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Maui - day 7

OK. Day 7 on Maui. The non-stop itinerary, conjured up jointly by Saira, Rolanda and Kara continues. Non-stop stuff, I'll be needing a holiday after all this.

The day started bright and early for a snorkel trip to the island of Molokini off the west shores of Maui. This was very entertaining and $3 Mai-Tai's served on board by the crew at 10 in the morning had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Notable sightings - several turtles, incredible tropical fish and coral, and a very questionable shark sighting - according to George, Albert, Seth and Jacob. Really, "it was this big!!!

After landing back on the Maui there was still time for a slog up a big hill. If you've been to Maui, you'll recall the line of windmills heading up into the hills above Lahaina - part of the Lahaina-Pali trai.

I climbed as high as I could in the allotted time up the ridge above the trail. After about 3200ft there was still about 1500 more to climb. Not the best trail, but a decent workout, and hot, hot, hot.

Frogmen

Frogmen

Shark hunting

Shark hunting

Don't drink and dive

Don't drink and dive

Post dive run - no ill-effects from the Mai Tai's.  

Post dive run - no ill-effects from the Mai Tai's.  

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Maui - day 6

Day 6 on Maui and we ventured out on the so-called Bamboo hike. A must-do hike that involves an incredible walk through a bamboo forest, some sketchy waterfall scrambling and a swim to a climb to reach more waterfalls. A total of five waterfalls and a cool day all around. If you are heading to Maui I can recommend this one.

After returning to Kihei I squeezed in a short quick run - I finally seem to be acclimated to the heat. It's been hovering in the mid 30s. Next race up is in Montana - the Hurl Elkhorn 50 and I hear there can be some heat so I am enjoying the sweat fest right now.

The day ended with pizza night on the beach.

Hiking in Bamboo

Hiking in Bamboo

Compulsory swim! 

Compulsory swim! 

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I think this bunch are tired

I think this bunch are tired

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Maui - day 5

After the thrashings we all took in the waves yesterday today started out fairly mellow. A 13km jog around the shwanky Wailea neighborhood followed by beach time at the Mana Kai. By afternoon however, the kids were raring to go back to Big Beach where we figured the swells would be huge.

And they were. The Lifeguards blasted out on their megaphones that the swell and shore break was big and that swimming wasn't recommended. Despite this, the sea was full of swimmers, and we ventured out for our second trashing in the waves in as many days. What a blast!

No injuries today which was a bonus, though I feel a bit like I've played a game of rugby this last couple of mornings.

Dinner back at the Mana Kai bar was quite delicious, and the Mai Tai's did not disappoint.

Saira and Cory enjoying a Mai Tai at the Mana Kai

Saira and Cory enjoying a Mai Tai at the Mana Kai

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Maui - day 4

Maui - day 4

This was a big day in many respects! To recap, our day consisted of:

  • Surfing - we all caught multiple waves and 'caught the bug' this morning. Star performers were the girls. Apparently ballet and dance help with balance and flexibility.
  • More jellyfish stings - this time for Saira. Various home remedies were suggested, but in the end, a bottle of Negra Modelo seemed just as effective.
  • Snorkeling in pristine coral - including a bite on the finger for Seth from a cornered Eel.
  • A red hot lava rock run was the official exercise of the day for me, but truth be told, I burnt more calories trying to stand up on my surfboard this morning. Point Break, it wasn't.
  • We got absolutely annihilated by big waves at Big Beach in the afternoon. A notorious wave. Albert lost his shorts and shirt in one particularly violent shore break! George snapped the leashes on two Boogie boards. The dads and older boys loved it, the smaller girls, not so much, as they were in danger of being snapped themselves.
  • We visited 3 beaches in one day, and by the end we had multiple cuts, a lot of chafing, some lost blood, and one lost big toenail! No bones were broken; we will live to fight another day. Big smiles all around.
  • We had Birthday cake for Jacob Bernard-Docker! Fifteen today - Happy Birthday Jake.
  • An early night as we are all so done in!
Not sure what's going on here

Not sure what's going on here

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Running in lava rock

Running in lava rock

Island, Mollee and Zoe watching the boys in the spin cycle

Island, Mollee and Zoe watching the boys in the spin cycle

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Maui day 3

Maui day 3 was this....

  • Early morning run and Kona coffee before the heat of the day
  • Ziplines at Twin Falls
  • Getting thrashed in waves at Baldwin beach
  • Kombucha and serenades at Hookipa beach
  • Jellyfish stings
  • Lunch at Paia from Mana market
  • Fish tacos on the BBQ
  • Games at Mana Kai - I think this counts as a workout
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Maui day 2

2015-06-28

The day in a nutshell

  • awesome times with good friends
  • swimming with sea turtles
  • scorching hot 12km run
  • barbecue lunch and supper
  • moonlight beach walk

Tomorrow some zip lining and a waterfall hike perhaps. Yeah, and maybe a run.

Decent view

Decent view

It was a hot beach run

It was a hot beach run

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Maui Day 1

Airport Marguerita

Airport Marguerita

Day 1

Today we are headed to Maui. It's our first trip to the Hawaiian Islands, and like the typical start to most Reed trips overseas, it is a complete shit show of a start.

Reasons:

  • We have been so busy this last couple of weeks - work, last week of school, field trips, kids golf....
  • We have been looking after 2 extra dogs this week - that makes 4, for those keeping count. A handful.
  • Saira, the glue that holds us all together, along with working a fulltime job, has, this week:
    • Organised a soccer tournament for 50 teams last weekend
    • Has organised a BBQ for 500
    • Has had a High School Football board meeting
    • Has had a Canmore Minor Soccer Board meeting
    • Organised a house showing, the morning we leave for the airport, meaning the house needs to be spotless - we are trying to downsize and simplify life, hence the house is for sale.

