Sunday, 17 February 2019

Run your own race

It’s been a week of ups and downs and I don’t just mean the hills!  Everything was going great and my stats were showing improved performance - even with my swimming!  But on Wednesday I got a wee reminder that my body has some issues.  One the 2nd hill rep my hip flexor felt like someone had stabbed it with a knife.  A sharp pain is never a good sign so I tried to stretch it off - more sharp pain so I jogged back to the office with my mind working through the implications for my 53 mile race in 9 weeks time.  The good news was I already had an appointment booked with my chiropractor Gill Fraser (Dingwall) - Strathkelvin Chiropractic Clinic - on Friday for my golfers elbow and I had had a few twinges in my back in the last few weeks.  The pain stayed as I was limping when I went to see her.
My back tweaks are connected to my pelvis which is connected to my hip flexor - I can feel a song coming on here.  I was on the table for 40 minutes and I’d like to say it was pleasant but it wasn’t.  However the minute I got off the table my back felt free and my hip flexor was pain free. Result.
The following day I tested it.  24km run at a half decent pace with my pals.  What a cracking run but I had to dig deep on the last 7km.  Fortunately I had Michael who was pushing the pace so I held on, just!
However with all long runs, the following day is a shorter, 1hr 20mins run but faster to work those tired legs.  When I woke up my back felt stiff, and no wonder after the chiropractor session and yesterdays run, so I did a series of back warm up exercises to loosen it off then headed out.  The wind was blowing at 40 mph and as I was on exposed hills, it was tough.  Only on one occasion did my hip flexor remind me it was there but fortunately it came to nothing.  I felt tired and relieved that this session was over and now I was going to support my pals who were running the Strathaven half marathon.
Watching a race puts a different perspective on it. When you’re in it you only see those around you.  This race is a tough one with some major climbing involved on roads that are exposed to the elements and there were plenty of them! 40 mph win and rain welcomed the runners of all levels and different shapes, sizes and ages.  From top runners to the rump of the pack and then the stragglers who are tackling this distance for the first time.  Every competitor has a goal in mind and whether they are running 5 min miles or 10 min miles or slower, they deserve a great deal of respect because they are out there doing it.  From a perceived effort point of view I believe the winner and the person who came in last both think they had pushed as hard as they could.  I saw one elderly runner, even by my standards, much further up the pack that their age might have suggested and then I notice their GBR vest.
So no matter what your pace or distance is, run your own race to the best of your ability.  Yes set challenging goals because a nothing grows in a “comfort zone” or  death zone as I refer to it.  The nights are getting lighter and we’ll soon be into better training conditions with the season fast approaching. Go and enjoy it.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

1st podium of the year

This week was designed as a light weeks training and mid-week I had 2 days off training - loved it!  I had a back massage which wasn’t pleasant but needed.  I had my golfers elbow treated and the less said about that the better!  A few niggles that need sorting and my back tweaked on Saturday after working out so that’s going to require treatment this Friday.  As my coach said recently “I’m not biomechanically gifted”, and she’s not wrong, but it doesn’t stop me on pushing the barriers.  I just have to be mindful of my body.
On Friday I took a half day and headed off for a night of wonderful food, luxurious accommodation and the odd glass of wine or two with the mrs.  What a difference the shortened working week makes as it probably led to my podium.
The event was spread over a heat, a semi and a final.  The competition was tough and quite a bit of pushing in the group as we all battled to get out front and away from the pack.  Two competitors were given warnings for their behaviour which could have led to injury but in the end I battled through with a PB in each of the rounds.  The semi final was the toughest with me starting in the lead then losing it but as we lapped the slower competitors I managed to charge through a small space and take the lead and hold onto the end.  The final was an anti-climax as I had a 5 second lead by the end of the first lap and maintained it.  But that caused my mind to go negative - “don’t give up this lead, be careful, watch out for the back markers they could slow you down” but in the end I got through the race and got 1st place on the podium.  I love go karting and each of these 10 minutes was a workout!
Today I finished my light weeks training with a fast 10km and I’m encouraged with the level of my heart rate.  It’s saying everything is going to plan.  This week is going to be tough, particularly Fri, Sat & Sun.  Big miles to be done but after this week, I’m ready for it.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Snow, ice and sunshine

