Friday, 31 October 2008

II Trofeo Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha - Ciudad de Toledo

Last weekend was the II trofeu Castilla La Mancha in Toledo (Spain). I was 4th in the overall resultsDAY1 - At the start line I was a bit frightened of the 13,7km race. I had a bit of soreness in my legs from the last weekend nike race. I started slowly and in the first meters of the race I did not start to the right direction. When I hit the path, I corrected the route to the 1st control (me, the black trace in the graph below (position after leg graph)).

I did some mistakes during the race and the most of the time I lost was on the 1st, 6th, 8th, 10th, 17th and 19th control. Even if there were not many route options, I liked the race.
In the afternoon I did a sprint race at a slow pace with my team friend, Nelson Graça.

DAY2 - A medium distance in the historic center of Toledo. I wanted to do a good race, once it was supposed to be a less technical and a more physical race. I started pretty confident, but to the 2nd control I entered one streed before and I hesitated a lot to the 3rd control, near the walls. The most of the time that I lost was to the 8th control (I didn't realize that the passages near the end of the road were underground) and to the 14th (there was a wall in a crossroad that wasn't in the map that made me doubt of where I was).

In the end we had still time to do a OriBus competition in the 7hour trip to Portugal. In a though race agaisnt Gonçalo Cruz from my club, I won the race with a time of 1min55. Gonçalo had some difficulties in the beginning and ended with a time of 3min. It was a success! =)

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Run against Tajo river

Today I did the 10k nike race against the tajo river ("Corrida do Tejo 2008"). The competition had its participant record this year with a total of 11.000 athletes. With some climbs, I wanted to do less than 33min. However I did a 33'20 race. As a race in the beginning of the season it was not bad (two years ago I did more 3min than today in the same course). It was hard to start, once there were lots of people starting in front of me. I passed the 5k at 16'30. However, in the last km's I couldn't keep the pace in some climbings. I ended in the 25th place.

It was cool to run against some athletes from the Spanish Olympic team, Chema Martinez (European 10k champion) and Jesus España. Chema won the race with a time of 29'45. My faculty was there too with a team of 7 athletes. The results can be found here.

In the end, I have concluded that I need more races in order to keep a high pace at competitions (the last race of this type I did was 1+1/2 years ago). I have to do more high pace trainings in order to develop my aerobic capacity.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Ginseng, the Orienteering's "magic pill"?

Last week I had a course on Clinical Nutrition. It was centered in the nutrition to those who are in a weak condition and in the methods to give the necessary energy to them in order to survive. During the course, I had some interesting talks with the teacher, a famous Phd portuguese nutricionist (who also teaches nutrition to the portuguese doctors in the post-graduation in sport medicine), about nutritional supplements in sport.

I have read some things about this theme once I'm really interested at it. I'm not a doctor (nor even close to be one..3 more years to come) so what follows are just suggestions from a non-specialist.

Athletes have been always searching for the "magic pill". In fact, the industry of the ergogenic aids has "boomed" in the last years. An ergogenic aid is any training technique, mechanical device, nutritional practice, pharmacological method, or psychological technique that can improve exercise performance capacity and/or enhance training adaptations. Of course all doping methods are not included in this theme!!!
So, which are the most famous?
- pH modification with Sodium Bicarbonate or sodium citrate
- phosphate
- caffeíne
- Q10 coenzime
- Creatine
- L-carnitine
- CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)
- Glutamine
- Branched chain amino acids
- N-acetil-cisteine
- C / E Vitamin
- HMB (Hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrato
- Cooper, Iron, Magnesium, Complex B Vitamins
- Ginseng
- bovine colostrum
- Capsaicine

I have some friends who take almost all of them (some of them take 5 or 6 pills a day), but are they really necessary? Or is it just the pressure of an industry who wants to make money? Are the improvements made by them a result of the powerful placebo effect?

The studies that have been made until now don't show any relevant benefits of using them, but have shown lot's of secundary effects.

Athlete's (including me, some time ago!) consume lots of magnesium, sodium and potassium in the famous pill Miostenil in order to recover from though efforts. Some studies have shown that there isn't any benefit of this intake and that in a long term usage, it may lead to serious renal calcules. Of course some brands claim that you can run out of potassium and sodium and enter a state of hyponatremia, but this situation is really rare (unless you drink 400ml of simple water during a competition and not before or after). A balance between this two extremes is the best solution.

