Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ironman New Zealand 2011 awards video

Ironman New Zealand is not the toughest one, but they seem to have the worst weather! This is the video seen at the 2011 awards ceremony.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mooloolaba Triathlon bikecam

A nice view from Courtney Atkinson's bike in the men's race at Mooloolaba Triathlon (swim 1500 m, bike 40 km, run 10 km) 2011 in Queensland, Australia. Due to drafting, which is legal in this sort of triathlons, top competitors stay very close together.

Courtney Atkinson finished 6th after the run. He lost only 34 seconds to the winner Brad Kahlefeldt.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Physiological effects study of UTMB

Despite the recent success of ultra endurance running, the physiological consequences of ultramarathons are quite poorly understood. Neuromuscular Consequences of an Extreme Mountain Ultra-Marathon presents the first scientific study of the physiological consequences of The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). This race around the Mont Blanc Massif through three countries (France, Italy, Switzerland) has been organised in every August since 2003. This study was done in 2009 UTMB.

This popular 166 km mountain ultramarathon with 9500 meters of positive and negative elevation change has previously accepted about 2500 participants (down to 2300 for this year) from a much larger group of interested runners (in 2010, 45% of the qualified applicants were not accepted). 22 male runners participated in this study. 34 subjects were initially recruited but only 22 (65%) were able to complete the race (within the 46 h overall time limit) and take part in the first part of the study (fatigue). This ratio about the same as the overall ratio of finishers in UTMB. All the subjects were experienced ultramarathon runners, which is a required by the race organisation in order to qualify to submit their application. On average, the subjects had 13 years of training history in running and 5 years of ultra endurance experience. Eleven of the 22 subjects participated in the second part of the study (recovery).

The average finishing time of the subjects was 37 h 37 min. All levels of performance were represented in the group of subjects as shown by their rank ranging from 5th to 1380th place (of 1384 finishers). Poles were used by 95% of the subjects during uphills and 86% in dowhills.

Large maximal voluntary contraction decreases occurred after UTMB: −35% for knee extensors (KE) and −39% for plantar flexors (PF). Significant modifications in markers of muscle damage and inflammation were observed after UTMB as suggested by the large changes in creatine kinase, myoglobin, and C-Reactive Protein. Moderate to large reductions in maximal compound muscle action potential amplitude, high-frequency doublet force, and low frequency fatigue (index of excitation-contraction coupling alteration) were also observed. Sixteen days after UTMB, neuromuscular fatigue had returned to initial values, with most of the recovery process occurring within nine days of the race. Regarding body mass, the subjects lost about one kg during UTMB.

Although the amplitude of central drive reduction was lower for PF muscles than for KE, there was a significant correlation between changes for both. This result could reflect the existence of a common central safety mechanism (this refers to the famous Central Governor Model developed by Tim Noakes) aimed at reducing neural input to working muscles to limit fatigue and damage.

Interestingly, hyponatremia and hypoglycaemia were not observed among these subjects, so fatigue was not caused by them. Hyponatremia has been previously reported in prolonged running, probably because runners have been recently encouraged to overdrink during races. Two factors could explain why this was not the case in the present race: (i) temperature was not as high as in other famous ultra-marathons like the Comrades or the Western States 100 miles thus runners probably did not drink as much and (ii) warm salted soups are served at every aid station and are usually appreciated by runners.

No significant correlations were found between global fatigue or peripheral alterations and age, level of performance or running experience.

This study is the first to detect the existence of low-frequency fatigue after prolonged running, likely due to the 9500 m of negative change in altitude (ie. downhills). Most of the uphills were actually performed walking during UTMB. For this type of locomotion, the major change due to slope is a greater contribution of hip extensors, a muscle group not studied in the present experiment. In addition, it is likely that the use of poles modifies the relative contribution of different muscle groups.

