Monday, 31 January 2011

Four Positives

I thought I'd do a post that reflected my mood today by picking out 4 big positives in my current fitness endeavours to really underline, to myself, a positive mental attitude. Especially as fitting in my Tuesday and Wednesday runs this week will need a good deal of commitment.

Here we go:

Core workouts/groin injury
All seems under control. There is a twinge from the old injury from time to time but nothing intense and certainly doesn't seem to be getting any worse. I'm doing the core exercises just twice a week but I seem to be getting stronger with them all the same - especially noticeable with exercises like the single leg squat and box lunge.

Ticking along nicely. If I take out the Christmas fall and rise in weight I've pretty much maintained for a number of months and have been reducing for the last 2 and a bit weeks. Still on target to hit 11st by early/mid March with a 2lb a week loss and will then switch to maintaining - assuming I don't find signs of restriction impacting training in the meantime, in which case I'll re-assess.

Losing the best part of another stone could and should make runs easier and pace faster. Possibly quite dramatically. It'll be interesting to see.

Marathon Training
I've had some pleasing runs of late and I'm beginning to feel like the training plan mists are clearing and I can start to see the path to my goal more clearly.

What do I mean by that confusing metaphor?

Well, during training, and maybe particularly for the plan I'm following, there's a progression of training types, paces, distances etc and these imperceptibly build upon one another to gradually increase speed and endurance specific to the marathon goal. The trouble is that as I was completing them, especially when I was doing things like short intervals at 1 mile pace, it was very difficult to see how everything would come together. Now, I not only feel in pretty good shape for the stage I'm at but the types of activity I'm doing and have planned for the coming weeks more clearly relate to the end goal.

Legs & injury
The move to concentrate on cadence (and so shorten the stride again) has really helped with my calves. Within days the only worry was the sore point on the left tibia but even that seems to be slowly improving. That might be down to Jess's stretches, 'draining' my legs after the endurance run, using calf guards, getting stronger or a more delayed response to the cadence change. Probably a bit of all of them. Moreover, my legs feel fresh and loose today despite yesterday's run and walking - that's got to mean I'm in good nick for the next level of training.

How about you? Can you pick out four positives in relation to your current health and fitness goals?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Its 'Running God' time again... know what to do.

Before that though, I'll briefly touch on Friday's more mortal tempo run. Last week I did 3 miles warm up/cool down as well as 4 miles @ 7:02 pace (against a target of 7:08). This week's was similar, other than the tempo section was slightly longer at 4.5 miles. I hit target again, but not quite up to last week's pace: 7:06. Bearing in mind I didn't quite feel 'up' for the run, I regard it as a pretty decent result.

Now for today's.

The training plan said 16 miles somewhere between 8:18 and 9:11 pace. I decided to do 17 miles and was looking for a pace between 8:44 (mid point of the target band) and 8:55 (as this week's run was about endurance rather than pace progression).

In the event it did turn into an impromptu progression run along the Leeds Liverpool canal from the edge of Leeds, across the edge of Bradford, through Shipley, through the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Saltaire to the edge of Bingley. Then along the river Aire past the famous Bradford & Bingley Rowing Club (8 boats training this morning and 3 coaches cycling along with load speakers), along the edge of Baildon, back to the river crossing via a footbridge then the last 5 miles retracing part of the route along the canal through woods and across from the village of Esholt (where they used to film Emmerdale - which was filmed all of last week on my street).

The mile intervals were:

  1. 8:58
  2. 8:32
  3. 8:41
  4. 8:41
  5. 8:25
  6. 8:31
  7. 8:26
  8. 8:23
  9. 8:16
  10. 8:27
  11. 8:21
  12. 8:07
  13. 8:06
  14. 8:07
  15. 7:57
  16. 7:54
  17. 7:34
I suppose I could feel it a little bit in the last 5 miles but generally I felt good throughout and even in the last mile it was only the increase in pace (that didn't feel too forced) that gave any notable sense of fatigue. Maybe that's the biggest positive I take - that it all felt relatively comfortable.

It was just one of those runs where you can really feel 'flow' - if that's not sounding too new age. Two energy gels consumed - at 7.5 and 12 miles, and all completed after...


....3 lots of diarrhoea this morning as I've had a touch of the (mild) stomach bug that the rest of the family had. Nice eh? Makes the run all the more impressive though.

Can't say I've felt much in the way of soreness or fatigue afterwards either as we went out and did a muddy five and a bit miles walk this afternoon between Addingham and Ilkley, to see how the other half live. They live very, very comfortably.

Anyone else had any adventures?

Thursday, 27 January 2011


I have a couple of potential blog subjects brewing up (which makes me sound constipated. I'm never constipated...) but for now I'll just blog a little concerning yesterday's run.

Part of this concerns the calf pain I mentioned yesterday, and which prompted some useful comments. Its a very specific spot that's sore and its distinct from the more general fatigue/stiffness/pain that (re) shortening my stride cured straight away last week.

I didn't mention yesterday that my fear is/was that it is either a stress fracture or it has the makings of one. It ticks most of the boxes for that, which is a worry.

However, the position is higher than where stress fractures typically occur and the pain lessens over time spent running, which instinctively seems more muscular to me even though the pain is on the bone, and one of the several symptom lists for a stress fracture described the pain as 'crescendo' i.e. it builds during a run.

Another Paris marathon runner has said she had something very similar/same last year and it was due to a specific point in the calves where lactic acid was building up and not draining. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday's run actually lessened the pain so, after a brief moment of indecision, I decided to head out yesterday and do the short intervals speed session as planned.

I felt slightly fatigued and stiff still. Actually, it might be best to think of it as a absence of feeling loose and easy rather than a feeling of stiffness - if that makes sense - and to some extent that persisted throughout. I'm sure that's just training.

I jogged the first 1.66 miles as warm up. All downhill and a deliberately sedate 9.12 pace. That took me to a relatively flat section of main road to do the intervals on. None of it is actually flat but it only rises and falls gently which is as good as I can get away from the canal.

The plan called for 1k intervals at a pace of 6:53 per mile and I managed:

  1. 6:50
  2. 6:57
  3. 6:46
  4. 6:42

Though I didn't realise it at the time (as I'd forgotten exactly what the target was) that's an average of 4s a mile faster than target so I'm pleased with that.

Its an interesting comparison with last week's session, which only consisted of 3 intervals and was completed on a completely flat route:

  1. 7:01
  2. 6:58
  3. 6:45

Round about 6s a mile faster this week and with 33% more work.

The jog back was 1.5 miles all steadilly uphill (62m of climb across the 1.5) and that was done at a strict recovery pace of 9.37

We'll see how the rest of this week and next go, but after that its recovery week, and if I seem to be consistently hitting or going under target I'll consider changing Target Pace Level to the next one up for the week after recovery. According to the plan its not uncommon to change levels 3-6 times across 24 weeks. I've only moved up one since starting and I'm doing week 13 so it feels about right.

Nothing worse calf wise post run, and today is core and cross training day. Probably no more than 30 minutes on the cross trainer, just for the calorie burn and getting a bit more blood flowing through the muscles. Should be good.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Mental meanderings

Just over 10 weeks now until the Paris marathon.

I blogged last week about marathon training provoked episodes of self-doubt, and this morning I've been pondering related subjects.

