Marathon des Sables 2013

Marathon des Sables 2013

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Father's Day

When out running this morning I needed something to deflect my mind from the sweat dripping in my eyes and  the occasional protest from my bruised knees - more about that later.  It was my last session of the week and second of the day.  The session was a 1hr 23 mins run following a 2.6km swim earlier.  I was tired from the long (2hr 45 min) run the day before and it was the hottest conditions I'd run in this year - good prep for the Canyon.  And then I remembered it was Fathers Day.
A day to think about your Dad and if you are lucky enough, one for your children to make a fuss over you.  My Dad passed away almost 30 years ago and would have been 103 if he was still alive today.  He had the physique of a long distance runner but his sport was tennis through which he met my Mum. I began to think, what would he have made of this "madness", as some people refer to it.  I concluded that he would have been proud of me pushing myself while raising money for a good cause - Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres.  But back then this mid-life craze of ultra multi-day running events hadn't taken off.
Now onto the knees.  Saturday was a big run, 26km at Chatelherault.  I had no company so there was plenty of "head chatter" going on.  On the first lap I caught my foot on a tree root and rather than pull a hamstring fighting gravity, I picked my spot and performed the perfect shoulder roll.  No damage done so I continued.  On the third lap I wasn't so lucky.  Down like a sack of potatoes with two grazed, bruised knees.  That kind of fallin the Canyon may have worse consequences I thought!  I dusted myself down and finished off the run but I realised that I had fallen due to being tired and not lifting my feet.  When I got home I spend the rest of the day eating and resting as I really don't want to lose any more weight. - I'll need some fat to burn off in the Caynon.
Today's run was one of those that you know is going to hurt but one that you need to get through.  They're the important sessions and while it was slower than planned, it's done.  Tomorrow is a rest day although I will be playing golf!
As for my Father's Day, 2 of our kids are on holiday but our eldest came home and we had a special lunch which made my day.  They say "the best things in life are free" and a simple lunch with loved ones made me one happy Dad.  Let's close the day thinking of our Dad and the lifetime of memories that makes us who we are.  Happy Fathers Day.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The return of my running legs

If you go back to my posts at the start of the year, I was struggling with my running.  My heart rate was through the roof, I was the heaviest I'd ever been (it's all relative) and I was getting dropped faster than a "hot jobbie" by the group when running.  That wasn't a nice time but 6 months of hard work and my running legs (and lungs) have returned.  My coach has had me running up to a max heart rate since then.  At first it meant I had to walk to get my heart rate under control rather than run.  But as time went on I've not had to walk and my pace has picked up almost to the point of where I was pre-ironman last year.
This emphasised the need for a proper plan of action.  In the 70.3 three weeks ago I backed off on the run rather than push myself as this would have led to injury and me not feeling the way I do now.  It did identify some weaknesses such as my core and my training was changed this week to address this aspect.  After the first session I had the DOMS for three days which wasn't fun but the next session wasn't so bad.
It all came together on Saturday when I ran 24km at Chatelherault with my pals.  The run was 3.25 laps and different friends joined in at different times which was great in keeping me company.  But with "fresher legs" coming on during the run I wanted to maintain a decent pace and not get dropped. I set off at the front of the group and maintained that right to the end while one of the late comers pushed hard.  My last 4 km were much quicker as I wanted to stay ahead and although my heart rate exceeded my normal training limit I knew this was doing me good and that my running legs were back - as was a big blister on my toe!
Later on that day I went out for a boozy lunch and a concert with my best friend.  We had a great night "dad dancing" to Chic - I'm sure Niall Rogers saw some new moves!  It was a late night but at the next morning at 9am I headed out for a 10km run.  The wind was strong but this helped blow the cobwebs away.  My pace was marginally slower than normal but faster than the goal that had been set.  My toe didn't enjoy the run but this was good practice for the Caynon where you have to block out the pain and if I get away with just one blister I'll be very fortunate.  This afternoon I've had a long cat nap as my body recovers from the training and the over indulgence of yesterday.
I have the next two days off training but the rest of the week is a heavy training schedule which I'm looking forward to.  When you start to feel the results of the hard work it just makes you want to do more.  There's 105 days to go and I'll need all of that time to get myself to the level of physical and mental fitness required.  Thanks to everyone who is encouraging me and pushing me on my training.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Flying high

