Sunday, November 8, 2015

Knee Injury? Read this

Some useful excerpts:

High arches and low ones. Bow legs and knock knees. Too little strengthening. Too little stretching. Too many miles. Too many hills. And those are just the major culprits. 

The best way to protect your knees is with daily stretching and strengthening exercises, and the easiest way to stick to your daily program is to do the exercises at home without any special equipment. Here we show the two best, simplest home exercises to keep your knees in top shape.
ITB Stretch
Stand with one leg in front of and crossed over the other leg. Exhale, and bend your body to the same side as your front leg. Hold for a count of 20, straighten up, then repeat the bend nine more times. Reverse leg positions, and repeat 10 times in the other direction.

Quadriceps Strengthener
With your feet side-by-side, extend both arms forward, and slowly lower yourself into a half-squat, stopping before your legs are parallel to the ground. Keep your back straight. Repeat 20 times.
Adapted from The Knee Crisis Handbook,
--Brian Halpern, M.D. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Compressport Trail Running Shorts - Product Review

OK straight up. I wear these without underwear.

I mean I tried them with, of course. But it was just uncomfortable like hell for my jewels I had to go commando.. anyway more on fitting later! :P

So the above is what Compressport is selling on their product description. I'm generally happy with the compression I'm getting (a quality product no doubt) & as always I'll just focus on the things I feel can be improved:

Silicon Grip (3d grip) - to be honest they don't work as intended for me.. in case you've not seen the shorts up close this is 9cm of rather flappy waist band material that has some silicon grip on them meant to go round your belly area & 'keep your back & body straight'... unfortunately I'm just your average joe trail runner & have a bit of gut + love-handles that essentially overpowers this flappy band & they end up rolled down after about 500m into any run.. (sad I know!) - check out the pic below.. I have shamelessly circled out my love handles popping out.. :D

I would recommend for Compressport to consider making this band with thicker material that will hold its shape a bit better. And I really don't feel it has helped kept my back & body straight? Its too soft to provide any form of support to be honest...

See how sad I look.. 
Close-up of thin flappy waist band material

Close-up of the seam that joins the flappy waist band to the rest of shorts..
thanks to my waistline I do feel these seams & I always put lubricant to ensure no chafing takes place 

Powerclimb Silincongrip - ie. the silicon rings that helps sweaty hands grip better during power-climbs.. works a treat but I would say it would be ideal if there was more of these in the mid-section of the quads + more to the side as well  per picture below.. I find that when I power-hike I'm pushing more in the mid-section of the quad (maybe I have short arms) & during occassions where I do end-up pushing closer to the knees (eg. steeper climbs) my fingers would be wrapping around the sides as well.. not just on top of knees

More rings on the mid-section + sides would be ideal for me.. 

Referencing Emelie as my model..

Flat-Lock Seams - just a quick comment on the seams.. these 'solid & discreet' seams are marketed to 'avoid any chafing', my advice is still to put plenty of lubricant at chafe hotspots regardless.. that's all. But to be fair I only do feel the top seams joining up the waist-band thanks to my waistline, nothing else.

Fitting - you do need to pull these things up & tuck them into corners of your hip, butt & quads.. especially if you've got quite a big butt like me. The shorts do tend to drop a little bit when I start running & the edges run into my knees.. but after a few good tugs (careful not to rip them) they do tend to settle in & you're on the home-run. I do wear them commando style mainly because the compression is extremely good & adding on another layer of cloth ie undies, it does feel very uncomfortable for my jewels & also it helps keep that sensitive region well-ventilated at all times! ie. less chafing. It does come down to the particular shape of your anatomy vs the compression curves of the trail shorts.. so you'll need to buy & try & see how it works best for your particular shape.

If you're shy & worried about too much groin popping out, the material around the groin region does seem thicker than lets say the Compressport trail underwear's... besides you can always wear your bib over it or like me, ensure your top provides sufficient cover!

What I do love - & i'm pretty sure you will too, the compression of course (especially tight on the front quads), thermo-regulation/wicking ability & it is ultralight... running long distance there's nothing more pleasant than running light & naked... these shorts will help achieve that for sure :D

Hope this review helps! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Buffalo Stampede 2015 - Gored, Gutted.. & Survived

Bring it on, you Buffalo! Photo credit: Aurora Images

I feel all the good vibes again looking at this picture :) Positivity, pride, happiness, and a real sense of achievement... I'm extremely glad I could relinquish the demons from last year (though to be honest its long faded ~ its not like I have nightmares every night!) & just make good a promise I made to myself a year ago.

