How is your Posture? Part Trois – Marc Laithwaite

Image ©www.mbmyoskeletal.com

                                              Image ©www.mbmyoskeletal.com

Okay, so we’re now onto part 3 of the series and this week we are looking at exercises to correct anterior tilt of the pelvis, which creates the lordosis posture. If you’ve not yet read the last 2 week’s posts, you should read them first. Pt1 HERE and Pt2 HERE.

Why are these exercises important?

Anterior tilt occurs becuase specific muscles may be weak, tight or you simply don’t know how to activate / use them properly. The exercises will therefore strengthen, stretch or activate control of those muscles. By doing this, you will be more aware of correct posture / pelvic position and you will be better able to maintain correct posture / pelvic position during exercise and daily life.

What are the limitations of these exercises?

Don’t presume that by doing these exercises, you will automatically hold perfect posture whilst you are training and racing. The exercises will make it possible to CONTROL your posture, but you must consciously make it happen when you are exercising. I’ve seen many swimmers and runners completing endless drills in the pool or on the track, presuming it will impact on their performance. The reality is that they become awesome at performing the drills and it seems to make no difference to the actual stroke or running stride. The same applies to these exercises, you have to make the transfer happen in a practical setting. Drills and exercises are pointless unless you try to implement them when you actually exercising.

How do I implement them when exercising?

Simple, when running you should always try to run in a pelvic neutral position. The first step is being aware that you’re NOT in a neutral position, then you should be able to use your stomach muscles to rotate the pelvis into the correct position. It might help to do the same cycling, some simple posterior rotation mid ride can prevent hip flexors tightening too much.

What about open water swimming? How many of you get a bad back swimming in a wetsuit? Simple explanation, the stomach muscles are not strong enough and your lower back arches too much (bit like doing a BAD plank exercise and sagging in the middle). Couple this with the fact that a wetsuit gives you buoyant legs and a high head and your body is in a ‘U’ shape position in the water. You need to contract your abdominals and lift your stomach (GOOD plank) to straighten you out and get a level position in the water. The big issue is going from this position in a wetsuit to a complete opposition position leaning forwards on your aero bars, a postural nightmare.

Stop banging on, what are the exercises….

These are the simple exercises which should be done every day without fail. We thought the bext way to show you would be a little youtube video.

NEXT WEEK, we’ll look at the stitch and breathing issues. We’ll also have a look at some of those cramping issues and suggestions to stop calf cramps when swimming etc.

Please pardon by pelvic tilting, it’s not the best viewing. IF YOU FIND THE VIDEO TOO SMALL, click on the YouTube icon, bottom right hand of the video player, it’ll open in YouTube. HERE

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 5 2015 – Meet the Runners

©iancorless.com_DragonsBack2015Day5-8160

 

“Remember this day, for it will be yours for all time!” – King Leonidas

Today, 80 runners departed the final Berghaus Dragons Back Race 2015 start line. Battle scarred, they once again face another gruelling day; 56.5km and 2300m of vertical gain.

But who are these brave souls?

Take a look, 4 days of pain engrained on each face. It takes a special person to enter the Berghaus Dragons Back Race but it takes an extra special person to finish.

This race has thrown everything at the runners and in general, weather conditions have been good. Yes they have had rain, mist, clag and occasional strong winds but there has been no disaster days of torrential rain or storms.

It has been an inspiration to share the journey of so many and to document it. We look on in awe at the front of the race and how Jim Mann and Jasmin Paris (and others) can run so fast and effortlessly over such tough and challenging terrain. But Jezz Bragg summed it up for me at the end of day 3 when runners finished well into the night only to get a few hours sleep and then get up and do it all again:

‘These guys are the heroes. They are out all day from 6am, marching on and then they finish at 11pm. They have no rest, no recuperation, no time to eat properly, hydrate and just manage themselves; I couldn’t do it!’

Just last night, the last official runner completed the course in just a few minutes under 11 hours. He was told:

‘You need to start at 6am in the morning so that you have a fighting chance to make the afternoon cut off and complete the race.’

Without hesitation or grumble, they say ‘OK!’ and off they go.

It was never meant to be easy

I can confirm 100% that this race has not been easy, I would actually go as far as saying that this has been one of the toughest races I have worked on. It has been special.

As today draws to a close, the faces below will arrive at Carreg Cennen Castle having run the Dragons Back of Wales. I am looking forward to welcoming each and everyone of them at what will have been a life changing journey.

How is your Posture? Part Deux – Marc Laithwaite

©copyright .iancorless.com._1120617

So last week we introduced the subject of ‘lordosis’ or ‘anterior pelvic tilt’ and how it impacts upon runners and triathletes. In the blog I stated that from my experience, athletes with lordosis or anterior tilt are at high risk of suffering the following injuries or problems:

  1. Lower back pain (pretty much always a link between lower back pain and anterior tilt of the pelvis).
  2. Constant tightness in the hamstrings (certainly can’t touch your toes!).
  3. Possible pain or tightness in the front of the hip/groin area.
  4. Potential cramp or spasm in the quads (front of your thighs), more common running downhill.
  5. Running ‘stitch’ (bearing in mind that a stitch is a word used to describe and pain in the abdominal region when running!!).
  6. Problems breathing (can’t breathe deep and have to breathe rapid and shallow), sometimes but not always coupled with stitch.
  7. For triathletes, these problems are worse when running after cycling (when running immediately after cycling your hamstrings are tight, get quad cramps and breathing difficulties or stitches).