Albert, in true form, decided not to pack anything until the morning we leave, as the rest of us dash around madly, organising flippers, board shorts, whilst vacuuming, cleaning toilets, and scrubbing soda stream gu from the counter tops.

I decided beers with the guys would be a good plan last night. Saira and I got to bed at 1:30 am - not our usual bedtime. And George, barely beat us. A true teenager, though at least he got packed last night.

Still we got it done!

And so here we sit, at 2pm in Calgary airport. The first Marguerita sliding down nicely.

Life is good! Holiday on! Maui here we come


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A Few Tools I like

A Few Tools that have made Running more than Just Running for me in 2015

Much as I like the simplicity of trail running, I have a few prized items that, for me, have made the experience all the more rich. Whilst this may to go against the grain for some, I think there is no doubt that we are involved in a stunningly beautiful sport, and I for one, am inspired by the pictures, the blogs and short videos I view on the internet.

Here are a few items, that allow me to make the most of my trail runs, and to hopefully allow others to enjoy where I run.

iPhone 6+

It's a big phone, no doubt, but the camera is great, and the best camera is the one that's with you. It takes barely 30 seconds to stop and grab a great pic for instagram, or a short video. It fits perfectly in the waist band pocket of my shorts (Salomon S-Lab shorts) and doesn't bounce when I run. I use the Enlight app to add filters, adjust the exposure etc. All done on the phone.

The Moment Lens

My wife bought me the Moment Lens after seeing this great little Kickstarter project on line. I have the Moment Tele lens, but the Wide Angle lens is on order, along with their new Kickstarter funded Moment Case. The quality is top notch, as is the quality of photo it helps deliver. I just hope with the new case, it will still fit in my pockets!

Beats BT headphones

I actually found these lost on the trail earlier this year. After no one claimed them on the Bow Valley Lost & Found web page, I claimed them for my own. Great quality sound and excellent battery life, along with the secure fit around my ears, make these the ideal trail running headphone. The lack of cords makes life a lot easier when dealing with packs and water bottles etc. I tend to use my headphones mostly when I'm running on roads. In the woods, or on secluded trail I pop them out and listen for wildlife!

What do I listen to when I run?

  • Audible - favourite book so far this year - "The Martian" by Andy Weir - I'm happy to take your suggestions!
  • Spotify - my running playlist grows daily.
  • Nerdy podcasts - Accidental Tech Podcast and This Week in Tech are my go to podcasts right now.

The Apple Watch

Yeah, yeah, I know. But I have to say this thing has grown on me. The fitness tracker in particular is a fun way to watch my daily activity and there are some great applications.

My Most useful app? Drafts is a quick note taking app. If I'm out on a run and I suddenly have a thought - it does occasionally happen - that I want to capture - I tap at my wrist and dictate a few words into the watch. It syncs automatically with my phone. It's amazing how many seemingly profound things enter my head when I'm running - the idea for this blog post for example!

And if I receive a text or a phone call that's important, I can reply quickly or take that call, without breaking a stride. It can also act as a shutter release for the iPhone for self-timer shots and selfies from afar!

I also wear a Suunto Ambit peak GPS watch on my other wrist to log mileage, altitude, HR etc! Fortunately the Apple watch is so light I barely notice it's on.

Stryd

Well I don't have this yet - but as you have seen, I like the tech side of things. I guess I am a numbers guy - I log my daily mileage, morning HRVs, sleep patterns and diet quality. I backed this Kickstarter project last year and they are in the final stages of production. It's a small gizmo that attaches to the back of your shorts, and promises to measure running power output. Should be here in the early fall! Check it out here.

That's about all for now. Feel free to send me any Audiobook ideas, Podcasts you love, or other tech kit that enhances your run.

Using the apple Watch to trigger my phone shutter. The dogs look on in despair.... 

Using the apple Watch to trigger my phone shutter. The dogs look on in despair.... 

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Kombucha!

A quote from the Globe & Mail

 

Long embraced by health-food fanatics and yoga enthusiasts, kombucha has entered the mainstream, securing space on grocery store shelves beside sodas, energy drinks and bottled smoothies. Even high-end kitchenware retailer Williams-Sonoma has jumped on the kombucha bandwagon. The chain has introduced do-it-yourself kombucha kits and supplies as part of its new “agrarian” line of products for urban homesteaders. For beverage makers, revamping kombucha’s hippie image has meant focusing on flavour. In North Vancouver, for instance, Barbara Schellenberg, a partner of the new Ethical Soda Co., recommends sipping the company’s blackberry, lavender, raspberry and hibiscus-flavoured kombucha teas with meals as a non-alcoholic alternative to wine.

Sounds good, right. I blame Adam Campbell and Aaron Heidt for getting me hooked on this. That's the only tenuous link to running you'll find here!

 

The Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver even uses Ethical Soda’s kombucha in cocktails. Vanessa Bourget, a head bartender at the hotel, mixes the brand’s cassis-flavoured kombucha tea with cassis liqueur and vodka or gin to create a “Kombucha Regal.”   Ms. Bourget, who is also a holistic nutritionist, is constantly creating new cocktails with a healthy twist, using vitamin- and antioxidant-rich ingredients, like aloe vera, rose hips or berry juices, to help counter the effects of alcohol. Kombucha tea was an ideal addition to her bar menu, replacing sweetened, artificially flavoured mixes, she says.

Now the alcoholic version - that sounds more like it!

Regardless of it's proposed health benefits, about which I am very skeptical, it tastes great, and it's actually pretty easy to make. I'm onto my fourth batch now. At about $2 for 4 litres, it's also way cheaper than the store bought variety, which is a bonus, as the kids have developed quite the taste for it!

