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This blog is my professional view and opinions on anything related to massage and fitness. This may range from new therapies, training modes, interesting aspects of massage or fitness, to food, recovery and other aspects to remain in good overall health.

 

By Lee Weston, Oct 14 2019 02:46PM

00.05 am of 10th of August was the start of the Roseland August Trail (R.A.T.) running event/festival of which I was partaking in the 100km/64 mile Plague event, the longest of the 4 distances (11, 20 and 32 miles) but not the stupidest with a 24 hour Bring Out Your Dead (BOYD) event.


As with all of the MudCrew events I have taken part in it was amazingly organised and not afraid of a bit of bad weather. As other events in the south west were being cancelled like Boardmasters in Newquay, the R.A.T. was not to be delayed or cancelled with only a few well communicated logistical alterations to the event as a whole. As a result the event went ahead and as a competitor it was an amazing experience and well worth the wait from not being able to enter last year.


The evening started off wet but after registration and the customary theatrical start of the race with drums beating, green flares and some fire juggling, we under way just after midnight and only got caught in a shower at about 48/50 miles into the race. Not bad for being in the middle of a storm.


So the usual with regards to a coastal ultra MudCrew event, lots of hills (4200m), technical coastal terrain (badger holes and greasy downhill mud slides included) with a well marshalled and marked course (mostly self nav though). My first long (over 1.5 hours) night event and it was an interesting learning curve. Being up since 8 am on the Friday and setting off at midnight to finish at some point the Saturday afternoon was a bit concerning when I couldn’t get a nap in and thought I may struggle with sleep deprivation towards the end. However, this wasn’t the case but it was more the focus of running at night with very little peripheral vison allows you to get in the zone and the time flew by. Saying that it was getting a bit tedious towards the morning running a large 16mile sections mostly by myself, and how easily it is to get lost, even with a Garmin route map. It did save me going further off course and a valuable lesson learnt, its worth stopping and double checking and if you’ve got a watch with a route application on it learn how to use it.


So with a great sunrise to see in Saturday morning all was going well for the first half until 32-36 miles where my stomach was not happy, even unable to eat the bacon sandwich provided at the checkpoint at 36 miles by the amazing checkpoint crew. I wanted to eat it so badly but just couldn’t stomach it. So lesson number two was to sort out hydration and electrolytes for further races. The Tailwind that I was using and recommended by so many, just isn’t for me so on to the next. Back to the banana, orange and salted peanut combo to help settle the stomach.


With the out and back course I was worried about the boredom of the return leg but seeming as I couldn’t see anything out the out leg it was great to see the landscapes on the way back.


From 40-45 miles I had to admit that I wasn’t as well conditioned as I thought I was and learnt lesson number 3, more terrain in training and increase the core work. I had to run with poles from 40 miles as my back wasn’t happy and in all honesty my legs were kind of done by mile 20.


Coming into the back 20 miles it was hot and a surprising win for the day was that I was able to keep more hydrated than in other pervious races. This meant I could stomach a post run beer and not be in a bad place. The support was also amazing with a big pub-based festival at The Ship Inn which was the location of the last checkpoint. It was great to have the 11, 20 and 32 mile competitors very supportive to the plague competitors and everyone encouraging each other regardless of their distance. We all had to complete the last 4 miles which was most possibly the hilliest 4 miles of the whole course.


Overall the race was a great event to attend with very cheap camping on site for the two nights, good food & coffee stalls open early to late with a bar and disco for those who could stay awake that long. I was in my sleeping bag by 9.30pm as I couldn’t stand on my achy legs or keep my eyes open any longer after 36 hours awake and 64 miles run. I would highly recommend this race to anyone. A key thing I’ve learnt in the last 9 months is to always review your own performance of the race breaking down into training, nutrition, hydration, kit and pacing etc. With a 14th place, 11th male finish and approx 4 hours quicker than my 100km last year I was very happy with the result and good stepping stone on to the next “main event” the Arc of Attrition 100mile winter coastal ultramarathon. There is always room to improve and I have my 3 lessons learnt from this race.



