Sunday, 2 May 2021

Saturday legs session

 What a week.  I'll keep it short as it's more like a medical report.  Having been going so well up to last week, things changed:
- Monday went swimming for the first time in 18 months.  Bashed ribs on the edge of the pool - no more running for a while
- No control over legs after the shredding the previous week and fell down the stairs while tenderely walking down them. Cut and bruised wrist!
-Sports massage on Tuesday - agony but it certainly helped flush out my quads.
- Sports therapist visit on Wednesday and she gave my shoulder and calf a good seeing to! Ouchy.
- Power walked Thursday & Friday, felt like it was cheating.
But then came Saturday.  I weighed up the risk of heading to the mountains as I couldn't run and any jarring was going to hurt my ribs.  But I've missed them so much that I headed off with Michael at 5am.  We summited 3 mountains, although I'm claiming 4 as to get off the hill we had to go UP!!! We covered 30km with 1,933m of climbing.  One arse clenching moment of scrambling where I found myself sliding down a wet rock towards a sharp drop but Michael was able to grab me in time - it certainlty didn't help my ribs, shoulder or pants!  We experienced glorious sun and snow showers, again amazing pictures.  What a day out.  Parts of the climb were almost vertical and it felt like a never ending step machine in the gym.  A great leg workout and as of Sunday morning, my legs aren't protesting which is exactly what I was hoping for.  My ribs are another matter - they need a rest.
So active rest is what I am going to do this week.  More power walking and hopefully my ribs will recover to allow me to get back to running.  But I need to take this time out or else the injury will be prolonged.  Take care out there and appreciate when you are fit with no injuries!

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Shredded quads

Saturday was the day I have been waiting for since September 2019, but didn't realise it at the time.  My training for the Tahoe 200 meant a lot of time spent in the mountains with my pals training.  Scotland is such a small country and as a result the mountains are less than 2 hours drive away.  But lockdown put an end to that for everyone and we were confined to our homes and then local area.  So the last time I was on the mountains was 18 months ago.
Suddenly, and I am sure it has nothing to do with an impending election coming up, the Scottish Government offered us freedom but I decided that the first weekend would have the mountains filled with people so avoided it.  However this Saturday my pal Michael suggested we do a route that took on four summits and just to make it all the more exciting, we should be at the top of the first one by sunrise!  Why the hell not.  Life's too short so let's go for it.  I got up at 1.30am so I could have some breakfast - need to fuel.  It was slightly surreal as some people in my house, who will remain nameless, were still up enjoying a few glasses of wine!  So while surrounded by the remnants of a good night, I was making my granola, yoghurt and fruit.  I picked Michael up at 3pm and we headed off into the dark.  
Two hours later we were in the car park at the bottom of the first mountain in the Cairngorms, the temperature was -1 so we'd come prepared carrying the necessary survival gear just in case.  These mountains take no prisoners.  We set off at 5.15am and 45 minutes later we'd reached the summit just in time to see the sun appear from behind the mountains.  OMG that was such a special moment and there wasn't a breath of wind or any noise to be heard.  However when in the shadows the temperature fell.
We continueed to run when possible, the terrain is difficult under foot with the boulders hiding in the heather / grass so picking your spot and not admiring the scenery is advisable.
As we descended from the forth summit cloud base was starting to form below us and we were very close to the edge of a sharp drop which was covered in frozen ice / snow.  We kept back from it as it looked like the whole lot could plunge to the bottom in an instant.  Michael took loads of amazing pictures and I did my usual FaceBook live from the top just to prove that not every summit I'm on is in cloudbase!
Back to the car park for 9.30am to watch numerous climbers starting their journey.  We'd covered 25km with 1,134m of ascent in 3hrs 44 and back home in time for lunch.  I knew my body was going to be feeling it the next day because it was already feeling it!
Today I had to follow this run with a 20km run keeping my heart rate below 147 bpm.  When I swung my legs out of bed they started protesting as did my foot.  I headed out and had a great run with my head rate averaging 127!!!  I can't tell you how happy I was with that result however my quads less so.  The end of the run finished with a downhill and my quads decided to protest.  It wasn't pleasant but it was expected.  What I need is more downhill mountain running and that is on the cards for next weekend as we're planning our next trip.  After a few days of "quad shredding" the pain eases and you don't feel it anymore.  That's my experience and it's exactly what I need for Ultra Race Romania. 
What a joy and privilge to be out in the mountains enjoying sunrise.  Hopefully there will be a lot more of that with my running pals.  Mixing it up with mountain running really puts your body through it but the results are amazing.  But if you do venture off the tarmac go prepared for the worst, no matter what the weather forecast is or how it feels in the carpark at the bottom.  Go enjoy your freedom.  We've been locked down too long and hopefully this is the start of some normality.  Go shred your quads!

