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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Type 1.5 fun?

An ultra runner I know came up with a simple, very effective method of evaluating runs/races, based on a Fun Factor:

Type 1 fun - is fun during and after, good memories too
Type 2 - wasn't fun during, but was fun when you look back sometime down the road
Type 3 - was never fun, wasn't fun during, wasn't fun after

Looking at the Bibbulmun record attempt I start tomorrow at 5 AM, I think I will be looking for Type 1.5 fun.

The worst part today? Imagining the time the alarm will go off in the morning in order for me to be ready to go in Kalamunda for 5 AM!

Chiro? Check.

Massage? Check.

Bed on wheels? Check. This one was a stress for too long, until Australian Camper Trailers came to the rescue with a discounted offer on their superior off road trailer.

The Spot device should be up and running from Tuesday 1 November 5 AM (link on the right side of blog). Don't panic if you see weird things like drop-outs with sudden re-connections that look like I just flew cross-country. In trialling it last May I had a few such incidents.

My thoughts on last minute packing and emails? Type 3 fun.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Record Breaking on the Bibbulmun...Why?

A series of experiences in quick succession one day last week had me contemplating more about this Bibbulmun record attempt. So, why am I doing this? Because it's a challenge, yes, but sometimes the weight of the world bears down on me and I wonder what I can do to help. I get this feeling like I want to rush out into the street and take action. I walk a fine line between driving my passion and being driven by my passion.

I often ask myself how I can make a difference and bring some amount of joy to the world. Any amount, in any moment. Big or small. This time, it's big. Running for Inclusion WA is a chance to represent those such as my relative with Parkinson's and his carer, the children I've assessed with disabilities such as autism, spina bifida, or obsessive compulsive disorder, my running mates who struggle with depression or year-long injury....

I'm running for everyone reading this. Because you have surely all been personally affected somehow by disability in your lifetime - and the experience of sadness and loneliness that come from exclusion and isolation. We are doing this together. Send me messages, come out to the track, watch from the glow of your computer screen, make a donation. I won't get to Albany alone.

I'd like to add special thanks to Watermark Kilns and Nutkin Lodge this week. These are both brilliant regional companies, right on the track, who have been kind enough to offer us help in getting to Albany in record time. We'll be able to access luxuries like showers and laundry (unless we fall asleep too fast!)

Thanks to my brilliant physio, Ali, as usual, who also created the toenail theme for the event - 10 colours - one for each day on the track. And each day I'll paint my fingernails to go with the toes (I never paint my fingers). Rolf said he might even do it! I'll theme each day around that colour, which will give me something to "dissociate" with when it's tough (e.g., thinking of everything I know that's red, if it's red day).

And if you want to start something bold, find some paint or permanent markers and join me. I'm sure you can explain it to the guys at work ;)

Day 1:black (a serious colour for a serious day - get this day right to set myself up well; black also represents the absence of colour and there will be no colour on any of my other fingers)

Day 2: Orange Day 3: Green Day 4: Red Day 5: Blue Day 6: Yellow Day 7: Silver/grey Day 8: Purple Day 9: Brown (sandy day)

Day 10: White (the last day, the blending or absorption of all colour)

If I have to add on days...pink.

We don't want to go there, do we?!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fear Won't Help

This morning I chased 3 guys around Wungong, plotting the Perth Trail Series course.

On a sure-to-be sunny Sunday this coming February, 100 or so runners are going to tackle 14 kms with 438 metres of elevation gain. No matter the individual goal, approaching the day with fear will not help. One should, it would seem, adopt a most positive outlook, visualising success.

And that's how I have to approach the 1,000 kms that lie ahead of me. I find myself not even wanting to write the words "Bibbulmun FKT attempt." As daunting as the task is, it cannot be approached as an attempt in my mind. It is a journey that will be completed. In under two weeks.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Challenging Impossibly Dark Swamps

A running acquaintance of mine sent me some info on a great day of documentaries coming up in Perth - still time to get the morning long run in on Sunday 6 November before heading down to see these three films:

I will have to try to catch them later, since I'll be at km 563 of my own challenge that afternoon - near the town of Pemberton on my way south.

This past weekend Rolf and I went out for our own mini-challenge: the 12 hr WARA "Dark Swamp" rogaine, advertised as containing two "nearly impenetrable swamps." I'm not sure I've met an Australian swamp yet and certainly part of me was quite keen. But Rolf didn't share this curiosity with me and I had to admit it didn't sound like the way to a high scoring finish.

Although my body felt 100% healed from Commonwealths three weeks previous and my resting HR was back below 40 bpm, I found much of the day a mental and physical struggle. My feet swelled up early and a few toes started hurting (however, no blisters or toenail damage in the end). I've had a cold since Commonwealths and my ears still plug up at times - a mild ear infection, perhaps - the feeling you get when water gets in your ears while swimming. Then Rolf got the cold but worse because he coughs most of the night, bonding us in sleep deprivation. And the night before the event, while camping on site, his Thermarest developed a leak. So he slept (aka coughed) on the gumnuts all night.

