Skyrunning Dolomites SkyRace 2015 – Race Images and Summary

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What an incredible day in the Dolomites as the 18th edition of the Skyrunning Dolomites SkyRace took place. At just 22km, this race has always been fast and furious and although great climbing ability is essential, the race can only be won with a great downhill too.

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Saul Paul Rodriguez and Laura Orgue (2014 champion) were the first 2 runners to reach the high point of the course, the summit of Piz Boe. In many respects, it was no surprise! These 2 athletes are VK specialists and this course without a doubt played into their hands.

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Megan Kimmel was always going to be a dark horse coming into this race, the American has excelled in Skyrunning races before, in particular the Mont-Blanc Marathon. At the summit, Kimmel trailed Orgue by a couple of minutes bet she unleashed an incredible display of downhill running to not only win the race but set a new course record in 2:25:57. Orgue after the race said she felt great, much better than in Friday’s VK and therefore she was happy, ‘I made a slight navigational mistake on the descent and lost time but I am happy!’

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Elisa Desco and Emelie Forsberg both made up ground and time on the descent and finished 3rd and 4th respectively.

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Race revelation, Pascal Egli follows Rodriguez up the climb and behind we had the usual contenders; Aritz Egea, Ionut Zinca and Tadei Pivk. Unfortunately, Rodriguez can’t descend as strongly as he climbs. Slowly but surely he was caught and passed by Egli, Zinca and Pivk.

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At break neck speed, these elite runners descended like stones rolling down a mountain and Pivk closed from 4th to take an impressive victory over Zinca 2nd and Egli 3rd. Rodriguez finally finished 4th.

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The Dolomites SkyRace is a classic Skyrunning race following the ethos and principles created by Giacometti in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Start low, run to the summit and come back down in the most direct and fastest way possible.

Long may the Dolomites SkyRace continue.

Results:

  1. Tadei Pivk 2:02:47
  2. Ionut Zinca 2:03:18
  3. Pascal Egli 2:03:46
  1. Megan Kimmel 2:25:57 – new CR
  2. Laura Orgue 2:26:58
  3. Elisa Desco 2:28:36

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

How is your Posture? Part Quatre – Marc Laithwaite

postures1

                                                image from Primal Patterns

Okay, so we’re now onto part 4 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 parts 1, 2 and 3 read them HERE, HERE and HERE.

The topic for today is looking at breathing issues related to posture, we’re also going to look at the dreaded stitch. Aside from that, we’re going to look at ways of dealing with cramps.

Breathing and posture

The breathing issue is interesting for me as it’s something i’ve suffered from myself and couldn’t find a cure. They symptoms were very rapid and shallow breathing, I also felt that I couldn’t breathe deeply from my diaphragm. The best way to describe it was as if the bottom 2 thirds of my lungs didn’t work and i was just rapidly shifting air in and out of the top third. It felt to me at the time as though I had exercise induced asthma, there was some ‘wheezing’ which is a symptom of airway problems, so I went through that process and resolved nothing. The rapid shallow breathing was often, but not always linked to a pain under my ribs which most people would commonly refer to as a stitch. In a few triathlons I had to slow down to get rid of it, by relaxing and breathing deeply.

The key to resolving it was when i noticed that it was occuring more frequently in triathlon training and racing, compared to just running. Basically, it was a lot more likely to happen if I biked first. That got me thinking about posture and how it was affected by riding my bike before running. I soon noticed that I had a more pronounced lordosis posture (anterior tilt) after riding hard in the aero position then attempting to run. Interestingly, since identifying this problem i’ve spoke to more and more people who suffer stitch and breathing difficulties running in triathlon and a lot of them tend to be  children.

So what’s going on?

Time to post our anterior tilt photo again, it feels only right we put it in this final issue. I’ll start by saying that anterior-pelvic-tiltthis is purely my own thoughts and ideas, based on things I’ve tried which have worked for me. Nobody has given me a decent answer to why I had this recurring stitch or breathing difficulties.

