Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Health Junkie: CANYON REFLECTIONS

The Health Junkie: CANYON REFLECTIONS: It's been 5 weeks since my epic adventure through the Grand Canyon and already I am itching to go back ... bizarre perhaps but that&#39...

CANYON REFLECTIONS

It's been 5 weeks since my epic adventure through the Grand Canyon and already I am itching to go back ... bizarre perhaps but that's the truth. American's have a great phrase during a sports event, 'You got this!' they shout as you pass by and though it may be a clichĂ© personally I find it really motivating. If I am being brutally honest about 2 minutes into my run I think a very quiet voice whispered to me 'you got this', its difficult to remember exactly and it wasn't overwhelming, it was just a feeling of calm confidence, of knowing that all would be well. I was going to do this, what I didn't know was what a unique and emotionally powerful day it would turn out to be.
      Many things had gone wrong in my preparation in the last few weeks before my run but what held it together was the training that had gone before ... and this is the key about doing anything like this. 'They' always say that you must trust your training and its true, some of my recent Alpine mountain races were very tough but they obviously helped my body adapt to the rigours of the big GC.
As some of you know I always train using two distinct systems.
1) The classic Lydiard distance run training, building an aerobic base, long slow distance, hill sprints, tempo, speed work etc.
and
2) Crossfit Endurance. (Strength and conditioning)
     Now I know some of you are already switching off due to boredom, lack of interest ... or disagreement with either or both systems; the good news is that this blog is not about that although I would like to point out that both systems have their benefits so why not use them; I do, and I train my clients by combining the two.
    I digress, the point is that my type of training had gone well up to 6 weeks before my GC adventure when I struck a small rock and pulled a ligament on an easy tempo run, it happens, not often but it happens. I was unable to do any running for 3 weeks apart from pool running and strength/Crossfit conditioning. There is no doubt that this training proved crucial in maintaining my fitness at this critical time. I then spent the last 3 weeks doing light easy runs and one 'back to back' just to get my running legs back. I did not commit to the cardinal error of trying to make up for lost time by doing big runs a few days out, that's just madness.
   I did not sleep well in the final week (for various reasons) which was terrible preparation and even my nutrition suffered due to travelling. This is highly unusual for me but again it happens sometimes. Then in the last few days I seemed to be getting a head cold which I have not had for about 10 years  and this plus all of the above, plus jetlag, made for poor preparation.
  Finally when I got to the North Rim having not slept properly for 7 days I then had virtually no sleep at all the night before due to my very noisy log cabin neighbours and then I awoke to find the ankle strapping that my physio had carefully prepared had just disappeared! However ultrarunning is all about not panicking when the unexpected happens so I found some old tape in my bag and did my best with that.
     But, here's the point, despite all this when I set out on my big adventure I felt calm ... Why?
     There were several reasons, firstly I was well rested physically as I was unable to train hard for the last 6 weeks and secondly my mind was clear just to do the 'crossing', (as we GC runners call it) all the other stuff in my head was gone, it was just me and the Canyon and it was quite simply peaceful. Of course I was mindful of the terrain, of falling, of snakes, of dehydration etc, etc but essentially I was in the moment, doing it and very cognisant. This was the real thing and it's only at times like this that you feel truly alive, you face your fears and do it anyway and the results can be truly life affirming. It is a truly intimidating place and I had moments of genuine fear before the run but I respected the Canyon and took no chances, (well apart from my injured leg)
     For anyone attempting a marathon, triathlon, ultra or any major physical event that is outside their comfort zone just try and stay calm, plan your event, eat correctly, do all your preparation but mostly trust your training, it will get you through, the body is an amazing thing and is capable of doing much more than you can possibly imagine.

     I talked a lot in my blog of feeling blessed, I was acutely aware that not many people get the chance or have the time, fitness, luxury or finances (especially if you live in Europe) to be able to do this. I have a very supportive family that I don't take for granted and sacrifices also had to be made by my wife Sue. When other people are going out for the evening I was getting ready for bed, we always left dinner parties early and quite often Sue would prepare a meal for me before we went out because everyone eats late and I am afraid not very well; I have a reputation for being super strict about clean eating, sleeping, training etc but that's all part of the preparation; 60 year old men do not run from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other every day, its very hard and you have to train properly. I am fortunate to be fit and healthy enough to do it and I was grateful for this. (By the way I am not criticising people for their way of eating, it's there choice but if you want to get in great shape then certain rules have to be adhered to, its just the way it is.)
     I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed my adventure, I imagined it was going to be one big pain fest but it wasn't, sure my legs hurt and the climb out at nearly 7000 feet is a bitch but its the Grand Canyon so you kind of go with it and accept it. I was in an awesome place, the weather was kind and I allowed myself to enjoy and cherish every moment of the experience plus I always keep in mind a glorious finish and I constantly visualized this.
  Another major part of doing something like this is recovery and I planned this as well. Where and what to eat afterwards, recovery drinks, the drive to a particular hotel in the desert that I knew to be quiet, and putting aside time over the following days just to relax and let my body recover. Sue massaged my legs every day, once a day for 4 days. I had ice baths, the right nutrition and a good fluid intake but mostly it was un-stressed rest. Again I was fortunate but all this was planned in advance, it doesn't just happen. My DOMS only lasted a few days and I recovered vey quickly even going for a small jog a few days later.


For those interested I drank approximately 4.5 litres of water (including 2 litres with electrolytes). I ate 4 gels, 1 cliff bar, a few smaller fruit gels, 1 salty pack of crackers, a banana and 6 x S-caps. This means of course that I must have been running on fat quite a bit, but I had trained for this and expected it. There were really no surprises and all went pretty much to plan during the run. I didn't fall once, unusual for me, and my foot only had the odd twinge. The part called Box Canyon went on longer than I thought and the trail up to Indian Gardens was not as smooth as I'd expected it to be, the scary descent was scary and I can see why people fall off if they are not concentrating but otherwise all was good ... (the main surprise of the day was that the river was salty which was weird!)

   Would I do it again, yes, but next time it would be the R2R2R or 'Double Crossing' (From rim to rim and back again all in one day)... which means a very tough 75 kilometres in distance and a staggering 11,000 feet of ascent, madness you might say but we shall see, I have no plans at present but whatever I do next it has to be inspiring, challenging ... and preferably fun.


 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Health Junkie: MY GRAND CANYON RUN FROM RIM TO RIM

The Health Junkie: MY GRAND CANYON RUN FROM RIM TO RIM: Well after much planning, preparation, training, patience and badly timed injury ... I finally arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Can...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Health Junkie: MY GRAND CANYON RUN FROM RIM TO RIM

The Health Junkie: MY GRAND CANYON RUN FROM RIM TO RIM: Well after much planning, preparation, training, patience and badly timed injury ... I finally arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Can...

Friday, October 10, 2014

MY GRAND CANYON RUN FROM RIM TO RIM


Well after much planning, preparation, training, patience and badly timed injury ... I finally arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at 5:30 am on a very dark October morning. It was strange and eerie standing there in the blackness looking into the enormous abyss that is the Big GC - one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. You can see it in pictures and videos but to be here and experience it makes all your senses tingle and come alive. It was surprisingly cold at the 8,500 foot rim. I was nervous, excited and eager as I stared into the void. I had no idea what to expect, of course I had done my research thoroughly but nothing can prepare you for the real thing, the silence, the mixed emotions, the unknown. I thought to myself, 'just go' and then deal with whatever happens. I was determined to have a great day as I knew I was fortunate to be here and lucky to have this opportunity. I had visualized this moment for over 9 months and now the time had come to embrace it. I felt incredibly alive and present and so off I went whispering in the dark - 'trust yourself, you can do this'. I was about to run nearly a marathon in distance, firstly descending 8,500 feet very quickly and at an impossibly steep and rocky gradient, then run along the 100 degree desert heat of the canyon floor before climbing all the way back out again to the South rim; over 700 people have died here in the past 100 years and over 250 people are rescued every year; I had to stay alert and focused.

