When I was in primary school and my teacher asked the class “what do you want to be when you grow up?” my answer was either “a lawyer or an actor”. When I had that same opinion in the later years of high school my Dad (the engineer/accountant/businessman) would tease me and say “being an actor or a lawyer are virtually the same thing”. Despite my Dad’s jest, I pursued both of these career paths through to university where I studied a double bachelors degree in Performing Arts and Law.
I would change my preference in these vocations dependant on the enjoyment my law subjects gave me versus the pleasure I derived from the plays I performed in and movement/vocal classes I participated in. My performing arts posse became my family and during performance season we lived and breathed our characters and our “acting family”, which meant my focus on my impending law exams would fade.
After completing my honours in Performing Arts I had all but abandoned my law degree, until I decided to spend a summer volunteering in a few Indigenous Communities in the Northern Territory. It was here that my passion for what a career in law could bring rose to the surface…. the opportunity to change policy and potentially have a role in bridging the gap in the areas of health and education for Indigenous Australians, through law. So back to law school I went and I immersed myself in my studies and was lucky two years out of completing my degree to secure a graduate placement at international law firm Baker & McKenzie. With the security of a fantastic job in a few years time I decided to expand my horizons by accepting a legal internship in Texas and embark on my first ultra marathon in Chile.
Both of those two experiences changed my focus and as I completed the Four Deserts Grandslam that year – I became hooked onto living an adventurous life and working towards social justice in different fields. I felt so lucky that I found a partner in life that had a similar vision..
Over the past three and a half years, I have been a research clerk, graduate lawyer and then a junior associate at Baker & McKenzie (B&M). For those who know me well (or even not so well) will know that I have worked hard to simultaneously pursue my other passions whilst being a lawyer. To the dismay of some people in the corporate law firm & also to the delight of others, I decided to cross the Simpson Desert whilst raising money for Save the Children within the first 6 months of starting work at B&M. Potentially a career limiting move but I was stubborn in not wanting a career in law to prevent me from doing the other things that I loved and cared about.
At the end of last year I took the last of my annual leave to join Ray Zahab and Impossible2Possible, on a trip to Botswana for a youth ambassador expedition. What an experience!! These experiences taught me that i could live both “an adventurous life” and work “towards social justice” in such a unique way. My constant tension was having enough time to be able to do this.
Deciding to leave my job at B&M (with my final day being yesterday) was a difficult one in some sense but also one of the most liberating choices I have made. Change is frightening to so many people but it is something that I constantly seek and never want to be afraid of.
I have five weeks off where I am travelling to the UK, Europe and the States for a variety of projects. Most excitingly is that I am attending the world premiere of the Desert Runners Movie at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Amongst all of the projects I will be using this time to refocus and prepare myself for my new job and 2014 running project. Upon my return I will be joining the dynamic, fresh and ridiculously good-looking team at Wealth Enhancers – their motto “a place where dreaming is mandatory, planning is our culture, growing is a daily occurrence, and achievement is normal…” More of those adventures later – but needless to say I am buzzing with ideas and excitement for the next chapter.
Over the past year I have had the delight to be the National Crusader for the League of Extraordinary Women (the League). It sounds like a grand title for an even grander organisation and what the League is achieving in the space of motivating and mentoring female entrepreneurs (particularly young females) is incredible. I feel honoured to be a part of the League whose mission is to create a ‘real opportunity for women to get together to be inspired, empowered and to create long last relationships.’
The four founders, the State Crusaders and myself each take turns writing blogs each week and there is a great resource of material accumulating. The blogs vary from discussions of social media and marketing; how to work smarter rather than harder; questioning the commerciality, scalability and profitability of your business; how women can form strong business relationships and I personally focus many of my blogs on the power of the mind/mental health/efficiency and of course how you can use your passion (for me sport) for the benefit of the wider community.
My recent post ‘How stressed are you today?’ was provoked after reading a leadership article on Smart Blog and reflecting on the attitude to stress in a corporate context. Food for thought for many of us - http://www.leagueofextraordinarywomen.com.au/how-stressed-are-you-today
The race season is in full force and most weekends are now packed with great adventures all across Australia and New Zealand. Just over the past few weekends, trail and ultra runners have had the choice of running at the inaugural Brooks Mount Baw Baw Trail Run Fest, Six Foot Track Marathon, Tarawera Ultra Marathon, Roller Coaster Run, Alpine Challenge- to just name a few. Gone are the days when these events were few and far between!!