Yesterday my legs felt a little bit sore, not the general feeling of stiffness and soreness I'd had in recent weeks but a specific extremely tender spot on each calf. The plan called for 8 miles steady, cue several hours of conflicting thoughts on whether to rest, run or compromise.

Walking from a car park to/from a meeting seemed to help loosen things and I decided to run but with the option of bailing out if necessary.

After only 10m it felt like it was going to be necessary as the pain was highly noticeable but I carried on. At 2.5 miles it was no better, and I felt generally fatigued to boot, but it seemed as easy to carry on round the loop as to turn around so carry on I did. Then, just after 3 miles the pain vanished. I don't know if it was endorphins, increased blood flow or warmth but the tender spots weren't causing any problems.

By 6 miles though it had become an effort. Not this time because of soreness but simply because it felt like hard work. I completed the run but realised that Sunday's efforts weren't yet out of my system. In the end I did a reasonably hilly and often muddy 8.04 miles at 8:42 pace.

Last night and this morning my legs feel ostensibly fine, but I know that the tender spots will still be very tender to the touch.

The worries before and during the run extend into a general fear that the pain is something chronic that could become acute as training increases. Not a whole lot I can do about that other than persevere along current lines and use judicious rest if necessary.

On a more positive mental note I felt quite excited this morning when reading about where I'll be staying in Paris.

Last night we were talking about money (which will be the subject of a blog later - where I'll be asking for advice in relation to eating and budgeting) and got onto the subject of how we can limit expenditure in Paris. That led to my looking up when the balance is payable this morning and from that I began looking at images of the place and the map of the area. I vaguely know the area, simply because the marathon route goes through it, and I could picture myself walking round there, heading into the neighbouring parc, to the Metro, to the marathon expo and so on.

It felt good to get away and be in Paris even if only virtually and for a second or two. Only 72 days until we fly...72 days...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Today's run

Before I start on today's update, I mentioned using a metronome to maintain running cadence and that prompted a couple of questions so here's a quick resumé of what I do.

I use a hand held metronome of the type that is designed to clip to a music stand. I set it to 90 BPM and to bleep twice per beat (so it bleeps 180 times a minute). 180 is said to be the most efficient leg turnover rate (or cadence) so I then run with the aim of a footstrike with each bleep.

If you've never measured it before it can be interesting to measure your cadence. Just set a timer for a minute and count your steps. Most people have a slower cadence. If you then want to improve your cadence (and speed) just aim to increase by 5bpm per week from where you are now up to 180, changing the settings on the metronome each week.

Back to today's post now...the subject of which is this morning's run.

Location; Along the Grand Union Canal from Foxton Locks, Leicestershire
Temperature: 4c
Weather: Grey, dry, generally still but with a blustery wind later on
Surface: Muddy, slippy, sloping path with a couple of climbs
Distance: 15.01 miles
Number of falls: 3

The Run
This is a route I've run once before, around 18 months ago, a run which proved difficult and underlined the extent of a groin injury I was suffering at the time. Not happy memories.

The plan for this run is to cover 15 miles with the first 8 miles at 8:50/8:55 pace and then the last 7 miles each speeding up by 10 seconds a mile so that the last mile is at about 7:35 pace i.e. half marathon pace. Its what the training programme refers to as a progression run.

I set off from the car park to head straight up the hill alongside Foxton's famous locks, a 5 rise staircase locks, but in the process take a couple of wrong turns. After 0.25 miles a glance at the Garmin tells me 9:38 pace which is a little faster than I'd have expected, with the hill and the about turns. After crossing a humpback bridge to pick up the towpath at the other side I glance again, and see the pace bizarrely having fallen to 10:00 mile pace. I can't help but speed up and the first mile completes in 9:12.

The first mile has been on a decent path: at first wide tarmac and then a ribbon of tarmac along the grassy bank. This changes almost immediately as I enter mile 2 with the tarmac petering out to be replaced by a narrow muddy trail along a quite steeply sloping and often narrow band between hedge and canal. Its not easy and for the next 13 miles my feet are frequently slipping and sliding.

Mile 2 also brings about further obstacle in the form of 20 or so match fishermen. None seem to use conventional fishing rods, instead favouring long carbon fibre fishing poles which they place on stands across the towpath. Half the fishermen are friendly and helpful in moving them out the way, the others are surly and ignore my presence. I hurdle 3 poles and limbo under another 2 but can't help but keep up a quicker pace and the Garmin bleeps to tell me mile 2 has taken 8:17. Too fast.

Mile 3 features another half dozen match fishermen to pass as well as further deterioration to the bank and towpath. Now there's constant mud, a treacherous slope, tree roots, and occasional patches where the towpath has begun to collapse into the canal. I try to gradually slow the pace and complete the mile in 8:36.

Mile 4 is more of the same and includes my first fall. The slope goes from left to right and my feet frequently slip to the right after impact, but on one occasion the slip is further than expected and before I know it I'm landing on outstretched hands. 8:42 for the mile.

Similar story for mile 5 and by this time I can feel lumps of mud coming flying off my shoes with each stride as well as the occasional twig that gets stuck across the base. 8:51 this mile, the first one that's close to 'target'.

Mile 6 and I get lost. Ahead of me I can see a forbidding looking tunnel and the path heads up a hill away from the canal and onto a bridge. I can remember struggling here before and when I reach the bridge I can only see one footpath,between some stables and up a grassy but waterlogged hill side. As I near a village at the top of the hill the path becomes fenced in and completely mud filled. So far the mud has been slippy but thick whereas here its brown water that reaches ankle height.

At the end of the path I stop and scrape my shoes clean of as much thick mud as possible on a fence. The lugs are completely filled with mud and a layer of leaves has stuck to the bottom of the soles. Through the village I realise I'm a little way off track but spot a well to do looking old lady and ask directions. She seems initially perturbed by my calling her 'love' (scary northern oaf) but gives pretty decent instructions and a quarter of a mile down a hill I find the correct path. 8:46 for the mile.

I head up a long, steady rise up a hillside along a tree lined muddy footpath and then head down the other side. At first I fight gravity worrying that I'll fall in the mud but give in and go down the steepest section fell runner style. Before I know it the canal appears in front of me and I'm on the towpath. I stop for a couple of seconds as the slope to the towpath and flight of steps to the left look very familiar and I worry that the lady has sent me back the way I'd come. I realise though that on rejoining the canal the towpath has switched sides disorientating me. Thanks to the steep descent its 8:21 for mile 7.

This section of the towpath has no slope so the mud is far less hazardous, which is good as my shoes are already clogged again with thick mud and leaves. On my left a relatively wide grassy section is taped off between the muddy trail I'm running on and the water. I wonder why. On the way back I spot a sign warning 'Danger Deep Mud'.

Mile 8 includes a brief stop at the halfway point off excess fluids and try scraping the soles of the shoes again and I decide to amend my plans slightly on account of the hills early on the return leg. I won't try to speed up until I rejoin the canal. Mile 8 completed in 8:38.

