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

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lucky 7: 77k in 7 days with 77 ticks?

On Sunday, I had the great good fortune to go running with four others, on a planned 25km point-to-point route. We set up the cars at the finish point, where I left all kinds of yummy protein recovery supplies in an esky (chocolate Hammer Recoverite and single serve low fat yoghurts).

We piled into R2 (Rhonda the Second), my lovely little 1988 Corolla hatchback. Then we drove the worst corrugated gravel road in all of Australia. There may be more rutted or washed out roads, roads with more crocodiles or road kill, narrower roads or steeper roads, but there can be no more corrugated one than this.

Tash, in the front with me, joked that at least the windscreen was still in place.... Later that day on the drive home, though, the sound of whistling air confirmed for me that the entire windscreen was flapping in the breeze! And then I lost idle - stuck EGR valve?

Anyway, back to the run. Some thoughtful fellows had dropped a lounge suite off for us, knowing that ultrarunners need to put their feet up sometimes. Sadly, it was only about a km into the run, so we hardly had an excuse to stay long!

Back on the trail, for lots of lovely rolling ups and downs. Somewhere around the 17k mark, we zigged when we should have zagged.
We found ourselves at a fork with no marker (we were on the Munda Biddi trail system). Hmmm. Mark took one fork and I took the other for a recce. Nothing. Liza ran back down the trail to look for a junction we'd missed. Nothing. Using our map, we decided to head south.

It got more fun, as Mark and I started applying all the usual navigation tactics to the run. Force the map to match the terrain, decide where you want to be and then make the map 'fit' that. Don't go back and retrace your steps, no matter what ;) We figured we were happy enough as long as we went west or south, just not north.

Not everyone seemed quite as excited about exploring as we were. But it wasn't even close to getting dark, we hadn't run out of food yet, and I have a 20 hour Garmin!

Two km from the finish (now with 5 bonus km in hand), I stopped to wait for the others to regroup. Good chance to do a tick check. I looked down. Who sprinkled pepper on my calves?!? There must have been 70 tick nymphs chowing down on my calves. I ran my fingers up my calves and filled underneath my fingernails. The other runners had them, too, but not nearly so many. I must have grazed against just the right bush.

I took this photo today - 30 hours after the run. I have 27 bites on my left leg and 2 on my right. They are now blistering. I've dusted off the bottle of Pinetarsol from my 2010 attack. I know what I'm in for. Two nights of no sleep, then two weeks of irritating itch. Then an on-and-off itch for two more weeks.

Will I ever run again in summer without my Compressport guards? I don't think so!

At least I have a distraction now from my medical issue (no progress on getting in to the specialist).

So, the week's total was 77k and my foot and calf seem to be coping. I still have calcaneocuboid pain, stiffness in the ankle, and lack of control of my 4th metatarsal, but those are just details ;)

Bib number for TNF100 is 707.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Visit from a Hammer guru

I got word of this via facebook and wanted to give a heads-up to any WA athletes who read my blog ... This guy wrote the Endurance Athlete's Guide, one of my top resources for nutrition. He's a most-approachable person, too - amazing he can find the time to answer individual emails.

Steve Born (Hammer Nutriton - Senior Techincal Advisor) is coming to Australia.

Steve is known to most of us for his great advice to Endurance Athletes around the world.
He is one of the most sought after Endurance Nutrition Speakers in the USA, constantly touring all over the Country giving seminars at most major events.
Now coming to Australia, and you can have a chance to listen to his advice and ask vital questions first hand.
Steve will be visiting the major centres listed below.

If you live in a provincial City/town and have a reasonable size group that would like to listen to Steve let us know and we will see what we can do.

For those who would like to register their name early for the seminar, please email us with your details and City. Spaces will be limited.
Further details will be released in April/May.

Seminar Cities


Monday, February 13, 2012

Before You Were a Trail Runner, What Were You?

Yesterday, 131 people stood on the start line of the 3rd Perth Trail Series event. A race I called Snakes 'n' Ladders in vague reference to the location ("Serpentine" Falls National Park) and to the steepness of the hills, which might be better approached with a ladder!

For 3 1/2 years - since moving to Perth - I have run with a handful of trail runners. For one whole year I think it was essentially my mate Rob and I running together. People came and went, depending on their personal training goals. But we were lucky to ever have 5 or 6 of us out at once.

So, before the PTS racers were trail running, what were they doing? Maybe, like me, running for fitness, wishing there was something that would make running more enjoyable. Less like work. I stumbled across trail running by way of an email that came to me, telling me about a trail running group in the Rockies, where I came from. That first run - 15kms in snow and darkness, chasing 8 people who were much fitter than me - left me nauseous and limping. It was Type 2 Fun that grew into Type 1 Fun as I got more fit.

With the series being nearly a half-time job and all my other volunteer and work commitments, there's no way I could train at an intensity to compete right now and to keep my stress levels as low as needed to optimise training. So, I have to decide whether it suits me to try to have an "off season" from Jan-March so I can run the series in future years (if it's wanted). For this year, with my injury/recovery, it hasn't been a problem.

