Archives for April 2015

No more knee pain and how I got there by Richard Lander Stow

I have just had an article published on the Wimbledon Clinics blog about how I successfully got rid of my knee pain. You can see an excerpt below, or follow the link to see the full article.

I suffered gradually increasing knee pain throughout the last few years until it seriously hampered me in an ultra marathon. I finally had an MRI scan and went to see an orthopaedic consultant. He told me to get heel lifts, stop running and that it wouldn’t get any better. This was terrible advice for an athlete, albeit a very slow one, and it was quite the emotional blow. I am 38 and have been healthy and active for pretty much all of my adult life.My coach at the time, Neil Scholes, helped me find Jonathan Bell for a second opinion which I immediately, due to a fluke cancellation, followed with an appointment with Claire Robertson for some specialist physio advice. It turned out that I had Patella Femoral Pain or Runner’s Knee as it is commonly known. The diagnosis was a fairly simple one, but fixing the matter took several months and quite a few lifestyle changes which incorporated the advice that Jonathan and Claire gave me.

via No more knee pain and how I got there by Richard Lander Stow.

Virgin London Marathon and my next project “X-Bionic Man”

I just so happened to be in London for my day job yesterday. I had a couple of hours to spare, so I popped along to Excel to have a quick look at the Virgin London Marathon Expo. It opened at 11am and there were already plenty of people there registering. I am also fortunate as Like The Wind magazine decided to include my article on running in fancy dress in their free magazine sample that is available to all who attend the expo. If you are one of those that has seen the article and made your way here then I wish you all the best in the race and hope that you have an amazing day out. Make the most of it, enjoy the crowds and don’t obsess so much on your PB that you forget to look around occasionally.

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While at the Expo I bumped into Simon who represents X-Bionic in the UK, and bought myself a bunch of X-Bionic goodies. My recent experience with their undies has persuaded me to give them a try. You can read about those here. In turn that has spawned my next project. After spending a lot of the winter running big miles and running very slowly in preparation for the 2015 Oner ultramarathon (you can read about my 2015 experience here), and raising over £500 for The Brain Tumour Charity, I have decided to put some speed into my legs.

The “X-Bionic Man” Project

In 2015 I am going to have a bash at setting some new personal bests at the half and full marathon distances with my key races being the Frome Half Marathon and the Eden Project Marathon in 2015. I am going to fund raise, this time for the St Luke’s Hospice where my Dad passed away from a brain tumour in January of this year, but my fundraising goal will only be a small one. This time I am going to be running as “X-Bionic Man!” and will look suspiciously like an actual, real-life, runner, albeit one who has spent a load of cash on kit and doesn’t really get the results that the level of kit would imply!

Frome and the Eden Project are not typical races for setting a PB at. They are both hilly circuits with the slower results that would imply. They do however favour me and the running that I like to do. Frome is traditionally very hot, all on tarmac and with continuous rolling hills. The challenge often comes as much from the hot weather as it does the course, and it is one of my favourite races of the year, despite being all on the road and a sufferfest from the start to the finish. The Eden Project marathon usually has much better running weather, but it does feature hills and a lot of trails, however I am confident that I can run a PB on it given the right training.

The culmination of my “X-Bionic Man” project will be an article that I publish at the end of the year entitled something along the lines of “X-Bionic, is it worth it?” X-Bionic kit is expensive, but it has blatantly had a lot of thought put into it and I am very interested to do a long term test on as many of their products that I can afford. Will the kit perform and last as well as the price and level of thought implies?

I have discovered that it is almost impossible to pose in this kit without pulling a stupid face though….To donate or to get the latest news on my progress visit www.justgiving.com/x-bionicman

A bit about pants – X-Bionic Summerlight

I don’t know about other ultra runners, but I have spent many hours tweaking and adjusting my kit to eliminate chaffing. I have been pretty successful so far and am down to one final problem. Pants!

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I normally run in your basic snug fitting trunks to hold everything in place, and at shorter distances they do ok. As soon as you step up the mileage though things get a bit more tricky. The issue I have most often is with the seam in the waistband. Even with nothing pushing on it, an abrasive seam will chomp through the skin of your lower back given enough miles and a bit of sweat. Even some running specific underwear has seams in stupid places.

A while ago I decided to bite the bullet and give X-Bionic undies a try. These were a little bit pricey but extremely technical and very well put together. Initially I stuck with the trunks theme and tried the Energizer Mk1 boxer shorts. These were great to start with, but I did bump into a problem as I increased the mileage. I suffered from, how can I put this? I think it’s best just to come out and say it…Chaffy B*llocks….There, I said it. I shall refer to it as CB from now on.