      I was worried about snakes, wild animals, twisting or breaking something, falling, dehydration, hypernatremia, fatigue, muscle strains, exhaustion, exposure, vertigo, the list was seemingly endless but sometimes in life you just have to believe in yourself and your ability.... and so off I went. (Oh, and mobile phones don't work either!)
  I had received many pieces of advice but the three that stuck in my mind were from Bev - 'Cherish the experience', Ashley - 'Don't die!' and finally my son , Alexander, who said to me at the airport as we left, 'Give yourself to the Canyon' and so that's exactly what I did. I felt strangely calm and in the zone, this was it.
    The trail was quite technical in that it was rutted with many loose stones and rocks, my head torch picked out about 6 feet ahead but I guess that's all I needed to see. There had been storms the night before but fortunately it was now dry. All I could hear was my breath and my footsteps, I really had to focus on the trail as I knew instinctively that this was going to be a very long day. The Grand Canyon is immense, the Ranger guides say that you must allow 2-3 days to hike from one side to the other and I was going to run it all ... today! It's extremely intimidating and dangerous ... and you can feel it.
   My plan was the same as any ultra-marathon event, I chunk it into sections. If you imagine the whole thing in one go it will seem impossible so my first target was the Supai tunnel, a small cutting in the rock about 1,200 feet below. It was mostly trees at this point, dark and foreboding (I imagined a Bear at every corner) but very quickly the view opened up revealing glimpses of the canyon below. It's just huge, 'Shit, this is serious!' I said myself, ( you probably realise by now that I talk out loud all the time). Parts of the Canyon are 2 Billion years old and as it begins to tower around you, you feel very small. 

  I really wanted to get some miles under my belt as soon as possible and with no leg pain from my injury 6 weeks before because this was a huge concern on top of everything else, and so any slight twinge and I worried. Fortunately I have a brilliant physio, Helen Cooper McLeod, who had worked tirelessly on my leg and had shown me how to tape it correctly, otherwise I wouldn't have been here today. I knew this was going to be hard but I'd prepared and planned every detail and so I was ready. Many people with the best intentions had warned me not to do this but I'd made a decision  and so I had to ... I don't go back on commitments, especially to myself.
After about 10 minutes I relaxed a bit and tried to get into a rhythm, not easy when descending at speed and in the dark. I was strangely calm, yet focused and as I passed a hiker who had done it before I asked, 'Any advice?' He shouted back, 'Yeh,just keep putting one foot in front of the other'... and so that's exactly what I did. My cadence is about 180 strides per minute so that was going to be around 100,000 steps that I would take today ... and every single one had to be sure. Mind boggling I know but the human body is an amazing thing and I trusted it; I had too as the terrain was extremely difficult and unforgiving.

I reached the tunnel in about 15 minutes feeling good. I did not want to hit the ground too hard as this would trash my quads and  make the rest of the run unbearable. The trail now became much steeper as we went below the tree line and I began to feel a wonderful warm breeze coming up from below. I could see why it was so easy to have tragic accidents, if you don't concentrate you can be over the edge instantly. I followed the switchbacks to a small bridge and then began a gentle incline to the scariest part of the run. The canyon narrows and for about 20 minutes you run along a one metre wide path with a vertical drop off of thousands of feet, (and I get vertigo) however, as would happen many times today I felt calm and confident, it was even enjoyable in an odd kind of way. I was meeting the challenge and my own fears and was embracing them. It is so spectacular that I just kept feeling grateful to be there, I was deep in the canyon now and I was loving it. Later Sue would say that on all the videos and pictures I was smiling all the time.

  I descended rapidly to 4,000 feet below the rim and after an hour arrived at Cottonwood Camp which consisted of 10 trees, 3 tents and a water tap and that was it, very rock and roll ... this was truly basic. After about 10 k the canyon opens out and I though I ran quickly I was mindful of rattle snakes and so kept a sharp lookout (difficult considering I have lousy eyesight).
     I now felt completely at one with what I was doing. I didn't worry about the journey ahead  and stayed completely focused on where I was and each new experience, I was cherishing every moment.  Occasionally I would pass some hikers and when they saw me they would shout to their friends 'Runner!' .. and would stand aside to let me pass, all very cordial, in fact this was now my new  name 'Runner' ... I quite liked it.
 I was now about a mile deep vertically into the canyon and my body felt good and I felt in control. I was mindful though that one bad slip and I could be in trouble so I kept my concentration. I noticed all the sights and sounds around me and just kept smiling saying 'This is great'. I so wanted to enjoy this experience and I was.
After another 30 minutes I entered a part called Box canyon where the steep rock walls crowd around you, it was amazing, these rocks are over 2 billion years old, I loved it.
 The weather was fortunately slightly overcast for the first 3 hours and so I kept relatively cool until I hit the mythical 'Phantom ranch' where the temperature soared as the sun came out. For many years I had thought this place was a haunted old relic of a few log cabins and when I arrived I saw about 3 people wandering around aimlessly and a few old cabins ... and so I was right after all.
I was now a mile from the river and getting quite excited. All my life I had wanted to come here. I had visited the GC many times but had never risked venturing down and now suddenly here I was ... and I was running it, life is very strange sometimes. I got quite emotional as I crossed the  mighty Colorado, it was stunning. I was completely alone and I felt all that I had wanted to feel, I stood on the bridge and just cried, it was overwhelming in every way. I was now at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, it was fantastic I was crying and smiling at the same time, just heaven.
  My legs were aching but I didn't care, I just felt blessed and at one with the whole experience. I now ran along the river for about 4 k and then stopped briefly for the only time that day to put my head in the water ... it was like a baptism, I'd made it.
   After a few brief minutes it was time to move on and begin my ascent out of the canyon ... the hardest part and just as you are getting tired, but again I didn't care I  would embrace the climb as well.
   I know this may all sound too good to be true and I must sound like some quasi religious, tree hugging hippy but its just how I felt.
The first part of the ascent is called the Devils Corkscrew due to the steep switchbacks of the 1,800 feet climb. It was now very, very hot but I climbed well and half way up encountered a couple coming down who asked me if I'd come from Phantom Ranch; when I told them I'd come from the North Rim they were amazed and then she asked how old I was (I don't know why) and when I told her she shouted, 'Shut up! Shut up! that is so 'rad'.. she was hilarious. Her husband  then joined in 'Are you serious dude? Shit, I need to get in shape'... To be honest they inspired me as much as I did them and I shot off up the trail.
   It must have been nearing 100 degrees now, fortunately I always carry a lot of water, however you often forget to drink, even in the heat, its a weird thing but it happens a lot in ultra running and causes many problems. I kept my discipline. I took an S-cap (sodium) every hour and kept eating my gels and drinking my water even when I didn't feel like it.
 My fitness was surprising, even to me and I think I'm pretty fit, my legs ached as did my ligament injury from 6 weeks ago but mostly I felt good and very strong.
  I managed a light jog along a crystal clear creek, it was beautiful and I maintained this all the way up to Indian Gardens about a third of the way up. This was the only place all day that I'd been to before, as I had come down to here during my recce in February however in February I'd only ran for an hour down and it was cold so I bombed back up. Today I'd been running for 6 hours and it was boiling, this was going to be tough despite my fitness.
    A guy at the water tap asked if I'd come from the North Rim, I said 'Yes, how did you know?' He said 'Because you look like an ultra runner Bro' ... I love the yanks.