 

Batch no 2. The Petri dish is the SCOBY

Batch no 2. The Petri dish is the SCOBY

Complete with floaters

Complete with floaters

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The Canmore Triple Crown

Think of it as the Canmore Quad minus Grotto. Any time you can skip Grotto mountain it's a bonus in my opinion! Despite being an epic day out, it seemed considerably easier than the quad. At around 40km and a touch over 11,000ft of climbing, it's still a day not to be underestimated, however. We moved quickly and efficiently yesterday. Minimal hassle and little gear. We power hiked the steep climbs, and ran the flats and descents at a good clip. It never fails to amaze me how much terrain can be covered when you're travelling lightweight on foot, with minimal equipment.

I used a Salomon Ultra vest, and Sense Ultra 4 shoes. I carried a single lightweight S-Lab windproof. Calories were lacking! I ate 3 gels ( for a grand total of 280 calories) and took 2 Vespa UCs (19 calories, 9g CHO each); half a bottle of Generation Ucan superstarch and about 3 litres of water left me a little on the dry side.

Devin Featherstone was along for the first two summits, and Adam Campbell was there for all three, setting a decent pace up front. Something to chase.

We tagged Lady Mac summit first - always fun, dancing along the airy ridge to the true summit. Then across town and up Ha Ling, via the rarely scrambled front bowl. It was a good route choice as Ha Ling back side was as busy with hikers as I've ever seen. Apologies to those we startled on our blast down to EEOR. Then quickly up EEOR, hands on knees, for the final summit. A quick romp down the Gap saw us back at our starting point in 6 hours 43mins.  For an impromptu day in the mountains I'll take it!

Here's a link to the Strava page, and my Movescount data is here.


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Midnight Peak to Tiara Peak and out Porcupine Ridge

I got the idea for this traverse here . I downloaded the linked GPX file to my Suunto Ambit 3 and it worked great. 

If you are comfortable with over 2000m of ascent and the same in descent, exposed scrambling, and you love being completely committed on a long mountain ridge traverse, this is for you!

The scrambling is never overly difficult, though there are a few spots - particularly on the descent of Porcupine ridge - where a fall would be a disaster. The route finding is generally quite easy - follow the ridge line and faint path, though there is a little bit of bushwalking on the climb to the first summit from Baldy Pass and on the descent off Porcupine, where I lost the main trail a few times.

Be prepared for a lot of hands-on-knees style hiking - it's a grunt in places!

My time was 4h 21m car to car, with a few photo stops and I didn't do the short optional side trip to Belmore-Brown Peak. If I'm up there again I would definitely add this one in.

Have fun, and let me know if you've done it.


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Did. Not. Finish.

DNF

Three little letters and not something I thought I’d be writing about today, but I guess eventually it has to happen - a DNF.

Did. Not. Finish. I guess you don't read that much about DNFs. It's not something we want to advertise, to write about, to share with the world - "I failed” in bold faced type scrawled across your blog. But it happened - my first DNF - the first time I can say I didn't finish a race. It was a race I'd previously done twice with good results, but this last weekend it obviously wasn't meant to be. 

I went into this race feeling confident -  I felt well recovered but I guess I wasn't. It would be easy for this post to turn into a long list of feeble excuses, a list of reasons that in my mind could somehow justify the fact that I pulled up a mere 55 km into a 100 km race; but I don't want to make excuses and I don't want to necessarily justify why I stopped. But I stopped and that's just how it was. 

Fact is, I don't actually really feel too bad about it. As I sit here two days later I'm mostly just disappointed I didn't get it done as I’d visualized; sure, I feel like I disappointed my sponsors, primarily Salomon and Compressport, but that’s something that comes with the territory. With sponsorship comes expectations, and I feel I didn’t live up to them. But you know it's not the end of the world. 

 I think that there's always something to be learnt from every race, whether you're beginner or a seasoned veteran, and whether you finish or not. Hopefully I can take something from this experience.

I was talking to Brian Gallant at the finish line an hour after I made the decision to pull out of the Blackfoot Ultra. Brian is RD for the Sinister7 ultra, and the new Blackspur Ultra in Kimberley, BC. He had some good points, and I enjoyed our chat. Brian talked about www.ultrasignup.com and how they don't publish DNFs. He told me he once finished an ultra after a hard fought sufferfest for him, during which half of the field dropped. This wasn't reflected on ultrasignup as they don't publish the non- finishers. To Brian it looked like he was pretty much dead last, despite having beaten half of the field. He felt he had made a hard effort to keep going when many people didn't have the strength or desire to continue. And it felt unfair, and didn’t represent his effort in the least. On paper it looked like he was pretty much the slowest guy out there.

It’s an interesting question. Personally, I have no issue with a DNF being published. I wouldn’t be writing this if it did. I don’t believe it's something to be ashamed about - at least not on this occasion.

Does any of this matter? I guess it really doesn’t, but on some deeper level I think it does bother me. We are all in this sport for the challenge - the personal challenge for sure; but some of us are also in it to pit ourselves against our rivals. We enjoy the competition, the rivalry. I certainly do, and I guess for Brian Gallant, that was important too. I suppose that’s why a DNF hurts, because ultimately we care about our performance, and want to feel like we gave it our best shot. For me, I want to see who DNFd. And Brian wanted to see which of his rivals were unable to drag themselves to the finish line, like he did. 

So why did this happen on Saturday? There isn’t always a clear reason, and I suspect a number of factors combined, but maybe it was just one of those things.

