Isn’t it ironic

Sang Alanis Morissette some time ago, although for her I doubt she was referring to the likely hood of being injured by a piece of equipment twice that you don’t really like!

The equipment in question is the treadmill we have at home, when we first got it I sliced my big toe open on it and then this week I caught a toe on it and it seemed to break it or at least fracture it based on the colour, swelling and pain.

The irony is that I prefer running outdoors and the treadmill is very much the domain of the wife, maybe it is her way of inflicting pain in me for something I have done?

So, the outcome of this was that I lost a few days training as luckily by Thursday I was able to try running again. Guess where I tried the run, yep that is correct the treadmill. The circle is complete.

I was either very lucky or my pain threshold is super high as I was able to run reasonably comfortably on the treadmill. I started off steady and gradually wound it up until I was doing a couple of Km’s at a good pace.

I then went climbing, if anyone has ever been climbing then you know that climbing shoes are not the most comfy things ever invented and that climbing involves putting a lot of weight on your toes. The weight on the toes was a little tricky I was not fully comfy doing it, but I still knocked out ten or so routes and didn’t seem to suffer.

The next test was a trail run to see how it reacted outside, and surprisingly two things happened, firstly the toe felt good and secondly I ran at a good pace in the mud. Nothing like getting a pleasant surprise.

All in all a week that started so badly but finished quite strong, I’m now looking forward to a more normal week with some good training.

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It’s better outside

This is the time of year when it can be a real struggle to motivate yourself to go outside and train, you know you should be the combination of dark, cold and probably rain make it a pretty tough ask.

I am in the very fortunate position of owning both a smart trainer and a decent treadmill so I have the option of training indoors and being able to do my sessions, and I have to say that recently I have noticed that I am tending to do more indoors, where as previously I went outside, especially for runs,.

This weekend I decided that both my sessions would be done outside, it didn’t matter what the weather was doing I was going to go outside.

Saturday morning arrived, I looked out of the window and it was throwing it down with rain and it was windy and it was misty, almost the holy trinity! I started to think if it would really matter if I didn’t go outside, after all I hadn’t actually told anyone what I was planning.

In the end after some consideration, I put on a waterproof jacket, an Endure cycling jacket as I don’t own a running specific one (if any running gear company reads this and would like to let me have one to review please contact me!!) and headed for the trails.

After the amount of rain the trails had gone from the dust of the summer to the soft wet mud of winter, and I have to say It was good to run on these wet paths. The weather decided it hadn’t rained enough and gave me a proper soaking, the wind blew and crossing a field on top of a hill the mist rolled in, yet despite these factors the chilterns still looked beautiful, sometimes you need days like these to remind you how lucky you are to live in the countryside.

What about today I hear you ask, well you might if you are still reading, today I headed out on the mountain bike. Obviously there was plenty of mud and this soon covered both me and the bike in it. One of the advantages of a singlespeed bike is that you don’t have to worry about mud clogging up the gears and making it hard to shift, the other side is that for 98% of the time you are in the wrong gear! However, the simplicity of it combined with the enjoyment of being outside again meant that the whole ride was enjoyable, even the uphill parts.

So then, have I learnt anything from this weekend? Well not really I have always known I prefer training outside and especially when running, Zwift makes turbo sessions much more enjoyable, but it has shown me that I still have the motivation to go out when the weather is shocking and enjoy myself. This I think I may have slightly forgotten over recent times.

So if in doubt go outside, once you are wet you are wet, once you are muddy you are muddy but when you finish and you see the state of yourself it does remind you of being a kid and playing gin the mud except now I don’t have anyone telling me off for doing it!!!

Late Season Sunshine

What a weekend, the sun has been shining the sky has been really blue and the temperature has been at that just properly cold level where you can easily layer up your clothing to feel comfortable.

For me, Saturday was trail running day, despite some recent rain the trails are still surprisingly dry and the only moisture comes from all the leaves that have fallen from the trees. Running at this time of year is great as you get see the trees changing together with the under foot conditions going from dry to wet. These changes also mean you need to go back to the techniques of winter running, and that means light feet to ensure that if you run over hidden wet roots or holes you don’t twist an ankle or worse, of course early on this is a challenge as you are used to the dry, dusty summer conditions.