It was now another 3,000 feet straight up and I mean vertical, I knew it was going to be hard but I'd come this far and now I just had to see it through. This is not so much about fitness, it's more about 'grit', this is when this extreme sport sorts you out mentally and physically. It was very hot in the sun but fortunately the canyon walls are so steep that it creates its own shade as the trail winds up to the top, you just have to keep going and stay in the zone. It was relentless but many people who were hiking down asked where I'd come from today and there reactions, respect and positive encouragement kept me going. Many people ask me if I stop and take breaks when doing this type of thing, the answer is never, you just keep going all the time, the only time I had stopped all day was when I soaked my head in the river - which was about 2 minutes. As I continued to climb the hours now began to drag by as it turned into one big pain fest, again I had planned and expected this but as I say to all my clients 'the pain is not real its just your body's defence mechanism' .... mind you it felt pretty real to me at the time. (But 10 minutes after I finished I'd forgotten about it, that's why you never quit. 'You must do the thing you think you cannot do'.

At 8 hours and 20 minutes I rounded the final switchback just below the rim and yelled out to Sue, who I could see was sitting on a rock way in the distance, she saw me too, it was very emotional.
Somehow I summoned up the strength to run hard up the last bit and as I looked down at the canyon below I was mindful of how far I'd come. I thought about all the people who had supported, encouraged and believed in me, my son Alexander and my wife Sue who puts up with all this nonsense.

For the record I am 60 years old next month and I truly believe that you can do anything you want if  you decide to, you just have to keep in mind your goal and never falter. Life will always throw up problems but as long as your vision and belief is true then you will succeed. As I fell into Sue's arms she asked me how I felt and I just burst into tears, this was physically the greatest achievement of my life. I just felt blessed.

P.S. IF YOU WANT TO SEE A SHORT VIDEO OF MY RUN CLICK HERE ->
 ---> ---->       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXU2Y6355Vg

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Health Junkie: The Health Junkie: DISASTER ? MANAGING PAIN AND IN...

The Health Junkie: The Health Junkie: DISASTER ? MANAGING PAIN AND IN...: The Health Junkie: DISASTER ? MANAGING PAIN AND INJURY : Disaster! was my first thought as I did a recovery run through the woods yesterday....

The Health Junkie: DISASTER ? MANAGING PAIN AND INJURY

The Health Junkie: DISASTER ? MANAGING PAIN AND INJURY: Disaster! was my first thought as I did a recovery run through the woods yesterday. I had not run since the Trail de L'Escoussier 3 day...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

DISASTER ? MANAGING PAIN AND INJURY

Disaster! was my first thought as I did a recovery run through the woods yesterday. I had not run since the Trail de L'Escoussier 3 days before and was feeling a little tired after 4 hours and 4,500 feet of climb. The race was on very rocky technical terrain with severe mountain gradients but I survived, apart from aching quads..... and then yesterday I am doing a short tempo run with two of my clients Alex and Tara who are training for a marathon, and boom! over I go. The track was virtually flat and then I hit a tiny rock and a seconds later I was in the dirt with blood everywhere. The blood of course was not the problem, I heard a 'pop' or ' crack' just as my foot hit the ground. It looked bad and I suspected the worst (see photo, one hour after).
One hour later
It was late so I arranged an X-ray and appointment with a specialist for early the next day. I did the usual R.I.C.E. protocol in the meantime. The crazy thing was that the trail was virtually flat and I'd run it 100's of times ... guess that's why they call it an 'Accident'! The human body is extraordinary in that in the course of a year my foot probably strikes the ground, when running, about 2-3 million times and on all manner of difficult terrain and yet one step wrong and bang. It always amazes me that your eye to brain to foot coordination is so incredible  (if you actually weigh the odds) so I suppose I should be grateful that this sort of serious injury happens so seldom. However I was still very worried last night.
Anyway, good news ... sort of. Its not a break but a torn tendon, now I know these can sometimes take longer to heal than a break but I have to stay positive and besides a break would have meant a definite 6-8 weeks out of action. The Doctor said rest up 2/3 weeks and then slowly start running again if no pain. Does any of this matter?
Well Yeh! I am booked  (and paid all flights etc) to run the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in 6 weeks time so now my training is shot to bits as even if I can run I'll only have done some light jogging as opposed to hard-core mountain training.
This is my ankle today 24 hours later (see picture) Ouch!
24 Hours later
So lets weigh it all up. I have to stay pragmatic and assess the risk. Obviously my fitness will have declined by then and my running adaptations for severe gradients will also have weakened but I had been hitting it pretty hard up to now so maybe I should look at this as a very long taper.
Firstly I have to assume that the tendon will heal quickly, I am not used to sitting around so maybe the rest will help all my muscles repair and rejuvenate as I would have done a 3 week taper anyway.
I know you can't get back the training you've  missed so close to an event and its not only useless per counter productive to even try so I will hopefully just do enough runs to get my overall fitness and strength back on track.
If and when it heals I will use a 'support band', both for practical and emotional reasons  (because often the fear of further injury can play on your mind and your running form). In the meantime I am wearing an  'Air Cast' and just resting for 4 days with an 'Ice compression cast ' elevated, every few hours. I have cancelled all client training commitments till then and we'll just have to see how it goes.
I have also introduced a strict nutrition injury protocol, such as increased, protein, BCCA's, glutamine, extra fish oil and zinc and many specific vitamins and vegetables. The research on this is quite impressive so I'll do whatever it takes to aid my recovery quickly. I don't take any painkillers or Ibuprofen (NSAIDS) ... not because I'm a weirdo pain junkie but because they interfere with the natural process of healing. The body is amazing, feed it correctly and let it do its thing.
Helen my physio did a late night house call to give me more bizarre equipment (a huge Air caste) as well as precise exercises.... plus a warning on Facebook that if anyone sees me out and about to report back to her immediately. (Don't mess with Helen !).
Pain, accidents and injury can happen to anyone, anytime (not just strange ultra -marathon runners), my wife had a similar 'pull' last month just walking down the steps to the shops but its 'How' you deal with the injury that is key.
I am  aware that to many people even to contemplate running the Canyon alone with an injury such as this is crazy. Possibly, but I believe that life is always testing us for our level of commitment and I have no intention of wimping out. Managing injuries is a subtle balance and I will listen to my body but the fact remains that I intend to .... and will run the Grand Canyon in October come hell or high water.
Patience is important but attitude is everything - Watch this space!
PS A big thanks to all the messages of support that I have received  from friends and clients ... it is truly uplifting.


 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Health Junkie: TRAIL DE L'ESCOUSSIER

The Health Junkie: TRAIL DE L'ESCOUSSIER: Thought I'd do a quick video of my latest race .... says it all really. Only 22k but 4,500 feet of elevation gain in 3hrs-52mins and a ...

TRAIL DE L'ESCOUSSIER

Thought I'd do a quick video of my latest race .... says it all really. Only 22k but 4,500 feet of elevation gain in 3hrs-52mins and a very technical trail. Deliberately hit the mountains hard to trash my quads...which I succeeded in doing as I'm feeling it 2 days later! All good specificity training for the big GC in 6 weeks time. Enjoy.

