A group of British soldiers serving in Bosnia, called the "Iron Guardsmen" have returned from their tour of duty in a newsworthy fashion. This group of 10 soldiers from 1st Battalion Welsh Guards cycled, kayaked and ran the entire 1,300 miles back to the Wellington Barracks in London!
This triathlon of epic proportions began on March 1st in Bosnia as the team cycled through the Alps as they made their way across Europe, kayaked across the English Channel and ran three consecutive marathons from Dover to the capital city. The tour designed to honor of the 25th anniversary of Britain's Falklands conflict also raised funds for The South Atlantic Medal Association 82, the Army Benevolent Fund, and the male cancer charity; Everyman.
Team spokesman, Capt. James Westropp, described the final leg of the journey to be the most challenging. "It was wet, cold and miserable,and, for all concerned, a bit of a low point," he told reporters. "The Iron Guardsmen really dug in and I was proud to be part of such a resilient team. The human body is not designed to take this sort of pressure, but there was no complaining. Just a few silent tears. "Despite suffering delays due to broken equipment and injuries, the "Iron Guardsmen" managed to persevere and complete their highly anticipated return on Saturday.
As per Part I, "Saturday morning is supposed to be a 20 mile training run according to my over-the-counter training regiment for the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. Instead, I will be upping the ante and attempting my first ultramarathon." Click here to read Part I of II
With temperatures nearing to 80 degrees, my 31.2-mile endeavor on Saturday was nothing short of epic. The first 16.2 miles were quick and maybe a bit too ambitious for never having completed a training run greater than 18 miles. Perhaps it was the beautiful singletrack on the north shore of Lake Hodges or maybe even fear of being eaten by the legendary lake monster "Hodgee" that propelled me to complete the western leg of the course in 2 hours, 35 minutes.
Upon leaving the drop-bag station at mile 16.2, temperatures had already climbed 20 degrees since the start of the race at 7:30 a.m. I could feel electrolytes being sucked from my cells as the sun baked the San Pasqual Valley. My ration of electrolyte replacement capsules was depleted and they had materialized as a coating of salt on my skin. By mile 22, I began to experience muscle contractions in my quadriceps and calf muscles. Fortunately, this was the beginning of Raptor Ridge, where I would be forced to walk because of the acute elevation gain. Once I reached the summit, my plan of making up time on the downhill was thwarted by full-on cramps in my quads and calves. Instead of racing down the back of the ridge and into the flats, I was forced to employ my original run and walk ratio. Thus, my 10-minute-per-mile pace deteriorated to 15 minutes per mile during the final leg of the journey.
My projected finishing time of six hours was right on as I crossed the finish line in 6:15. I learned a few lessons that will lead to a stronger marathon in June as well as better preparedness for future ultra endeavors.
First and foremost, my gastrointestinal system(GI) handled the predominantly liquid diet without complication. My fuel of choice did seem to lack the calorie content that my body craved during such high output. Thankfully, the aid stations were fully stocked with fruit, cookies, pretzels, PB&J sandwiches and potatoes. One pleasant surprise for me was the container of chopped potatoes served alongside a large bowl of salt. This was new for me and proved very important as my salt levels were nearly depleted. I made sure to ingest a handful of salt at each of these aid stations. For my next race, I will carry a full supply of electrolyte capsules. This will be a major preventative measure to ensure that I do not experience the effects of electrolyte depletion. With this measure in place, I could maintain a 10-minute pace and finish in less than six hours. This will also prove effective during the high heat and intensity of the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on June 3.
I have now ventured to the other side of 26.2 and enjoyed the scenery. Perhaps it was the moderate pace that provided more time to appreciate the local lore or maybe it was the solitude of the trail. What I am sure of is a feeling of satisfaction for achieving a goal that I once considered out of reach.
NBA superstar LeBron James has recently purchased an undisclosed ownership stake in The Cannondale Bicycle Corporation. The privately held company has worked with James before; providing bicycles for the James Family Foundation's annual "King for Kids Bike-a-thon" in Akron, Ohio. This charity bike ride event in James' hometown benefits children and single mothers. The bike that was custom built for the 6 foot 8 inch Cleveland Cavaliers forward was later incorporated into James' off season cross-training workout routine. James often rides 2 to 3 hours at a time during his sessions in the saddle.
