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.