Sunday
Feb192017

Supplements, the pill and the female athlete.

I have been wanting to write this blog for quite some time but wasn’t sure how to approach it.

I have had a lot of stress in my life the last couple of years and I have been blaming that for the downturn in my running. However, there may have been other factors in play…..

In 2015 I went to the doctor to go on the pill because it seemed that I always got my period on the day of a big race, and I was sick of it. He prescribed me a pill that would stop my periods for 4 months at a time, but he recommended taking it all the time and only stopping it once every 6 months. I thought that a period every 6 months sounded fantastic!! It worked as promised, but over the coming months I got more and more tired and got terrible leg pains, specifically in my calves. The pain in my right calf was so bad I would have to constantly stop running to massage it. When I was able to run, it was with a limp. My masseur could feel nothing wrong with the muscle.

I went to Bali in mid-2015, and the leg cramps were particularly bad. I could barely run, it was very frustrating. I also was extremely exhausted all the time.

I returned home and went to the doctors to find out what was causing my fatigue. I thought maybe my cortisol levels were up from the stress I had been under. They checked everything, and my doctor said my cortisol and iron levels, and everything else, were normal. I was stumped. I didn’t know what to do. So, I kept plodding along, with the pain in my calf ruining my runs.

A couple of months later, and I was getting ready to go to Europe to race the CCC and then have a holiday with my daughter. I suddenly had the feeling that I HAD to go off the pill I was on. It was an irresistible urge that I MUST go off them. I still wasn’t sure, because I wanted to have a holiday and race without the stress of getting a period. However, I had to because the feeling was so strong. I went off it about 10 days before we flew out. During this time I researched the side effects of this pill, simply because this feeling made me wonder why my body was sending me this signal. Also, inexplicably the severe calf cramps had stopped.

Unbelievably this is what I found:

As of January 2012, there are approximately 10,000 lawsuits against Bayer by women who have suffered blood clots and by the families of those women who have died whilst taking Yaz or Yasmin. It is considered the most complained-about drug on the Internet, with thousands of women voicing concerns in online forums and support groups over health issues both physical and emotional.

Two studies conducted with funding from Bayer revealed that Yaz and Yasmin held no higher risk of blood clots than other birth control pills. However, last month it was revealed that five other studies undertaken independent of Bayer suggested a 50-to-75 percent increased risk of clots for those taking these birth control pills in comparison to others. 

http://msmagazine.com/blog/2012/02/09/just-how-safe-is-yaz-women-need-to-know/comment-page-1/

Just a couple of the common side effects:

  • ·         pain in the chest, groin, or legs, especially the calves
  • ·         unusual tiredness or weakness

https://www.drugs.com/sfx/yaz-side-effects.html

 

Although all birth control pills carry the risk of blood clots because of fluctuating estrogen levels, the risk of DVT is significantly higher with Yaz users, studies show.

https://www.drugwatch.com/yaz/pulmonary-embolism.php

 

I couldn’t believe it!! I was so glad I went off it before the long flight…long flights can cause DVT without putting drugs into the mix!! Added to that, I know many drugs say there is only a small percentage of people who might get the side effects, but I have been one of those small percentages before. After the birth of my son I went on a drug to dry up my breast milk. There was a negligible risk of seizures. I had a grand mal seizure and was unconscious for over half an hour. Someone has to be that small percentage!

I went and raced in Europe, already feeling much better with more energy, however, I still felt not 100% right. This continued after I got home. Running was so exhausting. I felt like I was running through molasses. My legs felt heavy, and my pace got slower and slower (if that was possible!!).

I went on a running camp with Glenhuntly Athletics Club in December. There was a talk for female athletes. One of the women said that female athletes need to have iron levels of a minimum 30, better to be closer to 50. Hmmm, I thought, better check that out….

When I got home I rang my doctor and got my results from my blood test 5 months earlier. My iron level was 18!!! Normal maybe for inactive people, but not someone who runs as much as me. I have now been on iron tablets since January and I am no longer tired. I have energy! It is the most amazing and wonderful feeling! I enjoy running again! My pace has picked up unbelievably!