I find the steep climb in mile 9 quite draining but the downhill that follows it certainly helps with recovery, and I follow the correct route over a disused railway line and back onto the canal again. Once again I stop briefly in confusion. There it is again, the slope down to the towpath and the steps to the left but shouldn't I have just crossed a track? I spot the mouth of the tunnel and realise I've rejoined the towpath about 150m beyond the point I'd left it earlier. I'm not going mad. I am slowing though: 8:51 for that miles, chiefly because of the climb.

My feet also ache though. I can feel a big blister on the side of the right ball joint beneath my big toe and my ankles and arch ache from running along the camber of the footpath and the slipping with almost every stride. For a similar reason my adductors also feel tired and I redouble my efforts to keep the core muscles working to help out.

Its not far into mile 10 and I start to speed up a fraction as per the revised plan. Almost immediately I fall. I'd started to run on the grassy slope a few inches above the muddy ribbon of path thinking I would get better traction but my right foot hits the ground and rips a divot of turf straight off from the muddy soil beneath it and I'm over on my side. Body and pride intact I carry on and complete the mile in 8:30.

I step it up again for mile 11, maybe a little more than I planned as it comes in at 8:12, but this evens out in mile 12 which is only a second quicker at 8.11. I'm starting to feel fatigued now. I must be working harder relative to the pace due to the mud and the wind has started to get up, not overly strong but noticeable and straight at me.

Mile 13 and I nearly end up in the canal twice. First when the canal bends to go under a bridge but in the mud I struggle to get enough purchase to turn with it and for a moment seem to be heading into the wet. Second when I slip in the mud but somehow manage to keep just about upright, though I'm sure I ran with my nose inches above the ground for a few paces! Its also a return to the fishermen and I have to slow a couple of times while they move their rods out of the way. I feel too tired to attempt hurdling any now, but I have successfully upped the pace to 7:58, marathon pace.

Only two miles to go now, but plenty more fishermen to navigate. 7:51 for the penultimate mile and the worst of the towpath is now behind me, plus I know that the last mile will include 150m of downhill path.

Back to Foxton in the last mile and suddenly there's lots of people. Along the canal, if I don't count fishermen, I've seen no runners, no mountain bikers and only 2 dog walkers but here with the locks, car park, pub, two tea rooms and museum things are busy. No drama and a last mile cock on target at 7:34.

I'd made a point of running with high cadence and for the last 3-4 miles thought of little else beyond core and cadence being maintained. Calves feel pretty good and my legs feel relatively sprightly. There are blisters on both feet, the one on the right an ugly blood filled one, and my left ankle feels a bit stiff from the camber but overall I'm very happy with the recovery so far.

Rest day tomorrow then I should be good to go for Tuesday's 8 miles.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Kneel before me

Generally should anyone say that to you it would be advisable to say 'Not bloody likely' then search out a member of the constabulary, but on this occasion I hope you will humour me for today...


You can probably infer that today's tempo run went well...

Cast your mind back a week and I was concerned at my apparent lack of pace having felt shattered whilst averaging a mere 7:30 pace for 3 x 1 mile intervals, but after a fair performance in completing Wednesday's 1k intervals I went into today's run feeling far more upbeat.

I ran 3.12 miles warm up/cool down at about 9:15 minute miles but completed the 4 mile tempo run at 7:02 pace - even faster than target and with the last 2 miles in 6:55 and 6:52 respectively, despite being wrapped up in sub zero temperatures and running on a fairly uneven surface.

If that wasn't pleasing enough my legs feel pretty good too. A little soreness near the inside top of the tibia and some light doms in glutes and adductors but that's all.

On that basis (and tempting fate here) I think I've cracked the sore calves issue.

I'd previously hypothesised a number of contributory factors leading to soreness - pace, mileage, inadequate rest etc - and I suspect all played their part but I think the biggie was my gait.

In early summer I'd ran a race and on seeing a race photo from the finishing mile I thought it looked as if I was heel striking when fatigued. Its difficult to draw such conclusions from a single image but it was enough to make me think far more about a forefoot foot strike, and proprioceptive adaptation being what it is the more I thought about it the more it began to happen.

That led to some soreness in calves and achillies but no particular damage. I put this down to a temporary strain as my muscles adapted to the modified gait and after a few weeks the pain began to ease off.

Then, in October, I began the 24 week programme and with it began twice weekly speed sessions featuring fast hill repeats and intervals ran at 1 mile race pace. For that type of training there's an increased tendency to run up on the toes with the heel barely touching the ground (if at all) and I suspect that began to carry over into my running generally: a powerful forefoot strike with the calves getting no rest within the gait cycle.

When I needed to slow down to base pace or recovery run pace I maintained the foot strike from faster sessions but slowed through reducing my cadence so my gait consisted of a series of powerful over striding 'leaps' but from toes to toes rather than the more common fault of heel striking.

So, having considered this I've made an effort since Sunday to simply up my cadence back to 180 strides per minute - even running with a handheld metronome on Tuesday. The idea is that the fast cadence will bring the stride length back down, reduce impact and hold foot strike at a more normal forefoot/mid foot position so that the calves rest momentarily within each stride.

The results are excellent with the tightness and pain I felt in the calves completely disappearing.

Roll on Sunday!

On manoeuvres with Major Bumzor

My glutes hurt.

I don't think its a result of Wednesday's run, I think its come from spending 15 minutes on an unfamiliar cross trainer yesterday morning.

At the gym here I use the cross trainer as recovery exercise: resistance level at 60-65% of the maximum, RPM resolutely in the glam rock era (i.e. the early 70s) and the machines have a lovely smooth action. At the hotel yesterday the machines were of a different design and I found 60 RPM on level 11/25 to feel tougher than normal but also that the movement was far more 'jerky' with the effort confined to a much smaller section of each revolution. I'm sure that's resulted in buttock carnage.

Anyone else find one off usage of other machines has caused problems?

While at the gym yesterday I also completed my core stability and stretching routine. I was quite chuffed by that purely because I realised I'd left my little laminated exercise card in the room but still managed to remember all 19 exercises. They must be sinking in.

Today is 1.5m mile warm up, 4 miles @ 7.08 - 7.14 a mile, 1.5m cool down. Unfortunately there's nowhere I can replicate Bournemouth sea front - the best I can do is the canal. That will mean an occasionally muddy and uneven surface, a road to cross and a 2 rise lock slap bang in the middle of the 4 mile tempo session but beyond that it is flat and traffic free so should be OK.

After the contrasting fortunes of last week's difficulties with 3 x 1 mile at that pace and this week's success at 5k pace it'll be interesting to see how I get on.

Finally, thanks for the feedback on what may have helped with recovery after Wednesday's intervals. I'll keep a keen focus on the post-run hydration and experiment with baths over showers beyond that it'll be down to gradient and running approach. Will try the new approach with Sunday's 15 mile progression run (the last 7 miles will get progressively quicker from base pace down to half marathon pace) as a forced trip to Northamptonshire means no half marathon race.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

I'm shattered

Yesterday was a long day and included a 6 hour drive down to Poole in Dorset, a client meeting, dinner with said client in the evening and not getting to bed until 12.20 this morning. Then today, I was woken at 3am by some bell end who kept knocking on another door on my corridoor in the hotel, then woke again at 5.45am when I got up, had a session in the gym, another meeting and a 6 hour drive home.

Now I'm in bed.

Mind you, it was a decent enough trip in many respects, not least because of the run.

