Thursday, August 8, 2013

Smarty DNS - access Hulu+ Netflix amazon prime outside the USA

I have been a long subscriber of Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. However, these services are blocked here and I needed an unblocking service. I have been using US VPN. However, what caught my attention lately is SmartyDNS - http://www.smartydns.com/

All you need to do is register at SmartyDNS, give them your IP address, then set your DNS settings to the SmartyDNS instead of defaulting to your network provider's. I decided to give it a go; got a free trial to test it and see how valid their claims are about unblocking restricted content. Tried this on a PC, Mac, iOS and Android following the instructions given, it is dead simple! SmartyDNS is smart enough to automatically adjust you to the right region and access blocked websites – it certainly works to unblock Netflix. The full list of Unblocked Websites & Supported Devices is here: http://www.smartydns.com/unblocked-websites/

Anyway, it's working for me ... speed seems unchanged (about 21Mbs on Optus cable with a pinging < 20 ms). I found it better than using a VPN as speeds are variable when using VPN to stream content. The video's streamed perfectly with SmartyDNS with no delay and the video quality was acceptable. The content on crackle is abit outdated but if you into old movies and TV series from the last decade and early 2000 then you won’t have a problem. So if you are looking for DNS service to watch videos only available to US and UK users here in Aus, why not give SmartyDNS a go?


Get access to your favorite media websites while outside the US and UK!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Unbreakable the Western states 100

I just got done watching this DVD starring my favorite ultrarunners Anton Kupripka and Killian Jornet and really enjoyed it! 

It was kinda sad watching Killian implode after the awesome beginning where he was having so much fun on the trails. The 'last minute' come from behind win by Geoff Roes was nail bitingly exciting.

Congrats by the way to our very own Ben Brucker for his fine bronze medal finish at this year's Western States 100! And thanks for the loan of the DVD. 

Happy trails!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review of Outdoor Research Foray Jacket: Goretex Paclite Ultralight Packable Rain and Wind Protection

One of the requirements for ultra marathons like the UTMB is a waterproof, breathable, lightweight jacket that will fit into your running pack / vest.

Now, these things are expensive, costing as much as $400 for a top of the range Arcteryx jacket (behold it in its glory below).



The Outdoor Research Foray Jacket fits the bill and at under $130, leaves a muuuuuch smaller dent in your pocket. Spencer got one last year and has used it in rainy tropical conditions in Malaysia as a rain jacket, through sub-freezing temperatures over thermal running shirts, here on PA trails. He likes it because it keeps him dry, packs down small, weighs very little (15 oz) and looks nice. An interesting and unique feature are the side zips that zip from bottom all the way to the pits (like an extreme version of a pit zip) which supposedly assists ventilation in highly physical activities. Recommended!



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Foot Drills: Eliminate Plantar Fasciitis, Shin Splints, Achilles Tendinitis, Knee & Ankle Problems

Folks, here is the long-awaited follow up to my Plantar fasciitis posts - The Foot Drills (as promised long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away... sorry for the delay ya.)

I'll start off with saying that these Foot Drills are KEY to resolving your plantar fasciitis - and many other foot, ankle and knee related issues. Some of the other very important self-help steps have been covered in previous posts, namely Trigger Point Massage (best post ever! based on the The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook) and the Kitchen Sink Method (second best post ever, but still pretty good :p). 

The Basics
  • You will be doing these barefoot
  • You will need a grass surface 25 meters long
  • It will take 3 minutes daily, for at least 2-3 weeks. 
The Nitty Gritty 
(quoted from Russ Ebbets, DC 'The Foot Drills')

Top (L-R): Inversion, Toe-In, Backwards on Toes
Bottom (L-R): Eversion, Toe-Out, Walk on Heels (Pic credit: Russ Ebbets, DC)

  • Drills are done daily or every workout day
  • Each drill is done once for 25 meters
  • Dills are done in the stocking feet or bare footed.
  • Surface is preferably grass but any flat, clean surface will do
  • Results will be subtle but should be noted in about 2-3 weeks and include: decrease in injuries, improved cornering, improved jumping ability
  • Consistent use of the foot drill will decrease or eliminate shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and knee problems
  • Total time to do the drills is about 3 minutes


The Whole Shebang

Alright, here is the full article on 'The Foot Drills' by the amazing Russ Ebbets, lead instructor for USA Track and Field and Editor of the Track Coach Magazine, the technical journal for USA Track and Field and author of the novel 'Supernova' on the famed running program at Villanova.