I get pretty excited when I look at all of these choices and I cannot help but want to fit in as many adventures and play runs as possible - including a variety of distances, different types of terrain and formats of races. One of the my ongoing concerns is making sure I spend enough time “recovering” so I can fit in as much as possible. I am lucky to be trained by Ray Zahab and as he monitors my training and races – he is quickly learning the signs of when I am fatiguing and not producing quality runs. He definitely notices that my performance is impacted if my hours at work are long and my levels of stress are high – luckily running is also a way of reducing that stress for me, although it doesn’t always lead to quick times.
After increasing my training and intensity, I thought I would write on one of my methods to “recover”.
Compression tights – CW-X
There are many thoughts on the benefits of compression and although I wouldn’t say that all compression garments are beneficial for recovery, I truly believe the right compression can definitely aid in increased performance and recovery. You will often catching me wearing colourful striped full length or 3/4 tights during a race and you will ALWAYS see me in them after a race. I have been super lucky to be supported by CW-X since I started doing ultras/trail running in 2010 and I couldn’t speak more highly of the products and the brand.
Many people in Australia might not know of CW-X but they are big in the States and Japan and are starting to be worn by more and more athletes in Australia.
Dan Bleakman from Ultra 168 and I provided some thoughts on CW-X compression tights in an article last year which provides some discussion on their support and comfort.
Although I love the patterns on the tights (which stand out and are far more fun than any other compression garments I have seen), the best feature is CW-X’s targeted kinesiology support web – which depending on the garment you choose targets the lower back, hamstrings, medial knee, lower abdominals, lower back, itb, hamstrings, knees and calves. This is designed to support key muscles and joints in the same way that kinesiology taping is applied by sports medicine professionals. The high grade compression facilitates circulation during and after activity, minimising the lactic acid build up, so hopefully you can run for longer and longer… During my run across the Simpson I started wearing my short shorts for the first 100kms. As the run progressed I was feeling pain in my knees and my ITB was getting tighter and tighter. There was a moment during the first night that I was in so much pain that I didn’t know how I was going to continue. As the temperature dropped I transitioned into my StabilyX Tight and I noticed that the pain slowly started to subside. I would like to take credit for toughing it out but I am pretty sure that the additional support in my medial knee and lower back assisted.
During the day I transitioned into the 3/4 StabilyX Tight. Even in extreme temperatures, they were incredible breathable and light due to the UV protection rating and being predominately made from coolmax fabric. Importantly I had no issues of chaffing which I unfortunately get when I wear loose shorts for long distances.
I find it hard to be scientific in my discussion of why something works for me, which is a good thing I guess because I am clearly not needing to worry or focus about it when I am running. As the photos shows below, I even like to wear my tights when I am patting goats.
After a big month of work I had been desperately looking forward to escaping to the mountains as a chance to relax and breathe in some fresh air. I had become a wound up ball of stress and I was struggling to find perspective and unwind each night when I came home from work. My patient, loving and supportive fiance (Dr Dan) watched as I furiously packed my gear after flying back from Sydney and commented that this weekend away was exactly what the Doctor ordered.
The running joke in our house and now amongst my running friends is that I have a manual car which I cannot drive. I say I have been too busy to learn this new skill (of manual driving) but I think I probably enjoy having the chance to tune out as I get driven around. Because of my incompetence I had put up a plea on the Brooks Trail Run Fest facebook page for a lift to Mount Baw Baw. Jono Stiberc was super kind and offered to pick me up from my place and we spent a fun car ride as we chattered the whole way, got lost, went to a bar in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions (Jono drank a beer because he was scared not to) and arrived quite late on Friday night.
Chris Ord had organised for a crew of us to stay at Frosti Lodge in Mount Baw Baw and I was so grateful to be looked after and to share accommodation with old and new friends. I had been so frantic with my packing that I hadn’t prepped any of my gear for the mornings race, so I spent the next hour getting my race nutrition sorted and laying my clothes out. The alarm went off at 6am and I felt like I had hardly slept a wink as I walked over to the bus that was taking us down the mountain – so we could run from Walhalla to the top of Mount Baw Baw.
Despite not feeling race ready I was so happy to be there that as I spoke to good friend Nikki Wynd before the race begun I felt a few tears well up in my eyes – I couldn’t quite explain or understand why I was so overcome with emotion. After a detailed pre-race briefing we were off or should I say we were up.