The aim of today’s blog is to explain the potential reason why each of the above happen, linked to lordosis posture.

Some basic things to understand:

In last week’s blog we discussed that the pelvis can tilt forwards or backwards, dictated by which muscles are pulling and in which direction. The 4 muscle groups we discussed were:

1. Core abdominals
2. Lower back
3. Hamstrings (rear of thigh – including glutes)
4. Hip flexors (front of thigh / hip)

when you have lordosis posture we said that the hamstrings and hip flexors are tight, as are the lower back muscles. The core abdominals are generally weak.

Why are muscles tight?

It’s important to understand why muscles are tight, as there is more than just one reason. If you stretch a muscle and make it longer, you will inevitably make it tighter. It’s simple to understand, imagine a muscle is like an elastic band. Pull the elastic band and lengthen it, it gets tighter. However, muscles can become tight because then are shortened, NOT lengthened. Initially this doesn’t make sense, think about the elasatic band, if you stop pulling it and allow it to shorten, then it relaxes. Generally muscles will get tighter when stretched and lengthened and relax when shortened, but not in every case.

Shorter and tighter

Imagine if you put your leg in a plaster cast for 6 months with your knee bent at 90 degrees. When you bend your knee, this shortens the hamstring. When the day finally arrives to have the cast cut off, it’s unlikely that you will be able to straighten your leg. The reason for this is that the hamstring muscle has spent so long in a shortened position, it’s now stuck at that length! Here’s the critical thing, if muscles spend a long time in a shortened position, they eventually get used to that length and it becomes relatively permanent. The irony is that they were initially shortened, which made them relax. They got used to that shortened position, adjusted in length and eventually that makes them feel tight!!

Confused?

Let’s simplify this, some muscles get ‘stretched’ which makes them feel tight and some muscles get ‘shortened’ which makes them feel tight. It just anterior-pelvic-tiltdepends on whether you lengthen it (stretch it) or shorten it (and leave it shortened for a long period of time). Check out our image which we used last week, here’s what happens to our 4 muscle groups:

1. Hamstrings get pulled upwards (stretched) and this makes them feel tight.
2. The hip flexors are shortened and over time they adjust in length (feel tight)
3. The lower back muscles shorten and over time they adjust in length (feel tight)
4. The abdominals are stretched (you won’t feel this like stretched hamstrings)

Why am I getting the symptoms you’ve written above?

Ok, so at the start of this blog I listed the possible symptoms of lordosis. I think the 4 points directly above explain the reason for lower back pain, tight hamstrings and tightness in the front of the hip / groin area. Let’s just take a closer look at the lower back pain. How does the lower back pain feel? Does it feel tight (like a tight hamstring) or is it more of a sharp, disabling ‘spasm’?

Spasm or cramp?

We’re going off into weird territory now, but this is a really worthwhile discussion. When a muscle contracts very sharply (often painfully), we refer to this as a ‘spasm’ or sometimes we call it a ‘cramp’. They may sound different to you, but we tend to use the words interchangeably for the same thing, largely because we’re confused and really don’t fully understand what’s going on.

When people get cramp in running races, generally they are in a state of fatigue and often they blame a lack of salts. It’s unlikely that loss of salt is causing cramp, but that’s a whole scientific discussion we’re not going to have in this blog. Back to the point, when people are knackered, they start to cramp. Whether it’s 22 miles into the marathon, 95 miles into a bike ride, it happens when you’re tired, ran out of fuel, feel dehydrated and generally in an all round bad state.

Here’s an interesting question then, why do people sometimes get cramp in their feet whilst they sleeping? How vigorous is your sleeping? Do you need to be waking at regular intervals to take on board electrolyte drinks? If you’re a triathlete, you may well have suffered from calves cramping during the swim, especially in open water. How dehydrated and fatigued can you really be during the early stages of a triathlon swim? That doesn’t make sense at all.

Geeks will love this…

I’m not pretending to give you the definitive answer to this question, but here is an opinion and some ideas. At this point let’s introduce the subject of ‘stretch receptors’ and the ‘stretch reflex’. You have receptors in your muscles and they detect how much and how quickly a muscle is stretching. If they believe a muscle to be stretching too much and too quickly, they trigger a contraction to protect the muscle. The best example of this (you will all have experienced the action of the stretch receptors), is running along happily and suddenly going over on your ankle. As you roll your ankle, the muscles on the outside of your lower leg contract and pull the foot back into position. You hobble for the next few steps, before realising that you got away with it and the ankle is still in one piece. What happened in that split second was not a conscious decision, you didn’t note that you had rolled your ankle or think about trying to correct it, the whole episode ‘just happened’, it was a contraction triggered by the stretch receptors.

What’s this got to do with cramp (or spasm for that matter)

When cycling, your hip flexors are in a shortened position (if your thigh is close to your stomach, hip flexors are shortened. The more aero, the more they’re shortened). Sometimes if i’ve been riding my bike for several hours, when i unclip, step off and stand upright, i get a ‘spasm’ in my hip flexors. I usually ‘crunch forwards’ immediately and then in goes. The likely cause of that small hip flexor spasm is the fact that the muscle has been working in a very short position for several hours. Over that time, the stretch receptors become accustomed to that shortened length. At the end of the ride I suddenly stand up vertical and the hip flexors lengthen dramatically. The stretch receptors are confused, causing a panic response which is a sudden sharp contraction (my little spasm) and it’s done to try and stop me lengthening the hip flexors too much or to quickly.