As expected, UTMB induced large effects on blood markers of muscle damage and inflammation. Of particular interest is the large variability among subjects in these responses, e.g. in CK activity. The comparison of these different markers with the literature shows that UTMB was extremely taxing. UTMB activity levels are similar to those measured in patients undergoing severe rhabdomyolysis, but very rarely led to hospitalization of runners. One exception was noted in UTMB 2008, when one subject went to an intensive care unit for dialysis. It was eventually found that extreme exercise was combined with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs the week preceding the race and dehydration due to diarrhea. The two subjects with extremely high CK values did not have particular health troubles. The incidence of hospitalization may thus be secondary to inappropriate use of pharmaceutical.

The markers of muscle damage and inflammation in the present study were lower than those consistently observed after Spartathlon (a 246 km road ultramarathon in Greece). In fact, while finishing times are similar for both Spartathlon and UTMB, higher concentrations of LDH, CK, CRP and total white blood cells have been reported after the Spartathlon compared with the present findings. It is hypothesized that the combination of harder road surface and higher external temperature for Spartathlon could explain these observations.

As early as two weeks after such an extreme running event, maximal force capacities have returned to baseline but it is likely that neuromuscular measurements do not fully describe the recovery process of an athlete. It is interesting to note that while subjective pain was lower for PF, the slope of recovery for this variable was lower than for KE, suggesting long-lasting damage.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In search of Chrissie Wellington's secret fuel

When you look at Triple Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington zooming by mortal triathletes during Ironman Arizona 2010 in the video above, one can't help wondering what kind of special fuel drives her. Obviously genetics and training are major factors too, but I'd really like to know what she eats just in case I'm missing something essential. Just compare her speed to the others: it's like she's riding a motorcycle!

Her website FAQ defines her favourite foods as follows:

"My mum and dad’s bbq – plus homemade pizza, bircher museli, steak (still bleeding!), chicken, avocado and sundried tomato salad and nuts: in any order and sometimes together"

BBQ, pizza and steak, huh? Hard to believe any of those could be the secret ingredient. In the following video she reveals a bit more, stating she eats about 60% carbs and white meat daily, but red meat only once a week.

There just has to be more than that. I went on to look further and found this: Heinz salad cream.

What's in it? According to Heinz:

"Spirit Vinegar, Vegetable Oil (25%), Water, Sugar, Mustard, Pasteurised Egg Yolks (3%), Modified Cornflour, Salt, Stabilisers - Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum, Colour - Riboflavin"

Doesn't sound like a health food to me. I almost gave up, but then I hit the jackpot: sheep testicles! That must be it: the chosen food of ancient Olympic athletes is still fueling our heroes today!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just another day in the office for Ultramarathon Man

Dean talks with a radio interviewer during his epic Run Across America. A publicist follows and holds the notes. It must be tough to log 65-80 km every day for about ten weeks, but I guess it's just another day in the office for Ultramarathon Man!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hoka One One Bondi.B running shoe review

The moment I saw a photo of Hoka One One running shoes, I knew I had to try them. They look amazing! This innovative product was designed by two French trail runners, Nicolas Mermoud (3rd in UTMB 2007) and Jean-Luc Diard.

I've been searching their latest model called Bondi.B for some time. Finally I was able to find them for 145€ plus shipping. Not cheap, but they seem to cost about the same everywhere.

According to Hoka One One, Bondi.B is suggested for road running. They have another model called Mafate, which is slightly more massive and designed for trail running. Be as it may, I've seen reviews and reports by various trails runners who claim to like both of these shoes.

These shoes are obviously ridiculously big, but when I opened the box they looked really really huge in real life. And the wild colors do not make it any easier to hide these shoes. Most passers-by will notice them and some seem to wonder what they are. I don't think a UFO flying by would get much more attention than these shoes.

Based on other reviews I got these in size US 11, although my usual size is US 10.5 - that turned out to be a wise decision. The last thing you want is a pair of oversized shoes that are too tight for your feet. The weight of my shoes is 329 grams each, ie. 658 grams per pair. So they are not exactly lightweight racers, but they are lighter than many popular trail running shoes (for example, my The North Face Rucky Chucky's are about 200 grams heavier per pair).