We started on the road which inclined up before leveling out and entering the windy and slightly undulating trails. I got myself in a steady rhythm almost entering a meditative state for the first 10 – 12kms. After this point thing became progressively more challenging. We took a left hand turn across a bridge and had to navigate along a very narrow single trail with overgrown roots. The heat was really starting to beat down and I couldn’t smoothly transition from running to power walking to running – I felt very clunky.
I was happy when we left this section but the next 12kms became steeper and my legs felt like lead and sluggish. I was fatiguing far more quickly than normal and my body was doing a few things that told me this wasn’t going to be my day. As I neared the midway checkpoint I saw Dave Eaddie and asked for his advice on what I should do as I described what was happening. He confirmed what I was thinking that it was probably best for me to stop a few kms ahead, have a rest and if I felt better head out for another run in the late afternoon. Despite having this in the back of my mind I decided to continue a little longer past the checkpoint but there was a voice in my head that kept telling me it was a bad idea – so I ran back to the checkpoint and after getting some more fluids in I took a ride back up the mountain and straight into bed.
A few hours later I woke and felt like a whole new women, I couldn’t believe it. I put on my running shoes and bumped into Beau Miles who came up to present his documentary on running the entire length of the Alpine Walking Trail. He decided to head out with me and we went out on the trails for over an hour and chattered about adventures, study and relationships. I couldn’t have been a different person or runner than when I woke this morning. From here onwards the weekend offered every bit of happiness and delight that I could have asked for. Our Frosti Lodge crew was made up of myself, Deanna Blegg, Darren Clarke, Jan Saunders, Nikki and speedy Daniel Wynd, Dave and Lucas Eaddie, Matt and Martin Coops, Rich Bowles and Vickie Saunders. We enjoyed our communal living and became a supportive trail running family.
Sunday morning we had a leisurely wake up and made our way to the start of the 12km race. Nikki said she wanted to run together which I was pretty stoked to do as we have been meaning to go for a run together for the past six months (clearly poor planners). The sun was shining, everyone was beaming and the trails that followed were superb. I will agree with Coops when he says some of the best single track I have also been on. I felt bad for the fellow that was running behind us because Nikki and I chatted the entire way even though we were pushing relatively hard. We finished the run hand in hand and with a welcomed spray of water.
The rest of the afternoon was spent basking in the sun, eating and cheering other people as they finished their run.
Rich Bowles and I presented to our running friends about our past & upcoming expeditions.
Matt “Grasshopper” Coops took a big group for a technical uphill and downhill training session.
You can tell why his adventure camps are such a hit as he has some great thoughts on running and everyone completely committed to what he was saying as we ran down a technical hill and back up it and back down it and back up it.
The final event for the night was another 12km event over the same course as the mornings run. Deanna, Darren, Jan & I decided to enjoy the nighttime running experience together. Off the back of Coops’s training session I kept thinking of his words of running “light” & with “flow”. Focusing on lifting my body upright as I went up the hills & descending with trust that my feet would find the safe path down.
I had forgotten to take my ay up lights so I stuck on the heels of whoever was right in front of me to benefit from their bright lights. I had one of the most enjoyable running experiences and relished moving in the darkness with such great company. Darren, Deanna and Jan are superb adventure racers and are fierce on the trails. There is such a team focus in all of them and I can see myself getting into the adventure racing scene down the track.
Monday morning saw us put into practice technical downhills running with a 400m descent over 1.5kms. Being able to “let go” isn’t a particular strength of mine and although I started with legs open and light, the middle section which consisted of uneven ground and big rocks had me tighten up and become conservative in approach. Once we got down to the bottom the final run for the whole long weekend was the 1.5km uphill.
Thank you to Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort, Brooks, Trail Run Magazine, NUUN and Moxie Gear for hosting and supporting a fabulous long weekend trail running festival. Thank you to my supporters Juice Plus+, Brooks, CW-X and Ascend, who enable me to do what I love to do, with people that I love sharing it with.
A piece by Charlie Syme…
In my few short years of ultra running, I have been fortunate to travel and run in some unique location.
I have met beautiful people from many walks of life.
I have learnt the boundaries of my physical capabilities whilst constantly realising my mental capacity is as far as I want it to be.
In 2010, I learnt how to run.
In 2011, I learnt that running for myself when I knew I could already run left me wanting more.
In 2012, I learnt the greatest lesson – that I am most rewarded when I am using the sport of running for a reason outside of myself.