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Bring on the mountains

A lighter weeks training with 62km of running.  Mid-week I had a pacier run to do and it turned out to be my best this year completing 9 k in 4:57 min km - I felt great.  On Saturday I had a pacey run for Chatelherault when I completed 14k and my heart rate was exactly where I wanted it to be - not easy around that lumpy trail!  This wasn't the best preparation for today which was a pacey 12 km but I managed 5:01  min km and considering this involved 5km of hills, I was pleased and so was my coach.  Add to this that the lockdown restrictions on travel in Scotland have been lifted, and the mountains are calling!
This is perfect timing with my fitness levels increasing although I am sure it will be a shock to my glutes and quads when I finish my first mountain adventure.  Just got to make sure I don't get lost which has happened a few times before.  Hopefully I'll have some pals to look after me and that always adds to the pleasure of being on the mountains.
I'm having a gym built in my garden and my gym equipment, which is in storage, will be arriving in the middle of May.  I've been doing regular sessions at home using body weight exercises, swiss ball and resistance bands.  While they have been "fun" I'm looking forward to a change in routine.
Bring on the better weather and bring on the mountains.  I hope to see you out there.  


Sunday, 11 April 2021

Getting there

To know you're getting "there", you need to know where "there" is in the first place.  And as 2020 demonstrated, the best laid plans can go pear shaped by things out with your control.  But there are things you can control and setting your training goals is one of them.  However you still need an event to aim for and I have two.  The main event, subject to being able to travel, is the Ultra Race in Romania, a 250km self-supported staged event over 7 days.  In order to sharpen the focus of my training I have the Moray Coastal 80km trail race in 8 weeks time.
I mention the later because when I am out on my longer runs I'm always thinking about completing that distance.  On Saturday I ran 32 km, the biggest distance this year, and was running on empty for the last 3km uphill.  I stopped for a gel and crawled up the hill thinking how am I going to manage 80km in 8 weeks time?  But this is a normal reaction when approaching a big race and I need to have faith in my coach and my plan because I know I will be "delivered" to the startline in the best shape possible.  When I got in from my run I couldn't stop eating until I fell asleep - always a sign of a tough session.
The proof of the pudding was going to be today's session, training on tired legs.  I choose a flatter route and had 18km to complete.  After the first km my legs felt good and I pushed the pace completing it in 5:11 min per km.  My heart rate also behaved and it's runs like this that give me confidence that I'm getting there.  But before I could put my feet up I had a double gym session to complete and that never gets any easier but is an essential part of my preparation.  I certainly feel the benefits of a stronger core and glutes.
Once the lockdown restrictions are lifted I'm looking back to getting in the mountains.  Power walking up and running down the mountains is a fabulous way of preparing for the Moray Coastal trails and the Romanian mountains.  If you haven't go a "there" then get one as it will make every training session more relevant and enjoyable getting the best out of you.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Why oh why do I put myself through this?

Every so often I ask myself this question and Saturday was one of those days.  With 9 weeks till my first race of the season, a 50 mile (80 km) trail race, the mileage is starting to build so by the time I reach the weekend I already have some "distance in my legs".  The schedule is to to do the big miles on Saturday and follow up on Sunday with a reasonable distance, running on tired legs.  Saturday was my longest run this year, 28km - doesn't seem much when I'm aiming for 80 km in 9 weeks time.
Stuart & I started off at an easy pace but possibly slightly faster than we should have and 10/20 seconds per km has a way of catching up with you later.  We made our way up to Chatelherault which has a nasty sting in the tail before you arrive there which sent my heart rate up. As planned we did a small followed by a big lap.  Half way through the big lap I was starting to feel my early pace and I dropped off the group.  It's when this happens that some negative thoughts start to build up in your head.  For the final part of the run Gavin joined me as he was heading back in the same direction and as he was adding on another 10km he was happy for a slower pace.  He could tell where my "head was" and chatted away although he wasn't getting much of a response from me.  One of our running friends ran past us in the opposite direction but I didn't even recongnise her as I was too busy having a discussion in my head about why the bloody hell I was putting myself through this sh1t!  You can tell I wasn't having a good day!  Later that day my coach paid me a socially distanced visit and delivered a home made Victoria sponge which certaily helped my recovery.
This morning I had 14km to run and the wind was blowing and the temperature low.  I'd already decided I run in a flat area which is lower than where I normally run which proved to be a wise decision as it was baltic.  I had Stuart for company for the first half of the run and I was surprised just how good I felt.  No aches or pains and no fatigue.  It was a brilliant run and when I finnished it I had a double gym session to complete.  That's all behing me now as I eat my body weight in food with my feet up watching the football.  I feel amazing and tomorrow is a day off running.
The lesson learned yesterday, and one I've learned before, was the reason I put myself through these tough times is the way it makes me feel once I've "got out of my puddle".  I feel fit and alive which in today's current enviroment is a real privilege.  I fell very lucky but then I do put the effort in.  If you end up "in a puddle" rather than sit there feeling sorry for yourself why not stand up and make a splash - enjoy yourself, life is not a dress rehearsal.  Happy Easter.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Disciplined consistency