Another week in this crazy world.  It's devastating how so few can cause so much carnage but we will not allow this to change our way of life.  London we support you and life will go on.
Back to normality.  The everyday.  What, in the absence of a crisis, we do every day - like prepare for 170 miles running in the Grand Canyon in 111 days time!
It's been a great weeks training and the focus has moved to running with no cycling.  Two swimming sessions a week allow me to build my core and upper body while giving my legs a rest. I had two days off this week which is a first but this was to prepare me for two back to back runs at the weekend.  This approach worked for MdS so I headed to Chatelherault on Saturday for a solo long run - just 2hrs and 5 mins at this stage.  The first extended lap went well but it's an uphill finish followed by an uphill start.  Usually this has my heart rate near it's max so I try and to take it easy on that section to keep it under control.  As I was approach the brow of the hill a strange aroma starting to stimulate my nostrils.  The couple walking their dog in front were smoking a "strange substance" (say no more).  I couldn't believe it - I floated up the rest of the hill!
I'd no pals to run with so it was also a "mental" exercise as it was the longest run at Chatelherault I'd done so far.  In due course I'll be running double that distance and with a weighted rucksack but this is only the start.  My post run instructions were to rest, hydrate and eat so I happily obliged.  This was necessary for my run today - got to look after my body.
During the week I visited my physio who is delighted with the progress my shoulder (98% recovered) and my foot - the strapping on my leg has changed the way the muscles are working.  I also had another sports massage which eased off my legs which were starting to show signs of the hard week's training.
Today's return went well and I even managed to miss the rain.  Next week the programme builds including some core workouts.  I'm feeling great at moment and I know that this will fluctuate as the training builds up and gets harder.  But I'll enjoy it while it lasts but not with the aid of any "strange substances"!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

No rest for the wicked

After completing the Swashbuckler 70.3 on Sunday last week, you might of thought I'd have an easy training week ahead.  Think again.  We're running out of time and as of today there is only 118 days to go and I haven't run any more than 14 miles in one go never mind 170 in 7 days with 13kg on my back in much warmer temperature.  I love a challenge.
With my coach we'd decided that the scheduled 70.3 in Edinburgh wasn't going to work with my training plan.  I don't need long bike rides although my training plan will include sessions more to give my legs a break and also to work my cardio fitness.  The same goes for swimming.  But I need to build in more strength training and build my running mileage.
Monday might have been my day off, sitting in a car for 8.5 hours, but between Tuesday and Sunday (today) I had 4 runs, 2 swims and 1 bike session. A good weeks training but it required some planning around my work schedule.  On Friday I travelled early to my swimming, parked the car and went for a run before my swim so I could be sitting at my desk by 8.45am - great start to the day.
The highlight of the week (apart from my daughter's 18th birthday which was epic!) was today's run.  I headed back to Chatelherault which I haven't run in for at least 3 months.  I had to search deep in the shoe cupboard to find my trail shoes which were caked in mud suggesting the last run was wet and muddy.  Today however it was muggy but dry.  I headed out with two pals and two dogs with the intention of doing two laps (16km total) - something I hadn't done in over a year so there was a psychological barrier to get over.
I was aiming for a relatively easy pace of 47 min per lap and to keep my heart rate under 155bpm which isn't easy with the amount of climbing in Chatelherault.  The pace was going well on the first lap until we met some friends who were running quicker.  Without realising it we picked up the pace so when completing the fist lap in 43 minutes I was surprised and worried at the same time as I still had a lap to go.  The second lap was 44 minutes so I was very pleased to have maintained this pace on a difficult run.  My trail shoes felt good although my foot was a bit niggly when I was driving home.  I just have to keep an eye on that and my leg will be getting strapped again on Thursday which will help.
I paid the final, non-refundable, payment to the race so that's it - no backing out now.  In a few weeks I'll be booking the flight and accommodation.  Soon I'll start buying the equipment that I'll need for the race.  It's starting to become real and having cleared my calendar there will be nothing to distract me from this goal.  So no rest for the wicked as they say!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Swashbuckler revisited

