Category Archives: Ultra

Bogong To Hotham Volunteering

Yesterday was the B2H race – something I’d never be able to do, even if my stupid ankle actually worked. The qualifying standards are pretty tough, and if I were ever able to run again, I couldn’t possibly be fast enough for the tough cut off times. I love though mountains though, so I thought it would be a good excuse to go for a walk above the tree line for a bit.

We were stationed at Warby Corner, which I think is about 26km into the race, in between Spion Kopje and Mt Nelse North.

The original plan was to camp at Ropers Hut the previous night and then walk to Warby, but when we looked at the map we thought it would be easy enough to sleep in the car near the Rocky Valley storage lake and walk up in the morning.

We left at dawn. It was quite cold, so we were in long pants and jackets.

Victorian Alps

Click any pic to enlarge

Once we got above the trees the sun came up. There were a bazillion wild flowers out. I love them!

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We made it to our aid stop and had a rummage around. There was a table and about 5 million litres of water, oranges, snakes and electrolytes stashed in some bushes. We set up and were ready to go pretty early. I found some awesome cheap light 3 legged stools last week, so brought them up. We had a beautiful view of the mountains (Bogong?) and sat down to have some breakfast.

Then we had a wander up to Mt Nelse North while waiting for the first runners to come through.

I got a call from the radio operator at the checkpoint before us. We were supposed to have a radio guy with us, but he was sick, so it was just us for a bit. Lucky A decided to come with me, or I’d be setting up by myself, and although I would’ve found the food and water, I wouldn’t’ve found the table to put it all on, which was stashed elsewhere.

Victorian Alpine Wildflowers

The first runner came through at 9:10am – on track for a course record (I think he missed out by 3 mins or so in the end). Soon enough, RD Andy drove up with a DNS runner, B, to help us out.

Victorian Alpine Wildflowers

We found ourselves in a good rhythm with A recording runners, B filling drink bottles for runners, and me doing a little bit of everything and a little bit of communication by text in lieu of radio operator. It’s kinda funny to think we were almost in the middle of nowhere, but I had full mobile reception.

It was never as crazily busy as I expected, and towards the end the runners were looking very buggered and were spread out far apart. There were so many that would not reach the cut off time at Langford Gap. The temperature was around the low 20s and very sunny. With no shade, the runners were doing it pretty tough. Our own supply of sunscreen and aeroguard turned out to be a hit with the runners. When it was quiet and we had eaten our own food supplies, we entertained ourselves by eating the electrolytes that are supposed to be dissolved in water. It was just like eating Wizz Fizz!

We were expecting to finish by lunch time, but were there until about 1:45pm. I was instructed not to let the last runner keep going, as his wife was going to drive up to our aid station to pick him up. This was good for us because we could load all the aid station gear in the car and we all got a lift back too. We were getting pretty tired, sunburnt and eaten by flies.

I was originally hoping we’d be done earlier so we’d have time for another short walk before heading home, but that was not the case. By the time we got to Bright, there was nowhere open for lunch. It was 41 degrees down there, so the only thing to do was to wander into the crowded ice cream shop and get an iced coffee for the road. It was gooooood 🙂

It was a good day out and I’m pretty sure we’ll be up for this one again next year 😀

Injuries…

I noticed a recent search term for my blog was “powerlifting injuries” so I thought I better clear it up online so people don’t think that powerlifting is a dangerous sport. I actually think it is one of the safest sports around, and is very good for your body generally speaking.

My most recent injury is a back injury – probably very common amongst powerlifters. It’s either a torn QL ligament or minor disc irritation.

I did it in the middle of strongman training, although it was during a deadlift – one of the powerlifting lifts. To be clear, this was a long time coming. I had referred pain in my glute for several months leading up to this, and when the QL went snap, the deadlift was just the last straw.

