Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Iberian Championships

Great organization in this competition that took place in the center of the country.

Middle distance, 6,3k (200m), 30c - I started carefully because I wasn't sure about my navigation after the summer rest. Lost time to the 7th, 10th, 11th and an huge amount of time from 25th to the finish line. Caught some athletes, oversimplified and ended loosing time. I was vice-champion, 15'' after Tiago Aires.

Sprint distance, 3,1k (90m), 25c - I definitely underestimated the map. I tought that it would be too easy and it was the worst sprint race I can remember. I fell at all the traps. To the 7th a too bad option and to the 8th, the end of the race where I passed the passage of the tunnel.

Long distance, 12,5k (400m), 30c - In this kind of terrains I've to start making straighter routes. Big deviation to the 1st. Lots and lots of smaller mistakes. Huge one to the 21st (4'!). In the final part of the race, there were no miracles and my lack of shape didn't allow me to push harder.
As I was talking with Ionut in the end, for me it's easier to technically loose 3min in a race than winning 3min by running harder. I've to take it easier and rely more on the map. After re-fueling my energies I still had the strength to spend a great afternoon surfing at Supertubos with 25ºC.

Now I'm packing all the stuff to the next week's WC in Annecy and to the next 3 months in Vienna. We'll see...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The orienteering flow

As an orienteerer you've probably have experienced a race where everything seems to fit in. Where everything seems easy and you just float between the controls. I have had that feeling, but only too seldom.

Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian psychology professor that spent a great part of his life studying this phenomenon in many areas, identifies the following 10 factors as accompanying an experience of flow:
1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one's skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.
2. Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
4. Distorted sense of time, one's subjective experience of time is altered.
5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one can reach a point of great hunger or fatigue without realizing it)
10. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.

And there are 3 conditions that are necessary to achieve the flow state:
1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals. This adds direction and structure to the task.
2. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. One must have confidence that he or she is capable to do the task at hand.
3. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her performance to maintain the flow state.

And I take a shot suggesting that this so called Flow may be a remaining capability of our "persistence hunter" ancestors that made our vulnerable specie to survive in a hostile world for so many years, transforming us in the Runner's specie. It's a theme that is physiologically and anthropologically so fashion nowadays and that may amaze you in the following video... isn't that guy in "the flow"??

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Difficult to breathe while training? Could it be EIB?

Yes, I'm an asthmatic guy since I was born. In my childhood I've had some pretty bad moments but with a 3h train everyday in the competitive class at the swimming pool, my asthma almost disappeared during my teenage years.

2 years ago (the 1st moment I can recall is the National Long Distance Championships in 2009) I started to have a strange feeling while running at high intensity. I had the distressing and anxious feeling that the air couldn't reach my lungs, something completely different from the asthma that I could recall.

Since January 2010 it got pretty intensive. I've talked with my Immunoalergologist and she told me that "it wasn't anything special" (after all, I could run anyway and she had tougher cases to solve than me). Moreover, my lungs started to burn after track sessions... and in the second half of the season, even if I did 13 training sessions a week, I worsened (a lot) all my track and race times. I was desperate!

Last friday it was supposed to be my 1st track session of the season: 4x1000. I started well but, suddenly, after the 1st serie I had to quit and rest in a bench and it got really difficult to breathe. I thought that this couldn't be normal and immersed myself in abstracts and books...

... and found this:

Exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) is an often-undiagnosed but common problem affecting both recreational and elite athletes. Although Exercise can trigger exacerbation of chronic asthma, EIB should not be confused with the chronic inflammatory disease. While in the past, athletes were forced out of competition because of exercise-induced bronchospasm, today they can frequently get back in the stride with their peers.

EIB is defined as the transient constriction of the airways as a consequence of vigorous exertion. It occurs in about 12% to 15% of the US general population. Of patients with chronic asthma, 70% to 90% have an exercise component to their disease. As many as 40% of patients with allergic rhinitis also have EIB. However, between 5% and 10% of patients with EIB have no concomitant respiratory or allergic disease.

Olympians have been studied to quantify the incidence of EIB among elite athletes. About 11% of US Olympians who participated in the 1984 Olympic Summer Games met the criteria for EIB.These athletes won 41 medals, a testament to EIB's prevalent but controllable nature. Of the US Olympians who participated in the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, 17% admitted the need for medication for their exercise-induced symptoms.The incidence of EIB in a recent study involving US Army recruits6 was about 7%, but it had no effect on physical performance during basic training.

Clinical Symptoms
EIB presents in various ways, and patients report both obvious and vague complaints.
Symptoms during or following exercise include the following :
Chest tightness or pain
Shortness of breath
Underperformance or poor performance on the field of play
Prolonged recovery time

Symptom onset usually occurs 5 to 10 minutes after the start of exercise but may take longer in a conditioned athlete. Chest pain rarely indicates cardiac disease in children. In a study by Wiens and colleagues,16 up to 72% of children with chest pain met the criteria for EIB. Adults present with wheezing and dyspnea more often than do children. A patient's inability to keep up with his or her peers is an important detail in history taking in pediatric and adolescent athletes. (...)

Yesterday I've started a new anti-inflammatory medication (not doping) and I can't remember ever breathing so well. I'm really enthusiastic with this and can't wait for testing myself again (and check if it was a placebo).

