Monday, 19 July 2010

A weekend of excess

Excessive food consumption but also excessive exercise.

Hopefully the latter will cancel out the former.

Saturday was pretty good through the day and I treated myself to a really good gym session. Over the last few months trips to the gym have been hurried affairs - straight in, straight out but on Saturday, with the family out shopping, I took the opportunity to take my time.

I managed a very good weights session with weights up to a point where I'd got slight DOMS in triceps and glutes by Sunday morning, 10 minutes HIIT on the stepper, 30 minutes steady on the cross trainer, 12 minutes on the treadmill, a very quick swim and sauna and even a Costa coffee while I read the Guardian after.

The treadmill was quite pleasing. Generally speaking I avoid them wherever possible. Partly as I don't see the point when you can run outdoors and partly because I find a flat constant speed in a still warm room to be quite difficult. Saturday wasn't too bad though. I had to guess pace a bit but started at 12km/h and increased to 15 km/h. I suspect that for adding in a really short recovery jog; doing 40 minutes when the roads are icy or even practicing running form could all be doable on there. I might add in an occasional use.

After I got in I cooked a vegetable biryani. Of sorts. Unfortunately I didn't look at what I was doing and added brown pilau rice instead of the white the recipe called for. As a result the rice was still hard after the cooking time and I needed to add alot more water and cook it on the stove. That left the whole thing rather more moist and stodgy than I'd wanted but it was OK. Unfortunately, later in the evening I ate several rounds of toast and had a couple of curly wurlys as well as 2 bowls of Weetabix. With sugar! I doubt I'll have gained from that but it will have used up most of the day's planned deficit.

Yesterday was long run day, and due to the heavy rain of the last few days I modified the 'normal' route in a few places in order to stay mainly on road. That left an 11.7 mile run with a few more drags up and down hills than usual and a last 2 miles that were relentlessly uphill.

I found it hard going from the outset. I suspect that was mainly because the previous 36 hours contained a trail race, a reasonable amount of cardio and some weights. In any event I started and finished slowly and finished with an average pace of bang on 9 minute miles. Just about still inside the LSR target pace range but at the opposite end of the range to normal.

After a quick shower, protein shake, and three bread cakes we booked a campsite for the first week of the kids' summer holidays (when I'm off for 2 weeks too) then set off for Langstrothdale to do a short walk. Before reaching Kettlewell the rain started to come down heavily and remained that way throughout, so it was full waterproofs on before walking up the hill and along from Hubberholme to Yockenthwaite and returning along the river. The river is normally languid, shallow and clear but after the recent rains it was a deep, dangerous, fast moving torrent that was slightly unnerving to walk alongside.

After that it was treat time and we headed to the White Lion at Cray where I had a huge (and lovely) horseshoe gammon, chips, salad, 2 eggs, tomato, mushrooms, onion rings; followed by 4 'balls' of toffee ice cream and the kids leftover puddings (chocolate fudge cake and Dutch apple crumble). Stuffed. No idea how you'd count that lot but the walk and the run should have offset the damage. Still, it really was gorgeous.

Onto a new week, and this weeks objectives are to stick to exercise plan:

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Club tempo run
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday - VO2 max test
Friday - Weights & cardio
Saturday - LSR
Sunday - Weights & cardio

As well as maintaining some consistency in diet, sticking close to allowances each day rather than the more up and down approach I had last week.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Race complete and lots to learn

Its difficult starting to race again after a decent lay off. Your fitness is a bit of an unknown, your preparation dis-jointed and you're simply not used to running in competition. For similar reasons Super Leeds United have just had two pre-season friendlies in Slovakia and for me I have had a couple of low key Yorkshire races before the targeted runs of the autumn.

Yesterday was the second of these - the Washburn Valley Relay - with the first being the club 5k handicap 3 weeks ago.

As with the handicap I can't decide if I'm pleased with progress or not, but I am certain I can learn a lot from the experience which is, I suppose, all I was ever really looking for.

The WVR is a 3 person relay event with teams invited from Yorkshire running clubs. All clubs enter 1-3 'serious' single sex teams containing their elite runners while the bigger, more local clubs enter some mixed teams too. I was in one of the latter. If the number of teams was similar to last year there will have been just shy of 60 teams.

The three legs consist of loops around or near Swinsty & Fewston reservoirs and measure between 3 and 4 miles each. Aside from a final 800m on road they are on fairly rough trails.