This has been a huge learning experience for me. I urge any women out there on the pill to check the side effects, and choose wisely.

Also, if you are tired, get your iron levels checked….sometimes it’s just that simple!

I hope this blog has been informative, please let me know your thoughts.

Monday
Sep122016

CCC Race Report.

How often do we say, ‘That was the hardest race I have ever done.’? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve said it a few times, and now I’ll say the CCC was actually the hardest race I have ever done! Really. Truly. Until the next race I do that feels like the hardest. 

It felt like the hardest race for many reasons. Some of them of my own making, some of them because of the course. 

I entered the CCC because I did not have enough points to do the UTMB. At first I was disappointed about this, but then I came to accept it as it would mean I would have more energy for my whirlwind European trip to follow! 

My training leading into this event was not the best. My health has not been great for a variety of reasons (a blog on this will follow, as I think it might be relevant to many people). I also was very busy with work, and organising the logistics of a cross-Europe trip for my daughter and I. Anyway, enough of the excuses!


I went into this race deciding that, because I had not had the best lead up, I would view it as a race for fun, to complete. This led me to being a bit lazy on my due diligence. I did not do much research on the course or aid stations. I just rocked up to the start line. Dumb mistake.

The first problem I encountered was when I sucked on my Nathan hydration pack….which had been sealed up in my case for about 2 weeks. Yes, not the best thing to realise on the start line with the forecast for temperatures in the mid-30s. And someone told me the first aid station was at the top of the first big hill, which could take a couple of hours!

Anyway, I sucked it up, literally, drinking my mouldy water up for the first 15kms or so. Luckily, I had brought a small flexible drink bottle that was stuffed into my pack as a back up, just in case. Thank god for that!!! So I used this for the rest of the course, filling it at every aid station and at the water points in every village. Still, I was basically dehydrated for the whole race as a 500ml bottle is not enough to hydrate for a 100km race in such temperatures.


My next rookie error was in regards to nutrition. I basically under-fed myself for the whole course, which led to severe lack of energy. The reason for this was again the heat. The bars I had were okay at first, but went soft and unpalatable (to me) in the heat, and I did not have enough gels to compensate. The food at the aid stations were not what I was used to (obviously!). I just couldn’t eat cheese and salami with the temperatures in the mid-30s and 50ks into a race! There were salty biscuits available and they were my main form of sustenance. It was great to get a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise at Champex-Lac. That went down a treat! 

Next on my list of errors was completely and utterly underestimating the course. I thought; ‘I’ve done big hills!’ (think Buffalo Stampede); ‘I’ve done long races’ (think Alpine Challenge), but boy oh boy, this was different. The big hills just went on forever! Nothing in Australia can possibly compare to the climbs simply because we just don’t have the mountains. I was eternally grateful for my poles, I just I couldn’t have done the race without them. The worst climb for me was the last to Tete aux Vents. I did  this in the dark, and my lights just lit up the reflective tape that seemed to be vertically above me…and seemed to go on forever. I felt like crying! In fact, in some parts of the race I did. I was so spent and exhausted the only thing I could do was cry. I just wanted the pain to end. But that’s what ultra running is about; getting through the tough times.

Speaking of lights earlier, I have to say that I think mine were one of the best sets around. I use Ay-Up lights and because of the two torches on the head set, the beam is spread. I saw many people with torches that gave them a circle of light at their feet. I seriously don’t know how they managed!

The course itself was not overly technical. Testament to that is that I only fell over twice (whilst going downhill, in the dark, and talking). Normally I trip much more! Some of the forest sections reminded me a lot of the pine plantations actions of the Buffalo Stampede and the alpine sections reminded me of the Victorian high country. In all, it was a beautiful course, but I was suffering too much to really enjoy it.