"Over the last decade I have had the good fortune to lecture on track and field and distance running throughout Arnerica and the World. The topic of the day could be sports psychology, training theory or biomechanics but I always try to slip in a comment on the importance of the six foot drills. In many instances it may seem totally unrelated but if performance is one's ultimate goal, and if only one thing is remembered from the day's lecture - I hope it is the six foot drills.

I got the idea for the foot drills from my study in East Germany in 1987. Quite honestly there was little value to that study tour. The East Germans seemed confused by our questions and their presentations were disjointed and generally pointless. They did show us one Super 8 film on foot drills for high jumpers. It didn't register at the time.

I've subsequently studied several people's work, including Edgar Cayce, who have discussed the benefits and virtues of doing daily foot exercises for prevention of a multitude of foot and leg problems. In 1987 the six foot drills were integrated into my team's daily training plan and the grand experiment began. .

We did the six drills at the start of each practice. Five of the six drills are done in barefooted or stocking feet. The distance covered for each drill is about 25 meters. Each drill is done once daily. The walking is done at one's own pace. Total time for the drill with shoes off to shoes on is about four minutes, pretty simple.

The six drills, illustrated below are to simply walk on the outside of the foot (invert the foot), walk on the inside of the foot (evert the foot), walk with a toe-in or pigeon-toed gait (adduct the foot), walk backwards on the toes, walk with the toes pointing out (a la Charlie Chaplin) and with the shoes back on, walk on the heels - this protects against bruising the heel.
Done daily these six drills will eliminate shin splints, Achilles' tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, lessen the chance of a severe ankle sprain and virtually all knee problems. The famous Rice Study done in the early 90s found that 79% of running injuries are from the knee down. One of the reasons I had successful teams is that my athletes made it to the competition day healthy and ready to compete. Season after season was completed with virtually no injuries.

It should be noted that there are three problems with the foot drills: they are simple, they are easy and they are free. It doesn't involve more than taking off one's shoes and putting one foot in front of the another. But that is easier said than done.

Why do the foot drills work? There is very little muscle in the foot. This presents a problem because most of the balance and proprioceptive sense we get comes from our muscles. A second point is that the neuromuscular pathway (the communication line) from the brain to the foot is the longest and slowest in the body. This leads to bad, or at best, poor coordination of the foot. If you doubt that put a pen between your toes and try to write your name.

The demands of athletic participation, be it running, jumping or quick starts and stops places tremendous stresses on the foot. In fact the foot must sustain seven times the body's weight with simple running and up to 20x body weight in some jumping activities. Done repeatedly this is how an overuse syndrome such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis or Achilles' tendinitis develops.

By challenging the foot with various gaits one develops a clearer pathway from the foot to the brain. Clearer pathways are faster and more responsive. This gives one better balance and proprioception. Each foot strike becomes more "sure," the foot contacts the ground without a wobble, however slight that wobble might be. It is because of this "sure foot stride" that the overuse syndromes (Achilles' tendinitis, plantar fasciitis or shin splints) are eliminated.

It has been said that running is a ground contact sport. It is this repeated micro trauma of ground strike, repeated 1000s of times that can lead to injury. Other factors such as running surfaces and proper shoe selection can influence the incidence of injury. But I will contend, with a great deal of assurance, that the six foot drills, done consistently, will have a tremendous positive benefit on one's athletic participation and performance. Applying the simple, easy and free.

The last note. The foot drills will also make you faster. I mentioned the slight "wobble" of each foot strike. More accurately described a wobble is lateral side to side motion. Speed is generally straight ahead. If, on each foot strike there is the wobble or lateral motion before there is the forward motion, there is lost time, not much, but some. If one's ground contact time can be reduced 1/100th of a second (it takes 14/100ths to blink an eye) the cumulative effect can drastically improve one's performance.

