Monday, 19 October 2009

POSE Running - Fixing your running style

The first time I heard of Pose running it was from my friend Alan, who like myself has spent probably too much time road running and is starting to incur sore knees from it all. He had heard from his brother about a new running technique which removed much of the impact on your knees; describing it as how you would run if you were bare-footed i.e. running around the garden as a child. This sounded quite interesting as I had stopped running long distances regularly, due to recurring knee pain. Unfortunately this conversation took place while we were walking across the Mourne’s as part of the Ulster Way, and no further research took place.

That was until learning of Crossfit while reading the comments on PTC’s blog: Craig, a Crossfit instructor had ran a 4 hour marathon without running further than 5 miles and was planning on running the entire West Highland Way with a similar method of intense weights and low cardio. Sounded very interesting to me, being able to run an ultra without having to spend half your life pounding tarmac.

Fast forward a couple of Google searches and I came across the Crossfit website and the following Pose technique videos, which I think will interest anyone that spends any amount of time running. Some are a bit long winded, some contain profanity, but they explain simply the theory and how to better your running technique.

Pose Running Can (shamelessly stolen from here)

• Reduce impact on knees by 50% (Scientifically proven)
• Dramatically improve training and racing performance
• Give you a competitive edge
• Help prevent injuries
• Help you loose orthotics for good
• Help you enjoy your running for the rest of your life!

A basic introduction to Pose, and what it involves.

Are more expensive shock absorbing shoes actually worse for you?

The fall.

Correcting running technique.

Technique for running up and down hills.

I really like it when he says:
“You are all kinda screwed after this weekend, ‘cause you’re never gonna stop thinking.... running’s never going to be the same.”
This is very true as I have found anytime I’ve went out trying to Pose, you are constantly analysing technique; am I stretching out too far? Is my foot landing below my CGM? Are my knees locking out? Etc. Even if you have a lapse and drift away from these thoughts it will always come back and you return to trying to evaluate your technique. It's annoying in a way, but is far more agreeable to coming home with sore knees!

I thought the last video would be of interest to anyone that spends time fell running, something I wouldn’t mind partaking in if I thought it wouldn’t eliminate my ability to walk by my thirties.

This book, is apparently a pretty good insight to the whole thing if you don't want to shell out any money for Dr Romanov's books. Just back from trying to pose, one now has sore calves, but apparently thats normal for the first couple weeks.

Happy running peoples!

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Saturday, 17 October 2009

Obsession - a climbing mini film

I came across this on another blog, not even certain which one now but it was climbing related, and thought I'd put it up here for others to see. It's a mini-film about a climbers obsession, and consequently his training regime, to conquer his goal climb of Action Directe, graded 9a. Its a bit corny at times but has a decent couple tunes and is definately worth a watch

Obsession from Chris Doyle on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Irish Four Peaks Day 2

After a paltry 4 hour’s sleep I woke struggling to breath with the lack of oxygen in the tent, moisture ingress hadn’t been a problem, however the condensation from 3 bodies had led to pools of water forming on the groundsheet. A time check revealed that we had spent an hour more in “bed” than we had planned, so it was time to get out into the cold and fresh air. Head torches on, it was time to pack up and get ready to push off. Fuelled with hotdogs and tiger bread we began the days walking just as we had finished last nights, in the pitch black and with head torches on.

Where's the Hawaiians?

One of the reasons for taking the route and peaks in the order that we did was because Carrantuohill had a well trodden path to its summit (well it was on the map), and should allow for half decent progress in the dark.

Leaving Cronin’s yard at 06:25 I donned a pair of (over) trousers for the first time to combat the cool morning air. My previously new dry socks became instantly soaked after misjudging the depth of the stream that was running down the path. We continued up the path trying to gain some depth perception, and eventually crossed over the first small river.

River crossing at night, straight out of the mountain guides handbook, not.

Continuing on we came to a fork and chose to go straight on, where the path deteriorated into a bog. This would be the point that many would return the way they came and take the other turn, but we decided to push on, moving further and further away from the path we wanted to be on. Finally coming to the river we decided to cross it and make a b line for the path which would lie on the other side. Crossing first, it was fun to watch the others follow in my footsteps.

Day breaks 40 minutes after our start.

As we continued up the path the sun began to rise and the dark of night gave way to twilight, and eventually head torches could be put away. The morning sun gave us the first proper view of what we would be climbing later on. Crossing another small river we soon came across the two small lakes that sit astride of the path before reaching the devils ladder. This seemed like an idyllic camping spot, the stillness in the air being visible due to the lack of disturbance on the water.

