Friday 29 March 2024

Missing mojo

 I'm sending out an appeal for anyone who has seen my mojo.  In the last month it has gone AWOL and when I think about it, I should have spotted the signs earlier.  I could give you a list of reasons why my mojo has disappeared but there's no point.  They'd really just be excuses and as a runner, niggles/injuries are just part of the gig.
But I'm not going to be too hard on myself as I'm not a full time athlete and have a life and work outside of the sweaty lycra.  My living doesn't depend on my results but how I feel is certainly impacted when I am not training on a regular basis.
I've kept up my gym work with my PT and progress with my knee is being made.  It's getting a balance between strengthening the muscles without causing further damage.  It constantly reminds me it's still "there" and I dread sitting in a cramped position for any length of time.  When I run it lets me know it's there and I have no idea what it will be like when the long runs, that are way overdue, start.
But this morning I saw on FB someone raise a "west highland way" glass to a runner no longer with us and thought, that's the message I needed to get my finger out.  I can't get back the training I haven't done so let go of it. I have 84 days to get my self in the best possible condition to tackle the 96 miles in my target time of 30 hours.
As long as my training is consistent and relevant then when I am nervously "toeing the start line" at 1am on 22 June I'll be good to go.  The physical side is important but what matters most in these long races is my mental state.  I will be trying to avoid going 12 rounds in my head during the race about my lack of training.  I'll be focusing on the challenge of the race, the beauty of the scenery and how lucky I am to be on this side of the turf and able to drink some whisky when I finish from my WHW crystal glass.
Welcome back mojo and thank you to the person who put up the post on FB.  Sometimes you have no idea how far a message can reach.  Just like a pebble causing a ripple effect in a pond.

Sunday 3 March 2024

Cinderella Mountain

What a week of training. Keeping up the mantras of "less is more" and "quality not quantity" I had a mix of daily yoga (only 25 mins per session), gym sessions (one with my PT that is always a challenge, some short 8 km runs leaving the best for the weekend.
I got good news from my physio on Tuesday which means I can now squat again as long as the weights aren't too heavy and my knee bend doesn't go beyond 90 degrees.  This is fantastic news as I need to build my leg muscles back up and especially the VMO in my left leg.  It will continue to "niggle" until it gets stronger.  So under Bartek's careful supervision on Thursday, the work began.
Saturday was a chance to put my body to the test as I headed back into the mountains with my pal (and chaperone!) Michael Martin.  We headed off to Ben Vorlich at Loch Earn.  It's been a long time since I was in the mountains in winter conditions and the first mistake was the wrong gloves.  Fortunately I had the right footwear with titanium studs in the soles and had a back up plan of mini spikes if required.  Ben Vorlich has a path more or less to the top but when the path is covered in ice and snow it makes for tricky walking.  I didn't have my poles with me as I am trying to train without them which is a requirement for the WHW race - I regretted that decision.
Michael was carrying an ice axe which I thought was a bit unnecessary, but again was wrong there.  We summitted Ben Vorlich, which was clagged in of course, then headed to Stuc a Chroin.  For safety reasons we had to take a detour off the track that we couldn't see so lots of ankle twisting going through snow, never knowing what the depth would be - oh for a set of poles.  Michael and I have "history" on this mountain.  It's when he discovered I don't like heights or edges as we had to scramble over rocks to the summit last time.  We seemed to be heading in the same direction but there was no path to follow, just a set of foot and paw prints.  Michael's view was, "well this climber seems to be going in the right direction".  Maybe the right direction but not the right route.  We caught up with Abby and her beautiful golden retriever Oban (who has bagged 28 Munros) sitting on a ledge trying to work out if this was the route - it wasn't.  Brave lady out on her own in those conditions, especially as she wasn't wearing spikes.  She had tried to put them on earlier but had failed.  Michael obliged and once he had one on her left foot he "invited her to a ball"!  Abby then became Cinderella which we found amusing but I was more concerned with the bloody scramble over the rocks as my hands were going numb in the snow.  Michael lent me his ice axe and I felt much better getting some grip.  At one stage Michael was trying to help Abby and me up and if he's slipped or we'd pulled him too hard then.........anyway, we made it and I have told Michael under no circumstances am I doing that again.  At the top my hands were numb and my gloves wet so Michael to the rescue, he lent me a pair of heated gloves! Absolute life saver and the rest of the adventure my hands were toasty. 
We parted company with Abby & Oban and headed over the back.  A tough ankle and knee twisting decent as we weren't always on the trail.  When we got back to the car we took a dip in Loch Earn - just about the coldest water I have ever been in and we waded up to our "rab haws" and within a few minutes our legs were numb - good recovery.  Michael did stumble and , said rab haws got a shock!  I almost fell in while laughing.  It was a fantastic day out and great to be back with Michael in the mountains.  Many more adventure to follow and great training with 5 hours on our feet.
Today Beth and I headed out for a 16km run, after her HIIT class and my cross trainer warm up.  I wanted to see how my body had recovered.  It was a good training run and my heart rate averaged 130 which is amazing.  My foot, ankle and knee on the other hand were complaining so I just need to be careful.  Stretched afterwards followed by a sauna then soup, toastie, cake and coffee - the perfect way to recover.  Tomorrow, other than yoga, is definitely a rest day.
I love our adventures and the people, and dogs, we meet along the way.  As the weather improves try and get on the mountains but a word of warning; pack for the worst weather you can imagine and I'd recommend you don't go solo.  It's too easy for something to go wrong.  Take care out there.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Quad shredding

