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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Follow Your Toes

It Always Knows.

In case the Aussies didn't grow up with the Fruit Loops commercial, that was a play on words :)

I recently watched the Yiannis Kouros documentary. He inspired the toe theme for Sunday's race. I just hope I don't have to "kill myself" as he would say!


Snail's Pace

Know how long it takes to take your wheelie rubbish bins out in Western Australia just after it's rained? 10 minutes, if you have to tiptoe and zigzag between snails.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Born to Fuel

This must be the best value you can get out of any one thing in your training this year. $24.95. I am choked that I'll be overseas the one time he's here! My experience of Steve has been that he's incredibly knowledgeable and totally approachable, as well.

This one of the biggest and best opportunities all Australian athletes will have to listen to one of the most respected and sought after Endurance Nutrition Experts in the World.
Steve is the Author of the Endurance Athlete’s bible “The Endurance Athletes Guide to Success” which has been downloaded world wide over 100,000 times.
His knowledge and ability to pass on this vital information is outstanding.
Steve will pass on vital information and be available for an extended Q&A period after each seminar. He will be answering each and every one of your questions.
All seminars will be limited to 75 people to ensure quality. Hammer will also be conducting sampling on the night.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Old Dog, New Trick

Running with the pack in the early stages
I'm always joking about how much I like running with my "pack" of trail mate "dogs" and "sheepdogging" to keep the pack together. Heading to The North Face 100km (TNF100) in Australia's Blue Mountains wasn't ever a goal race for me...but a few of my "pack" were doing it and I somehow got drawn in. I wanted to be with my pack.

For a brief time after the gun went off for Wave 1 starters at 6.54 AM, it was just like a great training run, sharing the single track with three of my mates. We worked well as a team, calling out to pass slower runners in front and picking our places to make our moves.

Of course, the race isn't a team event, and it didn't take long before we had to break up, forced to run our own races at our own paces, dealing with our own issues in our own time.

Going into the race, I found it hard to calculate a projected finish time and splits. I had never even seen the Blue Mountains. And I had never run a race with +4500 mtr elevation. So I used other race results to form estimates - I looked at my other races and extrapolated. I tried to compare to what the top females had done in the past, but they hadn't done the races I'd done. My best estimates put me between 12 to 12.5hr, with a very slim possibility of 11.5hr if all the stars aligned and I was fitter than I thought, coming back from the compartment syndrome.
Still with the pack...a PTS shirt right behind me!

I put myself down as a 20% DNF, due to my lingering foot arthropathy and perineal tendonopathy (one good opathy deserves another!)

20km into the race, my foot made some minor comments along the lines of "Hello, I'm here." Because it's laterally-based, I focused on my stride on the flats, being sure to land evenly. I think part of the reason I developed the problem in the first place was landing on the outside of my foot during the Bibbulmun FKT attempt. For the next 10 or 20km, it made small comments, but never outright yelled at me. Then it just got quiet. Hooray! (Post-race, only minor soreness).

Going into this race, I had flown under the radar. No one picked me in the list of "Top 10s." Admittedly, I was slightly insulted, but I was honestly MUCH happier being "just another runner" there to do my thing. No one expected anything of me (except all my mates, of course!) and no one stuck a GPS tracker in my pack at the start line.

The splits I decided to try to follow were the ambitious ones of the 2011 course record holder, Julie Quinn (not ambitious for her, of course, but for me, because it was an 11.39 result and she's a world title rogainer and IM finisher, as well!).

Leg 1 18km
Desire: 2h 0m + 2 min transition
Reality: 2h 6m + 1 min transition
Explanation: I figure I lost 6 minutes here by not going hard enough on the early road sections, getting caught behind slow guys on the single track, and not being assertive enough about passing. I did this for about 30 minutes and then finally got much more assertive. I suddenly remembered very vividly the 20 minutes I lost at Swissalpine in 2010 and couldn't bear that happening again.