CLICK HERE  ---------  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fxHaerW3Nw



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Health Junkie: GETTING HIGH - MERCANTOUR RACE REPORT

The Health Junkie: GETTING HIGH - MERCANTOUR RACE REPORT: When you are running a race that you know nothing about it always seems harder and longer (and higher) than one that is familiar, that'...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GETTING HIGH - MERCANTOUR RACE REPORT

When you are running a race that you know nothing about it always seems harder and longer (and higher) than one that is familiar, that's just the way it is, you accept it and off you go.
Of course when running in the mountains it is beautiful and spectacular ... and always challenging. (which means tough). The other thing I always forget when running in the Alps is ... its in the Alps! ... which means huge climbs and descents. In this race it was straight up immediately, and I was thinking couldn't we have just a few nice easy miles along the river first to get warmed up but unfortunately no, just  a vertical 2000 feet ascent through the pine trees. Eventually we hit a ridge and ran along that arriving at the aid station one and a half hours later.
  This being a French aid station it was a just few pieces of banana, orange and cake plus water and coke. I filled my water bottle and was out in 30 seconds.
The weather was fabulous, about 67 degrees which was perfect plus in the first half of the race its in the trees so it was shady and cool. Next followed a perilous switchback descent of about 2 kilometres ending up at a raging torrent.
The only way across was to get wet and wade through, it was freezing but refreshing.
 The French are very good trail runners, very fast and quite fearless whilst descending at speed however they never stop talking, even when running down the side of a mountain, its hilarious.
   Next began the exhausting run/hike to the top of L'Encombrette at 8,500 feet. This was about 9 kilometres
and took another 2 hours and it was straight up all the way with no respite. I knew it was going to be hard and was one of the reasons why I chose this race because of my Grand Canyon preparation. After an hour I was very tired but its relentless and you just keep going, it takes a lot of of both mental and physical discipline. When I looked up at what was to come ahead of me it was a daunting site, stunningly beautiful but daunting nevertheless. Half way up, a super fit young guy overtook me, put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said 'Courage'. This show of mutual respect drove me on and 4 hours into the race I arrived at the summit.
 What a site! It was just simply awesome, beautiful and stunning all in one. I stayed a few minutes just to take it all in, got myself together and then began a super fast descent to the Lac d'alloss. It was 14 kilometres to the finish.  I was amazed that after all that climbing I could run so fast, I was quite
pleased with myself. I really enjoyed this part, descending easily and at speed surrounded by the best of nature in its rawest form, it was fabulous and made all the hard parts worthwhile. I hit the aid station near the lake 40 minutes later and was in and out even quicker that the other one. I know from experience to take all your own stuff, I had so much food in my bag I could have survived a week up there!
    The trail softened as we hit the tree line and ran through meadows and forests bursting with smells and aromas from  all the mountain fauna.
  The last few miles I began to feel a little tired , I kept asking anyone I met, 'How far to the finish?' and the reply was always the same, 'about 3k'.  Bloody long 3k I thought to myself.
  I arrived in the village of Val d'alloss a bit ragged but I put in a 200 metre sprint finish and crossed the line in 6 hours and 10 minutes, which was just about what I had anticipated. It was only 30k (a 3/4 marathon) but we climbed over 6,000 feet of vertical ascent so it was quite a test of stamina and endurance. Sue had spent all day in cafes and restaurants having had a lovely restful day in the Sun. I know some of you will agree that she made the right choice but each to their own and mine had been a memorable journey of both hardship and joy and I am grateful for that. It was just another step towards my ultimate goal, October the 9th in Arizona is coming up fast, I will be ready.
PS (I made a short video of my run which you might enjoy, so just click on the link  - 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAv_YqlfK1c

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Health Junkie: ALPINE RACING - TRAIL DE VALBERG

The Health Junkie: ALPINE RACING - TRAIL DE VALBERG:       I decided to sign up for this race for obvious reasons .. its in the mountains, which means lots of big climbs and big descents, the ...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Health Junkie: ALPINE RACING - TRAIL DE VALBERG

The Health Junkie: ALPINE RACING - TRAIL DE VALBERG:       I decided to sign up for this race for obvious reasons .. its in the mountains, which means lots of big climbs and big descents, the ...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

ALPINE RACING - TRAIL DE VALBERG

      I decided to sign up for this race for obvious reasons .. its in the mountains, which means lots of big climbs and big descents, the perfect place to train for the Grand Canyon.
Specificity of training is basically replicating in training what you will do in a race. I have reversed this and am doing specificity in a race to train me to run the Grand Canyon (which isn't a race)....confused?   Anyway I think you get the point, the more training runs and races I do in harsh
conditions such as terrain, height variation, temperature etc then the more I'll be ready for the big GC.
Climbing up 4000 feet from the bottom of the ravine in the distance
Also races can be quite stressful and this adds to the preparation because as I descend into the darkness of the Grand Canyon at 5 am in October, alone and unsupported, I'm sure there'll be a little bit of tension. (did I say a little bit ... lol)
   I also have a niggling ligament injury (there's always something) that doesn't like downhill running so again its all part of the preparation as I suspect I'll also have some niggle come October.
      So Sue and I set off for the Valberg ski station on Friday night and stayed right in the centre next to the start which was quite late, 9 am, so plenty of time to prepare. This wasn't an ultra and was only about 25k but the elevation gain was about 4000 feet so quite challenging and the mountains above Valberg itself are at nearly 8000 feet, so there were altitude issues to consider. All in all a reasonable challenge I thought .... and I was right.

Still climbing
It was a beautiful day, though the night before we'd had huge thunderstorms and the organisers told us that parts of the trail were still very slippy and dangerous ... and they weren't kidding.  After an hour of up and down through lovely Alpine meadows we began a long descent through the woods and all you could hear was, 'Merde!', 'Ooh la la', 'La vache!', 'Ces't trop dangereux' and people yelping as they lost there footing on a slippery rock or root and me shouting 'Shit', 'Ah shit' or just 'Shiiitt!' as I flew into the hair and even 'Oops a daisy'... yes, I actually heard myself saying that :). It felt like at any moment you were going to pull a ligament or twist an ankle, crazy stuff. Finally I made it to the bottom of the ravine and then we had to wade through a fast flowing freezing cold river ... which actually was great.

The summit
Earlier, when looking at the elevation map I thought the measurements were in feet but they were in metres, ouch! The first climb was tough and looking across the mountains I could see the second, except we had to descend the very steep wet trail (which I was now on) for about 2000 feet first, which meant coming back we had to climb this again (on the other side of the ravine) ...and then climb another 2000 feet up to the peak, so 4000 feet straight up! This took about an hour and a half of relentless climbing and was just plain hard. When we got two thirds up they had fixed ropes to the rocks so that we could haul ourselves up with our hands. Its mentally very draining despite the physical hardship. I always forget when running races in the Alps that this is a mountain range, with real mountains, it's serious stuff. Two things though kept me going, firstly this was great training for the Grand Canyon and second there was no choice as we were in the middle of nowhere - and I mean the middle of nowhere.
Done
            I hardly had time to notice the magnificent scenery because I just wanted to keep going and not fall. My breathing became quite laboured which I realised was due to the altitude but there is nothing you can do about that so you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and stay focused. Further up a race steward told me that the peak was just another 300 feet of climb, well I'm sorry but my French must be crap cos that was the longest 300 feet of my life, it seemed the summit would never come but, eventually it did and then we began the descent. I was pleased that I ran this really well despite the tiredness from the climbs. I also passed 6 or 7 people on the way down, which may not seem like a big deal, but these little victories keep you motivated.

