Friday, 20 August 2010


It seems that both Kat and Alison have 'nominated' me in some sort of blogging award thing (whose name escapes me) so thanks to both.

As part of the acceptance process I'm due to recommend 15 other blogs and give seven facts about me.

It looks like all the blogs I subscribe to have been nominated already so I'll skip that but please do look at the blogs I follow they're all well worth a read.

Now for the seven facts:

  1. I first flew on an aeroplane in February 1980 but only flew once more until the autumn of 2003.
  2. I've been on TV several times, mainly on sports programmes as a face in the crowd but I have been referred to on Match of the Day (as an example of a 'poor' fan), interviewed for the BBC's Superleague show and had my shirt commented on during a Sky rugby league broadcast.
  3. Sticking with the media theme I once did the commentary on a Leeds Rhinos match against Warrington for the official club DVD.
  4. (Apologies to vegetarians...) I grew up in a mining town in the 1970s and as a treat me and my brothers would be given pieces of raw bacon rind to chew the fat from - one of the many reasons my partner thinks I was brought up in the 1930s.
  5. When I was six, and learning to swim, I got into difficulties out of my depth and was petrified of water until I finally learned to swim 8 years ago. I'm now happy to swim on or under open water.
  6. Despite being a mere 40 years old both of my grandfathers fought in world war one - one being one of the first volunteers in August 1914.
  7. Although I've never taught I'm qualified as a teacher.

Testing times

I didn't plan to take risks with yesterday's run. It just happened that way.

The two 'proper' runs I've done in the last 3 weeks (as opposed to the jogs with Bethan) both proved to be really tough but a rest day on Monday, cutting back on the cardio intensity at the gym and a few days off from running seemed to have left my legs feeling fresher and the sustained core stability work seems to be pushing the groin pain away.

So when I set off with the notion of doing a normal or easy run of six to seven miles yesterday I felt pretty good but didn't intend to push myself: it would be a test in itself - especially for the groin.

As I headed out along the canal side I felt pretty good and when I glanced at my watch after a couple of minutes I was surprised that I was running just below eight minute mile pace. Somehow my gait felt easy and the effort less than that pace would imply (the opposite of the last two runs) so I decided to carry on like this for as long as it felt good.

By halfway I had slight soreness in the right calf but that wore off soon after and I was able to keep the core muscles engaged pretty much throughout. In the last mile or two it felt harder work and I was having to give occasional reminders to myself about maintaining cadence but the run had become the sort of test I really wanted but hadn't dared to set out for - something close to a tempo run.

Mile splits were fairly even at:


Slight uphill at the start, up a 2 rise set of locks on the way out (the ones above - the very same), down them on the way back and downhill for last 20 metres or so. Beyond that pretty much flat if occasionally uneven.

Minor stiffness in the calves yesterday evening and this morning but nothing major - I just need to get a massage at some point to loosen them up properly - and most importantly at all no groin pain.

This leaves me thinking I could run a PB at Birchwood on Sunday but having made the decision not to race I'm actually reassured that I've had a moderately tough run this week and done OK. I'll still limit the long run on Sunday to 8-10 miles as distance wise I've no longer races for nearly 8 weeks and can afford that additional caution. Then next week it'll be more back to normal in terms of running.

Most importantly of all I'll keep up with the core stability exercises!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Oi! Weights! Who's the daddy?

See what I did there? I uploaded an image of Ray Winstone to link in with the thread title (i.e. the film 'Scum'). Not bad for an old technophobe like me. Obviously the effect is now spoiled by my lack of nonchalance but, you know, small steps.

Back to weights. Yesterday I planned to do lower body weights - effectively the other half of the full programme that I'd postponed the day before - but felt good while there and ended up doing the whole programme even upping the weights on several exercises. Net result? No DOMS. Maybe there's an argument that on a couple of exercises I could push more but on some - chest press, Pallof press, face press and bicep curl for example - it was a struggle to eek out the last rep.

I'm pretty pleased with that and whilst the calves are maybe still a little knotted they certainly seem better, perhaps aided by the cardio work at the gym being done at a very steady level rather than pushing hard for any 'challenges'.

I'll do an exploratory 6/7 miles along the canal later today to give them a test.

My other reason for feeling a little smug is that I've stuck well to the core stability exercises. Result there is that the core feels more stable and strong already, as if the muscles have been energised (or maybe just re-awakened?). No groin pain and generally no 'odd' feeling at all.

