"Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations. If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out." -Mae Jemison, astronaut

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Postscript: Putting on the Reading Miles

If you read my "Putting on the Reading Miles" post before Sunday the 30th of December, do go back and re-read The Paleo Diet section.... I've read a bit more of the book and Loren Cordain, PhD, just struck a major disagreement chord and I felt it was important to edit my post.

This little guy was the only one enjoying the heat this morning on the trails!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Putting on the Reading Miles

I've had a few quieter days to catch up on a variety of projects and that's also meant a bit of extra time to devour literature...mostly running-related. Waterlogged keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the pile, though I really do want to finish it. I got stuck into Grahak Cunningham's new e-book Beyond the Marathon. It's about his four (!?!) times finishing the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile race. It's held every New York summer around a roughly 1 km block - over 5,000 laps to finish. Grahak, a fellow Western Australian, won the event this year AND set a new Aussie 1,000 mile record. Great book that I polished off in a day, as I found it very cathartic having someone speak about things that were reminiscent of my Bibbulmun run.

I'm almost through the Paleo Diet for Athletes and must say I have been somewhat surprised. From the sounds of it, his original book was meant for "sedentary" people and the rest of us should only read this one. He's right up on all the latest good science about things like post-run recovery carbs and protein, caffeine use for runners, electrolytes and hyponatremia. Really, his argument about diet is essentially that you should eat lots of fruit and veggies - something many people miss out on, opting for a lot of 'fast food' like muffins, pasties/pies, and other nutritionally poor food choices. That's a good thing. Of course, he also advocates meat as a protein source, particularly wild game (leaner, no hormones) and fatty, cold water fish. Those are generally good, healthy choices that most nutritionists would agree with. His proportions of protein to carb to fat don't sound out there at all to me (in THIS book, that is - perhaps if athletes have tried to follow his 'sedentary' plan, they've eaten themselves into a major carb-depleted state).

However, there are a few points I'm disagreeing with him on - at least one minor and one major. A minor one? That in a 24hr event you need solid food...there was no science put behind that statement, either. It's not my experience of racing and I have found no other data that says it's necessary for any reason. A major point of disagreement? The acid/alkaline food thing. I was trying to "ignore" his rant on this, as it covered a mere page in the first third of the book. But then again just after the halfway point he gets into it again and offers up the dreaded threat that comes with the acid/alkaline theory - calcium loss from the bones causes bone problems if you eat too much "acid-producing food" (which happens to include dairy/cheese, grains, seeds, and meat ... interestingly, he's okay with meat-eating, but just not processed/cured meats - how does that work?!?). I was almost tricked by this acid/alkaline thing, myself. It's pretty prevalent in the ultra and trail and health-conscious circles. But I can't find a body of legitimate research to support it. Quackwatch sums it up pretty well: "No foods change the acidity of anything in your body except your urine." Also, "...systemic pH is not influenced by diet" and some hometown researchers from my alma mater, the University of Calgary, compiled the literature in a meta-analysis that stated

This meta-analysis did not find evidence that phosphate intake ['acid producing' foods] contributes to demineralization of bone or to bone calcium excretion in the urine. Dietary advice that dairy products, meats, and grains are detrimental to bone health due to "acidic" phosphate content needs reassessment. There is no evidence that higher phosphate intakes are detrimental to bone health.

So, if you read the book, take a black texter to pages 95 and 175. He seems pretty well-researched, I'm sure he'll come to the party in the next edition ;)

Was it a hint??
On Sunday a good running mate lent me Be a Better Runner, which has a lot to do with heart rate zone training - this is something I've been a little more curious about lately. So good timing - except that poor Tim Noakes is being neglected again! And meanwhile my American Ultrarunning magazine arrived....

In training, I'm still taking lots of days off to heal, though yesterday's run tipped the balance a bit! My big announcement for today's training was that I did not cry.

That might not sound like much of a goal to achieve in a day for most people, but you need to understand...today I had my first private strength training session.

I told a very tiny girl that I wanted to try a strength program to target my arms/upper body/core, with the goal of improving my endurance for 24hr-type events. So today for the first time in my life, I used a kettle bell. And did a burpee (and torqued my knee, which put an end to those, thank-freaking-goodness). And a "clean and press." And all manner of other gym-like and weight-like things, in seemingly faster and faster succession, completely burning me out over a matter of several minutes. That was an odd feeling - when I'm used to pushing myself for hours and hours before exhaustion.

But although I felt a brief moment of panic on burpee-dead-lift number 4 and thought I was going to cry in front of that little girl, I did not and so for that I still have some pride intact. Even though my arms are like a T-rex and I have no explosive power. I thought I could still legitimately blame a bit of Kosci being in my legs yet - and the matter of that 3.5hr 29km mostly-sand run yesterday :) Well, that has nothing to do with my arms, but might explain the shattered quads and glutes.

Not sure what excuses I can work up for next week's session.

Gorgeous trail in the setting sun, but a wee test of the recovering body!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hippy, Temporarily Assuaged

I went bush running today. Ahhhhh. That's better!

