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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Born to be a Paleolithic Fainting Goat?

Sometimes, there's just too much information for this little girl to process.

I am born to run, but do it so badly I need physios with needles and massage therapists with thumbs of steel and Chi running books, and yoga, and oh-just-the-right-shoes to keep me going. And I need timers set on my watch or spreadsheets with calculations to warn me when I need to eat and drink, because I certainly can't rely on my body to know and tell me. And I need special food. Low GI, alkaline-forming, antioxidant rich food. Don't forget the cruciferous vegetables. Kale. With omega 3 oils drizzled over top (don't cook them, for goodness sake, or it's a saturated fat!). And protein, but not just any protein. I need Branched-Chain-Amino-Acids. I am an athlete, after all ;)

Two PhDs from rather different nutrition camps
I need to be vegetarian - no, make that vegan like Scott Jurek, in order to be healthy and win. But fruitarian Michael Arnstein is about to release a book about how fruit saved his life. Or at least improved his running. I don't know, maybe it was just that he was on a diet of leftover pizza and diet root beer before. But then, I've read that Anton Krupicka eats like that. Works all right for him. But wait, now there's The Paleo Diet for Athletes. Yup, I just had to buy it. This little vegetarian just has to know what "science" is contained in this "diet" that is all the rage but getting some seriously bad press.

But because I'm still running the "ultra" of Tim Noakes' 400+ page Waterlogged book, I'm not sure when I'll get to read all about meat and potatoes.

Noakes continues to bring up good points about physiological controls within the body that act to ensure a person can't die of dehydration unless they get lost in the desert for a week (i.e., most of us probably don't need timers and spreadsheets to get fluids in). He also highlighted some very useful information on exercise-associated postural hypotension (EAPH; but one very unfortunate typo on page 53 called it 'hypertension'). This (hypotension, of course), he cites as the major cause of runners collapsing at the finish line. Dehydration would cause you to collapse during the race, when "strain on the heart and circulation is the greatest." But when exercise stops and then the person collapses, that's almost certainly due to blood pooling in the legs - below the heart - not being pumped back up anymore because the calf muscles have suddenly stopped. Less blood getting to the brain leads to nausea, dizziness, and fainting. In fact, fainting is a natural, adaptive physiological response by the body - it's supposed to faint! Because that gets your heart at the same level as your legs, so blood is more easily transported back up to your brain. Isn't the body smart?!? No, we're not quite fainting goats, but I certainly prefer to think that if I feel like collapsing after a race, it's nothing to panic over. It's just my body saying, "Hey, put your feet up, kid!"
Myotonic (fainting) goats finishing an ultra?

The beautiful thing about this argument is that all you have to do to treat the person afflicted is lay them down (if they aren't already collapsed) and elevate their feet above their heart (exactly what first aiders are taught to do to treat shock). The person should recover almost instantly. Then you know it's not dehydration.

How many times I've seen runners collapse after an event, get thrown on a stretcher sitting up, and pumped with saline.... I've often wondered... I mean, how coincidental is it that they made it to the finish line before collapsing!?!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trail Running Laws

A whirlwind two weeks has gone by. Many times "blog post" has made it to the top of the list, only to have some other mini-emergency (that includes grocery shopping!) usurp it. I am still looking down at a pretty long "do" list on my desk, but nothing in red ink tonight ;)

Citizenship run - do I look different now that I'm "dual"?
I've been down to the track the last two Tuesdays in a row and eeked out a few second PBs in both the 4k and the 5k. Quite happy with that, because there's a lot of mileage and hills in these legs right now, plus I run to and from the track, too. It certainly helps make the whole thing a bit more rewarding, because running short track races is HARD! Those guys think running ultras would be hard, but I never feel as bad finishing an ultra as a 3k! (Maybe I'm just doing ultras wrong?)

The citizenship ceremony was short and functional. As my Canadian family said, I kissed the queen and hugged the roo. Then I was off for more fun hill running with mates to celebrate! 