Last week's grand total of running was about 40km. This week I'm gearing for between 60-70, which is what I ran the previous week and the "Bib leg" held up well. Even after "accidentally" running 24.5km as a long run (trails being as they are, it's pretty hard to suddenly stop at 20.0km and say "Okay, guess I'm done here, that's my limit for today!"). Ali (my physio) continues to create good pain for my foot to get back my flexibility but Nathan ("hands of steel" massage therapist) trumped Ali's pain whilst working on my feet today, along with my low back, which seems to be suffering from too much sitting). I can honestly say I've never experienced more pain in a session. I know he'd be proud ;) Other progress includes the fact that I have lost close to 1kg of the extra weight I put on post-Bib whilst unable to exercise at my usual intensity. It feels noticeably better. I want to drop another 1 kg each month through to mid-May. That would get me back down to competition weight. Fast like a greyhound, ultra runner-style :)

I'm still going through heaps of medical tests for my mystery issues. Once I know more, I guess I'll say more. But I'm getting to google more new words these days!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Making Time for Us

Having a passionate nature means I'm constantly having to pulls the reins in on my runaway horse. I freely admit that I have a problem :)

However, to use the "labour of love" analogy, the vice presidency I took on with AURA must be akin to giving birth and raising sextuplets. Maybe it's not actually giving birth - I didn't create the vp at AURA position - I just inherited it. So, let's say it's like someone died and willed me their sextuplets. They're great kids and I love them like they're my own, but I just can't take care of them all as much as they deserve. So I continue to search for people to adopt some of them. Failing that, I expect that in a few months, someone is going to find 6 small "children" abandoned under a bridge. And me skipping down the lane, freely :)

One of the biggest tragedies in having such a big role within AURA is that my blogging has suffered. So, here I am, on a Saturday morning, with a cuppa, to spend a little quality time.

There's so much rolling around in my head I've wanted to share that I fear it will all come out disjointed in one piece! Let me start with my compartment syndrome recovery....

I took up short, slow jogs at the end of December, at which time I still had a lot of daily swelling in the shin and foot. Jogging actually helped, as the muscle contractions pumped the fluid back out of my lower limb. But I've had to limit the run lengths and intensity markedly. In mid-January, setting the PTS Staypuft course, I ran 19k quite well, but it was a very slow pace, with stopping to tie ribbons on bushes. I tried to back that up the following weekend with an 18k of hills at a more normal pace and paid the price. The shin just felt weird for a few days after that. Not painful, but kinda thick-like. An odd feeling.

I went back to see Ali, my physio, last week and we assessed my progress again. We both agree it's been slower than expected (although neither of us had seen chronic compartment syndrome of this nature before). The arthropathy in my calcaneocuboid joint (outside bottom of foot) continues to cause me almost continual pain/discomfort. We assessed my foot strength. No, make that "tried to" assess my foot strength but basically I had none. I could barely stand on tiptoes on that side. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments in my foot have atrophied, I think, and quite possibly the temporary nerve damage I had inhibited their functions.

We've decided to take a rather aggressive approach to the foot for the next week. I am doing a lot of painful strength work (what could an ultrarunner like more than a lot of pain?!) and lots of stretching through the foot and ankle. Although my calf muscles are still the same size, a small amount of decreased strength is evident to me. I can't do my eccentric calf raises on my left foot because I cannot move that way - pain and lack of flexibility, both. If I keep doing the calf raises on my good side only, I figure I'll create more unevenness.

I find this injury really fascinating. I think it's a very small insight into the lives of people who've had traumatic muscle injuries, stroke, accidents, etc. When I move my foot - wriggling my toes, for example, it's a very conscious movement and everything feels just a little bit awkward, stiff, and "thick."

My goal races for this year start with TNF100 in mid-May. My main reason for entering that race is because many of my mates are doing it. That's a good reason to enter, but it's not going to get me over the finish line. So the secondary goal is to smash out my best possible time, going as hard as possible on a course that's been run by many of Australia's best athletes. I'm probably a bit older than would be best to 'peak' on this kind of trail race, but I expected a sub-13hr race was possible for me under best conditions.

However, to stand at the start line with a hope of going for this goal, my foot needs to be completely recovered in the next 6 weeks. I need all my proprioception back in training. I need to be able to twist and turn quickly and smoothly on uneven terrain. Absolutely impossible right now. I can't even stand on tiptoes!

If TNF doesn't come together in time, I'm okay with that. I have a back-up plan of running the Sri Chinmoy 24 hr in mid-June, with a goal of breaking the Cdn W open 24 hr record. Something I didn't get to finish at Commonwealths. I'm working with a GP and sports doc now on some apparent grade 3 iron-deficient anaemia. We're still debating to what extent my anaemia is artificial - "sports anaemia" - a consequence of "regular aerobic training, which causes an increase in blood plasma volume. As a result the red blood cells are more diluted, and measures of haemoglobin and ferritin appear lower since they have effectively been 'watered down'." This is exacerbated more in hot weather.
I've had no symptoms of iron deficiency (fatigue, lightheadedness), so I'm rather concerned about the mega-doses of iron the medicos have recommended. Too much iron increases risk of disease and cancer (okay, everything increases the risk of cancer, I'll give you that one). But it's my body and it's the only one I have. I'm a bit protective.

The only question in my mind about possible "real" anaemia is that at Commonwealths I had a low-level nausea which kept me from running the speed I wanted. We attributed that to spoilt fuel. But the nausea continued (when not running, as well) for the month after the event, so that's what took me to the GP. Whilst nausea is not a symptom of iron deficiency, one might make the case that with decreased ability to transport oxygen around my body, the digestive system may have suffered first (shutting down digestion in order to preserve oxygen for more vital muscles).

The mystery continues.

I'm working on a new formula for measuring our success with surviving WA summer... in addition to miles logged, with consideration for time of day and humidity, I've added a variable related to how many flies you've got stuck in your eye, swallowed, or inhaled up your nose. Any other pertinent variables you think I need to add to the formula, just let me know!