- Seasons of Pain Adventure Race (first team with Daniel Trevena)
- Cycling trip
- Crewing one amazing girl at Badwater
- Tor des Geants with my fiance for our honeymoon.
I have a new favourite trail running location in Victoria. Two weekends ago, Daniel and I went to Mount Baw Baw for the First Series of ‘Seasons of Pain’. It is a mountain bike/trail running race, which for the first race of the series, attracted an impressive field of adventure athletes from Australia and overseas. After a busy week at work, Dan and I decided to do the race as a team, with me doing the two run legs, Daniel the two bike legs and we would run the final 1.5 uphill section together.
We headed to Mount Baw Baw (approx 2.5 hours away) and arrived 30 minutes before the race start and just in time for the race briefing. As the race course was being explained I started to get a little concerned that I was going to struggle and slightly more worried that Daniel, a non-experienced mountain bike rider who was borrowing Chris Ord’s (Editor, Trail Run Mag) bike, was going to struggle even more.
As soon as the race kicked off, we started a gentle climb and I noticed that I was deeply breathing and working pretty hard to keep the pace up – I then noticed that everyone else around me was breathing heavily as well. The elevation for Mount Baw Baw is 1,567 m and although I didn’t think about this at the time, I am sure in addition to the cool air, fast pace and technical course – it also played a factor in making this a challenging run. The first run was approx 9.3kms and had a bit of everything in it: a decent/steady climb, short and sharper climbs, long descents on the ski runs, off trail scrambling and trail-like steps. To top it off we were running through the fog!!
(Deanna and Pez – my new favourite adventure-racing powerhouses!!)
After adjusting to the conditions about 25 minutes in I started to up the pace and my enjoyment levels soared – I couldn’t believe I hadn’t run here before. I came into transition with Daniel not expecting my arrival quite yet and he did a whoop whoop and quickly got on his bike. Dan sped through both of his bike legs (despite having his seat in the wrong position) and has subsequently bought a mountain bike to be able to take part in more of the series.
(Jarad Kohlar – If this guy is hurting, you know it’s tough!)
Two big highlights for me were the 1.5km hill run to the finish line and the competitors who took part in this race. After the race finished – everyone ate, talked and danced away at the Alpine Restaurant. Everyone was so down to earth and had such interesting stories that I could have stayed there all night listening to them. Races like these remind me how much I love the social side of this sport.
With all of this mind I couldn’t be more thrilled to be taking part in the Mount Baw Baw Trail Run Festival in March. I am delighted to be a race ambassador with the fabulous Rich Bowles. The festival will be an opportunity to come away from the long weekend with three runs in your trail shoes. The Saturday has the option of a marathon (see the profile below) or a 1/2 marathon; the Sunday has two 12km options and Monday has the option of a 1.5km uphill or downhill mountain run. See the press release below for more details.
Hope to see a lot of people at Mount Baw Baw for an amazing weekend.
Two of Australia’s best know adventure runners, Richard Bowles and Samantha Gash, have been appointed as official ambassadors for the upcoming Mount Baw Baw Trail Run Festival, taking place on 9-11 March, 2013.
The pair have both recently come off record-breaking runs, Bowles recently completing the double of being the first to run Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail and New Zealand’s Te Araroa Track, a combined total of more than 8,000km.
Samantha Gash, known for being the youngest and first female to complete all of the 4Deserts multiday adventure runs, most recently became the youngest Australian to run non-stop across the Simpson Desert, battling sleep deprivation and dingo packs in the name of charity.
Both runners have big expeditions planned in the near future, but will first line up for the inaugural Baw Baw Trail Run Festival. The pair will be among many vying to become the first inaugural King and Queen of the Mountain, a quest that will see competitors run a total of 57km over three days, beginning with a marathon from the historic gold mining township of Walhalla and finishing on Mt Baw Baw.
They will then choose from a 12km daytime run or a 12km night-time run the following day, wrapping up with two short, technical 1.5km ‘free mountain’ runs on the public holiday Monday morning.
Other competitors may cherrypick from the half marathon, one of the 12km events or a five kilometre fun run/walk in which children, families and those new to trail running are encouraged to join the singletrack action.
“The festival line-up is a great concept,” says Bowles, who usually avoids competitive races, but considers the long weekend outing more of an adventure that happens to be organized with live music at the finishline.
