Friday, May 27, 2011

The North Face 2011 Race Review

The 2011 North Face has been run and won for another year!  2011 was my second attempt at completing this highly challenging event that claimed me as a 'non-completer' in 2010.  There were several problems last year that led to my ultimate hypothermic demise (poor gut tolerance of food and fluid, struggles with overwhemlimg nausea triggered by travel sickness in the days before race day and failure to adequately name but a few!!).  With the memories of nausea, vomitting and retching fresh in my mind from 2010, I began to focus my training and preparation for 2011 on these so as to not be claimed by them again!  This was certainly not an easy task (as my training partner will attest to! but eventually my gut began to cope with being physically hammered whilst still being able to digest a stomach soup of endura, vegemite sandwiches, muesli bars and lollies!!  Many occassions nearly saw everything come back up but willpower prevailed!

Pre-race briefing
 Getting to the start line for 2011 was not an easy task; especially trying to get there in a near injury-free state.  Simply getting the start line for an event such as this is a massive challenge in itself and all 756 starters need to be congratulated!  We arrived at Katoomba on the Monday before the race start and spent the day after our arrival at Taronga zoo…. this was one of my mistakes….walking around for many hours in my horse boots!!  yep….nearly a fatal error…these look great with jeans and make a lovely fashion statement…but started to 'bother' my feet after about 2 hours.  By the end of the day, not only were my feet really sore….so were my legs…from limping around in them all day :(  The following day I arranged a massage to help alleviate my stupidity…followed by many sessions of home treatment, walking and stretching.  Fortunately by the morning of race day, my legs were back to normal!  I was blessed (read: tongue in cheek!) in the days leading up to the race to have freezing conditions at Katoomba thanks to a cold front that saw snow fall in neighbouring towns.  No central heating for me this year!!  I spent a lot of time out in it in an attempt to toughen up my pathetically thin Queensland blood!!  It was great to finally meet all the people I had made contact with during the year though TNF website or FB.  We had some great coffees, great conversations and I felt like we had been friends much longer than what we actually had been.  It was so nice to be drawn together by a common goal. Thanks Jaci, Dean, Matt and co!)

Jaci, Dean, Andy and I at race registration
Race day for me started at 4am.  I had slept reasonably well and woke feeling ready although somewhat introspective.  I managed to eat and keep down a couple of pieces of toast (not bad for my gluten intolerant belly) and a coffee. This was a massive improvement on last year.  I tried to keep my mind quiet and not anticipate too much; also tried to quell the memories from last year's event!  I was so fortunate to meet some of the Salomon elite ultra running team prior to race day and happened to be seated behind them in race briefing whilst staring at them in awe…sorry guys :))  These guys and girls are nothing short of miraculous athletes and when combined with their humble natures make them absolutely amazing people.

There I was in 25 layers of thermals, beanie buff and 25kg of polar fleece, gortex, waterproof nylon in my pack and there they were in sleek racing gear! (even my tough Welsh training partner was geared up for the cold weather… he had sleeves on his shirt this year and a beanie!!!)  I decided to start in wave 3 as I was aiming for a sub 20hr completion….or simply a completion!  I tried from the start to move along at my own pace and not get pulled along by others ….this year was about me getting through and to do that I needed to pay attention to what my body was telling me and not ignore it like last year!  I made it to CP 1 in a slower than expected time due to all the congestion on the trails.

Running along Narrow Neck toward Tarros ladders
  The traverse along Narrow Neck saw me start to struggle with the cold wind and when combined with the 10-15minute wait at the ladders, made me start to shiver and shake.  Once at the bottom I endeavoured to keep moving at a decent pace to keep warm but by the time I got to CP 2 my legs were really troubled.  Things started to get worse when race officials at CP asked to see headlamps and torches in our packs as part of the mandatory gear check.  I had packed my headlamp at the bottom of the pack as I wouldn't be needing it for many hours to come.  Stopping, squatting and standing still for those minutes added to my leg soreness.  All I could do was put my leg thermals on and keep moving..(once I had shoved all the polarfleece, gortex and and nylon back into the bag!!)  It was at this point I met up with my new friends Matt and Stewy Grills, Lee and Andy Sewell!  I tagged along with these guys and had a great time!  They are the happiest most vibrant bunch of guys and we many hours of banter to help pass the time!

