"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Monday, February 28, 2011

Love 'Em or Hate 'Em

Just before going on to my topic for this post, I want to say that I promise to put up 2 or 3 new recipes on my website this week. I've been neglecting that for a while.

Doing long run after long run, I go through the fuel while running. And racing. So it's always good to hear when there might be a new fuel option. The Hammer Perpetuem Solids have been whispered about for several months now.

Yesterday, I finally had a chance to try them on my long run.

The first one...ummm.... Well, one needs to appreciate that they're not chewy like a jelly snake. According to the Hammer article I read today (ENissue73 off the Hammer Nutrition website), they couldn't get that chewy consistency without making them 50% sugar. So...they're powdery tablets - kinda like a giant chewable vitamin C or something. But when you bite it in half, your saliva makes it chewy. Sorta reminded me of an old marshmallow.

I definitely wasn't sold on the first one. But I convinced myself to postpone judgement, as they are just so different. I was pleased to find that by my 5th, I wasn't even thinking about their texture anymore. I was even disappointed that I had to save the last one to give to my mate to try. The orange flavour one is milder than the liquid form, which means that it's almost tasteless.

The Hammer article I found is actually titled "Love 'Em or Hate 'Em" and they even give tips for how to eat them :)

Here's what he says (and he even offers a refund if you don't like them - that's on the American site):

When you have a large wafer that started out as a fine powder and was compressed under immense force, it has a tendency to want to return to its original form. As some of the athletes we've heard from can attest, popping one in our mouth and pulverizing it into powder in one or two chomps is not the right technique. The best technique is to eat them slowly. It usually takes me about 2-3 minutes to eat one. They remind me of the giant Sweet Tarts® we used to eat as kids. I start by just sucking on it for a few seconds—this gets the saliva going in my mouth and softens the wafer. Then, break it in half and just start chipping away at it and chewing up small pieces, while keeping the larger piece in a cheek pocket. When I am done, using this gradual consumption technique, I do not feel the need to drink a bunch of water the way I do after consuming a serving of Hammer Gel or thick Perpetuem liquid. I typically only use about 2-3 an hour, so I am still enjoying calories from my bottle or gel flask as well. However, I have done centuries on nothing but Solids, water, and Endurolytes, and had no issues. A piece or two may stick in your molars, but that's fun too because then you get little flavor nuggets to enjoy further down the road. At this point, I imagine that some of you are thinking that sounds disgusting, while others are starting to see the potential.

I agree that I didn't get the feeling like I needed to swig water to cleanse my mouth afterwards. And I agree with the pieces stuck in your mouth - gives you something to do to pass the time and provides a distraction during a race ;)

Now I just need some more long runs.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Always More to Learn

What a great training weekend! Before the camp, I wondered how much I could get from going back to the same camp again for a second year. The answer is "there's always more to learn." Many thanks to Raf Baugh of our local "Running Centre" for organising this event for the 2nd year.

Even with the same speaker back for the nutrition talk (Steve Skivinis), I still took 3 pages of notes. New highlights for me include: cut back on the green tea - it has a lot of tannin, which interferes with the absorption of iron (and I'm a vegetarian girl, so iron's pretty darn important). Fizzy drinks (not that I ever have them) cut oxygen supply in the blood. Yoghurt suppresses cortisol production. Non-natural peanut butters are hydrogenated to make them smooth spreading (hydrogenated = trans fats; so it pays to get those ones that naturally separate). Steve gets the same "lighter" feeling after eating gluten free products that I get.

The physio (Damian Oldmeadow) was brilliant. Hugely experienced and evidence-based. It's very nice to know now of two excellent physios in Perth. And I got a good strength exercise for my adductors.

I also know a little about what pilates is and may explore it some more.

Steve Moneghetti. A world-class, extremely accomplished athlete and one of the most authentic of people. He spent time with me personally looking over my training programme and questionning my goals (when he wasn't cooking or doing dishes or helping someone else). Incredibly valuable experience.