Definitely not racing on Sunday though. Discretion is the better part of valour. Isn't it?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Too quick to point the finger?

After the first of the new weights sessions last week I was undeniably sore for 48 hrs, so, when I did the session for the second time and had soreness in the legs the following day I assumed the cause was the same.

I'm not so sure now.

First time round it was the hammies and lats that complained the most but after Saturday's second time it was the quads and calves with nowhere else giving more than a very slight feeling of fatigue. Maybe that should have raised a question, but after running Sunday and resting Monday I went to the gym yesterday and only did upper body weights along with 10 minutes each of very gentle exercise on the rower and cross trainer. When I got back I took Bethan for a run. Ouch.

Whilst the quads were fine the calves still complained - especially up hills - and just before going to bed I massaged myself with the massage stick they felt sore and knotted.

I suspect that's not down to the weights as down to a combination of weights and, principally, the cross trainer machine.

When I use the latter I'm not good at just doing it, I have to feel that I'm pushing myself and tend to set targets for calories burned within the time. On Saturday after the weights I did the toughest 30 minute session on there to date with the resistance and RPM both high. I did it straight after weights so in order to keep up I noticed that I'd gone up onto my toes alot, presumably to bring the calves into play to support tired muscles elsewhere.

I now wonder if that is what has done for my calves?

Either way I'll keep up the massaging and stretching and see where we get to.

Monday's rest day was a challenge. Not having exercise calories to burn and feeling a little stressed with work had be reaching - or the second night running - for the toast and agave nectar. Eugh.

Better yesterday though. Stuck nicely to target thanks to a combination of gym, short run and banning bread!

Today will most certainly be similar.

I wonder if I'm the only one who has to ban certain foods?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Why only race for PBs?

Two posts down from this Alison asked why I only wanted to race if I felt a PB was on the cards and its easier to explain here than in a comment back, so here goes...

For me there's two types of races: ones that you enter simply because you like the sound of the event, and one's you enter because they have a course that could offer a PB. In either event they have to provide a challenge.

So this year events like Hellrunner and Turbo X are very tough challenges but ones where the time relative to other events is irrelevant. Then there's Birchwood 10k and Wistow 10m with flat PB friendly courses.

Looking long term by the end of November I want to have 10k and 10m PBs from which I can gauge a projected marathon finishing time for April as well as the associated training paces.

Birchwood will/would be an opportunity to set an early PB which in turn provides feedback for target paces for next races hopefully leading to a genuine 'as good as it gets' PB by the end of November.

So...its all about progressive feedback and if I can't run close to a PB there's no point in driving over to Cheshire - I may as well just do a run from home.

That's a very INTP explanation by the way: logical but way longer than was necessary!

On the horns of a dilemma...

...which is an uncomfortable position to be in. It'd play havoc with my hemorrhoids (if I had any...).

Yesterday's weights session was nice and tough but hasn't left the same degree of DOMS which is pleasing so I assume there's been a hint of adaptation by the affected muscle groups. I warmed up with 10 minutes on the rower and finished up with a hugely tough 30 minutes on the cross trainer - high RPM and resistance.

That left me pretty tired today and I felt it in the run. Also, my quads and calves felt sore during and after. I suspect that was down to the extra 10kg I added on to the leg press. Its also the 6th day on the bounce of exercising so there's unsurprisingly some general fatigue ahead of tomorrow's planned rest day.

The run felt hard work. Not as bad as Thursday's by any means but progressively tough, though I was pleased that I was able to test myself with the up hills and came out OK.

Mile splits were:

8:19 (downhill)
8:12 (downhill)
8:21 (half uphill then half downhill)
8:16 (downhill, uphill, downhill)
8:24 (uphill)
8:41 (uphill)
8:34 (uphill)
8:09 (uphill)

Groin feels OK after. Certainly no worse. Didn't feel like I could have ran 80 seconds a mile faster though (even on a flat course) ahead of the scheduled 10k race in Cheshire next week and therein lies the dilemma: do I race or not?

It feels a bit like I have a little devil and angel sat on a shoulder each giving conflicting advice.:

You're just beginning to get over the recurrence of a chronic injury. You're obviously not in great shape. Birchwood was only ever about setting a new PB so why risk hurting yourself further chasing a very unlikely PB? Skip the race and target the PB for Horsforth in 6 weeks...

Stop being defeatist. The injury is being controlled, even the physio said you'd be OK to race. Run at the pace you did at Castle Douglas and there's a dead set PB on the cards. Today was hilly and you're just tired that's all. Lay off the heavy weights for a few days ahead of the race and you'll be reet...

