Is It In The Mind?

Whilst racing my last duathlon I noticed that many of the fastest racers were all wearing compression calf guards whilst racing, now I own and use calf guards but only generally for recovery not in races. I consulted “Iron” Mike on this and he said he had raced with them and it was certainly worth a go to try them.

Initially I used them on a couple of training runs, and the only thing I noticed was that the muscles had that “warmed up” feeling from really early on, much sooner than even after a period of warm up. There was no evidence I was going faster or that the muscles weren’t tiring as fast, but that was mainly down to the types of sessions I was doing.

I decided to used them on the usual ParkRun to see what happened. Incidentally, there are quite a few runners wearing either guard or long compression socks each week. The result was that I set a new pb by 10 seconds or so, could this be down to the calf guards?

The following week I used the guards again whilst training, this time on a harder intervals session I was struggling to maintain a set pace, it was a pace I can hold but just couldn’t. This led me to wonder if perhaps the guards just were having a placebo effect.

Come the ParkRun, whilst I didn’t run another pb I was only 2 seconds off my previous weeks time, so I was back to thinking is there really something in this?

I know if you look on the companies who make compression clothing websites they will show you studies that suggest better performance etc but in real terms, terms of non-elite athletes do these things really work?

If I am honest I really don’t know, my race times suggest they might, my training times offer no real help, I have another duathlon coming up so will wear them on that to see if they help me there or not.

The only conclusion I have been able to draw is that they don’t seem to make things worse.

For the record I am wearing a pair of calf guards made by Compressport and so I haven’t tried any other makes, as these ones I have found help with recovery post event. IF anyone knows any manufactures who would like me to test theirs then I would be happy to oblige if they wish to send me some!

 

To Do Or Not To Do

The question of whether to do something for not is one that we all face every single day in some form or another, be it shall I have cake with my coffee or buy that new pair of wheels.

In my world I am currently trying to work out what is my sporting targets for this year, in the past I have usually found something easily but for whatever reason this year I just can’t find something that really inspires me.

I will do some duathlons again, as I enjoy them but as they are done by the end of spring it does leave a large hole in my summer schedule.

I have tried to ask myself a few questions to try and help, and whilst these have helped to the point where I know they have to involve bikes and also running is welcome. I could do some long off road mountain biking events or try some time trialling but whilst these appeal they just don’t fill the gap.

For anyone who has read my ramblings before will know there is an elephant in the room, and that is swimming, if I added swimming to cycling and running then i would have the chance to do more triathlons. Now, I have done a couple of these in the past but I have issues with swimming and that I find it stressful, and thats not just on the race day it includes the training as well. I did think about going to the pool to try to and see how swimming was, but the mere thought of it just meant I couldn’t bring myself to go and do it.

Could there be a “cure” for my issues with swimming, well I am sure there is but I am not sure if I really want to go through the struggle of trying to overcome it, as it is not the physical side but the mental side, perhaps I am just too weak.

So, currently I am in a bit of a state of flux regarding what to do and I will continue to look for something and hopefully inspiration will strike.

Farewell 2016

So its that time of the year where we all write about 2016 and try and make some sort of sense of whether it was a good year or not.

For me this last year was decent sportingly, I completed the Ballbuster duathlon, several other duathlons and did my first set of cyclocross races, all of this adds up to a reasonable amount.

I have written about most of the above and above all enjoyed doing them, for example cx racing is one of the most friendly things I have ever done, people offer so much free advice and at the end of the race every one chats and shares experiences.

There were things in the year that didn’t go to plan, the occasional cold, the times when you don’t hit the training numbers or even fancy going out training and the race where I blew up! But, overall all these experiences added to my enjoyment and meant I learnt more.

For 2017 I still haven’t decided what races to do, probably some more cx races, perhaps some time trials and possibly some form of endurance bike racing

Anyhow, thanks to Mike Shaw for the coaching and to my wife for the ongoing support without them most of these would be an awful lot harder,

Enjoy the rest of 2016 and hopefully 2017 will be good.

Some Things From This Week

Slightly different post this wee, I thought I would highlight 5 things I have learnt, rediscovered or just forgotten about.

1 – Press-ups. As many people will have seen there is a 22 day challenge to do 22 press ups each day and post a video of yourself doing this to raise awareness of combat vets. There are apparently 22 vets a day committing suicide and this challenge is to raise public awareness. If I am honest I was hoping to avoid this challenge s I hate press-ups, but I got tagged and rather than ignore it, I have taken on the challenge. So far, so good I have managed 4 days and am actually enjoying it, working some muscles everyday is never a bad thing. If you are tagged, don’t ignore it, give it a go. I have 18 or so days left and that is plenty of time to tag people. so watch out!