  I arrived back in the centre of Valberg in 4 hours - 20 minutes and by the time I got to the finish line Sue was on her second carafe of wine ... and of course blamed me because I'd taken so long!
   We later chilled out in the sunshine in a beautiful Alpine restaurant on the edge of the village. I have to say the people were really friendly which made our little trip all the more enjoyable however after 2 hours of relaxing, my legs groaned and moaned as we got up to leave. I gave a slight wince as we walked to the car and Sue, on noticing this, just had to make a comment ...'Pussy.'

 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Health Junkie: THE 7 DAILY HABITS OF THE FIT AND HEALTHY

The Health Junkie: THE 7 DAILY HABITS OF THE FIT AND HEALTHY: As I spend 90% of my time either learning, teaching or advising on health matters I have often wondered in simple terms what the fit and he...

THE 7 DAILY HABITS OF THE FIT AND HEALTHY

As I spend 90% of my time either learning, coaching or advising on health and fitness, I have often wondered in simple terms what the fit and healthy have in common that everybody else doesn't. Yes I know they eat well and exercise but that's a big generalisation and though true it doesn't explain what they actually do everyday without thinking.
So what is a habit? According to the Oxford English dictionary a habit is;-  'A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.'
So these habits are done everyday without thinking, it's instinctive. Now if it's alcohol, smoking, cocaine or even worse then one can see how the power of habits can be to the detriment of your health ... and so healthy people use the same psychology but they use it to the benefit of their health.
       It's a lot easier to have habits than it is to force yourself to go to the gym or force yourself to refuse another glass of wine ... and so it's habits that we need to have in our everyday lives to make it easier to be healthy. I asked many fit and healthy people in researching this article to find out what they all had in common on a daily basis. What did they do without thinking? - a habit - and came up with these 7.

The Protein/Vegetable Breakfast Habit.

They all ate breakfast, hungry or not and they all knew how much protein they had for breakfast. I've heard the 'unhealthy' say this is too anal and obsessive but to healthy people its easy and takes about 5 seconds to calculate. They know what nutrients they consume every morning because they do it everyday, its just like brushing your teeth, its simple ... and takes no effort at all. If you educate
yourself with what is a healthy breakfast, how hard can it be, just eat it?

The Water Habit.

They all knew how much water (approx. 3 litres) they had per day. If you have a half litre jug, glass or bottle... or all three, then 6 of those in the day and your done. Again its easy if you think about it. I know I drink a litre in the morning before leaving the house with my various green drinks, probiotics , fish oils, etc, everyday. I always have another half litre at the cafĂ© with my coffee. So  I've already had half my daily quota before 9 am!  I don't think about it because its a habit.

The Supplements Habit.

Everyone could real off a list of daily supplements. The majority of these were the same too; Fish oil, Green drinks, Probiotics, Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamins ... and Whey protein, BCCA's and Glutamine in their workout shake. Again no effort required for them to tell me what they were.

The Exercise Habit.

This was interesting. Before I asked the question they would tell me how many days a week they exercised. It wasn't, 'let me think about it'. It was, '5 days a week' or 'every morning' or 'I do weights 3 times a week and sprints twice' or 'I run every other day and do weights twice a week'... or I cycle about 80k's per day' ... Amazing, because it was a routine habit and although the nature of the regime varied the amount of exercise per week was a known quantity to each person despite age or
gender.

The Shopping Habit.

This may surprise you ... and I don't mean they all go looking for the latest designer pair of shoes! They all eat clean 90% of the time but they do this by the way they shop. If you only ever buy healthy fruit and vegetables, fish and meat... and no Coke, packet foods, tinned crap, bread, pastries, biscuits or alcohol, then that's all you have in your house. They only have clean foods in their fridge so that's all they ever eat. They also plan ahead on journeys, knowing where to get the right food.         
Now I will admit the hard part is socialising because if you go to a restaurant or someone else's house for dinner then you are in their hands to a certain extent. So what do the fit and healthy do. They plan. I want to know what time we will eat and what food will be served. If its late, which is something I never do, I will eat before I go out and then I can select the healthy food options without pressure. Most healthy people do this and when it comes to alcohol we have water. I know many people think this is boring but for the record I find everyone who stands around drinking for an hour before dinner incredibly tiresome.

The Medicines Habit.

They don't take any. They never visit a chemist ... seriously. Fit and healthy people live a healthy lifestyle so why would they A) need to, or B) want to go to a pharmacy (or drug store). They may, due to some unforeseen problem have to, but they will go to any lengths to avoid it and usually they find they don't need anything and will get better without any drugs at all. Indeed as Voltaire said, The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease' and Deepak Chopra - 'We like to tell our patients that the body is the best pharmacy in the world and is capable of making wonder drugs.'  having the ability to heal itself if you feed and take care of it in the right way. Indeed this is how most placebo's work as the body believes its healing and so it does. I know some people who unfortunately live in the pharmacy believing drugs are the only answer to their problems ... they seem unaware that a healthy life style is the real answer.

The Attitude Habit.

They all believe that health and fitness is available to all and their entire focus is primarily the belief that health brings happiness. Literally hundreds of studies show that exercise relieves depression, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, Arthritis, Dementia, the list is endless. This belief is an habitual thought and it dominates every moment of their lives. It is not just a positive attitude, it is a fundamental principle and it is shared with their loved ones, friends and families. As a friend of mine always says to me when bidding me goodbye - 'Stay healthy.'

Now I know others may disagree or want to add to this list, so please comment below and finally try and adopt, if not all these habits, then at least some and ....'Stay healthy'

PS, One of my coaching friends, Richard, mentioned the 'Sleep Habit'. You have to get your 6-8 hours of quality sleep per night for all the other habits to work effectively.



 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Health Junkie: HOW TO EAT.... AND NOT GET FAT.

The Health Junkie: HOW TO EAT.... AND NOT GET FAT.:     It has occurred to me recently that the reason why so many people are overweight is because either they don't mind being overweight...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Health Junkie: TBA RACE REPORT ... TOO HOT TO HANDLE!

The Health Junkie: TBA RACE REPORT ... TOO HOT TO HANDLE!: I decided to sign up for this event only 2 weeks ago. I was going to use it as just a simple training run for my Grand Canyon Rim to Rim la...

TBA RACE REPORT ... TOO HOT TO HANDLE!


I decided to sign up for this event only 2 weeks ago. I was going to use it as just a simple training run for my Grand Canyon Rim to Rim later this year but of course you get caught up in all the atmosphere and 'Bang' the starter 's gun goes off and suddenly you are in a race. It was hot as it started late at 2pm, they said it was about 78 degrees but it felt a lot hotter than that.
          I'd forgotten what a mad scramble it is out of La Napoule. There were over 550 runners and within 5 minutes we hit a bottleneck as we squeezed onto a trail about 2 feet across surrounded by thick very prickly trees. It was mayhem. This was not my idea of a training run.
        After about 15 minutes, as we started the first of many climbs, it thinned out but it was so hot. 


At the top of the first climb
I hadn't run in heat in a long time and the first climb of about 2000 feet was brutal. I found it very hard going, a climb like that would normally take me an hour but today it took about an hour and a half. It was a tough. The climb out of the Grand Canyon last month was easier and much further. Everyone kept saying the same thing, 'c'est dur' (its hard) and 'c'est chaud' (its hot) .... riveting conversation I know.
        The next downhill section is very technical (rocky; slippy shale and stone, tree roots and steep) I did surprisingly well considering, I think I was just relieved not to be climbing anymore.
Then we came to the only Aid station on the 26k course. All they had was water and Coca cola and that was it. My American friends would have sued the management ! I had planned to go the whole way with my 2 litre Camelback and half litre side bottle instead I had to refill everything after only an hour and a half. There was no food, now this is not uncommon in France and I was carrying all my own stuff but still I think they could have done more. Normally I am full of praise for Aid station volunteers but the guy who helped me was rather belligerent (a bit like your average French waiter) it was very odd. Compared to the Aid stations in California it was like being on another planet.
I am sorry if I sound over critical but I saw many runners who had stopped, due to the effects of the heat, and I think organisers have a responsibility to factor these things in.
  Next I hit a flat runnable bit which I know well and I was determined to overtake a few people, which I did, but then paid for it on the next climb. At this point I began searching for my S-caps and I just couldn't find them, this went on the whole race. The one time I really needed them in this heat and I'd lost them. Later when I started cramping I tried not to panic but it was really frustrating. (When I got home they were in a pocket that I had searched maybe 10 times during the race ...grrr!)

