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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Running on Half Empty

While several guys started their 100k (107k by GPS) charity run for MitoCanada at 11.30 PM Saturday night, I was a "slacker" who just joined in at the halfway point. With 3.5 weeks until Commonwealths, pulling an all nighter wasn't a wise option for this girl.

But I was still up at 4.30 AM, eating my cereal with that half-hungry, half-nauseous feeling. Then it was a carpool with two strangers in the dark out to a gravel mountain road to meet the group who were supposed to arrive at 6.30 AM. Of course, after 50k of running through the night in the dark, who knew when their arrival would really be.... It was 6.30. Hmm. I think these guys know what they're doing!

The guys I was driving out with scared the heck out of me. First one bloke says, "I've never run with a pack before." When I query the other one about his favourite races, it turns out he likes "flat and fast." Then there are some words about sore achilles. Yikes! Did they realise this was a 50k mountain run over 2 passes and 11 hrs?? I thought the participants were supposed to be screened!

We stood around on the gravel road, as the group of us increased to 11 people. First light of dawn threw a beautiful red tinge onto the mountains to our west and I finally got a better look at the group around me. It became apparent that I was surrounded by highly fit, ectomorph, adrenaline junkies.

We headed off onto the trails, beginning a slow, steady climb, chasing a herd of cows along the single track. Literally scaring the cr$# out of them, it seemed. Not a nice way to wake up!

Our route took us to the top of Jumpingpound Mountain at 2,240 mtrs, then over Lusk Pass and down to Barrier Lake at 29k (78k by then for the full distance guys). Aid Station here, fully decked out and with cheering, smiling faces. I found out that a group of 3 or 4 mountain bikers had also started the 100k journey behind us. I can't fathom having to push 20 lbs of steel through the mountains in addition to my own body weight!

At Barrier Dam, I heard that a group of about 5 women had started their ~28k journey to the Canmore finish line about an hour before we arrived. And soon to arrive after us to do the 28k version was a group of 3 or 4 men who were speed specialists (mostly 5k/10k, I think).

My early fears of these guys' ability to do an all day mountain run were quickly relieved. I listened to many stories of xTerra duathon wins, Ironman placings, and Masters World Cup skiing. I heard more about the Chicago Marathon than I'd heard in my whole life. Seems half the guys are going to that in October - and their previous marathon finish times? 2.32... 2.34... on a bad day 2.37.

Turns out they were afraid of whether I was going to be able to keep up on the day!

Up and over the second pass - Jewel Pass - with about 500 mtrs gain, and then a long, luscious descent (well, for me, as I was just a "halfer" - for the Full Empty blokes, the quad hammering was undoubtedly a little tough). The rest of the afternoon was a rollercoaster of single track for the most part. Lucky for all the shade, due to it being a hot day. I was very careful to be taking regular Endurolytes throughout the day - I had to work early on Monday and didn't want to end up shattered. I fueled with Perpetuem Solids for the day, augmented by some fruit and an egg salad sandwich at the aid stations. Perp Solids are hard to find in Calgary!

Into the finish line after 10 hrs and 13 mins on the trail for me - half an hour ahead of schedule as predicted by the race organiser and president of MitoCanada, Blaine Penny. That included all the Aid Station rest and refuelings, which were 20-45 minutes each. It was 17 3/4 hrs for the guys who did the whole lot. +2162 mtrs and -2496 mtrs for me. The guys from the start must have had at least another 1000 mtrs.

Talk was at least $25,000 has been raised from the event. The Canadian group are looking to partner with the Australian Mito foundation, whose main event is "Stay in Bed Day" coming up on 25 Sept, which honours those who have profound levels of fatigue due to the disorder in this unique way. Check it out, Aussies, and perhaps even help your kids' school organise a pajama day for it. It was an honour to be part of the run. I'm very grateful for the energy my body's cells make every day for me.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Running on Empty

How quickly things can change. All my planning for the next three days was around going to do a new 25k race about 3.5 hrs south of Calgary. Then this morning I got a simple email asking me if I knew anyone doing the "Running on Empty" 100k ultra this Sunday.

Well, no, I didn't. I'd never even heard of it. Turns out it's a charity run of 25/50/100k from west of Calgary (Bragg Creek) to the mountain town of Canmore. And it starts at midnight. How fantastic! And is put together by a top Albertan trail runner to raise funds for the MitoCanada charity - awareness and support for mitochondrial disease. His son was suddenly struck with it at age 4.

With only 4 weeks until Commonwealths, I didn't feel comfortable with a 100 k run, even at an easy pace, as it will also mean sleep dep with the midnight start. So I'm joining in at the 50k mark and will get to run over the 2 passes - Lusk and Jewel - and spend the day with some amazing people.