“The marathon route is bound to be an instant classic and a must-do on the trail running scene, being the majority of it runs along the iconic Australian Alpine Walking Track,” says Bowles. “I’ve already run the course as a recce and it is a simply stunning course that really puts you smack in quintessential Aussie wilderness. Of course, the difference from my usual expedition runs is that at Mount Baw Baw there’s a spa, restaurant, bar and comfy bed waiting for me at the end!”
For her part, Samantha Gash is looking forward to the festival atmosphere and entertainment between events as much as the runs themselves, with a film night and trail specific information sessions planned.
“In particular it will be interesting to see who shows for the short, sharp free mountain runs, which puts people smashing down a 1.5km technical course over obstacles and a 400-metre descent. Talk about fast and furious. And then, after a short rest, they have to run back up it again – it adds a whole new dimension that we haven’t seen on the Australian trail running circuit before,” said Sam, who will back up her on course efforts with an inspirational talk and Q&A session.
Mount Baw Baw’s Events Manager, Grant Seamer, says the festival is specifically designed to cater to all levels of run fitness and aptitude.
“We want to offer something for everyone and build a true celebration of the sport of trail running of the community that has grown up around it in Australia . And we also happen to think that we have some of the best terrain a trail runner could wish for up here, and plenty to do for supporters, friends and family tagging along, so it’ll make for a great weekend outing.
“We’re proud to welcome Richard and Sam to the Baw Baw family and appreciate their involvement given their massive running experience. Richard has already been up a few times to continue his scouting and training on the trails and Sam ran in our Seasons of Pain event a few weekends back, and both have offered great feedback on the pure quality of trail running on the mountain.”
Mount Baw Baw is putting on a free return bus service from Melbourne CBD, stopping at major eastern suburban centres en route to the mountain on the Friday afternoon prior to the event weekend.
“We want to make it as easy as possible to get to the event and also create a unique social vibe where people share their experiences and love of trail running.”
Entries are now open at: http://trailrunfestival.eventbrite.com.au/#
The full festival line up includes:
Saturday 9 March
>> 42.2km Trail Marathon, Walhalla to Mt Baw Baw
>> 21km half marathon (a bus will take runners from Mt Baw Baw to Walhalla / Mt Erica on Saturday morning or runners can make their own way to the start lines)
Sunday 10 March
>>12km trail run
>>5km fun run/walk
>>12km night trail run
Monday 11 March
>>1.5km downhill mountain run
>>1.5km uphill mountain run
We will be offering a FREE bus service from Melbourne CBD stopping at the following locations on the way to Baw Baw! Seats are limited. If runners would like to take advantage of this please add the FREE BUS to your entry order online. The bus will return on Monday afternoon after presentations.
- Southern Cross Station
- Caulfield Station
- Dandenong Station
- Warragul Station
- Trafalgar Station
- Traralgon Station
More details to be confirmed prior to the event.
The news that eight 14-16 year old girls have entered the 100km Surf Coast Century event this weekend has sparked a lot of debate and concern in the ultra running community. These girls have entered the race as solo runners but have said they will predominately be walking the distance and plan to stick together as a group. From my investigations their school hasn’t supported their decision to embark on this challenging course over a grueling distance that can never be underestimated. Their teacher, who I have spoken to, will be joining them and he has completed the Great Ocean Walk (a 100km event). He has also placed a big emphasis on the mental aptitude required for endurance events and for life in general. Anybody who has ever attempted a 100km ultra event understands the intense physical and mental challenges involved.
My stomach has been in knots since the moment I heard about this. I read Rapid Ascent’s Q&A with the girls and while I thought their answers were incredibly mature, suggesting that they have taken their training seriously – to the extent that they may even potentially be better trained than some other competitors on the course – my race and professional experience told me I needed to do more research.
In my few years of ultra running I have seen the “worst case scenario” play out – multiple times. We are talking about life and death here. I was in a race where a fellow competitor died due to heat stroke, and in another race where five competitors were trapped and burnt in a bushfire. Before being so closely connected to these incidents I was the kind of person who would have said “that can’t or won’t happen to me”. I’ve learned the hard way that it can happen, and it does. Anyone who says that safety and risk minimization are not important components to a race plan cannot truly understand the possible dangers inherent in this sport.