To become an internationally recognized NBA superstar like LeBron James or a sub-2:10 marathoner, it is quite obvious that an athlete must train within their discipline. The very best athletes also recognize cross-training as an important component in avoiding injury from repetitive strain or overuse.
I use rock climbing as my cross-training activity. I find that the combination of long and stretchy core power and stability movements without impact is a great compliment to the high pavement-pounding mileage I log each week. Plus, the required upper body strength and endurance helps maintain my muscle mass.
Whether you are looking to excel within your sport or you are more interested in maintaining a high level of overall fitness, cross-training will keep you healthy and motivated.
The 22nd Marathon des Sables, or Marathon of the Sands, began on Sunday in the Sahara Desert with 756 competitors from over 30 countries embarking upon the 6 day, 151-mile endurance race. Participants are required to carry all of their own gear in their packs with the exception of tents, which are assembled by race organizers at the end of each stage. Required gear includes a survival blanket, sleeping bag, compass, whistle plus the minimum 2000 calories per day. The race enforces strict water rations while temperatures routinely reach 120°F during the day, amplifying the difficulty of this race. By the end of the third day, the field has dropped to 749 competitors, many who withdrew from the race due to foot problems. The extreme conditions of the contest have attracted athletes of all abilities who pay upwards of $3000 to participate. With the 2007 race underway, the 2008 and 2009 races are already sold out with only a wait list option available. The following video captures the truly epic atmosphere of this event:
In light of this month's blockbusting release of 300, the epic action film which retells the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, I thought it would be appropriate to visit the history books and touch upon the origins of what the running world describes as "the world's most grueling race"; the Spartathlon.
There is the classic tale of the Greek solider, Pheidippides, who was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to deliver the message that the massive Persian army had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. Legend tells that Pheidippides ran the entire distance without stopping and upon delivery of the message, collapsed dead. It was proclaimed that this distance was the furthest a man could run and was later integrated into modern day Olympic Games in 1896 and later becoming our beloved 26.2.
There is a version of this story which has stayed under the mainstream radar and was recorded by the Greek Historian, Herodotus. This account describes a messenger, also called Pheidippides, who ran from Athens to Sparta, covering 246 kilometers (152.85 miles), and arriving the next morning to secure reinforcement for the battle.
This legendary distance and feat of human endurance was merely a fable found in history books ever since 490 B.C. until it captured the curiosity of British RAF Wing Commander John Foden. On October 8th 1982, Foden and a team of four colleagues from the RAF set off to follow the route in which Greek historian, Herodotus, described in great detail centuries ago. 36 hours later, Foden arrived in Sparta at the base of the statue of the Spartan King Leonidas, confirming that man could run 246 kms in less than 2 days!
Sparathlon was born and a year later when 45 long distance runners from 11 countries including Greece followed the tracks of the ancient runner. By 1984, the "International Spartathlon Association" (I.S.A.) was created and has held the race every September, the time which is said to have been when Pheidippides made his journey. The historical significance of this unique race attracts the world's finest competitors, demanding years of physical and mental training for their dream to come true. The course record of 20:25 belongs to Yiannis Kouros, a Greek-born ultra-marathon runner. Kouros has competed in four Spartahlons and won all four with the four fastest times ever recorded. This year, top American ultra runner, Scott Jurek, won the race in 22:52:18.
I just read an amazing and inspiring story. The New York Times ran an article about Brian McKeever, a cross country skier who has his sights set on Olympic gold and who is also legally blind.
McKeever has had his share of success in his career, winning four cross-country skiing gold medals at the Paralympics so far. He made his debut with the Canadian team at this year's world Nordic skiing championships in Sapporo, Japan. This was a first step toward a goal of racing in the Olympic and the Paralympic Games when they both come to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010.
Brian's life changed abruptly after he raced in the world junior championships in 1998. He was 19 and noticed that he could no longer make out street signs. He was found to have Stargardt disease, an inherited degenerative condition that causes the loss of central vision. "In one semester at university, I went from being able to read everything from the back of a lecture hall for 400 people to moving to the front row and not being able to read a thing," McKeever said.