By Lee Weston, Jun 14 2019 12:20PM

Last month I went on a dissection workshop hosted by Kings College London Guys Hospital campus where a group of us spend 3 hours in the dissection lab in an effort to understand the human body a bit further. It was run by the Federation of Holistic Therapist (FHT) and a well know physiotherapist and author of many books, Jane Johnson. I cannot tell you how invaluable the experience was as a massage therapist or as a personal trainer working with individual’s day to day who have dysfunctions, injuries or asking for general advice on health and wellbeing with regards to their bodies.


A lot of people have been saying it’s a bit weird or creepy but if you look past the dead people and see them as bodies, machines, there is a great deal to learn from actually seeing the anatomy of the human in situ, in real life, and not from a diagram or drawing.


The most valuable lesson learnt from being guided around prepared prosections (limbs and torsos that have been preserved and dissected to differing degrees to show different anatomical structures) was that everyone is very slightly different in their structure, shape, adaptations and even different in the same duplicate structures within the body. For example we were looking at peoples scapulars, the shoulder blade, and the acromion. This is the point of the shoulder blade that projects over the top of the ball and socket joint which the collar bone attaches. This is a structure which one of the rotator cuff muscles the, supraspinatus runs under. It was demonstrated that the acromion can be different between individuals and also from left and right within the same individual. This could explain why some people or a shoulder joint maybe more susceptible to shoulder impingement.


Another great observation was the Iliotibial tract or the ITB band. This is a fibrous structure running down the outside of the upper leg from the hip down to the outside of the knee. Its function is to support the lateral aspect of the knee with the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and the gluteus maximus feeding into it. Observing these structures on different individuals showed that the TFL was not the same and could be and thick fibrous or so thin and spread that it was undeferential to the other fascia of the upper leg.


These and other observations allowed me a trainer and therapist to really understand how the bodies structure is varied between individuals and how very interconnected it is with the fascia being a key component in movement and function. It has just solidified how if you have a dysfunction or restriction in one area it will effect the body as a whole as it adapts to deal with it.



By Lee Weston, May 29 2019 02:34PM

These are just a few brief reviews of the last couple of running events I have done in March and May. The pros, cons and bits you can’t figure out from event websites.


The Jurassic Coast Challenge 22nd -24th March 2019


A multi day event held down in the beautiful Jurassic coast line of Dorset hence the name, and the objective being to run, jog or walk a marathon a day 3 days in a row. This event is superbly organised and a really good multiday event with people signing up for either 1, 2 or all 3 days. The operation has been refined over the many years its been put on by VO two Ltd which reflects in the very professional and smooth running of the event.


I signed up to this for getting some high mileage in over a few consecutive days whilst my wife was away on a Hen do. The draw being the navigation being easier than most on self nav trail running events as it was a coastal route and lots of provisions in the terms of aid stations and transport to and from the start/ end points each day. The idea of camping and packing all my own provisions for 3 days isn’t my idea of dipping my toe in the water of multiday events. The biggest draw was the location, not having been to Dorset nor seeing any of the famous coast line, I thought it would kill two birds with one stone.


The accommodation for a single participant couldn’t have been easier with it being very affordable and only a mile away from the Race HQ in Chesil Vista Holiday Park. This was in a new static caravan with 2 other participants, very spacious and all the mod cons required. The site even had a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and sauna free to use. The HQ was a great set up too, utilizing the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy with food being on offer for breakfast and dinner, event shop, registration and massages available.


The course itself was A to B, B to C, C to D in nature being mini bused out to the start each day and collected at the finish to come back to the HQ. All was well run with two groups, essentially fast and slow, being dropped off and set off at different timings allowing the slow group participants longer to complete. With very generous cut off times, allowing people to walk it, it’s a great event to enter as a first timer on a trail marathon or a multi-day event as it offers you the reassurance you can finish even if a lot of things don’t go your way on the day.