I am not saying that Rapid Ascent hasn’t been proactive in putting in place safety measures to minimize the risk of acute problems occurring. They have spoken in depth with the girls involved as well as their parents, and from my understanding there is a nutrition and race strategy in place (with the girls planning on a 21 hour goal to complete the distance). Additionally they are requiring the girls to each carry a mobile phone and for the final two checkpoints there will be additional support to walk alongside them. With all of this in mind it is understandable that there has been a lot of support for the girls undertaking this 100km race. At the core of my concern, however, is the impact a 100km event can have on the body of an adolescent female and the broader precedent it sets: that it is safe and wise for people in this age bracket (particularly 14 and 15 year olds) to push their bodies in this way.
I want to be open with the fact that there isn’t any concrete, empirical research saying that 14 and 15 year old girls are going to suffer long-lasting detrimental effects from competing in a 100km race. This is predominantly because there have not been any case studies of groups of females around this age taking part in extreme endurance events. It is also not the same as Jessica Watson sailing around the world, Kilian Jornet doing mountain hikes as a child or any of the other examples that have been discussed as a parallel to this situation.
This situation is different because it is a race and regardless of the professed comfortable pace the girls plan to go at, there are timed checkpoints to reach and that immediately creates the goal of reaching those destinations within that timeframe. Debatably we could add to that the element of external and internal pressure to complete the race in time which is created by the sheer level of discussion surrounding the girls’ involvement in the race. It is highly unlikely that eight individuals – of any age – will experience the highs and lows of ultra racing at the same time. Unless they are very confident in expressing how they are feeling it is likely that individuals will be pushing harder than they wish to in order to stick with the group, in order to achieve that goal of finishing the race.
Whether we like it or not a race has parameters, responsibilities, duties of care and standards. My fear is that it is not in the best interests of these young girls to allow them to compete in such a physically, emotionally and psychologically demanding race, at such a young age. I believe the risks are simply too great.
I thought it would be fair to list below some of the comments in support of this undertaking.
- “Life is full of inherent dangers, at least this one is entered into sensibly”.
- “Are we scared that the youngsters come in and dominate our sport”.
- “Surely the event management would be sure of their abilities”.
- “I would hope discussion has been had and the girls are seasoned runners”.
- It is a shame we live in a world where people feel teenagers have to be ‘protected’ from the risks of trail running, while the much more real problem is that many are eating themselves into much more sever problems with an excessively sedentary/indoor lifestyle”.
- “At no point will the girls be more than 15 minutes walk from a main or fire road that is accessible to all traffic.”
- “If they travel at an average of just over 4 km/hr (pretty slow walk) they will make it under the cutoffs. The weather will be mild and the trail is very well marked. It really shouldn’t be a big deal especially as they walk as a group.”
- “If we don’t encourage and let them to feel the sense of achievement of completing an ultra race of any size, we will lose them back to the streets, game consoles, drinking, etc.”
- “The most likely type to push themselves beyond their own limits are the middle-aged males.”
- “More people die/injure etc of not doing enough physical activities than too much of it! Listen to your body, participate in events to your ability and you are probably ok.”
Before I get onto the most important part of this blog I want to emphasise that I am an ardent supporter of youth embarking on challenges, being active and adventurous, and I am extremely reluctant when it comes to placing limitations on anyone. I do believe these girls seem like they have the cardio-vascular strength to complete the distance – but I remember the feeling after my first 100km event as an active 20 year old. My knee joints were so inflamed that I needed my parents’ assistance going to the bathroom. I walked for most of that event and I had lingering injuries for many weeks following it. On reflection, I believe my body wasn’t developed for a 100km event as I hadn’t completed a marathon, or even a half marathon in a race context. I keep wondering what the strain is going to be like for these girls at hour 14 and 21 into this race (which is double and triple the time they have been on their feet in training). As bad as I did feel in the recovery phase after my first 100km, I also wasn’t dealing with puberty and my body was fully developed – bit of a shame really as I would have liked to have grown more in my 20s. It is important to note there is also a pairs (50km x 2) and relay option (25km x 4) on Saturday. I feel this would have been a great starting point for the girls to begin to develop the strength and resilience required , whilst still being an amazing challenge.
I could go on with my own stories and personal experiences but I decided I would ask an expert, and I’d like to share his perspective with you. Ross Kinsella is an athlete (marathoner, ironman) as well as being an APA endorsed? Sports Physiotherapist. His qualifications include:
• Bachelor of Science (Medical)
• Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Hons)
• Masters of Sports Physiotherapy
“I want to make it very clear prior to answering the questions below that life is about moderation. This is relevant to all aspects of life. I am fortunate enough in my position as a Sports Physiotherapist to promote activity and try to encourage people of all ages to enjoy exercise and to ensure that people stay active throughout their lifespan. However, I do have some concerns about a group of young 14-16 year old females conducting the 100km event.