I was honoured the whole weekend to be surrounded by athletes who set themselves great challenges and strive to improve themselves. Another of the most memorable moments for me was being with an athlete who experienced what was probably a stress fracture in his foot within an hour of the camp starting, yet pulled together the mental strength to stay at the camp the entire weekend and participate, adapting his training to accomplish what he could. That's mettle.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

See You Sunday!

I'm off to the Steve Moneghetti training camp for the weekend - nutrition, pilates, running, mates, all in a bush and trail setting with a cooling stream and wild blackberries.... Yay!! Will be reporting back on Sunday with new learnings.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Maroondah Dam 50k

Nuts and bolts before paint and trim, right? 2nd female and 16th of 85 finishers in the 50k event. 5 hr 32 mins. Garmin gave me 51.0k +1941 mtrs -2034 mtrs.

Okay, now for the paint and trim part.

It was an absolute treat getting to leave Perth's 36 degree days and head into the Yarra Valley where I got to say, "I'm cold" more than once. Race morning was about 12 degrees and overcast, with more threat of rain. It had rained all night.

Since the bush fires of 2009, the Morley Track from Fernshaw Reserve (Start) to Dom Dom Saddle carpark (Aid 1) has completely overgrown in ferns and some kind of razor sharp stinging nettle and has been laden with long strips of tree bark (i.e., major tripping hazard). It's leech country big time. I got my first leech ever in my whole life just walking 200 mtrs from the start line while reconning on Saturday. I can't say I took it well. I found it crawling up the inside of my jeans when I turned them out to check back at the car - it hadn't even latched on yet and I was freaking out.

The race director and other volunteers spent many weekends trying to clear the first 7 kms of the course, but it was more than they could do. The first few kms were as good as this photo and then it declined over the next km or so until it was just a mass of bush, over my head in places. We just kept our eyes peeled for blue ribbons and slashed our way from ribbon to ribbon. It must have been quite the sight with 100 runners emerging from the bush at the top of the steep climb, covered in blood! I even had slashes across my face that made it painful to eat the next day, due to the pulling on the scabs.

Around the 8k mark one female passed me. At Aid 1 (10k) I was told she had won a marathon before but this was her first ultra. I reminded myself to run my own race, but stay really strong, as it was going to be tough. There was a long way to go yet and the big climb of Mt St Leonard was still to come (Mt St Leonard is the tallest hill in the photo, with the communications tower just barely visible from the town of Healesville - that's the 38k point of the race).

Through the Dom Dom Saddle loop I was passed by another woman and that's when I started to get a bit miffed! ;) She was another unknown. Coming out of the Dom Dom loop, a relatively flat but very muddy, slippery, puddles-the-size-of-the-road 10k section, I was told I was down 6 mins and 4 mins. I tucked in for about a 2 hr push to the summit, which was at a height of 1,024 mtrs according to Garmin. I hoped I'd make some ground up here on a long hill section.

The aid stations weren't exactly as advertised (as things go usually with trail races), so I started to worry my Garmin was giving me bonus mileage and couldn't rely on it. I rolled past 25k aid station at over 27k and 30k at 33k. 35k was 38k. It was here I was told the girls were 6 mins and 2 mins, so I was closing in on one of them. One more really steep, rocky ascent took us to the summit of the mountain at the tower. It was in this section I passed one of the girls. Although she wasn't looking good, I knew that things can change quickly in a race, so wasted no time in trying to bank some distance between her and me.

The descent is 900 mtrs over about 9k - with one short climb in the middle, which was a reprieve, as I got to use the hamstrings for a minute instead of the quads! It had started raining again on the downhill, so was rather treacherous, but my xTalons helped me be gecko-like. The rain really stung the nettle wounds, which proved a bit of a welcome distraction from the massive quad hammering I was getting. Gave me new respect for what some of those 100 Milers would be like.

The other mystery girl had done at least as well on the downhill and I would guess she was stronger on the flat 4k to the finish, as she managed to gain another 4 mins on me to the finish line. I learned later that both my podium mates ran 3 hr 12 marathons in 2010. That's serious stuff.