Take a look at the photo right and picture the ‘abdominal cavity’. The abdominal cavity is the space which contains your intestines and in simple terms it’s a box with front, back, sides, floor and ceiling. The pelvic floor is underneath, the abdominals, lower back and obliques (muscles on sides) make the front, back and sides and your diphragm is the ceiling on this box.

If you have anterior tilt, this box becomes ’tilted’ out of position. If fact, it isn’t a box any more, it’s more like a rhomboid shape. If you don’t know what a rhomboid is, google it!! Keeping it simple, it’s fair to assume that if your diaphragm is pulled in an odd direction and out of position, it probably won’t pull down and allow you to deep breathe very well.

Keep is simple mate…

I’m trying. So having noticed this issue related to running after cycling and thinking about it way too much, I altered my posture when running. To my surprise, it was like someone has just pulled a giant plug out of my lungs and I could breathe normally!! I’ll explain the changes I made in as simple terms as possible.

Old technique:

1. Anterior tilt of the pelvis, creating an arched lower back and my stomach to stick out (leave it!!)
2. Felt like I was sticking my chest out at the same time. As I was sticking my chest out, I was looking slightly upwards (my natural line of site was upwards)
4. Point 2 & 3 meant that I was very upright, almost leaning back

New technique

1. To try and counter the upright / backwards lean I looked down at the road/track 15m ahead of me
2. Consciously held a slight forwards lean (my torso was slightly ahead of my pelvis)
3. Didn’t stick my chest out and shoulders back, moved shoulders forwards slightly (without hunching too much)
4. Pulled my belly in and avoided pelvis tilting forwards into lordosis

One final thing which can also help with the breathing issues, although not related to posture, is your stride rate. We are often encouraged to run or cycle with high cadences, 90 foot falls or 90 pedal revolutions per minute (or higher). Faster cadences for both cycling and running increase breathing rate. If you are struggling with rapid breathing, slow the cadence and stride out more (longer / slower strides), that can help to slow the breathing rate down.

Hopefully you can picture the changes above! I think it’s pretty common for runners who are tired and pushing hard to lean back, stick their chest out and look upwards. Thre result is a very upright and almost ‘leaning back’ posture. If you can relate to any of the breathing or ‘stitch’ symptoms above, then give the changes a go, see if they can help your run performances, if it works, i’d be interested to hear the feedback.

Cramping issues

There’s one final thing I’m going to talk about which is issues related to cramping. I explained in detail during previous blogs, the reasons for cramping and how posture can be a direct cause. As this is the final part of the ‘trilogy’ (I say trilogy in the tenuous sense of the word), I wanted to specifically answer a few questions which had been emailed, largely relating to cramp in the calf during open water swimming.

As per previous blogs, it’s nothing to do with salts etc the issue may well be related to changes in length and muscle stretch receptors / nervous system confusion. I’ve suffered from this issue and have a simple plan to resolve it. When swmming, your calf is in a shortened position and if it remains shortened for a long period of time, it can go into spasm. You need to remind your calf of it’s original length at regular intervals, so try this:

1. Every 3 minutes, pull your toes up to gently stretch your calf. Do it once on each leg and you don’t have to hold, just stretch and release. This inhibits your swimming slightly, but it’s not going to slow you more than 1 second at most!
2. You need to do it at regular intervals, not just in reponse to the cramp, so make it a habit every 3 minutes.
3. It needs to be gentle movement, don’t do a sharp stretch of the calf, which can also trigger spasm.

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 Ice Trail Tarentaise 2015 Race Preview #ITT2015

 

©iancorless.comIMG_0945The stunning alpine village of Val d’Isère is the official home of the next two races in the Skyrunner® calendar, the Ice Trail Tarentaise which is the Skyrunning Continental Championship for the Ultra distance and the Bellevarde Vertical Kilometer the first VK in the Skyrunner® World Series.

Val d’Isere is a haven for alpinists wanting to test themselves on the iconic slopes of Meribel, Val Thorens, Courchavel; it is affectionately known as the ‘Le Trois Vallees’. The Ice Trail Tarentaise (ITT) starts and concludes in this beautiful mountain retreat.