Massive empathy with all those who are injured right now - those who can't run. I definitely know that a lot of my grumbles now are being caused by lack of running. Reminds me why I get on that silly hamster wheel at times (like pre-C2K when the shins were acting up). Chemicals must be kept in balance.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lost Hippy. If Found, Return to the 1960s

I've been in a low-level grumbly place for the past week or so. Why, I wondered? Was it post-race euphoria wearing off? Nope, I don't think so, as I didn't have a C2K post-race euphoria. Only post-race sluggish sleepiness!

Was it some kind of end-of-the-year blues? Again, I didn't think so, as I am the most un-Christmas, un-New Year's person on the planet. They are just another day for me. But I thought I'd go back to the last blog post of last year to see if I was in a similar mind set then....
First trail run post-C2K. Took the poles just in case....didn't need them :)

It was neat to see that I was planning to run TNF100, TransAlpine Run, and Coast to Kosci. Checked those off the list. I was also suggesting Sri Chinmoy 24hr in June...well, I did register for that one, but thankfully the RD gave me a refund, as I didn't think my "Bib foot" would cope with 24 hours. And mentally I wasn't in the right space. That can't bode well for a 24hr event! I got a last minute opportunity to register for the 100km Kep Ultra and grabbed it. Throw in a couple of rogaines (yum, rogaines) and a few 5k races, and there was the year.

Now it's time to shake the dice on 2013, shout out some numbers, and see how they land....

10 March - Coburg 6 hr. If I'm fit, I'm going to head over to Melbourne to have a crack at some PBs in the 50k and/or 6hr. I'm older, which isn't necessarily a good thing, but I'm also training and eating better and generally recovering smarter, I think. Me being me, my A goals will include age group records. And not getting injured - always a part of any of my goals.

11-12 May - World 24hr. If accepted to a national team, I'll head over to the Netherlands to run around in circles, eating my way through a tub of Perpetuem.

Then there's this big unknown comprising the second half of the year. I have a few ideas, but it really depends what continent I'm on! Usually a few months of the Aussie winter is spent in Canadian and European summer. It might be a bit early to do the hemisphere shift after Worlds, because I prefer to stay away until Perth has thoroughly warmed up (aka the end of September). That would mean May - September overseas. Not only would I need a money fairy, I think I might miss my running mates for that long!

So we'll all sit looking at this big mystery of June to December for now :-)
Last winter camping...2008. Minus 20.
But there's one more goal creeping pretty high onto the list...February 2014. Yukon Arctic Ultra. 300 Miles non-stop across the Canadian Arctic, pulling your gear in your own sled. It takes 6 to 8 days (there are a few short mandatory stops, but you choose how much extra to take). It has a 50% DNF rate. I read a couple race reports and loved this line, "My only strategy is not to die during the race." This was actually a race I was targeting before I got the scholarship to come to Oz and had to save my pennies (though at the time I was thinking of their 42km race option - times have changed!)

Back to the grumbles...could it be chemical imbalance caused by intense running followed by little running? Perhaps a bit. I am certainly edgy right now as I force myself into running only twice a week for a few weeks, letting the tendons get a good start on healing. I want to run!!! Argh. I know. This is good for me. I went to yoga today.

Would pulling a sled be easier or just different?
There's one last thing. It's my sport. My beautiful, bipedal sport. Moving through space and time on two feet.  Propelling myself around corners and to the tops of hills for the sheer curiosity of what's on the other side. To glimpse kangaroos and lizards on the trails. To catch the silhouette of a running mate ahead in the setting sun. To start an impromptu "race" up a hill, laughing and gasping at the top. To test myself against some perceived obstacle or to race towards some perceived reward, be it time, distance, or health. And to inspire others to find some of this joy for themselves.

There have been changes within the sport. I am getting this uneasy feeling, wondering where I fit in all this. It's the hippy. She's grumbling. And she's not sure she can wait 14 months in order to get 6 days to "go bush." Then again, I've been growing my hair out for 6 months and I'm still nowhere near being able to put it in plaits (braids). And we all know you can't really be a hippy without long hair ;)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Man That Holds His Own is Good Enough

The team - JC, Rolf, me, Karen, and Dan - at the finish!
The C2K post-mortem....

Sexy new ultra fashion - Rock tape shins
The lead up to the event was great in terms of training and self-care, but about two weeks out, I started getting bilateral shin pain. A weird kind of pain that was new to me. Kind of a warm, zinging, flushing pain all over the shin bone - never sharp or stabbing. I self-diagnosed periostitis. A new injury, how exciting (insert roll of the eyes and sarcastic tone here please). My massage therapist and I were working hard with extra sessions to try to keep my right QL and psoas behaving, so there had been little time to attend to tib posts that seemed to have secretly tightened up.

Less than a week before I flew over east, I decided to consult my physio. She agreed it was almost certainly periostitis and needled the heck out of my tib posts and calves. Two days before I left, she saw me on an "emerg" basis and stuck a box of needles into my legs. She whispered 'stress reaction' and 'stress fracture' but then we both agreed there was too little evidence. She put some fancy black tape on the shins and they felt instantly better. If it was a placebo, it was a damn good one!

We decided I should skip my last few planned runs. With 6 days to go, there was almost nothing to gain and everything to lose. I was nervous that I was taking a crew of 4 people across the country to devote up to a week of their lives to get me up a mountain and I might be a DNF early in.

