http-equiv='refresh'/> Global Therapies: August 2011

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Barrel Inn Fell Race

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The route
Last of the Midweek Championship Counters for Glossopdale. 1st and 2nd has been decided already, and John Hewitt and I are the only 2 in contention for 3rd place. All he needs to do is come one place behind me, and he comes 3rd. I have to be either first or second Glossopdale home. Gwyn is running, so first is pretty much out of the window, and knowing John, its going to be a hard run for second.

My plan was simply to beat John, and see how far back he came. Barrel Inn is about 10km long, and doesn't have too much in the way of crazy steep climbs- which is where I've managed to beat John before. Nor had he been racing at the weekend, so he was fresh.
And I heard that he had new shoes.
I'm very happy he has new shoes, but not so happy that this is the race he is going to debut them.

The playground
Lynne and I got over to Eyam quite early on. It was her Birthday so we had some food and had a lovely day out and all that kind of malarky. Just after getting to the car park and heading out for a bit of a recce of the route, Beryl and Carl came jogging across the parking lot, clutching a map of the route as well, and we made it a bit of a group recce, taking in the beginning, the end, and the adventure playground (which was by far the best bit), noting where all the stiles and slippery bits were. (on the route, not the playground. 
We went over to the start and registration, registered early and had a chat about the route with the organiser, who mentioned that yes there was a lap of the cricket pitch at the beginning. And at the end.
Great. Well at least we know.

After chilling out for a while, cars began to gather, people arrived and there was soon quite a full field turning up. Charlie arrived with Gwyn, Tom and John, who was sporting a new pair of Mudclaw 333's. By this time I had realised that I didn't actually have my new grippy roclites in the car. Nope. I had picked up my old dodgy ones with no grip and a broken lace retainer. Oh dear, this could be fun. A bit of pre-race banter followed, with mentions of Bear-traps and the like.
It was quite chilly at the start, and Lynne had already gone off up to somewhere to take photos, so we stood around getting quite chilly - except John, resplendent in his hat. Very soon the organiser said a few words about the course and that someone would be blowing a whistle to start us off.
That was it, we were off.
I love the random nature of starts in fell races, you never really quite know what's going to happen.
Chris leading us up the first hill
140 of us raced across the field and around the cricket pitch, and then hit the hill. I could see John out of the corner of my eye and kept him in close contact.
My basic race strategy (yep, I actually had a strategy this time), was to keep in contact with John all the way around, but get over every stile in front of him. That would give me a good 5-7 metre jump on him each time we went over one, and by the time he caught me up, there would (hopefully) be another stile to get the jump on him again. Then at the end, sprint for the line and see what happened. OK, this wouldn't get me 3rd in the championship, but I would get the victory for the day.
John, being the fighter that he is wasn't going to settle for one place behind me, he wanted to beat me, I was pretty sure he would go out hard, and continue in that vein all the way around, beating me into submission every step of the way, and in the process, taking much of the sting out of my final dash for the line. It was going to be tough.

Top of the first hill after the first dig
Up the hill, Chris was up in front of us, he's good on hills is Chris. He can't but help it with legs that long. I was behind John all the way up the climb, on tarmac to begin with, then up a track that winds up the hill, hard pack and rocky underfoot, slightly unstable, but generally fine. It went on for a while, round a couple of steeper bends, and then up to the top, I put in the first dig and stretched out in front of John as we passed Lynne and Carl at the top of the climb, putting a good few metres between us. We were about to go on road as well, which would see him close the gap - and he did, but I was over the stile first.
Bang, immediately I was up with Chris for the undulating field with John a ways behind. Perfect. Chris was saying that he'd gone off way too fast, too early and that he was just going to go backward from that point on, I'd have loved to have had a conversation, but I knew John was coming... neck and neck, he gained on me... there's a stile coming, speed up, and over it in front, left, up a track.
That little boost from getting over the stile was good, by the time we got to the top of the rise, again, we were neck and neck, and we matched each other all the way down the next bit of slope. Sometimes he slipped ahead, but I pulled him back. It was beginning to hurt a bit now. A relentless pace up the hill, then down, I knew I was hurting, but surely, surely he was hurting too? Whatever pace he can sustain, I can as well.

Round the corner, John was first, onto a track, I think there were other runners there, but honestly, I have no idea. A bit of a left hander, and I'm still trailing a little. Back onto the road down to Barrel Inn, the namesake of the race and he is in front all the way. Thanks to the team outside the pub who were ready to hand out drinks, I felt very rude for not picking any up, but did have a slightly more pressing matter on my mind.
Round the corner of the pub and down a short tarmacked hill, I thought I would try a bit of psychological warfare and pushed out ahead of John by a stride or two, then fell back, and then did it again, and fell back. Ha Ha! I'm going to completely dominate this now.


The track turns into a rutted nightmare of a track going uphill, and all of a sudden I'm flagging. John is probably about to give me a bit of a masterclass in how to keep going at the same pace for a fair amount of time longer than I am able to sustain. Up the hill, (well, slope actually), we are behind someone else, and I know that if John can push past, then I'm done for. Keep breathing and turning over the pace, I stick to his coat tails and we come up and to a stile. Of 4 runners, I am the last one to the stile. As we go over, none of my technique helps and we come down equal lengths apart. Then they all seem to accelerate away from me. You have got to be kidding me. Why can't I keep up with them? I try striding out, it doesn't work. We hit another stile, which slows them down enough for me to just get behind them again.
Once more the trail is flat, and they accelerate away, at the next stile there is enough of a gap for them to be a unit of 3 with me trailing some way behind.
There are 2 lovely ladies by the stile, marshaling, so I do my utmost to vault over with as much style, speed and panache as possible, and am off in hot pursuit. Down the hill, but the guys in front are way in front now. 20, 25 metres? I can hear breathing behind me.
I can't believe that I'm not able to keep up with John. I've been whupped good and proper. I try to work out if my legs are just cruising, if there is anyway that I can make the run faster. I'm sure they are cruising, but the more I try, the more they go at the same speed, and the further ahead the 3 in front of me get. I've been given a bit of a lesson.
But its not over yet.

Down and down and down we go, (not all that steep, mind, just a nice gradient that everyone else apparently can run faster than me), and at the bottom a sharp right and up the hill. You can see who is behind you and how far. An idea pops into my head that if John sees just how far behind I am, he might relax and slow down a little. No idea if this works or not, but I hit the bottom, sharp right and the grip on my dodgy old messed up roclites fail and I sprawl on the floor at the feet of the marshall. Great. And there is someone else catching me up. Right, up and at 'em then. Beyond and ahead of me, the line of people up the hill stretches out. John and his battle with 2 others is going on 30 metres up the hill from me, I just need to plug away and hope that I can close the gap somehow, hoping that at some point over the last few Kms I can overtake.
Up the hill, breathing, breathing, concentrate on people in front, keep going, ignore the pain, ignore the effort, keep going up. The hill throws a bit of a kick at us and I notice that John has been left by the others, and is now a lot closer to me. That speedy section must have taken a bit more out of him than I thought. Keep going. He's walking. Brilliant, I keep up the pace and come right up behind with about 30 metres of the steep section still to go. If I keep running all the way up, will I have the pace to stay in front, or will I have worn myself out too much?

I go for the steady option and power walk behind him until just before the top, when I pull out the stops and power on over the crest ahead of him. Nice. All that I thought was lost, is now back in hand. Just need to keep running, not the easiest of tasks and my feet feel tired of hitting the floor, my legs feel like they are wired to a car battery and its all I can do to fall forward while keeping them moving. John can't be feeling all that much better as I can hear him behind, but he can't overtake.
This field is going on for a long time.
I stretch out, but pretty much stay at the same speed. I know there is another stile coming up and I try to keep breathing at a normal(ish) rate (for running like an idiot), to trick myself into believing that I'm fine, hoping that this gives the impression that I'm fine. He's still just behind me, and I see the stile, a rush for it, as I think he now knows my plan, and is intent on getting there first. My line takes me there perfectly. One, and then very quickly another. Bang, and into the sloping field down to the road. Still in front, I'm hammering away, hoping against hope that he doesn't have the legs to overtake, after this field is a km on road, and that's not going to be fun, he's certainly going to be faster there, limit the damage, stay in front here, let him overtake on the road, and then through the trees, its steep, gather yourself there, catch your breath as you go down through the trees and take him at the end. Good plan.
Burst for the stile at the end of the field, again, just about holding him off, explode over the wall and onto the tarmac and run crazy down the road.

As expected, John slowly overhauls me. I fight back, but, keeping to the plan, I let him get a little ahead, but only by a stride. Round the corner, and my lungs are burning out. This is really really hurting now. Thankfully none of the diaphragmatic pain of races gone by, just sheer lung bursting, lactic acid inducing, leg lagging pain.
Down into the depths of the wood, this is going to be slippy, and I can see John is going a little gingerly, despite his new crazy sticky shoes, I'm skipping down over the roots quite happily, gaining my breath on every step down, he, seemingly concentrating hard, me just going with it. I was about to make some smart remark about his shoes and that I bet he's glad he has them on instead of his old ones with no grip when all of a sudden he bashed off right, following some small trail going down into the bottom of the river gully- the path continued straight on... "uh... John, its this way..." I said as I continued down ... He'd just quite literally run himself off the road. No longer following anyone, I stretched my legs out, not far to go now, just keep running. I suspected that he had extricated himself from the gully/ditch that he ran into and was now storming down through the woods as fast as possible to make up for the time he had lost with this minor route choice issue.
Panic, run like a lunatic.