Two weeks ago I ran the Zion traverse - an 80km bucket list run in Utah. It felt like a reasonable effort but I didn't push into the red. I knew I had Blackfoot just around the corner. The next day I did a 12km hilly jog just outside Vegas, to shake out the legs. I was a bit sore, but really felt quite good considering. The following weekend feeling good, I ran every step of the way to the summit of Ha Ling peak, a local test piece, which I had never managed to run in it’s entirety before. So when the gun went off and we set off on loop #1 of the Blackfoot 100,  I felt confident and fit. I found myself cruising along feeling at what felt like a very comfortable pace, and soon with Philippe Legace on my heels we built up a pretty big lead. Lap 1 was completed in just over course record pace. Out on lap 2,  still feeling comfortable we remained on pace for a fast time, but as always seems to happen to me at Blackfoot, lap 3 was to prove a bit of a disaster. Towards the end of lap 1 I had begun to notice some tightness in my right calf, not enough to be a major concern, but there, nonetheless.  Then suddenly, climbing the first short steep climb of the Alley on lap 2, I felt a sudden searing pain right in the middle of my right calf and I was reduced to a hobble. By this point I had dropped Phil, who looked to be struggling some. I was still feeling good with my pacing, and nutrition, and the chances of finally have a good Blackfoot race. I stretched the calf out for a few seconds  and set off again; things didn't seem too bad but as I came into the final couple of kms of lap 2 the pain was becoming unbearable. On the flats I was OK, but on every climb I had severe pain and no power. 

I was passed by Eric Reyes the eventual winner just before the start finish area and lap 3,  and a couple of kms later I was reduced to a slow walk.  There was absolutely no way I could run. Despite lots of encouragement from other runners who were now passing me I realized sadly that my day was done. 

 I imagine it's never usually an easy decision to stop, but after a few hundred metres walking I realized that I was done. I try to justify it in my own mind despite the knowledge that there's always some adversity in an ultra and I have learnt from experience that things usually do get better.However, this time I really felt confident that this wasn't going to get better and in fact I was more concerned that I was going to turn a potentially minor injury into a more major issue which could easily ruin the rest of the season. So I sat down and handed in my race number. I took some solace in the fact that aside from Eric who had just passed me, I had a pretty massive lead on everyone else.

I ruminated: 

"Maybe the pace was too fast early on.”

“Maybe I didn’t warm up enough.”

“Maybe I should stretch more."

"It's really not my kind of course.” 

The internal dialogue was a bit like this! 

"I do a lot of steep hills and I do a lot of steep hiking in the mountains. This course doesn't suit me. Blackfoot is a very runnable and rolling type of course and I don't do a whole lot of this type of running.”

But it's starting to sound like I’m making excuses now!! Was I fatigued? Maybe. I had had a big run two weeks earlier but still, I was feeling good. My HRVs which I track faithfully, looked reasonable. So maybe it really was just one of those things -  I tweaked a muscle after planting a foot awkwardly - an unexpected little injury. Shit happens. Who knows, and really it doesn’t matter, it’s not life and death. And at the end of the day, I ended up thinking about Dave Mackey’s recent injury. That puts it all into perspective.

But ultimately, what can we learn from our DNFs? What can I learn? Are there any positives to come from a DNF, and this DNF in particular?  

 I think so. Here are a few of my random thoughts.

 

  1. Race specificity is key. I should've trained on terrain more akin to this course, at least in the final build up. I need to think about this more.
  2. I should have rested more. Maybe two weeks after an 80km run is not enough. My HRV was OK but not stellar. Maybe this was an early warning sign.
  3. Maybe I should exercise more patience when racing this one, and stick with the main pack early on. 
  4. It was a good training day! There aren’t many days when you get a sub 4 hour 50km under your belt before lunchtime. I’ll look upon this as a big positive.
  5. My nutrition was stellar. I didn't have so much as a niggling discomfort in my stomach, despite the pace.
  6. Aside from the injury, I felt great. I had a lot left in me, and 2 days later, writing this, aside from my right calf, I have little soreness.
  7. I’m gonna use this DNF to fuel the fire within. I’ve heard it said that the first DNF is the worst. If that is the case, well it’s not so bad.
  8. Vincent Bouchard commented that I’ve ticked off the first DNF, so can now move on. No need to worry about that one again! Good psychology I think.
  9. And finally, at the end of the day it's really not a big deal - it's May and most of my racing doesn't come until later this year. And it's not like I'm hitting the big time! A million bucks wasn’t on the line.
  10. As a runner who has been generally very robust over the years perhaps it’s good to be reminded occasionally that this is a hard sport and the body can quickly break down, sometimes unexpectedly.

For now I will concentrate on rest and recovery and try not to be negative mentally. There's a lot more racing to be done this year. It’ll soon be time to saddle up again and get back on the horse!

Congrats to race winner, Eric Reyes, who laid down one of the faster times in Blackfoot history. Thanks to race RDs Gary & Lisa for another fun and well organized event, and to the weather gods for keeping everyone in good spirits with dry feet.

 

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Running Injury Course - a concise summary of the salient points

I attended a 2 day course on current trends in running injuries this weekend in Calgary - put on by the Running Clinic, from QC.  18 hours of continuing medical education! An ultra marathon of learning, but great to back in the classroom! The facilitator/educator - JF Esculier, a physiotherapist at that clinic, was a font of knowledge. If a trial has been done to investigate some intervention, he can quote it! And this course was awesomely entertaining too, and free from any commercial interest or bias. We even squeezed in a group run at the end of day 1. 

 

Here are the key take away messages I learnt this weekend: 

1) regular running decreases the risk of death by up to 63% ! The number one message. Run!

2) the ideal running shoe, is lightweight, flexible and has a low drop (as per recent ACSM recommendations) 

3) pronation control footwear and other such technologies, are gimmicks, provide no advantage, likely increase the risk of injury, and do not do what they claim to do. eg. Do not decrease forefoot pronation, and in some studies increase it!