Cape to Cape track - there were humpback whales!
Last Saturday I made a long drive down to Geographe Bay - 3 hours south of Perth - to do a 3 hour run with a minimalist footwear hippy-type on a section of the Cape to Cape track. Then it was the same drive home. It was hard at times to convince myself to go, but I just had to watch the Australian Geographic video on this place to win myself over again and again. And I got 6 hours of nutrition and ultra running podcasts to listen to on the way, which was really enjoyable. I never have the time for podcasts and am fortunate not to spend much time in the car normally. It was a great day, meeting new trail runners, learning more things trail and ultra related, and even trying some new foods, courtesy of the huarache-wearing runner.

Last Sunday there were just three of us out for a long run (well, the fourth was late/lost/MIA)- with two of us choosing the 50k option. I finished the week with 147km and +2600 mtrs, happy and well.

This weekend just finished, the distances are starting to shrink. But midweek speed attempts increased. On Saturday I hosted two PTS Beginners+ Trail Running courses. That means an 8k hill-interval session in the morning, then another in the afternoon, as I run up and down hills, offering runners advice on technique. I love seeing people's skills improve and their smiles as they build confidence and start enjoying the sport more. Rewarding day and fended off all the ticks.

I couldn't resist it when we passed this little waterfall today
Today a group of us spent the morning at a great national park, dripping in sweat in the heat and lapping up every bit of water we could find! It won't be long before not a drop will be seen around the hills - summer sucks the moisture out of our "sunburnt country."

Meeting some new trail runners these past couple weeks and running the PTS courses gave me pause to consider the Five Laws of Trail Running...with apologies to Deepak, as I have been a bit overwhelmed with his "Laws" of late ;)

Law #1: The Law of 100 to 1. Forget your road running background Forget 4.30 pace or 5.30 pace or even splits. In trail running, if you want a number to focus on, use this: 100 metres of climb is worth about 1km on the flat. Do the conversion first before you tell your road running mate how "far" you ran on the weekend.

Beware, even this could be a secret race...biggest splash.
Law #2: The Law of Secret Racing. You may think you're out for an easy run with your mates. But be aware...there is always secret racing. New guy comes out with the group? Yup, just watch all the secret racing. First, the new guy has to 'race' others to show he's not weak and is worthy of the group (if not stronger than the group). Second, the veteran runner has to 'race' said newbie to try to induce vomiting in newbie and ensure pecking order is established ;) See everyone get to a turnaround point and come back to you? Be careful - it could be a secret race. If you don't touch the summit/pole/bridge/tree, you might lose, without even knowing it!

Law #3: The Law of Gear Love. Anything you carry on your back for more than 1.5hrs, up and down hills, over 15,000 strides must be loved. That includes your shoes, shirt, pack, fuel, and headlamp. You will hate shonky gear or bad fuel. And trail running is all about love. So don't forget about the gear love law.

Applying Law #5 liberally here! Flies and drippy sweaty heat at 8.30 AM!
Law #4. The Law of Pride. Barring a bit of healthy secret racing, pride has no place on the trails. You might get nauseous, feel a blister coming on, run out of water, feel your pack chafing incessantly, or realise you forgot to pack your fuel whilst on a 3 hour run. Trail running with others is a team sport. One man goes down and you all might be going down. Letting small issues become big issues because of pride is a selfish thing that affects your trail running mates, too. Being reduced to a walk because of vomiting, lack of fuel, or a blister puts a damper on the trail running party for sure! Maybe someone else could have helped you solve the dilemma before it was a disaster.

Law #5: The Law of Lies. Sometimes it's too hot. Or cold. Or windy, rainy, icy. There are snakes, ticks, brambles, bears, hills. And you say "this sucks." Beware, as this is your road runner mind that has accidentally forgotten where it is. Your trail runner mind knows. You lie. This is fun! How great to be in nature, out of the city, getting fitter by the minute! Tonight I can eat chips and drink beer guilt free! Your fun on the trail will be directly proportional to your lie rate. Take some mates out with you on the trails, because group lies are more powerful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Track n Trails

Only four weeks before I head east for Coast to Kosci! I'm really looking forward to this one. I haven't raced hard since the May-June TNF100 and Kep Ultra, so I'm itching to go!