I could hear big heavy footsteps behind me, keep going. Ripping down the hill, it was quite difficult to stop for the sharp right turn, where I caught a glimpse of a shirt behind me that wasn't Glossopdale. That's good, but no time to relax in the slightest. What can I concentrate on? 2 runners ahead, get them. Along a small and slippery single track through the trees, down and over a stream, left, and the runner in front of me over takes the one in front of him. Aha. I sense another scalp. We come out of the trees and the one that was overtaken has slowed dramatically. I see that he is also wearing Mudclaws, but nothing else. He could have been wearing a gorilla suit and I wouldn't have noticed. Weird how your mind works.
Up a short slope, through a gate, and the final killer uphill section. I overtake the guy with Mudclaws on, and have a mild panic that John is right behind me. I cannot look back, I cannot stop, I cannot do anything except run for the line. It must be about 600 metres away now. Up, up, and then a sharp left and down the hill.
Steps. Who puts steps in a hill?! My legs don't work like normal, so instead of thrashing down them at a rate of knots, I mince down them a step at a time, probably looking for all the world like a man who needs a stick. Through the gate, which swings shut with a BANG and into the last downhill field. I go under 2 trees and am 10 metres away when the gate shuts again with another BANG. Whoever it is is about 10 metres behind me. Is it John? Can't be, but keep going, just in case. Through the stile at the bottom, which is one of those Pinch Stiles- the marshal says "you can sprint all the way home from here!" to which I reply "yeah, right" and go down past the blackberries, onto a track, sharp right at the bottom, I hear breathing behind me, and I know its just up here, past the playground and around the cricket field.
At the end, showing my number
Carl is there saying something about my position, I have no idea what it was, and I dig in, just that little bit more. No-one is going to overtake me from here. Up the slope and a tight left onto the cricket field. I cannot quite keep this pace to the end, I slow up just a touch for a few strides to catch my breath, and let whoever it is catch up by a few metres, Lynne is shouting at me from the other side of the field, and I cruise for another 10 metres. Right. Bottom of the field, no idea of what time this is, or position, but no-one is taking it from me, and a kick which, from the photos seem to suggest that whoever was behind me was never near me at any point.
Home. In 12th place. I look at my Garmin, but its shut down, great, the hardest race of my year and the stupid thing hasn't recorded it. It worked for 5 mins and then switched off of its own accord.
Ah well, I beat John.
Even in the hardest part of the race when he was 30-40 metres ahead, I thought about slowing down, giving into the pain, and letting him shoot off into the distance, but I kept on running, believing that I might be able to shut him down at some point. Had I not done that I would not have been able to capitalise on the mistake he made. Never give up, no matter how much you think you can't make it, there is always a chance that something is going to go your way. It did.

Well done to Gwyn, who won this one, I'd love to read his experiences of the race, but it would probably read "ran fast. beat everyone". I was 2nd Glossopdale home, John was 3rd, but the 4th guy, Tom was only 7 seconds behind him... had it been the other way around the club would have to start writing new rules about club championships. Never mind. I won the battle this time, but not the war.
Gwyn receiving his prize
Y'know, I feel somewhat cheated that John went the wrong way, that we didn't get to battle it out right to the very end, but such is the nature of fell racing. I don't think I've ever actually pushed that hard in a race before, I haven't had the motivation, or maybe, I've just subconsciously not wanted to hurt that much. Now I've done it though, I know it can be done. It never gets less painful. You just get faster. 
Next year is another year, but between now and then, there are a fair few weekend races. Longer, tougher, worse weather, lots of room for improvement.
Can't wait.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Diaphragmatic pain- treatment and prevention

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As the diaphramatic pain blog got a fair amount of interest in terms of people looking at it, I re-read it and obviously there is a lot of information about what is happening and why things are hurting, but not so much about how to stop it happening or how to treat the pain.

As alluded to by one of the comments I have been in touch with a couple of people and suggested some stretches, which seems to have stopped the symptoms. I basically sat down and worked out some things which would stretch out the tissues mentioned.

The general key when stretching out psoas/iliacus/abdominals is that you don't just sit there and stretch out one portion of the fibres. Move around within the stretch and get into the different fibres of the muscles. They don't just work in one plane, and have a multitude of minor variation of angles which it is beneficial to stretch into.

Here are a couple of pics of the stretch cycle that I tend to do before a run/race to warm up the torso ready for the miles that lie ahead. These are a series that stretch one hip flexor, you then have to do it all in a mirror image to get to the other.
Make sure the back knee doesn't touch the ground, and look UP to the hand. Move back and forth, into and around the stretch. Apologies for the non-level shot, but Lynne didnt think she'd get me in the frame.

Now look at the other hand, again, the back knee doesn't touch the ground. Move around in the stretch, feel the different fibres of muscles and breathe into them. Don't count the seconds. Do it so that it feels right.

Last one, stretch out over the top, this is stretching the same area as the last 2 stretches, but puts the enphasis on other parts of the tissue and fascia. Again, breathe into it. To stretch the other Hip flexor do it all again but starting with the other leg forward to begin with.

You can follow these if you like, or make up your own, I find they work. If they don't work for you, find something that does.

Another point that is worth making is that if the psoas or iliacus has become chronically shortened through overuse/abuse/misuse, it may be that just stretching might not be enough to loosen the structures out enough to be able to run painfree (hopefully it will be, but maybe not). In that case, all is not lost. It is a treatable condition, and there are a number of things that we might be able to help out with - involving assisted stretching, muscle facilitation and Soft Tissue Release, (much like the well vaunted and much publicised Active Release Therapy- its the same thing, just under a different - and I believe patented- name).

Obviously every situation is different, and each client is individual, but if you do have an issue with this and want to get it looked at to see if we can help you out, please do drop us a line, Lynne or I would be glad to help. (I've had it and self-treated it, and Lynne has treated me and knows what its all about - psoas, iliacus and diaphragmatic release are underused by a lot of soft tissue therapists, but having come to realise just how important they are, we try to implement it in our treatments as much as possible).

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Chunal Fell race

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Chunal, another Des classic. 4miles and 950ft of ascent. Someone on the FRA forum mentioned it was basically a cross between Wormstones and Herod Farm, both of which I have had the dubious pleasure of running.

When someone says 'its a cross between...' especially when talking about a fell race, assume they mean the hardest and nastiest bits of the race. That was certainly the case of this one.

The weather had been unsure of what to do in Glossop all day. The clouds had been out in force, it had been sunny to a point, but never actually nice. Although it didn't rain through the day, it was always a possibility.
Lynne and I walked over to o sole mio where registration was, with an ever darkening sky above. Ah, it can't be that bad. Surely if it was going to rain, it would have started by now...

We got over there, paid the fee and got my number, Lynne went off up the hill to find a decent place to take photos while I pinned on my number said hi to a couple of people and wandered around looking for the start, and exactly where the finish was - important considering that apparently last year it finished nigh on the road.

Found the start finish and jogged up the hill to see the actual hill we're going to climb. Yep. It still looks as big as when I ran Herod Farm. Saw Lynne, went back to the start. And waited. There were a good number of us who knew about the 7pm start, and it would seem a few who didn't. So we were waiting around for a good 15mins, some of the faster runners, who had obviously warmed up to 'just the right temperature' were getting cold. It didn't help that the weather chose the 15 mins around that time to start raining...

Andy Howie even had a vest top on at that point, so it must have been pretty chilly! The Glossop contingent was a little diminished, but we had a couple back from Sedbugh at the weekend- John arrived late, but better late than never...
The rain started, stopped, drizzled, turned to mist, rained again, and eventually Des rocked up under a HUGE umbrella to give us a pep talk.
The start was given by a kid whose "onyourmarksgetsetgo!" Caught a couple of people by surprise... But we surged up the hill.
Top of the road, on, to the hill!

The field was small, but select, so it wasn't like we had to battle hundreds of people up the hill, but it was still a little crowded up the first track. A hard right, Lynne taking photos, and onto a slippery grassy cambered footpath. Nice. I'm already at least 20th or so, not being so close to the front at the beginning, but the hill is going to happen soon.
Someone overtakes me, then John, who promptly puts his foot in a rabbit hole, slips, swears and carries on running. Nice. Over a stile - where there is an inexplicable queue - next field, through an open gate, hang a left and there is the hill. I can see Stevie from Pennine in front by a few places... So he doesn't always teleport then...

Shoot down through the gears and start climbing. Small steps, concentrate on breathing. Overtake one. And another. And then john. Nice. Now keep it going. The hill gets steeper. Overtaken by 2 Dark Peakers, but I keep in touch with them. Up and through the gate and then we hit the bit everyone walks. I look up to the top and not even the front runners have made it up yet - wow, I'm in the same 200 yards as the front runners! Not for long.