The course normally goes, day one Charmouth to Portland, day two Portland to West Lulworth, day 3 West Lulworth to Studland Beach. However there was a clash with another event along the same section of coast so it went in the order or day 2 then 1 and then 3. The course itself was overall really good providing great scenery, varied under foot (beach, shingle, paths, fields, steps, tarmac) and not too technical all the time. Personally, I enjoyed the end of Portland to West Lulworth as it got hiller and more scenic on the first day and also the whole of West Lulworth to Studland Beach, day 3. This for me was my favorite day as it had great scenery, challenging hills, flat runnable pavement at times to make up ground and time and a good long beach section to finish on. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the last 2 thirds of from Charmouth to Portland as it was behind Chesil beach, with sections on the shingle, unable to see the sea and mentally challenging meandering around the farm land behind the beach clocking up more mileage with the feeling of not getting anywhere.


Over all my mileage and elevation were as below:


Day 1- Portland to West Lulworth – 27.2 miles 1118 meters

Day 2- Charmouth to Portland – 28.6 miles 1092 meters

Day 3- West Lulworth to Studland Beach – 28.1 miles 1330 meters


Overall, I really enjoyed this race with the ability to sign up to as much as you wanted and still being about to achieve it within generous cut off times. Well organised with plenty of time to recover in good accommodation and services (food & massage) provided. Shame the accommodation wasn’t on site but this is only minor disadvantage but there was free car parking at both sites. A great event to do as an individual with lots of friendly people running but also fantastic one to do with friends, all in an area of outstanding beauty.




Cornish Imerys Trail Marathon 19th May 2019


My latest race back in my home county of Cornwall getting the chance to sight see around St Austell’s China Clay works, new and old. This was a great opportunity to run a trail marathon on a route which is not normally open to the public, with some spectacular views over the south coast and of the Luna-esk quarry’s of which the region is famous for.


The event was run by St Austell running club in partnership with Imerys and staged in the grounds of Cornwall college, which was idea, holding a fun run, half and full marathon. There was a really nice and friendly atmosphere and good provisions on site for parking, food and bag drop. The number pick up was held up as you had to find your number prior to picking it up which wasn’t communicated clearly when entering. With collecting your number you received a very good technical running T shirt, much better than the normal you get. The route was well marshaled with great signage and ample water stations throughout the course.


The course itself was a very runnable trail marathon, not being too steep on the gradients so if you were able to you could keep churning out the miles without stopping. I may have walked 4-6 times briefly which isn’t too bad for me. The trails were the same for the half and full until mile 8 when the full split off for a 13-mile loop to rejoin again at the same point to finish the last 5 miles into the finish. The weather was good so some really good views and the paths not being technical at all so you didn’t have to watch your foot placement all the time. This led to a more relaxed run and being on some very wide-open quarry roads made it unique. However, if the weather had been different the course is very exposed to the elements so could have been a totally different story. In total I made the elevation and mileage as: 917m 26.1 miles.



At the finish there were a number of supporters, family, friends and club supporters, which made for a nice atmosphere when your token medal, water and banana for your efforts. Food, drinks and ice cream were available for everyone to enjoy and support the remainder of the participants coming in whilst sitting in the sun.


Overall a great event and course which is well organised, marshalled and well suited for anyone who is going into trail running for the first time or for those wanting some different scenery on their trail events.



By Lee Weston, Feb 15 2019 06:29AM

A 50 mile winter Ultra marathon along the Cornish coast line – Porthcurno to Porthtowan.


This was the first year that MudCrew Events have put on the 50 mile version of its big brother, The Arc Of Attrition(AOA). The AOA, in its 5th year, is forging its own reputation for one of the best UK winter 100mile ultras from Coverack to Porthtowan along the South West coast path. The 50 mile, 2750m elevation, Arc50 ran alongside the AOA this year and only 100 entries were drawn from a ballot of 250 last May to trial this format. In my own opinion, it was an amazing success on many levels with it being superbly organised with a great atmosphere and comradery, spectator friendly and set in the most stunning of locations.


