Thursday, 25 October 2012

Beachy Head Marathon Preview


Just a quick post tonight to inform you that this Saturday I will be racing the Beachy Head Marathon for my eleventh consecutive time, and for the first time I am hoping to raise some money for a worthy charity - The Teenage Cancer Trust.
Prior to last year's race I produced the following slide below for one of the talks I was doing.  The slide displays my finishing times for my previous nine Beachy Head Marathons and my weekly training mileage during my marathon build-up.  I haven't counted up my mileage this year as I have been taking a slightly different approach.  I have been getting a bit of a 'hard time' in that I am 'cheating'.! That I am getting an unfair advantage of other competitors!  What is this cheating?  Well I guess it technically isn't cheating, as it isn't illegal, but it isn't really something your 'typical runner' can access, unless they had some spare hundreds of pounds.  What is it?  Altitude training, or more technically termed "Intermittent Hypoxic Training". 

Yes for the last four weeks I have been running in the University of Brighton's (where I work) altitude chamber.  I have been monitored by two Sport and Exercise Science Masters students, Andy and Sally.  The altitude intervention has consisted of running for one hour, three times a week, within a hypoxic environment, with the percentage oxygen set at around 14.1 - 14.2% (compared to ambient oxygen 21%), which is equivalent to running at an altitude of around 3200 metres above sea level.

Looking into the scientific literature, there are mixed results whether such a short term (4 weeks) intermittent (only 3 x 1hour per week) intervention produces any benefits, however, one of my colleagues Dr Gary Brickley, coach to a number of paralympic cyclists and triathletes, has found that a short term altitude intervention has really 'brought on' the athletes he coaches, including four time Paralympic gold medallist Sarah Storey, and Paralympic gold medallist David Stone, as described in this article. Looking at the journal articles it appears that the intervention doesn't alter blood physiology, even when there are significant improvements in performance.  However, the physiology researchers therefore hypothesise that the improvements must therefore be to changes in the muscle physiology.  My interpretation is slightly different, however, I will wait to see if there are any significant improvements over and above my expected performance during the race on Saturday.

At the start of tonight's blog, I mentioned that I am hoping to raise some money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.  Yes, another one of my work colleagues, Sue Keen, approached me and asked if I wouldn't mind trying to raise the profile of the Teenage Cancer Trust, in anticipation that I would be finishing high up the field within the Beachy Head Marathon, and hopefully have my photo within the local media.  She explained how her son, Jamie, was diagnosed with cancer whilst a teenager.  She commented how the Teenage Cancer Trust really helped Jamie and her family during the difficult times, and in really assisting in making the treatment Jamie was receiving as 'pleasant' as it could be, by providing an environment specifically targeting the needs of a teenage patient.  I therefore agreed to run in a Teenage Cancer Trust shirt, and then I thought, with my UltraStu blog hits now having past 56,000, that possibly some of my UltraStu readers may wish to sponsor me and donate some money to this worthy cause. 

Yes, I know all charity causes are worthy, and yes, you are probably 'bombarded' with requests for donations to charity from many of your running friends, so please don't feel obliged to donate.  But I just thought I would mention it to you all, so if interested please go to the JustGiving page that I have just set up.  I am not aiming for a huge target, simply £100.  With around 500 different people reading each and every blog post I publish, I am hopeful that this target of £100 can be raised.

Thanks in advance, 


PS If any athletes out there have had any positive or negative experiences with Intermittent Hypoxic Training please leave a comment, as I am interested to know the results from practical applications, rather than within the artificial environment of scientific lab testing.


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