TEAM WOODWARD!  The Best Support Crew EVER!!

Coming into CP3 was a huge mental lift for me…. all I could look forward to was seeing my amazing husband and children who are the best support a running mummy could ask for.  Blanket to sit on, noodles at the ready and little cheer squad to boost my morale!!  I was feeling pretty good at  this point as I'd managed to eat and drink and keep it down during the 54km.  I ate what was put in my hand, changed into additional long legged skins and set off for Katoomba via the imfamous Nellies Glen.  This bastard set of stairs up a 750m vertical ascent was not forgotten to me from last year.  The mistake I made here was eating too much and then running….jigging my stomach contents up/down/side to side proved too much for my willpower to overcome the inevitable tsunami of nausea and several near vomits…..certainly not helped by Nellies!! My old nemisis nausea had returned :(

Feeling pretty dreadful at CP4!!

By the time I reached CP4 I was not in a good way.  A bit vagued, disoriented and overwhelmed gastrointestinally.  My left knee was also violently complaining,  so at this point my ability to run was gone.  The outside temperature was very cold at 6pm so I arrived at this CP wearing the entire contents of my pack! Coming into the basketball stadium was almost suffocating…exteme cold outside… and stuffy inside……big wave of nausea….near retch….near vomit in the wheelie bin in the middle of all the supporters inside the stadium…..I thought that this was going to be a pretty untidy little episode….not to mention embarrasing!!   I managed to quell things down (don't know how but probably through many times of practicing this this so as to not disgrace myself infront of my ever forgiving training parter…..thanks again Andy!!).  Somehow, I stifled the retch reflex and drank and kept down a hot hospital grade sustagen, a handful of ibuprofen and paracetamol! My ever amazing rusty ironman husband ( got me too my feet, put the pack on my back, snapped the headlamp onto my beannie covered head and pushed me out the exit door.  I was then confronted by a wall of icy air which shocked me back to reality and bought with it another wave of nausea.  It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other but the words of my good friend Andy and my ever tolerant husband rang in my head…"just keep moving forward…..and don't stop".  So that's what I did.  I pulled out the ipod which I have very rarely used for running…plugged it into my ears under the beannie and buff…cranked it up and stormed off like a woman possessed…..for the next 4hours and 23minutes to CP5…..ipod, iphone and some very frank text messages to my besties and family.  What a better way to glean motivation from your loved ones to make you move forward!!  There was something in that long lonely leg of 4hrs and 23mins that strengthened me; the steeled my reserve to move on  and in the words of my ever eleoquent brother "don't let this bitch beat you!" that resonated in my soul. 

Feeling great at CP5!!

 I simply disconnected my mind from my body, put the misgivings and negative thoughts aside and simply put one foot infront of the other…again and again and again.   It's not until you think you can't, that you really discover that you can.  You really discover what lies deep inside you as a person and come to the realisation that the limits you have are not limits at all…somewhere in your deepest being you know that you are taking the road least travelled.  It isn't until you reach these points in your life that you discover who you are and what you are made of.  You realise that life is not about how many times a week you mow your lawn, how pretty your garden appears to the passers by or how many things you can sell….all the superflous miscellaneous nonsense that superficial people think makes them worthwhile.  You discover that what makes you worthwhile is what lies inside, it's what you feel, what you think, how you act.  To be a person of significance requires deep self reflection on what you do and why you do it.  It was somewhere in this 4hrs 23mins that I had that 'epiphinous' moment.  To be a person of significance is to lead by example and not by verbosities. 