The ITT has over 60 km’s above 2000m altitude and with a highest point of 3653m at ‘Grande Motte.’ In just a couple of years, the race has gained a reputation for being one of the most ‘extreme’ races in the Skyrunner® calendar, it is a race not to be taken lightly!

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Traversing glaciers, ascending and descending summits such as ‘Aiguille Pers’ at 3386m, ropes, ladders, way markers, peaks at over 3000m and 5000m +/- ascent and descent guarantees that not everyone will see the finishing tape. The ITT is very true to the heritage of Skyrunning and it harks back to the late 80’s and early 90’s when ISF President, Marino Giacometti pioneered a new form of Alpinism.

 

Who is running?

Men

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ITT has always had a high quality field assemble and 2015 is no different. Luis Alberto Hernando heads up the men’s field after his recent victory at Transvulcania Ultramarathon and placing 2nd at the IAU World Trail Championships. Luis ran ITT last year but pulled out whilst in 2nd place. I am convinced that we won’t see that happen this year and for me, Luis is the hot favourite for victory. He is without doubt in his element on tough courses (with snow) between the 50-100km distance.

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Manuel Merillas is a rising star in Skyrunning and had an incredible 2014. He placed 5th at ITT in 2014, which will most definitely provide him with a great deal of experience coming into the 2015 edition. The recent Transvulcania Ultramarathon did not go well for Manuel; he looked primed for the podium in the first half of the race but then struggled in the latter stages to finish outside the top 10. He showed amazing powers of recovery by bouncing back just 1 week later at Zegama-Aizkorri and placing 2nd. One to watch!

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Fabien Antolinus had a great race in 2014 and placed 2nd behind Francois d’Haene. He does however seem to blow hot and cold and can be a little unpredictable. For sure, he has all the skills and talent required to perform at the highest level. He may well be a podium contender but I don’t see him toppling Luis.

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Pablo Villa shot to our attention in 2014 when he had a great run at Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Shifting sponsors (now Salomon) he backed that performance up with 8th at the 2015 edition of the race. Pablo is a top 10 contender and should he have a great day, the top 5 may well be a possibility.

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Fulvio Dapit has all the potential to make the podium at ITT. On his day, he is a superb mountain runner and he excels when the terrain is ‘challenging.’ He placed 4th at ITT in the last edition. Recently though he had a tough performance at Lavaredo, however, he did pull out and that may well have saved his ITT performance.

French champion (2013), Sebastien Spehler had victories at TTN and 6000D in 2014. His recent form is a little unknown but he may well make the top 10?

Benoit Cori placed 13th at the IAU World Trail Championships and won Templiers in 2014. The ITT course is far removed from both those courses but Benoit obviously has speed.

Marcin Swierc is another runner who will make his presence felt in the top 10. He placed 8th at Mont-Blanc Marathon and 9th at Templiers and 4th at the recent Mont-Blanc 80km. So it is clear to see that he has speed and strength. ITT adds other aspects and his final result will very much depend on how he can handle snow, ice and additional technical running.

Christophe Perillat is not a runner I know a great deal about. However, he did place 2nd at the 2014 CCC. So with that in mind, he is no slouch in the mountains.

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Cyril Cointre may well start the race? I need to have this confirmed. If he does, he will be a contender at the front of the race. He races extensively, some may say too much but despite this, he always pulls out the results. Recently he finished ahead of Anton Krupicka at Transgrancanaria.

Franco Colle knows how to run in the mountains; look at his results at Tor des Geants. The ITT terrain will suit him but will it be too short and too fast? He certainly performed exceptionally well at Mont-Blanc 80k when he placed 2nd behind Alex Nichols.

Several other names on the start sheet jump out at me:

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Zigor Iturrieta has been there and done it in racing. I was last at a race with him in Nepal when he ran Everest Trail Race (he placed 3rd) and he always manages to pull out the stops for strong consistent results.

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Pavel Paloncy is a renowned adventure racer, 2-x winner of the UK’s Spine Race and recently raced The Dragons Back and would have placed well overall had it not been for a bad fall on day 1. Pavel is a strong and gritty runner. I do wonder though if this race may be too short and too fast for Pavel?