Schedule said 1.5 mile warm up then 3 x 1k @ 6:53 - 7:01 pace per mile pace followed by another 1.5 mile cool down.

I ran from the hotel to Bournemouth's promenade then along there past Boscombe and back. It was dark, not particularly well lit, home to a few 'colourful characters' (complete with cans of Special Brew) but quite a few runners too.

I'd ran along there a year or two ago and at the time was staggered at how ignorant the runners I passed were. London has a reputation for the rudest inhabitants but whilst runners there might not volunteer a greeting themselves they do generally acknowledge you if you prompt them even if itcan seem grudging and half hearted. In Bournemouth though I'd found the runners acted like Londoners on the tube: avoiding eye contact and either ignoring any 'hello' aimed in their direction or looking completely petrified. I can report that nothing has changed. I must have past 20 runners and the best I got was a slightly frightened grunt from one lad.

Still, the run itself was very, very enjoyable.

It was warm down there and perhaps that made a bit of a difference but the two things that definitely helped were how flat it was (aside from a slight incline between Bournemouth pier and the cliff top path back to the hotel) and the fact I was able to run on a traffic free tarmac surface.

They definitely made the intervals easier and I ran the three at 7:01, 6:58 and 6:45 pace respectively. Perhaps most pleasing was that they all felt comfortable with plenty left in the tank. A nice contrast with last Friday.

Mind you, I wasn't the only one enjoying myself as one guy was stood towelling himself dry by his car having been for a swim, in the dark, in January. Wouldn't fancy it myself but fair play to him.

In the evening we went to a restaurant in Bournemouth that was pretty good and where I had oysters, crab risotto, a perfectly cooked fillet steak and (I confess) a chocolate tart.

Returning to the run though, I was also pleased that in the evening and during today I've had no particular reaction in terms of my calves but I can't quite figure out why. I stretched no more than normal, didn't wear compression gear, didn't elevate the legs, didn't ice, didn't even eat for a while after.

What I did do was have a warm bath soon after running, then a pint of tomato juice after about 35 minutes, a pint of diet coke soon after, then a high protein meal maybe 2 hours after running along with 800ml of sparkling water. Any amateur sports nutritionists see anything telling in that?

Alternatively, it could be down to my testing my theory but feeling good after a speed session is definitely noticeable and positive (though glutes feel a hint of doms now...).

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


That's what yesterday's run (and therefore Sunday's run) measured. Its good to have the Garmin fully charged.

Not that I looked at it too much whilst running - I wanted to just run. I glanced a few times just at the average pace but nothing more. I also managed to not switch it off twice when clambering over stiles (which I normally would) but there you go.

By my reckoning there were 7 stiles to climb over, 4 gap stiles to squeeze through, 2 busy-ish roads to cross and 2 gates to open/close as well as hills and mud a plenty. That didn't really lend itself to constant Garmin monitoring or pace setting but gave splits (including the final 0.4) of:


Paces correlate pretty well in that slower ones were where there was more in the way of uphill, thicker mud and obstacles and faster ones where there was less. Only exception was the penultimate full mile that actually had a net descent. I was feeling a bit tired by then and there was some very boggy bits to pick through. Based on distance I shouldn't really have felt fatigued though - just goes to show the difference terrain makes when compared to flat, dry canal towpath pace.

Legs (well, right calf) felt a bit tight/sore an hour or two afterwards but seems OK again now.

Away darn sarf today and tomorrow but managed to book a hotel with gym and pool (thank you so will be able to do the cross trainer and core routine tomorrow morning and do today's intervals along the sea front at Bournemouth early evening.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The end date

Yesterday was the week's rest day so nothing to note on the running or exercise front other than to say the calves definitely feel a little bit better each day. Whether I will say the same after tomorrow's intervals I don't know. A chance to test my theory.

Diet is a slightly different matter. Its a difficult week. Sunday included a meal out in the evening as Bethan's birthday treat; yesterday was her birthday and so involved a sponge cake heavily laden with butter cream and jam, and entirely covered with a thick layer of icing; whilst tomorrow involves a meal out in the evening with a client. Even the weekend will have a challenge - we'll be staying away Saturday night so that will mean a meal out Saturday and Sunday may have a post-LSR cooked breakfast on the agenda. Eek.

That falls against the backdrop of my cancelling my Weight Loss Resources account.

That's motivated in part by the need to save money and partly because I've been a member since 2007 and feel I have to give myself an end date. I've been paying bi-annually so the last day of membership will be 15th March which fits quite nicely as more or less the projected date for my reaching 11st.

So, having established that as a target I could do without this week's challenges, but I'm just adopting a policy of trying to take the edge off them even if that means no weight loss, just maintaining, then I can make some real progress next week.

Today I have 8 miles scheduled so I'll run the same route I did on Sunday, in the same sort of way, and see what distance and pace that works out to be. Just for curiosity's sake. If it measures short I can easily tag on a bit extra, if it measures long so be it.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Fine tuning or a knee jerk response?

I may be having my first pre-marathon panic of the year.

Those who have ran a marathon before, especially one that had a long build up or big target, will know what I mean. Periods where you have sudden and severe worries about your training, condition, health etc and how prepared you are to run the race you want to. Typically its doubts about whether you've made a right choice (to follow a certain plan, run a certain race, skip a session and so on) and what impact these choices might have. Typically its an over reaction.

In the autumn I pondered which marathon plan to follow, before eventually opting for Matt Fitzgerald's Brain Training plan.

I was attracted to the plan by it's variety, emphasis on speed training and it's inherent flexibility but had some concerns over total mileage (amongst the lowest of the contenders) and the limited number of very long training runs it included.

To a great extent that all holds true now but I've taken the view of trusting the plan and have only tinkered with it very slightly by adding a mile to each long run and will keep that up as far as the 20 mile run.

Whilst yesterday morning I typed out my concerns over my pace in the previous intervals session, around a week earlier I'd blogged my concerns about over zealous training pace contributing to injury. Rather at odds with one another, no?

Then, after typing the blog entry, I read a section of this month's Runners World that suggested a 3:30 marathon had a series of indicators based on mileage, times and previous marathons. I fell short in every category.

These thoughts were going through my mind as I set off for yesterday's run. The plan had said to run a 5k 'tune up race' but I opted for replacing that with a base pace run of about 8 miles. As a change, and in recognition of the milder weather, I put on shorts and trail shoes and headed out for one of my summer routes around the Leeds Country Way and Eccup reservoir. A little more rural than the normal canal side run, certainly hillier and a whole lot more muddy. The other change was that I ran without the Garmin, not through design, but from finding the battery was low the moment I switched it on (the extension the charger was plugged into had been taken out of the mains and not put back in).

I ran what I believe was about 8 miles and at what I think was base pace but I can't be sure on either count. It was an enjoyable run though, despite the mud, blustery wind and light rain showers.

Interestingly, on the back of the morning's worries I found the first steep hill tougher than I expected (relative to memories of how it felt running up it with the running club). I don't know if that is a bad sign in itself, an indicator of poor 'hill form' (but nothing more), a reflection of the boost running with others can provide or whether I just ran up it a little harder. Probably a bit of each.