I had hoped to complete the course in about 18 hours….it actually took me 21 hours and 52 minutes. Which equated to about 20 hours of suffering. Normally when I finish a race and think ‘never again will I do that race’, it takes a few hours and I’m already thinking about doing it again, as I’m sure many of you will find is a familiar scenario. It took me about a week to think maybe I could do it again. 

It is tough…but to me that is what ultra running is about. So many times I wanted to pull out, but I don’t DNF just because I am suffering and not achieving what I wanted. I will only DNF if I’m injured, not because it hurts. We wouldn’t do this if it was easy, and suffering is what we sign up for. Otherwise, what’s the point? Where would the challenge be if it was easy?

 

 Some Stats:

In the CCC there were 2130 entrants

1386 finished with 744 DNFs (35%)

13 Aussies entered, only 4 finished, myself being the only Australian female to finsh (from 4 Australian female starters). One Australian male finished before me, 2 after me.

Equipment Used:

Shoes: La Sportiva helios

Injinji socks

Ay-Up Lights

Far End Gear ear buds

EverestSports Saltsticks

Ryders Eyewear sunglasses

Rocktape

 

Post-race:
CW-X compression tights

Oofos recovery thongs 

Tuesday
Apr262016

Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam

No matter which way you look at it, this 3 day race was always going to be a tough challenge! However, coming back from a draining year that left me barely able to run, followed by 3 months completely off running, was going to make it even tougher…..

Looking back at my training diary, I completed 8 weeks of training for this event….some of which was not of the best ‘quality’ as I tried to regain my running legs…and change my running gait at the same time!! A big ask! Therefore, although I would have liked to have finished the 3 days in a much faster time….I think that I finished it at all is something of which I can be proud.

Day 1 was 25kms with about 2,500m elevation. I had a fun day out…making a few new friends on the trail and sharing some laughs. It was good to finish at a reasonable time of the day and know that I had some rest and recovery time ahead of me. What was not so nice was knowing I had to do Mystic and Clearspot both ways again the next day…..

 end of the first day

I was up bright and early again the next morning to do the 78k…I was not feeling as nervous as the day before but I still knew it was going to be a long day at the office.. I was right! I was run/hiking for 13 hours and 26 minutes! That’s a long time for 78k….but there was over 4,600m elevation to contend with…and a dodgy stomach. I had lots of trouble with my stomach when I did the Razorback 65k three weeks previously. This was mainly due to the sweet foods I was eating. This time I chose to eat more savoury foods. The best was the beef, almond and cranberry bar….salty and savoury and a good texture. I was rapt I had them!

I still had to eat some sweet stuff, however, for the instant energy…and I did pay for it. I shall hopefully continue to refine my nutrition plan for my racing…one day I will nail it!

I did hit a flat spot at about 50kms, which left me in the position that I had to go back down Clearspot in the dark…this was really tricky. My Ay-Ups are fantastic and made being able to see possible, but it’s still not the same as daylight. I slid down one section on my butt…I still have grazes two weeks later!

I finally finished at 8.26 on the Saturday night. Then I had to race back to our accommodation and get ready for the next race! Of course, I had John, my partner, helping me (he had also been crewing for me both days), which was great, but there was still a bit to do. The main thing was food…John raced out to get me a pizza….but all the take away shops were shut. He saw someone in one of the shops, and pleaded with them to make a pizza…and they did!! Thank goodness he was there to do that for me, or who knows what I would have done for food! Nothing else appealed and it’s hard when your stomach is dodgy to force unappealing food down. So, thanks John!

The next day when the alarm went off I felt sick with nerves.

can you tell I'm not looking forward to the start??

We started, and I trotted along for nearly 1km, then my legs just seized…I couldn’t run. I tried, but it just wasn’t happening…I limped along crying and feeling sorry for myself. My friend Anja passed me and gave me a big hug and kind words of encouragement…then I saw my friends John and Glenda Signorini and they did the same…but I was still left wondering how I was going to complete 45kms with over 2500m climbing..