On the day, I had already done a fair amount of work. I had lifted heavier than I had before in other things such as the yolk and squat. I had also done log clean & jerks, and heavy farmers walks. All these things use your back so I was already fatigued. When it came to the deadlift, I was focusing on strong glutes, due to the recent referred pain in my glutes, which at the time I didn’t realise was caused by my back. I knew I had to strengthen my glutes, so I was really making an effort to use them in the deadlift.

So it wasn’t due to bad form. It wasn’t due to lifting too much. It wasn’t due to a weak back. It wasn’t due to those obvious things.

It was because I had become complacent. My clients’ warm ups were better than my own. I usually skimmed through my own warm ups, and did minimal direct anterior ab work. This meant my back took the brunt of the load. Not to mention that throughout winter my laptop lives in the lounge room where it’s warmer, so I slouch on the couch when working at home. My back is pretty strong, so it could get away with this for a long time… before it snapped.

So now I am taking my training much more seriously. I mean, if you are going to train and compete in sports, you may as well treat yourself like you are a serious athlete. All that training is going to catch up with you sooner or later.

This means:

  • Thorough warm ups so I am completely ready for lifting
  • Direct anterior ab work to build a stronger core to assist my back
  • More direct glute work so I have buns of steel to assist my back
  • Plenty of stretching afterwards to minimize tight muscles
  • Massage on tight muscles in between training to minimise muscle imbalances
  • Experimenting with supplements to improve recovery such as fish oil
  • Experimenting with other recovery techniques such as having a sauna

So basically… all the things that an athlete should be doing.

I personally believe that with correct form, nothing is impossible.

So… onto my running injury – tarsal tunnel syndrome. This is something that built up over years. I did not see anyone about it, and then when I did, I just kept running race after race! Although I rarely believe rest is the answer, modifying training should be.

My running form is pretty good. But when you have tight muscles, causing imbalances, the last thing you should be doing is running ultras. I did not pay attention to my body. I did not treat my body as an athlete should. All the points mentioned above… I did not do.

So now… while it is physically possible for me to go for a 3 hour run, it is not wise.

I should be doing all the above points. I should be treating my body much better. And I have no doubt that if I do that, and build up my distance sensibly, then there is no reason  I should not be able to run ultras again.

And I know everyone in the world will disagree with me on this point: But I see no reason why I cannot be a powerlifter and an ultra-runner at the same time 😉

No reason I can’t get back to this again

You Yangs 50km 2011

I was secretly very happy this year when the You Yangs 5050 was postponed due to flooding in July because it meant a) I had more time to train and b) It would fit in nicely as a decent long run before GOW which is 4 weeks after.

Unfortunately (what I thought was) my achilles troubles has been holding me back from specific running training. I’ve been hitting the trails once a week, aiming for difficult terrain with GOW in mind. I’ve run in ankle deep mud, through thunder, hail and snow, and climbed up hills that would have been easier with an ice pick. Although I haven’t done long distances, I’ve done long times!

Last weekend was the You Yangs 50km and I was terribly under prepared. Since my running partner for most of this year is in hospital due to a tragic experience in a race, I did this for her. I have done some crazy runs with Kate this year, and her strength always amazes me. It doesn’t matter how tiring it all is, how long and steep the hills are, she just keeps going. Running when able, walking the hills the rest of the time. So this year even though I knew I would be slow at the You Yangs, when the going got tough, I always asked myself, “What would Kate do?”.

The course changed again this year, and I think for the best. I liked NOT going to the top of the hill and back multiple times, and I enjoyed the technical circuit around the hill. The first 10km went quite well for me. Although slow, I was feeling good. At 15km I was still feeling good and hopeful I was on track for under 8 hours. At the half way point, although I was starting to get even slower (how is that possible?) I was still on track for under 8 hours and I thought if I could just keep running on the flats and downhills that I would be ok.

My achilles (which now isn’t that… more later) issues meant my running speed was walking pace. I had no power in my right leg and I was going so slow that I was naturally breathing through my nose much of the time. There is a section through gum plantations that is quite flat. Flat bits are a problem for me as you really need to keep up your momentum. I just couldn’t do it. At 30km I was feeling ok but then at 40km I was back at the plantation area and it was a real struggle. I ran as long as I could (at walking speed), while knowing that Kate would be running there too. It was so unnaturally slow but I just did not have the power in my right leg to run at any normal running pace.