Overall, I'm very pleased that I came within 11 minutes of the female course record (which is online as 5 hrs 21 mins), considering the loss of time in the bush-bashing section. I'm also pleased considering I've never seen the course and could only calculate my race time based on a profile map online. I've raced this amount of elevation before, but never in such a "short" race. I struggled a bit with nausea at the beginning, which took a while to get ahead of, but that was because of the "late" start (8 AM) - I had under-fueled in the morning. So I learned from that one, too.

The event was really well organised, in a very pretty part of Victoria, and I saw my first wombat. How much better could it be?? (Well, with the win, of course...but we'll just have to settle for silver, won't we).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Calling all Ducks!

15 hours til I fly over to Melbourne for 2000 metres of super brutal fun. The race has been described with some of the most beautiful adjectives: steep and muddy. But one noun I didn't like...leeches?!?

This week I've been putting all my ducks in a row -

Visit to Nathan Doig for massage Tuesday

Jon Tan, sports chiro, Wednesday

Alison Low, physiotherapist extraordinaire, Thursday (I promised photos!)
Toenails: camo

That's 4 ducks, all in a row.

The Perpetuem is all packed into little baggies for the beagles to sniff out. I think I'm going with my most trusty Inov-8 xTalons for this one (the shoes I used in Europe).

My only concern is that my running mates go for some epic run while I'm gone! I hope I don't miss out on anything good :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Best Thing to do for Valentine's Day

Set a rogaine fat ass course for your mates and then watch them head off for heaps of adventure!

On Saturday, Rolf joined me in setting the "controls" in my favourite nature reserve/park with a gorge and steep hills on either side. It's probably 25 square kms. I hauled out 4.5 ltrs of emergency water (cached at two locations) and 10 books with vague Valentine's themes, such as:

How to Get Married
The Secret Sex Lives of Animals
To Hell and Back

The books had differing point values - up a steep hill may be an 80 pointer, close by in the valley a 20 pointer.

Up for grabs was a total of 460 points given a maximum of 3 hours. Get as many or few as wanted in the time limit. But there was a nasty 5 point penalty for every minute late in returning.

The run started at 6.42 AM. At 9.42 AM...no runners in. But over the next 34 minutes, all appeared.

The win went to Aaron, who was the second to return, but by making a late effort to bag an 80 pointer up a 700 mtr hill and then running hard, the 11 minute extra time loss was worth it. Hopefully we got all the tick nymphs off of him.

Most of the guys are shown in the photo here. Note the pig melons on the table. Three guys brought me back a pig melon - there was a 30 point bonus for it.

Tapering's a lot easier when you can at least help your friends have a great day out!

One week to Maroondah 50k. Time to do some predictions, calculate some splits, and decide on the toe nail polish colour.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A New Video

Sitting here writing this blog, a parcel arrived - a new Compressport product - the full socks. Immediately enjoying the squishing of the calves after last night's 16k hill session with the guys.

A few of us have caught the bug of Youtube and xtranormal videos about ultrarunning in the past week. They're quite funny.

Rolf even made me one of my very own. The guy I'm talking with is Rolf himself - the one who gets the stress fracture! (And in my own defence, he didn't follow any of the programme I gave him to increase by 10%/week).

Yesterday I set a PB at the physio for the most dry needles. I think it was at least 10, although I never look. Next week I'm taking my camera, so be prepared for some unique shots!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bonding with Serp and Les

Wungong used to be my most favourite trail run - the best hills, good views through the gorge, wild boars, and butterflies.

Now I've got these other two under my skin. Saturday saw Dan and I head out to do the "real" Serpentine to Jarrahdale return trip (without the bonus k's of a few weeks back). Just under 4 hrs for 32kms and 1164 mtrs on a gorgeous cool morning for a change. It was brilliant! We stopped and had a few wild figs on the way back. In the afternoon I went to yoga to stretch and get some core stability in - it's my second time trying it and it seems useful - she knows her muscles!