Rolf, me, Karen, and JC recce the course
Naturally, I kept this largely to myself and did the best I could to shut the negative thoughts out. They couldn't help. But the pre-race head games weren't nice.

Two of the crew flew from Perth over east to Canberra on the same day as me - Monday before race day (which was Friday). Tuesday morning, Rolf flew in to join us, coming back from his trip abroad. The four of us crammed the boot full of bags and headed for Jindabyne, which was the 183km mark of the race. Basing ourselves there for a day, we drove up the dead-end road to Charlotte's Pass, at the 222km mark. The last ~18k of the race is an out-and-back up to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko at 2,228 mtrs. It was 8 degrees, but felt like 0 with a biting wind and even some sleet-like snow. This was the kind of weather I'd been warned about. We headed back down the long 40k hill to the motel on Lake Jindabyne, where I would make a an attempt to find food for a gluten free vegetarian with dairy sensitivities. Yikes. I pack a lot of my own food these days!

On Wednesday we drive down the rest of the course to the start line. We note the 'tricky' bits for navigation, as there will be no course markings as far as we know. We pass through the quaint little villages of Dalgety and Cathcart. We go through what I think was called the "High Plains" section and I silently note that I don't really like the landscape for running - wide open ranch/farm vistas. That's unfortunate, as it's going to comprise my afternoon and early evening! I also expect it to be hot for me in here. Mentally, this all helps, though, as I recognise this as a potential low spot to be wary of.

Sand over right toes. Yes, I will regret it!
I get to see my very first goanna - an Australian monitor lizard well over a metre long. We stop and she ambles up a tree, baby following behind her. We see a rancher in a ute (truck) and his two sheepdogs doing their thing - herding the sheep down the road towards a gate. It's exciting for me to see sheepdogs at work! And I'm always encouraging the faster trail runners in our PHAT running group to sheepdog, so it's cool to see these "comrades."

We arrive down at Eden, NSW, the race start, and settle into our 'cabin' on the beach. Dan, our 4th team member, drives in on Thursday, bringing a second car to the team, plus eskies and other potentially useful bits we didn't have to haul on a plane. We have "show and tell" for an hour, where I go through my gear and the race plan one last time. Then it's off to the pre-race dinner, where I am overjoyed at the gluten free/celiac options on offer. The RD couple has planned well - their experience and dedication to the sport shows.

Race morning. 5.30 AM start on the beach. I line up and feel a sprinkling on my toes. Looking down, I see I've kicked a pile of sand on top of my right shoe. It's mesh. Crap. A wee bit of sand has just sprinkled down between my toes. I say aloud, "Crap, I've just gotten sand in my shoe." The bloke next to me says, "Well, you're going to have a long time to regret that."

We're off on a 24k solo section. Our crews can't join us at first or there would be too many vehicles on the road too close together. We're offered aid stations every 4-5k, though, which is great. I run with a 250ml bottle I plan to sip from and fill as needed and use Hammer Solids. I run to feel, though I do have a race split noted.

Indeed, I have calculated splits for the entire race - over 19 sections. It's the only way I can try to gauge my progress and estimate a finish time. Post-race I hear that many people were comparing my splits to course record holder Julia Fatton's, but I never ran to her splits. My understanding was that she probably ran too easily and then ran through the field. I wasn't willing to take that approach and go for a big "negative split" type approach. Instead, I looked at the splits of many other runners before me with measured results. And I looked at the elevation profiles for each section and came up with what I thought might be sustainable. But I also knew I'd have to be flexible and run to my heart rate/exertion level.
climbing Big Jack

It turned out that I came in to meet my crew at the 24k mark within a few minutes of split time. Wow. I hit Checkpoint 1 (CP1) at the 50k mark in 4hr 53min, again very close to projection. I grabbed the Leki poles (my named 'Nearer and Further' mates from the Bibbulmun track adventure!) and went into the 7k climb of Big Jack Mountain. It wasn't even 11 am and I already had an ice towel around my neck. I love the big climbs and this section of forest was pretty, but it was a bit hard to eat and push at the same time. At the top of the hill it took several minutes of running for my stomach to settle. Karen and Dan took off ahead to Cathcart (CP2/70k) for some lunch, as Rolf and JC had shown up after sleeping through the start (purposefully, yes!).

CP2 was attained at 7 hrs (12.30 PM), on schedule. I was still running to effort, though there was a lot of heat management involved. I later told my crew that if I EVER mutter an idea of doing Badwater, they need to punch me out. Besides the heat, I'm dealing with another issue, which is the camber of the road. I'd been warned about it and was trying to be cautious and attentive to avoid the worst of the slopes, but got my first nasty sharp twinges in the right medial knee going up Big Jack at 60k. I think it's the adductor magnus at the insertion to the tubercle (for those who like their anatomy). I was having to alter my gait and not fully bend my knee in order to avoid the pain. I think this had a flow on effect which caused a tightening of the right hip flexor/TFL as the race progressed.

