Sunday, 21 February 2021

Training tired

It's been another busy week at work and with training.  Normally I am a very early morning runner.  But with the dark mornings, no street lights where I live and the extremely cold weather meaning the roads were covered in snow and ice, I've been running during the day.  Last week the snow was washed away by the rain and the strong winds have made it painful when the rain hits my face.  However this weekend the mornings have become lighter and the sun has made a welcome appearance.
The miles have been building and I'm running six days a week.  I have three gym sessions a week and do extra core strength exercises as well. 
The previous week my long run was 19km and yesterday it was meant to be 24km.  I ran with my pal and decided that I should take a back pack and a drink as I'd be over 2 hours.  I didn't have any gels but took some money in case I needed something during the run.  The forecast was that rain might arrive 2hrs in so I decided not to wear a waterproof as my two layers should be enough.  I hadn't ran the route I'd planned before but thought it was about 24km.  It probably was but less than half way through the run I decided to changed the route.  Big mistake.  Shortly afterwards I stopped for some coke which for me is like rocket fuel and just as well I did.  The slight detour I'd taken meant the distance was now 31 km - oops.  It also meant we caught the rain but by that time I was past caring, we just had to finish.  The good news was I was to complete the run with a heart rate of below 147 - it maxed at 148 with an average of 136 so I was really pleased with that result.  The extra long run had taken it's toll and I skipped my planned gym session and replaced it with eating as much food as I could get in me. The remainder of the day was spent lying down and resting.
This morning the sun was shining and it was a planned 9km and fortunately I knew the route, with no diversions!  My legs were heavy and heart rate higher due to the fatigue.  But I managed the run with no issues and when I came home I had some food and a short sleep.  Training tired is a deliberate strategy to help get my mind and body ready for the long distances I have planned over the summer.  You can't run 6 marathons in the mountains in 7 days without putting in serious back to back runs where you are pushing your body beyond what is normal, or comfortable.  Training tired has helped me achieve all my long distance races so I'll stick with the proven strategy.
And as  always happens when I start to up the distance, my diet unconsciously changes.  I've eaten healthier this weekend than any time I can remember in months.  It's driven by my body "craving" quality nutrients with no conscious effort from me.
Tomorrow is a 12 km run with a double gym session.  A recovery run on Tuesday before a day off Wednesday.  With the lighter mornings I am looking forward to getting back into my routing so my training is over before I start the day.  

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Battling the elements

What a week its been.  Busy in all fronts.  It's been a tough week training in these wintery conditions.  Tough staying upright on the roads and trails and a few tricky moments along the way.  The wind has been bitterly cold and on Saturday I headed out for a 19km run with my pal Stu.  It was -4 but a strong wind meant that after a few Kms I couldn't feel my face and could hardly speak as my lips were numb.  It was tough run but it was good to get a decent distance at a reasonable pace.  I didn't feel tired after the run but on Sunday it was a diffent matter.  Perhaps the bottle of wine on Saturday night didn't help. 
Sunday was a real struggle and when my coach saw the stats, she told me to rest for the balance of the day- happy to follow those orders as my next day off training isn't till Wednesday and I have a 1 hour run tomorrow and double gym session.
The highlight of my week was taking part in a live webcast with Maggie's Cancer Centre in Lanakshire where we were celbrating the success of all the participants in the Maggie's 50 mile run challenge in January.  They raised just over £180,000 and I followed the progress during January of the runners and walkers.  They were inspirational and in one case the runner was undergoing chemo - WOW, just WOW.  It certainly inspired me to get out in the shit weather and get on with my training.  A lot of those taking part would never have considered running or walking 50 miles so their achievement is just incredible.
The weather forecast for next week is much warmer so hopefully that will be the end of the snow and ice.  I've got a day off on Wednesday from training and I'm really looking forward to it.  My body needs a rest.  I've said it before, preparing for 6 marathons in 7 days in the Romanian mountains is similar to tenderising a piece of meat.  Batter it, rest, batter it, rest and repeat.  This peace of meat is going to sleep tonight!