Going up the steep section I walk and keep close to the Dark Peakers, but I hear heavy breathing behind me. Keep the pace up all the way, don't let up, this is the first hill after all. We keep the pace up to the top section, staying in order, and remembering Julien's sage advice... the first one to start running near the top of the hill generally gets to the top first, I started running early, just as the hill began to not be quite as steep - and I heard a voice - "looking well Tim"- oh - its John S from the club, out on the hill taking photos. I managed to get off a quip about doing my hair, which may have come out as mumbled rubbish, but I overtook the 2 Dark Peakers on the final part of the ascent.
Which didn't last long, as one of them took me back about 30 seconds later as it properly flattened out.

So. That was the hard bit of Herod Farm out of the way, now we just have to get the hard bit from Wormstones over and done with. That's going to be fun. Instead of starting out runnable and ending up steep, like the hill we have just run, it starts out ridiculously steep and then turns into something horribly runnable.
We have to get there first though.

Off we go, down and through a gate (which we had to jump over in Wormstones, I'm a bit put out by the fact its open this time!) and some more Glossopdalers are there, Ian taking photos... best look like I'm enjoying it then.
Through the gate and up the minor incline. (I can't really justify calling it a hill after what we just came up). I have no idea if I was overtaken here or not), someone else at the top with a camera (Baba, was that you?) and then the beginning of a plunge down the other side of the hill. I catch up with another Dark Peaker who wasn't wearing a Dark Peak shirt, we get into the next field neck and neck, and I ease away down the hill. I can see someone in the distance jump and go squelch. Oh this looks fun.
I see a fence barring the way and a big muddy bog patch of a puddle. Nothing for it but a leap into it, and then out and over the fence.
I got caught on one of the Barbs from the barbed wire on top, ah well, tis but a minor scratch. (as a short aside, no-one else got caught on that damn fence. Was I the only one who went over the bit with barbed wire? or was it all barbed and everyone else was a lot more careful going over? when I spoke with a couple of other racers at the end they swear they don't remember the fence... I have the rather exciting cut to prove that I did indeed jump over a fence with Barbed Wire...hmmmm the mind boggles).

Anyhow, on with the race.
It got ridiculously steep at this point, I slipped, other people slipped, the floor was rock solid, but wet from the rain. I had a minor dilemma before running today whether to wear roclites or Baregrips. Had it been raining solidly for the past 2 weeks, the baregrips would have been the best shoe out there... however, with the ground that hard, I needed the extra cushioning of the roclites... the extra grip on the Baregrips wouldn't have served me any better I think.

Down, down, down the hill, slip and slide. Imagine a hill that tips away from you at a ridiculous gradient, like steeper than 1 in 2, then imagine it covered in grass and mud. Then make it slidy, and then put it at a ridiculous camber. With ruts. That's what we were going down. Half way down and there is a guy in a Pennine top sitting by the side of the "track". Its Dan Chan, who is normally somewhere so far ahead of me its really quite ridiculous. He's not screaming, and appears to be fully coherent as I ask him if he is ok. He waves me on, and I figure that if he wanted or needed help, Pennine Stevie would have been stopped as well, so he can't be in all that bad a shape.

Down the horrific descent, and at the bottom, a sharp left turn, and straight back up.
Not quite the same way, but it is this ascent that forms the character forming part of Wormstones. I was behind a guy all the way down, and now I struggle to keep tabs on him on the way up. This is nigh on a scramble, hands and knees job, but I keep upright, gulping in air and forcing my legs to keep moving. I can hear people catching me. It sounds like John. (not that I actually know what John sounds like, but when I'm in front of him, EVERYONE sounds like John). The hill steepens and we get to the nightmarish haul yourself over a wall, and then a fence 2 foot away while going uphill, and then onto a "flat" bit where you have to run or risk being overtaken.

I jump over the obstacle like an arthritic spaniel and force my legs into something resembling a run. Yep, make it look easy, you're bound to fool everyone. I keep running, remembering this hill goes on for a long long time, it goes up, cambers to the right, continues up to a false top, and then there is a kicker at the end. All you need to do is keep running.

I hear a rasping breath behind me, but stay calm and think like a metronome. I was doing some piano practice earlier and have Dvorak's 8th Slavonic Dance going through my head. Usefully, it turns out that this is quite a good running rhythm for this race, and as I keep my legs turning over the rasping slowly fades away, I'm losing him, whoever it is. Great.

But he is replaced by another one who soon overtakes me.
Coming to the top, I didnt realise John was THAT close
It's not John. Better. I tag onto his heels and try to keep him in touch. If he can run up this hill, I can too. Up over the false top and my lungs are fit to burst. Legs aching and really feeling it now, but there really isn't far to go now. We overtake someone who has clearly given too much on the climbs. We see the photographer coming down the hill - (yes, it was Nick) and I enquire as to whether he knows about Dan... he does and is on his way down, excellent. Onto the top and then there is that long decline that we ran up earlier, down toward Ian. By this time my lower leg is awash with blood and I at least LOOK like I've been having some fun.
The guy in the blue top stretches away on this slight downhill bit, but that doesn't worry me too much, there is a much more technical one to follow.

Then it dawns on me- the final downhill ISN'T the final downhill. We have to run UP that horrid little footpath that is overgrown with grass and bits. Slippy and with the long grass, strength and will sapping. Only after that do we head downhill for the end. I'm really going to have to do something special on the final downhill to make sure I'm not caught.
Over to the top. You can't see my leg though...
Past Ian, and now John is with him, (they failed abysmally in getting a picture of my heroically bloody leg), and I'm chasing 2 people to the top of Herod Farm hill.
One I overtake easily as we go to the top, and the other I follow over the crest, keeping him easily just in front of me as we plunge down the hill.
Only one track on this bit, anywhere else and you probably wouldn't be on your feet for too long. Tricky and technical, lovely. I'm on his heels as we hit the bottom, he runs to the gate and pushes it.
"uh... Pull?" I say helpfully.

He does and we are through and on to the runnable part of the hill. Horrid to climb, a delight to run down. Still, a bit slippy, what I would have given for it to be a mud fest, and wearing Baregrips - I'd have been twice as fast! As it was, hard pack and slippy grass, he matched me for 4 or 5 strides and then I was off, lost him effortlessly, and it was a great descent. Getting to the bottom, the gate that WAS open when we went up was closed. I didn't see the runner before us so had no idea what was going on. There was a lady shouting something at us - but I didn't really catch it. Caught somewhat off guard I ran to the lower end of the gate where the latch would be. It's chained and locked. Right. Over. By now I'm being caught again. Argh. Vault and run and do not look back. I can hear people on the gate behind me, and its just this crazily overgrown path to run along.

My legs are fading, my veins are pumping acid, my lungs are breathing brimstone. I wish this guy would just pass me and get it over with. There is no one that I can see in front of me to try to catch, but there are people behind me with only one thing on their mind... overtaking me. This place is mine to lose now. Up the... well, I can again, barely call it a hill.... feet of clay flailing around in the undergrowth, and still no-one overtakes me. That path must have gone on for ... ooooh.... miles and miles, at least 20, maybe more, but suddenly we were out, round the corner - there is Sandra and a daughter saying well done, its around the corner to the left, and the final downhill.
If he hasn't got me now, he never will.

Coming into the finish
Striding out, I know this road. It's 150 metres of all out sprint. Twisty and turny right the way down, see the finish line, keep the same speed, don't slow down - that's when you get taken, the same speed through the line and then hope that your fellow racers who have already finished have the sense to not be in your way as you try to stop. Its a marvellous run out and you can slow down for a good 200 metres before you hit a road.

Nice. What a finish. I couldn't see the guy in front of me, so could never have caught him, and by the end, I was quite a way in front of the next runner. Dried blood caked down my leg, mud splattered, (though not as much as one bloke who appeared to have gone in head first), I was pretty pleased with myself. Couldn't really have gone too much faster, and in the end I was 11th in a time of 31:31.

Post race, you can JUST see the blood. (Im quite proud of that)
Nay bad at all. The sun was vaguely out when I finished, and it was also vaguely raining, pretty much what you tend to get in Glossop. But there was a very vivid rainbow as well, which must have looked tremendous from the top of the hill. Though those running were probably concentrating on more pressing matters.

Well done again to Jack Ross for winning - now he is a fast young chap, Gwyn for his 2nd (though as you can see from the picture, the Jack decided to make off with the wine, and Gwyn was very happy with the chocolate prize instead), and to John H for the V45 prize.
Dan it seems is ok, though not quite sure what is going on with his legs... he has booked in for a treatment next week though, so we'll have to wait and see.

Twas great to adjourn to the pub afterward for a swift pint in the Star with the guys from the club as well, and Charlie also came out to join us which was an added bonus.
Gwyn with his chocolate bottle of Champagne. And a pint
A well run race, a brilliant, if somewhat tough route, and superb company. What more could you ask for on a Summers evening?

The geeky bit- Garmin Track for the race

Monday, 22 August 2011

Diaphragmatic pain while running

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I have mentioned pain in my diaphragm when running in a couple of blogs recently. I used to get it a bit when I was starting out, it put me off running for a while, and then I went back and hoped it wouldn't hurt. Sometimes it would, sometimes it wouldn't. I never really knew what it was, and didn't think about it until recently when I started to get the same pain in races, stretching out on down hills, or just running on the flat.
Funnily enough, it never really happened when I was running uphill.

So I went about trying to workout what it was that was hurting.
The area that was most in pain was just under the xiphoid process (the bottom of the central part of the rib cage), to the right of centre. Somewhat contrary to common sense I tend to start poking around things that hurt to see if I can make it hurt more, generate a response and see if I can find trigger points - even when I'm running.