A year ago I completed the Swashbuckler 70.3 (half ironman) in my best ever time of 5 hours 32 minutes.  It was such a good event that 6 of us, with 2 support members, decided to give it a go so we all headed down to the New Forest on Friday to get ready for Sunday's race.  Much banter was thrown around but when the alarm went off at 3.45 this morning it got serious.  I woke the house up to "Black Betty" at full blast just to get everyone energised.
As a group we were doing different distances; some standard/Olympic distance and others, including me, the half distance -  1.9k swim, 90km bike and 22 km run.  Unusually for me I needed three trips to the loo to "lose some weight" and two of them were in portaloos which involved holding my breath for longer than is healthy!
We were informed that the water temperature was 16 degrees but that we had some company in the water - jelly fish!  It was a tough tidal swim and I was delighted to get through it as my shoulder was still strapped up and I'd only been swimming for about 7 weeks.  In transition the strapping on my leg came off so I wasn't sure how this would affect me on the run - the good news is that it didn't.
I gave the bike everything I had as the temperature started to rise, but I was 12 minutes behind where I was last year and felt I perhaps pushed it too hard.  My effort came home to roost on the run.It's a slightly unusual run in that, in old money, its 14 miles - 2 x 7 mile laps on an undulating course (152 metres of ascending).  Half way through the first lap I knew that I was in trouble.  I was walking some of the hills and wanting to bin the race.  Knowing my time was nowhere near last years I lost my focus and also the fact this was meant to be a "long training session" not a race.  I am cross training with swimming, cycling and running only to build my fitness and reduce the chance of injury.   After all my A Race is the Grand Caynon in September.
It's amazing the mind games that go on when you are in a dark place when running, or swimming or cycling for that matter.  I knew at the half way point the supporters would be cheering me on, they were going mad which was great, but I just walked up the hill shaking my head saying "this is about survival" - 7 miles to go.  I started the second lap well but the heat really started to take its toll.  I was running at the same pace as another runner but she was beginning to really suffer so I decided that my race was over and I'd help her finish the race - this was as much to give me a reason to continue as anything else.  On route a runner had collapsed with heat exhaustion and an ambulance was soon with him.  My time was a disappointing 6hrs 21 minutes but as I reflect on this there were some important lessons to be taken away.
I got over the fear of jelly fish in a tough tidal swim.  I need to remember why I entered the race and not get caught up in the event itself - it gave me a competitive training day which benchmarked where I am with my fitness.  It highlighted that my core fitness is lacking but that's no real surprise.  What this will do is motivate me to get stronger which will be important for the canyon. Despite the poor time I will take heart that having walked a fair bit of the run my position in my age category was 4th!  A small reward for keeping going when really I'd happily have put my feet up and have had a beer.  The biggest learning was the mental strength that you need to get through the dark moments and the pain.  The support team were amazing and really lifted my spirits when it was most needed.  This event has been a good and timely reminder for what lies ahead. More work to be done. Bring it on.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Top "fuddery"