It got me thinking though. Maybe I should modify the plan to address current fears (even when they might appear contradictory). By the end of the run I'd come up with a few options:

  1. Just trust the plan. From this week onwards tempo runs at 10k pace start to be introduced and many endurance runs start to become structured with marathon pace (or faster) elements.
  2. Push the pace in Tuesday's runs. By running with the club again. Its the speed endurance bit I feel I (might) be lacking and running at the club again would force me to run variable inclines at about 7.40 pace.
  3. Drop Saturday's '2-6 miles at recovery pace'. Replacing it with easy paced cross training.
  4. All of the above. Sort of.

Guess which I'm opting for?

Yes, Option 4 it is.

On reflection, my pace worries are based on one day's experiences alone and with nearly 12 weeks to go its too early to feel that current performance is any indicator of marathon performance so there's no reason for wholesale changes. Matt Fitzgerald does encourage flexibility though so making small changes to tailor the plan to me and my responses might be a good idea.

Rationale goes something like this:

The changes in the plan in coming weeks address the area I feel I might currently be under prepared in...but now the length of Tuesday's scheduled run has increased I could start running that faster...partly to offset that and partly to give me a little more rest from running impact I could replace the recovery run on Saturday with the cross trainer.

Does that sound sensible?

The plan changes anyway from this week, the Saturday run I'll also change from this week and the Tuesday club run I'll introduce in a couple of weeks if I still feel it would be beneficial.

My calves feel pretty good after yesterday's run too. That may, in part, be due to wearing 2xu calf guards for a few hours after or to my elevating my legs for much of that time but might also be a sign that they're slowly improving anyway. While pondering during yesterday's run I came up with a theory on why I started getting calf soreness. I started testing that theory from mid way through and will test again during this week. If I feel I'm onto something all will be revealed later!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Four things and pace concerns

The Dewsbury 10k is a flat, early February race where the course profile and typical temperatures lend themselves to many a PB.

On Thursday I saw that it wasn't full and began to toy with the idea of entering. After the training of the last 3 months and the 3k pace intervals I've been doing I reasoned that I might be in pretty good shape for a PB myself.

As for the marathon, 10k is a distance where I feel I have a jump in PB 'in me'. My official best was 45:03 on a hilly course last September but I can't help but feel I could go under 43 minutes on a flat course. Logic is that another member of the running club was 37s slower than me when I ran the 45:03 and had said she just couldn't close the gap, but 5 weeks later ran 43:03 on a flat course.

However, my confidence took a knock with Friday's recovery week intervals this week.

The plan called for a very slow 1.5 miles warm up; 3 x 1m @ 7:08 pace and another very slow 1.5m cool down.

No problem, right?


The plodding warm up duly completed I did the first interval. After 0.1m I glanced at the Garmin which told me average pace was 7:03 which felt about right, but when I'd completed the mile the average pace had dropped to 7:31 i.e. 10 mile pace.

I must have inadvertently slowed up I reasoned, even though the pace felt pretty consistent and reasonably brisk. Time to redouble the effort.

About 0.2m into interval 2 and I was averaging 7:09 pace, perfect, but by the end I'd dropped to 7:21 average. Interval 3 (admittedly up a slight but steady hill) was worse still at 7:48 - slower than half marathon pace. Yet my heart, lungs and legs all told me it felt like 5k pace even my big toes were blistered from hitting the ground much harder than normal.

Looking at the Garmin maps of the route I can't see any sign of it losing signal but it could be Garmin related I suppose. If it was over measuring by 8-10% that would be about right. If it wasn't the Garmin then I must have really lost speed - despite the interval training - and despite the training programme suggesting I do a 5k race today.

I don't know. I'll just have to keep my eye on it in the next couple of weeks but I wont shoe horn in the 10k race if there's no value to it.

Jess has kindly nominated me for a survey based on 'four things':

Four TV programmes I watch

  • Doctor Who
  • Peep show
  • QI
  • Buzzcocks

Aside from the odd documentary I don't think I watch any others and have just stripped the TV subscription down to freeview level.

Four things I'm passionate about

This is a tricky one. I'm sure it would have been easy 5 years ago but post 40 inertia now comes into play and I'm not sure I'm truly passionate about anything now other than my family. So that's one.

Running is the only obvious one but beyond that there are only things I might grumble about (the current government, racists, dumbing down of TV and language etc) or enjoy doing (reading, blogging, cooking, walking, Leeds Utd) but none of these are subjects that I do enough of/about to justify the tag 'passionate'.

Four words/phrases I use too much

  • Potentially
  • Conceivably
  • Fuck/fucking/fuckers
  • Twat

(I had to get Sue to help me with this one as I don't know I'm doing it).

Four things I have learned from the past

'Learned' is a bit final and I'm not sure I feel confident enough to be that final but thing's I'm definitely learning:

  • Feeling fit feels great.
  • It doesn't matter what other people think (particularly in the context of what you wear/do).
  • I'm not good with money.
  • Alcohol and I are not great companions.

Four things I'm looking forward to

  • Going to Paris in April - a holiday, a marathon, a break from work.
  • Having my tea at Aagrah tonight, as Bethan's birthday treat (12 tomorrow)
  • The spring.
  • Being more able to go walking in the Dales with the family (links to spring)

Four things I love about winter

  • The look of heavy snow (assuming I don't have to drive anywhere)
  • Christmas
  • Running in snow - proper hardcore
  • Without winter there could be no spring - means to an end

Friday, 14 January 2011

Two hijacks, two confessions...

...but I'll come to those in a moment.

After Wednesday's intervals my calves felt sore, and whilst the masseur/trainee physio found nothing untoward my legs felt little better yesterday: right calf had a sore spot, quads felt slightly sore generally and on the cross trainer my legs just felt pretty unresponsive.

Thankfully there's virtually no pain at all today so I'll put it down to the exertion of the intervals and the massage.

While at the gym yesterday I also did the full core workout and that left me with a little soreness in the left lower abs yesterday evening but, again, that's now gone so I suspect it was a short term reaction to the exercises and no more.

However, feeling sore, tired (from several days with 6 hours sleep when I need 8 minimum), and worried from having received a call to say my car repair bill was going up from £700 - £1200 I had a bit of a binging episode last night. Not great, but I'll head onwards and upwards. That was the first confession by the way.

The other confession and the double hijack are linked, and are prompted by reading Jo's heart on sleeve post about losing friends (and the challenge that brings when she's feeling down); and the comment Alison made about the value of Internet friends when discussing running, exercise, fitness, injury etc on Jess's latest post.

So, I'm hijacking both for the theme of today's missive, and to kick that off I'll make a fairly personal confession:

I don't have any close friends.

Aside from Sue that is.

I don't even have many mates any more either. Just a few loose friends (so to speak) that I speak to briefly every 3 months or so each.

While at university I lost touch with my old school friends and within about 3 years of leaving university I'd lost touch with my friends from there too. In both cases it was pre-mobile phone let alone Internet, and whilst a handful are in very, very occasional contact through Facebook they aren't what could even be termed friendships now. Since then I've moved house five times and worked for eight different companies. For the past five and a half years I've worked from home meaning I spend most days alone and probably only see colleagues for an hour or so every couple of weeks. None of which is particularly conducive to forging close friendships.