I’ve had this response before. My saddle height was too high which meant that I cycled with my toes pointing down slightly (posh term is planter felxtion, you can have that one for the next pub quiz). As my toes pointed down slightly, the calf was in a shortened position until the end of the bike ride. When I jumped off and started to run, the calf was suddenly lengthened and my stretch receptors (who had become comfortable with the shortened position during the bike) were alarmed by this sudden change, so reacted the only way they knew how, they initiated a sharp contraction (my calves cramped). It’s worth pointing out that most triathletes will cycle with a slightly ‘toes down’ position, so this problem is common.

Another example, a slightly shorter friend of mine, who is often referenced in this blog did the Ironman triathlon a few years ago. During the swim his calf kept ‘cramping’ and when he got out of the swim onto dry land, it cramped severely to the point where he could not walk! If fact, the cramp was so severe, he coudn’t run the marathon later in the race (to be fair, he probably wouldn’t have been able to run it under any circumstances). During open water swimming, the toes are pointed (it’s that plantar flextion thingy again), this means the calf is in a shortened and relaxed position. It’s probable that the stretch receptors become comfortable to that shortened position and perhaps become a little confused with this sorter length. When the calf is suddenly lengthened or sometimes when it isnt’t legnthened at all, this confusion in muscle length means that the stretch receptors trigger a sudden contraction. Sometimes the contraction is so strong, it can tear the calf muscle (or any other muscle), this is why severe ‘cramp’ as people often refer to it as, can lead to pain for several days.

How is this linked to the subject of lordosis?

In the original list of symptoms, we listed hip flexor cramps and quadricep cramps. Anterior tilt causes shortening of the hip flexors and the spasm I mentioned above, when I get off my bike is caused by lordosis / anterior tilt. In terms of quad cramps, one of the 4 quadricep muscles acts as a hip flexor. It’s called Rectus Femoris and if it’s tight, it tilts the pelvis forwards. In fact, there’s a strong research link between Rectus Femoris and back problems. If you have an enterior tilt of the pelvis (e.g. running after cycling) the Rectus Femoris muscle is in a shortened position. Running downhill encourages an anterior tilt of the pelvis and I’ve spoken to several people who in triathlon events, have suffered ‘cramp’ in the quads, in particular running downhill. It generally involves both legs completely locking.

Here’s the thing. All of the above scenarios are relatively common and advice tends to favour ‘salts and electrolytes’ to prevent the ‘cramp’. There is a real case of cramp or spasm caused by fatigue and dehydration, such as the 22 miles point in a marathon, but that’s not the simple answer. If you take the common example of cramping calves in open water swimming, there’s no way on earth that’s caused by fatigue or salt loss, all of the above can be explain by unnatural shortening of muscles and confusion of the muscle spindles and nervous system, resulting in a sudden contraction.

Okay, I haven’t touched on the stitch or breathing issues. I’d not anticipated on rambling so much. I could get 4 weeks out of this, it’s turning out better than expected. Next week we’ll talk about corrective exercises and ways to stop these problems. The following weeks, we’ll look specifically at breathing issues and the dreaded ‘stitch’.

If you suffer from calves cramping during swimming, hip spasms getting off the bike during long rides, quads cramping or any of the above, then reply and let us know with a single line. We can then tailor next weel’s exercises to the reponses and problems you have.

If you found this blog useful or interesting, we’d really appreciate a share, re-post or retweet on social media.

Until next week, stay relaxed.

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Skyrunning Mont-Blanc 80k 2015 Preview

©iancorless.com©iancorless.com-0173

The 2014 edition of the Skyrunning Chamonix 80k proved to be a stunning and exciting race with Emelie Forsberg and Luis Alberto Hernando being crowned respective champions and in the process they also were crowned Skyrunning Ultra World Champions.

The 2015 edition of the race may not be a world championship but racing is expected to be just as fast and ferocious. Runners are travelling from all over the world to take part and as you may have expected we have a who’s who of Skyrunning toeing the line.

New for 2015 too is a tougher course! Yes, if the race wasn’t already tough enough. Changes have been made to avoid towns in favour of more secluded trails. It’s a stunning course with 6000m of vertical gain and it takes in Bel Achat, Brevent, Col de Montets, Buet, Col de la Terrasse, Tre les Eaux, Aiguillette des Posettes, Montenvers, Mer de Glace, Plan d’Aiguille and of course the wonderful finish in Chamonix.

©iancorless.com_Transvulcania2015-8826

In the men’s race several names stand out. Dakota Jones fresh from a top placing at Transvulcania will be looking to establish a grip on the race and recently has been training in the area with 2014 ladies champion, Emelie Forsberg. Unfortunately Dakota is injured.©iancorless.com-0271Kima2014_

Manuel Merillas is a rising star in the Skyrunning world after an incredible 2014. All looked to be going well at Transvulcania in May when he was racing with the front 5, however, it all became too much and he eventually finished outside the top 10. Manuel bounced back remarkably well placing on the podium just one week later at Zegama-Aizkorri. He is podium material for sure; he just needs to get his pacing right for the longer distance.