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Stuart Air from the UK has run well at ITT before and top 10 would be a great result.

Ones to watch:

Daniel Garcia, Jessed Hernandez, Robert Niewland, Pawel Dybek,

 

Ladies

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Emelie Forsberg has won ITT 2 x and I have no reason to doubt or question that she will do it again. It’s a course she loves, the terrain suits her and she has great memories. Last weekend she won and set a new course record in Alaska at Mount Marathon. It was 50-minute race but just today (Tuesday) she said her legs are tired! I think they will be okay for the weekend. Her performance and victory (off ski’s) at Transvulcania Ultramarathon in 2015 confirms that Emelie is the one to beat!

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Anna Comet Pascua is on fire at the moment. I witnessed Anna win Everest Trail Race at the end of 2014 and she said then that she planned to race the Skyrunning circuit in 2015. A podium place at Transvulcania Ultramarathon and then a follow up podium behind Mira Rai at Mont-Blanc 80km confirms that Anna is doing something right. Just as in La Palma, I don’t think Anna has the race to beat Emelie but anything can happen?

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It will not be an easy ride for Emelie and Maud Gobert will make sure of that. Maud placed 2nd at ITT in 2014 and although she races lees now than in the past, on her day she can still make her presence felt.

Anne Lise Rousset placed 4th at the IAU World Championships and although she has great potential for top 5 or maybe even the podium, I don’t see her coming close to Emelie on a course like this.

Magdalena Laczack however may well prove to be the dark horse of the race and is my top tip for 2nd place and should Emelie falter, Magdalena could possibly take the victory? Her 3rd place behind Emelie and Frosty at the Skyrunning World Championships (80km) in Chamonix confirms this.

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Nuria Dominguez is an ever present on the Skyrunning circuit and always gets the job done. She has placed top 10 at Transgrancanaria, Zegama-Aizkorri, Dolomites SkyRace, Trans D’Havet, Limone Extreme and so on. Top 5 is a distinct possibility and most certainly a podium contender on a good day!

Beth Cardelli is one of the strongest runners in the Southern Hemisphere and won one of the shorter races at ITT in 2013. Climbing and long distance running is her forte and I am sure if she is making the journey from Australia she will be fired up for a great run. Recently she placed 4th at Mt Difficulty and 3rd at Buffalo Stampede when Landie Greyling topped the podium.

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Ester Alves seems to be running everything at the moment. I would say ‘too much’ for her to have any potential for the podium at ITT but she may well make the top 5 and top 10 should be guaranteed if all goes well. Recently she placed 2nd behind Stevie Kremer at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira.

Ones to watch:

Ragna Debats, Frederica Boifava, Anna Strakova, Sarah Vieuielle and Virginie Govignon.

*****

The Ice Trail Tarentaise weekend is also renowned for the Bellevarde Vertical Kilometer, which was reintroduced in 2014.

The course is a tough one, which may include snow although this looks unlikely after recent high temperatures throughout Europe. This race may well prove to be very exciting, as Francois Gonon will run after his recent excellent CR on the vertical slopes in Chamonix.

Ones to watch:

Men

  • Francois Gonon
  • Nejc Kuhar
  • Marco Moletto
  • Ferran Teixido
  • Xavier Teixido
  • William Bon Mardion
  • Eirik Haugsness
  • Remi Bonnet

 

Ladies

  • Laura Orgue
  • Stephanie Jimenez
  • Emelie Forsberg (tbc)
  • Azara Garcia
  • Therese Sjursen
  • Erika Forni
  • Serena Vittori
  • Ekaterina Mityaev
  • Zhana Vokueva

Follow the racing in images and words on this website, on Facebook.com/iancorlessphotography on Twitter @talkultra and on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

Race Tweets will come to you via @skyrunning_com and on the Skyrunning Facebook page.

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

How is your Posture? Part Deux – Marc Laithwaite

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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

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Skyrunning Mont-Blanc 80k 2015 Preview

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 DRAGON has been unleashed #DragonsBackRace 2015

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The DRAGON has been unleashed and the 2015, 3rd edition of the #DragonsBackRace is underway. Here are a few images from the first summit of the day, as you can see, the rain is already here and the wind was blowing in strongly from the sea.

