Tuesday 13 May 2014

Using things as other things

I'm nothing if not resourceful, and particularly like to get my money's worth from things. I'm stingy to a fault so will use things until they break, and have to rely on my wife to tell me when the holes in my shorts are getting a little too indecent. I'm especially happy when I can squeeze out extra use from some of the bits and pieces that I have hanging around in my box of random running crap, particularly when it's far and away from the initial usage intended by the manufacturer. So here are 5 things that I find incredibly useful when I run, but whose use was never the intended purpose:

1: Golf balls are great for injuries
This one isn't a particularly novel one, and I'm sure that we all do this regularly. Golf balls are handy little buggers for getting into those hard to reach areas for a bit of self-massage (ooh er missus). In particular, they work well at getting stuck into the hard-to-reach plantar fascia inside your arch when it's tight, but can also serve as a surprisingly brutal alternative to foam rolling tough to reach tissue like your IT band. I haven't played golf in a while, but you can usually still find a couple of balls hanging around our house (although that might just mean that my shorts need replacing...).

2: Compeed makes a great nipple guard
If you're a runner, you've probably used Compeed before. It's like a puncture repair kit for runners, and can be slapped onto a hot spot or blister to offer a bit of protection when you've still got miles left to go. They're pretty darn sticky, and I've ended up with the damn things stuck to my foot for weeks after an event before (if you've stuck it over a popped blister, I recommended getting it off as soon as you're done, otherwise the smell when you finally do take it off can be a little pungent). I don't often get blisters these days (see number 3), but still keep them on standby for emergencies. Plus I have found an alternative use for them.

Their incredible stickiness lends themselves perfectly to covering my nipples on long runs. I've never had bleeding nipples from running (although I have come close before), but it certainly doesn't look like a barrel of laughs. The problem that I have is that under my running gear I am basically a slightly less groomed version of Chewbacca. Hairy nipples (if ever there was an argument against intelligent design, it was nipple hair...) do not lend themselves particularly well to the bonding of moderately adhesive things like plasters. However, the iron-like grip of Compeed can deal with even the most bouffant of chest wigs, and will easily last me over a 100 mile race. And the following week or so. I get funny looks at the swimming pool.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Sigh. Is marathon running bad for your blah blah blah

I had originally decided that I couldn't be arsed posting this, but I saw a recent post in Outside magazine titled The Runner's Ticking Time: Why Runner's Need to Pay More Attention to Their Hearts which got my ire up again. Ignoring for a start the fact that one of the expert opinions that they quote is a registered dietician "who appears regularly on Good Morning America" (although at least dieticians are actually accredited, unlike nutritionists), the article is about the apparently high levels of heart attacks due to coronary artery disease that are seen in marathon runners. They even quote a paper from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which says that "one in 50,000 will experience a heart attack from coronary artery disease during a marathon". Scary. Except that they miss out the kind of crucial (I think anyway) point that this is an incredibly small risk as compared to that of the general population. Here is the conclusion from the abstract in full:
Although highly trained athletes such as marathon runners may harbor underlying and potentially lethal cardiovascular disease, the risk for sudden cardiac death associated with such intense physical effort was exceedingly small (1 in 50,000) and as little as 1/100th of the annual overall risk associated with living, either with or without heart disease. The low risk for sudden death identified in long-distance runners from the general population suggests that routine screening for cardiovascular disease in such athletic populations may not be justifiable.

Thursday 1 May 2014

It's GU to TORQ

Nutrition is a pretty important part of ultra-running. Whilst you can get used to running without eating too much by becoming a more efficient fat burner, for races and for optimum performance you really need to stoke the fire as you go. In my training I tend to rely on fat-burning, largely because gels are frigging expensive, and I'm too cheap to buy them if I can help it. So I very rarely eat anything on my runs, even on my long (25-30ish miles) ones.

But even the most efficient fat-burner still needs carbs to function - "fat burns in a carbohydrate fire" I believe is the cliché that is bandied around. For this reason, I tend to use gels when I race, and will often make my way through a 100 miler predominantly on these, with the odd bit of fruit thrown in at the aid stations. I don't go too nuts; for instance I probably had 5 gels in 8 hours at the recent SDW50 - so about 1 every hour and a half. This works out fine for me, and gives me the energy I need to keep going, without causing major stomach-related issues or borderline diabetes.

Below is a little review of the two main brand of gels that I use - TORQ and GU. I don't really know the ins and outs of physiology and metabolism (I believe that the head-bone is connected to the arm-bone?), so I won't go too much into the "sciencey" side of things. The main thing that I care about is how they taste and how easy they are to eat while running. It's simply a way of getting energy into my face at the end of the day. Beyond that, I don't notice a huge difference between them; I know what I like and what works for me after a few years of trying various things out and failing miserably every now and then. I'll pretty much eat anything I'm given, but these are the ones that I will go for if given the choice.