Sunday, 23 February 2020

Up to my "rab haws" in the Clyde

Some weeks are better than others but this weather is really making sticking to the training plan very difficult.  Gale force winds, snow, icy roads and floods have meant the plan has been adapted.  I even had to spend 1hr 20min on a treadmill which was mind numbing, but good practice for ultra running.
The highlight of the week, or low light, was yesterday's run from Hamilton Palace Grounds up to Chatelherault.  There's an underpass as you leave the grounds and we had to wade up to our knees to get through the flooding - the water was freezing and this was the start of a 2 hour 40 min run and we were soaked.  Slightly further on the path goes under a bridge.  The only way through was to scramble up the embankment and hold onto the underside of the bridge.  When we got out the other side the path was completely flooded as the Clyde river had burst it's banks so we waded up to our "rab haws" (cockney rhyme!) in freezing cold water and make sure we didn't get swept into the river.
The wind was blowing and sleet was smacking me in the face as we continued and my body doesn't like freezing temperatures and was starting to close down.  My feet and hands were numb.  And then the sun came out as we reached the shelter of the trees and I began to warm up but I was tired from the weeks efforts and fell back from the other runners.
Then I reached the flooding at Chatelherault where the path narrows and you can't see it for the water.  I went off the side of the path and landed in even deeper water cutting and bruising my knees.  I was now really cold and my pals were all long gone so I said to myself this was good practice for when it gets tough in a race.  However at the top of the biggest climb in the park, my pals were waiting.  We normally do this to pick up the slower runners and today it was me however they were standing freezing as the sleet was hammering down.  I was so grateful to see them and we headed off but very quickly I dropped behind again as I limped home.  Perpetual forward motion was the phrase I kept repeating to myself plus it was too cold to walk!
Michael, who'd started the run early with me, waited further down the track and we agreed that rather than run back to the start, due to the conditions, it would be safer to get a lift.  It meant the run was cut short but sometimes you have to be sensible enough to call it a day.  Had we been sensible in the first place, we wouldn't have headed out for the run.  There might have been dry spells and blue skies but when you're soaked to the skin and have no feeling in your hands it's no fun and it can lead to mistakes and injury - two cut and bruised knees.
Today I looked at the forecast as I listened to the wind whistling by my bedroom window and thought here we go again.  I decided to ignore the forecast, which was saying the afternoon was better, and headed out in the wind and the sleet.  5 minutes later the sun came out and while it was bitterly cold and I still had to get my feet wet with the floods, it was a great morning to be out.  A few aches and pains from yesterday but I'm pleased this weeks training ended on a high.  Chances are I'll end up with webbed feet at this rate!
A tough week but we are training in Scotland and this is what we need to train in to achieve our goals.  At least I'm not needing to spend hours on a bike in these conditions which I did when training for Ironman!

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Inspiration comes in many forms

As the weather continues to reek havoc on the UK, I've tried as hard as possible to stick with my training plan for the week.  For safety reasons on Wednesday I switched my run for a tough leg session on the turbo trainer.  It's been a few weeks since I've done a turbo session and this one involved a lot of climbing.  I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and it was certainly safer than being outdoors with all the snow that was on the ground.
On Friday I got up at 4.40am and headed to  Tollcross so I could get a flatter terrain with less wind that at Strathaven as it was a tempo run which is much harder to complete on a hilly terrain, especially with the wind howling outside.  I had a "stonking" run and was so pleased with the results which showed my fitness was coming back.  I followed this with a 2km swim and it's fare to say I was tired for the rest of the day.
Perhaps that fatigue showed in my 2hr 20 min run at Chatelherault on Saturday where I had to dig deep to produce an average result but that is to be expected when the mileage has ramped up during the week.  Sometimes these average runs where you dig deep are the important runs because in a race you will feel this bad or even worse so you need to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.
It's hard not to judge yourself against other athlete's running ahead of you but I continually remind myself that we're all starting from a different place and to concentrate on my own plan.
This morning I had a plan B in place if Storm Dennis was too bad but fortunately it was dry but running in a 50 mph wind was tricky. Whenever I was near trees I was keeping an eye on them in case one came down!  But this turned into another stonking run which was a real surprise following yesterday effort.  Heart rate was fantastic throughout the run so "fighting Dennis" was worthwhile.
As you know my blog is a journal and if my tails, which have been going for 10 years, inspires 1 personal along the way then I'm delighted.  I was heading into the supermarket after my run when a pal came up to me.  He informed me that he reads my blog every week and found it inspirational.  That was lovely to hear and he explained that due to various physical ailments he couldn't run the length of himself.  However having known his story over the last 20 odd years, he has probably overcome more adversity in life than most people I know.  I think he was surprised when I told him what an inspiration he was to people.  To have come through what he has and still wear a smile on his face and a positive outlook is truly inspirational.
It just goes to prove my point that inspiration comes in many forms.  It's also a reminder that what we do in life whether it be running or just walking down the road with a smile on your face and being genuinely interested in people can be uplifting.  Thank you my friend.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Storm Ciara