Once I reached CP5, I was on fire!  I was greeted once again by the rusty ironman who was visibly relieved at my exuberance and obvious good condition (I think he was expecting a repeat of last year). I felt great…was even making jokes with the paramedics…a stark conrast to last year.  I drank down another sustagen, put the pack on and set off into the dark again.  I forged on, ran some down hills, ran some uphills and took some photos!  I most certainly felt the magnetic pull of the the finishline.  I reached that finish line in 18hours and 48 minutes and ran into the arms of my ever amazing husband and two incredible little children who were still up at 1.50am to see their half crazy mummy!!  After I look up, I see my wonderful friend Andy who had waited the better part of an eternity to see me cross that finish line! 

I can't thank those special people in my life enough who helped me get on this crazy journey of self discovery: My husband; unequivicably; without him I could not do this , my children (best cheer squad ever!!), my parents and parents in law (because they had to mind the kids whilst I trained), my training partner and motivator friend extraordinaire to put up with me at my lowest moments, Physio Noosa staff and colleagues because they keep the wheels turning whilst I'm away and troubleshoot my injuries along the way, my brother for all the pearls of wisdom he gives me "pussies don't do this race do they?!!".  Thank you everyone!  I love you  XXXX  Next year???

I have had many people ask me "WHY did you do that race?" and my answer is "To see if I can"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Electroyte, Fluid and Carbohydrate Replacement During Exercise

Fluid replacement requires more than just water for ultra distance events 

This is a tough area of training/racing to get right as there are so many variables such as environmental conditions, exercise intensity and pre-training/event fluid/nutritional name but a few.  I, like so many others have struggled gastrointestinally and performance-wise when the combination of fluid, electrolyte and carbohydrate intake has been off balance.............just ask my poor training partner Andy!  There is a process of trial and error to getting things correct as we each have an individual response but keeping the exercise science principles and research in mind is also important. 

Here are some principles to keep in mind......... distance events require adequate fluid, electrolyte and carbohydrate replacement and not always in that order at every stage of the event or training. 
  • The stomach can only empty approximately 300-600ml fluid per hour under exercise conditions, however gastric emptying can be accelerated by ensuring isotonic solutions are cold (7-15deg) with more than 200ml being ingested at the one time.  Volumes less than this tend to 'slosh' around and not clear and can lead to sensations of nausea. 
    See full size image
    Endura has correct levels
    of electrolyte replacments and
    is used during TNF100event
  • Especially so for ultras, electrolyte intake needs to include 60mmolL-1 sodium, 60mmolL-1 chloride and 1.5mmolL-1 magnesium and 1.5mmolL-1 potassium per litre of water.  Hyponatremia is a real certainty if these essentials are not replaced on an hour by hour basis. 

  • If ingesting carbohydrates in the form of fluid or in conjunction with electrolytes, then the concentration should not exceed 5-10%.  There will be issues of absorption if fluid forms of CHO are greater than this; the fluid ingested then becomes hypertonic...essentially drawing cellular and circulation fluids into the gut due to the greater concentration gradient.  Remember also that the body can only process about 200-300calories per hr under exercise conditions.  Put more in than this and gastroinestinal issues will result. 
  • CHO intake should come from a variety of sources and should include glucose, fructose and maltodextrins.  Frustose is preferentially delivered to the liver so that liver glycogen stores are topped up ahead of muscle requirements. Remember that once muscle glycogen stores are depleted, the liver stores of glycogen are your backup energy supply.  Have minimal liver glycogen available in addition to minimal muscle glycogen and you are in real trouble.
  • You won't get the electrolyte requirements for an ultra event from the food you eat, so you will most certainly need to supplement with electrolyte fluids or tablets/capsules and this will need to be done during the legs and not just at check points due to the length of time it can take to get to the checkpoint in events such as The North Face 100. 
  • Vegemite and white bread is a popular combination