...and can't understand why Salbutamol (the classic asthmatic inhaler) is still prohibited by WADA:

There appears to be no justification to prohibit inhaled beta(2)-agonists from the point of view of the ergogenic effects.
Do inhaled beta(2)-agonists have an ergogenic potential in non-asthmatic competitive athletes?
Kindermann W. Institute of Sports and Preventive Medicine, University of Saarland, Saarbrücken, Germany

We concluded that no ergogenic effects were attributable to salbutamol, which should therefore remain a legitimate drug for the management of athletes with asthma participating in international sporting events.
Is Salbutamol Ergogenic?: the Effects of Salbutamol on Physical Performance in High-Performance Nonasthmatic Athletes

Inhaled salbutamol, even in a high dose, did not have a significant effect on endurance performance in non-asthmatic athletes
Effects of inhaled salbutamol in exercising non-asthmatic athletes.
Goubault C, Perault MC, Leleu E, Bouquet S, Legros P, Vandel B, Denjean A.

In conclusion, inhaled formoterol did not improve endurance performance compared to placebo.
Can asthma treatment in sports be doping? The effect of the rapid onset, long-acting inhaled beta2-agonist formoterol upon endurance performance in healthy well-trained athletes.
Carlsen KH, Hem E, Stensrud T, Held T, Herland K, Mowinckel P.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

1st race after Summer

It was in the north of the country in an orienteering area that isn't properly explored.

1 - Middle distance, 7,4k (345m), 66'35 (8,59min/km) - I wasn't exepceting anything special. 2 months without a map is too much and I just wanted to return to the competition rythm. I did some mistakes:
- a huge one to 10th; wrong hill!
- to 11th, I was too afraid of the greens
- to 15th, couldn't find the right path through the greens
- and to 17th, an erratic navigation (and got stuck in the greens near the control). My rythm wasn't anything special but it could be worse for the part of the season.

2 - Sprint distance, 2,4k (120m), 15'42 (6,32min/km) - My pace isn't at its best. Moreover, I did some bad options:
- 5th, ran by the right (straight is better, of course)
- 13th, ran by the small river (had the impression that the straigth option would climb too much).
I have spent an impressive 24% of the race above 6min/km. I need to be more aggressive and avoid unnecessary slowdowns.

...and I'll leave you with Norway's both-WOC's song:

Well, what are we doing in the kingdom of the moose
There's twigs inside our trousers
there's mud inside our shoes
The temperature is rising
We pant and sweat as I sing a tune

Something really really strange is happening this year
In Grimstad, that is Norway on the south side, if you care
The woods are overflowing
with people to-and-fro-ing, my oh my!
And that's all we'll do this season,
I'll tell you all the reason why

We are bushmen
All we wanna do
is sweat our way through the woods
we are bushmen, now isn't it good,
the famous Norwegian wood

Well some might say we're crazy, 'cause we're always on the run
while everybody else is lazing in the summer sun
but we are only happy with smelly clothes and maps in our hands
And if you think that it stinks
Then you ain't got the instincts
and you'll never understand!

Friday, 10 September 2010


I didn't start my holidays by the best way. Unfortunately, my dear grandfather died and I felt lucky to had been with him in his last days.

During my mourning period I ran a lot in the highest portuguese mountains with every sessions in the hills between 1h30 and 2h00. I've also read amazing books and found some controversial stuff as:
- DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is not a consequence of lactate but a consequence of muscle micro-ruptures and inflamation (Lactate levels return to normal 30min after the session and the soreness only appears 1 or 2 days later). Then, should we stretch after tough sessions?
- VMBR (visual motor behaviour rehearsal) - Amazing! I think that I'll use it a lot in the future in orienteering. Is this what Tero calls "feel like running in your backyard?". I'll try to train it in the first competitions of the season.
- Sport beverages are a hoax (and the money that we spend on them) - Our blood Natremia is 140mM. Do the 18mM from sport beverages really make any difference? By forcing to drink it we're only doing the opposite: diluting the blood.
- Cramps are not related at all with electrolyte depletion. But they seem to be a consequence of an inhibition of the muscle inhibitors called Golgi organs.
- Tiredness is more related with body temperature (hypothalamus) and neural functions rather than all the stuff that we're used to think about (and that we learn at medical schools).

Then I went to Marrakesh with some friends. Did some legendary morning runs in the narrow streets. My tourist map was so bad that I often got lost in the 2m-wide streets and had to ask some policeman for "Jemna el Fna" (the main plaza). I moved then to Taghazout, the surfer's paradise and:
- danced in a wedding at McDonalds
- experienced what 55ºC is
- surfed for hours without wetsuit in warm sea water (until my belly skin got irritated by the surfboard). Some nice waves but too small for the season.
- grudged with the streets salesmen (those guys are tougher than the chineses)

Then I went to Chamonix with the best possible company. Spend some amazing days trekking in the mountains between 2200m and 3800m. Chamonix is a paradise on earth and the locals are really friendly. I'll be back with proper equipment to climb those Glaciers. I've also spent some days in Switzerland and Geneva as a tourist.

The last time that I ran with a map was in June. Now it's time to start all over again and it'll be this Saturday in the north of the country.

Physically, I've been "feel running" since the beginning of August and I've re-discovered the beauty of it. I feel that I've improved my stride by forefooting and I'm feeling pretty well right now. Today I've officialy started my "serious" training plan.

Oh and, by the way, this week I've received the new that I've already won the Portuguese Ranking Cup of 2009/2010 with 4 races to go. This was something tottaly unexpected for me that I usually don't fight for once I always have to miss some competitions during the year... but it's always a nice new to receive.