After this experience I put the undies in a drawer and left them for a while. Recently, forgetful of my past experience, I pulled them on for a long run and gave them another try. The CB recurred and the undies did not, unfortunately, return home with me. I contacted X-Bionic about my experience, and they were most helpful. We discussed the matter and I decided to give their briefs a try, in particular the X-Bionic Summerlight Slip.

When the briefs arrived I thought there had been a mistake. I opened the box and pulled out a pair of pants that looked like they would just about fit an action man figure. After waving them around for a minute, and showing them to my wife, I decided to try them on. I have refrained from putting up a picture of me wearing them. I do have some dignity, despite what some of my running costumes may suggest!

The briefs were extremely stretchy, and oh my goodness, so comfortable. I decided to wear them all day, including a training session to see how they felt. Now, it’s very hard not to get personal when describing how you find something as intimate as pants, but the best way I can describe them is as follows:

The X-Bionic Summerlight briefs are so comfortable it is like going commando, but with everything securely held in place. They are soft, stretchy and well made. The seam is in an extremely sensible place and the waistband settles nicely around your hips. They have an abundance of technical features that you can read about here on the X-Bionic website and a premium price to go with such a high quality product.

I have yet to do a long run in them, but I am certain that CB will not be an issue. I do have a long run scheduled at the weekend, so I will edit this if it does return! In the meantime I am going to save my pennies to buy another pair of X-Bionic Summerlight Slips. According to my wife, they are aesthetically pleasing too 😉

The Oner Ultramarathon 2015

Last year I attempted the Oner and got beaten by the weather. You can see the full report and how badly it went wrong for me here. I was dressed like Superman and was raising money for the wards in Derriford hospital that had been treating my wife for Leukaemia. Incidentally, she had a stem cell transplant last April and is just starting to think about running again herself 🙂 .

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Before I carry on I really want to say: Thanks Mum, you were great 🙂

In 2014 Brutal Events seemed to like having someone join in that was even more of an idiot than normal and they encouraged me to come back and have another go. This year I was more prepared than ever, had done loads more in training, had a new costume and a new charity.

For 2015 I would be dressed as a Harlequin with bells on, literally, and raising money for the Brain Tumour Charity. My Dad fought against a Grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme before it took his life on 10th January this year. My Dad was an amazing man who instilled in me an inherent nuttiness for attempting ridiculous challenges and without doubt had an awful lot to do with making me into the person that I am today. For the Oner my Mum had taken on the role of crew chief and number one supporter to help get me through the event.

The Oner isn’t cheap to enter, but then what good race is? The organisers place a huge emphasis on safety, which makes total sense as we are all out, tired and navigating our way along cliff tops in the dark. They also have minibuses at every check point, arrange transport to/from the start/finish and the race HQ and are generally flexible, friendly and helpful. Don’t underestimate the value that you will place on the chance to sit in a warm minibus while pausing at a windswept control at 3am on a cold morning while munching on a sausage roll and as many jelly babies as you can fit in your mouth.

The 80 mile race starts from near Charmouth at noon on Saturday, features 10000ft of ascent and finishes in Studland. As I meet more and more people on the Oner it becomes obvious that everyone wants to finish, but the course is so tough that many people are simply seeing how far they can get. These are also no ordinary people. Most of them have completed at least one Ironman triathlon (usually way faster than me!), or they have a variety of other ultramarathons under their belt. On my way around I met many folks that were taking part to get points for the Ultra Marathon du Mont Blanc, and met several other who were on at least their second attempt at the Oner.

Before I go on I should probably add that when I use words like “bonkers,” “nutter,” and “crazy,” they are to be considered compliments to a variety of interesting and lively people. It doesn’t mean that they should be sectioned…..probably.

The four key players in the debacle that was my Oner attempt turned out to be a physio who, in preparation, ran loops from her house through the night to see if she had what it takes to do an overnight ultramarathon, a transatlantic yachtsman and multiple ironman triathlete who was looking for another challenge, another multiple ironman triathlete and ultramathoner building points for the UTMB….oh, and a delightful young lady who I had the pleasure of watching accidentally cable tie the zips together on her rucksack and who also stopped me from stepping out in front of a speeding car a short while later 🙂

Before The Oner I hadn’t met any of the people above but during it I swapped many stories and had many laughs with them. If you wondered why people do ultramarathons then this is one of the reasons. Ultra running races can be wonderfully sociable events as like minded nutters battle the weather, the countryside and their own sense of self-preservation late into the night.

Unfortunately none of those mentioned above nor myself got to the finish, but wherever we individually got to was an amazing achievement in its own right. With something like the Oner it really is about taking part and having your own individual battle, some of which you will share with wonderful strangers on the way round as your personal pacing strategy repeatedly brings you together and pulls you apart again.