Although it's last minute, I set up a donation page here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Training Tips

These past three weeks I've bumped my usual weekly mileage up about 35k. I want a nice, big, fat base of endurance going into Commonwealths. I've started a bit of speedwork, but next week that part gets serious. My programme is neatly typed into a spreadsheet, which I painstakingly agonise over ;)

But then I was sent the "top 9 ways to improve your running" from a running mate this week, which made it all seem so simple. It goes like this:

1. lose 5 pounds
2. have a goal
3. lose another 5 pounds
4. have a training program
5. lose another 5 pounds
6. do some speedwork - like EVER
7. lose another 5 pounds
8. do some cross-training like cycling
9. lose another 5 pounds

Thanks for reminding me that it doesn't have to be all that complicated, Ken!

Today I did something unusual for a Tuesday run - kinda made it my long run (although I did one of those on Saturday, but without the elevation). I ran 34k +1800 mtrs up a great switchbacking trail that the local MTB'ers created a few years ago and then on to the summit of Moose Mountain again at around 2,400 mtrs. No marmots AGAIN :(

I think it was the 60 kph wind keeping them in their burrows. We actually had to tack with the wind going back down the mountain - running with it from an angle at our backs, we had to turn our bodies to adjust. It was hilarious as a canoeist to think of trailrunners tacking with the wind!

Pushup progress: Can do 15 at a time, resting for 1 minute between sets, for a total of 40. One month to go to get to 40 straight...it feels impossible!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mountains, Shirts, and Tendons

I know. Lousy title. Not feeling creative tonight, but these are the things I wanted to blog about.

Starting with mountains... ahhh, I'm lovin' them here in Canada. It's been so long that I've been away from them. My altitude lungs have finally arrived. So the big climbs at 2000 mtrs+ don't hurt anymore.

My Sunday run was 43kms up and over the North Kananaskis Pass from Alberta to British Columbia. We tried to "make it a loop" (famous last words of Trailtrash!) by dropping 600 mtrs down into the valley behind me in this photo - where I tried to collect park entry fees - but we got stopped after 3k in the bottom when we hit an avalanche blowdown area. The trail was gone and we were bushwhacking, climbing over downed conifers and big boulders for about a km. We reached a critical point then. We were technically halfway, but at 4.5 hrs with no idea about the condition of the trail ahead of us. It's a "black dot" route per the map - meaning not nice maintained trail. While we consulted the map, I kept the bear spray in one hand, as we watched a very suspicious looking black blob on the hillside above us. A few years ago some of the Trailtrash group tried to do this loop and got lost and were out all night. We didn't have headlamps and fuel was going to become an issue, so we made the call to turn back. It was a wise choice. There was a chopper that swooped by us a few times and finally caught us several hours later at a backcountry campground - they were looking for a group of 3 girls apparently lost in that area we had been to.

On the run, I took out my prototype Perth Trail Series shirt. I had gotten one printed onto a plain Saucony tech shirt to see how it looked before doing mass prints. The mass prints will be sublimated to ensure a good "stick" of the logo. The prototype was just done as a heat transfer. I knew it wouldn't be very durable, but was surprised at how quickly my hydration pack wore down some of the bright colours on the back. The sublimated ones will be perfect. I'm using the same company in Perth I used for some other logos that have been tested on product for over a year with no fade. The slogan? Uncivilise yourself. Watch for another prototype to be flaunted around Perth trails soon!

Okay, last topic. Tendons. Someone asked me about prolotherapy the other day. That was a new one. The premise? Glucose injections into weak tendons. It causes inflammation, which is supposed to promote an "inflammatory response" and thus healing (strengthening/rebuilding) of said tendon. It didn't sound quite right to me. And the stuff I saw online was saying you'd also need one to two months of rest. Well, coincidentally, after one to two months rest and NO injections, a tendon is probably going to be healed. So I went hunting for peer reviewed science today.

I came across a great recent review in Lancet (vol 376, pp. 1751-67). Efficacy and safety of corticosteroid injections and other injections for management of tendinopathy: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. I think this is timely, as well, as I hear of a few others with tendon injuries thinking about or undergoing injections.

Their summary of 41 randomised trials, including 2672 participants, indicated:

"...corticosteroid injections reduced pain in the short term compared with other interventions, but this effect was reversed at intermediate and long terms." [That's a common finding]

Indeed, their discussion of the corticosteroids reports that it's beneficial in the short term, "... but is worse than are other treatment options in the intermediate and long terms. Use of corticosteroid injections, which are potent anti-inflammatories, poses a clinical dilemma because consistent findings suggest good short-term effects but tendinopathy does not have an inflammatory pathogenesis. Altered release of toxins and inhibition of collagen, extracellular matrix molecules, and granulation tissue might provide a biological basis for this effect. Our systematic review challenges continued use of corticosteroid injections by providing strong evidence that they are worse in the long term than are most conservative interventions for tendinopathy." [I've read a lot on this and even my sports doc cautioned as well on long term effects of steroid injections - beware, runners - short term gain may be long term loss].