This week was a planned light week after 4 weeks of building up the training.  I had the luxury of two days in a row off training and I, or should I say my body, loved every minute of it.  I ate for Britain and enjoyed long lies in bed (6.30am!).  But that doesn't mean it was a lazy week; Monday 1hr run; Tue Run 27 mins, Swim 40 mins, Core/gym 30 min; Fri 50 min run, 30 min gym, 34 min swim; Sat 1hr 2 min run; Sun 53 min run and 30 min core workout.  In order to squeeze in the triple session on Friday I had to get up at 4:50 and was running by 5:40.  So for a light week, it was busy.
It's important to build in lighter training and I think I really benefited from it although today I'm feeling tired.  That could be down to gutting my office as part of getting the house ready for sale!
On Saturday I had the usual Chatelherault run with my club mates and what's becoming evident is that it takes me half way round to warm up because my second half is faster.  Part of this could be to do with the terrain but some of my pals are slowing down in the second half, or maybe it's just me getting quicker?  However as I get fitter and start building the miles I notice it does take me a while to settle into my stride and when I do, assuming it's a sensible pace, I can keep it going a long time.  That's just as well as my first race is the Keider Ultra (50km) and it's only 54 days away!  A lot of hard work to be done between now and then.
Last night storm Ciara arrived and it was a blustery night.  Lying in bed in the morning I listened to the wind battering our house, it was reported as 60mph, and I made the decision it would be safer to run indoors on a treadmill at the gym.  However when I headed out to my car the wind seemed to have died down and it wasn't raining so I changed my plan and took to the road.  50 metres into the run the rain and wind came back.  At times I was almost knocked over by the wind and at one stage was running straight into a headwind and I felt I was hardly moving.  Not great conditions when the objective of the session is to run quicker than the day before and yesterday was quick, for a trail run - but I managed it!  I was up to my ankles in water but fortunately avoided the hailstones that came on shortly after I finished.  Fair to say it blew away any cobwebs and when I got back I was straight into a core session.
I've said this before, but it's worth repeating, that it's the consistency of training that helps me stay injury free and allows me to prepare my body (and mind) for the tough miles ahead.
But my highlight of the week was on Thursday night when I was presenting to a group of Maggie's supporters to inspire them to sign up for challenges to raise money.  It was supposed to be me inspiring them but when I spoke to them and heard their stories, the challenges some of them had over come with cancer or a heart attack, it was me that left more inspired than when I'd arrived!  I'm lucky to have my health and fitness but people are doing challenges and are not necessarily in that position.  Others may doubt their ability to take on certain challenges but they won't know unless they try.  They already have the important part, the WHY, so the rest is about making a plan, building in controls to ensure they stick to it and then going and enjoying the journey.  I wish them all well.  I know when I started this journey in 2008 I had no idea the adventures that I'd get involved in and the amazing friends I'd meet along the way across the world.  These activities aren't in addition to my life, they are very much part of my life, part of who I am.  Go on.  Take on a challenge for Maggie's.  It can be life affirming.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