Leg 2 20km
Desire: 2h 7m + 3 min transition
Reality: 2h 0m + 1 min transition
Explanation: Without going too hard, I managed to comfortably claw back the lost 6 minutes during the flatter sections of this Leg. This was the section where I passed Julie Quinn. As a mate and I approached, he turned to me and said, "That's Julie Quinn!" I replied, "Oh crap! Passing Julie Quinn in TNF is like passing Mick Francis in a 24hr event." In other words, either Julie is having a bad day or I'm probably doing something very, very stupid. However, I was running on her splits and feeling comfortable, so just stuck with my plan.

Accumulated distance 38km and elevation +865 -1088

Leg 3 16km +505 -611
Desire: 1h 50m + 2 min transition
Reality: 1h 55m + 1.5 min transition
Explanation: Oddly, although Julie's split was 1h 50m and I had 1h 50m on my master sheet, the split in my pocket read 1h55m. And that's what I did! Really, I just ran the best I could. It's not that I could seriously pick a pace of "7.10min/k" and hold that exactly, when the terrain is constantly up and down and varying between fire trail and single track with boulders or creeks. And I'd never seen any of it before.

Leg 4 11km +619 - 247
Desire: 1h 20m + 2 min transition
Reality: 1h25m + 2 min transition
Explanation: Again, I just ran as well as I was able, being new to the course and just pushing as hard as I could, knowing roughly how much time and distance was still in front of me. This is the section with a place called "Nellie's Glen," which most people curse. It was one of the few sections I didn't hate ;) Coming into the end of this Leg, approaching CP 4, is where Julie Quinn passed me. However, we left the CP together, as I transitioned a bit quicker.

Leg 5 24km + 889 -1010
Desire: 2h 46m + 2 min transition
Reality: 2hr 56min + 4.5 min transition
Explanation: When I left my crew (thanks a zillion, Paul!) to start Leg 5, I thought about yelling back to him that I thought 3 hours was more likely for this section. Not that I could know, but judging from how brutal the course was and the calibre of athletes I was trying to keep up with, I thought there was going to be a toll coming.

Just after leaving this CP, I had a brief "low" moment - I'd had one brief one earlier, too, descending some stairs. I couldn't even say where that was on the course, since the whole bloody thing is stairs! ;) It was low fuel and I had a dizzy rush. It took about 10 minutes to come good. Julie was long gone. But I wasn't chasing her - I know better than that. I just run my own race.... and if my own race is better than hers, I'll see her again. The 9km +900 mtr hill climb was where I thought I might catch a female or two, if anywhere. Loooong endurance is where my age seems to help, I think. Because I really am over the peak age for "short" trail races now. And sure enough, I caught one female. And several males. I came into CP5, the last one, knowing I was now 3rd female, but Shona Stephenson was going to be hunting very aggressively for me. And it's always better to be the hunter than the hunted! Faffing about at CP5 with my jacket and headlamp, I spent over 4 minutes in the aid station - a total disaster! Shona came through and we left together, her just in front. Darkness had just hit.

A week later, the knees are still bruised.
Leg 6 11km + 454 - 382
Desire: 1h 25m
Reality: 1h 42m
Explanation: The wheels fell off.

I had another dizzy spell just after leaving the CP. I was able to keep Shona in sight 100 mtr ahead, whilst on the road and wide paths. I passed a fellow who wanted me to help him get his reflective vest over his pack...he had no idea Shona and I were duelling for 3rd. I tried to throw it over his shoulder as I ran past (sorry, mate!) I shovelled some fuel in, then some more. Somewhere in there, as the track transitioned from road to trail to single track, I looked down for a moment to put my fuel away, and went down on my hands and knees. Wham!

It took about 10 minutes for the glucose levels in my brain to come right so that I could properly navigate the technical terrain. And it seemed the fall had affected my trail mojo. I tripped again when I tried to speed up. Boy, it would have been nice to run this section before the race! There is a definite advantage for the top ladies having trained frequently on the course.