Consider this - if one takes 50 steps in the 100m, 50 X 1/100th of a second = 50/100 of a second or 1/2 of a second. One-half second is the difference between the 9th place spectator and the Olympic Gold Medallist. In a mile this reduced ground contact time translates to an 8-10 second difference and in the 10K it means between 50-60 seconds. An improvement made in the blink of an eye, one step at a time. Simple, easy and free."


Folks, I hope you found this post useful. These foot drills certainly put me on the right track to being Plantar Fasciitis Free. If you have any questions, comments, requests for other articles, feel free to leave them in the comments box of this post!

xoxo

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Xterra Pro Full Suit Triathlon Wetsuit at 50% off

Of the triathlon wetsuits that I've tried (Orca Predator, Quintana Roo Superfull, Xterra Pro), I liked Xterra the best.


The Orca Predator (MSRP $400) and the Quintana Roo Superfull (MSRP $550) were both a little tight in the shoulders with stiffer material than the Xterra Pro Fullsuit (MSRP $600).

My hubs has the basic Xterra Vortex (MSRP  $400) and is very happy with it. He's had it for three seasons now and it is holding up well - no rips or tears (yet!). I've only ever used the Xterra Pro (thanks Siok Bee for the loan!) and I remember how comfy it was in the shoulders and how flexible the suit was. It fit like a second skin.

I believe the Xterra wetsuits are better than other wetsuits at the same price point. For one, Xterra wetsuits are extremely buoyant. Their 5 mm thick neoprene extends throughout the entire wetsuit unlike other brands that have thinner neoprene on the legs and arms. A nice consequence is that your legs will float / less drag, and in a way corrects / compensates for not-so-good swimming technique/posture hehe.

If you're shopping for a wetsuit, and have decided on the Xterra brand, I'd go for the Pro instead of the Vortex. Why? Well, because you can almost always find a 50% discount coupon code floating around the web, and that would bring the cost of the Pro to $300. With free shipping anywhere in the USA and a 15 day return-n-exchange guarantee, it's a no brainer (in my opinion anyway).

Click on this link to get to Xterra Wetsuits, sign up with your email, and use code AUG50 to snag the wetsuit of your choice at half off.

Even better, at the moment there is a 55% discount code that will help make you a proud owner of the Xterra Pro at $270. Click through here and enter SWIM12 plus sign up with your email to get this offer. Not sure how long this offer will last though.

Happy Tri-ing!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Achilles Tendinitis Pain? Trigger Point Therapy Helps!

Previously I covered trigger pointing for plantar fasciitis and inner heel pain. Since then, I received a few questions about trigger pointing for pain in various parts of the body. (Thanks for all your questions!) One of the enquiries was how to trigger point achilles pain. This is pain in the back of the ankle/s.
Credit: 'The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook'

Target trigger point #1: Soleus
I would first target the soleus trigger point (see pic to the right). Use your thumb to feel along the soleus muscle, until you find the trigger point. It will feel like a solid roundish mass. It will HURT when you press on it. This HURT almost always seems way out of proportion to the pressure you apply to it.

Use the opposite knee to rub out the trigger point firmly. This means, for a trigger point in your right soleus, rub the right soleus on your left knee. Thumbs work fine too.

Or you can get someone who enjoys hurting you to rub on that trigger point with their thumbs.

It's more fun that way :p



Target trigger point #2: Tibialis Posterior
Next, feel along the tibialis posterior muscle for a trigger point (see pic to the right). This muscle is quite deep - under the soleus and gastrocnemius. You will find the trigger point along the vertical line between the two 'heads' of the gastrocnemius. That's kind of the depression in the middle of the calf.

The trigger point will feel like a solid roundish mass. It won't hurt when you press on it....

I'm lying - of course it will hurt.

How much Hurt?
Rub out these trigger points 6-12 times, every hour. It should be enough pressure to be a 'good' hurt. Expect to feel immediately relief from your achilles pain. And for stubborn trigger points, it could take up to two weeks to completely resolve. Keep at it!