The event this year had added excitement of snow adding to the drama for a lot of the 100milers getting to the start line on the Friday but thankfully for the Arc50, starting on the Saturday morning, it didn’t effect peoples travel arrangements. Lots of my friends and family were concerned that the race would be called off but having run 4 MudCrew events before, one of which was a night coastal trail run in the midst of storm Brian in Oct 2017 (The Tempest) which went ahead, I knew that they would try everything in their power to keep the event on so the elements could add to the challenging course.


An early registration of 4-6am on the Saturday kicked off the day at the finish line in Porthtowan. A very smooth and efficient process was evident and to my delight there was actually a full kit check before being able to pick up your race number. This makes a change from races where you are told to have the “essential kit” and told it would be checked and without it you wouldn’t be able to run. With the majority of time, there are no kit checks with others without any of the kit on the start lines. This is something that annoys me for two reasons: one being unsafe for the runners wellbeing and two its also an unfair weight advantage for those not carrying the kit. So it was a refreshing to be given a very sensible and safe kit list that was policed. Each competitor even had a GPS tracker so support crew, organisers, friends and family could check on progress and ultimately the runners safety.


The briefing was concise and light hearted considering the task ahead of us and then we were on the bus heading to the Minac theatre. A last minute decision to put my leggings on before getting on the bus proved to be a good move considering the wind chill and battering the exposed coast line was getting. Being a novice to these ultras its always the case of looking around and scoping out what everyone else is wearing, what kit they are packing, trying to pick up tips from others with pervious experiences instead of learning the hard way.


After navigating the icy roads, the buses arrived at the Minac theatre, an epic setting to start the race from and as you would expect as we got out the coaches to walk up the hill to the start it hails! We had 45 mins to check kit get sorted, have a cuppa tea and ready for the 8.30am start in the bottom of the Minac. There was theatrical music, drums beating, and flares being let off for the race start. 50 miles to go!


Overall the weather was kind, wind the whole day with a few head winds stopping you in your tracks but dry after the first couple of hours of rain and hail showers. This meant that I could really get the layers right and not have to be putting on and off jackets to keep warm or dry. The race only had one check point that was at 28 miles at St Ives so we were encouraged to have our own support crews meet us at certain access points along the way. It was great to have my wife, Serena and brother, Paul popping up every now and then to give support as I trotted by. I only really needed a pit stop with them to restock on water/food & drop layers at Pendeen Watch Lighthouse at ~15 miles before a longer stretch inaccessible to the support crew until St Ives. This was also said to be the more difficult terrain, which it did prove more challenging to keep a rhythm.


The first 15 miles went quick with not too many navigational dilemmas and undulating paths that were fairly good to maintain a consistent speed. The 13 miles to St Ives was more clumsy, technical, boggy, lumpy which meant the ability to get into a rhythm was hard. However, it was great to test the body clambering over granite rocks, hopping from rock to rock, meandering between boggy patches and attacking big stepped climbs. It was fair to say you had to make a real effort to remember to look up and take in the stunning scenery around you as you were compelled to keep the eyes on the trail to stop ending up face down in the mud, which happened twice. Thankfully not face first into a granite boulder.


Along the way to St Ives, about 17-20 miles in, I paired up with Mark another runner, who was local and knew the path well and running at relatively the same speed. He was faster really than I, but it was a good incentive to stay with him to push myself and get as many miles done before the dark set in. We hit St Ives both in need of the aid station or our support crews. And what a welcome sight the Arc Angels (names for the 200 volunteers manning the 4 aid stations over the 50 & 100mile route) were at the check point. I have never been looked after so well. One got me a hot drink and hot food whilst the other was filling water bottles and stuffing supplies into my race vest. The chili con carne was exactly what my stomach needed after starting to feel the effect of too many gels & my very dry home made flat jacks.


