The Road is Always Long

My journey through the world of ultra marathons.

Monthly Archives: May 2017

2 in 1 Shorts by ashmei

I’ve been waiting for it to rain in Scotland.  That seems ironic, waiting for it to rain….in Scotland.  Well it’s true, Edinburgh has had the driest April for some years.  I don’t often welcome the rain, I mean, who does, but the garden certainly needed it, my lack of green digits evident by the browning of the plants and grass.  However, I did welcome it this time as I wanted to give the 2 in 1 shorts a chance in the rain.  I’ve been wearing them non-stop since getting on board as an ambassador with ashmei. 

IMG_3759I always wear an inner compression garment when racing, usually some major branded compression short under whatever short I pick for the race.  The reason, as most ultra runners will know, is to stop chaffing.  However, I have picked up some chaffing from stitched seems on other compression gear.  At last year’s Anglo Celtic Plate 100km, I had chaffing in bits of my body that I thought were impossible.   It turned out that a seemed part of the under garment had moved to a creased area on my body (enough information?) and had caused all manner of chaos down there (definitely enough information).  You could ask Mrs T how the shower went after that race, the screams could probably be heard in Aldbury (ashmei HQ).

As an ultra runner the inner merino compression short is fantastic, there are no seems. Well there are seems of course, but the way they have been stitched essentially hides them.  The merino is light, soft and tight, it fits snuggly, just exactly what a compression garment should do.   The inner isn’t 100% merino, there is some elastane in there to perform as the compression.  It is a genius combination.  As the major component is merino the heat control is fantastic, never overheating and not leaving you chilly either.  I haven’t run 100km in these shorts, yet, but I am extremely confident of how great they will perform when I do.  

The rear pocket is large enough for keys, cards and at a push I could get my iPhone 7 in there when the shorts are off.  It’s little more difficult when they are on, but that isn’t the purpose of the pocket, so it was an unexpected bonus.  Within the pocket there is a mini pocket, small enough to fit a couple of coins in and stop them rumbling around in the large outer pocket.  Inside the pocket there is this statement:

“Your body is not the same all over.  You have lumps and bumps and hot bits and cool bits.  You’re not symmetrical like a ping pong ball. You have different sized limbs and muscles, each with their individual needs to be protected against the elements.  This is why we have developed 360 degree MAPPING, to position the most suitable technical fabrics around the body to maximise comfort and performance”

This says it all about ashmei as a company, they are completely athlete centric.  We, you, our comfort and performance come first to ashmei, it is one of the overriding reasons that I wanted to become part of their ambassador team.

Back to the shorts.  The outer layer is a mid length nylon/elastane blend, very light, with ‘breather’ strips down each side which are excellent for keeping things cool around that area.  The shorts fit excellently, they feel tight around the areas that they should, and they feel loose around the areas that need it.  As I said at the top of this blog, I wanted to wait for the rain, I wanted to see how they would perform in the wet.  I opted to stick on a waterproof jacket, an expensive waterproof jacket!  I wanted to compare the shorts to one of the leading brands of waterproof sports wear out there.  Of course I had the classic short sleeve t-shirt on underneath.  I don’t wear anything else these days.

So I went out for an 8 mile run, along the coast. It was lovely to be just running again, the freedom it provides.  Being out at 6:30 on a Saturday morning, there is nobody around, all I could hear were the waves crashing onto the beach, the rain hitting the ground and the gulls squealing at each other. 

I had actually forgotten that the 2 in 1 shorts were waterproof.  As I unlocked the door to the house I looked down and noticed the beads of water on the shorts as they rolled down and off the shorts.  These particular shorts have been washed a number of times so it was reassuring to see that they were retaining their waterproofness.  In stark contrast the top brand waterproof jacket was socked through!!

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Water sitting in beads on top of outer layer of the shorts.

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And water soaking through the waterproof jacket.

The part that ashmei don’t advertise is the multiple use of the shorts.  The merino wool inner is wicking and anti-bacterial, so the sweat doesn’t stay in the garment, they can be used for a good few days before they need to be washed.  I was sceptical of this unknown fact, but it is very true.  I have two pairs of the shorts and once they have dried they go back into the drawer and washed once a week, saving a little on the washing machine electricity, not to mention the way overpriced washing liquid!

Typically of ashmei, the shorts look great too, a must for the vain types like me!!

Overall, stylish, will perform in all conditions, innovative design for both parts of the short and fantastic value for money.

Now, go out and buy some, you won’t regret it.

ashmei logo

Blood and the Endurance Athlete

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, have no medical training, other than Boys Brigade first aid in 1985, and I accept no responsibility for any nonsense you get up to on the back of what I am about to write.  Consider yourself warned, or disclaimed, or something.  I also have no affiliation with any company that I mention in this blog.

I recently had a full blood analysis carried out.  I’ve used Blue Horizon Medical in the past for various testing when I have been wanting to discover more about how my body works under pressure during heavy training and if there was any nutritional or functional (training/rest/recovery) changes I could make to improve or adapt.  I did this testing when I started to train for the ACP 2016 and half way through the training block.  I didn’t blog about it at the time, mainly because nothing came up in the blood panel, all looked normal at the time.