My strategy for this year had a number of features in it, but it can be summed up as “start slow and keep going.” Last year I was defeated by the weather, so this year I had a few extra things in my special needs bag which could be accessed at 26 and 40 miles. I also carried a much better waterproof top, the OMM Kamleika Race Smock II. I was determined that the weather would not stop me this year.

Other clothing, apart from my Harlequin outfit, included Asics running shorts with a Lycra insert, a long sleeved Merino Wool top, a merino wool Buff, Asics Fuji Trainer 3 shoes and Wigwam Trail Trax Pro Socks. Of that list I would not change a thing unless the weather was going to be consistently above 15 degrees Celsius. In that case I would swap out the Merino for something cooler. I also carried a second merino top, merino buff, gloves and Salomon tights in my pack in case I had a forced stop and got cold. These items don’t weigh much and also pack really small compared to the massive thermal punch that they can offer in an emergency.

Gear wise I was using an Ultimate Direction PB pack with two 500ml collapsible bottles plus saltstick caps for my electrolytes. Due to the levels of sun in the first half I ended up drinking about a litre every 10k and was popping the salt caps through into the night whenever I felt that I needed them. I also carried other sensible kit such as maps (in a map case) compass, first aid kit, wet wipes, mobile phone, GPS, food and whatever else was on the required kit list from the organiser. Oh, and my invaluable pair of Black Diamond running poles.

For my food I tend to have a fairly basic routine through an ultra. I eat bourbon biscuits like they’ve just been discontinued and supplement them with Strawberry Honey Stinger Waffles whenever I feel like it. I also reward myself with an almond butter and honey sandwich after each 26 miles as well as eating whatever I crave as I pass through the aid stations. On the Oner I mostly fancied coffee, Jelly Babies and Sausage Rolls.

Enough about the people and kit, what about the race?

The Oner is well organised and is great to mentally get your head around because it is always around 10km or less to the next checkpoint. i.e. You mentally only have to do 10km at a time, so it compartmentalises really easily. We all started with the honk of an air horn at noon and 84 of us tootled off into the countryside. Only 48 would make it through to the finish in Studland.

I wanted to better my times from last year and thought that, with my increased fitness levels, I should do that naturally without having to push. Sure enough, I was 15 minutes up by the time I got the first marathon under my belt. The next section was around Portland and didn’t feature any major difficulties. I ran/walked most of it with Nick and Sam, and we were laughing nearly all of the way, taking it in turns to have bad patches as energy levels waxed and waned.

After Portland we met up with Greg and the five of us stuck together for about 4 miles as we ran along the flat promenade. As we got into the hills Greg and I eased away, regularly looking back to check on the lights of our compatriots. As expected the hills after Weymouth were hard and relentless, but at least they weren’t muddy and slippery this year. I was pleased with how I kept moving and I was half an hour ahead of time at Lulworth Cove compared to being half an hour behind time last year. Unfortunately I was unable to carry this through to Kimmeridge Bay where I ended up being about 15 minutes late and timing out.

Running through the night was again an amazing experience. This time the skies were clear and the stars were beautiful. I didn’t see quite as many animals, but then again I was jingling with every step. My Petzl Nao lit up the countryside beautifully and two batteries were just enough to last the full night on the brightest automatic setting. I had the privilege of watching the sun set, then seeing the moon rise large and red over the sea in the early hours before the sun came around and popped into the sky again.

What about chaffing, I thought that was compulsory?

None, whatsoever. No blisters, no chaffing. Just a touch of sunburn on the back of my right hand. I fully reserve my right to have all my toenails fall off and for inaccessible body areas to chaff raw during my next ultra. Past lack of blisters and chaffing is no proof of future chaffing and blister invulnerability….

Next year?

Next year I intend on doing the Oner again providing Claire and her team at Brutal Events don’t decide that someone in fancy dress is an idiot too far 😉

After being beaten by the weather last year and being beaten by the course this year I have some clear areas for improvement both in training and in race strategy. I would happily share these thoughts over a beer or during a run, but for now I have run out of time.

Charity and what’s next?

If you wish to make a donation towards The Brain Tumour Charity then, thank you, you can find out more at my fundraising page www.justgiving.com/run247

My next key races are the Frome Half Marathon in July and then the Eden Project Marathon in October. I have some personal goals that I need to take care of before returning to the Oner and my harlequin outfit next year 🙂

And finally

I would like to offer a final thought for one fellow that I saw on several occasions. He was much faster than me, but overtook me several times. This was due to a tendency to wander off course and get lost before finding his way and catching me up again. I think that he did actually get to the finish in time which is a testament to how fast he is, but he would have done it much quicker if he had stuck to the route!