2 – Interval training. I have said it many times that interval training is the work of the devil, however you dress it up it hurts regardless of the length of the interval. This week I have had a set on the bike of 1 minutes intervals every 4 minutes for an hour. What surprised me most was just how quickly the 1 minute intervals came round, it seemed no sooner had one finished the next was starting. I was glad when the hour was done and I could just ride home!

3 – Trail running is brilliant. There is no shock to this, I love trail running and I particularly like it in the evenings when after being in the office all day you can get out in the fresh air and the countryside. Being able to head out across fields and woodlands for a run is one of things in life that never gets boring, yes the running is harder but that really doesn’t matter as it is offset by the views and environment.

A short post but I have been not writing much lately and so need to get back on it and hopefully this will be the catalyst.

2 Wheels Are Best

I have spent the last week indulging myself by riding a variety of bikes in different locations but all with one thing in common, it was fun!

Starting last weekend I took part in the Brompton World Championship (BWC) race in London, a crit race around St Jame’s park after the Ride London Women’s pro race. The BWC has some rules, one of which id the dress code, a shirt, tie and jacket must be worn and no lycra. This makes for some wonderful sights with people really going to town to dress up.

For me, I went for a pink jacket to add some colour to the occasion.

Bwc_1

To take part in the race you don’t actually have to race, you are more than welcome to just enjoy the ride around the course. However, a race is a race and the opportunity to have a thrash around is too much to resist for me. In terms of competition there were ex-pros Dave Millar and Dr Michael Hutchinson plus various ex winners so there were some fast people. For me I covered the 17km at an average speed of over 36km/h to finish 68th overall, a result I was more than happy with.

Next up I went for a tour round the Chilterns with the aim of having a mid-ride coffee at some gardens, the route I got from a local cycling club and was around 80km in length. I found I was enjoying the ride on my road bike and so when the Garmin said to go straight across a junction I decided I would add some more distance and went left to add around another 20 odd km. The extra loop allowed me to ride through the countryside and do a couple of hills I haven’t done before. On arrival at the gardens I treated myself to a coffee and large slice of ginger cake, I know I am trying to reduce my sugar in take, but I just couldn’t resist.

cake_coffee_1

The ride home after this felt easy and I reckon I was probably grinning as I was going, even the hills to home seemed enjoyable.

Back to the Brompton of army next ride, and this was a couple of hours riding round Silverstone in an event organised by Muscle Help

I did get a few funny looks from some riders when I rolled up to the start on the Brompton, but once we were let loose on the track I think I changed their opinions mainly by riding past them or dropping them out of chain gangs! Some of the more season better riders were complimentary and seemed to enjoy watching me pass people who might have had a nice bike and good gear but no legs!  Riding round Silverstone was interesting as I had never really realised how windy sections of the track could be, and how in real life some of the run off areas are not that big and so stopping an F1 car from ploughing into a face might be tricky. No such issues on the Brompton though!

Brompton_Silverstone

After the fun of racing round a flat motor racing circuit it only seemed right to go and do some hills, so I headed down to Surrey to have a look at some of the famous climbs down there, and also it gave me a chance to recce Boxhill prior to the Ballbuster later in the year.

Now, I do not know the Surrey area at all, and this became apparent when I went came to Dorking and the Garmin seemed to be trying to send me down a way I couldn’t go and I couldn’t see how to get to the road I needed so I ended up following a sign that said Leith Hill, and this turned out to be a great decision as it took me up Coldharbour Lane which was a good climb, although the road was really greasy due to overnight rain and so if you got out of the saddle the rear wheel started to spin, or it could just be I was laying down tremendous amount of power! The countryside was great with some lovely views and I have to say drivers who all seemed happy to give me space so perhaps the stories of all drivers in Surrey hating cyclists isn’t true?

The final part of the ride was the climb back up Boxhill, having only seen this for the first time when I drove to the car park at the top in the morning I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, it didn’t look too steep but did it have some hidden traps? The early part of the climb was easy to get into a rhythm and I had the added advantage of being able to see another cyclist further up the climb who I was able to aim at. The other cyclist I thought initially was going quite quick but i soon gained and passed him leaving me on my own. The hairpins actually enable you to pick up some speed and so it wasn’t long before the climb was done. It seemed fairly easy to keep a steady easy pace and I have to admit to being a little disappointed really I was expecting something a little more, never mind though the views at the top were brilliant and well worth the trip.

Finally it was time to break out the CX bike and do a little off-road riding back in the Chilterns. I have to say I didn’t really push very hard and so the route was easy with a good mix of tarmac and dirt. Possibly the best part was riding along an ancient cart track past a model aircraft club field and seeing them flying some really big planes, impressive things. The rest of this ride was good fun enjoying some climbing and looking forward to that post ride coffee!

The other cycling aspect to the week was visiting both Look Mum No Hands and the Rapha Cafe in London on a trip there, both server excellent coffee and food and are places I will return to when the situation allows.