  • It is important to get your CHO intake from forms of solid food and not just gels.  Liquid forms of gels over lengthy times have been associated with blockage of the glomerular filtration units within the kidney and have resulted in kidney failure, with some athletes requiring dialysis.  The key here is to eat solid food combined with gels (if you must) and adequate fluids. 
    See full size image
    Fruitbuns are also
    a good option on race day
  • An understanding of the different types of fatigue are important also…ie: dizziness…blood glucose needs addressing, wobbly legs….muscle/liver glycogen needs addressing; central fatigue….slowing down/stopping, and all of the above!  As soon as you can’t do mental maths calculation when you could earlier is a sign that you need to address blood glucose or ensure adequate fluid/electrolyte replacement in conjunction with your CHO intake.  This is sometimes easier said than done!
There is a lot of information available, but always ensure that what you read/hear/seek relates to ultra distance events as requirements for shorter events vary considerably.  If you implement principles that apply to half marathons for example in your preparation for an ultra, this could see you not onlt DNF but also compromise your short term and long term health.  One of the bibles for runners is ‘The Lore of Running’ by Dr Tim Noakes….medical doctor, physiologist and endurance athlete.  This is a must for anyone keen to learn more about all aspects of running.  Scientific journals such as the Journal of Physiology are also a good read. Trial and error will inevitably form a part of what we all do, but ensure that this is done on a basis of accurate and evidenced based information and not just hearsay.  There is too much as risk otherwise. 
Happy running and looking forward to May 14!     

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The North Face 2010 Reflections!

It is now less than 13 weeks to the 2011 North Face 100km race…here is my reflection on the 2010 event.
At the start with my training partner Andy.  All smiles here!!

Well....I have arrived back into the land of the living....just! The North Face 100km was singely the greatest challenge that I have ever undertaken. Amazing, breathtaking scenery, heartbreakingly challenging terrain like I have never seen or travelled over before. This event leaves an indelible mark on your heart and soul.  Every person who reaches the start line and commences this event will have a story of blind elation, devastating lows and periods of vague incomprehension.  Here is a small snipet of my experience.  Reaching the start line of this event  saw me wade through a myriad problems from over training, under training, training for non related events, troubleshooting injuries and general stubborness!  It was mentioned to me that simply getting to the start line was the hardest part of this event…………well………maybe not!! 

Didn't get much of this to stay down!

The day started at 4am for me with attempts at getting food and fluids in and keeping them down.  Anticipation was now my major enemy resulting in nausea; nausea; nausea.  Crisp and cold (for a thin blooded QLD'er anyway) air greeted me at the fairmont resort, along with 650 odd other competitors.  Race brief completed we now stand waiting for the starter's gun.  It was an amazing sight………650 people, nearly silent, arms interlink, kinds words of encouragement and support being offered.  Stark contrast to nearyl every other race I've entered.  We start and make our way along the streets and into the bush…now along single file tracks.  The pace was steady, I start to wam up and take some layers off.  we now start to descend into the valley and I begin to feel cold again with some monor cramping in my fingers and toes.  Not paying attention to the early signs will come to haunt me later on.  By the time I reach the first checkpoint I now have cramping in my quads.  I've never had cramps during any training or competition, however this is my first cold event.  I battle through and continue and find my toes are getting extremely painful from butting into the front of my shoe.  By the time I reach CP2, damage has been done.  I take shoes and socks off, therafix all my toes, heels, arches and then double sock.  Off I go toward CP3.  Some really tough terrain is encountered. 

The race traverses around the bottom of the 3 Sisters and then up
and out on the other side of the valley!
Amazing scenery!

