Sunday, 20 September 2020

A change is as good as a rest

I'm very fortunate to be in ATHelite Triathlon Club.  A friendly bunch of athletes who support, cagoule and encourage you to keep going.  Earlier in lock down the club started internal competitions which then linked into virtual races.  It kept everyone active and was a huge success at a time when people could have "thrown in the towel" due to lockdown.  This week they started another one and it motivated me to get on my bike 3 times!
The first two were turbo sessions - a sweat fest!  Those sessions are tough but with the right targets to keep you focused and your playlist baring out at full blast, you soon get through them and you really do feel the benefit; apart from the sore bum!  My third session was out on the road it was a stunningly beautiful autumnal morning.  It was only a short ride although I could have stayed out all day it was so nice.  But as always on the narrow back roads there's always a close call.  This time a tractor with a trailer full of shit.  The first time he past me the road was wider and it was OK although it's always daunting when the tractor tyre is taller than you!  The second time was on a much narrower part and it took all my rusty bike skills not to be into a field.
Saturday was a leisurely run with a couple of pals where we took it super easy.  I was able to practice my breathing, which isn't good, by talking throughout the run.  Again another stunning day, one of those ones that makes you feel so privileged to be alive with pals in beautiful countryside, thanks Stuart & Mark.  I'd thank the rest of the runners but they were socially distancing over the horizon! 
I'd also received my medal for the 250k virtual Ultra Race Romania which is a cracker as is the T-shirt - 2XU no less!  The organisers had also included the same for Colin who had supported me through many of the miles and had covered the 250km during the race although he hadn't entered.  I thought this was very thoughtful of the organisers, thanks Andrei, and it just makes me look forward even more to the actual event in August next year.
In the meantime I think this change to adding in more cycling will become part of the routing as we enter the winter months.  More time in the gym (home) as well and we can wait to see when swimming comes back and is safe!  Never thought I'd say I've missed the swimming, but I have.  Sometimes a changes is as good as a rest so mix it up out there folks.  A good focused training session can be different from what you usually do.  Your tired muscles will thank you for it - possibly not your bum though!

Sunday, 13 September 2020

The balance between life & training

This is a challenge we all face.  I see it when training with my pals and they are fitting their training around a young family or a high pressure job, or both.  No time for a coffee after the run as they have to get back having burned up the "brownie points".  Being slightly older I don't need to worry about the young children but the older ones need your attention as well.  And there are other pressures such as running a business, building a new house and selling our existing house.
This week I had to take two days off the scheduled training as I donned my marigolds and, together with my wife and daughter, we scrubbed the house from top to bottom as we had viewers coming to our house for a second time and we wanted it to look it's best.  I wish I'd worn my garmin as it was a tough workout!  I find selling a house quite stressful.  It's like a roller coaster of emotions and although the couple obviously liked it, there was a potential deal breaker to do with a right of way.  Yet another restless night's sleep or lack of sleep.
On Friday we headed up to Aberdeen to drop my daughter off for her final year at University.  During the car journey we got news that the right of way wasn't a problem, followed by an offer for the house which we accepted.  Again a roller coaster of emotions whilst driving and avoiding speeding while negotiating on terms.  Six hour round trip in the car left me tired and my hammy reminding me it still not 100% better.
On Saturday it was back to Chatelherault for my favourite runs and as I got there very early and did a 4km warm up before our 10km run as a group - my group consisted of 2 as I was looking for a slower steady run and Johnny had an ankle niggle and was happy not to run fast.
My coach is mixing up my training and reintroducing with more strength work and some cycling.  Sunday's training was a turbo session on the bike and it was tough.  Despite leaving the garage door open and a nice breeze blowing, I sweated buckets.  I'd done a gym and bands session immediately before it so I was warmed up so it was a tough session.
This week coming will be three runs and three bike sessions and gym and band sessions.  I'm really looking forward to it and I've got my "winter training mojo" back.  Always hard when you have no events on the horizon to train for.  My view on training is that it is part of my life , not a separate element,but at the end of the day it's not my "day job" and family life comes first.  Juggling schedules and priorities comes with the territory and sometimes we have to step back from training especially when out of the race season.  

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Over indulging!!

There have been many academic papers written on the effect of alcohol on performance and after the week I've just had I can confirm, they are all correct!  Alcohol and training don't go together especially when I "partied" for 3 days out of four.  That's not something I would do on a regular basis and certainly not something I intend to do for a long time.  I had informed my coach as I couldn't have hidden the results and she gave me an easy weeks training, fortunately.  But the effects of the alcohol were evident with me being dehydrated, with a higher heart rate than normal, disturbed sleep and feeling rubbish - but it was fun at the time. 
It's not as though I had a race coming up but while I was feeling sorry for myself I realised, my "A race" of 2021, the Ultra Race Romania is only is 336 days away.  That time will fly by so I have a lot of work to do to be ready for a 250 km, 6 stage, unsupported race through the mountains.My hammy got some more treatment and is still niggling but I do have some stretching exercises to help ease it off.
Despite my elevated heart rate when running, I really enjoyed a 10 km run at Chatelherault yesterday with my team mates.  There is no need to be putting in big distances at this stage, it's more a case of consistent running and working on my form. I'm also increasing my strength work which isn't my favourite activity but I need to shift my mindset as it's so important to allow me to run well.  I've also promised myself to get some regular yoga going so I can prevent the injuries rather than constantly getting treated.  It can't be said that I'm not trying to kick start the economy with my "medical team" keeping me together.
So the blurred vision from earlier in the week is back to the focused vision with 336 days to go.  Time for Rule 5! ( a cycling phrase which has been shortened to MTFU)