4) Shoe sellers who choose shoes for you based on your foot type, are kidding themselves that they're doing you any kind of favor.  

5) measuring such 'installed' anatomical factors such as Q angle or navicular drop has no value. You cannot change these things. 

6) such anatomical factors do not predict injury risk.  

7) when trying to provide gait cues, the best advice is to run at a cadence of 170-190, and to 'run quiet' 

 8) vary your running surface to minimize injury risk

9) the human body is remarkable at adapting. Chronic tendon injuries respond best to progressive loading.  

10) stretching is rarely beneficial

11) foot orthoses are for specific injury management of foot/ankle injuries. They do not help with knee, hip or back pain

12) placebo effect is huge! A lot of modalities and therapies offered have no science to back them up

13) endurance runners do not suffer from knee osteoarthritis more frequently. In fact, there is evidence that regular running strengthens articular cartilage

14) the single biggest cause of running injury is poor load management - too much, too soon. 

15) being barefoot and running in more minimal shoes is the most specific strength program for runners. Progression into minimal shoes takes patience if we are to avoid plantar fasciopathy, Achilles tendinopathy and calf strain 

16) keep rehabilitation exercises functional

17) you cannot stretch an IT band. Obvious, but I find myself telling this to patients over and over. It bears repeating! Quit rolling that ITB ! 

18) patellar tracking is a myth

19) taping is effective in injury management, but we have no idea why it works! 

20) NSAIDs have little role in the management of injury, and may well limit tissue adaptations to acute injury and training load.  

21) don't allow someone to tell you to stop running as it's rarely the right advice! See a professional who is a runner and who manages running injuries. 

 

This is obviously just a brief Coles notes type summary. For more information, www.therunningclinic.com has some great resources for runners and health professionals. Read their blog, it's fantastic.  

 

 

 

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Quaite - Jewell - Prairie View - Razor's Edge

A loop that has everything for the mountain trailrunner! Great views, some challenging climbs, fast technical descents on beautiful singletrack, and rocky ridge hopping! At 21.5km with around 1200m of cumulative climbing, it's challenging but not extreme.

Park on the side of the TCH and head up the Quaite Valley trail. After 5 km of gradual, and very runnable trail, you arrive at the Jewell/Prairie View junction. I recommend continuing along the Jewell Pass trail.

Soon you are dropping down a beautiful technical and rocky single trail that criss-crosses a creek. After some great views across Barrier Lake, you will reach the wide doubletrack trail that heads south to Kananaskis village. Turn left, and head north east.

 

After a few rolling hills the climb up to Prairie View breaks left. After multiple switchbacks through the woods a steep section looms. Soon the trees part however, and as the angle eases, the view across Barrier Lake makes for a good spot to catch the breath. A few minutes later you will be on top of Prairie View, after a short, steep and technical rocky section. Take care if it's muddy or icy.

Enjoy the vista from Prairie view, then take a breath, as the descent off the back is a blast. Fast singletrack, not too steep or technical, it will test the leg turnover; pay attention for the 2 blue signposts guiding you back to the Jewell Pass junction. It's an easy spot to blow by. Between the two signs, is a somewhat indistinct junction on the right. This is the beginning of the Razor's Edge. It's a technical mountain bike trail, but an even better trail run in my opinion! I've been on it 4 times this year, and never seen a soul!

At first the trail traverses and climbs a little. It's a blast to run quickly along here. Soon, the trees thin and you will be racing along steep limestone fins and slabs. A fall would be painful here, so watch the footing. The rock is razor sharp. The trail can be hard to follow in places, but keep a look out for occasional cairns or download my GPX data from Movescount here

A steep descent through the trees will eventually deposit you at the top of the final rock slab. If it's windy, hold on to your hat, and try to ignore the eyesore that is Lafarge far below. In a few minutes you'll pop out onto the side of the TCH, a few hundred metres from your vehicle.

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2015 Race Calendar

I have finalised, at long last, and after much deliberation, my 2015 race calendar. The logistics of work, family life, holidays, and the need to get into qualifying races for WS100 and HR100, did make this quite the challenge! I was zero for three on the lotteries I entered this year, despite really quite excellent odds in both Wasatch and Western. Hardrock, of course, was a longshot. It is becoming, with the popularity of the sport, quite the process to qualify for the bigger races. The lottery system seems on the face of it seems a fair solution, and I don't claim to have a better solution, but the number of people applying for these lottos and the dwindling list of qualifying races is making the whole thing a challenge! With any luck I can knock off some of these races while I'm still able to run them!

So here goes, and I think it looks like a challenging and fun schedule.

May 16 Zion Traverse with Adam Campbell - 48 miles - NOT an FKT attempt!! Good write up here

May 30 - Blackfoot Ultra 100km - still on the wait list but expect to get in

June 27 - July 13 - Maui, Hawaii - will get some altitude and miles in. First trip here, cannot wait!

August 1 - Elkhorn 50 mile - Montana

August 22-23 - Blackspur Ultra 100km - Kimberley, BC

Sept 18 - Run Rabbit Run 100 mile - Steamboat Springs, Colorado


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My lipid values On High Fat diet

So does fat make you fat? Well it seems that as long as you keep the CHO consumption down, it doesn't. Keeping the carbs low encourages fatty acid oxidation for fuel. So the fat we eat becomes our primary  fuel source.  In terms of weight, I am as low as I've ever been, and though I don't have data to back this up, my body fat % is certainly as low as it's been. Maybe a DXA scan is in my future.