Halfway up the ladder

We reached the “Devils ladder”and began to understand why it was called a ladder; it came apparent that 3 points of contact would become common for any safe progress to be made. What hadn’t been mentioned on any of the sites we had looked at was that a stream runs down the entire ladder, making for an added dilemma for route choice, and some nice wet slippy rocks to avoid.

Finally reaching the top of the ladder.

Progress was quite quick, until we hit the main climb, where the scrambling began. The mix of shingle and boulders led to some very unsecure foot holds and moving quickly was sometimes imperative to prevent sliding down the hill. A good bit of distance between each other was left to try and prevent being hit by others debris. A final push took us up to the top of the ladder, and presented fine views of the valley we had just climbed as well as the one adjacent.

Worth the climb

Looking down on the other valley

For the third time in a row, the cloud now began to come in; the fine view of the adjacent valley started to disappear and within climbing 100 meters visibility once again sank to less than 40 meters. The path changed from a level damp grass covering, to a relatively gently inclined loose shingle that made progress awkward, tacking back and forth across the hillside. A further 40 minutes of ascent took us to the summit, marked by two open roofed stone enclosures and a large steel cross.

The summit of Carrantuohill 1039m, at 09:31 hrs. The mechanics of drinking a tin of beer on each summit really should have been thought through.

It was disappointing to be once again at the summit and be enclosed in cloud, however, it was preferable to getting rained upon; so far the accu-weather forecast was holding true to its word.

As we descend Carrantuohill, the cloud cover begins to break, typical.

Descending on the sliding shingle was quite tricky but quite enjoyable as long as it wasn’t bouncing and cutting into you’re legs. The descent to the top of the ladder was quite quick; however descending the ladder would take a bit more time and concentration.
The descent down the Devils Ladder initially looks quite daunting, but it was really quite good fun; instead of taking it easy I decided I would jump down to the next solid landing area, obviously picking and choosing when to do this. While climbing down we saw the first person of the day, a middle aged man making his climb with the aid of a wooden walking stick. Twenty five minutes took us to the base of the ladder and the next person we saw about to make the climb.

View Irish 4 peaks 3 in a larger map

For the tallest peak in Ireland we thought it would have more traffic up its slopes; a fine Saturday morning would see droves of people climbing Slieve Donard from Donard Park. Eventually we realised why we hadn’t passed many people; most others were using a different path to our own. The Devils Ladder has become quite eroded due to excessive use, a different route is now taken by larger groups or those that might struggle with the steep climbs.

A clear view of Carrantuohill as we descended.

Descending the valley floor to Cronin's yard.

Soon enough we were re-crossing the rivers we had passed earlier in the morning, however this time at the correct place, with large boulders to aid passing without soaking your feet. It was surprising how different the paths looked on the way back in the light of day, compared to the morning’s darkness. Once back at Cronin’s it was time for a quick admin before another lengthily drive across Ireland to our last peak of the trip, Lughnaquillia 925m.

View Irish 4 peaks 4 in a larger map

Starting out on the "Lug"

As we progressed we rose through an area where trees had recently been felled; I envisaged the return trip navigating the various fallen trunks to be an interesting operation in the dark, which we would almost certainly be returning under. A flat plateau was reached and crossed before rising onto and following another ridge line.

Unsurprisingly really, the fourth and final peak was also going to be covered in cloud by the time that we reached it. The cloud was sitting on the saddle below Lughnaquillia at around 850 meters, however to reach this we had to climb a long, greasy, steep slope. The trekking poles that I was carrying on my back probably would have been very useful at this stage, however I wasn’t in the mood to remove my bag and untie them so I struggled on without them. One slip and a very long slide down the hill on your face was waiting for you.

This picture reallly doesn't do the gradient justice, it was really steep!

A small break was taken when we reached the top to allow the lactic acid to subside a bit, before continuing onwards on the large nearly flat plateau that only grew very slowly. This was really quite pleasant to walk on after climbing across felled trees bogs and long wet grass. There must have been an easier route up to where we now found ourselves as quad bike tracks had been left in the soft peat topped ground.

The fourth and final peak bagged, Lughnaquillia 925m 18:38 hrs.

Another fifteen minutes took us to the peak of the Lug and our final summit. Just over 36 hours had passed between our starting and our arrival at our final peak. The aim now was to get off the hill and back to the Albert Clock before the 40 hour mark, something that would take a very quick descent, and then break neck speed back to Belfast.