©iancorless.com_DragonsBack2015Day1-3996As in 2012, a Welsh male voice choir started the race and on the stoke of 0700 the runners were off! Running around the Conwy Castle walls they all have a tough day ahead that includes the Snowdon horseshoe route and the challenging Crib Goch. At just under 50km, it’s going to be a challenging first day.

Live tracking is available here: http://www.dragonsbackrace.com/live-tracking/

Followon Twitter – @DragonsBackRace @TheRealBerghaus @talkultra

Facebook – facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

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.

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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.

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Specs as provided by PHD 

Summer Lite Down Jacket £199 

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  • 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.

 

 

Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM2015 – Race Images and Summary

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Images to purchase HERE

Waking up at 0400 to pouring rain is never a great way to start a day, particularly when you have 55km of tough, challenging and mountain terrain to get over. After a couple of recce runs in the days leading up to the race, it became very clear that the USM was going to offer a very tough challenge.

Stevie Kremer had flown in from Colorado and was praying for sun. Ricky Lightfoot and Aritz Egea are from Cumbria and the Basque country and ‘it always rains’ they told me, so no need to ask what they hoped for.

The USM course is a unique one. Weaving up and down mountains, around beaches, through dense undergrowth, up a riverbed and of course plenty of climbing and descending. It’s not your ordinary Skyrunning course!

Departing the start line at 0600 on the dot, the runners disappeared down a darkened lane with only head torches and rain for company. It was a brutal start to the day, just 1km to warm up and then a climb of 1400m.

Onwards and upwards the runners climbed and a section of via ferrata at around 6km provided a taster for the final push to the summit. It wasn’t easy going. The mist had come in and visibility was poor. Add to this constant rain and steep gradients.

Ricky Lightfoot and Zaid Ait Malek were the first to appear. The contrast between the two striking, Ricky is tall and well built and a fireman by trade. Zaid is Moroccan, small and probably only about 50kg in weight when completely wet through and wearing three layers of clothes.

They matched each other step-by-step. Minutes later, Aritz Egea appeared looking calm and relaxed in the wet and challenging conditions. With 90 minutes of the race elapsed, the main male contenders came thick and fast and with them, Stevie Kremer.

It was sometime before the 2nd lady Ester Alves came into sight and the writing was on the wall. Stevie was going to need to crumble to loose this race. Descending over the summit, an inversion came in allowing the surrounding vistas to come clear. It was quite special to see so many mountains and trails all above the cloud.

Running the ridges and several more climbing sections, the front of the race didn’t change until a decisive phase around the 30km mark. Climbing from the sea and beach, Ricky Lightfoot continued to extend his lead looking strong. However, Zaid Ait Malek looked in trouble and Aritz Egea was closing. After 5km of ridge running and a technical descent, a riverbed with boulder hopping awaited.

Ricky was long gone but here Aritz moved ahead of Zaid. It looked like a decisive move but as we know, nothing is guaranteed in racing. Behind, Clemente Mora and Nuno Silva were coming to life. In particular Nuno, he ran over the boulders in the river like a man possessed.

But another long climb needed to be ascended and descended before the finish line and here the podium changed. Zaid was having trouble and feeling dizzy. His only option to ease off the pace providing a gateway to third. As Clemente and Nuno battled for 3rd, Aritz exploded through a lack of calories and was forced to jog/ walk it into the finish. Seizing an opportunity, Clemente proved the stronger and finally pulled away from Nuno and they finished 6:17:22 and 6:24:57 respectively behind Rick Lightfoot’s new course record, 6:09:56.

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Steve Kremer was almost in another race by the time the riverbed and the final climb came. However, she did say she wasn’t feeling great. This was the longest race she had ever run! It was academic, Stevie despite what she said ran into the finish looking strong in 7:33:37 almost 45 min ahead of 2nd placed Ester Alves in 8:14:45. Lucia Franco took the final podium place in 9:01:53.