The run itself was a very steady paced affair, and I was really using it to try an dale army head after a couple of challenging weeks, normally running does the really well but of some reason there were a few things it just couldn’t shift so that means you don’t get a really relaxed run and so you spend the entire run feeling a bit uptight. Having said that it is always good to get out into the countryside, and as usual I came back with a few paw prints on my jacket even though I don’t own a dog, something I have come to enjoy over the years is being met by friendly dogs whilst running as they are usually accompanied by friendly owners!

Sunday was a spin on the road bike, again layers up against the cold the only “mistake” was not having a dark lens in my sunglasses as the sun was real bright and I ended up squinting when heading towards the sun. A slightly odd experience this late in the year!

Getting out and riding is  one of those simple pleasures that you sort of take for granted and so as I haven’t done it for a while it was a real pleasure to get out again, I had sort of forgotten what it felt like.

Not getting out is something that has become much easier due to smart trainers and Zwift, I know I can’t blame Zwift but it make indoor sessions so much more fun that if the weather is a bit dodgy or I just don’t fancy going out jumping on the trainer is just too easy.

Plenty of other cyclists out today, most seemed friendly, always a few that don’t acknowledge you but hay not everyone can be as cheerful as me!

I didn’t really tackle any big climbs today, just a few medium sized ones, and they felt ok.

The bike on the other hand didn’t seem to want to play ball, as the shifting back from the inner ring to the outer was a real tricky affair, I have had the impression the left shifter has been on the way out for sometime and I think it really is as the inner wire is pretty new and the adjustment is ok, oh well something to explore.

Overall a fun ride in the sun, and it capped off a couple of decent days of steady paced exercise in the outside sunshine which was probably well needed.

Let us hope that the weather holds and it enables some more outside fun, and once the mud returns it will be time for single speeding on the mtb.

A Beautiful Brutality

The other day I was on the bike leg of a brick session, the sun was trying to break through, the wind was blowing straight into my face, there was snot running from my nose and I was probably dribbling ala Tony Martin (that is the only similarity between me and the Panzerwagen) my head was saying why are you doing this and frankly my legs were in agreement. For someone of my age and ability this is a perfectly sane question,

So what is it apart from stupidity and fear of Iron Mike that makes me carry on? Well it turns out the answer is simple, if you lift your head and look around the countryside is simply beautiful

As I struggled along I was looking for some help, and as performance enhancing drugs aren’t available on the road or legal!, I wondered what would work and then I lifted my head up, stopped concentrating on the road ahead and saw that I was going along a road with woodland on one side and open fields on the other and then I remembered why I go outdoors and not go to the gym, I love the countryside.

For some reason I had lost the ability to enjoy the countryside whilst pedalling hard, I don’t know why, I enjoy it whilst running but on hard bike sessions I seem to forget to enjoy my surroundings.

I went to a talk by Chrissie Wellington the other year and she said to her it is important to smile whilst racing as it helped her and kept her going. I try to remember this at hard moments but as I am miserable it is hard to smile at those times so I try to enjoy my surroundings and then use that to drive me on, perhaps smiling might help I will try it in the future.

I think that it is very important to enjoy the area you are training in not just train hard, if you don’t enjoy it then the question is what the point? The answer to that question can only be answered by each individual but for me I train outdoors as much as possible as I work indoors and I would rather be outside in the fresh air and as long as I remember to look around then the pain is reduced.

Enjoying The Light

After the last post, which if you haven’t read is available here, things have been taking a more positive direction.

It is true that I as entered into a race which I didn’t do as I didn’t feel comfortable racing with others, and yes even doing ParkRuns have proved tricky as I seem to have lost the confidence in racing with others, it is almost like an anxious feeling. I have done a couple of ParkRuns but haven’t fully enjoyed the experience, but I will go back when I can get out of bed on time!

The biggest pleasure recently has come form cycling, going out on the singlespeed mountain bike is such fun, it takes away all the excuses of the gears weren’t adjusted properly, my suspension is too hard/soft etc. It is just about you and the bike so you get out what you put in. Funnily enough I have set my fastest Strava times on a couple of the climbs.