Dan handing fuel off to me whilst officials check on me
73-80km were downhill, perhaps 140-150 mtrs. That necessitated a similar climb on the other side. Then another lower rollercoaster before a bigger climb of a couple hundred metres past the 100k mark. Someone had scratched a line and mark across the road. I noted that I passed this at 10h28 (3.58 PM). Two more km to the big dead tree. I am still tracking along with my splits. But the distances feel huge at this point and I have moments of terrible doubt that smacks of hopelessness. It hurts, it's too hard, and I want to stop. I know that if I can make it to Dalgety, I can finish. Somehow Dalgety is a pivotal point for me. To shut out negative thoughts, I hum at times - a meditative, monotonic hum that rather frightens those who haven't been initiated to it! CP 3 is a road junction with a livestock ramp at 107k. I hit that a few minutes behind, but not at all concerned with a few minutes over this distance. There is lots of time for things to change!

My world continues in 15 minute increments of Hammer Perpetuem servings. There's never a dull moment, though, as I seem constantly in need of an ice cube to chew on, sunscreen, water to be sprayed on my back, or ice cubes under my hat. My pace is slowing, as expected, and I need to get a few more calories in. I take intermittent bites of pear, which is divine. Darkness comes and Karen and Dan take off for the motel in Jindabyne where they can get petrol and a precious 3 hours of sleep. In the care of Rolf and JC, I roll into CP 4, the village of Dalgety (146k), at 9.57PM. The race officials joked that I made it just in time for last call at the pub! No stopping for me; my crew checks me in as usual as I continue out the other side of town, over the Snowy River bridge.

There's a fairly ridiculous climb from the 160k mark to 165k. I grab my poles again and hammer up. I feel great here. It's dark and I'm finally cooling off. I love the big hills. I power comfortably past a few runners. At the top, I lament it being over. A crew member, waiting for his runner, stands there in the dark and says encouragingly, "Well, at least that's over!" I reply, "No, I loved it! That was the best part of the race for the last 10 hours!"

And then things start to go wrong. I'm moving inefficiently. My right leg isn't rotating properly through the hip. Rolf notices and demonstrates to me how I look - sort of a Charlie Chaplin penguin waddle. We both know I can't run another 100 km like that - something else will blow. I stop and try to stretch - to figure out what's wrong. It's mainly the right knee. I just can't bend it fully without severe sharp pain. Same problem as before and everything is just tightening around the dysfunction. I attempt a self-massage.

I stop again to put more clothes on for the night, which takes some coordination between two of us, over big  shoes and stiff legs. It feels like forever to get down the last 5k section into Jindabyne, though it's downhill. Two crew in a truck see me and stop to ask if I'm okay. That unnerves me a bit, as I think my form must not be good if they're asking! Maybe they're just being nice and asking everyone they pass. CP 5, Jindabyne, is attained at 3:36 am. That's 183k done and 57k to go.

It's fairly flat to 190k and then a climb to the summit. My pace drops. I can't hold the necessary tempo. I'm like a piston working in a worn out cylinder - there's all kinds of slop, it's inefficient, and I'm firing at the wrong times. I burn more gas than necessary.

I start to fight fuel. The calories are needed and bring instant increased energy, but I struggle to get them in. 24 hours of mouth breathing has left me with a burnt, dry mouth. I can't eat anything solid for variety, as it just sits in a gummy paste in my mouth. I want pear, but there is no more. Rolf finds my second precious organic banana at the bottom of the icy esky. It's brown. I force it in, telling myself it's custard instead (as there's no way a banana tastes like that!). The crew offer me everything from their own fuel stashes. The Hammer gels go down best, but I only brought a few as emergency backup. They're quickly gone.

The attempt on the female course record is gone. I continue to push as hard as I can, nevertheless. I create a new A goal - sub 32hrs. I will still try to be the fastest Australian woman to run from the ocean to the summit (Julia is Swiss). I also try to hold my relative position - to not lose time to the women behind me, allowing them to close the gap at all.

Summit cairn
At the Pass I switch into my Inov-8 Roclites - a beefier shoe for the rocky summit trail and with more room in the toe box, since they are 1.5 sizes bigger than normal for me. It's a small comfort. Karen carries my pack with mandatory gear on her front, her own pack on her back. The whole team does the 18k summit section together. We go over the Snowy River again, pass Seaman's Hut and Rawson's Pass and do a short snow traverse. The traverse takes me back to my running roots with the Canadian Trailtrash group.

As we approach the top, I encourage the team to run ahead and enjoy the views and get their photos, as I won't linger. But they don't go more than a few steps ahead of me. More than 30 hours in, they are still 100% focused on my race, even though it's the first time to Kosci for all of them. I am in 4th place overall. On the descent to the finish line, I am frustrated with my inability to open up and run properly and I get passed by two blokes. One of them actually beats me to the finish line by 20 minutes, that's how slow my pace was coming down.

With 50 metres to go, I let out my instinctive battle cry and all body pains are drowned by one last flood of adrenaline and opiates. I sprint across the line, face grimacing, mentally giving the course a "Ha! I beat you!" I am happy to sit at the finish and cheer more people coming in, as well as those heading to the summit. My crew give me a few minutes, but they are beat and ask to go. They need real food and real rest. Rolf and Dan, who stayed up all night, pass out fully clothed on their beds before 7:30pm. I try to eat, but can't all day. I get my Recoverite in and sip water and weak peppermint tea.

