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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Improvements all Around

Has been a really good week. My pinched sciatic nerve thing continues to improve - it seems to have "receded" from my calf up past my knee and mainly just flares up in my hip flexor now. Ali my physio says that's a good thing. I guess trapped nerves act like ocean tides.

The more serious speed work I've been doing also seems to be paying off, as my longer efforts feel easier and my short "races" are faster. I also hate it less, which must mean I'm getting more accepting of the efforts necessary for this short stuff!

I'm sticking with the beet root experiment, although I am finding it hard to locate juice, so am trying to secure a juicer and real beets to start brewing my own. After the first dose, where I actually rushed out of the room to brush my teeth and then felt like I was going to vomit for an hour, it's getting easier. I'm even trying to tell myself I like it (the brain can be easily fooled).

I've also now lost a kilo over the course of 3 weeks. I did it by making very small adjustments to my diet because I wasn't willing to go back to the mental disaster that took place before 6 Inch when I calorie restricted too severely. This time I was much smarter about it - doing little things like having sandwiches without the mayo, swapping my 'low carb' bars for bars that are actually higher in carbs but much lower in fat .... In theory that kilo will give me 15 mins over the 100k at Coburg. That makes me feel much better!

Last Sunday's run was a gem of a trail run. 31k with just over 600 mtrs elevation, so not really hilly, but lots of loose gravel to work the quads and hammys. Good company and even some blood spilled (not mine, which is even better). Got to try out the Hammer Perpetuem cafe latte liquid, which I quite liked. I'm thinking during my next race I might start with orange and then add a bit of cafe latte later in the day to make a whole new exciting fuel option! ;)

I've got to start bringing back the length of my long Sunday runs now in preparation for the Coburg National 24hr in 2.5 weeks, which is always a bit of a downer. But after Coburg, I'm doing a 3-4 day fastpacking run on the Bib track in preparation for my planned end-to-end run in October. With the help of supplies from Mainpeak, I'll be trying out poles, sleeping gear, etc, for next spring's fastpack. I was in to the Cottesloe shop yesterday and the guy I talked to there really knew his stuff - he's a mountaineer and he's helped prepare many people for end-to-end trips, including one guy right now planning to do a 12 day trip (it's 1000 kms). I don't know who that is, but if he succeeds, that'll blow the men's record out by 4 days. I also don't know if he's supported or not, because it makes a difference to your speed if you've got support along the way and don't have to carry all your food and sleep gear. But supported or not, 12 days would be a massive new (unofficial, as all Bib runs have to be, since it's not a race where everyone runs the same course at the same time) record.

Next month sees a lot of WA'ers racing big - a few of us are going over to Coburg, plus a few are headed to the Canberra marathon and 50k. This weekend is also the WA 40 Miler (which I'm happy to give a miss to, as I've never bonded with that race). And there's also the 24 hr Relay for Life coming up the same weekend as Coburg, which a few ultrarunners usually use to practice speed and/or exhaustion. So some of us will be on tracks at the same time in mid-April, albeit in different states. April's going to be very exciting!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In the Name of Science

Enough of my ramblings. Let's get back to important things: cold, hard science.

Our days of "altitude training" in Perth are going to come to an end in the next few weeks (as discussed in earlier blog posts - the changes in partial pressure in extreme heat conditions equating a 40 degree day to 1700 mtrs elevation).

So, what else can give us that little advantage?

Beets, anyone??

Now, I grew up in a country where we said "beet" not "beetroot" (just as we didn't say carrotroot), but really, it's not a word we said much at all...unless it was, "Please remove that beet from my plate." I think I only knew one person who ate beets. I'm not sure I've ever eaten one, but I'm sure I don't like them.

Nonetheless, the literature coming out is pretty convincing, so it's time to grab a clothes-peg and get tough.

If you'd like to check out the literature yourself, there are great articles in the Journal of Applied Physiology and Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2010/2011. This seems to be hitting the journals by storm right now (or I've just been missing it all along).

Basically, some extremely compelling studies, including double-blind and placebo-controlled, are indicating that beetroot (and other high nitrate root veggies such as carrots and cabbage) lower blood pressure (~4% in healthy people), lower oxygen cost (VO2) in sub-maximal endurance efforts (~4%+, depending on your daily intake of nitrates already), and suggest long term positive effects on VO2max and lactate threshold.