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Embracing the weather

It's not been the best of summers in so many ways but despite the promising start in April & May, it's fair to say that it looks like summer is over.  I've run for the last five days in a row and twice I had to put on a waterproof jacket which isn't what you'd expect for this time of year.  But when I was moaning, along with a lot of others, a friend suggested I embrace the weather.  It was just the kick in the arse I needed and reminded me that my mindset needed to shift.
I actually like running in the rain.  I imagine I'm in a bubble and that the elements are just bouncing off me.  What is important is that I'm wearing the right socks so that I don't get blisters and that my foot treatment is kept up.  I use a cream, (Eucerine 10%), at night on my feet and that keeps them waxy and pliable which tends to reduce the chances of blisters.  They have certainly benefited from it when the mileage increases, but when you're running through water flowing down the streets or in puddles on the trails, it's important that your feet aren't dried and cracked.
A week without a medical update would be unusual so this week I was having my left hammy treated.  It's been niggling for a couple of weeks now and nothing seems to make a difference.  I've been given some stretches to do so here's hoping I can shift it.
The Scottish comedian Billy Connolly once said that it's not poor weather just wrong clothes so if the weather continues to deteriorate as we rapidly head through Autumn, I'll need to look out my winter clothes but if I remember they took a battering last winter so that's a good excuse to go shopping.  I love buying new running gear!  Have a great week and stay safe.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Close call

The season is over and it won't go down in anyone's books as a classic.  I hope it's never repeated in my lifetime.  I find myself thinking we're stuck in March in "ground hog day".  The virtual races have been my savior giving me something to focus on and a reason to push hard for at training.  I didn't realise just how enjoyable peaking for races was until there were no races to peak for.  And now we head into the autumn with the days shortening.  But there's nothing we can do about 2020 except appreciate the good times when they happen.  The work done between now and 2021 will set me up for the next season and that's what I must focus on with my coach.
Once again I had some niggles to deal with.  My foot hasn't been great following the 250km virtual race and the discomfort spread to my ankle.  My hamstring on my other leg was also playing up but I suspected that this was due to my hip alignment rather than a strain on the hammy, so I visited my amazing chiropractor Gill.  I limped into her surgery and walked out with no limp - that's the sign of a successful session.  The hammy was as expected but my ankle has a little bit of swelling and I can't say the treatment was pleasant, but the results were brilliant.  I was told to stay off hills when running, easier said than done where I live, so the following day went on a trail run which was flatter than normal.  The ankle held up and I met up with my team mates for coffee which was the highlight of the day - almost back normal!  I hope this continues as having social interaction with your team mates is a big part of training helping motivate me to greater heights.
To give my ankle a rest after yesterday I went out for a bike ride to spin my legs.  I haven't been out on the bike much and the weather conditions were wet so I was wary on the back roads which can be covered in mud or potholes.  On the way home I was coming down a long steep hill, the Ardoch Rig,  on "the bars" to get some speed on.  I'd just come round a corner to see a car stopped to let a cyclist past on the other side of the road - the road is narrow and won't take 2 cars at this point but there was no need for the car to stop.  I hit the brakes but there was no way I was stopping before the car and the other cyclist was going to be level with the car when I got there.  My front wheel started a speed wobble and I shouted WOW to alert the other cyclist to the problem.  He shouted something back to reassure me and gave me as much room as possible so I let go of the brakes and aimed for the small gap.  I flew through with little room to spare so thank you to the other cyclist - I won't print what I'd like to say to the car driver!  This all happened in a matter of seconds and could have ended so differently which was a reminder to me about cycling in the wet - it was definitely a close call.
The plan for me is to get my niggles sorted and to continue with my core strength work.  The swimming pools are going to be open at the end of the month but I think we'll wait to see how they get on with the new rules before venturing back.  In the meantime I'll continue with regular, consistent running but I won't be pushing the mileage.  Nothing to be gained from that with no races in the coming months.  

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Why do you do it?