So it was a surprise to see a few red flags in the latest blood panel when my training has been somewhat subdued over the last 6-8 months.

The first and probably biggest red flag was below normal HCT (Haematocrit) and Haemoglobin.  For an endurance runner these are of particular importance as they constitute the oxygen carrying red blood cells that supply oxygen and other nutrients to the working muscles.  My HCT was 0.39 or 39% and Haemoglobin was 129 g/L (normal range is 130 – 170 according to the lab where the test was carried out).  You might think that they are just below normal and I have nothing to worry about.  That may well be true to your average Jocky MacJockface on the street. Considering the average Jocky has an HCT of 45% (source Wikipedia), 39% is a worrying number.   WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) have a limit on HCT of 50%, anything over that and you are suspected of doping with EPO.  I’ve also read that steroids can boost HCT too.

Over the years I have read many books about pro cycling.  Although not a cyclist, I am intrigued with the sport, love watching the grand tours, the one day classics etc.  It is fabulous to watch.  Its dark side has also had me captivated.  One thing that sticks in my mind is the micro dosing of EPO.  The reason they micro dosed was to ensure their HCT didn’t go above the WADA limit of 50%.  These guys already started with HCT levels of 43-48% and look at the performance gains they got from marginal increases.  Now imagine the exact opposite, the marginal decreases in HCT and the affect that has, and that is where I am right now!

Don’t worry, I am not about to purchase some Chinese EPO online and start stabbing a needle in my a$$ each day.  Needles don’t worry me, I’ve had plenty blood taken over the years and have my fair share of tattoos.  Apart from the moral implications of doping, the thought of actually having to jab myself makes me boak!

From what I understand, a low HCT with a low MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) and a high RDW (Red cell Distribution Width) can be a sign of iron-deficient anaemia.   My readings for MCV was 83 fL and RDW of 14.2, these are on the boundary of what is considered low for MCV and high for RDW (again according to the lab’s thresholds).

Of course, this is all self diagnosis and that can be dangerous, but the basics are there to see, even with my limited understanding.   The numbers mean I could be slightly anaemic, possibly just a short term thing, maybe not.  There are other, more serious, reasons that could account for the values, but I am not concerning myself with those, because other than when I train, I feel ok.   What is puzzling me is that I do eat iron rich foods, heme iron and non heme iron, daily.  I take care to consume these iron sources with vitamin C sources to maximise absorption.  It’s nutrition 101.

Folate, B12 and Ferritin levels were all within the normal range, on the low side again, but still within that lab’s normal parameters.

So what’s the solution?  The solution I am going for is to supplement and make a few changes to diet.  Thorne Research do an iron supplement called Ferrasorb.  I’ve used Thorne products in the past and they are expensive, but they one of the best supplement companies and I am hoping this is short term.  Additional to that will be the recommencement of the consumtion of more organ meat, Mrs T will be delighted about that.  Liver, heart, kidney, even good quality black pudding will now need to feature weekly in my diet, I feel a few insta photos of some breakfasts coming up!!

[edit: first breakfast shot post writing]

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The remainder of the blood panel was looking quite favourable.  Cholesterol, HDL and Ratio (the important parts) were within range, as were vitamin D, Thyroid function, liver function, calcium and Uric Acid.  CRP or C-reactive Protein is a good marker of inflammation in the body and my levels were very low.  Meaning, general inflammation is also very low.  Could this mean I am over the injuries, or at least getting over them?

Overall, I think the testing has been worth it.  As endurance athletes we need to know what is going on endogenously as well as the exogenous results from training and racing.   There have been times in the past where I’ve been training hard and getting nowhere with progression, maybe a test like this could have thrown up the reason why there was not forward movement.

I plan to have another test (the same one) in 4-6 weeks, after I have given my body enough time to adjust to any changes in diet or supplementation.  My hope is that I can resolve the problems with food and avoid any medical intervention.

If you follow me in instagram or twitter or facebook you may have noticed that I have been spending a fair amount of time in the gym.

I am actually quite enjoying it.  When you are given a programme to work on, that you trust will fix all the broken bits, it makes it so worth while.  As I age (I’ll be 28 this year), this supplementary must be part of your running.  You can’t live life with regrets, but if I did have one it would that I started this additional work 10 years ago! (when I was 18).

In terms of running, I’ve been doing a little.  The foot injury appears to be on the mend apart from a flare up now and again, so I have to be careful with that.  Managing it to resolution is the key and I have a way forward for that.  The groin issues that I have had for about 18 months are markedly better, probably due to the gym work and the physio sessions I have had recently.  I can’t thank Ross at Space Clinics enough for the work they have done to put this old body back together. It was worth every penny and I would not hesitate to return should another problem crop up.

I’ve also had some initial chats with a coach (which reminds me I need to tell them what the latest situation is!!!), with the view to getting some expert advice on the way forward.  I don’t feel quite fit enough yet to get onto ‘the programme’ but I am hoping over the coming months that I can transition to their planning.  It will be a new departure for me and one I am quite excited about.

Until next time.