Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Part 3 - Interlude and more from Tim

A few comments on the previous two posts have raised questions about hydration that I've had to research a bit and rack my brain for exactly how Tim explained how the theory actually works.
There is one word that appears on my notes: "Homeostasis" that explains it all.Homeostasis is "The ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes". I'll try and explain.
We all know that insulin is the means by which the body reduces sugar levels in the body. However, the real job of insulin is to transport nutrients through the body and deliver them to the liver and other organs. However, as it is the only hormone capable of reducing sugar levels, it has to be used as such when we eat excessively. This means that it is unable to do it's proper job and the body reacts by creating resistance to insulin and that affects our overall health and well being as the insulin can't do it's real job.
Now the body has many systems that act and counteract to maintain equilibrium. But where they are forced to compensate for each other they are unable to do their own job.
So it is with certain hormones that work to keep our body's system in check that are forced to deal with overhydration. They can't do their own job and we damage our kidney's due to MUSCLE BREAKDOWN/RHABDOMYOLYSIS. Remember, those of you who were at the February briefing in Edinburgh for the West Highland Way race?
As has been explained by Noakes, we have evolved to operate quite efficiently when de-hydrated. As long as we deal with thirst, which is an indicator that certain hormones are about to be required, we can operate more efficiently than when overhydrated. Therefore the advice is to DRINK TO THIRST.

One other important point on this is that I'll reinforce is the use of Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID's). These inhibit the hormones that control, hydration adding to the dangers of MUSCLE BREAKDOWN/RHABDOMYOLYSIS.

Remember the Highland Fling race where many of us suffered in the heat and humidity? I, for one, was scraping salt off my scalp and drinking, as I thought, sufficiently to replace the fluid lost. However we usually have more sodium in our body at the start of the summer and as this was the first hot days running many of us had endured, there was a lot of sweating done and sodium lost. So what did I/we do? Drank more to replace the fluid. Actually, what we were doing was diluting the remaining sodium. And that is what we are being warned against! Anyone vommited clear fluid whilst racing? Wondered what gastro-intestinal complications caused it? Probably none. What easier way for the body to deal with excess fluid!

So, to tea and biscuits in the interval. During this time, someone suggested to Yannis that we could do with hearing more from Tim so he was dispatched to the lecture room to muster some slides to continue his talk. Whilst he was doing so, I wandered back into the lecture theatre. Spotting him alone I asked him about the results of my blood check following the West Highland Way race. Much of my analysis was pretty normal, but my level of Creatine Kinase was highly elevated, with a count of 29,490 as opposed to a normal reading of less than 210. His explanation fro this was simple - "You drank too much". As he had explained that earlier I didn't need to ask any more! But I did think that there may have been a bit more to it!
How about recovery? I explained I had hardly ran since the race and struggled every time.
He said "If I were to cut you open right now, I'd find your heart and muscles in great condition. Your problem is that your brain, having had a traumatic time, doesn't want you to do it all again. It is sending out warnings to you that ensure you don't put yourself in danger again. You will have to progressively re-train your brain to run." Or words to that effect!
I'll have to learn how to run all over again. This time I'll bear in mind what I learned at this seminar. No doubt I'll also bore for Britain, so if you've read this, stop me!

I was also able, over tea and biscuits, to talk to an Norrie Hay an old acquaintance who is the coach of some of Scotlands good middle distance runners. We commented on the information on the weight discrepancy of E.African and US elite runners. Norrie has a good runner who is, by our standards, very light, but he reckons he will have to lose a few kilos to improve. I mentioned the latest revelations in US 5k running who recently ran sub 13 minutes, Dathan Ritzenhein and Matthew Tegenkamp. I wondered about their weight and lo, and behold IAAF stats show Ritzenhein's weight is 53kilos! Norrie told me that when Alan Webb changed coaches to Alberto Salazar, he was ordered to lose muscle mass, of which he was fairly well laden due to weight training. No weights until he got down to what his new coach considered a competitive weight. Interesting!

Tim Noakes continued.....
Back into the lecture and Noakes showed some videos and slides to further illustrate his earlier talk. One of these was Paula Radcliffe's disastrous Olympic marathon in Athens. Remember the bit about animals, and their paralysis of hyperthermia? Animals can't operate in conditions where their core temperature reaches 43 degrees Celcius. They collapse. Humans however are capable of passing this core temperature due to evolution. But the brain will safe guard the body and cause it to stop running before death occurs and that, in Noakes opinion, is what happened to Paula. She had her race plan that had led her to world records and marathon victories but did not have the have the mental capability to run the race according to the conditions she met in the Athens race. The brain simply shut her down.