Does a high dietary fat consumption worsen our lipid profile? Well here are my values within graphs charting the trend as I have become increasingly low carb and fat adapted.  I've only done 3 panels over the last 5 years, but I think the trends are fairly evident.

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My HDL is as high as I've seen it, and my triglycerides are off off the bottom of our lab's normal range. 

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The chart above is my HDL trend.  

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This is my Total Cholesterol HDL ratio. This is largely driven by the rise in HDL as my total cholesterol hasn't changed much. 

 

The final graph below is of my LDL. It was low to start with, but has climbed marginally. This is well recognized in HFLC diets but fortunately most of the increase is of the non atherogenic larger LDL molecules (our lab doesn't give us the LDL breakdown).

 

Overall, pretty pleased with these results. 

Does anything else explain this trend? I don't think so as my training has been quite consistent for the last number of years. Year over year my volume is fairly static. The only thing that really explains these changes is the adaptation of a low carb, high fat diet. 

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The French/Haig/Robertson circuit

Another stellar day out with fellow runner and skimo buddy, Devin Featherstone. The snowpack isn't up to much these days, and most of the snow on our descent had been blown off (!!) so no face shots today! Regardless, good company, a Monday in the mountains, and 5+ hours of exercise cannot easily be beaten.

(Oh yeah, and following on from my last post, I did this on 1 gel and 1 Vespa Ultra Concentrate)

Pics below courtesy of Devin and his Galaxy Phone.


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Fat may just be the key to unlocking your best performance (PART 2)

 

In my last post I discussed some of the potential health benefits of reducing intake of refined carbohydrates, and increasing the proportion of dietary fats. This is a topic which is very much in vogue right now, and I believe the science will ultimately prove that for many of us, this is a good approach to healthy living and longevity. But hell, this is a running and training blog, so how do we apply some of these principles to training and racing.

An approach that I have been using for some time now, is known as Optimised Fat Metabolism or OFM. OFM is an approach developed by Peter Defty at VESPA. A lot more information is available at http://www.vespapower.com/ofm/what-is-ofm/ . It’s an approach to dietary periodisation, much like we periodise our training schedules. Essentially, the OFM approach dictates that we specifically maximise our ability to utilise fat as fuel, and that we time our intake of carbohydrates (CHO) to improve our ability to train and race hard.  

The vast majority of ultra endurance athletes spend most of their training miles at the easier end of the intensity spectrum. As we have discussed in the previous post, these efforts are almost entirely aerobic efforts, and by eating in a HFLC fashion, we can become very efficient at utilising fat as our main energy source. The single best way to improve our ability to metabolise and mobilise our stored fat stores is to limit dietary CHO consumption; and remember that even the leanest athlete with only 5% body fat, stores around 30,000 kcals of energy in adipose tissues. So long as we minimise our dietary CHO intake,and train aerobically, we can become very efficient fat adapted machines, and our training sessions will be fuelled by our stored fat; and we have almost limitless supplies. This means that we need to consume less calories during our runs, and anecdotally most of us who follow this dietary approach find that we are less hungry, and can survive on less during the day. Cravings for food seem to dissipate, as we are carrying more than enough calories in our fat stores to keep the fire well stoked.

So practically, how does this look?

For me, my approach to training, especially at this time of year, is to keep the intensity relatively low, most of the time. I won’t divulge all of my secrets, as there is some competition out there (!), but for these lower intensity training blocks, fat is absolutely the preferred fuel. This means I eat a very low CHO diet (for me this is around 50-75g per day). Now what exactly defines a low carb diet is certainly open to some debate, and for some that may mean 100-150g daily, for others 50g, or even less. Nutritional ketosis, which I won't go into here, is probably what most people use to define low carb, and depending on whether you are very active, and whether you have other health problems, the numbers can vary quite a lot. For most people however, especially those reading this blog, 50g or less will likely get you there.

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Breakfast is a fatty meal - eggs, avocados, and cheese are common ingredients. Coffee with cream, and maybe blended with butter/coconut oil is always on the breakfast menu. Lunch may consist of a few nuts, leftovers from the night before, chicken, salami, salads, or low CHO fruits - the best options seem to be blueberries, strawberries and blackberries in moderation. Dinner is typically meat or fish based with a large salad or sauteed vegetables. I don’t shy away from butter as my family will attest to, so vegetables will usually be doused in it! They will also attest to my love of cheap meat cuts like liver and kidneys, which doesn’t go down too well, so I’m usually on my own when this is on the menu! I tend to snack on cheese, pate, nuts, almond butter, low CHO fruits and avocado. I drink water and coffee during the day. A glass of red wine in the evening is only 5g of CHO, and a block or two of good quality dark chocolate does not add significantly to the CHO load! There are lots of other options, and in general I find that this diet is for the most part very palatable, and even indulgent! I log my intake every few days, to ensure there is no carb sneak. The MyFitnessPal app on the iPhone seems to be the best tool for this. If I’m on top of things I’ll get about 75% of my daily calories form fat sources. I've posted a couple of screen shots below.

 

So what about the high intensity days? Well OFM principles suggest that CHO timing is a crucial component. Extra CHO can be consumed the evening before a race or particularly hard training session. I think common sense dictates that the extra CHO should be in the form of low glycemic index CHO to minimise insulin spikes. Most of the LCHF athletes don’t overdo it however, and from the few I have spoken with, it seems that most will increase their intakes only into the 100-150g range, which would still keep them very much squarely at the low carb end of things. Immediately after a hard training session, I think this is a good time to replenish some of the depleted CHO stores, so again this may be when I’ll grab some extra carbs, in the first 15-20 minutes after I’m done. For me, howeve, as an ultra runner, I don’t do a lot of high intensity training, so I don’t always need to do this. During prolonged activity, despite being well fat adapted, some CHO is necessary. We are always tapping into our  glycogen stores to some extent, and OFM recommends a slow steady trickle of CHO. For me this is usually in the form of an occasional gel, but I know that many will prefer the more slow release complex carb approach, such as that offered by Generation Ucan products http://www.generationucan.com/home.html.