My Cascadia 8's didn't survive
         The next 2k climb of about 1000 feet was very painful and slow ... and this time nobody spoke.

   I was relieved to get to the top, only to find out 5 minutes later that it wasn't the top; this was some training run. There were 2 descents and 2 more smaller climbs to go so I hit the descents hard and was really pleased that I kept my form and fortunately passed quite a few runners. I decided that although I was feeling tired due to the heat there was no reason why I shouldn't just 'man up' and run fast. I really think all the Tempo training I've been doing helped here as I knew how to run faster despite being tired, I just had to close my brain off and go.

       I'd used up 3 Isostar gels, 1 Shot blocks, 2 Gu gels, one Cliff Barr, 2 electrolyte drink powders, 2 gel shots and by the end, 5 litres of water ... now that's a lot of food and water for a race of this length.  As a comparison my Grand Canyon recce run took 3 hours - 15 minutes and only used a 1 litre of water and 2 gels.
       On the last 2k stretch I passed a few more weary souls and kept up a good pace. With 1k to go there were 5 people just behind me and 3 in front. I was determined not to be passed; and then suddenly a light went on and I changed my state. I decide that I was going to pass the 3 in front and ignore those behind and it worked. I was suffering but I knew they were too and literally on the finish line I passed the last guy. This, in the greater scheme of things is not important but it just shows you what you can do, no matter how tired you are, if you are motivated.
        My overall time was 4 hours and 15 minutes; Studies have shown that performance can drop by as much as 15% on very hot days and especially over the elevation and terrain that I was running. Dr Tim Noakes has done extensive research on the Central Governor Model which suggests that your brain will make changes to your running as a defence mechanism long before you actually reach a point of dangerous fatigue or succumb to heat exhaustion.
In hot weather, this translates to feeling fatigued early as your body is actively adjusting your pace when it starts to overheat or the threat of overheating presents itself. Your muscles are actually nowhere near their true point of fatigue, but you are given the sensation as if they are so as to slow your pace down. I reckon on a cooler day it would have been nearer 3 and half hours but there you go. The total elevation climb was only about 3500 feet but the heat saps your strength and is just plain difficult, nevertheless it was a worthwhile experience as a 'heat' training run ....
 The next day it was, rather annoyingly, 10 degrees cooler and overcast ... that's life.
       Please click on the link below for a quick video of my run.
   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swg-KJcPbKM&list=UUurzr-e4gafT5eTJ141Qz7Q


 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Health Junkie: INSANITY ?

The Health Junkie: INSANITY ?

HOW TO EAT.... AND NOT GET FAT.

    It has occurred to me recently that the reason why so many people are overweight is because either they don't mind being overweight ... or they don't believe they are; either way it's still denial - ( not the river in Egypt). Look in the mirror, this isn't about your inner beauty, this is about your health.
     Everyone wants to eat the things they shouldn't, it's normal. Even the most disciplined focused individuals still like chips or pizza or cookies. I find that for those who are trying to lose weight or wish too, seem to assume that the healthy, fit individuals are different to them and do not have the same desires or weaknesses as them. We've all heard the line before ... 'Its easy for you to eat well/ to exercise everyday/ to not drink/to run up mountains/ to avoid croissants' etc etc. ... NO IT ISN'T.
Its just as hard for those who are in great shape as it is for everyone else. Where does this idea spring from that fit, lean, healthy people are blessed with superhuman powers of discipline and control, they are not.
     So firstly - Are you fat? Yes, dear reader, I mean you, are you happy with the way you look and feel? If the answer is 'Yes' then good for you and have a nice day.
If the answer is 'No', then what do you do? Well we don't start by assuming its easy for everyone else and much harder for you because we have now established that this isn't the case, so no excuses there, it's hard for everyone.
    I am about 7.9% Body fat ... do I like chocolate? yep, do I like chips? yep, ice cream? yep, pizza? yep , do I feel like exercising on a cold, wet day? nope. I think you get the message.
Some nutritionists advocate changing one thing at a time and then slowly moving on to the next  and then slowly bit by bit you begin to change your bad habits for good ones. This sounds reasonable and entirely plausible but I'm not sure it works all the time or with everyone. Most of my clients, once they start to eat correctly and exercise regularly want change as soon as possible, not 9 months down the road.
   I believe in changing quite a few things immediately to get you kick started on the road to a better body composition. I personally feel that most people are perfectly capable of making quite a few adjustments to their diet and exercise regimes.
 Whether you are a Vegan, Paleo, Vegetarian juicer or a grass fed meat eating new age free range tree hugging hippy; one thing is universally acknowledge by all - Processed food is bad and natural unprocessed food is good. And so this is your start point.
But what does it mean?
Simply put, if you can kill it, pluck it, grow it, milk it, gather it, pick it or fish it then its good and if it comes in a packet, a box or a can then its bad. The least amount of processes involved to get it from the land or sea to your mouth is what we are after.
  I was talking to someone today who is overweight and she just could not believe that she could eat more than she does right now and lose body fat, increase lean muscle mass, drop several dress sizes and completely change her figure. Lean healthy eating does not mean dieting, eating less and nibbling on a stick of celery all day. Balance is key but I'm afraid too many people are very imbalanced when it come to food choices. If you eat a super clean diet all week and then binge drink alcohol at the weekends then you are wasting your time because you just cancelled out all your gains... sorry, its just the way it is, no point dressing it up to make you feel good.
If you go for a one hour jog and then eat a pastry, then you just consumed more than you just burnt off.
      You can eat a plethora of foods but you need discipline when it comes to the naughty stuff. I'm not saying don't eat something naughty now and again, just don't do it all the time. If 95% of what you eat is healthy and nutritious then you can afford to cheat once a week, (just for one meal only, not all day).

 The good and the bad
    I find it inconceivable that people don't know what is good and bad but for the record here's some obvious ones :-
Coca cola and other sodas, fruit juices and smoothies, alcohol, are all No's.
Pizza, fries, pasta, puddings, pastries, bread, waffles, biscuits, crisps, ice cream, syrup, are all No's.
Vegetables, beans, salad, green drinks, fish oil, nuts (a few), are all Yes's.
For the Non Vegans, meat, poultry, fish are all Yes's.
Then there are the maybe's, a little fruit, some potatoes eg sweet potatoes, quinoa, a little brown rice, oats (a little), some 80% dark chocolate, half a Greek yoghurt.
Different countries recommend different portions of fruit and veg a day. Personally I agree with the Aussie's - 5 veg and 2 fruit per day minimum. If you aim for this quota  then you can't go too far wrong but really it isn't rocket science, common sense should tell you what's right and wrong, although I believe it was Voltaire who said 'the only problem with common sense is that its not that common'.