With this lead-in, we headed out into our hottest day of the spring/summer season - something like 27 degrees. Within minutes I was too hot in the unknown-name-brand pants I had chosen. I ended up with a nasty case of heat rash all over my legs, but particularly on the backs of my calves where the too-thick hardly-breathable pants doubled over with the excess material of the wide legged bottoms. I had snake gaiters over the pants - I always wear the gaiters, but I've never worn those pants for a 12 hr (and hot) event before. Very painful! And some bonus welts and small cuts from parrot-bush bashing all day.

All that for 25th place ;) We would've qualified as 3rd mixed vet team if Rolf was just a few weeks older.

I must admit, 6 hours into it I was thinking, "This hurts. And I am going to do this for 1000 kms on the Bib in two weeks time. I didn't need this reminder so close to the event. This was a bad idea." 10 PM (the end) couldn't come fast enough for me, which is not at all like I usually feel about rogaines. I was stiff, limping, stinky, whingy, and crusty with sweat.

But morning dawned with the birds calling, the sun shining, and I was back to being that lucky girl laying there in my tent enjoying a weekend in the bush. I had great recovery overnight, which was a positive boost for my Bib thinking.

I think the dark swamp I challenged this weekend was in my mind. I got a good lesson out of that which told me I'd better do some more mental preparation. This record attempt is going to be a labour of the mind and I'm going to need amazing strength in this area. The body is trained. Now I need to sharpen the mind.

Time to dust off my meditation cushion.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bib Prep

When I was little I liked to play librarian.

I know, I know. No, the other kids didn't get it, so eventually I jumped on my bike with them and tried to convince them that cops and robbers was more fun if you designated different leaves as having different dollar values. Anything to add an element of organisation and order ;)

As I prepare for the Bibbulmun 1000k FKT attempt on 1 November, the inner librarian gets to come out and play again. It's a good thing that training is more about easy k's and strength work than high miles...because there's a lot of organisation for something like this!

To start with, I have created a spreadsheet with all the cumulative and point-to-point distances and the vehicle access points. I have been adding details of where my support people are coming out to jog/slog/hike with me. I start on Tuesday morning (5 AM). So far I should have someone with me Wednesday through Sunday. I'm hoping I might find some company to come out and help Rolf and I the following week, Monday through Thursday, as we traverse from the Pemberton area through to that glorious finish in Albany.

I've also got a running list of supplies - some of my key ones include:

SPOT Tracker, which will log my continual progress in mostly real time and act as an emergency beacon (I will post a public link for this later).

Garmin e-Trex handheld with the entire Bib track loaded. I will likely keep this turned off and just use it when I'm having doubts whether I'm still on track.

All 8 Bib maps and the 2 booklets

Flip phone and tensor bandage

Udo's Oil (I'll keep up all my natural anti-inflammatories whilst away)

Compressport compression socks to wear overnight

Leki titanium trekking poles

Roclite 305 and Flyroc 310 shoes in 3 sizes

Hammer Race Ready shorts (love the amazing pocket storage in these)

Icebreaker thermals and gloves

rain jacket

Nathan 2 ltr
hydration pack

Hammer Endurolytes and bars for snacking

Hammock (somehow hoping my support person will be able to set this up for my rest breaks - I think it
would be a fantastic way to take the load off the legs for an hour)

Turtleskin snake gaiters

And I've set up the donation site for Inclusion WA, the charity I'm supporting in my attempt.

I can't wait to see what colour my toenails will be painted for this one! :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cordyceps sinensis, epicatechin, and other hot tips for athletes

This week I had three different items hit my in-box that suggested benefits for runners. Naturally, I dug out my pseudo-researcher talons and went digging.

Exhibit A. Cordyceps sinensis. What, you ask? Fungi.

I was given a tip on a product that might keep my legs feeling fresh after hard workouts and increase my race performance, including VO2max. I'd never heard of it, but a quick search revealed a world of "cordygen" supplements, particularly in the body building arena. Cordygen supplements derive from cordyceps sinensis, the fungi.

Cordyceps really lives up to its science fiction-like name. Indeed, the spores like to attach themselves to insects and then slowly take over the insect's body, ultimately killing it, as it shoots new spores all over the earth in triumph. Creepy.

Time to research how this very smart fungi might improve my 10k time...without killing me as well ;)

First thing I found out is that there is actually a species of cordyceps called ciclosporin that is used as an immunosuppressive drug - it helps people's bodies accept donated organs. That's an interesting connection - a fungi that likes to kill its host can work to save a person from rejecting a new organ (something the body may try to reject as a 'parasite' of sorts). Hmmm... but how would this fungi improve VO2max?