After this happened a couple of times in races, and running around with my hand jammed into my solar plexus, racing while trying to work out what hurts is a little detrimental to your final placing - but is a good way of working out what it is that actually is causing the pain.
I worked out that it was the diaphragm that was hurting... it has an attachment to the inner surface of the lower 6 ribs and to the xiphoid process. As I poked around, I could feel that the pain continued around the inside of the ribs, left and right, but it was mostly painful right under the xiphoid process.

I also noticed that as I was running, I felt more free when my body turned in one direction (twisting at the waist), than in the other. Hmmm. Rotation around the spine was easy in one direction, but restricted in another.
Interestingly, the diaphragm attaches posteriorly (at the back) on the upper 2 or 3 Lumbar vertabrae.

Following along a logical trail, there must be something else that is causing this pain - to hammer home a point, I was pretty sure that this pain in the diaphragm was the smoke, the symptom of something not being quite right, and the fire - the cause was somewhere else.

Working Anterior to Posterior, what muscles could possibly be causing this pain?
Directly attaching to the cartiledge of the lower 6 ribs is the Transverse Abdominus, favourite of Pilates instructors, and a muscle that compresses the abdominal contents,
Internal Obliques also attach to the bottom 3 ribs AND the abdominal aponeurosis (fascia)
Rectus Abdominus attaches to the xiphoid process and 5-7 ribs
External Obliques attach to the lower 8 ribs.
A very rough idea of whats going on. Black is External obliques, Green is internal obliques, Blue is Rectus Abdominus, and red is obviously the pain. (this is not an exact representation of origins and insertions, more to give an idea of where the tissues are and which direction the fibres go in).
Wow. All the flexing and rotating muscles of the front of your body, all attaching to pretty much the same place. Fascially they are all very much connected. If any one of them is slightly off, or is crossbridged to another by collagen, or is damaged, then its going to upset the whole lot. Once that happens, because they fascially connect together and are fascially connected to the diaphragm, guess what happens.
Yes, they will affect the breathing.

slightly difficult to draw on a person
After a bit of abdominal self massage I worked out that although they were a little tender, they were not spasming, and they didn't seem to be eliciting the pain that I was feeling in the diaphragm. So the obvious has been ruled out. What other structures are associated with the same attachment points as the diaphragm?
Well, posteriorly, psoas attaches to the bodies and transverse processes of L1-L5, lower down it shares an attachment with iliacus. Both are major hip flexors, and have a lot to do with running. Both are often neglected when it comes to massage, and psoas is a muscle that is fascially connected to the diaphragm.
Hmmm. Thats a possibility.
The way to test this is to stretch out before a race and see what happens.

Interestingly, if you go ahead and really stretch out the psoas and the iliacus, there is no way you can stretch them out with out also stretching the main abdominal group which I have also been talking about. By working through one muscle group, the other is automatically worked as well.

I have been working specifically on hip flexor flexibility for the past couple of weeks now, including stretching before races, and I haven't had any of the pain which bugged me in past races. I'm not going to come out and say that it was specifically psoas, or it was specifically iliacus, restraining psoas and making the diaphragm spasm, or it was specifically the abdominals and I'm going to refrain from making a statement like that for good reason.

All these muscles are fascially connected, the only reason they have different names is because someone went around arbitrarily dissecting and naming things, actively disgarding the fascia as they did so. I suspect it is something to do with an imbalance in the muscles and fascia somewhere, perhaps some collagen binding between psoas and iliacus, and aggravated by weak abdominal muscles. However, the answer seems to have been to stretch out the muscles and fascia associated with the motion of flexing of the hip - and so far, that answer has been vindicated.

As a minor note to this, from my visit to an Osteopath recently, it seems that my sacrum was wonky - which may well have contributed to the feeling of freedom on one side of my body, and stiffness on the other. Muscle, bone, and fascia are all linked and connected and the more I learn, the less physical distinctions I seem to be making.

Yes, I know they are only drawn on, but still.... grrrr.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Cycling Plus

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We get a mention in the September issue of Cycling Plus with special thanks to Nikalas Cook, and another great article by him. Make sure you pick up your copy.

see page 162 for Nik Cooks article and a feature from Tim Budd

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Eccles Pike

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A short lung burster this week. A bit over 3 miles, on a there and back course. How had could it be?

Oh. That hard.
Having not really run since the last race 2 weeks ago I decided to head out for a run last night, which you can read about on my other blog. It was only a 1 hour little run, but I think it took enough out of me to make me really feel it on the race.

It was a beautiful evening, sun in the blue sky, not too hot, not too cold, a good field of runners, no midges, and a route that was going to hurt. Fantastic. We turned up and there were already a number of Glossopdaleans kicking around, all talking down the amount of running they had done in the past week, and each and every one of us saying "oooh, feeling a bit tired today... not sure about this one", I suppose in a feeble attempt to out-psyche each other.
I went off for the customary jog with Gwyn (so that I can at least pretend that I can keep up with him) just around the beginning bit of the course, and then went back to the start. The crowd started to gather, and it was evident that a fast start was needed to get across the field and around the first corner without getting trampled on by the rest of the pack.
The starting crowd continued to build, but there was no starter around to tell us to go... I suggested to a couple of guys around me that I should be the starter, and all times would go by my watch, therefore, anyone who finished before me wouldn't count as a finisher... but that idea was shelved pretty quickly.

Eventually the starter arrived in a car, driving down the field like something out of Blues Brothers, wandered around with a megaphone and generally apologised for the lack of startingness of the race, and very soon, proceeded to get us underway.
Panic run across the field with 120 other people, (its quite fun, all we needed was a load of swords and shields, and it would have made it a whole lot more exciting, but I digress).
Stevie overtaking me
I got to the end of the field near the front of the pack, and I saw John hoof it up through a load of long grass and he got a 10 metre jump on me going around the outside. Well, at least I was somewhere near the front now, and past the first pinch point, now a nasty little run down a road (I can see Paul Stitt in front of me as well, always good on the road- and Gwyn floating along like he has springs in his feet right up at the front), and I lumber after them. Down and left past the pub, along and through the carpark, and Stevie from Pennine cruises past me with a quick "hello there". Flipping heck, I think the only time I've seen Stevie on a race before was during Wormstones when he was a marshall... he's normally way ahead of me- must have got a bad start.
Up and over the twisty turny bridge over the dual carriageway, and my lungs are beginning to burn.

oh dear. I can see John up ahead, so I'll just try and stay in touch with him, see how far we get. Up onto the football pitch, overtaken by the eventual First Woman, up right, more damn tarmac. I lose another couple of places, left, and up a hill which goes into a track, and I make the places back.
Left and into a field, and the front of the pack is strung out in front of me, I can see Gwyn and the leaders already going up the hill on the other side of the "valley". As ever I am astonished at just how damn fast they run. Seriously. Thats a ridiculous speed. I can't see Stevie. He's probably teleported.

Down the hill, through a bog, and up the hill, chasing John. I'm not feeling great, but I dig in a bit, keep the legs going, this isnt really a hill, its a minor slope. Fight up the hill, legs pumping, and emphatically not looking behind me. My heart is already beating hard, and I'm not entirely sure how long I can keep this speed up. Over a stile, onto a track and the pace is relentless, I think I get overtaken by a couple of people, and then one more, but I can still see John and Paul, still not quite in touching distance, but a realistic enough distance away to make up. Grit teeth and keep going. The pace is starting to hurt now as the ground levels out and the speed increases. Stride out and keep breathing, thats the key. I know we aren't yet half way through and we have the real kicker coming, but I've been running above the redline for the entire race so far, whats another little bit? Through a gate with someone encouraging me on- "go on Glossopdale!", I get overtaken by 2 more people, hard right and UP.

Thanks Geoff.
I take the 2 places back as they falter and slow to a walk. Thanks for that, I'll have those places. Keep the pace going, keep the legs moving, fool the body into thinking that its still running. I can see John up ahead, he's still running. Or at least, he looks like he is, he's probably making as much headway as I'm not.
Dammit, stop running John, give me an excuse to walk!
Nope, he's still going, as are a number of other hardy souls up ahead. Right, nothing for it, but to keep "running". Argh. The hill gets steeper. Concentrate on springing UP the hill, not plodding DOWN into it. Up, up, up. I'm catching Paul and John. Time to walk, as it gets ridiculous, not far to the top.
This is the first race since... oh, Kinder Trog where I've actually resorted to not running up a hill. I MUST be tired. Gritting the teeth I see the guys head over the top, and then I'm there, with Geoff cheerfully at the side going "smile Tim". Click. "thats one for yer blog". Just manage to get a thumb up, but the pace at the beginning of the race has exhausted me, followed by the climb, and now its back down, and back along the way we came.