What is the impact of 100kms on the body?
Do you think this impact is different for a 14-16 year old girl?
I will answer both of these questions in the answer below. A young female athlete from 14-16 years of age is clearly in a developmental period of their lives.
My clear concern with young females covering a distance of this magnitude revolves around the following areas:
1. They have not reached their peak bone mineral density
2. The potential risk of fatigue and instability from conducting a long event could lead to a wide range of overuse injuries, such as severes, runner’s knee, ITB friction syndrome and stress fractures due to a lack of biomechanical strength and efficiency of running. Additionally reduced muscular strength and support to provide an efficient running/walking style would be put to a severe test with a distance of this magnitude.
3. The muscular system is clearly not fully developed so the ability to stabilize and support the joints and pelvic girdle is reduce.
4. The potential influence of training and doing an event of this distance could lead to exercise associated menstrual cycle irregularities, which in turn could lead to reduced fertility and reduced bone mass.
Numerous studies highlight the effect of athletic amenorrhea on bone mass. Where bone loss can occur rapidly in the first 2-3 years following menstrual disturbances at a rate of about 4% per year. This in turn could potentially lead to premature osteoporosis in subsequent years. This is part of what we call the “female athlete triad”. A syndrome of eating disturbances, amenorrhea and osteoporosis. Now I am not saying that these girls have this condition at all, but exercising for this duration could lead to physiological changes spiraling out of control.
Some points on bone mineral density:
- Girls tend to commence their adolescent growth spurts around the age of 11, the rate of linear growth in girls usually decelerates with menarche (beginning of menstruation) which is between 12-14 years of age. Peak bone mass is generally not achieved until 20-21 years of age.
- There is a dissociation between linear bone growth and bone mineral accrual in girls, which can lead to a relative weakness in the bones during the adolescent growth spurt. That is their bone mineral density is not at its peak by any means. This in turn could potentially lead to young female athletes covering these distance and developing a wide range of stress related injuries such as:
- Femoral neck stress fractures;
- Metatarsal stress fractures;
- Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints);
- Pubic ramus stress fractures; and
- Sacral stress fractures.
If this is taken into consideration as well as the reduced physical support of the muscular system around the bones and joints, particularly with fatigue then the risk of injury is increased.
Other concerns that I have relate to emotional and mental fatigue and the lack of sleep on the young body with an event of this duration.
Do you think the girls are putting themselves at a lower risk because they are walking the event?
This is a tricky one. Yes for sure as each step would be less load compared to running. However with walking the event the girls would be out there for an extremely long time so elements such as fatigue, nutrition, recovery, mental and emotional fatigue add up as well as lack of sleep. This is a lot to take on board for a young adolescent female.
Can you give me an idea about the recovery that takes place after covering a 100km distance in a 21 (projected time)-27 hour (final cut off) time frame?
The girls are going to be very sore after the event, especially when they wake up the next morning. They will experience what is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It is imperative that the girls follow the best practice available with recovery if they do the event. This includes good nutrition, the use of compression, active recovery, massage therapy and above all some very good nights sleeping! They will be very sore regardless for some time.
They will just be more sore then a lot of people due to the lack of conditioning and lack of muscular strength to support their frame for such a duration. So they will have significantly more DOMS then the older runner. They will be working in a fatigued state for longer! Hence they will pull up worse for it.
Question 4: In your personal opinion do you think the fact that this is taking place in a race context is different than if the girls were doing this over a weekend?
For sure a race context would place more load through the body as you will be pushed forward to get the best time that you can. So this could potentially highlight some of the concerns that I mentioned previously.”
These are the kinds of risks that these girls will be facing when they take to the course this weekend. I know from my own personal experience that preparing for an event like this involves a lot more than a solid training regime. It requires a long term build up in endurance events where participants develop the physiological capability to put their body under the extreme stress that comes with the 100km distance.
I take my role as Ambassador in events and organisations quite seriously and for this reason I have decided to stand down from this role at the Surf Coast Century. Thank you to Gretel Fortmann who was going to be my team mate in the pairs event for understanding and supporting me in my decision. I wish the girls the best of luck over the weekend and I hope to see them on the trails in the future.