Let me know if these worked for you and if you managed to find those trigger points! And keep those questions coming!

Next post: Trigger Pointing for Knee Pain, even 'arthrtiic' knees

Friday, September 14, 2012

Women's Mountain Bike Clinic: Secret Training Files

I'm struggling with my fear of mountain biking. My biggest fear right now is going downhill.

I really do want to get over this bike phobia.

And I have tried.

  • I did a Kayuh Lasak 15 mile mountain bike race with over 1000 others in Malaysia - I walked the bike for about 70% of it. 
  • I did a solo mtb ride on a beginner's trail in FRIM. I fell.
  • I did a mtb race at Yellow Creek SP. I walked 50% of it. And DNFed

I would have signed up for the Zero2Hero mtb clinic run by Darcy Steinhardt. But I takut (scared)...

Sue Teoh on the Zero 2 Hero mountain bike clinic conducted by Darcy Steinhardt. That looks scary.
Anyway, while spectating a mountain bike race at Roaring Run last week, I found out about a women's only mountain bike group that rides together: "Dirty BELLAS - W. PA Women Mtn Bikers" .

In their About Page on FB: 'This group is created to help unite the girls in the W.PA/Pittsburgh area that want to tget out and mountain bike, learn the trails, improve on skills and advance in the sport with peers and without the intimidation that boys tend to bring with them.'

Jamie and I carpooled to North Side in Allison Park. My first time there. Nice dog park.

We followed the girls on a mostly rideable trail. I managed to stay on my bike for most of it.

Jamie took a hard fall. Hats off to Jamie for:

  • Riding a single speed.
  • Riding a single speed geared for a 37 year old hardcore male mountain biker 
  • Riding a single speed geared for a 37 year old hardcore male mountain biker, and in clipless pedals.
Oh, I should mention that this was only her third time on a mountain bike.

Congrats Jamie, you win the Crazy Chick of the day Award! :)

I'm hopeful I'll get better. I had a great time with the girls and I'm looking forward to the next one!!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Inner Heel Pain: Trigger Point Therapy

Previously: Plantar fasciitis Heel Pain
In a previous post, I described how to locate and deactivate trigger points for plantar fasciitis, which gives a sharp pain directly on the heel. Plantar fasciitis pain is worst upon waking up in the morning, and it comes right back after sitting down for a long time.

This Post: Inner Heel Pain
I'll tackle trigger pointing inner heel pain. I had both plantar fasciitis and inner heel pain, and found trigger points that made the pain go away. Runners unite against Heel Pain!

Where and What
The pain on your inner heel is on the Adductor hallucis muscle. The trigger points are in the 'belly' of that muscle.

Use your thumbs or fingers to feel along the adductor hallucis. You might find two trigger points.

Credit: 'The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook'
These trigger points will feel like a solid crunchy/mass/lump about the size of a pea that hurts like heck when you push on them. Actually, the entire area around the trigger point will also hurt, so it will hurt when you try to find the trigger point. But it is very important that you find it so you can directly deactivate it.

  • Self massage: My second finger works better for me than my thumbs in locating the the trigger point.  I find one lump in my right adductor hallucis when I run my left second finger from arch to back of heel as hard as I can. 
  • Helping hand: Thumbs work better when locating and deactivating trigger points on another person. Today I found a monstrous one on Ruth's inner heel, drawing my thumb firmly across the adductor hallucis (also from arch to back of heel). 

Heal Pain!
Firmly rub on the trigger point/s 6-12 times, in a rolling motion. You could also use a golf ball to get in deep.

It's okay to cry. Screaming is optional.

Repeat this every hour or two. I mean the trigger pointing. :p

What to Expect
I've found this inner heel pain more stubborn and persistent than my plantar fasciitis pain. I've found that I need to trigger point this regularly, especially after long runs. But it works. Once I find the trigger point and deactivate it, the pain goes away.

You? Pain?
Did trigger point help your inner heel pain? Any problems finding that trigger point? Would seeing a video tutorial help?