View Irish 4 peaks 4 in a larger map

We made the majority of the descent with the use of natural light. Returning onto the large plateau, we crossed numerous streams and bogs which had somehow been missed on the way up. As I had thought the final real descent through the felled trees was going to be during the pitch dark, and head torches finally got turned on, however trying to stay on the trail we had used earlier turned out to be a tricky affair. Finally returning to the forest tracks, and with a sub 40 looking attainable we ran back down to the car before jumping in still pretty filthy.

Time off!! Back at the Albert Clock 2214hrs, 10/10/09
39 hours 48 minutes

We were now in the hands of the GPS to get us back to the motorway in as little time as possible. After finally programming it to Belfast (for some reason it had forgotten where that was) and deciding to take us through some housing estates we were on the motorway. Now discussions turned to how best to enter Belfast and avoid as much traffic lights and traffic as possible. That done I sat back got out of wet shoes and nodded off for a bit. Waking up as we entered Belfast, we were on for a sub 40 with a couple minutes to spare. As we drove through the city it seemed like the traffic lights were conspiring against us, but they were too late. At 22:14 we once again parked up beside the Albert Clock, having finished our circuit of over 800 miles around Ireland and climbed the highest peak in each of the four provinces.

Mission Accomplished, it was time to go get some pizza, stretch out and finally get some decent sleep!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Irish Four Peaks Day 1

While most people would have spent the week running up to the start date making sure everything was in order for a trip that relied heavily on timings, we chose to leave it to the night before. Except for the maps and some music, nothing else had been gathered for the next 2 days of non stop action, so at 10 O'clock it was off to Tesco's to buy all our calorific needs. Returning to Ryan's house the maps were finally un folded and routes up and down the mountains decided upon over a couple cups of tea. Last but not least was programming the GPS unit to navigate us across unfamiliar roads before crawling into bed for a grand total of 4 hours sleep.

Dragging ourselves out of bed at half five grabbing a bit of wheaten bread and then packing the car up before heading off to our designated starting place, the Albert Clock.

Start time at Albert clock 06:25 hrs, 09/10/2009

A group photo was taken with the days paper in front of the clock, but as my camera has went awol during the trip this is unavailable, but here's one from Aaron's camera. The clock had started so it was time to jump in the car, start the GPS logger and race down to Newcastle. A breakfast roll was picked up en route to Donard Park and scoffed before getting changed and packed for setting up the hill.

Arriving at Donard Park, Newcastle

Leaving Donard Park we took the familiar ascent up to Slieve Donard rising through the forest with the sound of running water not far off. Once leaving the forest if you’re lucky you will get a clear view of your objective, however with the sun still to rise fully, Donard was still incased in cloud. Instead we set our sights upon the Donard/Commedagh saddle which was free from the clouds. Within 25 minutes we reached the saddle and then the further climb to Donard began, climbing the large stone slab path on the North side to avoid the chilling wind. At 09:06 hrs we reached the summit of Donard, 850m.

On the way up to Donard
(Hawaiian shorts are soon to be a best seller for hiking!)

Mist obscures the peak from the Donard/Commedagh saddle.

The wind at the top of Donard was stronger than anything I’ve seen before and trying to get to the cairn that caps the summit for a group photo before the camera’s timer went was nearly impossible and pretty dangerous (again this photo is unavailable.) Falling over ourselves to get off the cairn and out of the wind we hid behind the shelter and sipped on our beers before deciding it best to start to descend before we cooled down too much. (It had been agreed prior to setting off that upon reaching each summit that a celebratory beer would be consumed, however I don't think any of us had fully thought this through with timings, none the less a beer was cracked open and consumed just after 9 O’clock in the morning.)

Returning down to Donard park, overlooking a choppy sea.

Aaron (Fish), Ryan and myself.

Descending down the hill, beers were consumed as quickly as possible, much to the relief of our hands which were starting to feel like they belonged to someone else. By the time we had returned to the saddle we had warmed up a good bit, from here the descent was taken quite conservatively until we crossed the river. During this time we realised that none of us had brought anything of nutrtional value up the hill except a can of beer, and that this should really be addressed the next time. With a gentle descent from here to the car park we decided to stretch out the legs and run back with the aim of getting up and down in 2 and a half hours. Returning just in time, we got changed and packed up the car and settled in for a six hour drive.