The next part was a big flat 4-6 mile road section around Hayle inlet and it was at this point my knee started to feel the effects of 35 miles of running. Classic ITB syndrome on the outside of the knee. Every time we walked and had a chat with one of the AOA participants walking along broken, but hell bent on finishing it, was a relief to the knee. I was determined to stay with Mark and navigate the dubbed “dunes of doom”, a 4 mile section across the sand dunes just before Gwithian, which was tricky enough navigating in the day light let alone the dark! That was the incentive to keep pace. Just before entering the dunes another 50mile runner passed us, we were roughly in 6/7th at this point from what we could make out, and this older runner sparked Marks competitive streak and started to push on. I couldn’t keep up and started to flag behind these two. At the end of the dunes, I saw my wife and was saved by coffee and pain killers, a winning combo.


I pushed on and the last 11 miles was runnable and an undulating good path. We stuck as a three passing each other in the worlds slowest speed battle for those positions and I managed to find something to keep me going. The thought of making it a 10 hour finish was becoming ever more possible trying to keep up with these two and considering I was only expecting to finish between 12-14 hours I was motivated to keep pushing. However, I was concerned I was going to bottom out with not enough fuel so trying to get some Haribo, milky ways and gels down me over that last stretch, which was a struggle. The party tunes blaring out of the support crews cars was a much welcome distraction and lightened the mood helping me take the mind off the churning stomach.


It just happened to be that as we were passing more and more 100 mile AOA participants grueling out the last miles, Mark suffered from some cramp issues and the other chap dropped off so I was pushing on in the dark which got interesting navigating the coast path. I had to stop and check a downloaded digital off line map as I started to question whether I was going on the right path. A few more big descents and following ascents certainly kept the intensity up in the last 3-4 miles. Meeting the marshals directing runners across the road, up the valley and directly up the side of that valley to the finish was a blessing and a curse. Only 800m away from the finish but that was up 270m of elevation to get there. One last push and I was there much to my surprise of 10:00:51. A warm welcome by the oragnisers and my fantastic support crew, Serena and I could sit down, finally, a job done and I could attempt to eat my celebratory pasty!

Things I learnt from this race:

The surprising maturity of the participants and winners- everyone seemed to be a bit more mature than your normal road race. The field of runners were experienced and there were only 15 18-39year old participants in the Arc50 out of 67 that finished. I have come to the conclusion this is because the more mature athlete has better mental resilience for races of this nature, they have the decades of training to call upon and potentially more time to train or they love the experience and the friendly nature of these “races”. It goes to show when the positions 1-4 were all 40-49 years of age and I came 5th.

The accumulation of training over the last 2 years was noticeable– my training leading up to this event was very broken and not necessarily perfect and certainly not peaking at race day however I was 1 hour and 20 minutes faster to 40 miles over similar terrain with the same elevation than 2 years ago in my first 40 mile ultra. So this is really reflective of the body adapting over time and the longevity of training benefits over years.

Running with a someone helps- I would have never of finished in 10 hours if I hadn’t ran with Mark or at least tagged on to the two in the last 11 miles unwilling to let them slip out of sight. It is amazing how much more you push yourself if you have company, a pacer and a bit of a challenge.

I carried too much kit - I knew I didn’t have all the guchi kit for this race and could have saved weight on some items such as gloves and survival bag but it was also the fact I carried too much water and food I didn’t either want or could eat. So a lesson learnt to really stream line my kit and think harder about what to eat/carry in these races.

Other aspects of training need attention – with my knee giving me trouble for the last 15 miles and the days after the legs not having DOMS it just goes to show that it wasn’t the lack of mileage in my legs but the overall lack of robustness of my body and neglect to the strengthening and maintenance of a supple balanced body. If I want to do longer races, this is a massive wake up call to more effort and time in the gym and at home working on the other aspects of fitness for running and not just the weekly volume.


Overall, a fantastic race with a really good atmosphere and brilliantly orangised. One which the whole way around you have admiration for the women and men that were battling through the 14h hours of darkness on the Friday night to complete the 100miles under 36 hours. The winner completing in under 22 hours this year. A true physical and mental battle of will to complete either distance. The seed has been planted and fingers crossed I will attempt the 100 mile AOA next year. A year of prep begins.