I took another caffeine pill, hoping for a bit more "surge" power, but I didn't really feel very confident in this section. I just felt a bit awkward and couldn't get a rhythm going. A sign of my faltering state, there were 4 guys who passed me in this section. They were probably all guys I passed on the Kadumba hill climb!

I saw that finish line and launched into a sprint, letting out a growl as I surged for the finish. The race directors were a bit taken aback by my aggressive finish! But it was a tough race (I know, what race do I do that isn't tough??) and it was my way of saying "Ha! Take that you b&@!#ard of a race!" My finish was 4th female, 30th overall (over 600 finishers). The 12:13 time would have been good enough for the win in 2010. But the girls just get better (as do the boys).

In terms of a gear shakedown (call it sponsor plugs, or just call it what it is...my honest gear review - not all are sponsors, anyway), everything worked. Fueled 12hrs on Hammer Solids and endurolytes. My jaw was sore the next day, but I never felt nauseous once (just needed more calories a few times).

Loved my RaceReady stuff as usual; love the pockets for this distance stuff. I really should grab a pair of the "sexier" cut ones instead of wearing the baggy ones all the time, though... I'm just a girl of function first :)

The new Compressport arm warmer/compression sleeves were fantastic. They infuse this nice smell into some of their stuff that either really helps or just provides a fantastic placebo!

The UltrAspire pack was really comfy (though the sternum straps do seem to loosen off every 15 minutes or so). The x-talons were great over 100km - what a joy to run in dirt and mud instead of WA's pea gravel! And here's something new I finally tried and recommend HUGELY if you ever chafe anywhere....the 2Toms SportShield. Okay, I'm an idiot, as we are the distributors for it and I've been a 2Toms Blistershield powder user forever. But I didn't know about the other lube stuff and always just had Body Glide. And after every run/race over about 5 hours, I had chafe - and sometimes bleeding. Particularly under my sports bra in the front. Well, I tried the SportShield and seriously, not even a red mark anywhere. I used it pre-race on the triceps, chest, groin, back (sometimes my pack rubs if my shirt rides up).

Heart rate post race: 61. Day 2: 41. Day 3: 40. Day 4: 38. Went to yoga today and have been running a few easy ones.

Looks like I might have another race next weekend. If I finish faster, maybe I won't be out there long enough to get a sore jaw ;)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Things We Don't Talk About

Remember a couple months ago I kept mentioning the undiagnosed medical "issue?" Then I just got quiet on the topic. Why? Because it was a (Language Alert: sensitive eyes should close the browser window now)

g  y  n  o  c  o  l  o  g  i  c  a  l


There. I said it. Well, I wrote it. And I have actually said it a few times, too. I'm not sure there could be a more unappealing sounding word in the English language.

I didn't write anything about it earlier because for a while there is was quite personal and rather scary. And being a topic not much discussed (at least amongst the females I spent my life around), there was a lot of mystery and "I'm the only one" feelings.

Last Thursday I had surgery. The main annoying thing about that was that I gained 2kg. My guess was water retention due to my body trying to purify the chemicals from the general anaesthetic. (Anyone who knows for sure could please let me know.) It took 5 days for my weight to drop. And I lost one day of running - a tempo session. Otherwise, it was just a feeling like I'd had a couple drinks and was in a fuzzy world (not a good fuzzy world. Rolf says it's more like being hit over the head with a very large hammer.)

I've decided to post something now because the last year of my own body's issues has taught me something I feel should be said aloud.

Sometimes, you see an athlete out there racing and they have a crap day. There are lots of reasons to attribute to a poor performance. But when it comes to females, we have a whole other one. It's this huge portion of the body (and the body's chemicals) devoted to procreation. Great when you need it, but the other weeks, months, and years when you aren't procreating, it's a complete pain in the....

Tim Noakes, who has been so good as to give us The Lore of Running resource, suggests the jury is still out as to whether and how much females may be disadvantaged in racing at particular phases of their cycle. But there is no doubt that (premenstrual) pain and bleeding are anathema to racing well (regardless of your sex, I figure pain and blood loss are not on the list of "must haves" for your race).