John Gilmour 10k track night
And the training is really enjoyable so far, too. I haven't hit a "sick of this" phase yet (plenty of time, with 4 weeks to go!). I'm being very good with my body's self-care (well, massage therapist Nathan would say I could always do more, but I did ice my Bib foot at least once last week). I've even booked an extra 30 minute massage into the week. And the Bib foot is tolerating speedwork. I just enjoy the weird throbbing and pins-and-needles at random times when I'm working at the computer. I wonder if my foot will ever be normal again.

On Tuesday, I skipped the track session because I had a hammy insertion/popliteus tightness that I didn't feel comfortable to push. So opted for a tempo run that felt fine and more self-massage and stretching to get the niggle out. Wednesday night was a half marathon of mostly hills. Thursday night, a short easy one. Friday night I heard about a 10k track race, so went down to that. Most races are on Sunday mornings, which always clash with my long runs.

I aimed for a sub 42 minute goal. Aimed and missed by 10 big fat seconds. Yes, it was a 2 second PB. But no, I'm not happy. Here's a Garmin lesson for anyone who uses it as a lap timer as I did: Every time you hit "lap" (as I did every 400mtr), Garmin writes a bit of info into a file. It takes about a second to do that. Then it starts counting again. Yes, the main timer keeps counting accurately. But when I'm on the track, I don't look at the main timer/total lapsed time, because I can't add 100 seconds to each lap whilst running my guts out. So I just keep the "current lap" on the screen. For the 10k, I aimed for 100 seconds per lap. That would give me a 41.40. I figured I might fall adrift, but would try to stay under 42.00. My first lap was 97sec, second was 99 sec. Then I settled in. Several got away on me at 101sec, but the last was 92sec. Thus, I was stumped when I saw my total time as 42.10. And when I got home and reviewed the file in Garmin Connect, each lap seemed one second longer - I was seeing a lot of 102sec laps. How did it happen?

I woke up Saturday morning at 6.30 AM with the revelation that there must be a 1 second loss on the lap counter as Garmin is writing to the file. So I tested it, running my Garmin and a stopwatch side by side. After 10 x 100 sec "laps" I was out by 10 seconds.

Crossing Sullivan's Rock at the beginning to cache water for later
Further proof I didn't run the race right was that my HR was back down to 38 that night and I ran 15k the next day with nothing noticeable in my legs. Damn. How frustrating! The thing that made my night, though, was watching my great running mate, Karen, smash out a 3 minute PB! A great reward for her last season of efforts.

On Sunday I loaded 9 hours of fuel into my pack - Hammer Perpetuem, Solids, a few gels (I'm starting to enjoy the occasional gel for variety, where I never much used to). Also for variety I packed a couple BelVita breakfast bars. It's a strange story about those bars! One morning I got up early, opened the door, and there on the porch was a box of the bars with a helium balloon tied around them. I thought they must be targeting the neighbourhood. But no, no one else seemed to have them. I can only think that Woolworths used my Everyday Rewards card info to somehow decide I might be good to target. Well, if that was their goal, I guess it worked to some extent! As a packaged food, there's no way I rate it as high quality. (But miles ahead of those awful muesli bars I see people trying to eat on long runs!) And they have 15.5% fat, which is certainly not needed during a run. The fat is to be expected, of course - it's a biscuit. When Halloween came last week, I was in the shop, stumped at what I could buy for any kids who came by. It wasn't going to be artificial colour white sugar lollies. Not from me. What would be "treat-like" but still sit well enough with my ethics? I spotted the BelVitas - and they were on sale for 50 cents!