©iancorless.com_likethewind-7570

Hardrock 100 champion (2013) and UTMF winner Sebastien Chaigneau needs no introduction to a French or Chamonix audience. His face is synonymous with the area after repeated runs at UTMB. He placed 2nd in 2009 and 3rd in 2011. He knows the trails in and around Chamonix so well. However, 2014 was a tough year for Seb, we can only hope that he is 100% fit for the 80km. If he is, he is without doubt one to watch.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1140192

Alex Nichols is an ever present on the Skyrunning circuit and his confidence will be high after a top 10 placing at the IAU world trail championships in Annecy.

©iancorless.com_Transvulcania2015-8024

Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz had a good run in Chamonix in 2014 and recently placed 10th at Transvulcania. I see him looking for a top 10 once again in the 80k and if his day goes well top 5 may be a possibility but I don’t see him contending the podium.

©iancorless.com_Transvulcania2015-8992

Pablo Villa may well dish up a surprise? Since a breakthrough performance at Transvulcania in 2014, he moved to Salomon and that almost certainly has boded well. One to watch!

©iancorless.com_USM2015-5633

My last tip is Cristofer Clemente who placed on the podium just last week at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira and on the podium at Sai Kung MSIG 50k. He is on the up at the moment and his performance in Chamonix will all depend on his powers of recovery.

Catlow ShipeckPascal GiguetDavid PasquioFranco ColleDan DohertyStuart Air and Francois Favre are all names that will add fire to the front of the race.

©iancorless.com_©iancorless.com-0426MontBlanc80k_2014

The ladies race all looks about 3 people with Dong Li, Mira Rai and Hillary Allen as the main contenders for the podium. The proximity of the IAU world championships in Annecy and Skyrunning’s Ice Trail Tarentaise (in 2 weeks) have impacted on who was available to take on this tough Chamonix course.

Mira Rai has had a sting of high profile victories recently and is without doubt a hot favourite. Mira burst onto the scene in 2014 with victory at the Mustang Trail Race. Recent results are 3rd at Buffalo Stampede, 1st at MSIG HK50 and MSIG Lantau 50.

Dong Li has all the potential to upset Mira’s plans for the top of the podium and in all honesty, a longer race may well fall into her hands. Dong Li won TNF 100 in Australia and placed 3rd at Transgrancanaria.

Hillary Allen is not a lady who I have met on the run circuit, however, I am aware of her 5th place at The Rut (50k) in 2014 and she also placed 4th at Speedgoat 50k. Past records show that 50k or 50 miles are Hillary’s preferred distance so this 80km may well stretch her. This is no ordinary 80k course.

©iancorless.com_©iancorless.com-0781MontBlanc80k_2014

Racing starts in the early hours of Friday 26th June and you will be able to follow online via the Skyrunning Facebook page and on Twitter @skyrunnning_com

A list of entrants is available HERE

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 2 2015 – Race Images

©iancorless.com_DragonsBack2015Day2-6736

What a day! Wales looked magnificent in bathed in glorious sunshine but as you can imagine, running 50km+ in intense heat over some of the most gruelling terrain is not a match made in heaven.

Runners struggled and buckled.

However, Jim Mann once again made what is extremely tough look relatively easy. He finished the day in 8 hours! At control 1, the summit of Cnicht, runners appeared in dribs and drabs due to the staggered start. Mann, starting last rocketed up and as he ran past us he was made aware of his time. His response was cal calculated, ‘Good, looks like I am gaining time!’ He then proceeded to come off the clearly defined trail and turned right down the scree slopes using his navigation skills to the full.

Ultimately, it was day that was all about the ladies; Jasmine Paris, Beth Pascall and Lizzie Wraith all embraced the terrain, the heat and the course and finished within the top 5. Jez Bragg also had a great day, ‘I’m feeling better today, the legs are feel good and I’m finding my pace.’

Unfortunately, Konrad Rawlik and Ed Catmur had tough days. Catmur fell while running in a strong position at the front of the race which resulted with a visit to hospital with a leg wound. Rowlock finished the day but looked dejected. He started the day 2nd overall but the terrain took its toll on his knees and he struggled.

‘Today was a tougher day than in 2012 as day 1 was made a little easier,’ said Shane Ohly race director. ‘It has been a very tough day, relentless some may say and of course the heat added to the severity.’

Camp 2 is in Llanelltyd in the grounds of Tymer Abbey. It’s quite the setting! Hot food is being consumed in vast quantities, cake and custard eaten in multiples of 2 or 3 and to top it all, as each runner finished, Ohly had an ice cream waiting for them.

Tomorrow is a big day. Read into that what you will but we can conform that the course will be 68km with 3700m+

My advise to the runners is sleep and sleep as soon as possible! They are going to need all the recovery time as possible.

Top 6 day 2

  1. Jim Mann 8:00
  2. Jasmin Paris 8:41
  3. Jez Bragg 9:03
  4. Konrad Rawlik 9:12
  5. Beth Pascall 9:29
  6. Damian Hall 9:42

Overall Results

  1. Jim Mann
  2. Jasmin Paris
  3. Konrad Rawlik
  4. Damian Hall
  5. Jez Bragg
  6. Beth Pascall
  7. Andre Jonsson
  8. Alexander Beaven
  9. Jonas Mollare
  10. Owen Rees

Ladies:

  1. Jasmin Paris
  2. Beth Pascall
  3. Lizzie Wraith

PHD Summer Lightning Review

© www.NICKMUZIK.com

Fast and Light. They are buzzwords in the world of trail, mountain and ultra running. We could argue all day about how this came about. Many would potentially give Kilian Jornet credit for the movement but I think it’s fair to say that men and women have been going light to the mountains and trails for quite some time, it’s just recently that we have all become far more aware.