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Battling groundhog day

11 months ago when we went into lockdown, nobody could have imagined we'd still be there.  We had plans, all sort of plans.  Holidays, business and of course a season of races lined up which we were training for.  And then lockdown.  Since then there have been false dawns where we had some freedom, but that's all disappeared.  I  was thinking about this when I was out running this week.  About how I struggle to remember what day it is as they all seem to merge into each other and before you know it we're into February, still in lockdown.  What I dislike, amonst other things, is the lack of control and the lack of certainty e.g. having a training plan linked to a race and being certain (bar inury) that I'll be there.
One mantra in life I have lived by is "worry about what you can control, not what you can't".  I don't worry about what I can control so I've changed my mindset this week to avoid thinking that it's groundhog day again.
My method that's changed my mindset is my training plan.  Whether or not races take place this year, and I really hope they do, I am enoying the benefits of my increased fitness.  I feel good inside myself and my core strength workouts are paying dividends.  Since moving house I haven't been able to set up my gym, it's still in storage, so my coach put together workouts based on using my own body weight.  I don't need any more room than a yoga mat and a resistance band.  They are bloody tough exercises and I've build up the number of reps.  Not only can I see a change in my physical shape, which I like as I'm shaped like a pencil, I'm not getting the niggly inuries I can suffer from as I am getting stronger. So whether or not my races take place, I am benefitting from my training and look forward to every session as I can see and feel the benefits even although there is no race in sight.  Our triathlon club has also started a competition based around running, cycling and press ups which is motivating us to do more.
While we are in lockdown I encourage you to design a plan, if you don't already have one, to work on areas of weakness so that you come back stronger.  Having something to look forward to on a daily basis breaks the groundhog feeling and improving how you feel about yourself will encourage you to do more.  
Take some encouragement from the news today about 70 year old Frank Rothwell from Oldham who became the oldest person to row 3,000 miles unassisted across the Atlantic.  The name of his boat is "Never Too Old" - says everything.  Congratulations Frank.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Re-calibration - at last!

Another week of snow, ice, rain and strong winds but the elements have a way of reminding you that you're alive.  I made the mistake of going out for an early run just before sun rise and it only lasted 2km - if I had any sense it would have lasted 200m. I couldn't stand up on the hill outside my house and was pulling myself up holding onto the grass verge and undergrowth!  I thought it would improve but after 100m I turned for home and went out later when it was safe.
You'll be getting tired of my stories about my heart rate and how I've been trying to run slowly and keep my heart rate down between 126-132.  On Friday I ran at 3.15 in the afternoon after a busy day at work.  As I left the house my heart rate was at 100 and by the time I'd walked to my neighbours, who was accompanying me, it was 136!  Needless to say the run was not done in the target HR.  I've said before it would take a month and as my mileage increases that would help.  Yesterday I ran for 19 km and felt good although this is the longest I've run in a long time.  I was happy how I felt.  But today, wait for it, I headed out with my pal Stu for a slow run of 9km to once again see if I could get my HR in the target zone.  We chose a flattish route but it was bitterly cold.  Despite the temperature my heart rate peaked at 133 and averaged 121 - at last!  Hopefully this is the start of the re-calibration of my HR in my runs and as we build the mileage it will settle down.  I've been measuring my resting HR when I wake in the morning and it's now averaging around 47 so I'm happy.
During January two fantastic events have been taking place and I've watched friends all over the world push themselves to achieve their goals.  Maggie's Cancer Centres (the charity I raise funds for) 50 mile run (walk) challenge had many people who wouldn't dream of walking 50 miles in a month go out and raise funds.  I was blown away by some of the people who reached the 50 miles never mind the ones that kept going as they enjoyed how they felt pushing themselves.  Congratulations to you all and keep it going!
Ultra Race Romania had another virtual 250km challenge but I wasn't able to commit to it.  It hasn't stopped me watching the URR community all supporting each other and pushing each other on.  My pal Michael Martin smashed the 250 km in 9 days and decided to keep going.  Yesterday he ran a marathon to bring his total for the month to 550km!  That's crazy and he wasn't hanging about either - his pace was very impressive.  He's definitely got the bug and I don't know what he'll do in February but a "switch" has obviously gone off in his head and anything is possible - go Michael!
We can now say good by to January and hello to February.  With some of these amazing achievements happening so early in the year, what could we accomplish by the year end.  As the days get longer get yourself outdoors and active - your body will thank you for it....once it's over the shock!