There is also a little glimpse into the possibilities as well.. the body & mind was actually feeling extremely good towards the end ~ I felt like I could have gone beyond the 75k and take on even more if it had to! (Or maybe I was just ridiculously over caffeinated!)

I also got to know my gut a bit better - that it is a sensitive beast.. and it will turn into the incredible hulk regardless after 50k!! And it's great I also know what it needs to calm back down..

Mentally I was fully ready to complete the Stampede. I made up my mind very early on that unless I was physically broken, I would wrap it up one way or another. I was a bit apprehensive in the last few weeks before Buffalo because my training was less than ideal, but other than that it was as if the 75k was already completed in the head, and the physical body simply needed to catch up!

What made it even easier was having the great company of like-minded folks (Jamie, Gavin & Grace) for the final 25k. Gavin told me he was going to finish even if it took him longer than 17 hours, Jamie was suffering big time with gut & feet issues (that made my last year's suffering laughable) decided he just wanted to finish (he came all the way from Sydney!).. and Grace, who was just after some company to tackle the darkness was steady & strong which helped.. four of us got together at Bucklands aid station & were happy to complete the run together.

On hindsight, having their company was actually fantastic not only because we could look out for each other tackling the steep hills in the dark, we could bounce off words of encouragement & do fist pumps & crack jokes & share salt-tablets etc.. naturally we can't always plan to have company to help get through the tough bits in an ultra (& even if you do get company who's to say they will be good/positive company?? they may turn into werewolves!!) - but just saying there's no harm embracing it because the company WILL help.

OK let me get down & dirty into it section by section:

Race prep

Wasn't the most ideal preparation but decided I would make up with rest with sheer will power! I was happy with the amount of hill-climbs I've done, but not too happy with the endurance training..

Working against last year's lessons - I learnt how to tape my entire feet properly to avoid blisters (for me a game changer), single layer top for temp regulation, and stuck with the good fitting & soft-soled Karrimor shoes.. not the ideal shoes in terms of quality but as long as it was fit for race-day it'll have to do. Last few days before Buffalo I felt very relaxed & slept well - which always helps.

General race plan

Use last year's timings as a guide, take it easier on first 2 climbs, aim for first 52k & then keep moving! Minimal solid foods & get ready to tackle gut issue! Hug wife at aid stations! Finish the damn run within cut-off!

Pretty color-coordinated bunch aren't we? Grey, Blue, Red.. Photo credit: Aurora Images

Start - Mystic - Bakers Gully

The climb up to Mystic felt longer than last year's, the route also felt a bit different from memory (it seemed to snake in & out the direct fire-trail climb a bit more?).. the body was moving OK, however wasn't expecting to use as much energy as I did ~ made mental note to self to reserve bit more for the 1st climb to Mystic next time (if there's a next time). Bumped into Kevin at the top of Mystic & he confirmed the route is indeed different this year! Aha! I wasn't imagining things after all.. picked up some pace descending towards Mick's track.

Mick's track was more powdery & dry compared to last year's muckiness. So it felt easier for traction but required a fair amount of bum-sliding moments as well.

Mick's Track in its full glory

Clearspot - Eurobin (25k - 4h 06min)

Photo credit: Aurora Images
Didn't linger at BG & went straight to tackle the big bad Clearspot. Everyone was going up around the same pace & as expected, the climb was relentless but manageable. The legs (& poles) were ready for it.. no mental surprises.. made it up in one piece (didn't really check the time). All was good..

Didn't linger at Clearspot either & started the long descent to Bucklands. The view was not as spectacular as last year's so wasn't really distracted. Nearly rolled my ankle over a small rock & had to double-focus on the trail I was running on. Kept reminding myself to focus, because if there was one section where my ankle would buckle again, this would be it! Focus Bin Focus!!

Caught up with Gavin. Ran with him for a bit & then went ahead.. by the end of the long descent & into the roads towards Bucklands, the quads started to pinch just a wee bit.. signs of early cramps (that was quick!). Started sipping more tailwind to up the salt.. stay with me Quads!