   Read food labels
 Trying to avoid excess sugar is another big NO, the difficulty here is that the food industry is very sneaky and they hide it by not calling it sugar. If something says 'low sugar' or 'low fat' or 'diet anything' then I guarantee its really bad because you are being duped.
If it has 'ose' on the end such as sucrose, dextrose, fructose, glucose ...its sugar or if it says modified starch or modified maze or modified anything that's sugar too and usually a lot of other things that you don't want in your body. 'Modified' is a word used to hide dodgy ingredients.
This is why most nutritionists keep it simple by saying 'don't eat processed food' that way its harder to get caught out.
And a point about anyone giving advice on nutrition... A famous health guru once said 'If the person who is lecturing you does not look good in their underwear, ignore them'. If this sounds a little weird, think about it.
A final point about carbs, they are not the Devil and eating them won't kill you in fact we all need carbohydrates to survive its just that the overweight brigade eat an awful lot of the wrong ones. Spending a little time educating ourselves on healthy food choices will prove hugely worthwhile.

  Exercise - a note of caution
   I'm sure you all know this by now but just in case you've missed some of my blogs. I just did a 2 hour trail run of 16 k's climbing and descending about 3000 feet over very nasty, rocky ground.  I ate only one gel and afterwards because I needed some replacement food quick, and was in the middle of nowhere, had a chocolate milk, (and even though this is not the ideal post endurance food it does have a good balance of carbs, fat and protein).
Did I lose any weight? nope. Even though the gel and chocolate milk helped to replenish my glycogen stores, they were the same calories in total that I had just used up on my 2 hour run. Exercise will not burn anywhere close to what you eat ... only by eating correctly will you lose fat.

  


 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Health Junkie: A SUPRISE RESULT

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Monday, March 3, 2014

The Health Junkie: TIM FERRISS versus TRADITIONAL

The Health Junkie: TIM FERRISS versus TRADITIONAL: Its nearly 3 weeks  since I finished the UTBA.......seems like years ago. The Cannes Film Festival is in full swing but don't worry I ha...

The Health Junkie: TIM FERRISS versus TRADITIONAL

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The Health Junkie: UTBA 53K .....THE 'IMPOSSIBLE' RACE REPORT.

The Health Junkie: UTBA 53K .....THE 'IMPOSSIBLE' RACE REPORT.: Nearly 12 months of beautiful weather...........but not today. I went to bed on what felt like a warm summers evening and awoke to a tropica...

The Health Junkie: WAY TO COOL 50K....RACE REPORT

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The Health Junkie: DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN......RACE REPORT

The Health Junkie: DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN......RACE REPORT:   Well  having just spent the past week 'taking it easy' to see how I would feel, I can honestly say it seems to have worked; so mu...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Health Junkie: RUNNING THE GRAND CANYON

The Health Junkie: RUNNING THE GRAND CANYON: Sue took this about 30 mins after I left As most of you know I intend to run the R2R (Grand Canyon North Rim to South Rim) in October. ...

RUNNING THE GRAND CANYON

Sue took this about 30 mins after I left
As most of you know I intend to run the R2R (Grand Canyon North Rim to South Rim) in October. The goal is simple however the preparation and planning is a little more complicated. The number
one way to train for something like this is to run on equivalent terrain or what is known as specifity training. The obvious flaw in this particular statement is that there is only one Grand Canyon and finding an equivalent training ground is virtually impossible. Therefore as I live in Europe I had only one option which was go to the Big GC and do a practice run there ... and that is exactly what I did.

6:30 am
Sue and I spent a few days in Monument Valley in Utah, another fabulous, mystical place, before going on to the Grand Canyon in Colorado. For those who have never been it is impossible to describe, it is quite simply 'Awesome' and I mean that in the truest sense of the word.
I decided that I would run down to Indian Gardens and back. This is about 2/3rds down from the South Rim and a steep gradient of 3500 feet. There and back its about 17k. The trail guides say this should take between 6-9 hours ... but I was going to run it of course. I thought this would be a good initial test to see what is involved, the R2R is 2.5 times longer and about twice the elevation.
        I didn't sleep well the night before probably due to jet lag and nervous anticipation. There are so many warnings about entering the Canyon and even a book called 'Death in the Canyon' (which to date has recorded over 700 deaths) and so by the time I was ready to go I was absolutely terrified!
I had breakfast at 5:30 am at the Lodge (this is America folks) and just before sunrise I set off into the unknown. It was very cold with ice and snow on the trail making it a little tricky. I really didn't know
The trail
what to expect because it is so unique so I just ran it my normal way. I did prepare as if it was an ultra and took 2.5 litres of water, gels and all the usual stuff that I would take on the R2R itself. As I always say to my clients you should train for an event exactly as you would do it on the day.
       Its very, very steep but the trail was wide enough not too panic too much about going over the edge so I went quite fast ... and of course within 15 minutes my face was in the dirt. I hit a rock, fell and cracked my knee open, not a good start. It was very bloody but otherwise okay and for the rest of the day hikers would comment on it and ask if I was alright. I would of course shrug and act as if it was just a scratch. I didn't slow down after this I just focused more. About half way down I began to get a little concerned about how tough it would be coming back up but pressed on marvelling at all
the beauty around me. It is breath-taking as you descend through millions of years of erosion resulting in giant, vividly coloured rock faces. It makes you feel very small and insignificant, 'We are stardust', I thought to myself.

Awesome
       I zipped along the switchbacks and as I passed 3 female hikers, one shouted out; 'You sure know how to intimidate a girl!' I laughed and continued down whilst trying not to get too over-confident (which apparently I am prone to do). I could now see Indian Gardens way in the distance on the valley floor below and though it looked really close, it wasn't. This is also something that happens in the canyon, its very deceptive. As my quads ached a little at this point, understandable as they weren't used to this sort of treatment and constant pounding, I eased back. I drank and ate as I would do for any long event, as I hadn't carb loaded (because carb loading is bullshit), trust me. I passed a few hikers coming back up and soon I could here voices, which was weird as I thought I was in the middle of nowhere but I actually I had arrived at Indian Gardens which is an extremely basic campground with about 20 trees for shade and more importantly a water tap. There were a few tents and people were slowly waking up and chatting about there adventures, it was quite surreal and very rock and roll. At this point I stripped of my woolly hat and two layers of clothing, filled up my bottles and got ready for the big climb back to the top, it looked somewhat daunting; 3500 feet straight up!
I'd gone from freezing to quite warm, even though it was only February but they do warn you about this. It was only a few more k's to the river and though tempted I kept my discipline as I had never climbed out of the Grand Canyon before and figured I should respect its magnitude.
I took off really quick though as the first few yards are easier and flatter; consequently I nearly ran straight into a wild deer - scared the hell out of me.
Mule train
I used my poles to power hike and then ran when I could. Within half an hour I passed the hikers I'd seen earlier who were going back up. This filled me with confidence as one shouted 'Tell me you haven't just gone to the Gardens and back?' ... 'Yep', I replied with feigned nonchalance. I have to say I felt very strong and really kept up a good pace which surprised me as I have had quite a few injuries of late and was worried about a relapse. After about half an hour I encountered a mule train coming down and so I stood to one side to let it pass (Canyon etiquette). The lead rider shouted 'Howdy, have a great day'. Brilliant, I was loving this and tough as it was I just kept powering onwards and upwards, it is relentless but you just stay focused and keep going. I just felt very grateful the whole time, it is a stunning place. Within about 500 feet from the top I started to tire a little and my thoughts floated off to how I might feel in October after maybe 7 or 8 hours of this. As I reached the trail head on the South rim the sun suddenly hit me as fortunately I had been in shade nearly whole way up, I felt fantastic. The guides say 6-9 hours, I had done it in 3.5 hours including my change around at the bottom.  I looked back across the canyon to the North Rim ... roll on October.