The only mystery is exactly how it works. The way I understand it, nitrates (NO3) break down into nitrites (NO2) through anaerobic bacteria in your saliva and then into nitric oxide (NO) through other means. We already know that nitro sprays are used for vasodilation in people who've had heart attacks.... But there's this old body of research from over a decade ago that said we should stop eating processed/deli meats because of the nitrates and nitrites in them being cancer-causing. So how can those be cancer causing and yet good old veggies aren't? I mean, logically, veggies shouldn't cause cancer. But what's different about the nitrates in processed meats? (I don't eat those meats, but still, the question is important).

I'm mentioning that last bit because if you also decide to take on the beetroot experiment, I want you to appreciate there's still a factor of "we don't know if anything bad happens to humans after long term supplementation with high nitrate foods" in the literature.

Bottoms up!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fast and Slow, but Same Result

This week I competed in two races, with similar placings in each... only my paces were a bit different: 4.24 min/k vs 12 min/k!

I managed to find a 10k race to do midweek (Masters Athletics WA 30th annual Track and Field Championships), which was excellent, as I really prefer to get my speed training in during the week and leave weekends to long runs. The 10k is where I managed the 4.24 pace (43m 58s; 1st W40; 2nd f overall, although it was a small field and the time is really the thing that matters). I was quite happy with my time, especially considering I'd done 25kms of speed training and hill training in the two days before the race - no taper whatsoever because I'm using these sessions for training.

The race led to some discussion and now I have a question (see Poll on the right). Doesn't everyone appreciate/need a little yelling during a really hard race?? I know when I'm digging deep, it can really help to hear someone yelling encouraging words such as, "Keep it up!" Rolf, however, finds such comments rather annoying if directed at him. So he has trouble yelling encouragement. When I plead, I end up with big smiles and a thumbs up. Now, on Thursday night, that made me want to punch him. (I know that's not very nice). There I was grimacing, sweat pouring, lungs and heart at max, and my supporter was grinning like I'd just sunk a nice shot in mini-golf?!? I admit that it did seem to work a treat to give me a burst of speed, though, as I channelled my anger into my legs ;)

So now I'm curious. Am I a freak in liking some serious voiced, sometimes loud, encouragement? If so, I should know this, as I'll (1) get better at yelling at myself and (2) stop yelling encouragement at other racers.

As for the slow race....

The 6 Hour "Been There Done That" rogaine two hours south of Perth. For those not familiar, a rogaine is a long-distance cross-country navigation event. Using only map and compass, you have 6-24 hrs (depending on the event) to find as many hidden "controls" as possible. It's like a treasure hunt for grown-ups!

Rolf and I went out to this, taking the motorcycles on a rare summer outing. The terrain was mostly open farmland, so the navigation was often easier. It started mid-afternoon, so we had the 30+ degree heat followed by a few hours in the dark. There were ticks, bulls, sheep, marshy bits, and electric fences. All the regular rogaine things! Despite not having rogained in 12 months (and it being only Rolf's 2nd event), we finished 2nd mixed team and 12th/90 overall. I figure we clocked up about 30 kms - much of it was jogging at around a 7 min/k pace, but you lose a lot of time in thicker bush, in the dark, and climbing over fences!

In the last hour, Rolf dug out his Perpetuem solids (caffe latte flavour) to try. I was really excited, as I'd gotten him a container to try, but hadn't tried this flavour myself. I'm not a coffee drinker, but was hoping it might still be a nice taste. Well, it was a definite winner with both of us. He was good enough to share the remaining ones with me and we used those as rewards through the last few controls and back to the "hash house" (admin/camp area). They were especially nice after having eaten a bunch of sweeter chews through the day - no sweetness to these at all. They're brilliant.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Calf Bone's Connected to the...

You guys remember this little ditty?

The toe bone's connected to the ankle bone,
the ankle bone's connected to the shin bone,
the shin bone's connected to the knee bone,
the knee bone's connected to the thigh bone,
the thigh bone's connected to the hip bone,
the hip bone's connected to the back bone....

I just had a big reminder of how connected the body really is. I've had a tight left calf since a beach run on 5th January. That's a loooong time. I kept making progress with massage and needling, but then it would get sore again.

A few weeks ago, Rolf ran with me and commented that I was limping while running. That wasn't cool; I'd obviously been in denial. My gait was being affected, which means more injury building up. I tried to focus on my gait carefully and noticed that to stop limping, I had to rotate my hips more and that felt impossible - my hips and back felt stiff. I was just slamming down on my left side.

So off I went to the therapists with a new theory - that my calf tightness was perhaps originally caused at the beach run, but had long ago morphed into something else...and was much higher up the chain of muscles.