What should I do? I'm not even sure which one is the devil and which the angel...

Saturday, 14 August 2010


OK, three things to update about today: the run, weights and physio.

Actually, make that four: I continued my controlled eating throughout Thursday and Friday (though I, admittedly, went over my 1000 deficit target yesterday by nearly 400 but that was deliberate to aid recovery...).

The run. It was awful. Absolutely awful. Not from the perspective of groin pain though.

I set off and glanced at the Garmin after 1/4 mile and was at 9:15 pace so pushed a little harder. It felt tough though and the first mile still took 8:49 so I stopped for a stretch. Carrying on it felt somewhat easier at 8:22 and 8:25 with another stop just before three miles where I turned round but it still felt a good 30 seconds faster than that. Mile four was grim. It was like the end of a marathon: my legs felt dead and I couldn't help but slow. I stopped 3 times in the last mile and a half and slowed down to close to nine minute miles again.

I think it was down to two things. First up my hammies felt shot from weight training the night before and I was fairly knackered still overall (more on that later) and also I hadn't really ran for 16 days if you ignore the very slow plods with Beth.

The plus though was my beloved groin. Made a point of engaging the core and suffered no big ill effects during or after. In fact the feeling of stiffness I'd had in the adductors was eased by the run.

So, onto the physio at 8am yesterday morning. The regular physio went on maternity after my last visit in May and passed me on to a colleague (hence the trip to Harrogate). Unfortunately it was her last day yesterday and they'd lost all my notes. That made it a more difficult appointment but the upshot was she thinks a few things combined to bring back the pain:

  • I stopped doing the daily exercises a couple of weeks too soon
  • I was probably not quite doing enough each week for maintenance
  • Its likely that I'd got lazy on form and was treating it as a numbers game just to get through
  • I'd possibly not engaged the core consistently through the last runs (where the pain came in)

However, she thinks its probably controllable again by going back to basics:

  • Daily exercises for the next couple of months
  • Maintenance of 3 times a week thereafter, increasing to 5 times a week if training volume/intensity raises e.g. marathon training
  • Be mindful of form - always - starting with pelvic floor exercise before each set

She even thought racing could be OK too. I'm not as convinced of that though.

The discomfort hasn't completely gone and in order to race next week I'd need to feel daily exercises were eradicating this and that I could run on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday with a bit of zip. If I can't run a potential PB I don't see the point in taking the risk. we'll see how the week goes.

Lastly the gym. By Thursday evening my traps, lats, hammies were all very sore with some discomfort also in my calves, glutes, triceps and forearms. The new programme obviously works! Even yesterday I was still sore in lats and hamstrings so I pushed the weights back to today and opted for core, cardio and alot of stretching. Forty minutes on the cross trainer helped the hamstrings and ten minutes rowing certainly loosened the lats. Stretching also helped as my hamstrings were particularly tight.

Today I'll take Beth for a run, go to the gym and cook a curry. Champion.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

I'm quite pleased with myself

Sue and the girls went down to her parent's Tuesday morning (and come back tomorrow), leaving me 'home alone'. That's normally a danger for me but, so far, not this time.

I'm not good being alone, which is odd for someone who, since losing the crutch of alcohol, finds social situations hard work. As a result I've tended to go off the rails whenever I'm left alone.

I remember back in the mid 90s when Sue would go away each year to Robin Hood's Bay with her work I'd get a takeaway each evening - calling in at a restaurant and getting a takeaway with a couple of pints while I waited.

In following years it'll have been takeaways or the occasional meal out alone - a curry or a trip to a nice Persian restaurant. In the last couple of years she's gone away about 3 times a year to her parents during the school holidays and I've tried to control myself. Last time I went and got a job lot of ready meals from Marksies in the hope that would satisfy my desire for a 'treat' while she was away. It failed miserably. Very few ready meals are much of a treat with the low calorie ones the least appealing of the lot. Up shot being that I got two takeaways, biscuits, sweets, chocolate...

This time though I seem to be doing OK. On Tuesday I went to the gym and ASDA and had a lentil and tomato 'thing' (something I make that works as a soup base with added stock or can be had with pasta or rice - I suppose its nearest to a pasta sauce) when I got in; and yesterday I did the gym again and made myself sandwiches with the ever pleasant Burgens Soya & Linseed bread afterwards.