All in all I feel that I have had a great fun week where I was left to my own devices and so basically just played on bikes. It never ceases to amaze me just how much fun you can have on bikes, regardless of what type, model etc Any bike can go fast it all comes down to your legs, are you able to pedal it. Yes I am lucky in owning several bikes but I enjoy them all and ride them where possible

In conclusion I spent most of the week riding bikes and I loved it!

Here Comes The Summer – Part 2

After writing about the joys etc of the sun I thought I would add a short post to back up my thoughts on the impact the heat has on my performance.

In this past week, where the summer finally decided to visit the UK (there were rumours that summer had already done it’s brexit and left!) , I did a couple of runs and a couple of bike rides.

The first run on the Monday was about 10.5km along the Thames in London, from Hammersmith to Chiswick and back. I thought that by going along the river whilst it was still going to be hot there wold be a breeze. Well I was wrong. Yes it was very hot but there was no breeze, just hot hot air.

With the temperature being so high, I tried to keep a steady pace, but the pace was slow, in fact flat 6 min per km, and that was an effort. Whilst I got through the run it was not that enjoyable and I was glad when it was over. Heat 1 Me 0

Next up was an evening bike ride, again the temperature was high but this time there was wind, a surprisingly large amount of wind. The wind seemed to be a head wind for most of the ride but where as normal the would be a pain on this evening it was strangely enjoyable, not that easy but refreshing. The pace was low and steady but I did manage a couple of Strava PR’s on some hills. Heat 1 Me 1

A paced run was the next item, a session of a warm up, then 25 minutes at 5 min per km, so run 5km, then a warm down. In normal circumstances this is a hard but achievable without going into the red. However, on this occasion the temperature made this seem like a battle, yes I did complete it and hit the numbers but it felt far harder than it should have done. In terms of the running score, that session is a draw. Heat 2 Me 2

Last, and the deciding session was a run on Saturday, planned to be a pro run, but as I didn’t wake up in time it turned into a trail run round my local short circuit. It was hot again, and there are hills on the route. I set off steady, and basically got though the run but not without dripping sweat and the pace seemingly getting slower as I went. Heat 3 Me 2

Overall, then the heat beat me this week, but I still like it and would far rather have it than the winter rain and cold even if I suffer in it. Let’s hope the hot weather continues and I will find a way to cope!

Here Comes The Summer

With the sun having shown it’s face for a couple of days I was reminded of how much difference it makes to training and racing in the heat.

I know that the UK doesn’t get to the temperatures as much of the rest of Europe and certainly parts of the USA etc but, when the sun does come out it always seems to have been preceded by a cold spell making it seem hotter.

I really enjoy it when the sun comes out, it always seems easier to go out and train when the weather is good but, and there is always a but there’re down sides, some of which you can’t do much about.

Firstly, tan lines, when you are out in the sun you obviously have to wear appropriate clothing and certainly the tan left from cycling clothing is pretty easily identified. You get those white patches on the arms, legs and body that just scream cyclist! The use of sun protection cream helps to keep the skin healthy but doesn’t impact those lines!

Next is hydration, the amount of fluid you need to take on in the heat goes up, and sometimes you need to plan how much to carry before starting out or know where to replenish the supply

The biggest one for me though is the actual heat, I know that the hear slows me down and nothing I do ever seems to help. I would love to know how to change this situation, obviously I can’t train in the heat if there isn’t any and I am not going to stick extra layers on as to me that in’t replicating the situation.

So, I guess I will have to put up with a little drop in performance to enjoy the better weather, and yes I am more than happy for that to happen, give me the sunshine and a slightly slower time everyday rather than cold, wet and windy weather!

I wonder how long the sunshine will last?

A Different Kind Of Struggle

I wrote at the start of the year about issues I was having with my weight, the truth was I weighed far more than I should have, and the fact was I needed to shed some weight in order to be able to race, or for that matter train properly.

Since then my weight did come back under control to the point where whilst not as low as I would have liked it was certainly under control. This then led to another issue, those being stomach issues, properly more correctly referred to as gut health.

I have long suffered with issues in that region, the exact details I will spare you but let’s just say the song Ring of Fire was very apt!

The cause of these issues has also long been known to me, it is nothing more complicated than sugar. This ingredient is found in very many foods and is particularly prevalent in my favourite food of cake. I have a sweet tooth, I love the cake, chocolate, biscuits, a full fat coke, I think you get the idea.

Now, the simple idea is that you can just stop eating all of those foods and all will be well, but it is not as simple as that. I am sure I am not alone in that feeling of craving something sweet to eat particularly when you want a quick snack, yes I know there are other options but are they as satisfying? Ask yourself.

So cutting these foods out wasn’t that straight forward, but I knew action had to be taken as the issues with my gut were causing problems when racing and just in general life.