I ran leg 2, the longest leg at a shade over 4 miles, which starts with a fairly steep descent and finishes with a fairly steep ascent. Aside from the last 800m across the dam being on road, its a narrow trail that constantly twists, turns and undulates around the reservoir. Aside from the start and finish none of the uphills are long or terribly steep (5- 20m each) but they and the twists prevent any sort of rhythm and mean sightings of runners in front of you are pretty infrequent.

My Race
Dave, my team mate on leg one, ran a stormer, placing us a number of positions ahead of where I'd have guessed we might have been before the race. Whilst that was great for the team it meant I'd be running ahead of a number of faster runners and was unlikely to have many to chase in front of me. In other words I'd be being hunted!

I set off about 8/10 seconds behind a guy I know from another club. He's older than me but was one of that club's best runners, yet I knew his time last year wasn't great so took a split second decision to try and close the gap and use him to pull me along.

Big mistake.

The steep descent and a deliberate aim to close the gap meant I was running far faster than I should have and this wasn't helped by my 'target' pulling away. Like the racehorse that was sneakilly trained with weights under the saddle to fool the bookmakers he was obviously injured last year and this year had returned very much to form!

After about 1/4 of a mile I had passed one runner and was running at under 6 minutes a mile and despite trying to slow down (and being forced to by the twisting up and down path) the first mile was still done in only 2 seconds over 7 minutes. Yet even with that respectable pace a runner passed me!

Despite being denied the benefits of the downhill start the second mile still wasn't much slower at 7 minutes 11 seconds so by the end of that mile I was starting to feel it and was passed by another runner (who bore an uncanny - but dark haired- resemblance to 70s childrens TV character Catweazle). That meant mile three slowed unavoidably though that wasn't helped by my missing a turn meaning I ran past by 5m and had to stop and turn round. That probably cost me 5 seconds overall.

I knew there were others not far behind me as I could hear them but was fairly powerless to stop a couple more passing me in the third mile as the pace slowed right down to 7 minutes 38 seconds.

Mind you, I wasn't the only one labouring a bit. Ahead of me I occasionally got glimpses of a lithe female and an equally svelte male and got the impression I was very slowly gaining on them both. Equally, I knew there was a Horsforth runner not far behind me at 2 miles but he never did catch me and I suspect I pulled away again by the finish.

The final mile didn't seem to get any slower and with half a mile to go I passed the lad in front before reaching a short steep climb back to the dam, where I could hear someone right on my heels.

That turned out to be Dominic, another Abbey Runner (whose recent 5k time was an enormous 3 minutes faster than mine), and whilst he passed me his presence did pull me along a little bit meaning my finish was credible and not too far behind him. I wasn't passed by anyone else, though the lass in front wasn't quite caught by me as she'd clearly left something in the tank for the finish.

After leg 3's finish I found we were the highest placed of the club's mixed teams. My own feelings were mixed. I'd found it a difficult course/distance to get to grips with and my immediate thought was that the average pace of 7 mins 21 seconds should have been faster by 5/6 seconds a mile. Maybe more - particularly as the sort of 10k time I hope to be running by late autumn would be some 18 seconds a mile brisker and for 2 miles further!

However, having had time to consider it since I probably didn't do too badly. The results might not get posted until early next week but judging by last year's times I'd have been comfortably in the top half which is OK considering the standard is far higher than for a typical club run and infinitely higher than a mass participation RFL/BUPA 10k/Jane Tomlinson style run.

What have I learned?
- I used to run races to a set mile/KM split target but didn't do that yesterday. Doing so might have helped me run a more even (and overall faster) pace. with a plan.

- Its difficult to read much into times for this type of event so don't get hung up on them. For all I know running a flat and straight road course for the same distance could easily have been 10 seconds a mile faster and would certainly have been easier to find a rhythm for.

- I'm psychologically better as a hunter than prey. Some people are great at holding other runners off but I get a bigger lift from chasing someone down. That's interesting food for thought for race start positions. Start too far back and you spend your time weaving in and out but you are passing people; too far forward and it could be demoralising to be repeatedly passed.

- I'm on one race photo and I look flabbier than I'd hoped. Maybe I'm just being narcissistic but either way the planned for weight loss should sort that out - which in turn will have a marked effect on speed (one article I read last week suggested 14s off a 10k time for every pound!)