Sunday trip to Thredbo for our own crew bobsled race!
By Garmin, it was 241k, +5423mtrs and -3597 mtrs. Finish time, at 31:49:21, was the fastest Australian female time by about 25 minutes. Julia's course record fell far from my grasp though, and I'll leave it to another AUS woman to bring the record back to our soil. At this point, I don't expect to go back to C2K next year, as there are just too many races to do and too much recovery time necessary between such major events.

The damage done? An amazingly bad blister over my middle toe - something I've never had, and which I can only think came from sand rubbing on the top of the toe from the start line. That nail will leave me. My lips are so chapped that 3 days post-race they stuck shut during the night and I had to tear them apart in the morning. The medial knee pain is slowly resolving, though I am still walking with a slight limp, as I avoid bending the knee much. My resting heart rate has come down from 59 post-race to 46 three days later to sub-40 last night. That's great, as my recovery from the Sri Chinmoy 24hr took weeks. But I'm in no way planning a run yet! I feel a bit fragile still and jet lagged. Sleep is restless, as when I shift, my knee hurts and wakes me. Plus I am having C2K dreams, recalculating splits and running the last section of the race over and over in my head. I am devouring fruit and salad and Udo's Oil. I lost 2kg of fat during the event so look a bit gaunt. But correcting that part will be easy! :)

In all, an amazing 29 of the 34 starters finished the race, with the last runner coming in just 5 minutes before the 46 hour cut-off. As I drove down the hill towards Jindabyne, I passed runner after runner and their crews, tackling a full second day in the heat. The finish line didn't make me want to cry, but seeing the determination and strength of these individuals did. I believe Banjo Paterson's poem, The Man From Snowy River, reflects those characteristics. No wonder we earn an Akubra hat for finishing.


"He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Going Up?

Coast to Kosci. 240km. Up. But not straight up. Up and down and up some more and down and up some more...and a downhill finish :)

Live feed should be here: http://www.coast2kosci.com/live.php

Race start is Friday 5.30 am NSW time. But don't worry if you're not able to check in right away. You should have a good 30 hours to check in on my progress!

Thanks to my brilliant sport massage therapist, Nathan Doig, who suggested a mountain theme for my toes, which led me to create a replica of the C2K logo! I know they won't sue me for improper use of trademark or anything because you wouldn't even know what it was supposed to be unless I told you ;)

This is a complicated race. Much more complicated than I thought on registering. All I had to do is run in a relatively straight line on a road to the top of the mountain....

Well, I have four people coming to crew for me - that's 4 people to get one girl to the top of the mountain! I am obviously high maintenance ;) But seriously, it was recommended to me by someone who crewed this race virtually solo and nearly drove off the road with sleep deprivation at the end. So this way my crew will hopefully get at least a little down time/sleep time and be better able to get me to the top. I've thought many times how fortunate I am after moving here 4 years ago, alone, knowing no one, to being able to have 4 people put up their hands to give up time, energy, and money to help me with this goal. My crew is all kitted up in stink-free Icebreaker wool and Montane shells, mandatory gear for the wild weather they always promise competitors near the summit.

From a distance, with one eye closed, it almost looks like it!
I've been kept going through the training with all the support of my beautiful PHAT running group (Perth Hills And Trails), who were always so good at yelling at me to climb the hills faster. One lovely friend has dropped  more than one food care package at the door, too - mulberries, one day! My physio, Ali Low, used up a box of needles on my legs and Jonathan Langer came to the rescue when my regular chiro had to take sudden leave these past few weeks. I got a brand new tub of Hammer Perpetuem, ready to crack open on race morning and eat my way through! I was so pleased to reconfirm today when I packed the suitcase that it's gluten free, as I've embarked on a GF experiment these past two weeks (and feel fantastic for it, too).

So, I'm off to recce the course for 3 days with most of the crew - driving it in reverse - and then running back up!

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 :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Walking the Plank?

I was browsing through my assortment of brekkie reading material (running mags, for the most part!) and came across an article on core training for runners. The argument was made that a lot of our common core exercises such as the plank or push-ups on a wobble board are probably doing nothing to help us improve performance.
Use a kettlebell & have abs like this? Oh, wait, first I need to shed the fat hiding my abs!

Well, this is interesting! If I don't have to do planks anymore, I'll be a happier girl! I read on.... studies have shown that core stability exercises given to active runners result in some improvements in muscle endurance (yes, I can hold the plank position longer), but no improvement to my running strength and power. Oh. That's deflating. It's not actually improving my performance. So why on earth am I doing it?

Why? Because I was told. Because we all "know" that you're supposed to do core exercises. So, can I really give them up?

Naturally, I needed to go to the source of some of the references to read the papers for myself. One of the first things I learned is that this notion of doing core stability exercises basically came from the rehab physio's bench. After an injury (or maybe even when coming back from an off season), developing some basic muscle endurance through the core may be "prescribed." Now it's just ended up prescribed to all of us. A bit like saying that because Billy's vision improved when he got glasses, we should all wear glasses. And never bother to check our vision again, but just keep wearing those same glasses forever.