I can be quite driven when I want to be, it isn’t a natural state for me, but I can do it and so I decided the only option was to cut out the puddings, cake etc I didn’t believe I could do it gradually I just needed to do it all or nothing.

The first week I did this it was so hard, I often found myself getting the biscuit tin opening it and just staring at the contents, I felt like an addict I was scared one biscuit would lead to another, another and so on. I got to the end of the first week and felt ok. The second week went ok, a little less hard but still not easy, and at the end of that week I had a small pudding, I didn’t suddenly want another or anything after it but never felt like I had cracked it.

Another week went by, and no sweet stuff or desert, then another week, this time I had another small desert. The count of deserts was still less than the number of weeks I was trying this.

My gut health improved a lot and I was feeling better generally.

However, an second issue raised it’s head, the number of calories in all the sweet stuff is quite high and I found I was now struggling to eat the required number in a day as salad, fruit etc are much lower. This has now led me to keeping track of my calorie in take so I can ensure I eat the right amount, and now having an extra meal in the evening is quite common or even just a bowl of chips (I know but you can’t cut out all treats!)

Overall, I am now feeling much better, my weight has come down again I am eating a better diet and generally feel I have taken a good step forward. I haven’t really got rid of the feeling of being a sugar addict and only have the occasional ice cream, but I think I will eventually be able to have a dessert or something sweet more regularly without impact, but until I feel I have reached that point I will carry on my sweet way (pun intended!)

I know that there has been a lot of press around sugar and how much you should have etc and I am certainly not going to preach to someone how you should eat, but for me this is working and if it stops working I will only have one person to blame, myself.

 

 

Sharing Your Training Time

I do not know about anyone else but I always feel that I am in the lucky position of not only having a wife who not only understands my training needs but also trains herself.

We both have different training plans and generally train for different types of events, but that doesn’t mean we don’t discuss our upcoming races or current training as there are always ideas to share.

The other scenario that comes up is that we do, sometimes, go for a run together and today was on of those days.

I think the main reason my wife likes to go running with me is that I can take her out on trail routes she wouldn’t otherwise use, and for me I get to run at a nice relaxed pace!

Today’s run was a gentle 75 minutes through the fields and woods of the Chilterns. The sun was out and whilst there was some wind it seemed to be a tail wind.  Running through the fields we just didn’t see anyone, there was nothing to see but countryside, and who doesn’t like that?

I have to say that I really enjoy running with my wife, she will spend half the time saying that I should go on and she is too slow or that she doesn’t know why I run with her as her pace is so slow, but to me I just enjoy the opportunity to run with someone else and share an enjoyment of the countryside and whilst she is slower than me, if you don’t have the opportunity to run with faster people you  don’t improve. I certainly remember running with a group and struggling to hang onto the back, eventually I got faster but you have to start somewhere.

If you are a runner and your partner says that they fancy trying it, encourage them, go out with them you never know you might find something else you can enjoy doing together.

Is There Life Without Data?

Recently I have been wondering what it would be like to go training these days without the use of a Garmin to both record data and guide your sessions. These thoughts started recently when I was watching some clips of athletes training in the 1970’s and the coaches were stood trackside with the old fashioned analogue stop watches, shouting out splits. It made me think, what did athletes without coaches do?

In those days what did people like me do? How would I have trained effectively and made the best use of each session?

I know that an over reliance on data is not always a good thing, I certainly struggle sometimes when a run session says go at 7.5 out of 10 on feel. What is 7.5, what pace is it or what heart rate does it equate to?

The reality is you should be able to judge your session on feel, but I think over time you get use to using heart rate data or pace data and using that to make each training session as meaningful as possible.

If it is hard for an athlete not to have data, how would a coach go about monitoring the progress of an athlete and set appropriate training?

I do go on runs without having predefined targets and I often find these really enjoyable, but they are at times some of the hardest sessions as I don’t know how much to push. For these runs I tend to head off-road and hit the trails as here pace is no longer such as issue it’s much more about enjoying the countryside.

What about when it comes to racing, well here I have an admission, basically the data goes out of the window and it is a case of go as hard as possible for as long as possible. Well, that is not the complete truth but in essence that is what happens, I do look at the pace but I try not to let that dictate my race, as how else would you ever get a pb as you need to push harder here.

So, for me data will continue to form a very important part of my training as it allows sessions to be targeted and so make best use of the time available, but there will always be those runs where it says go out and run with no targets and on those days, the Garmin will be used to record not to drive.

Data is a big part of modern life, we collect data on many things and so training data is just another form. I do wonder though how many people ever actually look at the data and then go back and analyse their sessions, look for patterns and try and understand the highs and lows? In these times data litters everything, and so the question is valid, do we need training data, well have a think do you really need it and do you actually use it?