Miraculously…after climbing up Mystic, my legs warmed up and I was able to run again…I had a lot of catching up to do! I kept pushing on, passing people as I went..I think quite a few were amazed to see me, I think they may have expected me to DNF. Well, I didn’t DNF, instead I slogged it out in 8 long hours…I would never have thought it would take that long! I think that is evidence of my lack of fitness. Not to say that I was unfit, but I know I can do much better…I just hadn’t had the time to get to the level I would have liked. But, I finished! I was so happy!

This was a tough challenge, and one I am glad I completed. Although I was not as fit as I would have liked, I knew I had the mental and physical capabilities to finish. Who knows, maybe I’ll do it again next year…faster…

Thank god that's over!!!

 

Massive thanks to all my sponsors:

La Sportiva: I wore the Helios; light, grippy and comfortable. What more do you want? Also, fabulously comfortable apparel.

Ryders Eyewear: Heat Sunglasses: fantastic for when the light changes a lot through the bush from bright to dappled.

Ay-Up lights: couldn’t have done the night run without them!

Rocktape: Helped keep my niggly leg in check and for taping my feet.

CW-X tights: absolutely essential for recovery between the races.

Oofos recovery thongs: the best thing ever to put on weary feet.

Far End Gear: It was great to be able to listen to tunes when I was feeling flat or needed the motivation.

Everest Sports Australia: Saltstick tablets were vital for keeping my electrolytes in balance.

Injinji toes socks: Fantastic for keeping blisters at bay.

Nathan Performance Gear: fantastic packs that carry all I need without chafing

Tuesday
Mar292016

The many uses of Rocktape!

As you probably know, I have loved using Rocktape for a while. Rocktape is a kinesiology tape. I use it to provide great support for my ongoing niggles. A lot of pain generated by movement or muscle contraction is generated by nerve endings in the space between the skin and muscle. Rocktape decompresses this space so that there is less pressure on these nerve endings so that pain is reduced or stopped completely, making hard runs doable. Of course, I also love the funky designs and colours!

In this blog, however, I will be looking at the uses of Rocktape that go beyond supporting muscles.

I have an ongoing problem with the use of heart rate monitor. I love to see my heart rate as I am running so I can gauge my level of effort more accurately. However, the chest strap chafes my skin badly. I have been at the point of having my skin open, raw and bleeding. Funnily enough, it was my daughter Zara who came up with the idea of putting Rocktape under my chest strap. I had been using band aids, but they kept coming off as soon as I sweated, which is pretty soon when you are running hard. Anyway, I thought, anything is worth a try! I did it, and it works a treat. The Rocktape does not interfere with the chest strap reading my heart rate (as the thick band aids sometimes did) and the chafing is going. Success!

 

 

The next use I have for Rocktape is when I tape my feet pre-race. I like to put blister pads on my big toes and on the big toe joint, as these are both areas that tend to rub for me, especially if there are any river crossings on the course I am about to run. However, I always encountered the problem that after a few hours of sweaty feet that have been crossing rivers, the blister pads would start to come off, slipping out of position, thus causing their own problems. Solution: tape the blister pads down with Rocktape. Success again! The blister pads stay put and my feet are happy!

 

Do you have other uses for Rocktape that we could benefit from?? Please comment below, I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday
Mar092016

Training Trip to Bright

Well, my trip to Bright for training for the Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam has come and gone! How time flies when you're having fun! It was a great weekend; the weather was warm and I had great company.

On the Saturday I started from the bridge that Morses creek goes under and ran out and back. Sunday I ran from Eurobin Creek picnic area to the top of Buffalo and back. The best thing about it was not only was I out getting some practice on the course, but I actually got to SEE the course. I have done the 75k race twice beofre, but never have I seen the beautiful views! Because I was going slower than in a race and without the single-minded focus you need, I actually saw the beautiful location. I was in total amazement!

These were just some of the beautiful sights to see. Honestly, if you've never been to Bright or Buffalo you need to get there! It is awesome!

The training was good, but I still don't feel that I am back to my old paces. I still feel a bit slow...it all takes time I guess. I have to be patient! In the meantime, I just need to enjoy the fact that I am out there in the beautiful bush that I love!