Light does have its problems!

We have many documented reports, articles and stories of runners, mountaineers or alpinists being ‘caught out’ on a mountain and as a consequence in certain circles, mountain runners have gained a bad reputation.

Travelling light is all well and good providing that you are able to move fast! The two words go together; FAST and LIGHT! But what do I mean? Well quite simply, the process of going light will almost certainly mean that what you carry as a runner or alpinist will be minimal. Minimal of course is subjective and dependent on the person. For arguments sake, lets call light as follows:

  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Pack to carry water
  • Mobile phone

In essence, that is going light to the trail or mountain. Should conditions become difficult or problematic, this is where FAST comes in. You need to get out of trouble, danger or the cold fast and to safety. In many respects, this is part of the challenge. Running in the mountains is not a risk adverse sport.

Question:

What if though you could add a 1000 fill down product to your pack for a weight addition of 3oz (85g) or 6oz (180g)?

I kid you not.

UK based company PHD currently have 2 remarkable products that embrace low weight, low pack size and ultimate functionality in a limited availability range of products called Summer Lightning.

PHDsummerlite-jck-1-5-15_med

PHDwafer-vest-28-4-15_med

A SUMMERLITE DOWN JACKET (£199 6oz) and a WAFERLITE DOWN VEST (£99 3oz) are part of the K Series range of products that offer ultimate warmth against minimal weight. Filled with 1000 fill power European goose down (responsibly sourced) the jacket has a water-resistant Ultrashell outer fabric, stitch through construction and the vest has a 10x inside and out fabric that is not water-resistant and stitch through construction.

I have to say, having tested both these products I think PHD should make them available all year around. As a brand, my understanding is that they see them as a warm alternative for summer months but to be honest, they are a great addition to any kit list irrespective of the time of year. Both products would provide ideal warm layers to any multi-day adventure such as MDS. The potential to combine a warm layer and lightweight sleeping bag are endless. The apparel would also make a perfect addition (for every run) to any mountain runner’s kit list and lets face it, for fast packing they are brilliant. You see, these products are so light, so small I simply can’t think of a reason not to take them! I even have the jacket packed away in my day-to-day laptop bag or camera bag for that ‘just-in-case’ scenario.

On Test

I have had both products for 1 month and I have tested them ‘in situ’ at Richtersveld Wildrun in South Africa and at the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira. Both races provided me with changeable weather and an opportunity to test each product to the full.

On first impressions it’s difficult to believe that when one looks at these items compressed in a small stuff sack that they could possibly be a down vest and a down jacket. You pick up the vest and you don’t even notice any weight. It is just 3oz. The outer Ultrashell fabric on both products is silky smooth and a pleasure to wear against the skin. I wore the vest and jacket with just a t-shirt underneath and found them both really comfortable.

They may be light but they are warm, really warm. Let’s be realistic, they are not for polar conditions. But if you need a warm layer to protect against morning or evening chill, daily colder or cooler temperatures or an additional warmth layer to be added under a Gore-Tex (or similar) or windproof jacket, they are the perfect choice.

They are arguably the lightest down products in the world? Both pack to the size of an apple!

I have to say, I was spoilt; having a vest and jacket did allow me to regulate my temperature extremely well and on one occasion I actually wore the vest under the jacket on a very cold and damp night in South Africa.

They are simple, no frills products. The vest has no pockets and just a half-zip to reduce weight. The jacket has a full-length zip, two side pockets and a short stand up collar with no hood. However, it is possible to add a hood when ordering for the additional cost of £27.

As with all PHD products, items are made to order and this does allow you to customize any apparel exactly to your needs. For example, you could have a jacket with a half-zip, no pockets and a hood! The choice is yours.

Please keep in mind that if you need or require products by a certain date, you will need to allow for manufacturing time.

On the go, I found adding or removing either the vest or the jacket easy. They pack so small that I could actually just stuff either item in the pocket on my shorts. This is important because as soon as you start to move quickly, they retain heat exceptionally well and you find that you need to remove them so that you don’t sweat. Of course, as soon as you stop, you can quickly access the vest or jacket and wear them so that you don’t get cold

I wore the jacket all day on a very wet and chilly South African day and the Ultrashell outer fabric did a great job protecting the down from wet and moisture. Admittedly, I did wear a waterproof layer over the top. But in and around base-camp I was often moving from one tent to another with no waterproof layer and the product held up well with no problems despite constant drizzle and rain. Notably, the vest and the jacket did a great job of blocking out the wind.

Summary

PHD has come up with two incredibly light and small items of apparel that are now part of my ‘essential’ kit. They are so small, light and effective that I can’t be without them. Yes, they are that good!

Do I have a negative comment?