I'm glad the last couple of weeks are behind me.  The dental surgery went well and the recuperation invoving soft food and no smiling is over.  On Wednesday I got my stitches out of my mouth and that was far from pleasant, needing a local anaestic as they weren't for coming out!  My vaccine jab was fine and other than the expected sore arm, I had no side effects.   The next day I went out for an 11 km run followed by 12k, 24k and today 12k.
And that's what has inspired my blog this week.  Disciplined consistency.  As you know I've been working all year at getting my heart rate to behave during my runs.  Ultra slow runs where I've been aiming at a max heart rate of 132 and longer runs where the target is 147.  These rates are tough to get under especially with the hilly terrain that I train in.  This week all runs were under the target heart rate even my longest run at Chatelherault where the terrain makes this difficult.  The pace plays an important part and I've managed to slow down in order to follow my coaches plan.
Having a properly constructed plan taking account of your fitness, work life balance and your goals is the starting point but you have to be disciplined and stick to the plan, even if it's difficult.  I have found this years training frustrating but experience has taught me that it would come good in the end.  It has but I need to stick with the targets set as the mileage starts to increase.
I'm looking forward to the weather improving so I'm not getting wet feet during the run which always increases the risk of blisters but as I have said before, the right socks is the key to avoiding blisters as does treating your feet with a good foot cream daily. 
If you haven't got a race in the diary then get one in.  It motivates you to put in the miles and it makes every training session more focused.  The 2021 is approaching and with disciplined consistency, you'll smash it.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

There is hope!

It was always going to be a light weeks training due to the dental surgery on Wednesday.  But it turned out 1 day lighter than I imagined.  On Tuesday I was out for a 16 km run and on the path I was running on was a puddle taking up the full width.  Either side was wet slippy mud so I made a risk assessment and went through the puddle.  It was deep enough I couldn't see the bottom and on my first step I went over on my ankle as there was a hole under the surface.  Fortunately I reacted quickly and didn't go over and the initial pain wore off as I completed the second half of the run.  5 hours later when I was driving my ankle began to throb and that meant I wasn't going to get my last run in on the Wednesday.  Ice & elevation and some anti-inflamitory tablets reduced the swelling but it was a well timed injury with 3 day rest coming up.
The following day I had my surgery and now have a mouthful of stiches.  It wasn't pleasant and on Wednesday this week I'll get them out so I was under dentists orders not to go running.
Then two peices of good news.  My coach send me details of a 50 mile coastal trail race in Scotland in June which I immediately entered.  Just to have something local in the diary which will be a good test and good preparation for URR in August lifted my spirits.  Both runs on Saturday and Sunday took on a new intensity as I started to think about the race, the prep and how I'd approach it.  This is the first step back towards normality and my ankle was better too.
I also got my letter inviting me for my vaccination on Wednesday so that's great news.  I'm hoping the after effect won't be too bad so my training isn't affected as every session counts and I need to get the miles up.  To be ready for URR in August I need to get back into the mountains - it's essential.  Lockdown rules are relaxing so hopefully it won't be too long - I haven't been up a mountain since September 2019!
The last piece of good news is that we booked a Scottish holiday in May and the government have given the go ahead for staycations, so a change of scenery and some wonderful food are on the cards.  It will also give me different running routes and maybe some mountains.
All in all, a very positive week which makes me feel optimistic for some normality being restored in the coming months.  These changes may be taking time but it gives us hope and that makes the world a better place.  Hopefully in the summer we will be able to eat out and socialise with friends which I didn't realise I'd taken for granted until it was taken away.  Enjoy the change in weather, the lighter mornings and longer days.  There is hope!