Back manipulation and needling with Ali at Ascend provided instant improvement of about 80%. Followed that up with focused back massage with Nathan Doig on Monday and back/hip work with Jon Tan today at Langer, and voila! No limping for a week. My calf pain had become nerve related, but I'd gotten so used to it I'd stopped looking outside the box to realise that the symptoms were actually different (nerve-type pain running down the entire calf, rather than just a knot in one spot).

I thought my little story might be a help to anyone else struggling with some niggling issue that's been going on too long. Get creative in your problem-solving and get someone else to watch you run.

The calf bone's connected to the back bone :)

Fujiya & Miyagi have even written a Musculoskeletal System song!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wungong Gorge


691 mtr gain

1 creek crossing

and about 10 figs

I already can't wait for next weekend - a 6 hr rogaine and a Bib track run. Just loving the cooler weather. Can start at 7 AM. Even broke out the black Compressport for a change!

Time to Get Serious

With 5 weeks to go until the Coburg 24 hr track race, it's time for me to tuck into the serious work now. My hip/glute tendons all seem good but I can still feel that weird adductor enthesis sensation at times. I am doing daily strength work, which seems to have helped, as did backing off speed work for the past few months. I was inspired after crewing at the WA 12 hr track race last weekend and am getting recharged by the cooler (i.e., low 30s) weather finally hitting Perth.

So it's time to give it everything and if my legs fall apart, I know I'm not ready yet and I'll create a Plan B. That SUP boarding looks fun ;)

I'm still debating my Coburg race goals, but I've wanted a crack at a 100k and 12 hr for quite a while now. That could certainly sacrifice a 24 hr race, though. For now, my training is going to focus on the 100k, getting as much speed as possible. I'll try to gently drop a kilo as well. It's a tough one, as my body seems very happy to maintain 52.5kg. Last time I dropped a kilo for a race (December - but I had gone up to 54.0), it was not a good thing. I did it too fast and it caused a real change to my mood, as my body was starved of carbs. So this time I'm going go at it gently over several weeks. The people around me should appreciate that, too ;)

Tomorrow, 3 hrs of hills (with a little fig eating, hopefully) at Wungong Gorge!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Childbirth Hill

Who ordered summer back in Perth today?!?

That was harsh - our nice little hill run (~11k/400 mtrs) started out as "Let's go exploring" and quickly became "Let's run from shade to shade, trying not to dry heave."

But we made the summit of Childbirth Hill (and yes, there was a little dry heaving) with a few more rocks for our cairn.

Sorry for the tilt on the shot - had to wedge the camera in a tree. Makes me look creative, no?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Racing vs Crewing

I was crewing at the WA 3/6/12 Hr Track Challenge yesterday. Made me want to compare racing to crewing to see what's better:

-run 400 x 8 mtr sprint sessions over 12 hrs. Hmmm....I've never read 8 mtr intervals recommended by Mona, Lydiard, and co.

-run steady, burning megadoses of calories all day

-get sunburnt in blotches like behind the knees and the 1 inch line between where my shorts end and my shirt rides up my back while bending over to find the racer's sunscreen in his bag

-have someone apply and reapply sunscreen to me at 3 hr intervals (i.e., my crew) according to a detailed written schedule

-starve for 3 hrs then cram an entire pizza slice into my mouth in one bite, while trying to pour Perpetuem into a hand-held for my runner

-have someone feed me at regular 15 minute intervals (i.e., crew) according to a detailed written schedule

-overtax my working memory, trying to hold in mind two racers' needs and instructions ("Can you get me my water bottle and a yoghurt in 3 laps?" "How many kms is that?" "I'll change my shirt in two laps, when I come in at the same time as you're trying to mix Perpetuem and apply sunscreen to the other guy")

-maintain a blissful mindlessness while having people hand me things whenever the urge strikes me to request something

-finish the event, then help the race director clean up

-finish the event, then continue to space out while everyone else cleans up

No maths necessary. Racing is definitely easier than crewing.

Naturally, I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek, because I had two of the most easy going racers to attend to, despite the fact that they both went through some real low patches over 12 hours in the heat. I saw another racer yell at his crew and throw his bottle across the track.

So, would I change a thing about yesterday? No way. The two guys I crewed both did PBs over last year. One by 8 kms (which means a lot when you're at the pointy end) and one by a massive 14k, breaking the 100k barrier nicely.

My medal's invisible, but I know it's on my mantle and it's one of my most precious.

These photos were from the 3 hr turnaround - first Nathan the RD demonstrated how to be a bollard and then I took a turn, taking the opportunity to do my one legged glute squats at the same time.