    Technical facts

Distance - 17 k, Elevation - 3500 feet, Water consumption only 1.5 litres including electrolytes, 2 gels, 1 shot blocks, 3 S-caps(not really necessary), 1 cliff bar. My gear was 2 running vests plus a cold weather running top, woolly hat, neckerchief, gloves, camel back, side bottle, telescopic poles, rolled up rain top, compression socks, Cascadia 8's shoes, phone (didn't work- no signal), torch, whistle.

Done
 Final thoughts

I could easily have run a lot further though I doubt faster, my quads and hamstrings ached a bit but the big surprise was that I ached in my hip flexors which I don't normally get; guess I have to stretch even more than I do already. The weather, though cold, was perfect. I realise that the compounding effects of going Rim to Rim will require me to be in superb shape and I will need to run a lot more severe gradients in training. The biggest danger I can see is that if you twist or break something you are in deep trouble. My friend Gemma asked me if I'd figured out an exit strategy if something goes wrong ... apart from a $10,000 helicopter rescue I don't actually have an answer. This is what makes it so dangerous, there is very little room for error if you want to run it in one go. It was an invaluable experience and I learned a lot, preparation is everything and come October I will be ready.


Monday, February 10, 2014

The Health Junkie: THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF SHEDDING FAT FAST

The Health Junkie: THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF SHEDDING FAT FAST: Last week I touched on the ambiguities of  ultra running and made the contentious point that as a sport it's not particularly healthy, ...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Health Junkie: KINDLE EDITION OF MY BOOK NOW AVAILBLE

The Health Junkie: KINDLE EDITION OF MY BOOK NOW AVAILBLE: For those who don't read hardback the Kindle edition of my book .. 'LAST TRAIN TO ST TROPEZ' is now available.  Just click on t...

KINDLE EDITION OF MY BOOK NOW AVAILBLE

For those who don't read hardback the Kindle edition of my book .. 'LAST TRAIN TO ST TROPEZ' is now available.  Just click on the link - Enjoy :)

       http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I51HEFA


 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF SHEDDING FAT FAST

Last week I touched on the ambiguities of  ultra running and made the contentious point that as a sport it's not particularly healthy, though you need to be super fit to do it. I received quite a few emails asking me to explain in more detail what I meant by this. Now obviously it's a lot healthier than sitting at home by the TV eating pizza and chips but all things are relative.
  So to be fit, lean and healthy what sport do you do? There are a myriad of choices and obviously it helps to choose the one you love the most; however, for this article let us consider what the average person assumes is a 'runnable' distance and an effective 'doable' speed when it comes to running for fun and running for fat loss.
Apparently Usain Bolt has never run more than a mile, ever, whereas Killian Jornet considers a 4 hour trail run, whilst climbing 3000 feet, a short morning jog. Now these guys are specialists and at the elite of there sport and we are all free to make whatever choice we want but if we want to be lean, healthy and fit, what do we do?
   I had a client who couldn't run 50 yards without feeling sick and nauseous. He had to stop and walk after just a few seconds, he was clearly not fit or healthy but he wanted to be. He was also nearly 50% body fat and had been diagnosed as clinically obese. If we take, (let's call him Dave) as the most extreme example, what can running do for him, in fact what did running do for him?

   In the USA more people are exercising and specifically running than ever before and yet obesity levels are rising at an alarming rate and the UK is not far behind. I just read today that nearly 70% of the UK population are overweight or obese. Why? Well the answer is simple - Too many people are eating too much of the wrong food.  Remember that nutrition is the key and no amount of running is going to make you slim if you eat poorly ... and unfortunately a great many people eat poorly. To put it bluntly if you think you eat a healthy diet but are overweight, you don't.
   However let us assume for the moment that you are aware of healthy, clean nutrition and you practice it everyday; what is the best exercise you can do, from a running perspective, to help you to achieve your goal?
    Below is a list of the good and the bad of long distance running, anything from a half marathon to a 100 mile ultra mountain marathon.


Long slow distance running (Me)
Positives

1) Increase in cardiovascular health.
2) Decrease in resting heart rate. Fitter due to aerobic conditioning.
3) Improves emotional well being and mood.
4) Release of negative energy due to endorphin release.
5) Teaches the body to burn a limited amount of fat for energy enabling you to run longer.
6) Flushes out harmful toxins.
7) Full body workout.
8) For beginners in the first few months, you burn fat.
9) Strengthens the heart, bone density and muscles.
10) Running in nature.
11) Increase endurance capacity.
12) Mental strength.


Negatives

1) Repeated extreme exercise or long-distance racing can cause a build up of scar tissue on the heart which can lead to the development of patchy myocardial fibrosis in up to 12% of marathon runners. The effects of “chronic exercise” can also include premature aging of the heart, stiffening of the heart muscles, and an increase in arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation. However to put this in perspective an article in the New England Journal noted that of 11 million participants in marathons and half marathons across the USA in a 10 year study only 59 runners suffered a cardiac arrest. That's one death in 260,000 runners and half the death rate in non runners, and less than swimming. Basically the main danger is for endurance athletes who run over many years.
2) Many hours of training can have a negative effect on other commitments.
3) Risk of overtraining and therefore injury.
4)The best health outcomes are actually found far below the exercise levels of even casual endurance athletes. A 15-year observational study of 52,000 adults found that the highest degree of survival and health was found from running less than 20 miles per week, in runs of 30 to 45 minutes over three or four days, at about an 8 to10 k per hour pace. The benefits decrease at amounts greater than that.
5) Catabolism of lean muscle mass, if not adequately supplemented.
6) Build up of free radicals.
7) Increased cortisol due to stress of running long distances and as a result an increase in fat.
8) Boredom.

Yes there are obvious contradictions but nevertheless these are the facts. Now lets look at running short distances. Anything from 40 metres to 800 metres.
Sprint training and body conditioning in torrential rain (no excuses)

Positives

1) Improved body composition ( compare a sprinters body to a marathon runners body)
2) Shorter training times (Can be as little as 4 minutes, though normal training time is 20/30 minutes)
3) Can be done anywhere.
4) The number one exercise for fat loss due to EPOC.
5) Increase in Human Growth hormone (slows down ageing process).
6) Feeling energised (due to endorphin release).
7) Less chance of  repetitive stress injury.
8) Healthy cortisol release.
9) Increases lean muscle mass.
10) Increased fitness and health.
11) Easier to practice good running form.
12) Increase in endurance capacity.
13) Reduces blood pressure.
14) Improves mental health lowering the incidence of depression.

Negatives

1) Possible injury in untrained runners.
2) Perceived difficulty i.e. Mentally harder.

Now there are overlaps of positives for all cardio training, as you would expect but the negatives are clearly minor in sprinting and the positives are obvious; strange then that most people choose to do long slow jogging. The reason must be because it is perceived to be 'easier'. If your goal is fat loss and improved body composition but you prefer to jog then my advice would be to go for a run and then do interval sprinting during your run, say 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow x 8 and then continue on with your jog, at least this way you get the best of both worlds.

And what of Dave who couldn't run at all? As I mentioned in a previous blog he lost 17 kilos and 18% body fat and gained 6 kilos of lean muscle mass in 12 weeks and can now run 100 metres in 15.6 secs and 400 metres in 1 min - 29 secs. He did weight/resistance training 2 times per week and sprint training 3 times per week (and ate clean 80% of the time). In 3 months he never did one long slow jog and never ran more than 800 metres .......... and that is how you shed fat fast ... and, in a balanced, healthy, effective way.