The title of this weeks blog may be alien to some of you but all my FB pals understand it, and you will by the end.
It's been a tough week and being in London on Thursday and Friday resulted in two very long days.  I needed to run on Friday morning so I took down my running gear (forgot my shaving gear - priorities!).  As I headed out at 6am in a tea shirt and shorts, I immediately stood out as a "northerner" as everyone else was wrapped up with anoraks, scarfs and hats.  It was really pleasant running along the banks of the Thames.  As soon as I got back to Glasgow I was off to a charity black tie dinner so it was a late night - but I stayed on the water as I had a busy weekends training.
On Saturday morning I was due to do a 50 mile TT on the bike - basically a flat out race against the clock.  The course was hilly with poor road conditions and not my favourite.  To make matters worse it was pissing down with rain and there was a wind.  Before you say "man up" understand that to get my bike out the car, which is a convertible, I need to put the roof down.  When the roof is down the bike jamed in the back of the car.  Much cursing as puddles form on the leather seats.  I eventually get the bike out but now I'm soaking wet and covered in oil.  The ride was brutal and I started to lose the feeling in my fingers and my feet.  After the first lap 3 of the 4 taking part gave up as we were too cold and another 25 miles wasn't worth the risk.  I turns out to have been my fastest ride this year! But we were due to run off the bike - bugger that, we couldn't feel our feet and while the rain continued to pour down, my car once again filled up with water. I put the bike back in and when I get in it, it was like a sauna and I couldn't see out the windows!  I headed off and did 2.4km in the pool - uneventful.
But the best "fuddery" is saved for this morning.  I was rushing around gathering all my bits for cycling - it's such a faf! On the way to the meeting point I am writing my blog in my head about how disorganised I have been - seems like a good topic.  Then I take my bike out the car and realise......I've forgotten my front wheel!  Now there's a first.  My pals are highly amused but one lives close by and soon we have a replacement wheel - thank you Michael Martin.  The ride was tough.  The group were all better than me and I was dropped on ever incline never mind hill.  It goes up over the Campsies and some of the gradients are testing.  But great practice for next weeks half ironman as it's more or less flat!  It was a mental and physical workout and when I finished the 81km I was bust - but needed to do a run off the bike.  It wasn't' as long as scheduled as I was literally running on empty - I lost 2 Lbs in weight!
After every race report from a fellow triathlete there are lessons to be learned.  After a weekend of "fuddery" I have learned my lessons in advance of the race.  This is a good omen as I can't report back to you next week having repeated this weekends performance.  A nice wee "kick up the arse" reminder to plan better and plan more in advance.  Looking forward to the Swashbuckler as I'll be with 6 fellow athletes and we'll all be racing "our own race".  I just hope I can fit into my wetsuit!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Inspiration from Dean Karnazes

As I get closer to my races, the mileage increases.  In order to fit around my work on Tuesday I headed out for a 2 hour run, starting at 5.30am.  The sun was up and there was almost no traffic so it was a pleasure to run through the rolling countryside, listening to the birds singing and taking time to smell the sent of summer approaching.  I then had an 8.15 am client meeting, drove down the coast for a 10.30 meeting, lunch meeting at 12.30, quickly back to the office and then off for a swim - that's how I fit the training in around my work.
On Friday we were flying to London for a 50th wedding anniversary of some wonderful long standing friends, so before getting on the plane I had a swim session which was my first continuous session to start to replicate my half ironman which is in two weeks time - until I typed that I thought it was three weeks away!  We partied until 2am on Saturday (these oldies party like it's an endurance event!).  My coach gave me the Saturday off which is just as well as when travelling back up I slept the whole way on the plane and then went onto an early night - rock and roll lifestyle!  That's how I fit in training around a social life.
But pay back was this morning.  3.5 hours on the bike at "race pace" followed by a 40 minute run off the bike.  Fortunately a friend had offered to come out as he wanted an "easy ride" - he a lot quicker and stronger than me.  But I got through it and although it was painful at times, I managed to increase my pace for the first time this season.  My run was uneventful although the new taping my physio put on helped support my foot - let's see how it goes with the long runs next week.
Sadly my G2G running partner has had to pull out of the event so I will be going solo.I'm not phased by this because the very nature of the event means I will make a whole load of new friends when I arrive - that's part of the fun as it was in MdS.  Mrs Stewart will be there at the finish line and we can "party" in Vegas afterwards.
Earlier in the week I had been recommended a book about an ultra runner Dean Karnazes as it featured the Grand 2 Grand race I am doing in September. OMG I could think of nothing else while I was out running.  This guy is seriously nuts and what he puts himself through defies everything you ever believed was possible.  One example is the 200 mile, non stop, relay race which includes some serious mountains.  Now relay suggests more than one but he took it on himself whereas everyone else was in a team and found it hard enough.  His descriptions of the pain, the dark points, the hallucinations, the uplifting moments and the blood (literally) sweat and tears.  It's an unbelievable story of how someone with a WHY can push himself both physically and mentally beyond what most sane people would think possible.  I haven't reached the chapter where he tackles the G2G but am sure to learn a lot.  Much of the book is about how you approach pain management and as I pushed myself on todays relatively short bike and definitely short run I reminded my self to "man up"!  Dean Karnazes I solute you sir and am sure to be repeating your mantra's in my head as I push myself beyond my limits.  Thank you.