Weight wise a little more has dropped off so that I'm only a shade over 12 stones now - so that's my reward for being more disciplined. Well, its part of it. The other part is that I feel happier without the treats or perhaps I've given myself different treats (long session at the gym and more satisfying food).

On the gym front I got a new programme this week and did it for the first time yesterday. From memory it contains:

Squats on Smith machine
Bulgarian lunge
Shoulder press with dumbbells
Lateral pull down
Chest press with barbell
Face pull on cable machine
Pallof press
Leg press
Leg curl
Bicep curl with dumbbells

All at 3 x 12 rather than the previous 3 x 10.

I certainly found it harder work (even the rep increase on the old exercises like chest press) and have some soreness today. Good though. Also tagged on 40 minutes on the cross trainer.

Groin feels tight but I'm going to chance a run today (after opting out of Tuesday's club run). Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The joys of daily weighing...

...and this time it is a joy!

Weighed myself this morning after the first 24hrs back on track and the weight had plummeted to 12st 2.8lb - a one day loss of 4.4lb.

Obviously carrying a lot of food in transit and retaining some water. Ok its not fat loss for the most part but it makes the holiday gain a more manageable 5.8lb and already takes the target date down to the 8th October.

Suspect that in a week or ten days the target date will have fallen to late Sept or the first couple of days in October: far more sustainable. That might well mean I'll err on the side of keeping it up in 4 weeks...or maintain in three...

Decisions, decisions.

Monday, 9 August 2010

There no posts for 5 days then 3 come along at once...

I had planned to be at 11st by the ‘racing season’ or close to it. In other words by early September. At the moment my target date would be 24th October, though that could easily drop by a week or two if this week were to give a larger than normal loss due to water retention and food in transit issues being reversed - which is likely.

I wouldn’t be unhappy with that based on where I am now.

Training wise the groin is niggling and whilst I hope repeating what I’ve done before will fix it it’s certainly a risk and could easily be exposed by tomorrow’s club run – but if I don’t test it I’ll never know.

However, that means I ought to be looking to moderate demands over the next few weeks.

To manage rehabilitation there’s a few measures:
  • Wear support shorts for the next month or so
  • Do the daily core exercises
  • Engage the core muscles throughout runs
  • Cut back on long run distance
  • Reduce racing/speed work
  • Reduce overall mileage & number of runs
  • Increase weight training intensity and gym cardio work to offset running reduction
That’s all sensible stuff but I need to factor in racing ‘commitments’.

At present I’m due to do Birchwood 10k on the 22nd and then do the Paras 10, a tough 10 miler, 3 weeks later on the 12th September, then there’s another 2 weeks off until the Horsforth 10k. Then there would be another 3 weeks until Turbo X and Wistow 10 on consecutive weekends, Hellrunner 2 weeks later and the Abbey Dash 10k a fortnight further still.

However, if I dropped the Paras 10 the first longer run wouldn’t be until the 17th October meaning I could keep the long run mileage down to 8 miles or so for some time. That would be a big help in managing recovery. It would also mean 5 weeks of no racing after Birchwood and would fit nicely in terms of projected rate of weight loss.

That’s decided then.

However, what isn’t decided is whether the projected weight loss timetable is what I could/should be chasing. Thanks to Alison for putting that idea in the mix.

On the ‘yes’ side is the fact that there is no holiday or other distraction (barring August BH weekend) on the horizon; that it’s a time of year I tend to do well in in terms of weight loss; that reduced running will be more than offset by additional gym work.

On the ‘no’ side would be the less tangible thought that perhaps I ought to be chasing some sort of stability, maybe with a few weeks maintaining weight rather than losing or gaining. I’d expect that to happen in the 8 weeks or so before marathon training started and throughout marathon training but maybe I need to spread that 8 weeks into two 4 week blocks?

What I’m not prepared to do is maintain at current weight. I want to get closer to 11st 7lb at least. So for the next 4 weeks it’s definitely weight loss but do I then have a ‘breather’? Or adopt a 3 weeks on one week off approach kind of like a running plan, maybe with more calories available in cut back weeks? Or would having a pause when within 4 weeks of final goal be crazy and I should keep up the momentum? Or do I just stay flexible and make a call on it depending on how things are a month from now?

On this element I’m really not sure.