The view as we approached Bucklands aid station is as breathtaking as I remembered it. Thought to myself this would be where I'd station if I was event photographer! Marched on gingerly on that thought..

Ain't she a beauty

High-fived all the kiddies, the wife & SCTR crazies as I approached the aid station, was truly great to see them!.. I was feeling great & didn't linger long at the aid station. Took in some chips & moved on. Mind was pretty set on getting to Eurobin at this stage..

Power hiked over Keating Ridge with a couple who were seasoned runners from Sydney. They were moving great but had concerns over cut-off & overall strategy being newbies.. shared as much as I could. Before long, we were trudging along the road towards Eurobin.. reach around the same time as last year (4:06)

Big Walk - Chalet (35k - 6h 42min)

2014 vs 2015
After a quick 5-7min, I was out of Eurobin. No solid food of course. I had taken in just more chips & salt tablet to prevent the cramps..tightness on the front quad was getting more apparent. Wondered whether it was due to compression trail shorts I was wearing which had particular squeeze on the front quads.. anyway couldn't possibly run without shorts so had to start the Big Walk climb regardless..

Did a big section of Big Walk with another runner Gareth (I think) - had a good chat about everything under the sun with him, which helped keep the mind distracted. A long slow trudge & I didn't push too hard as I'm mindful about pacing myself. Shortly after reaching the flatter part I broke away from Gareth.. the legs were happier on the flats & moved into Chalet feeling good.

Chalet - Galleries - Chalet (42k - 8h 16min)

The gut wasn't too happy with Tailwind during the climb.. and was slowly turning against powergels too. Changed Tailwind to Heed & needed to sip more water to calm the unhappy gut.

The wifey said to lose the poles going into the Galleries loop coz there was going to be rabbit holes to crawl through etc. I did so without hesitating.. a mistake upon hindsight, this is a difficult 7k & there were still several ups & downs that needed tackling.. had to just put hand on quads & push.

Rabbit hole.. nice & cooling
As expected, 7k took me 1.5 hours to complete.. bumped into the Siqi & Anthony and had brief exchanges.. Siqi didn't look too flush (cramps) but Anthony was looking fresh ("but I feel so tireeeed").

The rabbit hole was a nice change. I was alone this time (last year there was a queue!) & the rocks were nice & cool it was tempting to just sit there & relax.

As soon as I cleared the 2nd rabbit hole, congratulated myself for that's the half-way mark! Yippee!

Pulling into Chalet, cowbells were music to the ears, (I think) Gareth came to cheer me on but couldn't recognise him.. I believe he had decided to pull out & had changed out of his running gear.. oh well, cheers buddy!

Hugged wife, took pictures, stretched quads, took on-board more Heed, more water and many more salt tablets.. I knew these were going be the 3x crucial ingredients for the rest of the journey. Left Chalet on a high & forgot poles.

Big Walk - Eurobin (52k - 9h 56min) 

Photo Credit: Wife
Messaged wife "Poles Eurobin" shortly after leaving Chalet - thank goodness it was downhill for next 10k. Didn't go thrashing the quads like last year as on a few occasions they were threatening to cramp. Had to go easy.. 1 or 2 runners overtook me. Energy level waning. Pretty much a lonely section. Pulled in at around same time as last year.

Decided to spend a bit more time at aid station to get things right before setting off. Changed top, changed head-wear, Heed, many more salt tablets, water, ate some fruits, chips, grabbed POLES.

Saw few more runners pull in inc Vanessa & everyone looking/feeling positive on finishing within cut-off. "Its only 25k, how many 25ks have you done?" Vanessa's words of wisdom as she left the aid station.. pretty much a 'just keep moving' plan from this point onwards.

7 hours for 25k - sounds ridiculously generous. But was it really?

Eurobin - Bucklands (61k - 11h 47min)

Shortly after starting the climb up Keating Ridge, new friend Jamie caught up with me.. he was looking in fine power-hiking form. I was surprised when he suggested whether I wanted to complete together as he was faster - it was getting dark & he wasn't in best of form in actual fact - threw up 5x times up Big Walk & his feet was hurting going downhill.. 5x times!! Jamie was surviving on watermelons & coke. I complimented him on his determination & decided it will be fine to stick together.