My short test runs have been comfortable so far, although the shoes felt surprisingly hard. They were nowhere near as soft and responsive as I would have imagined. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, just somehow contrary to my expectations. It's kind of weird running with a couple of rubber two-by-fours attached to your feet.

As the sole is extremely thick, you won't be able to feel the ground at all. In my opinion, Hokas seem to somehow inhibit the natural feeling and enjoyment of running. Running in them was boring on flat road sections. Of course you can run on roads in them as much as you like, all I'm saying it's not necessarily going to be very fast or much fun.

I'm also afraid wearing thick-soled shoes like this might possibly lead to injuries over months due to weakened feet and legs, but that's another issue.

I expected Bondi.B not to perform well on snow, ice and dirt trails, but actually they did. They are so wide that they seem to be very stable and reliable almost on any surface. For example, compared to La Sportiva Crosslite, Bondi.B seemed to perform much better in icy, slippery or otherwise difficult conditions. They will run over just about anything without any troubles. You don't have to slow down for anything. These might be decent - or perhaps excellent - trail running shoes.

I also tried running a little trails with them with a backpack on, and it felt ok.

+ stable and comfortable on various surfaces and in difficult trail conditions, even with a backpack on
+ lighter weight than many other trail running shoes
+ seems to be suitable for ultra trail running (but I haven't done any really long runs in them yet)
+ 4 mm heel drop seems to be close to ideal for midfoot-style of running (Chi-running etc.)
+ bold new design differentiates them from all other running shoes effectively
+ Hokas (both Bondi.B and Mafate) have received some good reviews from experienced ultra/trail runners.

- expensive
- they run a bit too small/tight for their size compared to most other shoes (so most runners should get one size larger than normally)
- look/feel totally weird and unnatural (especially if you are used to more minimalist shoes)
- not ideal for road racing (although can be used on roads)
- running on thick soles takes time to get used to (and possibly might weaken your legs/feet in the process and lead to injuries?)
- not likely to make you look any smarter (but who knows, maybe these will become a popular fashion item like Vibram Five Fingers)
- hard to get, dealers are few and far between (except in France).

To sum up, Hoka One One is certainly an interesting new brand, but it's too early to say whether these shoes will fly like their name suggests ('Hoka' means 'to fly' and 'One One' means 'Earth' in Maori language).

It's also too early to estimate how durable Bondi.B's are, although the quality of the materials seems to be pretty good.

Based on my initial limited test runs, I'd recommend these shoes for ultra/trail runners looking for something different, or for difficult special conditions and so on. Probably not so great for normal road racing or triathlons, as I'm sure there are near-zero-drop lightweight racers that perform better and are cheaper than Bondi.B.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Swim goggles vs. masks

Goggles or mask? I have both, but lately I've been using mostly goggles. A mask is probably better in clear open water though, if you want see around. AquaSphere is the best brand IMHO.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Natascha Badmann @ Iss Dich Fit TV

With six Kona titles (and two second places) Natascha Badmann still remains the most successful European Ironman triathlete. She was seriously hurt in a bike accident during 2007 Ironman, but the 44-year-old Swiss superstar keeps on training, racing and smiling. Her next race will be Ironman South Africa on April 10, 2011.

Internet TV

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Michellie Jones training day

Michellie Jones is a great triathlete, but her junk diet horrifies me (except Vegemite, that's ok). Maybe you can get away with eating almost anything if you train long daily?

Anyway, her swim technique is interesting, fast but relaxed. I've got to try one of those ISM Adamo saddles for my cycling this summer. Newton shoes seem also interesting, never tried them on.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Analysis of Lance's open water freestyle

Someone published a YouTube video titled 'Juan Pelota in Kona' in January. Juan Pelota is Lance Armstrong, and Kona is the start/finish site of Ironman Triathlon World Championships on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Then Swim Smooth posted an interesting analysis of Lance's open water freestyle technique. There are many useful tips to learn from this.

Lance began his endurance sports career as a top triathlete, so he knows how to swim. The following video is shows 15-year-old Lance Armstrong competing in Bermuda International Triathlon in 1987.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tacx Bushido review

Indoor training seems to become increasingly popular as our Northern winters get more severe.
We've once again had a challenging winter with plenty of snow and I've had plantar fasciitis for four months now (since the first snow fell in November), so I've also resorted to Taxc Bushido cycling ergometer.