Still, McKeever continued to ski, with his brother serving as his guide. However, McKeever's first move toward reaching the Olympics in 2010 was qualifying for Canada's national team at races earlier this season and to do so required skiing without his brother as a guide.
In Sapporo, McKeever's best result was also the Canadian team's best showing. "From a skiing perspective, his goal for 2010 is completely realistic," said Dave Wood, the coach of the Canadian national team and McKeever's coach as a junior.
The Kodak Gallery Pro Cycling Team presented by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company made a major commitment to environmental sustainability for the 2007 season by offsetting 100 percent of the carbon pollution that their team creates by purchasing 460,600 kWh of renewable energy credits (RECs). According to the team website, not only have enough RECs been purchased to offset all of the pollution generated by domestic team support vehicles operating in approximately 120 days of bicycle racing in the 2007 season, but their efforts also include the offset of "100 percent of the home electricity consumption of each of its athletes and management, as well as all of the team?s travel emissions."
To help highlight the significance of this initiative, statistics provided by The U.S. Department of Energy confirm that 460,600 kWh of RECs is equal to the following: "planting 8,460 trees, not driving 669,950 miles, or preventing the burning of 344,340 pounds of coal." This progressive step towards sustainability and independence from fossil fuel is noteworthy amongst the general public, let alone the cycling industry.
Slovenia born Martin Strel is an ultra marathon swimmer who has successfully completed expedition length swims of the Danube River, Mississippi River, Paraná River, and the Yangtze river. The Guinness record holder has dedicated his current feat; swimming the entire 3,375 mile long Amazon River, "to the preservation of the rainforest, to raising awareness for Alzheimer´s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, and to promoting telemedicine as a valuable tool in bringing modern medicine to remote areas."
With the goal to finish within 70 days, Strel is currently 46 days in to the 3,375 mile long journey. He and his team are constantly surrounded by the immanent dangers of the land, including venomous snakes, native tribes, crocodiles, jaguars, amoebas, parasites, and whirlpools, just to name a few! Martin Strel has made quite the splash during the quest as many villages have received Strel with grand welcoming ceremonies and celebrations. Stay tuned for updates as Strel swims his way toward another Guinness world record with his slogan: swimming for peace, friendship and clean waters.
Beginning in Oregon and ending 108 days later in Delaware, Paul Staso completed his 3,260 mile run across the U.S.A. on October, 20, 2006. Paul Staso was running to promote his campaign called P.A.C.E. Run 2006, which stands for "Promoting Active Children Everywhere". In addition to becoming the seventh person to successfully complete the unsupportedtrans-continental crossing, Staso was able to encourage active and healthy lifestyles in the lives of many young people from coast-to-coast. His 30 mile per day effort took much training and planning which was not new to this ultra endurance athlete. Click the link to read in more detail of Paul Staso's P.A.C.E. Run 2006.
On April 11, 2007, Staso will embark upon a brand new challenge: to complete a solo crossing of the U.S.A. on a bicycle. Following the same route as the P.A.C.E. Run 2006, Paul will retrace the 3,260 mile route during his newest campaign, P.A.C.E. Bike 2007. Staso will continue to promote youth fitness through motivational presentations as he passes through 15 U.S. states during his voyage from east to west. At an average of 55 miles per day, Staso plans to complete this journey by June, 17. Upon completion, he will become the first person to ever run solo, from coast to coast and then bicycle back across the U.S.A. alone, within one year for a total of 6,520 miles! Stay tuned for updates this spring as we follow his ultra-endurance quest.