All kinds of vitamins (in Centrum, for example or at Stress tabs where there are some concentrations of 1000% the daily recommended dose) are useless if you don't have a deficit. Extra vitamins don't put you ahead. In the other hand, some studies have shown that a long term usage of extra vitamin E may cause lung cancer.

Now, there is one that is a good new to all orienteerers!! Ginseng! It is proved that it dilates the cerebral arteries and increases concentration in long term efforts. It's widely used by students in order to increase concentration. Maybe a solution to those mistakes in the last controls. Due to it's characteristics it is not a good option to hipertense people, but more studies are needed.

Then you have all those ergogenic aids that have a structured theory behind but don't work in the real world. L-carnitine is supposed to make you loose weight by increasing the usage of fat but some studies have shown that it enters circulation but doesn't get to the mitochondrial membrane where it has it's effects - Useless! CLA's seem to make animal models loose lots of weight but in human's only some people loose that desired weight while others are not affected.

Another myth is that if you consume lots of proteins your muscles will grow more. This is a proved myth. Almost all of us in developed countries ingest more than the 10% protein intake that is recommended - it's enought even for an athlete. If you consume much more than that, your body won't use it and will turn it into urea that is excreted in the urine. Abuse of protein supplementation is the worst thing you can do, once it will decrease the blood ph too (and an athlete doesn't want it).

Basically, the ergogenic aids that could give you a little help are: caffeine (to medium or long term exercises), creatine (short term exercises, not to orienteering, of course!!), HMB (in the post-exercise recovery, the one that has shown more proved results), BCAA's (in muscle sparing) and vitamins and minerals (only if you have an alimentary deficit).

Resuming it all, If you have a healthy and balanced diet, you won't need any supplement. If you have a decompensated intake of any nutrient, then a supplement may help you in a short term usage. The ergogenic aids just may help you a little bit; the idea that you can be a running machine just with the "magic pill" is a myth.

This theme could go on and on, but here are just some facts of the main ergogenic aids that are commonly used. If you want to know more, just type the name of it at any search engine and you will find lots and lots of information (the most of it, is made by those who sell them, so be careful)As my teacher ended her presentation, be careful with FASHIONS and MIXTURES!

Saturday, 4 October 2008


Today this post is not so much about sports but more about life.
While I am sick and without the large loads of medical books to study, I started to read some more things not so scientific. Today I read one of the best books lately. Its is called "Sinto muito" ("I'm sorry", translated) and is from one of the best Portuguese neurologists, Nuno Lobo Antunes, specialized in pediatric neurooncology. It's about the incapacity of a doctor in this sensible area and the daily though moments in an area where the prognostics are so reserved. I simply loved the book.
If you're looking for some more books to read, I advise "The logic of life" of Tim Hardford (a book which shows the simplest sides of life by an economic perspective) and the "O macaco obeso" ("The fat monkey", translated), a book of Enrique Campillo Álvarez, a Spanish physiologist where he connects our primate genes with our nowaday sedentary way of life. It's a good bet.

If you want some amazing videos, I advise:

Team Hoydt, the well known dad whose son has cerebral palsy. And the way that sports changed their life. It touches you watching this man carrying his son along a whole Ironman. It's an example where you note that is always possible to find new ways of living even in the most complicated situations.

"Steve Jobs commencement speech", the CEO of Apple, a genial example of life. I don't get tired of watching it.


Today I got sick. I have some fever and a lot of pain through the body. I couldn't train today. Maybe tomorrow or Monday I'll be able to run again. I must have caught this virus from the hospital, once I have some more friends with the same symptoms. While at the internet, I found this photo of me and Pina running the marathon in front of the picture of Mao tse tung at Tienanmen Square. It was at, a website to explore the world by photos.

Description of the photo at the website:
2 weeks ago: A group athletes passes the Tiananmen Gate bearing a portrait of China's former iconic leader Mao Zedong during the men's marathon T12 classification event at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games in Beijing on September 17, 2008.