No kids turned up. So I had 6 packets sitting around. I figured at an easy pace on a training run it would work fine - similar to a PB and jam sandwich. I just made sure to time when I'd eat them...like at times when I was running easy or waiting to regroup. Never during a hard-work time like a climbing or "chasing" section.
Mt Cuthbert, I think. Always mixing up the two names!

I headed out with some Phat (Perth Hills and Trails) runners to do variations on a "6 Peaks" theme. Mileage choices ranged from 31km to 61km. We started almost right away with a climb to Mt Vincent at about 500 mtrs, then down and back up over 2km to Mt Cuthbert. The weather was a rollercoaster, as well. We started in the sun at 7.30 AM and were routinely wind-swept, drenched, and baked with sunny humidity every 45 minutes. We did an out-and-back for the first section, so got to bag the "peaks" twice. After 30-odd kilometres, Tash and I farewelled the blokes, who all had their excuses ;)

We then headed out on a fairly flat 5k section towards Mt Cooke, to bag a fifth peak. It's a beautiful summit with great flora and big boulders and mostly very runnable terrain - and climbs to nearly 600 mtr. From there we could catch views north to Cuthbert and Vincent and beyond and south towards Dwellingup. I had some moments to enjoy the views, as my last time up there was a year ago almost to the day when I was doing the Bibbulmun FKT record. That morning on Cooke, after 101km the day before and 4 hours sleep at the roadside at Sullivan's Rock, I didn't enjoy any views!
The climb of Mt Cooke

I ran down the backside of Cooke a few km, whilst Tash started her run back towards the car. I wanted one more hill climb. So down I went, in order to go back up! I got back to the summit and was so happy to be on the home stretch, facing a great big descent, ready to chase down Tash somewhere ahead. I love those descents where you get in the zone and just feel like you're flying and hopping from one point to another - it was great to just be focused on the terrain and my body's movement in space.

It was almost an hour before I caught Tash! And she was out there to set a PB that day, too. She had been inspired by our little Muay Thai kickboxer powerhouse Jamie from the rogaine. Tash had never run more than a marathon in distance and certainly not with the hills we were doing. She said, "I'm not stopping until I get to 50k. Wanna stay with me?"

"Hell, ya!" I said. Though I couldn't promise not to cry, because I do get a bit emotional when I see people achieve amazingly cool goals they set for themselves. We needed another couple km to get to her goal, so I found a new bit of fire trail we could do. I dug around my pack and found some of my favourite Buderim Gingerbons, which picked up Tash's spirits and soothed her tummy.

Somehow, ironically, I lost Tash in the last 500 mtrs to the carpark! You come off the trail onto Sullivan's Rock, which is a huge granite slab. Cairns mark the way. I ran to the second one and looked back. She was gone. I thought, "How strange, did she vomit? Or fall?" I ran back and yelled. Then out to the granite again. Getting off the slab can be tricky, because you can't see the tiny single track bush trail in the distance at the bottom. But if the cairns are built up, you follow those. I thought they were quite built up. But had a look around and couldn't see her trying to get off the slab anywhere else. Back to the bush to yell. Back to the cairns.... Okay, time to try the carpark. Sure enough, there she was!

Tash and my Garmins - 111km between us for the day!
Tash got her 50k ultra and I got 61k with the sheepdogging and extra I did off the back of Mt Cooke. Plus 1700mtr gain.

My week's total was 130km with 2200 mtr gain. So using the 100mtr gain = 1km rule, it's good for about a 150km week of "flat" running (though I definitely don't want flat running!). Very happy with that and especially because the body is doing so well.

I'm finally shedding the extra kilos I put on after TransAlps, too. I hate having to calorie restrict! But by just being that little bit more careful for a few weeks and running a bit more and harder sessions, I'm getting the results. And still enjoying my huge mound of cereal, no fat yoghurt, chia, and Udo's Oil every morning! Yum! The best part of my day.

Wednesday I become Aussie and am celebrating with a 35km trail run. All welcome to join me :)