It happens every year as we start to come out of winter.  I head into the hills to shred my quads.  I haven't been able to do it in the gym as I'm under instructions from my physio not to squat, hope this changes on Tuesday, so I knew that running up (part of the way) Tinto and running down twice was going to hurt.  Well it has.  I'm walking like the pensioner I almost am.  Living 3 flights of stairs up doesn't help either.
Beth and I need to get into the hills as she has the Highland Fling and I have the West Highland Way race to look forward to.  But we only had 4 hours and travelling to the WHW and back would take up at least half of that so we headed down to Tinto (height 711m)  which is 45 mins away.  The forecast was for rain but fortunately it stayed dry.
Conditions underfoot were wet, icy, snow and mud so on the way up I was concerned for the descent as we weren't using poles as our race doesn't allow them. It was cloudy at the top of the first assent and we'd taken Poppy up with us so we got some pictures and headed back down.  Poppy was so well behaved on the lead and it wasn't as bad under foot as we'd imagined.  We left her behind for the second ascent.
Beth powered ahead and I lagged behind as I tried to keep my heart rate under 160 so I arrived a few minutes after her at the top.  Her strength work on her legs and core was showing.  I felt we could have gone for a third repeat but we'd have been tight on time as I was heading off to the rugby and I am so glad I stopped after 2.
When I woke up this morning my legs were like bricks.  I'd planned a 12 km run but needed my yoga to get me moving.  I was running to pick up my car but had never ran this route before.  I'd driven it but it's a different route than when running due to a busy dual carriageway with no pavement.  The one thing I hadn't realised was the fact it's straight up hill.  Again I was working on HR so took it easy.  When I go in my car I was sweaty and cooling down rapidly.  However I had to go to the shops - rooky error.  Getting out the car was an effort and I hobbled in my running gear into the shops.  Not only did I look a state, I caught a few worried glances from shoppers, but I smelt terrible! 
When I got home I headed straight into an Epsom salt bath then had some lunch and took Poppy out for a walk thinking this would help the pain in my quads.  Then I spent the rest of the afternoon dozing on the couch while watching the football. 
I'd forgotten what it's like to return to downhill running and the initial pain you suffer.  Come Wednesday it will be gone and I will try and get a sports massage to ease the legs off although that won't be a pleasant experience.
Next week will involve some gym sessions and I am hoping to be allowed to work on my legs as they do need to be stronger.  I'll also include some consistent running all on low heart rate.  Hopefully next weekend we'll be on the West Highland Way.  Until next week, enjoy whatever training you are doing.  Remember if you are doing trail or mountain running, quad shredding is essential and it only hurts the first 2 or 3 times then your quads become accustomed to it.  No pain, no gain!

Monday 19 February 2024

Building slowly

123 days to go before I take on the challenge of the West Highland Way - 96 miles.  The maths is simple.  If you manage 2.74 miles per hour (4.38 km per hour) you will finish on the 35 hour cut off.  Sounds easy but it's more complicated than that as I won't be moving 100% of the time as there will be checkpoint stops to refuel and rest.  There's 14,000 ft of climbing so the pace will obviously vary plus I want to finish in under 30 hours if everything goes to plan.  The challenge is more mental; keeping your mind focused on the task for 30-35 hours  and over coming the pain, but that's what excites me.
My training plan is to get stronger in the gym to reduce injury risk before and during the event.  I don't intend "pounding the streets" with junk miles.  I'm concentrating on keeping my heart rate down so that means slower running.  Consistency is the key so todays 8km early morning run will be repeated regularly and increase to 15 km soon.  Where possible I'll be on the trails and last weekend 12 out of my 18 km on Saturday was on trails along the Clyde.  I'd hoped for a longer run but the route was closed by the farmer.
I have no races organised between now and June 22-23 and am comfortable with that.  On Sunday I supported Beth and her daughter Holly who completed the tough Glentress trail half marathon - I did it last year.  I enjoyed watching the competitors take on the challenging 10, 21 & 42 km races but didn't feel ready myself to compete, so enjoyed being a spectator. 
I'm still not back to  100% fitness with my knee and don't want to jeopardise the months of rehab by risking it on such a technical course.  Runners of all shapes, sizes and ages took part and the event had a friendly atmosphere.  It reminded me why I enjoy trail running more than anything - the people and the beautiful areas we get to run in.
If we don't have the time to run on the West Highland Way then we'll make full use of Tinto, our nearest mountain.  It's not the biggest mountain at 711m but 3 or 4 reps is a good way of preparing your body. My aim is simple; to train smart and not over do it.  I'd rather reach the start line under trained but not injured than over trained and injured.  There's more daylight time now meaning earlier morning runs which sets me up for the day.  I hope to see you guys out on the trails soon.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Progress doesn't come easily