Sunday (today) I headed out for a shorter one at my other new obsession - Lesmurdie Falls. Three of us started this one. I planned on 15k, but just couldn't help myself when Aaron headed out from the cars for another hour or so.... I followed him for a km or so as we explored a new section of single track. Naturally, when it started going straight up, I just had to see the top! I finally forced myself to leave him and turn around, repeating the mantra, "I am racing in 2 weeks." So 17k there for me and about 580 mtrs.

A few of the hills got nicknames today. The first one to be named was "Childbirth Hill." That's Aaron's. He created a new rule, which is to gather one rock from the bottom of the hill and carry it to the top, so we can start a cairn. This is what a baby cairn looks like (we had 3 rocks from last Wed's run, too).

The next big hill to be named was "The Little Lady." That's mine. I really like this hill. She's steep and comes on later in the route. You get to what you think is the top, where it levels out, go around a corner, and there's her daughter, a little hill. And then you go around another bend as it levels and, as Aaron said, "Surprise! It's twins!" After that little hill it levels again and then there's another nasty short steep rocky one. That one got named, too, but maybe I'll just keep that between me and anyone who comes out to meet the family :) And then you're at the top.
Despite my recent love affair with these two runs, it's back to my first love, Wungong Gorge, next weekend for the inaugural "Almost Valentine's Day Monarch Butterfly Fat Ass Rogaine Style Potluck Breakfast Run, Walk, Shuffle." It's got a bit of the Barkley Marathons thing with the books, but rogaine style, so you can get as many as you like.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Of Races and Dobermans

For anyone who's looked at my "maybe" list for 2011, you may have thought (as one person asked), "Is there anything that's NOT on your list??"

And of all the things on the list and the other maybes that kept cropping up, all of the sudden on Tuesday I found myself registering for the Maroondah Dam 50k (+/- 2000 mtrs) in Victoria. To be run in 2 weeks' time.

This one hadn't even hit my radar screen until Tuesday. My plans for February were an overnight 12 hr rogaine and the Moneghetti training camp.

It was a combination of being an IAU labelled trail race, a Qantas points sale to Melbourne, thinking I need to rest my tendons, and 2000 mtrs that sold me. Rather than limping my tendon issue out to try to race long in March (i.e., the 30+ hr Alpine Challenge), I thought it better to race shorter now and then go into a few weeks of rest/rehab.

I ran all this by my physio on Wednesday and she liked the plan. So I suddenly made a shift to speedwork again yesterday, which I haven't done since mid-December. I've got pretty good hill legs right now, as that's been my focus, but wasn't planning on speedwork again until early March. It was a haaaard session!

I'd like to think it was so hard because just before that I'd gone to see Joanne The Researcher's premises and had a VO2max test done. By the way, she's still in need of a few endurance guys and she's incredibly easygoing and flexible in regards to appointments. She's a runner herself with some hill legs, too - most recently taking 3rd W at the Bold Park 10k race. Email j.trezise@ecu.edu.au or ring 0435 102 182. And for the sprinters - she's starting a sprint study, too.

End of advertisement :)

Anyway, there I was on a treadmill (the most time I've ever spent on a treadmill now: 15 minutes) with a big mouthpiece in, running flat out, with two people I don't know cheering me on loudly (and watching I didn't shoot off the back of the machine, which I noted had a foam mat behind it). I learned that with a mouthpiece like that, you can't swallow. I couldn't get the imagine out of my head that I looked like some mad Doberman on that treadmill, drooling profusely, shaking my head from side to side, grunting.... The things she must see!

Results next week. I don't expect anything surprising from it, although I did learn already that my max HR appears to be only 170. A bit of a bummer, as that means I have less working range - so now my resting HR that I never really bothered too much with means more to me. Because with it usually under 40, it still gives me a 130 beat range. I'm thinking of the implications, but it does seem to corroborate my experiences that I cannot try to break records on hot days. And a hot day to me is just 26 degrees. This makes more sense now, since I'd be getting say 10 bpm more in heat and I'd hit anaerobic more quickly.

I'll have to do some more research on this one.

Big hills tomorrow!