I've had my ups and downs

Following on from the last blog, outlining the huge backwards leap I've taken in the last 2 weeks, I've been looking at my Results Graph on

It covers the last 20 months and resembles the profile of a series of Alpine peaks. A number of steady downward lines punctuated by sudden short upward spikes with precious little stability. It doesn't look much but each peak and valley tell their own story:

  • Starts off with 3 months of steady weight loss at the beginning of 2009 as I trained for the Paris marathon, losing 27lbs.
  • Ten days of post marathon excess, a week of hard training then a month of limited training (as my legs recovered) mean comfort eating and half the weight goes back on.
  • But that's OK as I have a new target and lose all of that and 3lb more in the 10 weeks leading up to the summer holiday in France
  • Plenty of running in France off sets the foodie nature of the holiday to a large extent but a week of eating out and eating rubbish on the return means there's still a few pounds back on.
  • Another consistent 8 weeks though that takes me to my lowest ever adult weight - 11st 7lbs - as I run well in a series of races and recognise weight loss as a major contributor to this and to potential future improvements.
  • I've been ignoring ever worsening groin pain though and that and training fatigue leads to me taking a week off in mid October where I deliberately eat appallingly to 'get it out of my system'
  • It doesn't work and with autumn giving way to the dark nights of winter, my 40th birthday imminent, the groin no better and a week's leave spent not away somewhere but sitting bored on the sofa I feel very down and try to find solace in food (as so often I do). That's just a vicious circle triggering more negativity and eating. Within a month I've put on well over a stone.
  • But November isn't so bad. with the 40th out of the way I get back on track, despite running all but stopping and lose half a stone in the month.
  • By the beginning of December I get the news that the groin injury will be long term and that Paris marathon will be a non-starter in 2010. I think 'f*ck it' and give up for December. Despite a few minor concessions to cutting the traditional excess at Christmas I still put on about 16lb in 5 weeks.
  • With no Paris to aim for and no resumption of running on the horizon its difficult to get going in the New Year but a decent 15 weeks gets me slowly back to where i was at the beginning of December.
  • I can't keep it up though despite running having resumed and switch off for 3 weeks and put 10lb on.
  • Steady progress in June and good progress in July take me down to 11st 11lb and that feels so good and yet...
  • Two and a half weeks on from that I've gone into gluttonous excess mode again when faced with feeling sorry for myself over the absence of holiday and worrying about a recurrence of groin pain.

And so the merry go round will start once again and later today I'll reassess my plans and objectives for the next couple of months.

Anyone else have a pattern like this or am I the only fruitcake at the WI show?

All over for another year

That's it then, summer holiday over with for another year. Its been a strange one too.

Between the summer of 2003 and last summer I can recall going to Crete three times, Corfu, Kefalonia, Kos, SW France twice, Paris three times, Rome, Barcelona, Prague, Budapest, Scotland twice. That's not bad in a little over six years but it all stopped after last summer, since when we've had two weekends away camping in Swaledale and 5 nights the week before last camping in Scotland.

Last week I was off work too but instead of heading to North Wales as we'd planned we stayed at home and went for trips out. During the week we went to Magna in Sheffield, the National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield, to the National Rail Museum in York and then yesterday to the Castle Museum also in York. On top of that we twice went to the buffet at Agraah in Shipley, had a Chinese takeaway, ate in two of the museums and had sweets, chocolates, biscuits, peanuts, dips, cakes, crisps most evenings as part of 'treat week'. Oh, and we twice had ice creams too!

All in all it was pretty good, and the kids also went to the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds and to see Toy Story 3 at the cinema. OK, we didn't get sunshine or to see another culture or sample another country's foods but it was OK.

What's all this got to do with running and fitness?

Not a lot, and that's the point of blogging it. With other temptations, a groin injury for me and a bad back for Sue there was limited running, only the short walk in Scotland and only two trips to the gym in the fortnight despite all the free time. There was also the 'traditional' feeling sorry for myself and (failing to) find comfort in eating crap.

A little over two weeks ago I was very much 'in the zone', feeling good about myself and weighing in at 11st 11lbs. Eighteen days later and I weigh 12st 8.2lb. Yes, you've read that right, that's a gain of 11.2lbs. Now, I know a good chunk of that will be water retention and 'food in transit' but even so there's some considerable weight gain that I can feel as well as see in numbers on the scales.

So, later today I'll reassess my objectives and plans in light of this but before that I'll put this latest setback into context...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Day One (again)

Suitably chastened by Allison's stern rebukes I decided to cancel yesterday's club run and just test the groin with a 2.6 mile jog with Bethan.