Post race, Stevie went on to say, ‘USM is one of if not the hardest race I have ever done. I think it is a much harder race than Zegama-Aizkorri. It was relentless terrain and the conditions just made it so much harder. Race organisation was brilliant and course marking superb. It was brilliant but so tough.”

By contrast, Ricky seemed relaxed after his run, ‘It was a great course and one that embodies Skyrunning exceptionally well. However, the first hour of the course is not designed for someone as tall as me! All those trees that needed to be crawled under; I was bent double,’ he said with a laugh. ‘Zaid is only tiny so he could just run. I felt like I was crawling. The views when the mist lifted were incredible. It was almost as though I was running in another race.’

The 2nd edition of the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira has been a great success. Madeira is an amazing island with a tough and challenging course. The future looks bright for this new addition to the Skyrunning calendar.

Results:

  1. Stevie Kremer 7:33:37
  2. Ester Alves 8:14:45
  3. Lucia Franco 9:01:53
  1. Ricky Lightfoot 6:09:56
  2. Clemente Mora 6:17:22
  3. Nuno Silva 6:24:57

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

Damage Limitation by Marc Laithwaite

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The term D.O.M.S. is used frequently within the world of endurance, it represents the ‘Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness’. The name refers to the fact that sometimes you don’t actually feel the effects of a training session or race until the following day when you step out of bed. Those who have ran a marathon will understand the sensation. You cross the line and undoubtedly you’re tired but there isn’t a great deal of physical pain. However, the next morning, or perhaps even the morning after that, your attempts to walk downstairs backwards provide the family with the highest level of entertainment they have ever experienced.

The same may be said of the inexperienced cyclist who decides to enter a 100 miles hilly cycle sportive, despite a poor training background. Aside from the embarrassment of being unable to sit down for a week, the morning after generally requires a family member to assist their descent to breakfast. So what’s happened? Has someone been repeatedly battering your tired legs throughout the night whilst you failed to wake from your exercise induced, coma like sleep? The answer lies with D.O.M.S. and the inflammation process.

The inflammation process

During a marathon running event the muscle tissue is damaged due to repeated stress and this triggers the inflammation process. The damage occurs ‘during’ the marathon but the inflammation process takes 24-48 hours to reach its peak, so the pain you feel the following morning was actually happening ‘real time’ during the second half of the race.

An important note to make here is that when people slow down in the final 6 miles of the marathon, we generally assume it is caused by low carbohydrate stores, often termed ‘hitting the wall’. However, there is likely to be a significant amount of muscle tissue damage by this stage in the race which will undoubtedly have an impact upon performance. Due to the D.O.M.S. effect, we rarely discuss the significance of tissue damage during the event. It’s important to recognise that the pain you experience 24-48 hours after the race is caused by damage which happened ‘real time’ in the second half of the marathon. That’s why you were getting slower!!

*Part of the inflammatory process involves fluid build up in the damaged area, due to this fluid build up you may weigh more 24-48 hours after the marathon that you did before, perhaps even 1-2kg extra in weight! Don’t worry.. it’s just water and it will pass.

How do I know if I’ve got tissue damage as opposed to simply having tight muscles?

  1. It’ll be very ‘tender, warm and swollen’ and if someone squeezes your leg you’ll instinctively want to punch them (NB: they never see the funny side of your response).
  2. When you stretch, it makes no difference to the tenderness, the pain still exists (it’s not tight, its damaged) and its probably better if you actually don’t stretch!

*Myth explosion – the pain and tenderness the day after the event has absolutely nothing to do with lactic acid in the muscles. It’s an old wife’s tail and I’m not even open to discussion on the matter.

How does damage affect performance?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that a damaged muscle will not work as effectively as a healthy muscle. However, aside from the actual physical damage directly affecting performance, it’s possible that the inflammation process is acting on a much higher plane and going straight to the governor.

The central governor

There are various theories regarding ‘why we slow down’ and one of the most prominent in recent years has been the ‘central governor’. This theory suggests that fatigue is controlled by the brain (which can effectively switch off nerve signals to muscles) rather than fatigue being controlled by ‘peripheral factors’ such as the ‘actual muscle damage’.