I'm not getting the fluids or fuel in, my gut rebels and I am now struggling with nausea again.  By the time I reach CP3, I'm vagued, glazed over and not making very good decisions.  Thank God my husband was there and new what action to take……lemonade, lollies, salty chips.  BANG!  I'm back on the money!!  Change socks, restock the pack and get back on the trail.  some nice undulating hills and lanes lulls me into a false sense of security.  Then I am confronted with 'The Stairs".  There is no description, no adjective!  I push on up, and up, and up.  Gut rebels yet again.  At the top of these stairs, on the road to the 67km mark after 12hrs in near subzero temps, in a hypoglycaemic, hypothermic haze of vomitting, abdominal cramps, unconrtrollable shivering and vagueness, I end up in some poor unsuspecting person's garden.   The medics are nearby (not sure how they got to me!!) but I get up and am escorted to the glowing, warm tent of heaven!!  My husband and children are waiting as well.  What a welcome sight! Swift action of hot milo, sticky buns, warm balnkets and mushroom heaters from team Woodward saw me return to the land of living...just….barely. Strict instructions from medics, covered in 2 layers of thermals, polar fleece, gortex jacket, beanies, buffs and gloves, I leave toward check point 5 at the 89km mark. First I had to descend into th valley of the Blue Mountains, then I start the ascent on a forest trail 500m steeper in altitude and 5km longer in distance than Breakneck. After several hours I am feeling good and then..I fall awkwardly into a ford of freezing cold water trying to jump over and not get my cramping feet wet....bang...there goes my calf and an injury to my hip. So much pain I can not think phone I go back or do I go on. Glad for long life batteries in my head lamp!  Onward I a limp, hobbling on one leg,  I find that I can go quicker up th hills backwards…there goes the decision making ability!! Increasingly, I get colder and colder and in more and more pain. I cover another 10km of Big Brother Breakneck and the vomitting, abdo cramps and vagueness returns.  I sit on the side of the trail for a break.  No one in front of me, no one behind.  I could very well be the only person out here. 

Coming up and out of CP1.

I feel I am in an alien world when at the 87km mark the SES approach and put me into the back of the car...shivering uncontrollably, retching and dribbling all at the same time!!! A total of 17.5hours after starting. Then out of the wonderful, ever supporting, amazing husband; who drags me from the car…doctors and paramedics at the ready.  The medic tent is full so I am placed beside a big drum of fire and a mushroom heater above and a space blanket around me.  I'm force fed fluids and food under the threat of hospital assessment if I can't keep it down.  Amazing what a gentle threat can do!!  All is well after several cups of hot sweet fluids, warm blankets and another visit from the paramedic and doctor as I get the clearance to go home and not to hospital. I make it home with assistance….sleep for 10 hours…get up and can't weightbear on my blown out calf.  A set of crutches later and I am mobile!!  Two days later, as I reflect on my adventure; (it has taken me that long to be able to eat and drink again) there is definately unfinished business for me here...2011 here I come!! Thanks to all for all your support. xxx

Thursday, January 27, 2011

WELCOME to the first ever Running Physio blog! I am a practicing Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist on the beatuiful Sunshine Coast in Australia.  Although I  have several  clinical/professional interests, my passion is endurance sports.....particularly running and equine endurance! At the moment I am in training for my second attempt at The North Face 100km; an off road ultramarathon running race in the Blue Mountains next May.

Acupuncture treatment for injury knee
Plenty of trail running, hill sessions, stretching and injury troubleshooting coming up over the next 16 weeks of training............. unfortunately starting with this week on the injury front :(   (Fell over on soft ground and impacted my knee and shoulder) Fortunately, I have an amazing team of Physiotherapists and an Acupuncturist whose advice I eagerly seek and relcutanctly follow! I would much rather be the athlete than the physio treating the athlete like me as my philosophy centres around "keep running and the problem will fix itself!!" Flies in the face of the 7 years of University training I have undertaken, as well as a recent Master's submission (results pending!).  This philosophy has it's place sometimes but there are plenty of others where the professional voice rings through loud and clear....sometimes it's just not as timely as it should be!

I also have a great training partner in Andy who is an experienced ultradistance runner ( whom I regularly seek advice from as well as have great, avid, vibrant conversations.  A talkative Welshman by your side really helps to pass the time; especially on the long runs!! We have some great discussion that I am sure are fodder for his blog posts!!

Happy running everyone!  See you all on the trails.