These google maps show the route taken as logged by my wee GPS logger, you can zoom in on them and check routes up and down the mountains if you're interested in that sort of thing.

View Irish 4 peaks 1 in a larger map

View Irish 4 peaks 1 in a larger map

Finally reaching Lough Doo after driving through the mountains.

10 minutes out from Delphi, our starting point for climbing Mweelrea.

By the time we arrived at Delphi, the strategically packed car of the early morn had become an admin vortex, and a good bit of time was taken trying to get everything sorted for the next ascent. It was here that I realized that my small camera, a Ricoh R8, was not where I thought it was and most probably either on the hills or Donard car park, however I chose to believe that it would be found later.

At 16:20 hrs we left the car park at Delphi Lodge and mountain resort to ascend Mweelrea. An optimistic base line of 4 hours for the climb and descent was given for each mountain, meaning that unless something supernatural took place we would be coming off an unfamiliar hill in the dark, great!

Forest tracks made for fine progress, until we became geographically unaware.

OSI decided not to publish the forest tracks on its 1:50 map of the area, so a bit of guess work on which one to follow took place. Unfortunately, we took the wrong one, ending up walking through a forest bog before following a fire break to a river which was then hand railed until we had a clear route to saddle above Blue Lough.

Looking back towards in the direction of the Lodge.

Unlike the path up Donard, which had been highly manicured with large stone slabs to make foot placement easy, the hills of Mayo were wild and untouched. Finding our own route through the long sodden grass led to slow progress once the forest track had been left. Looking back on our progress we could see the gap in the forest where the path we should have followed laid, a mental note was made to make for this on our return journey.

The river was used to aid our nav, sometimes it would be possible to follow a trail, but mostly we were trail blazing.

Our starting point was the left corner of the furthest forestry block.

As we climbed it became increasingly obvious that once again we would be making the summit in the mist, with very little to look at but each other and a cairn of stones. By the time we reached the saddle above Blue Lough, we were starting to enter the mist and visibility plummeted to around 20 meters. Thankfully navigation would remain relatively easy as all we had to do was continue going up and not fall off the side of the mountain; the contours suggested that going over the edge would really ruin your evening.

As we climbed and the sun went down the clouds started to close in on us.

The initial climb was really quite steep, and would be “interesting” to descend in the dark, but with any luck we would make it a good bit back down the hill before darkness would close in. We were all thankful when eventually the gradient leveled out about. Even with the lack of visibility, we realized that on a good day the aggressive ridge line would look pretty special.

Just before 7 O’clock we reached the top of Mweelrea, taking nearly 2 hours 40 to get up. With the wind picking up a couple layers were put on and after a group photo around the cairn we descended the way we came, drinking our beers as we went. Head torches were found before the light disappeared, but we descended for as long as possible without their use.

Finally reaching the summit of Mweelrea at 18:57 hrs

By half 7 the twilight had faded to darkness and for better or worse head torches were essential for any safe progress, thankfully we had passed the steepest of the descents by then. Delphi Lodge was all lit up in the darkness and made for easy navigation in the darkness. All that was needed was to try and judge the depth of descents and find foot holes in the ground. The long grass combined with torch light made this pretty tricky and falling over became a bit too common for our liking.

Returning down the hill via torch light.

Struggling through the long grass gave way to struggling through a clearing in a young forest. Trees weren’t a problem however the drainage ditches became a great frustration for all of us. We were all thankful when we finally left the long wet grass of the young plantation to rejoin the forest path from where we made a good pace back to the car.

Upon returning to the car park we got the stove going and boiled up some water while getting ourselves dried off and ready for another lengthily drive. With a brew made up and a couple portions of couscous prepared it was time to jump back in the car for the 4 hour drive to Kerry.

View Irish 4 peaks 2 in a larger map

The most technical tent availible, not!

It wasn’t until we arrived at Cronin’s yard that Fish decided to tell us that his tent wasn’t exactly waterproof and might let moisture from the damp grass in. Great I thought, not only will we be getting little sleep but we will be waking up soaked, with little benefit to my down bag.

Some soup and bread was consumed before bedding down for a cosy night in our single skin pop up tent.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Irish Four Peaks Teaser

4 peaks, 4 beers, 4hours sleep, 3628 metres climbed (well, sort of), over 800 miles driven and 1 camera M.I.A, all in under 40 hours.

It was a good trip, however being confined to a car for a couple of hours in between running up and down hills does not come highly reccomended. More will come after a sleep or two, until then here's a couple photo's.