Okay, here is a simple example:

  1. The muscles is damaged and therefore doesn’t work well, as a result you slow down. That is ‘peripheral control’, the muscle is damaged and the muscle doesn’t work, at no point is the brain involved.
  2. The muscle is damaged and somehow the brain’s monitoring system detects this. As a result the brain blocks nerve signals to the muscle so it can’t function fully and you are forced to slow down, that’s central governor control.

Why are we talking about central governor and gone off track from inflammation?

Yep, I was hoping you’d ask that. When we damage a muscle we kick start the ‘inflammatory process’ which is a chain of events involving a series of chemicals, each having a different purpose and action. One of the most widely researched in a chemical known as Interleukin-6 (IL-6) which is released into the blood stream during early stages of muscle damage and inflammation. Research suggests that IL-6 is detected by the brain and as a consequence, the brain then acts to slow you down in some way. In an old study (completed by Tim Noakes 2004) runners completed 2 separate 10k runs a week apart. They were healthy during both but prior to the second run they were injected with IL-6 and ran almost a minute slower.

Just stop and think about this for one second

Look at the 2 examples given at the top of this page for ‘peripheral control’ and ‘central control’. These 10k runners did not have muscle damage prior to either 10k, they were healthy, fuelled and ready to go until injected with IL-6. Their slower time cannot be explained by muscle damage, low fuel or any other form of peripheral control. The only possible explanation is the circulating chemicals. The chemical IL-6 has even been suggested as a possible cause for the lethargy associated with ‘chronic fatigue’ or ‘chronic overtraining’. We know that all general illnesses and all forms of stress kick start the inflammation process and that in turn creates IL-6.

How does energy and nutrition relate to tissue damage?

VERY IMPORTANT: In previous blogs we have talked a great deal about carbohydrate and fat use during exercise and how to refuel. There is a presumption that if you refuel correctly and use fat as a fuel source, you will be successful in endurance events. As a consequence, when people fail to hit their target times, the first thing they turn to as an excuse is ‘failing to get the nutrition correct’. We treat nutrition as some kind of magic wand and if it’s done correctly, you can cycle and run forever, but the reality is very different. It doesn’t matter how much fuel you pour into a broken car, it isn’t going to drive anywhere fast. Without the conditioning which comes from running long miles on hard surfaces, even the most fuel efficient athletes will break down due to tissue damage. CONSIDER THIS: The energy used when cycling and running at a steady pace are not significantly different (slightly higher for running). However, many people who can cycle for 6 hours with little issue, will find themselves in pretty bad shape after as little as 2 hours of running. So ask yourself this question, is it fuel intake or is it damage causing the issue?

What causes the damage?

  1. Damage will be far greater if you’re not conditioned to the distance and terrain. In simple terms you need to spend time on your feet and do the longer sessions.
  2. Harder surfaces are more likely to cause damage, although this isn’t always strictly true as runners do become accustomed to the surface they train on.
  3. Running down hill is the real killer as the muscles contract eccentrically, braking your speed, thereby causing much greater damage.
  4. This isn’t limited just to running. Cycling for several hours and repeatedly performing the same pedal action will lead to muscle tissue stress and damage.

How can you avoid the damage?

  1. As above, you need to complete longer sessions, including downhill running if relevant.
  2. It’s possible that damage may be reduced, by using compression clothing. Research is very poor but ‘subjective’ feedback suggests that it certainly helps.
  3. Your weight will have an impact upon damage, if you have a few KGs to lose, it will help!
  4. Whilst this is a subjective / commercial / controversial addition to the list, specific shoes such as HOKA which are specifically designed to reduce impact can reduce damage and associated DOMS.

What should I do if I have tissue damage?

  1. Rest and let your legs recover for a few days.
  2. Avoid very deep post event massage or stretching, sticking fingers into or stretching damaged tissue is never a good idea, wait a few days at least.
  3. After a few days do some light exercise such as cycling to encourage blood flow to the area and assist the repair process.

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

Until then, limit the damage…

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

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