This is a question I get asked a lot, and last night when socialising with new neighbours , I was asked about my running.  I gave them an insight into my adventures and what usually happens is the focus goes on the difficult stages where you are digging deep.  Deeper than most people think is sensible but that's because they are working on the "factory mode safety setting" in their brain.  Achieving anything worthwhile, whether it be a fast 5k or your first half marathon or ultra marathon, involved you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and into uncomfortable territory.  Territory where the "health and safety officer" is screaming at you to slow down.  If it was Star Trek, Scottie the engineer would be saying "the engines canny take it Captain" - but they always do.  But you're built of stronger stuff and the factory setting are to be ignored, more than once in my experience.
But you've got to want it enough to put up with the pain you are putting yourself through.  You know when you've crossed that finish line that within 10 mins, 1 hour or if really hard in a few days you'll feel better and have a big grin all over your face for the achievement.  That's also helped if you blog because you know you're going to have to report back on what you've promised.  Social media also means you'll be held accountable or your Strava followers will give you kudos which is always welcome.  It also helps motivate you to keep going - pain is temporary, but failure is forever.  And if you do give up, unless for a serious medical problem or injury, you'll regret it within 30 minutes and there's no going back.
So back to the why?  The short answer is because, as I approach my 59th birthday I realise that this journey has opened my eyes, my mind as to what is possible - I'm the fittest I've been in my life and it feels good.  I've ran in the Sahara Desert for a week and the same in the Grand Canyon while living under canvas - what a privilege, what an experience.  I've ran for 3.5 days in the mountains in Lake Tahoe, non stop, and pushed myself as close to my limit as I've ever been.  I've raced in Ironman competitions with thousands of competitors all of whom are on their own individual journey with their own story.  I go out training with my pals, like today, and we all push each other while having fun.  I guess I'm lucky to be able to do it and I was reminded of this when talking to a friend who's in his 80s today.  He said walking 300 yards to get his papers in the morning and back to his house was a real effort but he was determined to do it.  That to me sounds like a hard work out and it's all relative based on your circumstance.  If he gives up and stays house bound that would be terrible as there's plenty of life left in him yet!
So I do it because I can.  I do it because I enjoy pushing myself and showing my kids that even at this age I am still "in the game and competing" and hope it will help them raise their "bar". I do it because through these daft adventures I've raised a lot of money over the years for Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres who do such an amazing job in supporting people and families affected by cancer.  I do it because I've met people all over the world that I call friends and in Tahoe last year 9 of us from around the world joined up to run together and it was so special.  I know we'll get the chance to do it again in the future.  I've always said we're all capable of so much more and aim to keep proving that to myself.  I hope this will help you adjust your "factory mode settings" and take on some challenging adventures - you've one life, make the most of it.

Sunday, 9 August 2020


 After my grueling effort in the virtual ultra race Romania I had a week of next to no exercise except some foam rolling.  I was extremely fatigued and although I had no DOMS, I had a few strains.  Tuesday was my recovery massage.  The usual places were tender but I asked for my feet to be done.  My right foot is always a problem.  I said to Rhondda, if only it was pain free like my left foot.  Then she started on my left foot - OMG agony.  How the hell did that happen.  She could hardly put any pressure on it without me tensing up and grimacing.  It feels amazing when running so obviously something is going on. 
On Wednesday I went to see my sports therapist, Pamela.  My back was "solid", to us a non technical term, so she worked on that, my right foot and had a wee poke around my left foot - not good.  So my next visit it will get the full monty!  You might hear me scream!
It's always strange when you haven't got a daily exercise plan, you feel as though you're cheating.  Getting up at the usual early hour and then thinking, what will I do with this spare time?  On Saturday I went for a walk run with my pal Stuart who has just come back after 8 months off while waiting for a hernia operation.  We chose a flat 5km route and I enjoyed not trying to keep to a pace or heart rate.We ran, walked and talked and it was great just to be out and moving - but it wasn't a work out so today I had to go out for a proper run.
5 of my ATHelite team mates met at Chatelherault for our first run together since lockdown.  It was great.  The weather was perfect and we didn't push the pace.  I was delighted with my heart rate around a hilly lap and the pace was better than expected coming off a recovery week.  It was good to be out with friends, socially distanced, with the usual banter.
Tomorrow I'll meet with my coach.  We need to get a plan for the rest of this season and next year.  I was going to do a long run (160 miles) in Scotland in September but decided to book a holiday in the sun instead.  My "A race" is over and while 9 days to go before the race finishes, I am pleased with my performance.  I was the first non-organiser and fastest runner to come in on 9 days for the 250 km.  I was top of the leader board for 5 days before being overtaken by my team mate Graeme Scott (the race is based on the fastest time over the 25 days) who was then over taken by my other team mate Paul Noble.  ATHelite had the top 3 places.  I'm now down in 6th but my position is of no importance.  This was about making the best of a disastrous year and the race organisers have come up with  a winner with this event.  I look forward to receiving my medal and will wear it with pride.  The race might have been virtual, the pain wasn't.  It brought together athletes from around the world including my G2G pal Kim who finished yesterday - an amazing effort as she hadn't trained for the event and Richard Labbe another G2G pal.  So to the athletes still out there in the race, including my team mate Michael Martin, my nephew Colin Bryce and Kelsey Hogan from G2G, focus on that finish line.  The ultra running community is wonderful and I am humbled to be part of this amazing group of fabulous people that I can call friends. #loverunning