. Lebron James is probably the biggest sports name and it was reported he spent $3 million dollars in 2017 on his recovery.

Personally, as a tinker, but minimalist, I have been surprised by how often I am willing to travel with recovery compression boots. They simply go everywhere with me, and as I write this, I am in them. While there is still a place for many other recovery modalities in the athlete toolbox, no tool is as convenient and relaxing as recovery compression boots. They are just too easy to get into and I really do believe they help athletes recover faster and feel fresher.  If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

Otherwise, for those looking for a more affordable alternative to Normatec please take a look at my original Air Relax vs Normatec review. Air Relax is a competitively priced system that has also become the choice of many champions and in many sports. Some triathletes using Air Relax include Ironman Champions Romain Guillaume, Jozef Major, Guy Crawford, Kate Bevilaqua, and Susie Cheetham (6th at 2017 Ironman World Championship).

When companies have competition the consumer wins, and Normatec, Air Relax, and the newest entrant, Rapid Reboot will all help push the boundaries of what the human body can accomplish.

Relevant Links
- Normatec ($1495) vs Air Relax ($370) - original review - $1395 with $100 RecoverFaster17 discount coupon code
Amazon Basics Zero Gravity Chairs - $39.99
Normatec on Amazon - Normatec does not sell directly on Amazon but there is a 3rd-party seller.
Normatec on eBay - Used and New (Various prices generally $700-$1200)

- Air Relax - $400
- Rapid Reboot - $995

Athlete Blood Test - Q1 2018 Blood Biomarkers For Professional Triathlete Thomas Gerlach

My body / my blood on January 11, 2018
This post discusses my Q1 2018 Athlete Blood Test. I have links to all my previous posts/tests below. You can save 10% on your own Athlete Blood Test with coupon code: bloodtest10.

Athlete Blood Test (ABT) specializes in blood work for endurance athletes. They have worked exclusively with endurance athletes to understand the specific blood biomarkers that affect performance. They then apply that learning to help athletes proactively manage levels before it can negatively affect training.

Their process is simple:
(1) Order a test online (mine was the Gold panel + add-ons)
(2) Go to a LabCorp facility (at your convenience).
(3) Get the results and analysis via email.

With that I present my Q1 2018 blood report: Thomas Gerlach Q1 2018 ABT Report.pdf

Analysis - My take on MY blood work

As endurance athletes, we push our bodies beyond what they are designed to do and it is important to be proactive and identify deficiencies. Too often as athletes, we are reactionary and dig ourselves into holes before we finally capitulate and seek answers. The reality is that it can take weeks, months, or even years to fix those issues. The goal of my blood testing is to stay proactive and identify minor cracks before they become holes. Hopefully, by reading this, you are also taking the first step in being more proactive. With that here is my analysis:

By and large, everything looks good. It should be noted that I took this test after a solid afternoon swim. Hydration is supercritical and anyone that knows anything about kidneys will see the BUN is a little high. I will keep an eye on this for sure, but it is a reminder that although I usually don't drink during swims, maybe it isn't a bad idea. 

I want to briefly touch on a chronic health issue. Many people don't know this but I was diagnosed with ETD (Eustachian Tube Dysfunction) this past summer via a Type C Tympanogram. This means I have negative ear pressure in my right ear. It is a modern miracle that I was even able to compete last year but that is a story for another post. However, I mention this because I started a few different OTC allergy meds to reduce symptoms of the ETD. This may play a role in some biomarkers.

- Testosterone - this number is going to be affected by the midday test as T is highest in the morning. Total Testosterone was slightly lower than the last test. Free T is quite low and is the important T number as it represents the bioavailable T that can be used by the body. Unfortunately, Sex Hormone Binding Globulin is there in excess which literally binds to Free T and inactivates it. 

Last test I indicated I reduced both a calcium supplement and Benadryl (at night) which can have a negative effect on this area. Unfortunately, I went back on both of these due to the ETD. 

I also continued three supplements recommended by another triathlete who has chronicled his story with low-T. They are supposed to help with natural testosterone production in the body and include:
  • Pregnenolone, a naturally occurring building block needed by the body to create testosterone. It is legal today. Here is the current USADA status.
  • Gaia HPA Axis - various natural herbs & plants that are known to help support adrenal health and natural testosterone production, including Ashwagandha Root
  • Zinc - I switched from MgSport's Magnesium to their new product ZMG which has a very bioavailable form of zinc included in it. 
I will continue to supplement with these along with working to increase my Vitamin D levels and Magnesium levels. Both of these can help reduce the amount of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin which binds all that Free T. If I can reduce it then I should have more Free T circulating.

- B12 back down - I was low in Q1 2017 so I started supplementing with a specific B12 pill. Then I was high on my next report (Q2/Q3 2017) and I went to a standard B pill with a lower total B12. I am lower in B12 again and I will go back to a normal B12 pill in a reduced quantity.

- Iron levels back up but Ferritin high. On the previous test this was low, but with Iron supplementation, reduced workload, and an increased meat intake, I was able to significantly raise it. However, my Ferritin is a little high. This can be dangerous, hence why you have to be careful with Iron supplements and should only take them if you are deficient. This is a great example of how being proactive allows me to adjust my Iron levels to better levels. Although my numbers are still in the optimal range, long-term high levels could lead to liver damage.  

MgSport's new ZMG
Magnesium + Zinc
- White Blood Count back to normal. For the prior test, I was on the tail end of Amoxcillian for 10-days for a middle ear infection. I assume that was the reason for the low WBC and it is nice to see my WBC is back in my normal range as a chronically low number could be an ominous sign.

Magnesium Low!!! - this was my first year training in a southern climate in summer. I have warned people about losing Magnesium stores training in tough conditions and there is no tougher place than Central Florida in the dead of summer. While my Magnesium is still in the normal range, this number fell outside of the optimal range. It takes a long time to build stores so it pays to stay on top of your Magnesium levels before they are a problem.

Vitamin D Low - Within the normal range but not optimal for an endurance athlete. I spent an inordinate amount of time this off-season working on home-improvement projects and staying indoors. This could explain the Vitamin D level being a little low despite living in sunny Florida.

Folate Low - Within the normal range but not optimal for an endurance athlete. Again home-improvement projects may have played a role as I would assess my quality of diet as being sub-par given the lack of availability of a kitchen for proper food prep. This should get fixed naturally with more vegetables in the diet.

Action Plan / Changes:

  • Athlete Blood Testing - Continue quarterly tests.
  • Iron - Switch to every other day iron supplementation.
  • B12 - Switch back to straight B12 pill and consider every other day usage.
  • Vitamin D - Add a 2000IU capsule to midday supplements for a total of 6000IU a day. Consume with fat.
  • Magnesium - Ensure I am taking two capsules every night.
  • Folate - Should be an easy fix without the need for supplementation. I simply need to eat more vegetables.
That is it for Q1 2018. I look forward to seeing progress on my biomarkers and revisiting the BUN in my next test.

Athlete Blood Test Report History:
- January 2018 - Blog Post - Test Results
- June 2017 - Blog Post - Test Results 
- January 2017 - Blog Post - Test Results 

Athlete Blood Test - use code bloodtest10 to save 10%.
Why MgSport Magnesium by Thomas Gerlach

Supplement Links:
MgSport Magnesium on Amazon - use code  TGMS2017 to save 20%
MgSport ZMG on Amazon - use code THOMAS77 to save 20%
Heme Iron on Amazon
B12 on Amazon
- Life Extension Pregnenolone on Amazon
Gaia HPA Axis