Several occasions he had asked me to run ahead if I wanted to (esp downhill) but I knew he was in pain, so we stuck together. He had suggested if we power-hiked the whole way back we could make it just fine. I had no timing target & decided to just take it easy & enjoy the rest of the journey as best possible! Just 3 more hills...

Breaching the 56k mark halfway up Keating Ridge, it was a new personal record for me. From that point onwards I was breaking new grounds. Secretly very proud (couldn't possibly hug Jamie). Before long Keating Ridge was done. 1 hill down.

The sun was gone for the day as we left Keating Ridge & pulled into Bucklands. We were also joined by Gavin & Grace. I think everyone could have slow-jogged intermittently but was happy to power-hike for a bit together & rest the legs. Cut-off was the only thing on everyone's mind & Jamie was reassuring us that we'll be fine. Everyone knew we had 2 big climbs coming & in the physical state we were in, it was perhaps best to stick together & support each other in case of anything.

Bucklands night fruit market! Photo credit: Piffles Inc

Bucklands - Bakers Gully (72k - 14h 42min)

Kissed the wife & left Bucklands after a short spell. Phoenix gave me & Gavin glow rings 'so that we can see you coming' bless that girl. We stuck together as we power-hiked our way to Clearspot. It was quite a long hike.. from a distance we could see Warners Wall - head-lamps flickering & all.. the body was tempted to jog but on hindsight it was best to save legs for the climb. Besides, Warners Wall was just a first section & its actually a very gentle slope that slowly gets steeper & steeper. The hidden 2nd section doesn't get seen until Warners Wall is cleared. Gavin had some trouble with his poles & was cursing in the silent of the evening..

And so the climb ensued. Heavy-breathing. Head-lamps shining directly onto a wall of dirt. Dust everywhere. Pushing hard with poles with small but consistent steps. Many short stops to catch breadth. Could hardly talk. Losing voice & could mainly speak softly when chatting to Gavin.

Gulps of Heed. Salt tablets. Small portion of gel. Every 20mins or so.

Funny moment when Gavin's phone suddenly rang while we were deep into the climb. It was Sophie.. she heard someone called Gavin who was with someone called Jamie had suffered cramps & needed medical attention. Gavin spoke between breaths explaining it wasn't us & he was fine & healthy & halfway tackling the big bad Clearspot with Bin.. :) what are the chances of such coincidence of names eh?

Warners Wall was utterly sapping. Hats off to last year's runners having to tackle this wall filled with mud! But if there was one section that drained me completely its the last 2k before summit of Clearspot.. in the darkness as we chugged on I remember seeing some lights at the top of hill & thought to myself  'that can't possibly be Clearspot.. that's too high up' ... but of course it turned out to be exactly that... & for the first time the mental determination was truly shaken.

This last 2k wasn't as gnarly as Warners, but at that point I was really struggling to find energy. Heed helped. Mouth & body didn't welcome anything else. Gut was gurgling everytime I ate gel. Burped a lot... relied heavily on the poles & moving very very slow.

Baby steps after baby steps, Clearspot was finally conquered. The other 3 were resting at the picnic table when I finally caught up with them. Jamie had his head down, Gavin & Grace seem to be holding up well. I sat down & could only stare blankly at the lights of Bright some distance away. A beautiful sight but could hardly muster enough energy to appreciate it. Wished I had at least snapped a selfie with the gang & the lights. But the thought hardly crossed my mind.

Jamie was getting cold & urged us to move on. We tackled the long downhill & nearly took wrong turns.. twice. Told Gavin this must've been where Siqi got lost last year. Anthony had went the wrong way in fact & did extra 2k (good thing he found his way again).

Seeing the camp-fire at Bakers Gully was invigorating. The vollies were cheerful & helpful - before long everyone had their energy restored & was pumped to get going again. 2 hills down. 1 last one to go!! We were all in a good head-space at that moment.