I don't know whether that makes me a bit insular or complements a natural disposition. Certainly I'm not a hugely social animal. I used to enjoy going out but couldn't relax until after a couple of pints and since stopping drinking I go out with friends maybe twice a year - and sometimes feel awkward when I do. Also, my habits have changed, in part due to not drinking, so that I've largely lost touch with the mates I used to go to the rugby (and bar) with (as I no longer go to games).

I've got 3 brothers but don't speak to any very often and see them even less. They all live a fair distance away and are between 10 and 20 years older than me so when I was a kid they were pretty much grown up and left home. My parents are still alive and I speak to them 3-4 times a week and see them briefly about every 6 weeks.

All this means I rely on my immediate family for company and support. That's fine now but the future is a worry - were the kids to move away from Leeds or Sue to die before me I'd be very isolated.

I've digressed into self pity.

The point of all this was to confirm through my own experiences and situation that for many of us things like blogging are our means of letting off steam in the absence of a number of close friends we might otherwise turn to and that it can be an absolute godsend in terms of having contact with supportive people who share similar experiences, interests or challenges.

Having typed all that I'm not at all sure where its got me but I'm sure I'll feel better for it...and maybe that's the point?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Clean(ish) bill of health

Yesterday meant two things: intervals and massage.

The intervals session went OK. I probably still warmed up and cooled down too fast and I couldn't get the interval pacing right at all. I was meant to be doing 8 x 0.25m @ 6:40 pace but ended up doing:

  1. 6:42
  2. 6:33
  3. 6:21
  4. 6:07
  5. 6:33
  6. 6:55
  7. 6:27
  8. 6:28

I seem to really struggle to 'feel' the correct pace when trying to run at anything below 10k pace. I guess that will come with time. Averaging close to 10s under might seem a good thing but it worries me that its a recipe for over training, particularly as the range of paces was so great. Seems to indicate to me that I was just struggling to feel the right pace rather than finding it too easy.

The massage in the evening was fairly pleasant and pain free. There were tight spots in the left quad and calf (though neither causing me a problem) but overall it seems my calves are in pretty good condition and no sign of any inflammation or injury. That's reassuring, and it seems like the calf troubles I had were just a reaction to training volume and intensity. Some soreness yesterday so I'll just keep plugging away at them.

Diet was good again yesterday, so pleased with that. Have been weighing daily (but without concern) and now seem to have dropped into a cycle of little change for 2-3 days then a sudden drop, then no change for 2-3 days followed by a sudden drop etc. Funny how the body works. I'd assume a consistent deficit would lead to a steady loss. Still, not concerned if it gets there in the end!

Will go to the gym later today for cross training: the cross trainer for 40 mins and the core workout/stretches.

Hope all is well for everyone.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Words of thanks and progress

I'll start with a thank you for all the comments on yesterday's (brief) post.

I'm never sure whether my ramblings are of any interest to other people or whether any posts are more/less interesting to others. I know from reading other blogs some subjects interest me more than others but I wont say which! So, its always nice to get comments and yesterday's comments gave me the sort of warm feeling normally only associated with declarations of love. Or possibly bed wetting. Mainly love though.

I only saw the comments after I got in from the run but they will definitely help spur me on next time I have a similar challenge - it really is good to feel others are rooting for you.

I have to say I was pleased with yesterday's small victory of getting out there. The temperature had dropped to 0c, I was tired, home an hour later than planned (14.5 hours after leaving home) but got out there and ran an admittedly easy paced 5 miles round and round in circles near home. I hope that puts down a marker for myself for similar challenges in the coming weeks.

Diet/weight wise things are going well. There have been a number of false dawns in the past but I generally think I am slowly improving my perspective and therefore control. Right now I feel quite relaxed and have now lost almost all of the Christmas weight gain, probably as a result. Looking at the last 12 months my weight has cycled up/down as before but each rise is less pronounced. Certainly the Christmas gain this year covered less than 2 weeks whereas last year covered more like 5 weeks and a lot more weight. Like a punch aimed at Nick Griffin - its definitely headed in the right direction.

Today is short intervals, recovery week style, so a total of only 5 miles. Then this evening its massage time.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Early start

Just a short one today: up at 5am to be on a train at 6.25.

Won't be home until 7.00/7.30pm by which time it will be dark and cold and I'll be tired. If I don't do the planned run tonight I won't be able to catch it up so I hope I have enough resolve to get out of the door, postponing the lure of warmth, rest and food.

We shall see.

Monday, 10 January 2011


I suppose I'd best start off with an update to yesterday's urine based adventures (see post below).

By late evening I'd been to the loo again and the colour was heading more towards normal. Similar story on waking today. Cold still hasn't completely gone but certainly hasn't got worse and no signs of a fever.

If there were any doubts as to the cause of yesterday's tough run I think they are dispelled.

Muscle recovery is good. Well, I say its good based on a 10m round trip to the loo, but there doesn't seem to be any pain or even great stiffness. Very much seems that the fatigue/stiffness/soreness of yesterday were all hydration related and the slower pace and 2xu tights actually worked very well.

That leaves me feeling very positive as compared to feeling quite negative for much of yesterday. Overall, the last few day's have very much been 'half full' as opposed to 'half empty' though.

As expected, there was no opportunity to exercise on Friday despite the cold gradually getting better. Building on Friday morning's positivity I didn't let that get me down and stuck to the calorie allowance. Also exchanged a couple of messages with Alison on the subject of 'panic eating' and how this may be related to the 'banning' of certain foods/food types. I think that could prove very useful in the future, and over the last 3 days I've made an effort to eat a little of what might normally be considered dietary contraband.

Saturday also remained positive. I probably went 3-400 kcals over my allowance but that was planned and in respect of the following day's endurance run. Managed to get to the gym too for the first exercise since Tuesday - a walk there and back, 20 minutes on the x-trainer and a pretty good core exercise session.

I was particularly pleased with the latter.

Over the last 3-4 weeks I haven't been doing a whole lot in relation to core exercises. When I started the 24 week marathon training programme 12 weeks ago it prescribed core exercises twice a week, which I duly completed. This represented a cut back on the ideal volume of exercise but seemed to have no adverse effects in terms of groin pain.

As the programme has progressed the actual exercises have evolved and are drawn from around 24 different ones targeting everything from deep abs, to the various glutes, to hamstrings, to quads and lower back. That got confusing as the precise mix changed with every session. That would be OK if I did them at home (though I'd still need to flick between 3 chapters of the book in order to remind myself of how many/how long for each exercise), but it proved impossible to remember at the gym - even when I'd looked them up before leaving.

Net result was that core exercises became sporadic over the last month, completed maybe weekly, and I frequently missed prescribed exercises or had too many/too few reps. In the last week or so I began to feel a few twinges from the groin.

So, on Saturday I typed out most of the exercises and stretches into a small table, along with the prescribed durations/reps. I copied this, printed it off and laminated the copies so that they are about twice the size of a credit card. This gave me a routine of exercises and stretches comprising:

  • Clams
  • Knees fall out
  • Single leg squat
  • Oblique bridge
  • Lying draw in
  • Box lunge
  • Stability ball leg curl
  • Forearm to palm bridge
  • Dead bug
  • VMO dip
  • Supine hip extension
  • Lunge stretch
  • Spider stretch
  • Calf stretch
  • Soleus stretch
  • Quads stretch
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Glutes stretch
  • Groin stretch
There's only one set of each and numbers of reps/time is relatively low but I found on Saturday, when I took a card with me, that doing the lot is a pretty decent workout and left me feeling relatively limber and centred. I've now got one copy in the gym bag and one blu tacked to the inside of the wardrobe door and aim to do the full set 3 times a week and partial set once/twice more.