I made a point of focusing on engaging the core muscles - (semi) specifically the ones you'd clench if you were desperate for the loo but not yet near one - and suffered no discomfort during the run. It took a bit of concentration to keep that up. Its something I found hard at first but then more or less got in the habit of doing it every time though I suspect that recently when I've tired either at the end of longer LSRs or during races I've let slip.

Afterwards there was no great problem and certainly no lower abs discomfort at all, just that feeling of the left hand side of the groin somehow feeling slightly 'misaligned'.

By this morning even that had passed.

However, I'm going to be cautious as I've been here before - chasing miles or times while it gets progressively worse and have come up with a plan:

1) Start on the core stability exercise program again
2) Cut back on mileage this week by just running once more with Beth and doing 6-8 miles at the weekend
3) Replace this week's runs with cardio & weights at the gym
4) Cut back LSRs to 10/12 miles max for the next couple of months
5) Really concentrate on engaging the core at all times during runs

With luck that will keep me on track without anything getting worse.

To kick that off I revised the core programme today and did the first set:

  • Plank
  • Side plank
  • Swiss ball hyperextension
  • Bridge
  • Static lunge
  • Walking lunges
  • Single leg dips
  • X-band walk
  • Supine hip extension
  • Lying hip adduction
  • Piriformis stretch
All lovingly tabulated into an Excel plan in the colours of my favourite Adidas Adizero kit. I really need to get out running again soon don't I?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


Perhaps I'm being just a tad melodramatic in comparing today's run with the Normandy landings but it doesn't feel too great a leap to me this morning!

This is a post about my groin. You have been warned.

To re-cap:

  • First started getting pain in lower abs late August last year. Ran through it and it got progressively worse while also being misdiagnosed by physio.
  • By late October I'd virtually had to stop running and was getting twinges through the day too.
  • Went to see a consultant early in March who diagnosed Sportsman's hernia and referred me to a sports physio he recommends.
  • Began series of core stability exercises while gently starting running again.
  • also began trying to engage core muscles while running.
  • After about 6 weeks there was no presence at all of pain before, during or after.
  • After about 12 weeks I slowly started to drop the daily core stability exercises.
  • Still no recurrence even with speed training and racing, and long runs up to 13 miles.

...for a few weeks I've felt a hint of 'something' - difficult to pinpoint, not pain as such, short lived and possibly imaginary...

...then on Wednesday last week I could definitely feel it after the Castle Douglas race - a pain in the lower left abs towards the inguinal canal, that stayed for 3 days. Since then the pain has eased off but the left groin area feels loose or disjointed a bit.

Its a worry. A big one. Last year gave me 4 months off and left me feeling depressed and having the prospect of £2.5k's worth of operation to fund.

I'm really hoping this will just be a warning and that if I start the core exercises again, after a week's rest, and engage the core muscles during every run it'll disappear again and can be held in check permanently by these actions. The fear is that there's still an underlying weakness that will just get worse as pace or mileage increase. Last year a week or more of rest didn't make any difference at all.

Tonight is a 7/8 mile tempo run with the club and this morning a very gentle 2.5 mile jog with Bethan. I'm really hoping to get through both pain free and will know by Thursday morning - no pain by then means its nipped in the bud.

Nerd porn

After 10 days without really having a laptop its good to be back online on my new netbook. I've even pushed the boat out and bought MS Office so there will be no more messing about with MS Works spreadsheets.

Its amazing how much is stored on a pc - pictures, videos, weight/running/training/racing spreadsheets, lists - all now lost.

One thing that is good to be back with is Garmin Connect. Fortunately, as its not stored locally all the old data is still there and I've been able to look at the last few runs. Twostick out - the 14 mile LSR from the Sunday before last and the Castle Douglas race.

The LSR looks to have been slightly hillier than a normal LSR by about 200ft extra of elevation with pretty constant ups and downs but the first half generally downhill and the second half more generally uphill, giving mile splits of:


The notable increases/decreases look to match pretty well to changes in gradient, so happy with that.

Castle Douglas was more of a surprise. I'd remembered the course as constantly undulating gently and the first mile or two bein generally downhill. That doesn't seem to be the case. Mile one and two look to be billiard table flat, mile three had a long uphill drag and short decline giving a small net ascent, mile four was up and down a fair bit and mile 5 had two downs and an up to give a slight net descent.

That gave rise to confirmed mile splits of:


I don't think it tells me anything that will change the plan for Birchwood though.

Monday, 2 August 2010

More camp than Kenneth Williams

That was my last week in Dumfries & Galloway, staying on the shores of Loch Ken.