Down does not like rain, wet or moisture and it effectively becomes useless should this happen. Ultrashell fabric does protect the insulation in the jacket but this would only protect to a certain extent. So, if you anticipate bad (wet) weather you would almost certainly need a Gore-Tex or similar 100% outer layer to maximize the 1000 down fill. To be honest though, if you were going to the mountains a waterproof outer layer should be mandatory no matter how light you are going!

On a final note, I can’t recommend these two products enough. They may not be the cheapest apparel available but what you get are two incredible products that are functional, pack small and are superlight. Did I also mention that PHD has two sleeping bags that are also part of this range: ELITE RACER DOWN BAG (8oz) and RACER DOWN SLEEPING BAG (90z) more news on those to follow.

 PHDracer-sleeping-bag-26-4-15_med

PHDelite-racer-down-sleeping-bag-10-5-15-1_med

 

Specs as provided by PHD 

Summer Lite Down Jacket £199 

PHDsummerlite-jck-1-5-15_med

  • A PHD ‘K Series’ product: Ultimate warmth / weight performance
  • PHD’s Unique 1000 fill power European Goose down
  • Water-resistant Ultrashell outer fabric (our lightest-ever proofed fabric)
  • Ultralight 10X inner fabric
  • Stitch-through construction for lightness
  • Pockets: 2 zipped hand-warmer pockets

Not only is this our lightest-ever insulated jacket, it’s made in water-resistant Ultrashell fabric too.

A super-light down jacket with exceptional summer race and trekking performance.  At just 180gr it weighs less than many base layers, and it packs down tiny taking the absolute minimum space up in a summer rucksack.

The amazing Ultrashell outer fabric (our lightest water-resistant material) protects the down from damp and its 100% wind block qualities enhance the performance of the unique 1000 fill power Down insulation.

  • Ideal companion for summer nights
  • Pack without noticing the weight or bulk
  • Outer layer or mid-layer warmth
  • Warmer, lighter and a smaller pack size than a fleece jacket and 100% wind block too.

5 deg C

180g / 6oz

Add a hood £27

Three colours 

XS, S, M, L, XL

 

WAFERLITE DOWN VEST

 PHDwafer-vest-28-4-15_med

  • A PHD ‘K Series‘ Product: Ultimate warmth / weight performance
  • PHD’s unique 1000 fill power European Goose Down
  • Outer & Inner fabric: Ultra light 10X
  • Stitch-through construction for maximum weight saving
  • Down-filled collar to seal in the warmth

At 85g (3oz) the WaferLite vest is the lightest down vest in the world. 35% lighter than our superlight standard Wafer Vest.

The 10X fabric gives total wind block and the unique 1000 fill power down provides the highest warmth-for-weight performance possible. Packed into a tiny stuff sac, the WaferLite vest is simply breath taking for summer racers and ultra-light trekking.

The WaferLite vest will fit snugly under any of our down jackets, even the Minimus or the Yukon.

  • Ideal companion in a cool camp, bothy, or hut.
  • Pack without noticing the weight (or the bulk).
  • Midlayer to boost warmth

Add performance to your sleeping bag.

5 DEG C

85G / 3OZ

£99

 

PHD are available HERE 

SummerLite Down Jacket and WaferLite Down Vest are currently only available in May/ June.

 

 

Richtersveld Wildrun 2015 Day 3

©iancorless.com_RichtersveldRaceDay32015-0413

Today the Wildrun lived up to expectations and really did become a wild run! The weather cleared, the winds dropped and the rain disappeared and we were all treated to a very special South African day.

Today’s course was special!

Notably, the Tatasberg Mountain is one of the most impressive sections of ‘trail’ I have ever witnessed. I use the term trail very loosely as it was a combination of scrambling and boulder hopping, not only on the way up but down. It was an intimidating section for some. A fear of heights not recommended. However, in pain, fear or discomfort on the climb was rewarded with incredible views. It was stunning!

Racing started at 0800 with separate waves; 0800, 0830, 0900 and 0930; slower runners starting first and faster runners in the last wave as per the previous day. Early running was relatively easy but the views were stunning. Particularly as early morning cloud cleared.

By the time the runners reached the climb of Tatasberg at approximately 16km, Thabang and all the usual suspects had pretty much caught all the early starters with the exception of 3 people.

Thabang made the boulders look easy as he hopped from one to the next. The other runners used a little more caution and a natural gap opened. Katya Soggot and Dayle Wheeler closely followed James Cracknell as he pursued Thabang, occasionally helping each across the larger boulders. Nikki Kimball trailed a little but only by minutes. At the summit the boulders started to clear providing the occasional opportunity to run.

The bottom of the climb opened up to a wide plateau and then a clear zigzag trail lead to the lush Orange River and across the water, Namibia. Lush green vegetation populated the left and right banks. It was a stunning contrast to what had come before. Running along the river banks, the sound of flowing water, birds and the occasional baboon made this day, arguably the best one yet.

Camp was located next to the river and of course, a braai was prepared for the arriving runners. Thabang Madiba arrived first (once again) closely followed by Katya Soggot, Dayle Wheeler, Karoline Hanks, Nikki Kimball and Filippo Faralla. But today really wasn’t about the racing, it was the course that was the hero. It was the Richtersveld National Park that had completely blown the minds of every runner and every runner on the Richtersveld Wildrun race.

James Cracknell had a tough day, his groin strain and twisted ankle from the previous day reducing him to a frustrating walk. He is currently unsure if day 3 is possible for him. He’s a stubborn and committed competitor and after travelling all this way, once has to think that he will fight his way through the last day even if it is slowly!