After exercising my core and, perhaps, reminding myself of what they felt like, on yesterday's run I made a conscious effort to keep them engaged throughout. I've had no twinges or soreness since.

Yesterday I finished up with a calorie deficit equivalent to the day before's excess and, now I'm fully hydrated, feel pretty good.

Ironically, after last week's skipped sessions its a recovery week this week so I'm feeling positive about my ability to have a good solid week: hitting my calorie targets without drama and completing all exercise sessions without any increase/return of soreness.

Let's see.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Positively arid - warning: contains graphic scenes of a urinary nature...

Today's endurance run should have been a good one.

Everything was in my favour:

  • I hadn't run for 5 days so legs were well rested
  • The distance was less than a mile further than last week's
  • The pace would be 45s a mile slower than last week's
  • I was wearing the new 2xu compression tights
  • I was a pound or more lighter than the previous week
  • I took a bottle of water and 2 gels

In the event it was a tough one both during and after.

The initial problem was the conditions - sheets of ice for longish stretches of towpath; mud and slush where there wasn't ice, thorny debris from where the bushes had been cut back for a 4 mile stretch and strong gusting wind.

I ran out and back and for the most part conditions were worse on the way out. On the way back there were periods with the wind behind me and some of the ice had begun to melt back to slush.

It was tough though. From mile 5 onwards my legs didn't feel remotely peppy and overall I felt fatigued - so I could tell it wasn't anything to do with the distance. At halfway I stopped for a couple of minutes for a gel and some water but within 10 minutes was finding it hard going again. I stopped again 4 miles later for the second gel and water and then once more at 12.75 for another drink. It felt a little like a taste of the wall as the desire to stop was strong.

Within 10 minutes of finishing I was home but felt weak as a kitten; everything south of my waist ached, as did my triceps for some reason and I began to wonder if I was coming down with a virus. I couldn't face the prospect of a cold bath and instead had a decaff coffee, half a bagel with peanut butter and a couple of amaretti biscuits. Shortly afterwards I had another decaff and a packet of crisps, ibuprofen, a shower and took to my bed.

I came round enough to go down to watch a DVD with Beth and propped my legs up, but still felt pretty ropey.

Since then I think I've worked out what the problem was.

At 3 miles, as is my habit, I headed into the bushes for a short pee but I felt no urge to go again during the run despite having 400ml of water en route. When I got in I had the 2 mugs of decaff coffee and produced a very brief trickle of extremely dark water. In the 5 hours since then I've had 660ml of diet sprite, 3 large mugs of roibos tea, 400ml of squash and 2 bowls of soup (well over 2 litres in total) yet I've only 'been' once more and then for another short and dark one.

I suspect that means I might have got rather dehydrated!

I'll need to drink a bit more as routine and especially check all is well in the 24hrs before long ones. Lesson learned.

Since late afternoon I feel a good deal better and, interestingly, the muscle fatigue and stiffness has largely gone since I've had a decent fluid intake. It may well return tomorrow as a slight touch of doms but I'm hopeful there's no lasting damage.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Everyone else is doing it so why can't I?

I feel inspired, at least on the nutrition front.

Before I go into that let me give a bit of context:

Yesterday was a carbon copy of Wednesday: full of cold on waking but planning to exercise later...feeling tired and groggy as the day wore on...taking the decision not to exercise...copious over consumption following in the evening (prompted by a mix of sullen guilt and uncalled for panic over training).

On waking today I felt far better. The cold hasn't gone but there's very little coughing and absolutely no spluttering or 'rattling' from the lungs. Trouble is Charlotte has had a similar cold and that has led to her being sick several times over night so she'll be at home with me today limiting the opportunity to run. As it will be dark and icy by the time I could run this evening its unlikely I'll get out today. This sort of situation almost invariably leads to my turning to food and I was already beginning to accept and even embrace this as my fate.

Then I read three blog entries that have pleasingly altered my mood.

Firstly there was Alison's blog:

Where she summarised her success in stabilising weight through both a sustained period of injury and a propensity to use peanut butter in the manner of crack cocaine addict. Whether that meant she injected it or sniffed it was neither clear nor important.

Next I found a new blog:

Where Jessica details her experiences - physical and emotional - with regard to eating, weight and running. Many of these struck a chord, and, of course, I'm deeply jealous of her running times.

Finally I looked at Lara's latest entry:

Where she mentions the seemingly small victory of attending for an exercise class and finding it cancelled but adapting to this, doing a replacement session and not turning to food. That's precisely the sort of event that has so often been the precursor of a mini binge for me.

Well done to all three. Not only are you all doing well yourselves but you've inspired me to ensure this is a nutritionally sound day whatever the day brings.

Building on this spirit of optimism, I've managed to get a massage booked for next Wednesday and my calves are slowly returning to normal thanks to the enforced break and light massaging and stretching. There's still a couple of tender spots along the upper inside of the tibia but no feeling of overall tension or fatigue. I'm fairly certain these are where there were knots initially but where I damaged the tissue through trying to 'break' them. Too much oaf. Far too much oaf.

On a similar theme I realised yesterday that at some point over the last 2-3 weeks the stiffness in my left ankle had gone. I'm not sure I ever blogged about it but since turning my ankle on a loose rock, during a recklessly fast descent during the Turbo X race in October, the mobility in the joint has been reduced and its sometimes been painful doing things like forcing a laced (but untied) shoe on. Not any more. Hopefully.

As a final thought, I'm a technical Luddite, so if anyone can explain (in small words, drawings or possibly through the medium of dance) how I can embed links in a neater fashion than I have above, I would be grateful.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Feed a cold...?

I didn't do my planned run yesterday. Sorry.

I had a meeting in the midlands during the day but put my kit out in readiness to run in the evening, so was mentally all set to go out even though the calves were still a bit sore (though far better than they had been).

In the afternoon the resolve faded.

I've had a bit of a cold for a few days. Nothing major, I just cough quite a bit especially in the first hour after waking, but yesterday I was coughing more through the day and could feel that I was slightly wheezy - something I'd noticed while running the previous day. I also felt really tired on the journey back and just wanted to get in, make a cup of tea and get into bed.

I admit the idea of 8.25 miles of interval training on a cold, damp, dark and windy evening wasn't an enticing prospect in itself but I decided that an extra rest day might be good for my legs and that feeling under the weather would probably make for a poor session anyway.

I still felt a bit guilty though, and that translated itself into conspicuous over eating of toast, honey, Turkish delight and Bombay mix after an eclectic tea of chana chaat followed by a poached egg on toast.

I was pleased with the chana chaat though. We had a partially eaten large bag of Bombay mix left over so I mixed half a tin of chickpeas, a small chopped red onion, yoghurt and tamarind sauce and topped it with a handful of Bombay mix. Creamy, yet tangy; soft yet crunchy. Not bad for a made up recipe.