Their review findings also indicated:

"...platelet-rich plasma were not more efficacious than was placebo for Achilles tendinopathy, while prolotherapy was not more effective than was eccentric exercise."
I actually thought there was better research behind blood injections for the Achilles - maybe it's the period of rest that's doing more good in those it helps. Good to see eccentric exercises still getting support. I used eccentrics to treat my adductor tendonopathy, on the advice of two of Perth's best physios. And I still do eccentrics 3x/wk for adductors and calves (which support the Achilles).

The article admits there are still lots of questions to be asked and angles of research to consider, but all in all, it's a worthy summary read of the status of injection treatment for tendons.

I hope my research-driven posts aren't taken as lectures from "mum." We all walk (run) our own paths and need to choose our own courses, but I hope we make those choices with knowledge of as many of the potential consequences as possible for taking any given path. The research helps me make those choices, which can so often be emotionally driven.

Run, walk, swim, cycle, or paddle happy :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mileage x 2 + hill repeats + 3900 mtrs = 1 cold

No surprise, eh? Double my mileage (I mean, the rest is over, right?) and add a bit of speedwork. Wake up with a sore throat.

As the adage goes, Do as I say, not as I do :)

I don't think it's really a setback, though. My nutrition has been great and it doesn't feel like much of a cold. I just slept poorly a few nights (who puts wind chimes on their patio outside their bedroom window?? Apparently the people I'm house sitting for).

The amazing runs this week included a 15k up Moose Mountain to the fire lookout (yes, a real live fire ranger lives up there all summer with the marmots). If Garmin's not lying this was an 1,150 mtr run. The top was supposed to be 2,437 mtrs according to the topo, but my Garmin shorted me about 50 mtrs. I think someone's been kicking rocks off the summit.

Today included two runs - a 24k loop up to a ridgeline at about 2,500 mtrs which we ran for 9k along the top and then a 14k climb up Mount Lipsett at 2,580 mtrs. Total elevation gain from these two was about 1,900 mtrs.

I realised that I'm feeling a lot better about the altitude now - I didn't even notice it today, despite having a bit of a sinus thing going on. I decided when I went up to Moose Mountain on Wednesday night that it was time for a new tradition. The only photo I could remember of myself on the summit showed me in snow and nothing but a sports bra! Obviously I was truly a hardy Canadian back then. So here are 2006 and 2011.

Monday, August 1, 2011

An Introspective Week

Whilst enjoying some great runs over the past week or so, I've had many experiences causing me to contemplate this intense running world of mine.

Katherine, the girl in this photo at Rawson Lake, just completed the Canadian Death Race in a very creditable 20 1/2 hrs. I slept with the phone beside my pillow in order to get all the updates I could from her partner whilst he was crewing. I was almost drawn to tears myself from word of her finish.

And I had an interview in regards to my planned attempt on the 1000km Bibbulmun Track in October/November of this year. The journalist certainly got me thinking. Of course one question was ... Are you going solo unsupported to try for the 19.5 day female record or go supported to try for faster (e.g., overall record of 16 days 8 hrs). Hmmm. Well. I guess I should know that, shouldn't I? My original plan was always to go solo unsupported. That's an easy choice for me, as I am a loner and love solitude. If I have 3 guests in my home over the course of a year that'd be a lot! However, my partner and several of my mates have been offering to crew me - they want to be part of the journey.

And I've partnered with Inclusion WA for this attempt. They seemed a good fit for me - helping kids (and adults) with disabilities get access to sport and recreation. The time I spent injured and sidelined with surgery in 2009 is fresh in my mind. It was very much a time of exclusion and I felt quite isolated. I know that the #1 prescriptive for mental health illnesses such as depression is exercise. Having had a friend just commit suicide last month also highlighted the relationship between mental and physical health. My friend told me that when we were out exercising it was the only time he got relief from the "monster" in his brain.

So...the decision's made. I'm going to do the Bib fully supported. As fast as possible. Inclusive. With gratitude for all my great mates who are willing to give of their time and energy to help get me to the finish line in Albany ... in record time. Book your days off, guys!

Now that that's out of the way, I can get back to focusing on this little training run I'm doing to prepare for the Bib - the Commonwealth Championships. I've officially completed my 'recovery' 3 weeks. Post-Ireland I ran weeks of 40k, 65k, and 60k at easy paces, whilst adding more strength work. Now, I ramp it up. 8 weeks to go.

Yes, my pushups are improving. But, no, I can't do a single one of those triangle hand position ones yet.