- Also on the photo I can see I'm heel striking. Its in the last 500m so maybe it was down to tiredness but whilst my foot doesn't look to be dorsiflexed to anything like the degree it was 12 months ago it wasn't the mid foot strike I'd have expected to see. Maybe time to get myself videoed?

Next race will be the Birchwood 10k on 22nd August so a little time to go. I want to PB there but it isn't my ultimate target, its another marker race, so I'll carry on with the weight loss and training and see where we get to.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

I'm a Guinea Pig

I'm going to make the uncommon (for me) move of updating a couple of days into the week.

Monday was a rest day; just a bit of caution after Saturday's difficult feeling run and recognition of some possible groin discomfort.

Not sure whether the latter is real or not. In a response to Alison's excellent blog (linked to on the right) I stated my belief that marathon training is as much a mental challenge as a physical one i.e. one that's filled with obsessive introspection, doubt and phantom concerns. I think training harder after a long injury is similar. I probably get little niggles all over my body and think nothing of them but if its in my lower abs I take the slightest twinge to be a portent of doom.

Whether real or imagined I'm starting to do the core stability exercises that I have largely, but not entirely, neglected since the middle of May. If it is real I hope they'll nip it in the bud.

Back to Monday. I certainly embraced the rest and refuelling principles, as having been good all day I weakened and allowed myself to go through half a dozen slices of bread, a 9-Bar and two Club biscuit bars in the evening to take me comfortably over calorie target. Its tough on 1250 kcals without any exercise calories to burn and, perhaps, I needed it.

Yesterday I reclaimed half of the excess. A long trip down to Essex and back during the day along with a planned run in the evening limited my ability to eat (though even then the diet Gods looked down kindly on me as when I stopped at a petrol station I decided to get a chocolate bar to help keep me awake but found myself at a 'pay at the pump only' pump). Then, in the evening, I headed up to Fewston & Swinsty reservoirs, north of Otley, to recce the three relay routes for Friday's relay event with a group of Abeey Runners, most of whom were faster than me. In all I covered 9.6 miles, with the first 3 miles at 10k pace and the remainder at half marathon pace. I'm happy with that, particularly as it was largely off road in the pouring rain and featured several short, sharp inclines.

Overall, despite being about a stone heavier than where I want to be I feel I'm running better than at the equivalent weight last year and possibly better than I was when racing half a stone lighter.

I found out yesterday that I've been accepted to take part in a trial at Carnegie Sport College that'll consist of 2 hours running to exhaustion in a VO2 max test and then a second test a couple of days after. The second of these is the day after the Pudsey 10k race I've entered, and as a result I'll pull out of the 10k. I'm not too bothered by that. Its a horribly hilly route that wouldn't really tell me anything much about my condition or form; probably more an invitation to injury than anything else.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Happy with that

Overall I'm happy with the last week - even if the weekend proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Monday was a rest day and also proved to be a rhubarb crumble day too! As a rest day there weren't that many calories in the allowance to start with but I had done well until early evening. By then Sue went back to work for a bit and left me, the girls and a rhubarb crumble in the oven. I intended to resist but when I put theirs out it proved futile and 3 helpings later I left it alone!

Tuesday was good though. Stuck to target and clawed back some of the previous day's crumble damage through an undulating 6.4 mile trail run with a faster group in the evening. I was pleased with that as there were little or no breaks and I managed to hold the pace far more comfortably than I'd have expected.

Wednesday was a rest from running but I did head to the gym to do some weights. Still able to increase weights further without any doms afterwards.

Thursday meant speed training in the evening. In this case cross country pyramid intervals of 6, 8, 10, 8, 6 minutes ostensibly at 10k pace, plus warm up and cool down runs. It was hard work but I found myself doing them at more like 5k pace which, again, was pleasing.

Maybe that inspired me to run again on Friday, even though it wasn't planned. Possibly a mistake. I headed out along the canal to do 4 easy miles but it was extremely hot and muggy and I felt jaded from the outset. On a whim I decided to head back the longer route back along the river but felt I had no energy and had to stop 4 times en route. The experience wasn't helped by the path being overgrown with long grasses, brambles and above all nettles leaving me stung from ankles to the tops of my thighs. Did also mange a trip to the gym where, at last, I found a couple of taxing weights to lift - not that that makes me in any way strong, its purely relative - and which left me with a bit of soreness in the left deltoid/upper triceps area by Sunday.