The worst weather always seems to arrive in Jan/Feb but it also brings with it some stunning days.  You just have to make sure you are properly dressed for the conditions and try to stay upright!
It’s been a great weeks training.  Temperatures of -11.5 have meant I’ve had to select my running routes carefully and even retreat indoors for a treadmill session (last resort) as the pavements were too risky - can’t afford time off for an injury.  With the Fling approaching much too fast I need every training session I can fit in to reach the startline with a chance of a reasonable time even though it’s a “stepping stone” to Tahoe in September.  The Fling is getting my full attention and respect as it’s not an easy race.
My training involves two swim sessions and they are there for cross training benefits.  It’s always a good heart, lung and core workout and now I’ve got fins and can join in on those drills, it’s tough.  But I’m not there to become a fantastic swimmer, that would require some “major surgery” I think, I’m there for a fun but serious workout.  On Friday we did 2,700m but that was after a gym session.  I’m getting stronger with the gym work without building “beach muscles” which is extra weight I’d have to carry, but I need to be careful not to over do it and injure myself.
Occasionally there is one training session that is a stand out and it was on Saturday.  It was a 2 hr 30 min run so my longest to date and I needed a bit of variety so went back to a route we had found last year.  The vast majority of it was in lovely snow covered trails with fantastic scenery and a group of 8 of us went at a consistent pace.  My heart rate was perfect and I felt strong which, after a long week of work and training was encouraging.  Whilst it was a good test and for all of us this was an increase in distance therefore was tough, it was a special run - one to remember.  Running with friends, chatting all the way round, except for the big hills, enjoying the sunshine despite it being 3 degrees.  It’s days like that which make me realise how lucky I am to be fit and healthy and able to run.
Today was only to be an hour but faster than yesterday. Building on the long run.  Stuart and I headed out in the rain / sleet and ice.  My legs felt tired from yesterday but that’s how they were meant to feel.  We didn’t check our pace until the end and we pleasantly surprised just how fast we’d completed the run.  That was the perfect end to a hard week of training and next week is a lighter weeks training.  I’ve organised a massage which will help with my recovery.  There may be snow and ice out there but I promise you if you get out in it you’ll come back refreshed.  Enjoy. We live in a beautiful country.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

If it was easy then everyone would do it!

January isn’t my favourite month and neither is February.  Mainly due to the weather and the lack of light.  But they are important months for building your training base for the year of challenges that lie ahead.
For those of you who have followed my blog over the last 9 years, you’ll know that its primary objective is to act as my personal journal so I can remember the highs and the lows.  I remember one early day blog when a swim coach criticised me for not trying - he didn’t make that mistake twice as believe me I was giving everything.  He just didn’t know how to give constructive criticism to a poor swimmer.  There are the “icing on the cake” occasions where I’ve completed events some didn’t think were possible - “he’s bitten off more than he can chew” was one comment when I entered the MdS.  So I can go back and dip into those moments which helps drive me on.  If it helps inspire others to be the best they can be, then I’m delighted.
But it’s not easy and I’d say in the last month I’ve struggled to get consistent performance.  One day I’m breathing out my arse (yesterday) and the next day I’m running fast with a low heart rate.  There could be many reasons but what I do know from past experience is not to let them rest heavy on me.  I had one good swim session this week and one poor one.  I’ve slipped and fallen heavily on ice but picked my self up and “skated” around the rest of the run but got the session done despite the bruises.
Most importantly I have my friends that I train with that “pull my leg” or push me to bring out a better result like today or hang back and run slow with me because they can see that I’m struggling.  Thanks guys and thanks to my coach Genevieve who is always there supporting me while gently kicking my arse!
I know that come May/June I’ll be in a different place physically due to the hard work going in now.  I might not enjoy every training session but know afterwards I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something and feel better as a result.  To everyone battling with your fitness/training out there, if it was easy then everyone would do it and that is what puts you in a different league.  Well done and keep going.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Juggling life, work and training

It’s something we all have to do - how to squeeze everything into the 168 hours in a week.  It might only be 8-10 hours depending on the intensity of the week, but the limited daylight it makes a difference.  I’ve had 2 6am starts this week and apart from running in the pitch black with a head torch, the ground has had a layer of ice adding another difficulty.
On Friday I was taking a long weekend so had an early run before leaving for Lake Windermere and got the bonus of the Saturday off.  I paid for that today with a double training session (2k swim and 14k run) but with the Fling only 13 weeks away I have a lot to do.  That’s not been helped by booking  a holiday in April but as I don’t run for a living, I had to prioritise.  That doesn’t mean I won’t be training on holiday and I discussed this with my coach this morning while we were out for a run.  She’s good at adapting the plan and while I might not be as fit as I would otherwise be, the Fling is there to help prepare me for Tahoe.
I also have another holiday before Tahoe but rather fortunately it is in a hot climate with hills. Therefore it will help me get ready for the change in temperature and the steep climbing.
Looking at my schedule for next week I’ll be having an early start on Tuesday to fit in a 40 min swim and a 1hr and 5 min run but it will be done.  I don’t like splitting the two sessions as when I have one in the evening things/life usually gets in the way.
So that gives you an insight into how I juggle my diary to fit everything in.  It’s not easy but it’s possible if you want to take on these challenges.  If you want it bad enough you’ll make it happen.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Hurt locker - revisited