Off, down the side of the hill, catching up with someone, and John and Paul are further down the hill, duking it out. I can't get past this guy as we hurtle down the hill, as the rest of the pack are making their way up it. I see LuvShack making his way up, and have time to say a jaunty "hi". (I think it was jaunty, but considering how I was feeling at the time, it probably came out as more of a groan) Hit the bottom and I don't think my heart rate has gone down in the slightest from how it felt getting to the top, my legs are fit to blow out, but there is still just under half the distance left to run. I hammer along the undulating section, passing runners going the otherway, squinting into the sun. I hear other Glossopdaleans shouting encouragement, but I couldn't tell you who they were. I was too busy looking at the floor trying not to take myself out on the rocks. I'm gaining on John and Paul, but at great cost. I can feel myself getting weaker, but I have to keep on going.
Bust through a gate, and I take out a runner in front of me by accidentally treading on his shoe and it comes off.... damn, sorry mate- I know that he is up and running really quickly however, and at the next stile, I turn and see him right behind me, as he comes up I gesture to let him go over first, but he says "nah, twas an accident mate", so I leap over, and plunge down the hill... but not fast enough, my legs are faltering, and I can feel the fatigue. He overtakes me. saying "I was talking to the sheep...."

I was overtaken on a descent. This cannot be good. Grit teeth, dig in. I know that John has seen me behind him, and he is beginning to really give it some, legs pumping, and he is gaining distance on me. Through the bog and Paul gets caught up in a bit of fence, but he's ok. Taking a different line, I overtake him and am 1 place behind John, up and over the field, and down the path, hang a sharp right and we're back on the road again.
Almost immediately someone cruises past, hang a left, my legs are shot and I push myself down the side of the football pitch to the bridge, down the bridge and I'm flagging desperately. I know we have 400 metres or so left, but my legs are stopping working, 3 others effortlessly overtake me in the carpark, one of them is Paul.
And another. I have nothing to respond with.
Its not because of lack of fuel, its lack of... anything. My legs just won't go faster. My lungs just won't work harder, its all I can do to carry on going in some kind of semblance of a run. I can see the 5 people who just overtook me disappear up the final incline and I struggle on in their wake. All I can do is hope that there isn't someone else behind me, I'm as helpless as a little fluffy duckling, and struggling to finish.
Up the slope. and up. and up and up. I swear this is harder than the final haul up that hill we did halfway through the race. My legs are like lead and my heart rate must be going through the roof.
Finally the right turn, down the slope and my legs aren't entirely responding like they should. I'm entrusting all decision making to them, not trusting my head to put the feet in the right places.
A hard right and there is the field and the funnel, one person ahead that I might just catch, he is 3/4 of the way across the field. I push off hard, knowing this is the final 40 metres, harder, and harder, I see him closing in on the finish as I close in on him. Visions of sliding through like a suicidal football tackle, all out sprint as a last ditch effort to salvage a place.
But not quite. Nearly slamming into the back of him as we go into the funnel, I'm gasping so hard that I can barely speak. People standing around who have already finished are steaming gently in the evening dew.
last ditch final effort
After about 40 seconds I can see again, and am wandering around in a daze of complete exhaustion. 50 seconds.
And THEN the next runner comes in. (Another Glossopdaler, Chris, who, had he known the trouble I was in, would quite gladly have joined in the overtaking at the end!)
Had I looked back, I would have known that I would have been able to slow down. Had I looked back, I would have known that I could slow down, and not worry too much.
But thats not the point. I didn't look back. I didn't know. I just gritted my teeth and dug in. Thats what racing is to me.

This race hurt. It hurt more than any other race I have done so far. If you look at the stats, my HR was up there, but not from the very beginning. I haven't run a race like that before, generally I have held back for a while, not gone all out, and had a bit left for the end. This time it was an all out effort from the start. I didn't get the position I wanted, and I felt pretty beat up at the end of it as well. Gutted that I was destroyed on the last 400 metres by at least 5 others.
I came 26th out of 120, so actually not a bad result. I just can't help thinking that with a bit more oomph, and a bit more determination, could I have caught John? Could I have got 20th? or even 19th?
Well, maybe.
What to learn from this race? I need to learn to run faster. Especially along the flat. I need to run faster at the end of a race, I need to be able to keep a high tempo right the way through. Although it was an ok result, I'm a bit annoyed not to do better. I was waiting for this feeling to kick in. When I started racing this year, I was happy to be running. Just plain happy. I was ecstatic with any result, anywhere in the field. Now I appear to have become competitive. Where did that come from?! I prefer running for pleasure, but racing appears to make me faster, and makes me look at mistakes and places in which I can become better, so thats a good thing. I just need to stop dwelling on it.
Me? Competitive? No, I think I just over think things. And there is the proof!

Well done to Gwyn for 3rd place, John, Paul and Chris in the top 20, Charlie put in a fine show coming at at 30, beyond that I'm afraid I have no idea as my brain can't hold all the results at once, and again well done to Beryl for winning her catagory as well.

For the record, I don't think Stevie teleported, but I can't be sure... I think he came in 15th anyway.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Stretching Part 4

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Finally - he gets around to the bit actually about stretching instead of all the tedious stuff about muscle, fascia, collagen, emotion and stuff.
Yes, but the back story is important.
Understand before you do, take responsibility for what you do, don't just do it because someone tells you so.

Types of stretching for types of movement.
Stretching is not just about gaining flexibility, it is about warming up, it is about learning where your body is in space. Not all types of stretching will do all of that.
Developmental stretching will affect the PLASTICITY of muscles. You are looking for a plastic change in the tissue. Think about bending the lid of an ice cream box. Bend it for a short time, and it will go back to the original shape. The plastic "remembers" its original shape. Bend it for a long time and it plastically deforms into a new shape. This is the idea of a developmental stretch. It should not be done before exercise, and is training in and of itself. The muscles will need rest afterward.

Warming up before an event will incorporate getting blood into the muscles, increasing circulation and increasing the ELASTICITY of the muscles and fascia. Increasing rebound, becoming soft and flexible. You aren't looking for deformation of the muscle, you need may need speed, agility or to know exactly where your body is in space and time. This will need a different type of stretching, something that raises the sympathetic nervous system and gets you ready for whatever you are about to do.

Cooling down after an event will need another type of stretching as well. Bringing the parasympathetic nervous system into dominance, relaxing the body, elongating the tissues, enabling blood to bring nutrients to the muscles, and carry away metabolic waste. One stretch, or at least, one type of stretch does not do for all occasions.

Static Stretching
This is the old school way of stretching that we were always taught. Go into a stretch, Hold it. Hold it. Keep holding it. And release.
The problem with this, that I and most other inflexible people found with this, is that when you try to go into such a position, you tense muscles in order to attain the stretch. While trying to relax you find your entire body tensed up like a coiled spring, bringing more tension into it than releasing. The stretch starts to hurt, you can't breathe because you are tensing your abdominals, and it really is an unpleasant experience. Do this for a couple of days, the muscles feel like they hurt more and more, you become less flexible and eventually pack it in because the stretching that is meant to be making you light, limber and agile is making you feel old, achy and immobile. Sound familiar?

"Static" stretching is meant to be done as a developmental stretch. This is what you do in order to gain plastic length in your muscles, fascia and tendons. Obviously you don't want pain, because that indicates that soreness will occur in the future. When that happens, your muscles will feel tight, tired, achy and you won't want to stretch anymore.
So, go into a position where you know you will feel a stretch - like bending over to touch your toes. Don't force it, just hang where you naturally fall.
Then breathe.
Don't count, don't try to stretch any further, relax your muscles, and breathe. As you breathe in and out you may notice that the body rises and falls, you may also notice the body going deeper toward the ground. Then again you may not. Stay in the position as long as you feel it necessary. But whatever you do, DON'T force the stretch.

This is basically the idea for all developmental stretches. Get into a comfortable position where your muscles are not tensed, lean into where the stretch will be, don't force it, and breathe.
These stretches can go on for a while, don't rush it, just relax into it. If you aren't relaxing, you aren't doing it right.

Active stretching
This is where you purposefully contract the muscle which does the opposite action to the muscle you want to stretch. (for example, to stretch the Hamstrings, you engage the quads)- this has the effect of Reciprocal inhibition. In neuromuscular terms as you engage muscles that do one movement, the electrical signals stop the antagonist from contracting, and thus, they are "switched off" and able to stretch. This kind of stretch is not done with any support or prop and is a good tool for rehabilitation, but not so good for developmental stretching as there is always tension in one part of the body or other. The stretches are not held for a long time as the excessive muscular tension can become difficult to hold - about 10-15 seconds is the norm.

Passive stretching
Basically the same as Static stretching, but you have a partner, or a piece of apparatus which helps bring you into the stretch. This can obviously be hazardous and it is very important that there is no jerking or bouncing force applied to the stretched muscle. It is useful in gaining flexibility, but like static stretching, can be "overcooked" quite easily. You are not looking for pain, you are looking for a comfortable stretch.

PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation)
Fancy name, fancy stretch. You will need a partner, (if you don't have a partner, then isometric stretching is what you are doing, they are pretty much the same thing)
PNF stretching has evolved from a form of rehabilitation, it improves muscle strength, flexibility and can also help restore muscular firing patterns.
The muscle group to be stretched is placed so that it is under tension with the partner holding the limb so that it cannot move. The muscles to be stretched are contracted (isometrically - the partner prevents the limb from moving anywhere). This contraction is held for about 10 seconds, a deep breath is taken and on exhalation, the limb is relaxed and brought into stretch by the partner - this is held for about 20-30 seconds. Rest, and repeat.
There are a number of different thoughts and theories as to the amount of time for the stretch to be held, rest, etc. These timings are for guidance only.
Do Not use this technique on damaged muscles, don't use it to a pain threshold, don't over stretch.