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Slow January

Did you miss me last weekend?  I was so busy unpacking boxes I forgot to write my blog.  I remembered on Tuesday but decided that seen as I had an exciting event on Wednesday I'd leave my blog till today so I could tell you about it.
But back to slow January.  In one way it was fast in that we're almost at the end of January.  I am glad to see the back of January and the same goes for February.  There are plenty of important miles to put in on these months as well as core strength sessions because building your base can make or break your season.  Go out too hard without the proper training and you'll end up with an early season injury which could put you out for a few months.  And running on snow and ice increases the odds of such an injury.
Fortunately I have avoided and slips, falls or injuries although there have been some close calls.  We've had a lot of cold crisp sunny days which has led to some fabulous view over Glasgow to the mountains from my new running routes.
My reference to slow January is the speed I am meant to be running at to get my heart rate down - I have the same battle every January.  The cold obviously affects my heart rate making it beat faster to pump the blood round my body to keep me warm, but it's still too high.  I'm struggling to run slow enough to keep the rate down and on a negative split run my heart rate was high when I was going slower and bang on target (for a slow run) when I was running faster!  Even today's 1 hour run had my heart rate perfect until we came to a down hill, and I was trying to run slow, and the heart rate increased - I averaged 5:45 mins per KM but looks like I need to get to 6:10's to hit my HR target.  I know there will be a turning point, there is every year, but it's frustrating.
On Wednesday I was asked to take part in a webcast for a marketing company in the financial services sector.  A 45 minute live interview about my business background, my ultra running and how I've used this to help my business and certainly my mental health during lockdown.  I applied the 7Ps principle (piss poor preparation precipitates piss poor performance) and started going through my big races and what I'd learned along the way.  It's amazing what you forget, even the important details.  Fortunately I have my blog to go back over all the small points that I may have written about in the past but forgotten about.  My blog was always intended to be my journal of my adventures and the feedback from the UK wide audience was very positive.  May have inspired a few to get off the couch, out of the fridge, out of their mental fog and onto the pavements for a couch to 5km!
Today my coach sent me some races to look at in May / June - 2 were 50 mile ultras and the other a 58 km ultra.  I read their COVID -19 policies and they look well set up with staggered starts, fast ones off first to avoid overtaking the slower ones, 3 lanes coming into check points with masks being required to be worn as you go through.  I really hope that these events take place and it gets me motivated just thinking about having a date in the diary to aim for an event to help prepare me for URR in August.
If you haven't got an event in the diary then create your own one.  I'm looking at running the West Highland Way possibly end of June, beginning of July.  The only thing that would stop me is if there were travel restrictions.  Having something to aim for makes all the difference to your approach so start searching for a race or make up your own challenge.  January is almost over and before we know it so with February.  The good news is we're closer to our vaccinations but in the meantime stay safe.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

2021 - let's do this!