Bakers Gully.. too tired to eat watermelon normally. Photo credit: Kathy Swinkels

Bakers Gully - End (16h 35min)

As we left for Mystic, Grace remarked that whilst there are no man-eating animals in Oz it was good to have tackled the darkness in a group, Jamie & Gavin then mentioned wild boars are still able to make a mess on us & as if on cue.. sudden big movement in the bushes next to us.. :)

I felt happier going up Mystic. Still slow of course but had more energy & legs felt better. Had to let out a primal yell of joy when I finally cleared Mystic... waited for Gavin to tackle the downhill together. Before long we caught up with Grace & her husband & some other runners, we went zig-zagging down Mystic & it was very dusty. My head-lamp wasn't the strongest & it was hard to see & breathe with so much dust kicking up as we went downhill (I should add that back in the Inn after the run, clearing my snots they were actually brown with dust!!). I fell twice, fortunately took on no injuries.

Reaching the flats, Jamie & I were in front and we power-hiked the final 3k with hope that Gavin & Grace would catch up. And caught up they did in the final 1k.. spirits were high as we made our way past sleeping/snoring campers along Morse Creek...

And in the last 100m it was hard to hide a smile, we formed a line & jogged our way to the finishing..

Hugging the wife & thanking the SCTR supporters & heart-felt congratulations & showing of appreciation for Jamie, Gavin & Grace it was raw TRAIL LOVE at its very core.. and easily the biggest moment in my trail running 'career'. :))

Defining moment.. with Gavin, Jamie & Grace. Photo credit: Wife

75.5km with 4,545m elevation gain.. JOB DONE. Time to retire!

Now that the biggest race in the whole wide world is over for me.. I'm not rushing to commit to another event just yet. Going to be picky with my events & get back to just enjoying the trails.. perhaps try out rogaining & get some camping done?? :)

Hope the race report on Buffalo Stampede 2015 has been informative for those keen to take on next year's event. Thanks for reading folks! Happy running!

A collection of our beautiful faces for memory lane... :)


High-fiving the ever-awesome Kirsten! 

The super-moms & super crew.. without whom the hubbies are nothing!

Superman Tim!

Up up & away! (Anthony looks like he's strangling himself :D)

Here's a quick link to my 2014 Buffalo DNF experience.. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Heel-Toe Drop - It Matters..

Yes.. the whole heel-toe drop thing has landed on my door-step.

Can't afford to ignore the topic given I have suffered two incidents of ankle sprains in the past 4 months. The last one I'm in the midst of nursing!

I put the blame on my own ignorance & over-confidence in the strength of my ankles & joints which I had previously thought were indestructible. Turns out they weren't!

I have been training in the Salomon XT Hornet in technical terrains because that's what this shoe is built for right? Sure, to a certain extent. The reality is - it's only half the story. While it is built like a tank, the mid & outsole are actually pretty stiff.. while this is great for durability, it also means it doesn't quite mold to the terrain much. Add the 10.5mm heel-toe drop, your heels end up pretty high off the ground & you're really putting strain on your ankles in compensating for the lack of stability in such technical terrains. Imagine cruising downhill, you'll effectively be increasing the heel-toe drop with the incline, throw in a random small rock along the path... lets just say you had better have ankles of steel. That was basically how I sprained my ankle on both occasions..double ouches.

So I learnt the hard way why shoe drops are important considerations for trail-runners. As well as checking how stiff the soles are (& how long they stay that way). I have scoured the internet since to read up & understand more about drops - so far an article in sums it up pretty neatly in this article, thought I'd share it here... so read up & be knowledged!

So what is the perfect drop? At the end of the day, that’s up to you. Your terrain, biomechanical needs, and personal preferences determine your ideal combination of drop, cushioning, and support. The “minimalist movement” isn’t defined by the lightest, lowest drop shoe you can find; rather its all about finding the least amount of shoe you need to enjoy running efficiently and injury free. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Higher drop shoes (10mm+) lower the levels of active cushioning required by the body and quicken the toe-off. In other words, the impact of your stride requires less tension in you foot/arch/ankles/calves/knees/quads, and immediately rolls your foot forward to toe off. The trade-off: these shoes can be heavier, less stable in technical terrain, and make active cushioning muscles weak and injury prone (i.e. IT Band Syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and patellar tendonitis).

Lower drop shoes (0-8mm) allow more arch and ankle articulation for better trail feel and are generally lighter, with less material. However, they also require increased active cushioning (muscles and tendons you use running barefoot to cushion your stride), and require a runner to power through their turnover with their own feet.