Still coughing and rattling a bit this morning but will go to the gym as per the schedule and go on the x-trainer. I toyed with the idea of doing yesterday's run instead but that would mean running hard speed sessions on consecutive days then a long run 2 days later - which wouldn't be good for my legs now and was probably another contributor to the recent soreness when I did it a couple of weeks ago.

Thanks for the comments yesterday.

I still need to ring and get the massage sorted but the lass who does it is a trainee physio so hoping I'll get a few ideas from her as well as giving me a rub down. So to speak.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Managing pain

I've been a bit worried the last week or so about the state of my calves. They've felt pretty much shot - stiff, sore and tight - but aside from one missed run last week I've ran through the discomfort.

By Monday (which was my rest day) I was hobbling around and just beginning to consider taking a week off to give them time to recover but as that would have a big impact on the training plan it wasn't something I really wanted to do.

I was pretty sure that there was no chronic injury - it was simple sustained overuse - but I recognised that it needed to be addressed in order to prevent a chronic injury developing and to allow me to get the most out of my training.

So, I gave a little thought as to what might have happened and what I might do about it to avoid breaking training if at all possible.

Here's my list:

  • The pain coincided with a stepped increase in training - longer mileage, longer speed sessions, longer endurance run. Not much I can do about that but next week will be a cut back week so will give a bit of respite.

  • I have compounded that a bit by allowing myself to run 2-3 miles over each week recently. Doing that for long runs has been deliberate - adding on a mile - but the rest has been a result of over confidence. I'll stick to the plan more in future though will continue with the extra long run mile for the most part.

  • In the last 3 weeks or so I've let self competition make me forget about some of my pacing. The programme calls for 5 runs a week including 3 hard sessions, plus a day of cardio cross training, and the facilitator of that workload is that some of the mileage is done at a very slow pace. Lately I've been running 'recovery' runs at 60-90s a mile faster than I should have and 'base pace' and endurance runs at about 20-30s a mile faster. I think that may be the main culprit. So, I'm going to stick rigidly to the slower pace guides.

  • Like many lazy runners I don't stretch unless something hurts. Generally that's not a problem but with the increased training volume and intensity I need to start doing a basic programme daily and post run.

  • I've put on weight over Christmas yet been running at faster paces. That must put a little extra strain on my body. That should take care of itself as the festive gain falls away.

  • I have a neanderthal approach to self massage that goes something like this: calves feel tight...massage with massage stick very aggressively trying to destroy all knots...very painful during and causing inflammation and further tightening afterwards. This is another big culprit. Approach now is gentle daily massage with arnica oil - softly, softly catchee monkey.

  • Over the past 12 days I gave my body lots of fuel in the form of refined carbs and fats but maybe not all the nutrients it needed to repair itself. Timing has been poor too. Take last Wednesday's tough intervals session as an example. I finished it by 10am but didn't have anything to eat until 1pm. A renewed focus on macros and timing will help my body to recover from the increased demands.

  • Whilst I did have a cold bath after Sunday's run I generally haven't been in recent weeks. Policy now is to ice after every run (bag of peas now bought for that purpose) and to have cold baths after all long runs.

I suppose that all boils down to me getting carried away, not respecting the plan, and then not having a safety net of effective maintenance and fuelling measures in place to help manage the fall out. The changes I'm making are designed to allow me to slowly repair the damage whilst removing the cause. If it doesn't work then I'll drop/shorten/change runs to help further. I'll also get a massage booked for later this week.

Yesterday's run was the first test. Seven miles at base pace was scheduled and I was worried about whether I could do it or what I might be like afterwards. I deliberately ran slowly - slower than base pace, more like recovery pace, and afterwards I felt no ill effects. I iced with the bag of peas on the main hot spot on the right calf (where I'd found a big but generally pain free knot the week before then massaged it into a huge and tender lump...). By the evening my calves were still feeling fatigued and sore but far less stiff than they had pre-run.

This morning there's still some stiffness, fatigue and soreness, but no worse than yesterday so I take that as a qualified success at this stage.

Today's intervals session will be an interesting test though

Monday, 3 January 2011

The West Riding Confuscius

Another week has flown by without a blog entry. I'm getting tardy aren't I?

I had a host of good blogging intentions a week ago: exercise and diet updates, review of 2010, plans for 2011, taking stock of progress through marathon training and so on. All to be posted before New Year's Eve.

Oh well.

Having got to 3rd January I'll now limit myself to a quick resume of the last week, the scores on the doors for Christmas weight gain and a very brief, and slightly philosophical (for Yorkshire), view of the last year.

Sound tolerable enough to bear with me? I hope so.

Here's my last seven days:

Tuesday 28th
Up early to do 7 miles but the thaw leaves a thin film of water on the thick ice and I can hardly stand let alone run on back roads. I only manage 3.5 miles, so after driving down to Northamptonshire and the outlaws I do another 4.3 miles.

Wednesday 29th
Up early again, and off to the frozen Grand Union Canal to do intervals (1.5m WU, 10 x 0.25m @ 6.40 mm pace with 2 mins jogging between each, 1.5m CD). Right calf is sore but I enjoy the intervals.

Thursday 30th
Due to do some light cross training after driving home but drop it due to calf soreness. I realise I probably attacked a knot a little too strongly.

Friday 31st
Off to the gym early doors but only do 3 miles at 8.30 pace on the treadmill along with core exercises. Then spend the day making a selection of Gujerati curries to have in the evening. As is my New Year tradition, I'm in bed and asleep by 10pm.

New Year's Day
Another unplanned rest day as calves are still slightly sore and I know there's an endurance run to come tomorrow.

January 2nd
14.15 miles done along the canal. Drop into a nice rhythm after a sluggish first few miles and finish up with 8.09 pace overall.

January 3rd
Rest day but toy with the idea of heading to the gym. Decide discretion is the better part of valour and make do with walking there and back and taking Charlotte for a swim.

So, what about the weight?

Well, I weighed myself yesterday and apparently have gained 10lb in 11 days. Anyone beat that? I'm hoping half of it is water/food in transit and will be opening up a can of healthy eating whupass on myself from tomorrow.

Now for the homespun philosophy.

While plodding through the opening miles yesterday I began to recap to myself the events of the previous 12 months. It would have made for fairly dull reading and consisted of a series of peaks and troughs or, to view it slightly differently, a series of snapshots during which times the glass had looked either half full or half empty.

By the last mile I realised it all boiled down to this:

After only 6hrs sleep, with nothing to eat, sore calf muscles, only a mug of tea to drink before I left home, no drink or gels with me, a 10lb weight gain and no thought to correct pre LSR nutrition or hydration I was able to rattle off in excess of 14 miles at a nice enough pace along a part frozen, part mud canal tow path without giving it a second thought.

i.e. not only could I easily do it but I didn't view it as anything other than ordinary.

When I paused (figuratively) to consider this I realised its actually pretty impressive isn't it?

So forget the highs and lows of the past 12 months I'm actually in a pretty good place right now!

Whatever our exercise I suspect that we're all so often like the mountaineer who focuses so much on the next incline that he doesn't stop to look back and realise just how high he's already climbed.

Whatever your recent trials and tribulations,or your aims and desires, take a look back down your own personal mountain side. The view is pretty good isn't it?