ATHelite Tri Club

My apologies for missing my blog last week.  It was an extremely busy weekend with training, attending a 1st birthday party and clearing out our house as we prepare to put it on the market - some of these activities are known as "life".  It wasn't until I was out running today and thinking what I'd write about today that I couldn't remember what I had written about the previous week - a senior moment!
A lot of positive things have happened in the last two weeks and I'm delighted to report that "I'm back".  The last 8 weeks of carefully planned training, thanks to my coach Genevieve, have got my fitness back to a good level relative to the time I've been back training.  In the last two weeks I've started swimming noticeably faster and my mileage has increased on my runs without my form slipping. By continually measuring the data and having my training plan tweaked, combining that with consistent running, the results are starting to show.
This weekend was my longest run to date, 25km on mainly trails.  I had my pal Michael Martin plan the route and it was good to have company as it was wet, windy and muddy.  After 10km we met up with team mates from the ATHelite Tri group and we stayed with them for 7km before finishing the rest of the route off.  It was a tiring run which was to be expected but when reviewing the results I could see how I'd improved.  This was then topped off today with a 12km run at a faster pace than yesterday.  Other than the first big hill when my legs felt heavy, I felt great and improved the pace significantly with a lower heart rate.  You'd expect that in a shorter run but the good news was there was no effect from the day before.
The last 4 weeks have been building the training and next week's session cuts back on the training to give my body time to recover.  Having said that it starts with an hour run tomorrow with my coach so I won't be taking it too easy!
I should mention all my mates in the ATHelite Tri Club who I run and swim with have a bunch of like minded nutters around makes what I do much easier.  There's always good banter, you need thick skin, and while we have different goals, different skills and the age range is wide with me pushing the barrier at the far end we help motivate each other.  We had our AGM on Friday and it was inspirational to hear the stories of what the athletes had achieved in the last 12 months from short Tri's to Ironman, 10ks to ultras and long distance cycling events.
Everyone is on their own journey with their own goals and face numerous challenges along the way.  But being part of this positive community makes the seemingly impossible, possible and I'm so lucky to be part of it.  Thanks guys.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Just do it!

A phrase made famous by Nike and one that carries so much emotion.  There are times when you don't feel like training or you're in the middle of a session and some negative thoughts enter your head.  On Monday I was due to meet my coach for an early morning run.  My longest run to date, 18 km.   I was starting at my office and my car was sliding around on the roads due to the extreme cold conditions so I knew it would be slippy underfoot - I wasn't wrong.  I headed off like Bamby on Ice and on a steep hill heading towards my meeting point I was almost sliding all the way down.  I met Genevieve and she'd had a terrible time coming down a similar hill and as we headed round Strathclyde Park we slipped all over the place.  We could have quit for safety reasons but we kept going and I'm glad we did.  It was our "just do it" attitude and we would have regretted it if we'd given up.
My sports therapist worked on my foot later that day and taped my leg - what a difference that made for the rest of the week.  I'm back seeing her tomorrow and hope that will keep my foot quiet for a while and my VMO has also been behaving itself.
On Friday I had a tripple session and the challenge was how to fit this into the day.  The answer was to get up at 5am and do my core session, drive to the swimming but head out for a run before the swim.  By 8.30 I was having my breakfast and at my desk by 9am - just do it!
Saturday was a tough run at Chatelherault.  We upped the distance to 12 km and I was hanging off the back the whole way round.  I had to work hard the whole way round and not let the fact I was at the back get to me.  It's my training session set to meet my requirements for my race - nothing else.  What everyone else is doing is not relevant to my plan.  When I finished I checked my pace and it was under 6 min per KM which for Chatelherault is good so I was pleased.  I jumped in the car, got home and had some food before driving up to Aberdeen with my wife to see my daughter and some friends.
When I got home at 3 pm on Sunday I had a core session to do plus a 45 min turbo session and I could really have done without it.  I had  some food (fuel) and did the core sessions.  Then had a power nap before making dinner (more fuel) and very unusually for me I did my turbo session at 8pm.  I'd much rather have sat and recovered from the weekend - just do it.  I surprised myself with a great training session and now, after I've finished my blog, I'll relax before heading to bed.  I've another early start as I have an 18 km run with a Fartlek section as I work on "fast legs".  My bags are packed and I've already programmed my mind for the morning to "just do it".  Sometimes your best sessions are the ones you were least looking forward to.  Have a great week.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Managing injuries