So, next time you see a woman who has an unexpected "off" day racing, consider what might not be said.

And, yes, I did ask the surgeon to remove a few extra organs to make me lighter and faster, but he refused. Maybe I shoulda gone private ;)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Complicated Happiness

Who said running was easy? And cheap?

I have now digested the 25 page TNF100 competitors' manual. I was sooooo excited the morning after my last blog post - Santa was listening! He put the UltrAspire Omega on the doorstep! I had to order from overseas, as it's not available in Oz yet. But there was just nothing else I wanted to try. It sounded juuuust right for this little girl. I have a Nathan Intensity 2ltr, which I can use for several hours of running, but won't hold all the mandatory gear for this race. I also have the Ultimate Direction Speediva, which is an awesome 34ltr hydration pack (major overkill). But its baby sister, the Bandita, is still too big at 20ltr (that's what I used on the Bibbulmun FKT for long unsupported sections).

The Omega has a 2ltr bladder and 8.2ltr of storage. They say it weighs only 337g, but of course that's without the bladder weight (seriously, that's like weighing shoes without the insoles or laces). With the empty bladder, it's about 490g. Still, seriously light, as you'd expect from any modern pack.

I have no time left for long runs in it, with the race only 10 days away. But that's okay, I figured I'd know if I like it or not pretty quickly (if I didn't, that was gonna be a major problem, though!)

Last night I loaded all my mandatory gear into it and headed for the usual Wednesday night hill run.

The mandatory gear being:

1) full thermals (Icebreaker)
2) hooded, waterproof jacket (Montane Litespeed H2O)
3) gloves (Icebreaker)
4) maps and course descriptions (with contact to make them waterproof)
5) headlamp (LED Lensor H7)
6) spare headlamp (Maglite minimag)
7) compression bandage
8) safety vest (required oversized Bunnings-type Day/Night, no light running type allowed)
9) compass (basic allowed)
10) phone (in waterproof case)
11) space blanket
12) whistle (anyone ever tried using a whistle in an 'emergency'? I have, a few times and found it useless)
13) couple hours of fuel
14) buff

The extra gear:
SportShield (anti-chafe)
blisterpads (never needed one, but wouldn't risk it now)
spare batteries

What was missing was the firestarter and matches that they will give me at package pick-up, which will surely be lighter than the camera I carried instead :)

The whole thing, including 2ltr of water... 3.50 kg. Acceptable!

I also decided to try a race number belt - the amphipod one. So I ran around Bold Park for 15km with a Six Inch Trail Marathon bib on. I won ;)

The pack was a bit unusual feeling at first, as the sternum straps (two of them for increased load distribution, supposedly) are quite low. But the pack didn't shift at all and felt great (as great as 3.5kg feels on your back as you run up a hill!). The race number thing felt a bit hot, but I figure I should be able to wear it lower on the hips instead of the waist and shift it around every so often.

The only complaint - the valve on the Hydrapak bladder (same bladder as Nathan uses) is a dodgy one and leaks unless it's in the locked position. So I'll have to swap from my Nathan for now and get a new one. One of those annoying things about buying from overseas.

Now just to calculate my race splits on a course I've never seen, over a distance and terrain I've never run. Did I mention complicated somewhere before???

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Do You Attack the Hills?

I think that's how the question was posed on Sunday's trail run.

What a lovely question. I love questions. It gives me a chance to think about what I do, what I believe in, and why.

I never really got to give my answer, because at that moment I turned to sheep dog back (up a hill, of all things) to the others in our group. But I was thinking about it as I climbed. Was I "attacking?"

Yes, but it was a calculated attack. Rather than just throwing myself out there with all guns blazing, I was moving with a plan the entire way.

Certainly, there is both a mental and physical attack of sorts. I approach a hill with a lot of mental confidence. I OWN this hill. That's the best way to not be intimidated or overwhelmed, after all! But overseeing this cocky, arrogant little trail beast, is the practical, strategic warrior. She takes the measured approach to the 'war' on the hill.