On my way to track practice on Tuesday night, I was in bumper to bumper traffic and decided to place a call to my closest childhood friend who still lives on the east coast. He is a former college football player who used to weigh 260lbs. Now, 6'3", 210 pounds and less than a month away from the Boston Marathon, Johnny has found a new passion; running. Although he and his girlfriend did not qualify for the race, they still plan to run the course after the main group of participants is underway. The two of them have found this training to be a great way to spend time together and work towards accomplishing a formidable life goal. When I asked him how their long run went this past Saturday, he told me that the 15 miles went alright, but he was completely spent and was close to failure by the end of his run. He felt as though he wouldn't be able to go on after that 15. I then asked him about what he ate, drank and ingested during his run. It turns out, he ran for 2 hours and 10 minutes in 60 degree temperatures without consuming any energy fuel, or water at the very least. Wondering why his muscles felt sore and his joints ached, I said to him, "Johnny, what I'm about to tell you is going to change your life."
I explained that running is just one of the elements in the equation of marathon. I used the example that when I run at my threshold, I burn 1,100 calories per hour. At this rate, I would have burned well over 2000 calories* *during that training run. I stressed that a well thought out nutrition plan must accompany his training plan in order to successfully reach the finish line.
Yesterday, he called me from a specialty running shop in Boston and listed off the range of endurance fuels that they had in stock. He checked out of the store with a water bottle with a hand strap, a variety of drink mixes, and a dozen energy gels. By sampling different varieties and flavors to use over the course of the next few weeks, he'll be able to see what will work best for his race. It's often said that one should not introduce something new to their training plan at this late of a stage. In this case, no matter what he chooses to go with at this point, he will be better off than he was before. I suggested that he keeps track of which fuels taste good, provide the most energy, and do not upset his stomach. Once the magic combination has been discovered, stock up and stick with it through training and on race day.
The lesson here is what is consumed before, during and after training and events is crucial for an athlete to unlock their potential. When it comes time to fuel during either training or an event, the 60 to 90 minutes of glycogen energy stores in your body will start you off on the right path. It is crucial to begin consuming calories, carbohydrates and electrolytes to maintain your optimal performance level well before these stores run out. If not properly fueled, you will experience "the wall" and risk the dreaded, "DNF" (Did Not Finish). To prevent this common mistake, remember to practice in training what you will use during an event. It's important not to try something completely new during the race because your body may not react correctly. Make sure you are in tune with how you feel at these important times. These fuels absorb very quickly and should make a noticeable difference within minutes.
If you thought your training regimen touches upon the obsessive, then you haven't heard of Mark Covert of Lancaster, California. Now 56 and honorary chairman of the U.S. Running Streak Association (USRSA), Covert has run never missed a day of running in the last 38 years. According to the USRSA, a running streak is defined as, "running at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices)."
Covert's streak began 14,114 days ago as a 17 year old just out of high school. Last July, he set the new record for the longest consecutive running streak according to the USRSA. Currently, there are 61 runners who have running streaks of over 25 years. Jon Sutherland of West Hills, CA, trails Covert by only 307 days. After a visit to the USRSA website, I discovered 21 year old, Joel Pearson, from Mead WA, who has a streak of over 12 years which means that he has been running everyday since he was 9 years old!
Unlike these "streakers" who obviously don't mind a routine, many of us struggle when it comes time to wake up and go for a run in the morning. By creating our own simple routine or ritual, it becomes easier and easier to leave a warm bed and start running. Before your next early morning session, try gathering all of your clothing and equipment together in one place. This will help you get dressed and out the door faster and prevent wasted time and energy searching through the dark for your things. I have even found that measuring out my energy drink mix into my water bottle, on the eve prior, is a huge time saver. I wouldn't consider this behavior, "compulsive", as one could argue about the aforementioned athletes, but I do endorse a certain degree of preparedness to boost motivation. At the very least, try hitting the snooze button 1 less time tomorrow! Rise and Shine.
On Monday, what was a major investigation into doping in cycling came to an anticlimactic end for those anticipating a strong legal stance against alleged cheats. Judge Antonio Serrano ruled that he could not charge anyone because Spain's doping law did not exist when the case, dubbed Operation Puerto, broke last May.
Though admitting doping took place and calling it a lack of "fair play," Serrano said that without evidence that it harmed the riders' health, Spanish law at the time of the charges couldn't prosecute them.
A new law, which took effect last month, makes it illegal to prescribe, dispense or aid in the use of blood doping (increasing the ability of red blood cells to hold oxygen, thereby delivering more energy to a person).