Like many people, on Monday I returned to work refreshed and ready to go following the festive period.  It was a busy week and by the end of it I was exhausted and looking forward to the weekend. My training was good although I’ll share an amusing mishap with you from Thursday.  As all runners will know it’s better to “loose some weight” ,if you get my drift, before heading out as gravity can cause issues.  Let’s just say that I didn’t lose all the “weight” required and on turning for home it became obvious that a “pit stop” was required.  It was foggy and pitch black on a country road as I nipped behind a wall.  My head torch was helping me find some grass but most of it felt like straw except for something poisonous I managed to pick up.  I thought it was a nettle sting but grateful I didn’t use it to clean up or that might have brought on a PB for the last mile!  A trip to the chemist sorted the discomfort but its another reminder to get your preparation right before heading out!
Friday was a hard 2k swim and I enjoyed the session with no pain from my golfers elbow which is getting weekly treatment.
Saturday however was a completely different proposition.  It was meant to be a heart rate run and due to the weather I headed to Chatelherault to get some shelter from the elements - with the hills it’s difficult to keep your heart rate low.  Mark and Alan joined me for the first big lap but very quickly I realised the pace, which wasn’t fast, was going to put my heart rate above target, probably due to a tough week at work.  I should have made my excuses and dropped back but I was enjoying the company.  By the end of the lap I was ready for giving up but the problem was there was a fresh group of runners ready to go out for a big lap which I was meant to be doing as well.  Anyone who saw me to see I wasn’t in a good place either physically or mentally and I was just about to say to my coach that I’d swap tomorrow’s session for today and head home.  But then I though visiting the hurt locker was needed because it’s the nearest you get to the way you can feel in a race.
I headed out for the second lap but made it clear I’d be slow.  I knew my heart rate wouldn’t drop but I had to dig deep.  Michael & Wilson came to my rescue and dropped back with me to encourage me to continue while at the same time dishing out some abuse to keep me on my toes.  We ran at a very slow pace and I got round the second lap, their 1st, but by the end I was shattered.  I headed home and spent the rest of the afternoon eating, resting & sleeping.  The “take away” for me is that visiting the hurt locker makes you mentally stronger and next time it happens I’ll remember this run and take strength from it.
But what a difference 24 hours makes.  Today I had another heart rate run and had selected a flat course which would make it easier to achieve but the weather meant we were back at Chatelherault.  I made my intentions clear to my pals and within a few minutes I settled in with Genevieve (my coach) and Gareth.  I managed the vast majority run within my target heart rate - only on two occasions did it go 1 and then 2 heart beats above target.  The run was 50% of the previous days run however at all points today I felt strong and could easily have done another lap.  It shows the importance of rest, taking account of the impact of a working week, the benefit of plenty of quality food and running at the pace you need for your goal.  Comparing the pace of both runs they were identical however yesterday’s first lap was faster, where the damage was done, and second lap much slower - a definite lesson on pacing.
Whilst yesterday’s run hurt, it was one of those sessions that will pay dividends in the future.  I will draw strength from that experience of visiting the hurt locker.  Finally I reviewed my running in 2018 and it turns out I’d run 2,595 KM.  I’ve never paid any attention to this before so it will be interesting to see what distance I cover this year.  The adventure continues.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Muffin tops

I’ve survived the festive period!  What a couple of weeks that was catching up with family and friends with lots of good food, laughter and a fair few glasses of wine.  I’ve caught up on sleep, read an excellent book and really not thought about work which is good as it means I head back tomorrow refreshed - well almost.  I woke this morning with a sore throat and my internal thermostat not working - typical.
Up till today my training has continued to build and on Friday I swam 2km in the pool which is my longest swim In 9 months and it felt good despite my last 3 weeks off swimming.  However as we were all heading out of the pool our coach mentioned our “muffin tops”!  She wasn’t wrong.  The festive period was showing on our waistlines and there’s no point in carrying excess baggage.  The muffin top tends to be alcohol related so rest assured the intake will be reduced and with the increase in mileage it should be gone in due course.  But when my weight is 150 lbs or 68kilos I need to build muscle mass at the same time as loosing the muffin top or else I’’ll be underweight.  Currently my BMI is 21.6 which is healthy.
Yesterday I repeated the run from the previous week, 18.7km around Chatelherault and I managed it 5 minutes quicker.  My fitness is coming back and the mileage will build over the next fews but that will be subject to how my sore throat progresses.  I was looking forward to running and a gym session today but I’ve listened to my body and spent the day resting.
Back to work tomorrow so back to the juggling of work/life/training.  I’m looking forward to an exciting 2019.  Hope you achieve the goals you have set.