Saturday, June 18, 2011

TrailRunner magazine: Strength-to-weight ratio; Diana Finkel and failed kidneys

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I've been on a bunch of airplanes lately and that means I finally dug through a pile of magazines.

Here's a shout out for one of my favorites, TrailRunner.  It's a light read with wonderful images that keep me jacked up about moving off the pavement and onto the dirt.

The June issue features a great piece by Jim Freim in "Master's Voice." Jim tells us bottom line why we're slowing down...it's a strength-to weight ratio (SWR) sort of thing.

I love to measure and rank myself, so if you do too, have at it:

1) Get down close to the carpet and max out the number of push ups you can do.  No cheating, they have to be clean.

2) Calculate your core strength/strength to weight ratio by taking your weight and dividing by the number of push-ups.

Freim states he has seen CSSWR's from 3 to 200.  Under 5 is good, 5-8 is adequate and over 8 is taking you out of the game.

I'm afraid of my current blubber to push up numbers so I'm saving the test for a future date.  Those of you who take a crack at this, pony up and post your digits so we have a master competitor comparison range.

The June issue of TR also includes a mesmerizing tale of victory and defeat, all in the same event.  Diana Finkel led the 2010 Hardrock 100 (arguably the hardest 100 miler in the USA) for 45 miles, but finally relegated that position after falling numerous times in the final sections.  She settled for second overall, first female, and set a female course record.  Diana scrubbed up, donned a new skirt she bought for the occasion, and accepted here awards at the post race banquet.  Good times, hey?

It didn't end well.  A day later Diana suffered complete kidney failure.  She almost checked out for good due to broken down muscle mass in her blood.  Took 16 days in the hospital and multiple dialysis treatments to get her cleared out.  She received a miracle when her kidneys began functioning again.  Now, she cautiously approaches short runs, still coming to terms with the outcome of her effort.

So what's the right thing to do?  Dump all 100 mile efforts because they carry too much risk?  Walk, don't run...and settle for 30 hour finishes?  Or accept the down side and hang it out to see if your kidneys can take it on another day?

The story was penned by Diana's husband, Ben Woodbeck.  Ben admits he was an assertive pacer during the second half of the race.  He asks  probing questions about the events that transpired (read the article) and brings many aspects of elite ultrarunning to light.

I'm not always an advocate of pacers.  I'm a middle of the pack racer who usually likes to go it alone.  I don't need the energy to be sucked off my body by interacting with - and on occasion babysitting for - a pacer.  I have had both males and females stumble through the night with me.  Some were supportive and able to tolerate my whiny bad boy rants, while others had no idea how to make time in the dark and pulled me down. But other than the emotional dimension, pacers can sometimes take us to places we don't need to go.  If a racer's body is shutting down it may be time to deal with that setback on a solo level.  Feedback that says "keep going at any cost" may not filter well into the cooked brain of someone who has foraged across 83 miles of forest land.

I love ultras and have built my life upon them.  But please, always remember that you own them, they don't own you.  Understand when it's time to stop or go.  But when you make that decision, do it yourself without external hype.

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