Indeed, it doesn't appear to. On the athletics side, the resounding evidence from peer-reviewed papers was negative. Double blind studies have failed to provide any evidence of effects on oxygen consumption (e.g., measuring Vo2max, time to exhaustion) in cyclists. There was a slight hint from a 2010 article in the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine that it may improve "wellness" in the "elderly" (age 50+), but still without an increase in their VO2max.

For those who want the details, in addition to my general online searches, I reviewed these two articles: Earnest CP, Morss GM, Wyatt F, et al. (2004). Effects of a commercial herbal-based formula on exercise performance in cyclists, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36 (3), 504-509 and Colson SN, Wyatt FB, Johnston DL, Autrey LD, FitzGerald YL, Earnest CP (2005). Cordyceps sinensis- and Rhodiola rosea-based supplementation in male cyclists and its effect on muscle tissue oxygen saturation. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 19 (2), 358-363.

They appear to be the most recent. It's not an active area - I think it saw its time - a time that probably rose out of the 1993 National Games in China. Five Chinese athletes broke world records at that event and their coach was cited as saying he had them all on cordyceps (a long-standing Chinese herb from what I saw online). Wiki says this coach had a long suspect history and several of his athletes were banned from the Sydney Olympics for failed doping tests. So the reason they broke records in 1993 may not have been cordyceps at all.

So, no quick fix there, but at le
ast I got to put my wallet back in my pocket.

Exhibit B. Epicatechin. And that is? A flavanol in cacao. And cacao is in dark chocolate.
Yummy potential there. Better than bugs with freakish spores shooting out of them, that's for sure.

A very recent study published in the Journal of Physiology has been making the rounds under banners such as "Eating Chocolate is as Good as Exercise." Gotta hope. So, I went to the source. Nogueira, Ramirez-Sanchez, Perkins, Murphy, Taub, Ceballos, Villarreal, Hogan and Malek. (2011) Epicatechin enhances fatigue resistance and oxidative
capacity in mouse muscle. 589(18), 4615-4631.

Mice (first problem, I am not a mouse) were fed 1 mg/kg of body weight of epicatechin twice per day for 15 days. Compared to mice not given this, they showed significant improvements on their little mouse treadmill tests - including duration and speed. Then they were sacrificed so we could understand what happened to their muscles. Denser capillaries and more mitochondria. Good things (not for the mice). The researchers certainly did not conclude that humans should now auction off their running shoes for some bars of chocolate, despite what the media wrote. They merely said that "these findings may have potential application for clinical populations experiencing muscle fatigue." Safely and appropriately vague.

Okay, I want to buy into this. How much epicatechin do I need? If 1 mg/kg works for mice, then that's 50 mg for me. Certainly, I don't want more than the
minimum effective dosage if I have to get my epicatechin from chocolate - at some point the negative effects of the sugar and fat contents will overcome any benefits of the flavanols. How much epicatechin is in a gram of dark chocolate?? Who knows. In fact, it might be none. I found out that flavonoids in cacao are bitter, so some manufacturers actually remove them. But they don't tell you that - suggestion: if it's not bitter, it might not have any flavanols. I found just one secondary source referencing the last author on the paper, Moh Malek, saying "5 grams" of dark chocolate would be enough. That's like one little corner off those big bars of Green & Blacks.

Right. So I'm left with one last ite
m from my inbox to bring me hope. No miracle pill to do the work for me. Just some good advice. Worth more to me and my training than a gram of 100% pure Tibetan-grown organic, pesticide free, free range flavanol infused fungus :)

A good mate has been off with a significant injury and surgery and I asked her whether, with hindsight, she had any warning signs. Her reply:

First lesson - if something starts hurting see someone, be it massage or physio but someone who may have some clues about what's going on.

Second lesson - races don't matter - if you're injured give the race a miss (even if you've pre-entered) and get it sorted out.

Third lesson - patience, patience, and more patience. Don't rush back into training just so you won't miss your race (see lesson #2).

Fourth lesson - if its not improving with treatment get a scan so you can find out what's going on.

The lessons sound pretty simple really, but it can be oh-so-hard to admit when our bodies are breaking down and we need time off from our hopefully-healthy addiction.

And how's my own addiction going, post-Commonwealths? Well, my resting HR was elevated by about 13 points the night after the event, came down by half the following day, and then held out a few more days, likely because of the cold I came down with. It's now sitting back at it's usual place. I'm doing easy paced 10-15 k runs, allowing my body (with said cold) more time to heal, but generally my legs feel well.

I'm now beginning to organise my Bibbulmun FKT attempt, likely to start on 1st November.