It's funny how holidays are never quite what you'd envisaged they'd be. In this case I'd had a ragged notion that the holiday would include hiring a mountain bike for half a day, 3/4 runs, some swimming in the loch, lots of hill walking and several trips out ion the loch in a canoe or kayak. I'd also kidded myself that it would be a few days of healthy eating punctuated with the odd treat for all my physical exploits.

In the event I ran once (the race), did one 4 mile walk up/down a hill in the Galloway forest and had 40 minutes each in a kayak, canoe and rowing boat. I also managed about 20 seconds swimming in the loch. Ah well.

Food wise was even worse. Probably Monday and Tuesday weren't too bad - if you exclude the post race chips and bag of jelly babies that is - but after that it wasn't good. There were few obvious candidates for eating out on an evening and limited to a single gas burner we fell back on fish & chip shops for 3 nights, a disposable barbecue for one and a pile of cheese sandwiches for the other. During the day there was the novelty of frying eggs and bacon at six am, the lure of the on site sweetie shop and three trips to tea shops for scones and or cake. Oh, and a trip to an ice cream parlour.

It was still a decent break though.

Castle Douglas 5 Mile Road Race

This race provided one of the sternest tests yet in my running career.

Not the actual running of the race – that was pretty straightforward – but actually finding out when and where this Brigadoon of races would take place tested my endurance far more than the average weekend long run.

We’d decided to go camping for a few days in Dumfries & Galloway and while trawling the net for likely things to see and do I saw a fleeting reference to a ‘fun run’ as part of Castle Douglas’s Civic Week. I assumed that meant a one mile jog round a park but a bit more Googling found a second oblique reference that suggested it might actually be a 5 mile road race but there was no mention of time or location. Obvious solution: look on runners World’s events listing. Nothing there. OK, try John Schofield’s site: nothing there either. A bit more Googling and I had a date and a time: well, two times actually. It was almost definitely on the 27th and would start at 6.30pm and/or 7pm and would probably start somewhere in or near ‘Lochside Park’. I tried an appeal for information on Runners World’s forums – all that got was a virtual tumbleweed.

It was mentioned as a club championship event on the Dumfries RC website though so I felt sure it must exist and decided to just check with the local Tourist Information when we arrived in the area. They were pretty good and confirmed the location and that the start time was 7pm (the race at 6.30pm was to be a ‘bogie race’ and that’s not what you might think), but also advised calling in at a tea room down the road where the event Chairman would have all the details. When I got there only the Chairman’s wife was in residence and she couldn’t confirm what day or time the run was taking place let alone whether there were entries on the day and recommended I “...just turn up about seven - I’m sure that’ll be fine”.

After considering her advice I got there just after six and was the 5th person to register (so I got an ‘elite’ number), and headed back to the car to kill time until just before seven – the now confirmed start time. The fee was £4 so there’d be no souvenir t-shit/mug/towel but that wouldn’t have been in keeping for such a hidden event!

By the time I got to the start area a few minutes before seven there was quite a throng of runners chatting or warming up as they preferred. Around half were from Dumfries RC, with the remainder from Dumfries Harriers, Annan & District AC, Galloway Harriers, various other Scottish clubs and a fairly small smattering of unattached runners. And me. In the event the lady in the tea room was right – by 7.10 they’d just about finished registering runners and we got underway about 5 minutes later.

The course was a good one – almost all on road aside from the last section back into the park and gently undulating all the way round in a large almost un-marshalled loop, relying on 4 arrow signs to guide any runners as to which turns to take.

My race was pretty good too. Having spent much of the winter away from the sport nursing a groin injury I’m still feeling my way back and the two races I’ve ran (the club 5k handicap and Washburn relay) were both ones where I ran without a plan, set off too quickly and tired in the closing stages so they didn’t really tell me anything about where I was but did give me a few things to learn (see July's last post). So, this time I knew what mile splits I wanted and did my best to stick to them.

I'd set a target for myself of 7m 20s per mile. That was 1s faster than Washburn but for an event that was a mile longer. It would equate to a 10k of 45m 31s - faster than my PB from last year but not quite down at the sort of time I think I'm capable of this year, so, a decent benchmark of progress.

I set of quickly again, aided by a slight downhill, but this time I noticed it and slowed myself up so that mile one was completed in 7:16. By this stage the field had thinned out a bit and a lady runner seemed to be using me to pace her. Letting gravity do it's thing on a short downhill managed to shake her off and took me past 3 others in mile two which stayed pretty even at 7:18.

