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

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Baker's Dozen: Things MUT Runners Should Know

Things I've learned over more than a decade of Mountain-Ultra-Trail Running:

1. There's value in a rest season. But if you've forgotten how to turn on or off your Garmin, you've had too much time off.

Rest doesn't mean you have to go at a snail's pace. Just give yourself a season to recover before you fall down that steep overtraining cliff of doom. Think about the big picture.

2. Carry a collapsible silicone cup. In hot weather, if you have access to a tap, you'll rehydrate much better taking gulps from a proper cup compared to sucking through a bite valve. Plus there's nothing better than stopping halfway through a long run to grab an espresso!

Cheers to hydration!

3. You can't outrun a bad diet. You can't recover well on a bad diet, either.

A horrific breakfast at a private hut in Switzerland during a multi-day solo run
vs an easy travel-friendly yummy and nutritious lunch option

4. "Tailgate" with your running mate(s) at the end of a run. Not only is it smart recovery to get your 15g of protein and 60g of carbs in straight away, communing over food is a way humans have bonded since we became a species.

Avocado cacao mousse has been a staple!
Easy to add Hammer (Vegan) Recoverite to, as well.

5. Running on an injury that hasn't healed is like picking a scab before it's ready. Or worse, because the setback will make your heart bleed, too. Don't pick the scab.

Feeling rather Johnny Cash with an injury I don't understand. I seem to "pick the scab"
without even knowing it. The setbacks are mentally exhausting.

6. Run for time over distance. Monitor time on feet. Running 60 or 100km per week on hills could have you running 20% more time. That requires more maintenance and better (more) recovery.

Eight hours of activity is arguably more meaningful than simply saying 50km or 61km,
 which could be almost half that time on the road.

7. On the trails, carry emergency supplies - a tiny torch (Petzl e+lyte, Maglite Solitaire), a long piece of flagging tape, a flint, and a decent first aid kit (absorbent non-stick pad and crepe bandage, strapping for snake bite or sprain). I also carry a short pencil and mini knife with serrated edge, which have proven their value many times. These combined items weigh less than 200g. If you can't handle carrying 200g, consider a strength training program. Surely you can work up to it ;-)

All this might make a night out in the bush more enjoyable,
but 200g of essentials could make it survivable.

8. When you're hot, take any opportunity to soak down. Use your hat or tubie ("Buff") to pour creek or fountain tap water over your hammies, quads, and calves. The shock of cool will also allow blood that's been at the skin level (trying to cool you) to go deeper back into your core. That means more blood (oxygen) circulating for your muscles and for digestion again. Taking the extra few seconds during races to soak myself at creeks, hoses, sponges, and whatever else comes my way has paid off in my performance.

7th place finish at a  hot year at UTMB in 2015. I took 'precious seconds' in the race to stop and take advantage of all the soak opportunities along the way

9. Run 85-90% of your time easy, 10-15% very hard. Unless you're still developing a base. Then just run easy. Run more days than you don't. Run easy and focus on consistency and giving yourself a big, fat base of musculoskeletal adaptation to build on.

A summit sandwich stop on a long run is part of the fun and helps keep easy runs easy.
 You can take liberties with "summit" if you live in a vertically challenged area :)

10. If someone offers you "vitamin i" (ibuprofen such as Nurofen/Advil) or a patella-femoral strap for your niggle, seek better advice.

2009 knee surgery after a solid year or so of patella-femoral
straps and other poor treatment of my "niggles."

11. Fuel on carbs or simply run easy on your fat stores. Fat and fibre are unhelpful when running. You already have fat on your body, which is harder to convert to energy. Things that don't work include almonds and dates. Been there. If you are opposed to maltodextrin fuel because you want "real" food, think white rice sushi, (sweet) potato without the skin, or white bread sandwiches with jam.

I've been running and racing puke-free and strong since 2010 on Hammer Nutrition's
range of (GF) carb fuels.

12. Do strength work. Lift heavy things (under good supervision to start). I couldn't believe my first injury in 2007 when the physio told me I had no glutes. She was right. So I started some token exercises. I was afraid I would bulk up doing heavy weights and that weights weren't "running specific," because "runners should run," right? Runners SHOULD run. AND lift weights. And get massage. And sleep. A lot of sleep.

The change to my running form around 2013 was remarkable after getting into proper strength work. No more hunched over "ultra shuffle." It contributed massively to my staying injury-free, too.

13. Sheepdog. When you're running with others, but faster than some of the people in the group, turn around regularly and run back to the last person. It's better for your fitness than just waiting at the junction and it's better for the morale of the group. Don't just catch sight of the "caboose" runner and then start sprinting off again - what if they needed to tell you something? Like that they never want to run with you again cuz you're a self-centred jerk?

Sheepdog is an honourable title worldwide :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

My Love Letter to Western Australia

Dear WA,

In the early 2000's in Calgary, I needed a change. I was working too much and life was too predictable. I needed to set out on an "Expotition" as Winnie the Pooh would say

Chapter 8 excerpt from "Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner" by A.A. Milne

In May 2008 I landed in Perth with three suitcases and an old bicycle. I loved the beautiful green UWA campus and the fact that the staff and PhD students like me stopped for "morning tea" each day. My first piece of furniture was a 4WD camping mat and my second was an outdoor patio set (yes, it was almost winter in Perth, but that was nothing compared to Canada). 

I learned about snakes and pea gravel on your trails and that buying a canoe would be money poorly spent. Instead, I got a BMW650GS and learned that I didn't like riding in sand or pea gravel! I learned about Christmas on a beach in summer (still weird) and that there can be nothing more beautiful than a sunset over the Indian Ocean.

I met my partner of now 11 years in WA. Perth's road running community taught me what "Comrades" was and I taught them what "trail running" was ("8.45 pace?!") I found myself as owner and race director of the Perth Trail Series and saw hundreds of people discover that Perth really does have hills :) I joined the amazing collaborative outdoor recreation sector in a volunteer capacity in order to help guide trails development and maintenance at a State level. I met people who became my trail running family. Some of us have travelled the world together.

Wallygrunta race February 2012

I learned not to "till" WA soil in a garden like we do in Canada and that cockroaches and huntsman spiders can be caught and released. I learned to run at 6am (or earlier) to beat the heat - and even to enjoy those early mornings (that took a decade!)

I camped with Noel Nannup and tried to learn from him and other First Nation elders about the Wadjuk Noongar Boodja upon which I was privileged to live. I developed my running skills and endurance and represented my new adoptive country on the world stage. I learned words like "doona" and "sanga" and phrases like "spit the dummy" and "she'll be right."

Digging for native yams on an Aboriginal led "Journey on Country"

Now, it's time for me to take my Canadian "roots" (which are really European) and my WA Sandgroper "tree trunk" and grow some new branches in the mountains of Victoria. It's time for another Expotition.

I am wary of complacency, mediocrity, and insularity. Wherever I am, may I be willing to learn. And to support a fair, just, and thriving world.

The point is not to move because I think the grass is greener. The point is to see whether there is even grass. Or something else I never knew existed. And whether any of that even matters.

The Expotition east.