At around 45km I started walking. This run was much harder than it should’ve been. There were (dare I say it) too many flat runnable bits! I realised I was going to be way over 8 hours and decided my ultra career is over until I sort out this leg problem. If you can’t train, you can’t run at any speed. My leg strength from weight lifting enables me to complete these distances, but is not enough to actually run properly. Getting over the injury and being able to run in training is the only thing that is going to help.

I decided I would pull out of GOW this year. I couldn’t get my money back on the accommodation so worked out a really nice weekend away. I even planned some nice walks and it was going to be the relaxing holiday I’ve been in need of all year! At this point in the race, I had reached a calm. This was it for me! The last long race of the year! Yeah!

With Kate in mind, I still kept running when able, and walking when I couldn’t. I don’t know what time I crossed the finish line, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I came dead last! I quickly found Andy to withdraw from GOW before I changed my mind. But he told me to think about it… ugh…..

So anyway, since then I have had some acupuncture and it’s been discovered that my achilles is fine. A bit thicker than usual, but functionally fine. It’s the flexor hallucis longus that has been killing me. This muscle originates near the calf behind the achilles so it has been making me think the achilles is to blame. This makes perfect sense as I had problems with my big toe a long time ago, and it is still quite tight and inflexible. Now the source of the pain has revealed itself, the acupuncturist reckons it wont take long to fix. I am hopeful this time! And I am doing GOW! Even though I shuffle at a snails pace, provided I don’t get lost, it will still be enough to make the cutoffs.

Mt Macedon Trail Run 30/50km

Yesterday was the Mt Macedon Trail Runs. I entered the 50km, thinking it would be fine. The last time I went for a run was my last post – 6 weeks ago. At least then I was running 1-2 times per week including hills or intervals. Since then I focused on a grueling hypertrophy program, often spending over an hour at the gym every single day. The volume got to me and I got sick twice in 2 weeks. Then somehow I still thought I didn’t need to run in order to complete 50km. What a stupid idea!

It was so cold at the start line, there was frost on the ground. I wore my arm sleeves for the whole run, which is very unusual for me. At the race briefing Brett warned us about some sections. I am not good at paying attention here as it is always a bunch of words that don’t mean anything until you’re out there.

Once we were off I felt awkward from the start. I was wearing my MW101 trail shoes, but despite being minimalist, they felt clunky compared to my usual flats. My fingers were freezing and I was trying to find a good spot in my pack to keep my Garmin watch (since it is almost dead and I knew the batteries would go flat so I just wanted what data it could manage but didn’t want to wear it). The ground surface was really nice and soft, and it was such a pleasure to run on. I was thinking about this, while my frozen fingers fumbled with my watch, when I literally fell into last place. My main concern was not landing in kangaroo poo. I managed to land on some rocks, with massive scrapes on both thighs. Fortunately it was so cold, I couldn’t feel if anything hurt. In hindsight, I think Brett mentioned something about being careful about the rocks in the first 200 metres.

It took about an hour for my achilles to warm up. It was really painful to start with but I have been vigilantly doing my achilles exercises for the past week so I was able to run the rest without achilles pain. I quickly caught up ahead of a few people and finally settled into a rhythm.

The hills in this run are so mean. Both up and down. Some of the downhills were not even runnable. I found one was very smooth dirt, and everyone was sliding down. I was stepping carefully on the grass on one side, whilst holding onto ferns for balance.

It was very windy out there, and after Hells Hole, on the top of Mt Towrong, it was very exposed and it was very chilly. Climbing back down was difficult as I was being blown about in the wind, while trying to navigate the tricky rocky trail. My legs were feeling shaky and unstable from my trail shoes and the fall early on so I was taking every step very cautiously.