Isometric stretching
For those who don't know, Isometric contraction of a muscle is where you contract it, and there is no movement of the limb. (as an example, try lifting a house, or pushing over a very large boulder. You will notice that even though you engage your muscles, the limbs don't move anywhere... THAT'S an isometric contraction).
To do an isometric stretch you need something to stretch against- to restrict the movement of the limb. Assume the position of stretch, and then contract the muscles that you are about to stretch, for about 10 seconds. Then take a deep breath and relax into the stretch for a generous amount of time.
This is quite a developmental stretch, and its probably not a good idea to be doing it day in day out. Some texts recommend waiting at least 48 hours between isometric stretching sessions, and it is not recommended for children or growing adolescents. 

Dynamic stretching
A swinging or bouncing motion is used in a movement - ostensibly to create greater range. This kind of stretching can be used to increase elasticity in the muscle in a pre-event session, but the gains are only ever elastic. They can also help with making fascia more elastic in the same kind of time. In easy terms, it makes the fascia more bouncy.
However, the motion should always be under control. The swing should never be uncontrolled and is in NO WAY ballistic. Dynamic stretching is controlled, gentle and purposeful. It is within range of motion and joints are NOT forced beyond their normal range.

As a note on ballistic stretching - once a popular form of stretching, using momentum from rapid swings and bounces, forcing joints and muscles beyond normal range - the risks of this kind of thing are way above and beyond any kind of gains. The short time that the muscle is beyond normal range gives no benefit to the athlete at all, and a muscle protecting mechanism is also set off, making the muscles shorter than when you started stretching - and so making them more liable to damage as you exercise. Ballistic stretching is probably not a good thing to be doing.

Pre-race/event stretching
Obviously you don't want to plastically affect the muscles in a long term way if you are just about to start doing exercise, or competing, you just want to get blood to them, warm them up, and get some elastic rebound going. There are two ways of doing this, one that affects the muscles more, and one that appears to affect the fascia more.
The principle is the same as static stretching, but with less time spent on each movement, and to a less deep level than you perhaps might if you were stretching "statically". This will create space in the tissues in order to help infuse areas with blood.
I know that "ballistic" stretching, has received a bad press - and rightly so in terms of flexibility gain. If you bounce into a stretch, the stretch reflex will kick in and the muscles will contract, doing the polar opposite of what you want them to do.
However, if you introduce a slight "mid-range" bounce-like movement (NOT end range - bad idea), this will help increase elastic recoil in fascia (source - some of the more recent findings by Schleip et al.). In personal terms - this means that my Achilles tendon is warmed up and has maximum elastic recoil when going into a race, instead of just feeling nice and warm.

Post event stretching
The idea of stretching at this time is to stop blood pooling in the muscles, get nutrients to the tissues that have been damaged, and get metabolic waste products out of the muscles and into the lymph system so that the body can deal with them. Post even stretching should be a mix of very light exercise and stretching. Generally 5 mins of exercise and 10 mins of stretching - or thereabouts. Go with what feels right. This is not a time for developmental stretching, that needs to be done at a time when you are not training. This is a time to help recover, relax, lengthen shortened tissues and ensure that everything works and moves as freely as it did before the training session.

Developmental stretching
To gain length and flexibility in tissue, this needs to be done relatively regularly. I don't even know if you should classify it as "stretching" as such, but just have it as part of your routine, an extra to be doing as you watch tv, just something that is done. That way, it feels less like a chore and less like something that you lie in bed at the end of the day and think "damn... I forgot to stretch today". Sit on the floor, work out what is tight, and slowly stretch the tissues. Breathe into it, like the static stretch explained above. Don't count, just feel, breathe, take it to a point of tension and no further. Do it gently and slowly, and come out of it slowly as well.
Make sure there is no excessive body tension, and work at the tissues all around the area.
Go slow. I know I keep saying it, but remember to breath.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Stretching part 3

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Ok, this is starting to become a bit of an epic in terms of parts. I apologise for that, but hopefully you're beginning to see why I can't really answer "why should I stretch" in an easy and simplistic way, there is quite a bit to talk about.

One of my favourite quotes is this, it is a conversation between a previously injured runner and his therapist
"when can I start running again?"
"when you can walk efficiently and effortlessly"

Yes, you can go off and run before you are back to walking well, but your days as a good athlete, or at least, your days at your current level will be numbered.
Cumulative stress and strain can and will take you down.

The question to ask before you ask "why should I stretch" is "where do I feel tight"? Don't just think about you sitting there at your desk/ on you sofa/ on the train, think about your daily movements, what you can do, and what you have to modify in order to do it. When you put on your t-shirt, or shirt, does one arm go in easier than the other? Could that be a shoulder capsule that needs stretching? When you put on your socks, can you stand up and put them on, is one easier than the other? Do you have to lie down because you aren't flexible enough? Think about how that might affect your sport, or your life in other areas... that's the hip joint that isn't flexible enough. I've just read a study that shows pro golfers have approximately 10% or more flexibility in hip rotation than amateurs, and are thus able to get greater club speed. That's through flexibility.

I hate to hammer it home, but one final point for all you power lifters.
Poor hip mobility and then squatting, or lifting heavy will do one thing. It will compound the hip joint tightness because you are adding intensity, frequency and duration. This will lead to greater compensation in other areas, and good form will become difficult to maintain.
Bad form uses more calories yes, but the accumulative training effects are a bad thing.

Braces for knees, hips, arms, shoulders and medications in the form of pain relief are good when used appropriately.
However, they are most often used inappropriately as a crutch for people who have not addressed underlying movement patterns, imbalances and compensations.
Find imbalances, find imperfections, work them out. Strengthen that which needs to be strengthened so that the whole organism works together as one. Not just the big muscles, but also the small stabilising ones. Keep the flexibility because once you lose that, the body becomes less able to work in harmony with itself.

work out what lacks flexibility in day to day movements.
work out what lacks flexibility in your sport, what lets you down, what could make you faster, more powerful, more agile.
work out what you have injured in the past, no matter how trivial, see if it has affected the way you move, the way you think and the way you do things. Do you unconsciously protect one side of you, or have a foot that turns in or out because of a previously (forgotten) twisted ankle?
Roll out on a foam roller and see what hurts - that is often a really good indication of where trigger points and scar tissue have accumulated and places that would benefit from being stretched.
What feels tight? What doesn't? (beware if you are hyper-flexible, as sometimes the muscles "feel" tight, like you need to stretch, but the joint capsule will be compromised if you actually try to go all the way to the end of the stretch).

Yes, all this takes time, and it takes patience. But so does training. This is as important as that final hill climb of the day, as important as a PR, as important as a new set of wheels (and less expensive), and as important as the 3rd session down the wall this week. In fact its more than that.
If you lack flexibility, it may well be the thing that gets you through the plateau you have been training at.
Equally, it might well be the thing that enables you to have a pain free life, ending compensation patterns, muscular stiffness and annoyance at not being able to do things because of your body.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record of a rabid missionary now.
Again, you don't have to do this, I'm not advocating it as the be all and end all, but it might be something that you want to consider. Next blog I'll write some stuff about the different ways of stretching, why some people start and feel like they are losing their flexibility- and thus stop, why it sometimes hurts (it shouldn't), and other bits and bobs like that.
Again, if you have any comments or issues with any of this, please post, discussion is the way forward.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Stretching Part 2

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One of the key things to know when stretching is WHAT you are stretching. Not necessarily specifically which muscles (though that can be helpful), but more to do with the structures.
So, what exactly is causing the body to be "tight" and what exactly are you stretching when you stretch?

Muscle Tissue
When muscle is broken down by exercise, it is built back up again during rest. The "stuff" that actually does this is Collagen. Collagen is laid down in muscle tissues in a fairly haphazard pattern, its sticky, and it causes adhesions. However, it does align to lines of stress, and when you stretch the tissues, the collagen aligns to the stretch, causing the muscles to be healed in a more efficient pattern. If the tissues are not stretched, the collagen can cause cross fibres not only across fibres within the muscle making it less efficient as a unit, but across different muscles, making them both less efficient and more easily tired. Yes, Your muscles can stick together if you don't stretch.

Collagen is laid down in muscle tissue wherever there has been stress - it is there to support the muscle - however, as more collagen is laid down, it upsets the balance of water and elastin in the muscle making it more rigid than flexible. Exercise is the most obvious one, but also sitting around doing nothing causes stiffness as well. As you sit looking at this computer, your muscles are being used, and stressed, when they stop working (when you sleep, or whenever), collagen will be laid down in the muscles around your neck, upper trapezius, SCM and scalenes. This is helping the muscles distribute the strain of what you do on a day to day basis. This collagen is basically scar tissue in your muscles.
The extra tissue slows you down, and collagen will quickly lose its elasticity. Stretching will help maintain the elasticity and flexibility which you would otherwise lose through either over or under training.