Another commonly used approach is to go ultra low carb at the end of a heavy training block. So if I have 4 or 5 days of harder training, big volume, lots of miles etc, then in the week after, when I am in full recovery mode, a really low CHO intake lends itself well to recovery. I feel that I am less sore, and joints and muscles feel less inflamed. But the OFM approach is quite individual, so if you want to jump in, you need to be open to try a few different things.

By limiting CHO consumption to higher intensity days, to racing and to the immediate recovery period, fat adapted athletes seem to maximise their response to ingested carbs, much like those who don’t consume caffeine seem to respond more dramatically to it’s effects when they do ingest it!

The other part of OFM is of course VESPA. http://www.vespapower.com/vespa/what-is-vespa/ . This is the product developed by Peter Defty and his team. VESPA is a supplement designed to improve access to our fat stores - they call it a ‘fat burning catalyst’, and whilst there are many skeptics out there, I’d suggest you give it a go. I first noticed the ads in the back of ultrarunning magazine and was intrigued. After trying it, I am a convert, and a believer, and yes - I am an N=1 example, but as I’ve previously  stated, I’m all about maximising my own performance to give me an edge! I purchase the product (I’m not sponsored, though Peter Defty has given me a lot of advice) as do many other ultra athletes, and have found the results to be pretty dramatic in terms of how I feel when I’m out there. Part of this of course is being well fat adapted and trained, but I certainly seem to notice the effects when I don’t use it. And whilst it isn’t cheap, I find I consume way less gels when I use it, so I believe there’s an ultimate savings to be had! I love the Ultra Concentrate packs, as they are so tiny you don’t notice you’re carrying them. For me, I try to consume 1 pack about 45 mins before a long run, and I take a single pack every 2-3 hours. This approach seems to work well for me, and I haven’t had any GI distress associated with it’s use. The taste is pretty strong, so I suggest a few gulps of water with it, and some folks mix it in their bottle. I know that a lot of other elite ultra runners are using it too - folks like Zach Bitter, Paul Terranova, Jon Olson and Nikki Kimball are advocates. Whether you choose to try VESPA and OFM is of course personal, but so many of use use our Gus, our sports and recovery drinks all the time, and they aren't cheap either. We all have our favorite brands, so I suggest you consider giving it a go. And no, there is no benefit to me in promoting this!

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So what’s new with Fat Adapted athletes? What is on the horizon?

Well this is where things are about to get interesting, especially when the results of the FASTER (FASTER=Fat-Adapted-Substrate oxidation in-Trained-Elite-Runners) study are published. This seems to be a well designed trial carried out by Jeff Volek et al. What this study will show conclusively, and there are some preliminary results available, is that fat adapted athletes who follow a LCHF diet are able to exercise at intensities much higher that previously thought, whilst utilising large proportions of stored fats. In fact it seems that the fat-adapted athlete can tap into stored fat stores at almost double the rate of a conventional ‘high carb athlete’. It was previously thought that the maximal rate of fat metabolism in a well trained athlete was around 1g/minute, and that most athletes were around 0.45 - 0.75 g/minute. In the FASTER study, in the habitual LCHF athlete cohort, the lowest rate of fat metabolism during exercise was in fact 1.1 g/minute, and the highest rate was 1.8 g/minute, almost double what was previously though possible. Maximal rates of fat metabolism in fat adapted athletes seems to peak at around 75% of VO2max, and even at higher intensities of exercise, the fat adapted athlete was able to utilise fat much more readily that his high carb counterpart. Muscle biopsies were also part of the study protocol - these must have been some masochists - I haven't seen preliminary data, but it will be very interesting to see the muscle biopsy data.

The final study is not yet published, but will surely make for very interesting reading and commentary. Personally I think it could well be a game changer, especially in the endurance sport world, but whether this will be enough to change the minds of sports dieticians and coaches remains to be seen; many athletes, however,  seem to be way ahead of the curve, and are posting world beating results by following this approach. And if I have to wait 10 years for the science to prove this definitively, well, I'll likely be past it!

I hope this is thought provoking. Feel free to send any thoughts/comments.

Tim Olsen




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Fat may just be the key to unlocking your best performance (PART 1)

As a sports med doctor, part of my job is to keep up to date with injury and training developments, and stay abreast of the latest research and expert opinion. A topic that is very much at the forefront of endurance sport right now, is the role of the High Fat/Low Carb (HFLC) diet. It's also very topical in non-sporting circles, and there is a lot of interest in the health benefits and performance enhancements this dietary approach can confer.

First let me step back a bit.

It's been generally held that carbohydrates are the main fuel used by endurance athletes in their training and racing. This advice has been around for ions, and you just need to look at all the pre race 'pasta dinner' events going on, the concept of carbo loading, and the amount of sugar based sports nutrition products out there to see that this is a very widely held belief. Populations have been urged to consume low fat diets for decades in the hope that we can reduce rates of obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease. Now there are clearly 2 very different angles here - one of living a healthy and disease free life, and one of maximizing athletic performance, and I will address both, but I think that the times are a changin', and we are seeing a paradigm shift in the way we advise endurance athletes and in the way that physicians advise their patients.

First let's look at the population health side of things. If you look at obesity and type 2 diabetes rates over the last number of decades, there has been a steady rise. The graph below highlights obesity rates changes in US adults. Type 2 diabetes rates show an identical trend. It seems that the advice to cut down on the amount of fat in our diets, has backfired. It doesn't take a degree in nutrition to see why this may be the case.