At about the 20km mark I considered dropping out at 30km. I just felt so slow and cumbersome (remember, 3 weeks of hypertrophy training and 6 weeks of no running or metabolic work of any sort). This should really have felt comfortable and the run just wasn’t working for me.

Look, no knuckles! Does anyone know what causes or how to cure the hand swelling in some long events?

Heading up the Zig Zag track, I decided that even if I made the 30km cut off time, I would drop out there. 50km would have been unnecessarily torturous.

I missed the cut off by about 7 minutes. Brett said I could continue but I said no way. I think at least 3 others DNF’d at 30km.

It really was a lovely trail and it renewed my enthusiasm for trail running and ultras. I feel like I have run a lot of crap races recently and it’s time for me to step it up. I want to run comfortably again and I’m going to hit the hills and trails a lot more often now. The You Yangs 50km is on in 6 or 7 weeks. I originally thought I might volunteer in this but now I am going to train and I am going to do it well.

45km Mt Dandenong

I’ve clearly been hanging around the wrong crowd lately. Yesterday I went for a 45km training run with Kate at Mt Dandenong. I have never done any long runs there before because it is all hills. For some reason I forgot about the hills when I thought it would be a good idea to do it. I also forgot that even if the weather’s good, it is always muddy in some sections and it would have been smart to wear trail shoes instead of racing flats.

We met near Sky High and had a loop in mind, taken from the Moonwalk charity race. Our run started off really nice and it felt so easy like we could go forever. We were taking it easy but I think it felt so good because at this stage we were mostly heading downhill.

At around 7km we came across this funny looking wombat who looked like he’d been in a few fights. Wombats are so rare and this is the first time I’ve seen one in Victoria. He didn’t mind that we went up close and I stuck my phone in his face for photographs.

Our loop was mostly pleasant. We went through an arboretum which had lovely deciduous trees in all their autumn glory. We also passed through another public garden that had stunning trees and I think I’ll have to go back there soon.

From about half way I really got fatigued. I was so proud of myself for actually remembering to pack food and even having breakfast before setting off (I never eat before a run) that I forgot my salt caps. I was drinking plenty but the hills were taking their toll. We climbed up Heartbreak Hill, which was just a taste of what was to come next.

There was the Mofo-Hill-Of-Death that climbed nearly 200m in about 2km. I am pretty good at getting hills done but that one was so bad that Kate passed me, and I was counting 50 steps at a time before letting myself take a 2 second breather.

There were more terrible hills, even worse than that. At one point I thought I needed an ice pick to climb it. My Garmin died early on so I don’t have data of the other steep hills.

I don’t usually drink much water and I was glad I took my Nathan pack so I could fill my water bladder without it feeling too heavy. I drank all my water and at about 4km to the end I had to fill up from “not safe to drink” water. Normally I wouldn’t fuss about 4km without water but those last 4km were all up up up and were going to take a long time. So I took the risk and I haven’t died yet.

My tibialis anterior were cramping from a combination of hills and no salt caps. I’m surprised that my achilles didn’t give much grief so I guess my method of low frequency and low mileage is at least doing some good.

It was such a relief after all that climbing to make it to the top where our cars were. We made it in a bit over 8 hours.

I think this run wasn’t so much physically challenging as it was mentally challenging. If I was doing this by myself, I would have looked at the map to find a shortcut back to the car. But I couldn’t do that here. We were going slow, but running more than I would if I was by myself. It was not that it was hard or painful to run, but mentally I was fatigued and the thought of running seemed harder than the action of running. Having someone else there with me really helped push me through and I must remember that feeling of pushing on in my next ultra.

As soon as we stopped my legs felt all crampy. The drive home consisted of a lot of swearing and wondering why I drive a manual. As soon as I got home I downed some Gastrolyte and felt much better. My legs are a bit fatigued today but not bad. It was a great run and it’s good to know I can run an ultra without doing any running training. Long runs would be beneficial but are not a necessity. I really enjoy running out on the trails so I think from now if I do any long runs they will have to be trails.