Trigger points
The exact nature of a trigger point is an area of exquisite tenderness in a muscle. The pain will often radiate or refer to another part of the body. Trigger points are areas of ischaemic tissue, and are a major cause of myofascial pain and/or dysfunction.
They develop through muscle fatigue (again, this can be from exercise, or, from sitting in front of a computer for 12 hours a day). As the muscle is contracted, individual muscle fibres begin to fatigue to beyond the limit they can function. When they shut down, they contract to the minimum length they can. At this point, the fibre is "splinted" by fibres around it which take up the strain of the fatigued fibre. Over time, these become overly fatigued, and shutdown, causing more fibres to splint them, and so on and so forth.
When you have an area of chronically contracted muscle fibre, nutrients cannot get in, and waste products cannot get out. The muscle (or specific spot in the muscle tissue) is in a state of fatigue and will cause painful restrictions in movement, and will also shut down athletic strength and ability.

Joint Capsule
The joint capsule often shares nerves with the muscles around it, and can affect the range of movement by being too tight. The muscles may become hypertonic (too tight). Sometimes if a muscle becomes injured, the ligaments and tendons around the joint may tighten up to protect the structure, as the muscle heals, collagen (scar tissue) builds up, and then the joint is restricted by more than one thing.
Joint "blocks" feel abrupt. Like a tightening of the joint. It stops you from moving into a correct range of movement. A tight joint capsule will rob you of speed and power.

So why am I so inflexible?!
Well, any number of reasons really.
Overtraining or undertraining
As mentioned above, if you train too much, or not enough, there are excessive forces placed upon the muscles. If you then don't take the opportunity to stretch and make good the new collagen laid down in your tissues, that collagen loses its flexibility and thus, you lose flexibility.
Muscles and fascia can shorten to accommodate accumulated stress in everyday life. Look around you at people staring at computer screens, their shoulders around their ears. This is a sign of excessively short levator scapula, SCM and scalenes. Its not a short term thing, the muscles and fascia have adapted to their work posture to be as efficient as possible, ie. use as little energy as possible. That means laying down more collagen to hold muscles in a shortened position. It might be efficient for the muscles, but it isn't pain free.

Trigger points manifest themselves in muscle and fascia. This is a sign that the web of fascia is becoming unbalanced. The accumulation of stresses and forces can be seen across the body as it changes posture according to what you do with it, and what is done to it by the outside world.
For example, when an injury occurs, the body automatically tries to protect the area from injury. It will do this by creating a compensation pattern. Maybe you hurt the right knee. The body will start limping, placing more emphasis on the left leg in order to spare the musculature on the right in order for it to heal. As time passes, the injury heals, but the body continues to work in the compensation pattern. You continue to limp despite the fact the pain has gone away. Even years after, a discernible movement pattern can be seen despite the fact you have forgotten that you ever hurt the knee.
These altered patterns are often a response in which the path of least resistance is taken instead of the path of greatest efficiency. This will cause the body to do more work, increasing stress and strain.

Myofascia and this causes daily aches and pains. Compensations are made and sacrifices are made in terms of speed and power, medication is sometimes relied upon to get you through training, you become slower and you are never as good as you once were. Its all blamed on getting old. But what is getting old if not the accumulation of scar tissue in places where you didn't have it when you were young? What if that tissue was flexible and pliable again?

The final point is about stress - mental, and emotional. Physical stress affects fascia and muscle. This stress and strain can feedback to the emotional side, and when you are in pain, this can be increased in a very negative way. Pain increases bad moods, depression and feelings of hopelessness. In some cases, it may be that medication is taken to make these things go away.
However, medication masks the symptoms, it does not heal them. In many cases, the liver actually has to work harder as it tries to de-toxify the blood from the medications that are being thrown into the body.
I'd just like to clarify that I'm not saying all medication is bad, but just make sure that it's healing rather than masking. If it is masking symptoms, maybe the issue is deeper and, in some cases, may well be caused by pain in myofascia.

So its not just muscle.
Now, if you think about muscle, and about fascia, and the joint capsule, if you stretch in only one direction, you are introducing stretch along one area of the tissue, and pretty much in one plane of movement. Just as a thought, might it be a good idea to introduce that stretch to more than one area of the tissues that you are trying to stretch? Might those muscles be used for more than one plane of movement? As you stretch, it is a good idea to move the body around to get the stretch into different parts of each muscle. You may find that some areas are tighter and less flexible than others. These are probably going to be places that you need to work on, areas with less mobility, range and more tissue congestion.

Its probably a good point here to note when NOT to stretch.
  • If you have joint instability, stretching is not a good thing to be doing. Personally I'd look at doing some kind of rehab work with weights to gain muscle and re-introduce stability into the joint, but that's just me. 
  • Infection or inflammation around the structures you are going to stretch
  • Acute injury. If you have been injured in the past 48hours, please don't stretch. You are likely to make it worse. 
  • Excessive pain or other negative reaction to stretching. We aren't looking for pain. Mild discomfort is the worst that you should be feeling. 
  • Not wanting to stretch. If you don't want to, you don't have to. Its your body. Decide what you want to do with it.  
So when IS a good time to stretch?
Forgive me for being a little facetious when I say "anytime".
It's true to a point, but not the most useful of answers.
Stretching before exercise is fine - but only in terms of warming up - helping blood to circulate, enabling nutrients to get to the right places etc. Generally a bit of arm waving/slight cardio before a stretch is a good idea - to get blood pumping around the system, and then light stretches - nothing deep or "developmental". You are about to exercise, you want muscles, tendons and fascia to be ready to work optimally, not trying to work out why they are longer than they have been in weeks...

After exercise is also good. The tissues you have been using are "injured" - they have been used, lots of metabolic waste product is lying around, blood is potentially pooling in muscles, so a little warm down, followed by stretching to get things in line, and repairing well is a good thing.
Also - at this stage, and in the proceeding hours, collagen is being laid down in the muscles. Collagen lies along lines of stress, so in the hours after exercise, even the day after, when you are relaxing, stretching and foam rollering will help the collagen form correctly, not haphazardly, and fewer adhesions and trigger points will form.

The best time for stretching is when you aren't exercising. Not as a warm up or a warm down - just generally when you are relaxed. It should also be noted that you shouldn't necessarily rely on stretching to work knots out of your muscles, its more of a prevention rather than a cure - for that you will probably want to use a foam roller or a massage therapist. Once the knots are gone, stretching can be used to maintain the quality of the tissue.

    Thursday, 4 August 2011

    Cracken Edge Fellrace

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    Doing two races in two days was always going to be a bit of an ask. The Bradwell one was a no-brainer as it was a Glossopdale midweek counter. Cracken Edge is close to home, so it would be rude not to do it really. Also, I was told it was a pretty classic route, and also there is an internal competition for Mountain Rescue teams, so I was running it on behalf of Glossop MRT.

    As it wasn't a counter for the mid-week championship it was very tempting to sit back and chillout, not worrying about it too much. I don't know why I try to kid myself like this. I don't consider myself a very competitive soul normally, but put me on a hill with more than 3 more people, and I'm game for a race, even more so if they are in different club colours to me...

    We got there nice and early, registered at Kinder Mountain Rescue HQ, (the proceeds of the race were being donated to KMRT), and wandered around for a bit before heading over to the start. I had heard that it was a bit of an uphill to begin with, but when I saw it, it was a different proposition from how I had imagined. It was one of the final down hills from Kinder Trog, a narrow, steep slightly dodgy underfoot track that went on for a good few hundred yards. Apparently there was a bottleneck- a stile at some point further on as well... so I thought I'd jog up the trail to check it out. There were a good number of people doing the same, and I came across a wall with a stile in it and figured I had found the pinch point. Excellent. A jog down the hill, a look at the final descent- down a grassy hill, and to stretching.
    Psoas and Iliacus were the targets today. This was a longer race than Shining Moss in which I had the psoas and diaphragm problems, and I really didn't want that happening today. A decent stretch later and I went to the start area. Crowded, chock-a-block, and with more people than looked like could fit up the path, a good start was going to be essential. I went over to the wall, and saw Darran (who I know from Mountain Leader shadowing) and Simon- the Notts AC guy whom I beat (just) in Wormstones last week. We exchanged pleasantries, and got ready for the start. A short speech thanking KMRT for the organisation and marshalling, and the hooter hooted and we were off.

    I was very glad for checking out the hill beforehand, I didn't really need to look where I was going, and knew what was going on under my feet, so I was free to concentrate on not getting kicked to death by the horde around me. As expected, a number of people went off far too fast and within 100 metres, were falling back as the hill progressed at the same gradient as before. I could see John and Jules ahead of me, Gwyn was miles ahead already, and Simon snuck in front of me as well.
    Top of the hill, and where I thought the pinch point was, the gate was open. So much for that then. There must be another one along the way. I could see the front runners (just) and there weren't enough people in front of me to form a significant time wasting queue should we hit a stile. I just needed to keep going.
    Up, onto a track that went around and past the TV mast, and onto a moor. It undulated along and Simon and I traded places as the going got worse and better underfoot.
    Aha, a stile. I accelerated and got over it before Simon, remembering his form over gates last week(!), and forged on. Through a field, over another stile (I'm quite inordinately proud of my stile jumping skills, if you hadn't gathered), but stubbed a finger on this one, and carried on left along a dirt track road, shaking my hand. Ouch.