Obesity graph

Humans have evolved over millions of years to exist on a diet that is relatively sparse in carbohydrate. Historically, we survived by eating food that we caught when hunting and fishing, or gathered from nature. These food sources certainly didn't include starches or refined sugars. When the developed world became fat-phobic in the 1980s, the fat that was removed from our diet was replaced with highly refined carbohydrates in the form of pure sugar and white flour. The industrial revolution had given us easy access to these new forms of food; unfortunately a hundred or so years is simply not enough time for our species to genetically adapt to our new diet, and consequently we don't handle these products too well.

Refined carbohydrates don't satiate like natural fats do, and the large spike in insulin that follows a high carbohydrate meal, simply makes us hungry, sooner, as our blood sugar levels drop rapidly. As a result we eat more. It's essentially an addiction or a strong craving for more, in order to satisfy our appetites. 

Now I am the first to admit fully that this is a very simplified model, and there are many other complex hormonal mechanisms at play, but the underlying principle is the same - refined carbohydrates cause insulin spikes, don't satiate, and contribute to overeating and are ultimately very damaging to our health. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are the endpoint of chronic and excess carbohydrate consumption, and these are the biggest health issues in the world today.

What about fat - isn't that bad for us? Doesn't it elevate our cholesterol levels? The answer is complex, and it depends on what types of fats we are talking about, and it depends on what exactly you are measuring. Lipid levels do change on a high fat diet, but usually in a good way. HDL levels rise and triglycerides levels drop - both good things; but often LDL cholesterol levels will climb (although sometimes the opposite is true )and this is concerning to my patients at times. However, all LDL particles are not created equal! LDL particles have sub-types, and it seems that the LDL rise which can occur with the HFLC diet, tends to consist of the larger less atherogenic (artery clocking) sub-type of LDL particle, rather than the more sinister and dangerous smaller LDL particles, so we can reassure patients that a rise in LDL is not really a huge big deal. Increasingly I look at HDL and triglyceride levels as being better markers for health/disease risk.

Having said all of this, it really is important to consume the right sorts of fats and oils in order to maximize the health benefits.  Fresh whole foods which are naturally high in saturated fats and monounsaturated fats will make up a large portion of the HFLC diet. Examples include: fresh meat (including organ meats), poultry, fish and eggs. Dairy sources rich in healthful saturated fat includes cream, sour cream, butter, whole milk yogurt and cheese. Plant sources of good fats include avocado, coconut oil and coconut milk. Highly processed vegetable oils such as canola, corn, safflower and sunflower oils which are very high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids are best avoided. The health benefits of the HFLC approach make total sense to me as a physician, and I have seen many patients reap the benefits.

High fat low carb foods

 

So now that we've dabbled a little in some of the health issues, let's look a bit at athletic performance. I will post again on this topic, but as an ultrarunner there are a few things that are very important to me when I consider the ideal fuel for my running performance.

1) I want to eat as little as possible when I race and train - I have to carry that stuff with me!

2) Ideally, my fuel source should be abundant in my body already, so that I don't need to worry about running out of it.

3) I want to be lean as a runner - I climb a lot of hills when training and racing, and excess body fat slows me down. My diet should promote lean-ness.

Ultrarunning is a primarily aerobic activity, performed at relatively slow paces. In fact almost all running is aerobic, except for short dashes like the 100 or 200m sprint events. Intensely anaerobic efforts such as sprinting or heavy power lifting rely almost entirely on carbohydrate as the energy substrate, in the form of stored muscle and liver glycogen, and no one really doubts that carbs are absolutely vital for sprint performance. But it turns out that as our activity becomes more aerobic, and as the pace mellows out, we use increasing percentages of fat to fuel the activity.  In the past, data suggested that even at slower paces, a large proportion of our energy was derived from stored glycogen. But recent research suggests that we can fuel our race efforts almost entirely off our body fat stores. What's even more exciting, is that it appears that we can train our bodies to metabolize fat very efficiently, even at much higher intensities than was thought possible! Imagine if we could exercise at near maximal efforts and still be using fat as our main fuel source.

The human body is designed to use fat as it's main fuel source. Throughout evolution, fat was abundant to the hunter/gatherer, whereas carbohydrate was scarce. To survive, humans have had to adapt to utilize a readily available fuel source. Even when we maximize our muscle and liver glycogen stores through carbohydrate consumption, we only carry enough stored calories for about an hour and a half of moderate intensity exercise. That would not have fueled an all day hunt or trek, and it certainly isn't going to get me through an ultra!  

But guess what, even the leanest athlete carries with him about 40-50,000 calories stored in fat. It's more than enough to get us through all day efforts. We just need to train ourselves to be very efficient fat burners, and that's really where the HFLC diet comes in. Combined with the right training program we can become much more efficient at tapping into our own fat stores, and by mobilizing our own fat stores as fuel, we lose weight and become leaner. Of course, all of this is win-win for the ultra endurance runner.

But we still need some carbs, I hear you say, and that is absolutely true. Without carbohydrate we are unable to fully tap into our fat stores during an all day effort, but it's actually a lot less than you might imagine; and less carb requirements means less gels, means less GI distress and less to carry on race day.

In my next post on this topic, I will delve a little bit into how I use a HFLC approach and how carbs can be used strategically to maximize performance;  I will also discuss some of the latest research findings in elite ultra athletes.

Zach Bitter, elite ultra runner who uses a HFLC approach. Picture taken from his blog at:   http://zachbitter.com/    

Zach Bitter, elite ultra runner who uses a HFLC approach. Picture taken from his blog at:

http://zachbitter.com/

 

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