Healthy, active runners are not the same as injured runners. Gee, that makes sense.

I checked out an interesting review by Willardson (2007; Core Stability Training for Healthy Athletes: A Different Paradigm for Fitness Professionals, Strength and Conditioning Journal, 29(6) 42-49). Improving strength and power comes from low intensity and high velocity movements of the muscles. When on a very unstable surface like a wobble board, there is a "stiffening strategy" that actually opposes the intended direction of movement. So you are just activating opposing muscles to the ones you're trying to power! Like putting the brakes on with the accelerator at the same time. This review of the literature included core exercises done with a lot of stability (e.g., a squat in a machine), with moderate instability (e.g., a squat with free weights), and with a lot of instability (e.g., a squat on a wobble-board).


When looking at the functional connectivity of the core (a huge group of muscles through the lumbar spine and pelvis, such as the internal obliques close in and the hip flexors like the psoas further out), these muscles work dynamically - never one in isolation. Which is why the case for using a wobble board instead of a static plank came up in the first place. But this literature I looked at is suggesting that we've gone from one ineffective thing (static planks) to another (throwing kettlebells around on wobble boards). As healthy runners, we might get better at our static planks or wobble-board kettlebells, but it's not helping our running performance.

But, before sending the kettlebell out to walk the plank... a theory was put out there in Willardson's review.... "ground-based free weight movements might be better for the development of core strength and power due to the force, velocity, and core stabilizing requirements that are similar to the demands of sports skills."

Our bodies move in three planes
The author of the running mag article I read that started this exploration provided a few examples of what he thought were appropriate exercises. One, for example, is along the lines of standing with one leg in front of the other, arms straight out and locked as if clutching an imaginary club, and swinging rapidly from side to side. That would seem to tick all the boxes...good ground stability, "free weight" movement (yes, you can do it with weight in hand), and velocity.

But still, we're runners, not baseball players, so is the core really an area that needs to be "powered up"? Will this kind of dynamic exercise improve my running performance? Given the limited time for training, am I better to be doing eccentric calf work and going for massage?

I'm not sure. Neither are the researchers, from what I read. But the core really is at the core...it's the dynamic connection between our arms/shoulders and our legs. When I lift a foot in running, the core and pelvis rotate in response and stabilise me so I don't tip over. When I land, the core helps absorb the energy and prepares for its release with the next step. There must, therefore, be some amount of strength and power in that area that is so central to the running machine. And I would think it even more critical when said running is done on unstable, twisty surfaces (technical trails) and/or at fast speeds. So I'm thinking I'll give up my static planks (which really were disappearing in favour of push-ups, anyway) and look at some of this dynamic movement stuff, keeping my feet firmly on the ground! But I might save money on the kettlebell and just use a bottle of beetroot juice ;)

With those thoughts in mind, I guess it was okay that I missed the planks this past week, but spent the time with the sports chiro and massage therapist. I had a few great results in training for Coast 2 Kosci. On Tuesday, I headed down to the track for the "long" events on offer. There was a mile event and a 10k. Well, on a track I prefer to say 10,000 metres. It sounds longer that way. Because it feels like it! Rather than run the 5k there and back, I opted to drive over and save my legs in attempting a PB.

The 2011 10k Masters State Champs, where I set my last PB. Really, it's me!
Going hard in the mile, I set an ambitious PB goal (6 minutes). I could tell in the first lap that it was not sustainable. But pushed on to see what would happen. I ended up 1 second behind my PB. Whilst I say, "That's okay, I'm not a sprinter" I know I'll keep pushing for something closer to 6 minutes!

Then, the 10k. The fellow next to me says how he took it easy in the mile in order to save himself for the 10k. Geez, that might have been a good idea.... I had my PB from the State Champs of 2011 written on my scrap of paper: 43.58. I set another ambitious goal: 42 minutes. That's 50 seconds per 200 metres for 25 laps. Straightforward.

Starting out, I tried to tuck in behind three blokes for protection from the wind. Laps one and two saw me lose 7 seconds right there, as their pace wasn't the pace I had to be doing. So I had to go out on my own. It took a few more laps, but then I got into my rhythm and just stuck to the plan. Even found a little energy to "kick" at the end (my version of a kick!), finishing in 42:12! A very big PB!
I love it when my world gets this simple.

Friday night saw me headed down to Nannup (I love Nannup, ever since the folk fest getaway weekend) for a 12 hour rogaine. I had managed to get a state champion rogainer to join me in a teaching session. The goal was to go "moderately hard." I feel like I've hit the limits of my navigation skills on rogaines and needed an expert to show me how to improve my map reading. So the rule was that I would get to stop us as needed to say "I don't get it - show me how this feature looks like this on the map."

We had a good start to our team - a serious navigator and a serious runner (the serious navigator also happens to be a pretty serious runner, too!). All we needed was a serious Muay Thai kickboxing expert (doesn't every team need one?). Fortunately, we found her! But the poor thing had never done "endurance" exercise like we ultra runners think of it. That is, she hadn't run/hiked more than 3 hours before. But she's a little powerhouse with a focus that would shatter glass. And she can fix a blister or change clothes faster than anyone I've seen, too!
Ready for the race briefing

So, with a plan to have a navigation lesson, whilst keeping a young rogaining novice alive, we set out at 10 AM Saturday with a hot day of bushwhacking ahead of us. And at 10 PM, after 51km, we finished as 1st place mixed team!