Mile three continued to undulate but had a little more up than down. During that mile I was passed by one guy early on but passed him again at the end of a long drag and he faded away. Time for mile three was 7m 30s - not sure if that was just the hills or a lack of concentration - I suspect it was maybe the former as by the end of it I had 4 runners in sight ahead of me whenever there was a long straight stretch, which mile three had a lot of.

I could see throughout the penultimate mile that I seemed to be very slowly gaining on the gang of four. They were quite spread out - a stick like veteran from Annan AC, a twenty something lad from Dumfries Harriers who looked like a thin Kurt Cobain, a guy in a yellow vest and a lady from Dumfries Running Club furthest ahead. Maybe mile four was a little flatter but they seemed to spread more by the end of it with me only a few metres behind the vet, who in turn was only a few metres behind the Harrier, then a fair gap to the chap in yellow and probably the same distance as ever between me and the Dumfries lass. I felt less fatigued strangely, as if I was only just truly finding my rhythm, and ran 7m 12s for mile four.

In the early stages of the last mile it was interesting to watch what was happening ahead of me. The vet drew level with the Harrier but didn't pass him and half a minute later the Harrier had pulled away again. I assumed that meant the vet had gambled on an increased effort he couldn't sustain and had shot his bolt, and took the opportunistic approach of passing him there and then.

I'd read, and subsequently practised, that when you pass someone you should sustain the increased speed for a little longer to put distance between you and mentally break them from any notion of going with you. In doing that I found I wasn't far behind the Harrier so decided to be opportunistic again and pass him in the same move. The increased pace felt sustainable so, knowing I was probably approaching the last half mile I carried on at that pace to the finish - running my quickest mile split by some way at 6:44. That felt good.

What didn’t feel so good was the pain for 48hrs afterwards as I was feeling my groin throughout that time (well someone’s got to and I was the only volunteer...) but hopefully I can get that under control again. It’s certainly not as bad as it was last autumn so fingers crossed.

Overall time was 35:29 and an average of 7m 12s (the course measured slightly short). I was 30s behind the Dumfries lass, only 6 behind yellow vest, 12 ahead of the vet, 18 ahead of Kurt Cobain (who the vet evidently passed again), over a minute ahead of the chap who'd passed me and then been passed back and about a minute and a half ahead of the woman who was using me to pace with in the first mile or two. 34th overall out of 108, which considering it was a very clubby event, was good, and the time is the best relative time I've run to date and equates to 44:45 as a 10k time.

So, what have I learned this time?

1) Pacing did make a positive difference - as expected.
2) Patience is indeed a virtue - stick to the pace and you'll get your rewards but...
3) ...continue to 'read' other runners - are they breathing hard, slowing, looking ragged - if so take advantage and pass them, don't slow with them.
4) I seemed to get stronger (relatively and in terms of pace) later in the race, implying I need to do a bit of warming up (which I've neglected thus far this year) and so hit my straps earlier.
5) There's more in the tank, especially with a few pounds more lost, so dropping the target to 7m 10s at Birchwood could be on the cards, particularly as its flatter.

Mind you, all of that is dependent on the ol' groin. More on that later...

The week before last

Proved to be a pretty good week.

I'd set myself the target of consistency in diet and that's pretty much what I got. Result was that by Saturday morning the weight had dropped below 11st 11lb and I felt and looked leaner already. Really pleased with that.

I did go off the rails a bit on the Saturday at my parents Golden Wedding party (with non diet friendly buffet) but was back on track Sunday.

Exercise wise it had gone well too. A couple of trips to the gym to lift some weights, a couple of short swims afterwards, a decent paced club run in the pouring rain on Tuesday, a 5 mile run with Bethan, an easy paced 4 miles along the canal and then a 14 mile long run on the Sunday.

That was the furthest Bethan had ever run and my furthest long run since the autumn. Found it quite tiring though but not as bad as the previous week and certainly at a faster pace.

All in all a good preparation for the week of camping challenges ahead and the race I'd spotted while looking for things to do on holiday...

Father, its been 2 weeks since my last confession...

...but I've got excuses!

The laptop died the Friday before last (so I'm using the work one which, as I'm on leave, feels wrong) and I've had 6 days camping in Scotland. That means there's a fair bit to catch up on which I'll probably spread over a few blogs:
  • The week before camping
  • The Castle Douglas 5 Mile Road Race
  • Camping trip
  • Aftermath
That should do it.

More later.