+ 100% wireless.
+ Relatively quiet compared to other trainers, doesn't disturb too much.
+ Clever cadence calculator that works without a sensor by measuring the variation of power.

- Expensive, you can get fairly good (but with noise and wires) trainers probably for half the price.
- Badly designed, buggy software that crashes often. (I write down my training data whenever I take a pause, because chances are the data is gone when I resume training.)
- Advanced VR functions as well as firmware updates would require a T1990 Upgrade package with Tacx Trainer 3.0 Software and USB ANT Stick (which I don't have) as well as a PC running Windows (which I don't have either, and I am also reluctant to install Windows on my Mac).
- The manual leaves room for improvement (you should check out Tacx forum for more information).

I must admit Bushido gets the job done effectively. It's easy to move around and use anywhere you like without worrying about the power supply and stuff like that.

I really don't see many alternatives out there that would suit me as well as Bushido. I think Bushido is a good choice for an amateur triathletes and recreational cyclists who for some reason don't want to to train outside all the time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Frederik Van Lierde wins Abu Dhabi Triathlon 2011

Frederik Van Lierde is the winner of Abu Dhabi International Triathlon 2011.

The runner-up Marino Vanhoenacker got obstructed by spectators who were hopping off a bus during the run.

Macca's cleat fell off after 80 km of cycling and his race ended right there.

Julie Dibens won again the women's race.

Race report in The National.

Elite leaderboards.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kona 2010 bike slo-mo

Pros cycling at Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championships 2010. Shot at 300 fps.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Badwater 2011 roster surprises

2011 AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon Roster includes a couple of interesting surprises: 1. David Goggins (5th 2006, 3rd 2007, DNF 2008) seems to attempt a comeback and 2. there is going to be a Finnish participant for the first time ever.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vasaloppet 2011

Vasaloppet is the classic 90 km x-country ski race from Sälen to Mora in Sweden. Actually they have another non-competitive Vasaloppet as well, and many shorter races, plus a MTB race in summer.
There is also Vasaloppet  USA in Mora, Minnesota.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Transgrancanaria 123 results

The North Face Transgrancanaria 123 km results:

1- Zigor Iturrieta (13:22.37)
2- Nemeth Csaba (13:38.37)
3- Sebastian Chaigneau (13:45.05)

1- Lizzy Hawker (15:55.47)
2- Nerea Martínez (16:47.34)
3- Leyre Iruretagoyena (19:34.31)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cameron Brown wins his 10th IMNZ

Congratulations to Cameron Brown who won his 10th title at Ironman New Zealand in 8:31:07 (swim 00:50:21, bike 4:43:04, run 2:52:09).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gorilla diet

Interestingly when gorillas are fed human treats like sugary biscuits in a zoo, they start to suffer from obesity and heart disease. When those are replaced with green leafy vegetables, they lose weight and get healthier.

Obviously we are not gorillas (as they don't run marathons), but maybe we should eat our greens?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hoka One One with Dave Mackey

Dave Mackey, who is sponsored by Hoka One one, shows up in the video below doing some winter trail running in Boulder with his Mafate shoes. Dave has also blogged about the Bondi B model favorably.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pole to Pole Run

I doubt Pole To Pole will be "the greatest run in history", but it certainly would be great if Pat Farmer would be successful in raising 100 million dollars for Red Cross.

His over 21,000 km journey will start in April 2, 2011. If he can run two marathons (85 km) a day - like he plans to - it would take him about 250 days.

However the website says it will take a year with no days off, so something doesn't quite add up here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Get ready for TNF Trans Gran Canaria

The North Face Trans Gran Canaria 123 km ultra trail run will start at midnight on Saturday, March 5th 2011. Sebastien Chaigneau and Lizzy Hawker are my favorites to win the sold out race. There are only 282 competitors for the main distance, but there will be shorter races (96, 42 and 24 km) during the weekend as well.