What a start to a new year.  No I'm not talking about world politics or the global pandemic, I'm talking about something much simpler, something I can control - my fitness.  I'm sure I'm not alone in over indulging during the festive period but I really enjoyed the break from work & the normal routine.  I go back on Monday although have been working a few hours a day last week to make my "re-entry" not too painful.  But with a cold snap meaning I've been living in a winter wonderland I've not ventured far from home, not that I should be under lockdown, as the roads, pavements and trails have been treacherous with the chances of a fall or worse a distinct possibility.
This has knock on effects on my training as temperatures plummeted to minus 7 this morning.  The temperature effects my heart rate i.e. it needs to work harder to pump the blood round my body to keep me warm.  I definitely suffer in the cold with my extremities closing down and normally running faster would warm me up but the under foot conditions made that too dangerous.  My last two runs I took out my poles to help in the event of slipping and I'd forgotten how good a workout that is for my triceps.
However January is always a transitional month for me and my training.  I'm following the plan and failing as my heart rate is too high against target.  My runs are all meant to be slow with a low heart rate.  Sadly they are slow with a higher than normal heart rate, even taking account the freezing temperatures.  I know that in 4-6 weeks everything will be back to normal and I just have to try my best during this period of emerging from being a sloth.
But every training session counts as I've said before so I have faith that following the plan will lead me to the start line in great condition.  As my gym equipment is in storage my coach has cunningly devised a workout that doesn't require weights.  OMG it's tough but an important part of getting me ready for the season ahead.
Lockdown will mean our group runs are off although we can run with one other person.  Use this as an opportunity to train the way you want at the pace you want rather than running at the pace of the group.  Focus on an aspect of your running or cycling for that session, be it your breathing or the smoothness of your cycling cadence.  This is time to focus on you so indulge yourself.  
Take care out there and always carry out a risk assessment before training as an early season injury would be painful and frustrating.  2021 - let's do this.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Set the bar high

 It's at this time of year, people like to make "new year resolutions".  Usually these are made with good intentions however the phrase itself has negative connotations and this may be responsible for the large number of failures before the end of January.  Just look at gym memberships.  Regular gym members dread January when you have to queue for weights or machines as they are normally packed with people full of good intentions.  But new year resolutions tend not to last and here's my tips on how to get greater success:

1 - How bad do you want it?  Not bad enough hence the lack of commitment.  The goal has got to mean something really important to you.  You need a WHY?  You need to set the bar high which will stretch you to the limits to achieve it.  There is nothing worse than setting a low bar and achieving it.
Mohammed Ali once said "if you're goals don't scare you then you haven't set them high enough".  So before setting your goals just ask yourself the question, how bad do you want it?

2 -  The 5 step plan  I have used this plan in business and in all my adventures from Ironman to multi staged ultra runs.  Step one is setting your objective, but as mentioned above you need a WHY and you need to want to succeed - it has to really mean something to you as that keeps you going when it gets tough, and it will.
Step two is writing down the action plan.  This isn't just a high level document.  This drills down into individual sessions and targets.  I'm not into SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable", relevant, time-based) as I don't agree with attainable!  Attainable definitely means the bar hasn't been set high enough.
Step three This one is absolutely key.  It's about CONTROLS.  You need controls that measure your training to make sure you are on track.  I use a coach who sets my training plan and monitors each session with the use of technology.  You might decide to use a software programme that measures you against goals but the key no matter what method you use, is being accountable for your results.  I use this blog to make me accountable to you for the goals I set and that puts pressure on me to achieve them.  Make sure you have controls in place.
Step four - get out there and do the training and complete your events.  Enjoy the journey because if it's not fun, you need to question what you're doing.
Step five - The REVIEW.  You will constantly be reviewing your training results but this is a major review after your event.  If you were faster, why?  Was it because you set a low target wrong or did your training put you in such good condition - if so then repeat that process.  If you were slower, why?  If you didn't finish why?  What can you learn and sometimes is you learn more from your failures.  I certainly have.  Naturally we don't like reviews but they are essential.
Having shared this plan with you you might be surprised to know that the starting point is actually stage 5, the review.  You need to know where you are starting from before you set  your objectives.  So take time out to review the previous year.

2020 has been an unusual year but we've adapted during the year and as a result of our hard work, 2021 should be a great season, assuming we get to race.  My plans are certainly for a 2nd half of the season "A race" but every training session between now and then are all designed to get me to the start line in the best possible condition.  I hope this proven method is helpful to you and wish you all the best for the year.