He also illustrated the power of the brain and that faith and belief in what the athlete is capable of is paramount in achieving their goals. Some more illustrations.
John Landy, an Australian athlete, and Roger Bannister were both chasing the sub-four minute mile and Landy was quoted in February 1954 as saying the 4 minute barrier was "a brick wall, I shall not achieve it."
On 6th May 1954 Bannister told himself that weather conditions that day would preclude any attempt at the barrier. His coach Franz Stampfl disagreed. He told Bannister that he thought he was in fact capable of 3minutes 56! If he was capable of that then he should be capable of 3.59 in the day's weather conditions. Bannister had long before learnt to trust his coach and the belief instilled in himself by Stampfl led to history being achieved. having shown Landy that it wasn't a brick wall, Landy believing himself at least Bannister's equal that produced a (then) world record of 3.58!
Finally Noakes showed this image of South African Josia Thugwane 1996 Olympic Champion and second place Lee Bong-Ju. Thugwane is looking as if he could run it again, Lee less so! They had been seperated by just three seconds!(By the way third place was only a further 5 seconds away!) Noakes said in summing up "Three seconds! Lee could have run faster and won it. How do I know? He's still alive!"

Tolosa Kotu Terfe

As I stated in part 1 this presentation didn't really do it for me. Tolosa's heavily accented English was difficult to follow and I'm grateful to Yannis for operating sufficient slides to get the gist of the lecture. But there is certainly no doubting his credentials. He has been involved in the careers of many of the Ethiopian elite athletes, and is well placed to say just what makes them such sublime athletes.
The main factor is attitude. No that's not a typographical error. ATTITUDE not altitude!
Living and training at altitude is, of course, crucial in their physiological make-up, but the attitude ingrained in them by their culture and media, as well as the incentives, monetary and cultural, ensure they are best suited to succeed.
They firmly believe that their ability to run is God given. They have great faith in that ability and that, together with their need to thank God by using it, gives them their supremacy.
Selection of athletes in Ethiopia is done through regional competitions that feed the successful athletes to high altitude training camps, where the younger athletes have to do work to pay for their keep earning a token payment in addition. When they reach elite status they are separated from the other athletes in much of their training in order that their training can be tailored to the individual rather than the group. In the case of the Dibaba sisters they had to be separated in order that they did not race each other into the ground at training rather than in races!
Training for Track and field season takes the form of a three month base of intermediate and moderate paced sessions followed by an intense three month period of hard training and a main competition period of one month. Obviously they race during the training phases, but mainly as a buildup to the main competition phase. All training is on a non-scientific basis. No supplements, sports science testing (other than foreigners trying to find out why they are so good!). Measurement of training effect and fitness is taken by stopwatch and asking how the athlete feels.
Contrast that with the western attitude where everything is governed by sports science.
And we have seen, from the sports drink industry, that they do not always have the athletes best interest at heart.

He summed up the Ethiopian success as being due to
High Altitude
Natural Food
Childhood hard work (aerobic)
Hard training

Rewards. How can we reward our runners? Cars? Got 'em. Money? Not skint, but only our very elite make great money, so I might as well not even try. Fame? How many athletes can Joe Bloggs name? Paula, Kelly, emmm......
To an Ethiopian or Kenyan even the modest rewards from winning a small 10k in Britain, Europe or further afield is worth much more than it would be to you and I. That is why we find that even the smallest races here are being won by the east Africans. They don't need much to live. A group will share the costs of a house, their dietary needs are simple and certainly won't be wasteful and when they return to their home country, the pounds, dollars and euros convert rather nicely, thank you!

So that's it. My recollections of an excellent seminar. No doubt others who were present will be able to fill in any gaps, or interpret things, perhaps a little differently. I hope it is useful and that I haven't lost you midway!
One lasting impression that was left on me by Yannis and Tim was that they are willing to admit they were wrong. Scientific knowledge is always advancing. Five years ago they concluded the East Africans had genetic advantages over us mere mortals. now they admit, subject to further findings, that they were wrong. That is refreshing. In much of our society we are hindered by the refusal to amdit that our standard practices are flawed. We need to lose the pride and admit that smarter people than we are have advanced thinking. We need to follow.

I hope it's not another five years before we have another seminar!

Note: I'll go back over these posts and compile some references and sources to enable you to take your understanding a bit further.


Subversive Runner said...

Mate, this is without doubt the most interesting blog post I've ever read. bravo! Ya big fat twat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

All your info has been really interesting, thanks for taking the time to write it all up so well! I will need to read it a couple of times to take it all in properly I think. That last bit on the rewards etc for especially interesting and I can totally see how that would have an effect from my experiences out there.

Happy Days said...

Cheers Davie, great blog lots of good stuff that I can relate to and agree with, good to know when your doing something right, I just need to cut out the pies next.


Anonymous said...

Many thanks Davie for writing up these seminar reports. Very interesting and enjoyable reading.

I have cut my WHW race fluid intake down over the years before I heard any of Tim's excellent advice/info because I felt bloated and 'sloshing'too much.

...I came across a link to a photo of Jens Lukas on his way to WHWR 2008 race win clutching what looks suspiciously like a camel back. Though it's a much smaller one than Tim's presentation slide runner had.

Bob Allison