But after the track, a hill session, tempo work, and the 50k 12hr rogaine, it was all I could do to muster up a 6 minute pace for a 10k "recovery" run on Sunday! And hooray for the Monday rest day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Simple Answers Wanted: Apply Within

Running is so complicated!
Is polenta high GI or low GI?

Do I drink exactly at my sweat rate per hour during an ultra? Or do I drink exactly "to thirst"?

Do I always eat 4 calories per kg of body weight during a race?

Are Hokas the shoes that will prevent running injuries? Or is it Inov-8s?

The longer I'm in this running gig, the more I'm learning that simple answers are rarely useful ones. But the desire of the black-and-white mindset! After all, many of us would say life is busy and complicated enough. If someone could give me the formula.... "Eat 140 cals/hr of Perpetuem, drink 524 ml/hr of water and wear x-talon 212s. Tape your left pinky toe with Rocktape, use an UltrAspire pack, drink 117 ml of Coke at the 57 km mark. Wear Compressport calf guards and yell "Yeee haw" at the start line. Then you'll win."

And never have nausea. And never be injured. And always want to run, every day, even the long, hard sessions, even after a really crap long day at work when it's 40 degrees and you have no one to run with.

On my Sunday run, I noticed my hands were swelling up a bit. This happens occasionally. When I race, I take off my rings, just in case. I was trying to remember...was that due to dehydration, overhydration, low electrolytes, too many electrolytes, a full moon??

Sunday's luscious but hot 4hr hill run - summer's coming!
Researching it to refresh my memory, I learned this: swollen hands are a reliable indicator of NOTHING.

However, two years ago, I took it as a reliable indicator of something. I just can't remember what. It would have been the first thing I googled.

Now, as a more discerning googler, I can find evidence arguing that swollen hands is caused by dehydration, overhydration, heat, and increased blood flow to the extremities. If I searched long enough, I'd probably also find it is caused by a full moon.

Having only reached page 29 of Tim Noakes' 400+ page "Waterlogged," I realise already that I started the book wanting to find "the answer" to hydration. He is, thus far, very verbosely setting the stage for his main argument - that runners should be drinking to thirst alone. They should not drink a prescribed amount or drink "before" they are thirsty, in order to ward off the dreaded monster of Dehydration.

I wonder how heavy the can is?
Though his initial arguments are sound to me, I am already thinking that the supposed answer in this book... Drink to Thirst... is too simple. I agree with the opening arguments - humans are incredibly well adapted biologically/physiologically to survive. Bipedalism is smart. By standing up, we expose 60% less surface area to the sun than 4-legged creatures.We don't have much hair (which would help protect against the sun's radiation), but that's more than offset by the fact that we have more sweat glands than any other mammal. We have biological controls like the hormone AVP/ADH that act to keep our sodium and fluid balances just right. Chemicals are released that tell the kidneys to retain or expel water. The brain will protect itself from death by slowing us down if we try to cook it by running ourselves into heatstroke. In fact, if we don't slow down enough, it will basically give us temporary paralysis to shut us down. Very smart brain, wants to survive.

So far, I'll give him two points:

(1) Humans are biologically adapted to survive. We have a physiology and hormones that promote our ability to cool ourselves during exercise and to maintain a balance of water and electrolytes to survive during endurance exercise (That said, we're also bloody inefficient, in that 75% of the energy produced by our muscles when we run is wasted as heat, not propulsion - we're like incandescent light bulbs!).


(2) The kidneys have a limited capacity to process/excrete fluid. The maximum is likely around 600 ml/hr in smaller athletes like me with an upper limit of less than 1000 ml/hr for the biggest of athletes. (Of course, some fluid is lost to evaporation/sweat, as well, but this intimates a maximum a person could drink before becoming overfull of fluids. And interestingly, one of the first signs of excess drinking in test subjects was diarrhoea).

But can everyone simply run with such a simple formula? Drink to thirst?

He's got 370 more pages to convince me. At the size of this book, I might become Booklogged before I get to the finish line.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Warp Speed

Einstein said we can't travel faster than the speed of light. And trying to travel anything close to those speeds is suicide, anyway...just ask any bug after its hit your windscreen.... Oh, no, you can't.

Complicated. Even with all those helpful arrows ;)
But I've been writing this blog post in one form or another for nearly two weeks and I'm sure I'm in a time-space discontinuum. As you approach light speed, everything around you is supposed to slow down. That's not the way my world looks!

Maybe it's warp speed. I've created my own gravitational field and am expanding space behind me whilst pulling the future in. All the while, effectively standing still, according to the Trekkies. Actually, that sounds not unlike a description of quicksand, too! I think I need a retreat (that's where I stop and the rest of the universe keeps going).

So...the major updates ...

I passed my citizenship test last week! Quick, who can identify the colours of the Torres Straight Islander flag, adopted nationally in 1995? Or what the colours mean?