Following my last post when I'd ran 20km on the WHW, which was an increase of 150%, I was bust.  I said at the time that you are meant to increase your runs by 10%, so this was always a risk.  That means virtually no training, certainly no running the next week.  I managed some yoga and one gym session.  That's what I get for stepping it up but I knew that I needed to "shock" my body and my mind into increasing the load.
Work was also mental as I was clearing up to go on holiday on the Saturday so that didn't help either.  On Saturday Beth & I flew off to Lanzarote for a "rest" and some training in the sun,  What a week we had.  We were able to train like professional athletes. Train, eat, rest and repeat.  What a privilege it is to be able to do this.  I started with a 10km run, then 11km, the 2 x 21km.  It was tough in the heat but it was quality running.  We also were in the gym for 6 days, did yoga and swam in the beautiful 50m outdoor pool.  Considering neither of us have been swimming, 3 x 1 mile swims was hard but rewarding - couldn't get my garmin to record the right distance!  An excellent weeks training and I think my enforced rest did me some good and 21 km is now my minimum longer distance run in the build up for the WHW - 131 days and counting (154 km).
Today we ran 10km at Chatelherault to "shake the legs" out and getting used to the temperature took time.  But it's good to be back home and we could feel the increased level in base fitness.  It hasn't come easy but definite progress has been made.  Now to maintain consistent running which is key to building the miles.  Every time we reach these goals we strengthen our mind to believe that they are achievable.  More hard work and progress to follow.

Sunday 28 January 2024

Stepping it up

With 146 days to go before I "toe the start line" for the West Highland Way, I need to pick up my running training as the longest I have run in January is 8km, and that has been on flat terrain - as ordered by my physio.  I have been building my strength in the gym but in the end, I need to run.  Yesterday the organisers of the West Highland Way race arranged a run from Balmaha for as long as you wanted.  An out and back.  100 people turned up which created a great atmosphere at the start.  
Beth and I planned to do 10km out and 10km back which is a huge step up and in normal circumstance, not to be advised.  Normally 10% increments is how you should build up but Beth has the Highland Fling in 89 days!
We both turned up feeling a bit "off" - not ready for what lay ahead.  But we kept it at a sensible pace and took the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular scenery and the weather was kind.  We turned back at 10km although I felt I would like to have gone further.  I'm so glad I didn't because on the way back I could feel the extra effort required because of the terrain and the distance.  My heart rate was starting to increase as I was tiring, and once it got over 187 I was struggling.  It was great practice and a reminder of the importance of hydration, fueling and walking to get my HR back down - maxed at 196!  This reflects my lack of running fitness on trails with hills (my previous runs have all been on flat terrain) and having increased my distance from 8km to 20km.  But I'm comfortable with that as it's the start of the hard work.
Yoga later today followed by another gym session, upper body and core.  No running today.  I need to give my knee a rest but it passed the test on the downhills, granted only 20 km.  The WHW is 154 km and 4,312m so building my strength is vital. It's going to be fun stepping it up.  You can achieve a lot in a few months.  Keep tuned for updates.

Sunday 21 January 2024

Stormy weather

It's hard to believe we're 2/3rds through January and the weather has been terrible.  As I type from my warm kitchen listening to the wind and rain on the window, storm Isha is battering the UK with winds up to 80 mph predicted.  I'm glad I got my run in early this morning before the rain and wind arrived, but the weather has forced me inside on numerous occasions this month to run on the treadmill which is never the same as outdoor running.  I've backed that up with the Stair Master which is a mind numbing piece of equipment, but important for my "A race".
I haven't got my distance above 8km so far and with the exception of one training run, I've been concentrating on being in zone 2 - taking it easy and keeping an eye on my heart rate.  I've also being staying on the flat to alleviate the pressure on my knee from running down hill.  I'm trying not to get despondent with my speed as it's early days, but I did throw in a Park Run 2 weeks ago and averaged 4:58 per KM so was pleased with that considering I've done no speed training.
My gym work continues and I am definitely getting stronger in the upper body and core but I am only now tentatively beginning to put pressure on my knee.  Definitely no squatting for some time but I need to build the muscle to protect my knees.  My yoga is going well and if I don't do it daily I really feel the difference so that's non negotiable.  Between Beth encouraging me (twisting my arm at times) to get to the gym and my PT Bartek putting me through my paces when I am there, I can't hide.  But having a training partner makes a big difference as you can motivate each other and also have someone to be accountable to which is vital in my opinion.  Thanks Beth even if it doesn't look like I appreciate it!!
Next Saturday Beth, Stu & I are meeting up with a crowd of runners who have entered the West Highland Way Race for a recce of part of the course at Loch Lomond.  I've done this section a few times in the Highland Fling but it will be nice to remind myself of the undulations on the route.  Hopefully there will be no issues with my knee on the downhills as I can't use poles which are not allowed in the race.
I hope your new year has started well and you are on track with your goals.  If you can't get out for the weather then there are loads of ways of staying fit indoors.  Most of all stay safe and enjoy being lucky enough to run, swim, bike, box, practice yoga or any other form of activity.  2024 is going to be a great year despite the storms we endure.