Many of the riders originally named in the investigation weren't charged -- the actual defendants were mostly doctors and team staff -- but it still affected many reputations and careers. Most notably, former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich dropped out of last year?s race and recently retired from cycling due to the allegations.
The ruling, while an embarrassment for the investigators, can be appealed in Spanish courts. Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said, "These people were caught red-handed and it is inconceivable that they return to the world of cycling. I cannot imagine that the International Cycling Union (UCI) will let them return."
It remains to be seen how this ruling will affect cycling from here on out. It's been announced that the UCI will continue its investigation. In the meantime, how does this affect the riders and teams who were initially connected to Puerto?
While Ivan Basso, who dropped out of last year's Tour after being implicated, raced last month in the Tour of California for the Discovery Channel team, other teams had to disband as sponsors pulled out.
Perhaps this case will serve as a lesson to countries and governing bodies of sports. Doping and steroid policies are only as strong as their laws and punishments. It's one thing to embarrass an athlete, but as we've seen in everything from Olympic track and field to Major League Baseball, that?s not enough to make the problem of cheating go away.
Stanford swim coach Skip Kenney "selectively removed" the names and best times of 2006 graduates Michael McLean, Peter Carothers, Tobias Oriwol and Rick Eddy, as well as a 1989 performance by Jason Plummer from this year's media guide. Stanford athletic director, Bob Bowlsby, told reporters that the university's former media relations representative, Bob Vazquez, was equally responsible for the violation because of his role in producing the men's swimming guide. Further investigation lead to an interview with 2006 graduate, Michael McLean, and uncovered tension between Kenny and the former swimmer. 4 of McLean's times were erased for what he described as a lasting resentment that Kenny developed following a summer when McLean chose to intern rather than solely focus on training, even though it violates NCAA regulations to require student-athletes to train in the off season. When Kenney was interviewed by the student newspaper, he told them that the omissions were honest mistakes and were not a result of poor relationships with the former swimmers. This violation will lead to disciplinary action by the university after next week's NCAA men?s swimming championships in Minneapolis where Stanford could win it's eight nation title.
Lewis Pugh is a pioneer swimmer who is the only person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean in the world. Although he has a passion for swimming, he is driven by a greater purpose. Pugh is an avid environmentalist who offers a one of a kind point of view on climate change. During his explorations to areas where most will never see, he has witnessed significant habitat changes including, the retreat of glaciers, decreases in sea ice, coral bleaching, and the migration of animals to colder climates. Pugh has teamed up with a group of 27 coaches, scientists, doctors, boat drivers and environmental experts from all around the world to become a respected public speaker and political lobbyist in the global forum for environmental protection.
Lewis follows the rules of the Channel Swimming Association which only permits the swimmer to wear a Speedo, cap, and goggles. With Arctic swims in temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit, its hard to imagine how this is physically possible. As discussed yesterday in my blog about the “Iceman”, some people do possess this unique ability to endure such extreme temperatures. The phenomenon known in the science world as "anticipatory thermogenises", allows Pugh to protect his vital organs by elevating his core temperature by roughly 35 degrees Fahrenheit before even entering the water!
Here is a video of Lewis attempting to swim the River Thames from its source to sea (203 mile</object>
Today I heard about Wim Hof, a Dutch Daredevil, who holds 9 endurance records for his uncanny ability to withstand temperatures and conditions of the arctic persuasion. I performed additional internet research to learn how the “Iceman”, earned his nickname. I discovered that the Iceman is a master of a yoga technique called, Inner Fire, which acts as an internal thermostat to regulate the practitioner’s inner body temperature, among other things.
Wim Hof is in the record books for sitting in a bath of ice for the longest, an underwater distance swim in freezing water as well as a 13 mile barefoot run above the Arctic Circle in Finland. See video:
The Iceman is attempting to set a new record when he leaves on April 1st for an expedition to summit the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, while wearing only boots, shorts, gloves and a hat. Expedition leader Werner de Jong told reporters by telephone from the Netherlands, "He will not climb all the way in shorts, only in sections, but we plan to set many new world records”.