    The dirt road was not the greatest, but I only lost a place or so, but Julien was beginning to pull away from me. Left up a track, and I saw John in the distance, going up the hill. It was the last I saw of him until the finish. Up the hill we went, and predictably Simon passed me, along with a Dark Peaker and a Pennine guy. Up and up to someone taking pictures, a right and them bombing down the track again. After about 300 metres I catch back up to Simon, and eventually manage to overtake. Julien is far away in front and barely to be seen on this descent, so I carry on down to the Dark Peaker and Pennine (who was sneezing all the way down- I said bless you a few times, but never got a single "Thankyou"- mind you, he may have had other things on his mind), caught them on the final part, overtake the DPer, but left Pennine in front to open the gate.
    Passed him on the final part to the metalled road, and carried on down, exchanging pleasantries with the marshals as I went.
    The road started flat and we ran neck and neck, then it started plummeting down and I gained on him somewhat. We clomped down the tarmac in a small group (I think, I wasn't looking behind, but could hear a load of footsteps behind me), and all of a sudden a guy in a red vest hurtles down inbetween us at a pace that I'd generally reserve for the final descent. As he passed out of earshot, the DPer said, "don't worry lads, he'll be back with us on the climb... problem is, he can do that on the final run down as well...".

    As we got to the bottom of the road he and the Pennine chap came in front of me and were able to get onto the climb before me, not too much of an issue, but the DPer just motored up the hill. It was an odd one, an easy gradient for about 20 metres followed by a sharp kick for 5, then 20 of easy gradient (but not flat), so it was all eminently runnable. At least, it was runnable had you not been going for 4 miles already. I dropped into a lower gear and started at a pace which I could keep up to the top, and began reeling in the guy in the red top that overtook us on the descent, yep, got him, and the Pennine (sneezing) guy (who I also noticed had gaffa tape around his ankle. I was (seriously) just about to engage him in conversation about how Zinc Oxide tape would be more supportive and less sweaty for a race like this, but thought better of it.  I can think of stuff like this while running. I can't be trying hard enough.

    I carried on, up and up, I could see Julien in front, but didn't think I had the legs to catch him. We went passed family with 2 small kids who were clapping us, so I took the time to say thankyou to them, and smile at the photographer (I swear I don't run hard enough sometimes, talking to spectators and smiling tends to mean you aren't trying... hmmmm) and up.
    I could hear someone coming up behind me, ragged of breath, but steady, as I came up on another person (on an uphill- check me out!) we went up, and along a steep cambered track which was impossible to overtake on, and then, regular as clockwork, Simon came past. Dammit. And past the guy in front.

    Instant decision was made, try and keep up with him to the top. If he is going this fast, he's going to catch Julien, if I can hold on for as long as possible, maybe I can too... first things first, overtake this one. I dart around him as soon as I can, and clamber onto Simons heels. Up, and over a stile, round a corner, and you can see the top of the climb- still quite a way away, keep it going, dragging on.
    The heat was oppressive, but you have to do what you have to do. Catching up with Julien, we come to the final steeper part of the climb to the top, 7 people at the top looking down on us, taking photos. I've run up to the Big Stone before, and it was horrible, I ended up walking. Today, I can see Julien walking up it too. Hmmm, would walking be more efficient? Simon doesn't think so and launches himself at the hill. Nothing for it then, lets do it. Halfway up Charlie's voice rings out- "Well done Tim! Keep it going!", I see Jules look around and he sees me for the first time in the race, not 30 yards behind. Damn. I was being SO stealthy there! Nevermind. GeoffB is up there as well with a camera- arms out wide and a big thumbs up to him... (shouldn't I be trying harder?!... but I wonder if that photo came out...)
    It did. And here it is.
     "Gwyn is 2nd!" shouts Charlie- I remember shouting something back, and grinning at his camera as well, before heading over the brow of the hill and trying to catch Simon, who had leapt ahead on the final part of the climb.
    A short descent to a stile, and I swear I'm beginning to lose pace. Thankfully, the stretching seems to have done the trick and there is no pain from the hip flexors or the diaphragm. I caught Simon after the stile, and overtook, and he said "theres an up hill again in a minute"- "I know, not looking forward to it!" I think I gasped back.
    Now I could see Julien and his closest competitor in front of me. Buxton. Flipping heck- thats Darran. Down the grass, past another photographer (thumbs up and a smile this time), right and along a track (that in the Kinder trog had me faceplant into a verge), this time, choosing my feet a little more carefully. I strode out, trying to keep space between me and Simon, and was slowly catching Jules and Darran. Along, over a stream, undulating and round a corner, I can hear breathing behind me, but not too close. Never look around. Listen. Its the slamming gates that let you know how far people really are behind you- and look at that- a gate coming up.
    Julien opens the gate, I'm gaining, Darran pushes it open as he goes through- a burst of speed and I just make it through before it crashes shut. Bonus. I don't have to spend time opening the gate, AND they think they have got through way before me..... clink, crash, the gate opens and closes about 7 seconds behind me... they think I'm there, not directly behind. Nice. Just keep up now.
    Down the grassy track- I've biked down here, I know what to expect. We stretch out and speed down the hill, 3 runners in close proximity. Down and past a little knoll on the left where Alison and Andrea are standing. I'm pretty sure Jules doesn't know quite how close I am, so I make exaggerated "hush" gestures to them... but Andrea *is* his wife, and said ..."you do know who's behind you don't you"... ah well, only to be expected really.
    The descent got technical, the pace slowed (ever so slightly), so I figured I'd take Darran on the outside camber, 5 steps into the manoeuvre and it goes wrong and I tumble, hill below and to the right, I roll, and am back on my feet barely having lost time, but with Darran asking if I was alright- "yeah yeah, I'm fine, not a problem" I reply and immediately try exactly the same thing on the left, I think he was a little scared I might do something really silly and slowed down a little as I tore down after Julien.
    The path heads off to the right, into a gully, still "interesting" underfoot, Julien passes the Dark Peaker that I last saw at the start of the last ascent. He says something about trouble getting the gate open, and I bomb past him as well in hot pursuit. Down into the woods.

    I know that the finish is around here somewhere, but I can't remember how this part relates to where it ends. Is it in 200 metres? Is it in 500? 1000? I have no idea, but I know there is a right trending slope, and we have to go down this gully first.
    We plunge down, (I hope) leaving everyone far behind in our wake, through the ruts made by mountainbikers and out past a building.
    Does it turn right here? Is this the end? No. A slight incline, continuing through the wood. Ah... at the end of the wood, that's the right turn, I hope it is, I don't think I can hold onto this pace much longer.
    No. We jump over a stile and into a sloping field- but we have to run across it. Damn. I can see the end, its in the next 2 fields over. Its a steep camber, and I remember this from the Kinder Trog, I think I got overtake by 2 people here... Digging deep, I hang onto Juliens coattails, hoping that we aren't slowing down enough for people behind to catch up.
    The field goes on forever. The camber is tiring on the legs. The heat is suffocating. Julien is running pretty damn fast.
    I. Have. To. Keep. Up. You know those nagging thoughts of "I'll just take it easy for this race", "I'll see how I do", "I'm not really going to try for this one". etc. Get to 300yrds from the finish, it all goes out the window. Its the finishline or bust.
    Through a gate, and the field slopes to the right, 8 posts mark the curve down the hill to the final headlong dash straight down the hill, I follow Jules down the curve, wait, wait, wait, wait. 2 posts go past. not yet. Julien is an excellent descender, and I don't want to give him the chance to re-overtake. The third, wait. not yet.
    The fourth post marks just past the mid point of the curve, and I kick, going on the outside.
    Ground underfoot isn't great, but I stride out, the theory being if my legs hit the right bits of ground, I'll run to the end, if they hit the wrong bits, I might just have enough momentum to roll and bounce my way to the end before Julien.
    I fly. Descend like a stone, lungs bursting, legs screaming straight down the fall line into the funnel.
    50:14 by my watch.
    Well. That's pretty good. I don't actually care about the placing, I beat Julien. (Sorry Jules).

    Darran, Pennine, DPer and Simon come in a couple of places behind and we congratulate each other on a well run race, delight in the excellent route that it took, and generally try and swat away the large number of flies and insects gathering around us. At this point I noticed that my left arm was hurting, and put it down to being bitten by a horsefly or something... ow, it really did hurt. It wasn't until about 10 mins later that I remembered that I fell over on that descent and must have rolled on that arm to get up... aaah. That explains a lot.

    In the pub later, Gwyn got a prize for coming second overall, John, who I barely saw all race won the V45, in 12th place overall (in a time just outside his PB), Julien won V50 in 17th. As for the MRT prize, I'm happy to say that Glossop retained it with me, Jules and another team member (sorry, I really can't remember you name... Alistair?) being the fastest top 3 of any of the competing teams. Its quite a buzz having your name read out, and collecting a prize. I might have to try a bit harder next time...

    Well done to Pennine who, as a whole and as a team had a cracking good evening, with a decent haul of alcoholic prizes. Please drink it all, it might slow you down!
    Thanks to Kinder Mountain Rescue Team for putting it on, organising it an marshalling it, and to the many photographers around the course (If you read this and happen to have any of me, drop me a line, as at the moment, I have no photos to put on the blog- Lynne was at the GMRT meeting, so I'm sadly lacking in vanity photos.... and it makes this a very black and white blog)
    Great to see such a good turn out as well. An excellent evening.
    Here's a track of the course with all the normal stats, feel free to have a look
    Tell a lie, I do have one photo which was taken on my phone for posterity.
    Here it is.