Saturday wouldn't normally be long run day but with my marshaling on the Sunday I had to switch. I don't know if it was the runs the previous days or the heat but it was another toughie. I set out more slowly than normal without realising and whilst the first 5 miles got progressively quicker they were all some way slower than a normal LSR average. I expected the pace to naturally lift from there but by 6 miles I'd slowed again and was finding it hard going. After a brief stop I did another 5 miles but these were slower still, then after a drink break did a slightly brisker final 1.5.

It was tough, it was pretty hilly and it was certainly sunny, hot and muggy. Afterwards we went to Gateshead for the athletics and by the time we got home I felt absolutely zonked.

On Sunday I just cycled to/from the marshaling at the Eccup 10 race - no more than 8 miles. When I got back Sue and the girls had left for her parents in order to attend a family gathering (that marshaling and work stopped me going to) and whilst I resisted the lure of the takeaway I did hoover up most of the crap from the fridge and cupboards. I'm not going to be hard on myself for that and maybe I needed it after a couple of hard days.

Overall I'm pretty pleased.

Exercise wise I did all I intended to do - albeit that it included an extra run and one missed gym trip - and the quality of the 2 club runs was pleasing. The two runs that I found harder I'll just shrug my shoulders at and move on.

I'm probably even happier with the food intake - despite going overboard at the beginning and the end of the week - because I'm pleased at what I didn't do.

I've learned to recognise my binge triggers:

  • Stress
  • Being alone at home when Sue goes away
  • Tiredness
  • Over training
All of these played their part last week. Sue was out on Monday and Wednesday evening as well as going out for her second meal out of the week on Thursday while I was running; Wednesday was probably the most stressful day at work for a very long time and that carried over into Thursday & Friday; Saturday and Sunday I felt tired, partly through not being able to sleep well Friday night and partly from running 3 days on the bounce; yesterday I was home alone from 12.30pm.

I did over eat those two days but I didn't on Wednesday and managed the stress challenge really well. I resisted the takeaway on Sunday as well as the strong temptation of nipping to the shop for biscuits or chocolates. When we went to Gateshead, despite being tired, pooped from the run and 'out' I resisted the chocolates, crisps and sweets at the refreshment kiosks. That might not sound like much but the challenges I had could have made it far worse!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Better balance

Definitely a more balanced week.

Four trips to the gym, sticking to weight loss practises and fairly consistent running - albeit a few miles short on Sunday.

First day firmly back on the waggon. Went out for a short lunchtime run round the block three times from home. 2.9 miles with some strides.

Club 5k handicap in the evening. All told I did ok. Beat my handicap (albeit that it was possibly a bit high) and finished 11/38. Felt I was capable of more but warm weather, hills and little experience of pacing a 5k all caught me out - last mile being down almost at half marathon pace. Managed to limit the damage at the rather good club barbecue afterwards too!

Took the opportunity to do an easy paced 4 miles along the canal from Rodley. Easy paced but not easy - much too warm for that. The possible lower abs/groin unease I felt seems to have disappeared.

Managed a brief lunchtime trip to the gym to do some weights but the planned speed session on the track had to be canned when work got in the way. May not have been a bad thing as it would have been 6 consecutive days running.

Was due to be a rest day but having missed the previous day's speed session I headed for the gym in the evening and did some weights.

Ran with Bethan in the morning - a slow 4.5 miles - then cycled to the gym to lift some weights. In creased the weights again and for the first time got some slight DOMS in the back the following day!

Ran round the course for the Pudsey 10k. I'd intended to run round it twice but after the first I decided to head to Eccup for the second 6 miles. By the time I'd got there I felt tired and stiff (didn't sleep well the night before) so skipped it. Probably over ate due to the big roast dinner but no binge and wont have truly gained from it. Pudsey is a very hilly course for a 10k though - nearly 700ft of climb.

Good results overall.

I measured myself on Saturday and have lost centimetres from everywhere compared with 4 weeks ago; weight was 4lb down (and fat percentage too) by the last time I weighed on Friday, enjoyed doing the weights and had a reasonable running week. Plus, I felt I already looked better and certainly felt better.

Making Wednesday an 'official' weigh in day alongside the family weigh in day of Saturday to help me stay focused throughout the week. Will post some results then.