 

Results 

Thabang Madiba 3:24:03

Dayle Wheeler 3:32:31

Katya Soggot (1st lady) 3:32:31

Nikki Kimball (2nd lady) 3:49:10

Filippo Faralla (3rd man) 4:04:10

Karoline Hanks 4:04:10

 

Nikki Kimball has now moved up into 2nd overall, 10 minutes ahead of Karolin Hanks.

 

Men:

Thabang Madiba 3:24:03

Dayle Wheeler 3:32:31

Filippo Faralla 4:04:10

 

Ladies:

Katya Soggot 3:32:31

Nikki Kimball 3:49:10

Karoline Hanks 4:04:10

 

Richtersveld Widrun 2015 Day 2

©iancorless.com_RichtersveldRaceDay22015-8875

What a night! The wind blew, gusted and lifted tents off the ground. We were told yesterday that the last time it rained in the Richtersveld was August 2014. Well believe me, when the weather changes; it really changes!

The excitement continued into the morning and although the rain subsided (for a little while), the wind was going to be with the runners all day. Starting in three separate groups, 0800, 0830 and 0900 the field were split based on finish times from day 1; slower runners starting first at 0800 and faster runners starting last at 0900.

James Cracknell, the 2-time Olympic Gold Medallist for rowing finally joined the race after an epic journey of 48 hours. He departed Poland at 1900 on Sunday after commentating at the Rowing European Championships. He flew back to the UK, then flew to Joburg and followed with a connecting flight to Upington. The journey was finished off with 10 hours in the car to the race day 2 start line.

James arrive at 0800 in camp just giving him 60 minutes to sort out his equipment and get his head ready for a day on South African trails.

As expected, Thabang Madiba showed everyone a clean pair of heels as he slowly pulled away from Katya Soggot, Dayle Wheeler, Nikki Kimball and James Cracknell. Conditions were tough throughout the day and the beautiful Richtersveld landscape was shrouded by mist and permanent rain that varied in intensity.

Climbing and descending to Cp1 the runners once again climbed up and over the pass at  Tswayiberg before then dropping down into the technical riverbed that would lead to the finish.

Thabang at this stage was already leading by over 10 minutes, behind Katya Soggot, Nikki Kimball and Dayle Wheeler pursued with James Cracknell not far behind. James was certainly struggling on the slick wet rocks as he slid from left foot to right with the occasional shout of ****ing hell! A groin strain picked up at London Marathon adding to his frustrations.

At the line, Thabang Madiba completed the 36km stage in 3:14:03 with Soggot, Wheeler and Kimball crossing the line together in 3:33:35. Cracknell held on fighting some severe discomfort to finish in 3:41:56.

Georgina Ayre who had run well on day 1 frustratingly repeated Nikki Kimball’s error and made a navigational mistake by taking the wrong riverbed. This mistake was costly, as she finished the day 1 hour behind Soggot and Kimball. Karoline Hanks was 3rd lady on the day in 4:03:23.

As the day came to a close, a break in the weather came and with it the sun, a welcome return! Everyone has fingers crossed for a warm and sunny day 3 at the Richtersveld Wildrun.

Results Overall

Thabang Madiba 6:45:35

Dayle Wheeler 7:14:49

Katya Soggot (1st lady) 7:25:22

Karoline Hanks (2nd lady) 8:13:05

Nikki Kimball (3rd lady) 8:13:06

Filippo Faralla (3rd man) 8:13:10

Altitude Training For Endurance Performance – Marc Laithwaite

©iancorless.com_GlenCoeMay2015-6345

The higher you go, the ‘thinner’ the air becomes. The reduction in air pressure leads to less air resistance, so athletes who sprint, jump and cycle often perform better at high altitude venues. For endurance events, this lack of air pressure becomes a significant issue, as it leads to less oxygen in the blood stream, which impact upon aerobic performance.

What is air pressure?

Air pressure is measured as mm Hg (millimetres of mercury), if you’ve got one of those weather things at home or in the garden, you’ll often see ‘mm Hg’ on the scale. Standard air pressure at sea level is 760 mm Hg, that’s how much resistance you have to overcome when you run or ride your bike. At an altitude of 1344m (the height of Ben Nevis) the air pressure is lower at 650 mm Hg. Cyclists who have completed the hour record (how far you can ride on a track in a single hour) have historically completed the challenge at altitude. More recently, the Olympic Velodrome manipulated the climate conditions inside the building in an attempt to reduce air resistance and increase the likelihood of world records. Air pressure can be simply described as the ‘air density’. If you’re trying to ride through dense air, it’s like riding through water. If the air is thin, you slice through with less resistance. Time trial cyclists will know the importance of weather conditions, they know instinctively that following a big storm, the air is just right for personal bests!

I thought it was harder to compete at altitude for endurance athletes?

Physiologically speaking, yes, it is harder for athletes to compete at altitude. This would certainly be the case for most endurance sports. The hour record is slightly different as the benefits in aerodynamics and reduced air pressure, can outweigh the physiological disadvantage of less oxygen reaching the muscles. For long distance runners, competing at altitude would not be beneficial in any way!

Why does less oxygen get to the muscles?