As I'm typing today's blog the rain is hammering down outside and a runner has just past my window.  His head is down, the wind and rain are driving into him and he's just approaching the big hill - he's hard core.  Yesterday the wind was blowing 50 mph and the rain was tipping down but despite being up to my knees in water at Chatelherault, I was having fun because I was running with my team mates at  ATHelite.  We were soaked and filthy with the mud but had a great laugh as we went round.  Whilst I like the solitude you get from running on your own, running in a crowd or with a pal definitely pushes you harder and makes the kilometers pass quicker.
There were a few new members in the group and as happens the chat turns to what races you have lined up for the year and it's a diverse set of athletes so the range of races is huge.  As we were running up hill I didn't take part in the conversation as I was trying to save my breath.  I had to chuckle at one conversation which went on behind me when someone replied "I'm just doing an ultra".  The person who'd asked the question said  with some incredulity, "just an ultra"!!  It made me laugh because if the questioner hangs around with us long enough, he'll be signing up for an ultra.  It's just what happens when you keep bad company! 
It's less than 12 weeks before my first race of the year which is a 50 km trail ultra. But my longest run since coming back has been 15 km so there's a lot of work to be done and while I'm increasing the distance of my runs, I have to be careful to avoid injury or manage and the injuries I have.
This week I ran 15 km and it was a great run.  I averaged 5:04 per km which was the fastest sustained pace I have ran since coming back.  Perhaps last week's "speed session" had reminded my legs, and brain, that they can move faster.  In addition this week's speed session had me averaging 4:30 per km for the drills which shows improvement.  But I have a couple of niggles to take into account.
I referred to a knee niggle in last weeks blog so on Monday I went to Pamela, my sports therapist, who spent a full hour working on my VMO - the teardrop muscle above my knee, had me in tears that's for sure! It doesn't hurt when I run, but walking up stairs it sometimes grumbles.  Having a niggle like this needs to be managed so on Thursday I had a sports massage from Rhondda and she was surprised how tight my VMO was.  The good news was my back was in good condition and this is partly due to having had a couple of weeks off work.  Maybe one day when I retire from "driving a desk", but not retire from work, I'll find training much easier which certainly was the case during the festive break.
Today I'll test my VMO with a 45 turbo session followed by a core session.  At least they are indoor sessions so I'll get my music on loud and have a sweat fest!
One last injury to report on is my foot which has caused me issues over the years.  It's grumbling again but not enough to stop me running.  I only mention this to give hope to athletes of all standards, shapes and sizes who get injured.  A large percentage of us are carrying a niggle but get it seen to,  don't ignore it, follow the advice given and keep on going.  You may have to adapt your training for a while but keep your "engine" ticking over.  Have a great week and keep focusing on your goals realising that every training session is a step closer to achieving them.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

It's going to hurt!

I've now been back training almost 6 weeks and the careful planning of each session has meant I've been getting stronger and fitter with every session.  My cold has been with me for 3 weeks and it's restricted to an annoying cough and that's held me back but it hasn't ruled me out of any sessions.  It seems everyone I'm training with is trying to shake this cough off.
My training is 6 days a week with a number of double sessions which is our standard approach for getting back to a reasonable level of fitness.  On Friday I swam with my coach and her husband and increased my distance from 1,300m to 1,900m.  This isn't a big distance but when you've been away from the pool for almost 6 months, it's hard coming back.  My swimming is only there for cross training benefits which is the same as my turbo training.  They do benefit me but as my running pick up in distance and time it will be harder to fit them in as I'll need to get back to the gym.  So far I've been working on my core but squats etc aren't far away now that my operation is 12 weeks ago.  I need to be stronger, especially my back, as I'll be carrying my weeks food and equipment in Romania.
But as I discovered on Saturday, the increase in running required to be ready for the 50 km Keilder Ultra in 12 weeks time is going to hurt!  The ATHelite group  met at Chatelherault and started faster than normal.  I knew within a few km that hanging onto this pace was going to hurt and I wasn't wrong.  I was struggling towards the end and dropped back from the pack.  When I reviewed my time later I discovered that this was the fastest pace round Chatelherault since my return.
My coach said everyone was hurting in that session and a lot of it is to do with where we all are in the training cycle.  But there's much more of this discomfort to go through as I'll be upping my distance and pace over the coming weeks.  I also need to get my mind used to my body feeling like this as it's the only way to get better - no pain no gain comes to mind!
This morning I had a set back on the turbo.  I'd noticed a niggle when walking up stairs in my knee - it's happened before.  I feel like I can't put my full weight on it or it gives way.  My core training session had gone well but 5 mins into my turbo session and I gave up.  I felt like I was pedaling with one leg and the power out put certainly wasn't good.  Fortunately I am seeing my sports therapist tomorrow and and sure she will sort it out.  It may be I need to check my set up on my bike - we'll see.
My training is really going to need to step up with the races coming up and I just found out that my A race in Romania has ascent of 12,000 m (they kept that quiet!). So I'll be back on the mountains as soon as the weather allows me.  Can't wait - bring it on.