By Lee Weston, Jul 15 2018 07:09PM

Ultra-running has kind of become my thing over the last year, more through organic growth rather than an intension, and with the hills getting bigger and distances getting longer I wondered what all these people around me were doing with poles!? So running with poles is a thing and although you may write them off as cheating or gaining an unfair advantage, don’t knock it until you have tried it. I am now a massive fan and convert after recently trying them in the Mozart 100, a 103km ultra in the Austrian mountains, with 4500m of elevation. Without them it would have been an ugly affair. Also, if it’s allowed in the rules and regs of the race, which it is in most mountainous ultras, why not use the kit allowed to gain the most benefit within the race.


After a bit of research into the potential benefits, reading blogs and articles about how they are like Marmite, you love them or hate them, I thought it was worth a try. I have always known of the benefits of hiking with poles. They keep you more upright, therefore reducing the load on the quads and calves giving you more power from the glutes as well as off-loading the lower body and utilising the upper body. Some articles claimed a 40% increase in upper body use whilst using poles which is a huge aid to the lower body.


When my friend who I ran the Mozart 100 with was suffering from a knee issue leading into the race it seemed to make sense to use poles a bit earlier than intended. I had planned to practice running with them leading up to the Arc50, a 50 mile ultra in Feb when ground conditions would be treacherous and very hilly on the Cornish coast path. I decided to invest in a pair, not lightly though as they come at a cost! Made from carbon fiber or aluminum they are designed to fold up smaller for ease of packing away and also to save weight when running/carrying them. This makes them expensive £80+.


I bought a pair of Mountain King Trail Blaze Skyrunner Trail Poles off eBay but not long before realising I couldn’t take them on the plane in my hand luggage. So, I ended using normal light weight trekking poles borrowed from a client’s client who lived in Salzburg. Amazingly they do give you a lot of extra go, even on the level. They definitely take some getting used to but my friend wouldn’t have made it around the 103km without them and I would have been in a lot of pain! I found on the flats you could use them in an alternating swing pattern, and the same on ascents however you could double pole to give a big power uphill walking or running. I found the double pole most beneficial downhill to help reduce the load and impact also stabilising yourself on uneven/slippery descents. They definitely take some getting used to and wouldn’t be for everyone, but I was sold on them in 5-10minutes of using them, and that was just a normal light weight walking pole, not even a specific running pole. However, they do throw up a few logistical things to consider like where to carry them, feeding on the go etc.



Potential gains:

1. Offloads the legs and aids in the mechanics of ascents, descents and flats.

2. Increase upper body work out and opening up of the chest by being upright making it easier to get your breath when working hard.

3. Reduces the risk of injury / falls as helps stabilise yourself on your feet.

4. Reduces the likelihood of early fatigue.


Potential problems:


1. Your hands aren’t free to eat, drink or perform other tasks which can be annoying but just takes some time to get used to.

2. They aren’t permitted on airplanes in hand luggage so can be a pain if traveling light.

3. Consideration has to be given to where you store them on yourself when not using them as running holding them can be arduous.

4. They can be an expensive bit of kit if you don’t like running with them / utilise them enough within races.



Top tips if your considering using running poles:

1. Try before you buy, even if it’s with a trekking pole. You will soon find out a rhythm or whether it is for you or not.

2. Practice makes perfect. This is something I didn’t have the luxury of and had to play with it on race day (not ideal) but it will make you far more proficient and economic with your energy.

3. Think about how you will store them whist running that is easy to access and perform whilst fatigued.

4. Read reviews before you buy as there are pros and cons relating to the brands, material they are constructed from, wrist straps and the construction of them (Z folding or telescopic).

5. Make sure you get the right size too as most aren’t adjustable to save weight. A rough guide is multiplying your height by 0.7 or a pole length allowing your elbow to be at 90 degrees whilst you are holding the grip and the tip on the floor.


Hopefully this gives you a brief overview of a few things I experienced in researching, buying and using poles in the last month or so within my silly Ultras. For me it will be an essential bit of kit, first to be packed in my bag alongside my toilet roll, whistle and phone.



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