Air pressure flows from high to low, consider the following example: The pressure in your bike tyre is higher than the surrounding air pressure. When you press the valve the air will therefore flow OUT, from HIGH to LOW. The air will continue to leave your tyre until the pressure inside the tyre matches the pressure in the outside air, then it stops flowing. When you inflate your tyre, your bike pump compresses the air by pushing down the handle. This leads to high pressure inside the pump (higher than the pressure inside the tyre), so the air flows into the tyre, from HIGH to LOW.

How does it work for humans?

When your lungs expand, the air pressure inside them drops lower than the outside air pressure. By opening your mouth, you allow the air to flow inwards (from HIGH to LOW). When you compress your lungs, this squashes the air inside them, raising the pressure so it’s higher than outside air pressure. The air therefore flows out of your mouth. We said earlier that air pressure is lower at altitude. When you expand your lungs and open your mouth to let air in, you presume that the pressure in the outside air in higher than it is in your lungs (so air will flow from HIGH to LOW into your lungs). What happens if the outside air pressure is also low? You open your mouth, the air pressure in your lungs is low and the outside air pressure is also low… air flows nowhere! Much of the talk about altitude generally refers to the ‘lack of oxygen’ when in fact the real reason that oxygen supply to the muscles is reduced, is the lack of air pressure.

What happens when you train at altitude?

The reduction of oxygen in the blood stimulates the release of erythropoietin (EPO) and this results in an increase in haemoglobin and red blood cells. This is the body’s way to deal with the lack of oxygen in the blood stream. Endurance athletes will often spend periods of time at altitude to boost their red blood cell levels, in the hope that when they return to sea level, their performances will be improved. One of the most significant issues relating to training at altitude is the inability to maintain both volume and intensity of normal training. In simple terms, you can’t train hard when you’re at altitude. To resolve this problem, athletes will follow a ‘HILO’ approach, which means they live HI and then train LOW. They will live at high altitude and then drop down to sea level when they need to train, so their workouts are not affected. The biggest problem relating to the HILO approach is the geographical limitations. Firstly, athletes must travel to a part of the world where they can sleep at altitudes of 2200-2500m. Secondly, they must then deal with the practicalities of training at ‘sea level’. This may require living and sleeping at a ski resort, whilst driving to lower altitudes to carry out training sessions.

There is an easier way

This geographical problem has largely been removed by the access to hypoxic or hypobaric chambers, thereby allowing athletes to remain at home in many cases whilst still benefiting from the HILO approach. Hypoxic chambers transform a normal room or building into a hypoxic environment. Athletes are now able to purchase a simple tent, which can be erected over their bed and with the use of a simple device, they can replicate altitudes of 2200-2500m whilst they sleep. Some training facilities have gone further and established training houses with dormitories where athletes are continually residing in hypoxic conditions to match 2200-2500m.

What’s the difference between hypoxic and hypobaric?

The word hypobaric, means ‘low pressure’. We mentioned earlier that air pressure drops when you are at altitude. The simple tent structures that you place over your bed, as used by the Brownlees and other elite athletes are not hypobaric. The air pressure in those tents is the same as general sea level, instead, they reduce the amount of oxygen in the air (swap it for nitrogen). They are therefore ‘hypoxic’ (low oxygen) but not ‘hypobaric’ (low air pressure). Hypoxic devices are much more easily available and have the same desired effect, i.e. generating red blood cells.

Applying Hypoxic Training

There are 3 ways of using hypoxia. The first is to sleep or live for longer periods of time in a hypoxic environment. This may be as simple as erecting a tent over your bed and sleeping 8-10 hours inside. The most common recommended altitude is 2000-2500m, this is moderate altitude.

The second option is termed IHT (Intermittent Hypoxic Therapy). This is based upon short exposure (60-90 min per day or less), at significantly higher relative altitudes (6000m+). This option is generally done passively, sitting in a chair whilst holding a mask over your face and breathing hypoxic air. In simple terms, this is a ‘much harder hit for a shorter period of time’.

There is a third option, to consider as both of the above do not involve exercise. You could exercise on a treadmill or indoor bike, whilst wearing a mask and breathing hypoxic air. If you are exercising, rather than sitting still, then the recommended altitude would be similar to option 1 (2000-2500m).
I’m feeling a bit light headed after all this talk of altitude, so we’ll stop here for now. Next week, we’ll look at what out there on the market and how it can be used to enhance your general performance. How can you apply altitude training in your everyday life and what’s the potential benefits to performance?

If you found this article useful, it would help us a great deal if you share on Facebook, Twitter and social media.

Until then, stay low and fast

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Recent Printed Publications for iancorless.com

TCC Lead Page

The first few months of 2015 have been very rewarding and I have had several articles and features printed worldwide in a series of top ranking magazines.

From the rainforests of Costa Rica, to heat of the Sahara. Anton Krupicka looking broken at Transgrancanaria, Joe Grant between a rock and a hard place at The Coastal Challenge and Sir Ranulph Fiennes beating the heat at the Marathon des Sables.

Here are the magazines with links

Like The Wind HERE

Runners World HERE

Trail Running Magazine HERE

Competitor HERE

Outdoor Fitness HERE

Here is a selection of the printed articles. All my tear sheets can be viewed HERE

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 10.43.40

MDS 2015 Darren Outoor Fitness UTLD Runners World 2015 TCC 2015 Trail Running Mag MDS Sir Ranulph Fiennes captured_spread