She focuses on all the little things to ensure victory. Pumping the arms? Crossing them over the midline? Taking shorter strides? Slowing down slightly to keep the heart rate in an 'achievable' zone?

She even does some advance planning where possible. On a flat stretch? Eat something now (can't eat on a hill when out of breath and likely to feel nauseous).

So, yes, I do attack the hills.

But that really all sounds so violent...especially for a happy, hippy trail runner. Couldn't I just be One with the hills as effectively?? I don't OWN the hill, I AM the hill. Hmmm. That's a stretch, isn't it?

Maybe I can be One with the mud.

I'd like to be One with my new UltrAspire Omega pack, too. If USPS will only deliver it. Before race day would be good.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mental and Physical Subluxation

On Sunday, Rolf and I headed out to a nearby national park for a 3hr trail run with a few mates. It had been raining through the night - really the first rain WA has seen for months.

As the jeep descended into the park, under cloudy skies, with the smell of wet dirt coming through the vents and views of glistening foliage...I started to have a small panic attack. It was fascinating. Suddenly, I felt nauseous. A part of me felt like crying. The "panic" was wordless. It was just a feeling. But if I was asked to put words to it, it would have sounded something like, "No, don't make me go back out there. I can't do it."

It was the Bibbulmun 1000k back for a mental visit.

Wow. Here I was looking at the most gorgeous scenery, in anticipation of perhaps running on one of the first "cooler" days for months, and I had a feeling like a cat being thrown into a bathtub. I just wanted to dig my claws in and scramble back out of that valley as fast as my legs could take me!

Post-traumatic situations supposedly involve "intense fear, helplessness, or horror." What I experienced was certainly no clinically significant response. But those words fit the bill pretty well.

I mentioned my reactions to Rolf in a nervously joking fashion. On beginning the run, I mentioned it to the mates in passing, too. It really had affected me.

However, within a few km, the familiar pattern of running settled in and my brain was reassured that I really was out for a fun morning of running and that I would be allowed to stop whenever I wanted. In fact, I could even enjoy some "bonus k's" by doing some exploring on tracks we'd never seen. The rain came down on us at one point and it was a welcome relief from the humidity and the sun poking through the clouds. I had fun.

Well, except for that distinct non-fun moment two hours in. I decided to take my annual stack. I prefer to do this on a flat stretch of ground, so as to more fully embarrass myself. And leading is better, so that everyone can see. This year's stack was exactly one year from the last (April 2011 on the Bib track). I took out my left elbow and right knee again. It's important to establish traditions, after all.

This time, however, I was in the midst of twisting up a fuel container and putting it away in my front pocket of my pack, when I simultaneously decided to look back over my left shoulder at another enticing trail....Wham! I think I simultaneously dislocated (subluxed?) and relocated my left shoulder. The next 10 seconds were spent screaming, "Aah! Aah!" at the top of my lungs, face down on the ground. I was afraid to move, to find out whether my shoulder was out. Finally, I rolled over. Over my screams, Rolf said, "Is it just your knee?"

Knee, I thought? Did I hurt my knee? I knew it was tough for them looking at me and knowing nothing, but all my brain could say was "Aah!" and "Arg!" Once the English language came back to my brain, there was a nasty swear word or two. And something about "pause my Garmin." All that time laying on my stomach, camera in the pack on my back, and no one thought to take a photo ;)

I carried on gingerly for the next 1.5hr, figuring it was probably better to keep moving the arm and neck to promote blood flow for healing and prevent it all from spasming tight. I think it helped, though I certainly learned that it's hard to go uphill fast when you can't swing your arm properly!

I'm lucky to have a chiropractor who has worked with a state level football club for the last several years. He's seen a lot of shoulder and neck injuries. Not my usual complaints when I go in to him. Did you know that you use the deltoid muscle to shift a manual transmission car? Today, you might pat your deltoid on the back for all the fine work it does. No more push-ups for me for a while. Anyway, it's nice to have a different running injury ;)