The last step for citizenship is that I go down in 4 weeks to pledge my loyalty to Oz and Aussies and promise to obey the laws. I am allowed to bring a "holy book" to swear on, so I'm just deciding between AURA's September Ultramag and the Endurance Athlete's Guide to Success :)

A couple middle-aged springboks sighted on trail savannah
Other good news - I took my speedwork deprived Bib foot (along with rest of speedwork deprived body) down to the track. Downed my beetroot juice and some caffeine. Ran the 5k to get there at a bit of a "tempo" pace, being late (oops). Arrived as they were doing the 60 metre event (I skip that one). Hit the 3000 metre and set a 24 second PB! Rested for the 5 minutes it takes them to run the 400 metre event and then ran the 1500 race with a 12 second PB! Total surprise. (Though, in all honesty, I always felt my previous 3k PB was an underestimate of what I should be able to do). Ran the 5k home with my headlamp at LSD pace.

But the bad news. I set a push-up PW! Okay, not quite a worst, as I think I could only do 5 or 8 when I started back in 2011. But I've gone from a best of 29 at one go (nose to phone) down to 17! Not unexpected, having taken over a month off. Exercise is very fair that way - do the work, get the results. Back to work I go.

Sunday's 32k +1000mtr solo run after a 5k bitumen race (won $25!)
I haven't quite hammered out my Coast to Kosci training program yet, but I have done a few things. Booked accommodation. Booked myself into a 12hr rogaine at the end of October. Booked myself to go do the Stirling Ridge Top 46k Walk/Run/Scramble the following weekend. Printed off a photo collage of Ellie Greenwood, Julia Fatton, and Lizzy Hawker and put it front and centre on my desk. Seriously. Written on the sheet it says, "BE THIS GOOD."

The brain does not know the difference between reality and dream. I can, therefore, use that to my advantage ;) Fortunately, none of those ladies are entered in C2K, either. That might confuse things.

My final bit of big news. I ate an orange Hammer gel today. Trust me, I didn't want to. But I had a few "odd" flavours around and have been needing to use them up. But I've told myself a story that I only like chocolate and espresso. Well, I was wrong! The orange goes up there with my other favourites. Totally mild like the orange-vanilla Perpetuem. Nice. I wonder what other flavours are in the fuel bowl?!?

I'm off to bed so maybe I can actually read a few pages of Waterlogged before my batteries go flat. Then we can have a nice sciency blog post.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Home

Before the age of 18, I lived in no less than 7 places. Seven "homes." As an adult, I can immediately list off another 10 "homes."

One of my favourite homes for 8 years. A 16x20 foot shed on 8 acres.
In my 20s, conversations on the phone with my mum used to go something along the lines of

Mum: "When are you coming home?"
Me: "I am home."
Mum: "No you're not. Home is here." (i.e., wherever she was)
Me: "No it's not. Home is wherever I'm living at the moment."

Two and a half months ago, I left home in Perth and have travelled through 10 countries, including places with former homes and extended family homes in China (yes, I lived in China), Canada, England, and Switzerland. In two days I go home to Perth.

Perhaps if I'd lived my whole childhood under one roof I wouldn't have such a nomadic approach to home. But home for me is no less satisfying than anyone else's home; I'm pretty sure of that. Home is a place of refuge. It is the place to launch oneself from and the place to run back to when the world is that little bit too scary or exhausting. It's the place to charge the batteries and scheme the next adventure.

At home inside my first Aussie home
I have a little refuge in Perth. On Sunday, I'll be back under its roof, making a cuppa on the gas stove that likes to blow out when the wind blows down the chimney. I'll be wearing my down booties as I plod around the wooden floors, cursing the lack of central heating in Australian homes. And outside the crows will mock me with their song that sounds like a big belly laughing "Haw haw haw!"

I have a lot to look forward to. Two days after returning, I write the Australian citizenship test. I get to spend some time with children in my psych practice. On 11 October I'm giving a talk on trailrunning at Mainpeak. On the 29th, I'm speaking at a conference of Oracle users. In between, I'll enjoy some long runs on favourite trails with mates I haven't seen in a whole season. Perth Trail Series planning will continue and I'll be leading some trail running courses in November.

On 7 December, I hope to run 240km from a beach in NSW to the top of Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, at 2,228 metres. It's the Coast to Kosci race and my application has been accepted :) What better way to celebrate a new citizenship?!

I'm toying with a 50km/6hour track race in late November (record attempt), but I think it's probably too close to the C2K.

The post-TransAlpine recovery.... I have been running since four days post-race. I'm running 5 days/week at an easy pace with my "long" run restricted to 1.5 hours. Even though the little niggles I had during the event are gone, I know there are tendons still under repair. There's no way the body can be at 100% yet. Even though I didn't race hard, it was 8 days straight over mountain passes with fast, hard descents. I'll stick with this "base" recovery plan for another 10 days or so, giving myself a full month post-race recovery. Then... I build! Let's see if the "Bib foot" will finally tolerate some speed work in November!

As for Rolf, it wasn't compartment syndrome..."just" very bad inflammation of the tibialis anterior and retinaculum (our diagnosis). He's started short runs again :)