Where else do you hurt? Achilles tendinitis? ITB? I'm all ears!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Trigger Point Plantar Fasciitis Away Now: How To Ease Pain Fast

I'm going to show you exactly where to trigger point massage to get rid of that plantar fasciitis heel pain that you have been suffering from.

Don't be like me
I spent close to RM1000 before finding this free solution to my plantar fasciitis. I found it in the 'The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook', borrowed from my library.

If you have heel pain, this is definitely worth trying. It might save you a lot of pain and grief and needless icing and abstinence (from running). It might spare you the fruitless search for heel cushions, padded shoes, foot splints, custom insoles, bla bla bla.

So, please try this first. Don't be like me ya. :)

You will Need

  • A golf ball
  • Your thumbs 

Where Does it Hurt?
If it hurts directly on your heel it could be one of two trigger points, or both of them. If it hurts on the inside of your heel it could be a different set of trigger points. I'll cover the direct heel pain first. This is a sharp pain that feels like you stepped on a stone. Or a nail is being driven into your heel.

Find The Trigger Point
Credit: Trigger Point Therapy Workbook
Use your fingers and thumbs to feel along your: 1) calf muscle, and 2) your quadratus plantae, to find the trigger points.

As I explained in previous post, the pain in your heel can be 'referred pain' originating from a trigger point in your calves. It is usually located in the 'belly' of the muscle and is a solid/hard mass ranging from 'noodle' to 'pea' shape/size (read about my two guinea pigs here).

In Figure 10.29, the black dot marks where the trigger point will be. Feel very carefully along every inch around there, rubbing back and forth with your thumb with a rolling motion.

Q: How do I know For Sure I Found It? 
A: OUCH!
Ya. It hurts when you push down on it. You don't even need to push hard. Just firmly. It surprised me the first time I felt and found that trigger point. That pea-like mass hurt exquisitely - only when I pressed on it.

A Good Kinda Pain
Now that you've found this first trigger point, use your thumbs and firmly rub it out in a smooth rolling motion. Do this 6-12 times. It will hurt, but in a good way. :)

This should deactivate the trigger point, resulting in the muscle being able to relax. You may discover that the heel pain and the tightness in your calves has eased. At this point you can safely stretch.

It's Still There
Okay, let's find the trigger point in your quadratus plantae next (Figure 10.55). This trigger point is very deep, so you will need to apply monstrous pressure with your thumbs to find it. Mine felt like a crunchy mass the size and shape of a bison rump steak gristle.

It will hurt.

And I don't mean the gristle.

To make it hurt some more, roll that painful spot over a golf ball. Work out the trigger point for about 6-12 good rolls.

And... Repeat
Do this every hour or two throughout the day. Stubborn trigger points can take up to two weeks before deactivating, but you should feel relief quite soon. For me, the pain went away like, immediately. Now, if you have pain on the inside of your heel, that's a different set of trigger points and I'll cover that soon.

It's Still There
If it didn't work for you, I'd love to hear about it!


xo Gracie

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Lance Armstrong Stripped of 7 Tour Titles, Livestrong Donations Surge 25x!

The End, But Not Really
On Friday, Lance Armstrong announced he had ended his fight against the doping allegations brought by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

Nobody ever tested me for taking steroids :p

Despite passing hundreds of drug tests throughout his cycling career, allegations of doping have always shadowed him.

However, it is apparent that his bigger battle against cancer will not be overshadowed.

Even as USADA found Lance guilty and disqualified him from all results dating back to 1 August 2012 (that's 14 years), Livestrong donations surged from $3,000 to $80,000 - a huge outpouring of support from donors.

Quoting Nike
"We are saddened that Lance Armstrong may no longer be able to participate in certain competitions and his titles appear to be impacted. Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors."

Whether Lance doped or not, at this point, does it matter? 

I first really started following him after reading his book "It's not about the bike". He survived testicular cancer. He has one ball. He went back to win the Tour de France six more times after surviving chemotherapy. He has raised $60 million over $470 million to help fight cancer.

I have total respect for this dude. Maybe even a little hero worship. :p

So, does it matter if Lance cheated? You tell me.

xo Gracie

p.s. It would be great if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!