Running on the other hand seems more of a struggle, for whatever reason I am off the pace. I have been feeling good on trail runs and have set a couple of fastest times on routes when I have gone out to push, but when I get back on the roads I just seem to not be able to do it.  However, I am trying not to let it get to me to try an keep the mind in clean and in the right place.

The mental side of life is something that I am now more than ever aware of and I do find myself constantly monitoring myself and trying to asses how I am feeling. There have been a few times where I find myself slipping and my thoughts heading into the negative. At these times I try and do something to cheer myself up, be it a listen to a song if I’m at work, go outside if possible or ride the motorbike, bicycle or anything else that has two wheels. I am also far more open to talking about it when I start to feel a bit down and this certainly helps, it might be a cliche and it certainly isn’t easy but it is the best thing to do.

I am now working towards the London Duathlon in September and my main aim is to enjoy it and re-find the fun in racing rather than the stress and anxiety that it currently brings.

As a postscript, after the last blog post I did receive some really kind messages and offers of help and support which were very much appreciated and above all it reminded me that people really are good and can provide the inspiration to do almost anything.

 

 

The Man With The Halo

This is a different post to those I would normally do, This is the story of a pro athlete who on the verge of possibly his best world championship performance nearly had everything taken away from him.

The film is around 25 minutes, but trust me it is worth the watch, if you feel you need some inspiration then this might just provide it or it might make you realise what you have

Enjoy it, share it

Click on this link to watch it The Man With The Halo

Can I Find The Right Direction?

This year I have really struggled to find the same level of motivation that I have had previous years for training. For much of this year I have pondered what the reason is for this, and I haven’t yet figured out.

When I consider what the causes could be, I have been able to eliminated certain things, firstly my training plan supplied by “Iron” Mike as he is tailoring it to the feedback I give him, and to be fair the sessions on paper are fine. Secondly, support from the wife, she is as ever very supportive and offering help whenever possible.

To compound things, we recently lost a family member and rather than making me realise ho lucky I am to be in a position to not only be alive but also fit enough to train etc it has had almost the opposite impact..

With the help, of Mike, I have been trying to find activities that rekindle the fire, I think that is why singlespeed mountain biking has helped, it’s something new, a challenge that doesn’t really make any sense. I have been doing some trail running which is easier on the mind than road running and that is helping, I think.

I was supposed to have raced a couple of time already this year, the first one I missed due to being simply too tired, and the second was postponed due to snow. The next one I doubt I will do as I just don’t feel mentally in the right place, physically I am not too far off.

The one overriding thing I have lost is the sense of fun, I am not a pro athlete, I do all this for fun, something to provide a level of challenge but ultimately because I enjoy it and so to be in this position of not really enjoying it is hard. I am not defined by my results, and as a person I am not defined by exercise and so perhaps I just need to find the fun again.

I do realise that I am in a good position in life, and that to some people the fact that I am not enjoying training is probably seen as a “so what”, but when you stop enjoying something  you have loved for years it is an issue to me.

The “what next” question is still there, but I think that if I keep on the mountain bike and throw in some trail running I will eventually find the right path.

Will I race again? I honestly don’t know at the moment, racing takes a lot out of you both physically and mentally and the thought of it currently is something that does not excite me.

I hope that something will provide the spark, it might just take a ParkRun with other people where I don’t worry about the time and just run and enjoy it, or perhaps a good bike ride, who knows. The one thing is though I really don’t want to quit and don’t intend to quit I just need to re-find the fun!

A New Experience

Today I did something that I thought I would never do, as it always seemed like making a tough situation even harder, I went singlespeed mountain biking. Yep that’s right one gear off road in the mud etc

The history behind this is all really down to an old friend of mine, Neil Dingle, yes I will name and shame!! He has been into this odd pursuit for years and keep extolling it’s virtues to the point where he is a successful racer in it. I often said yeah I would try it, never really meaning it, but then over christmas I was offered a very heavily discounted single speed frame, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to build another bike sI decided to go in,

The bike building has been fun, and I have built it using parts that if I decide the one cog stuff isn’t for me I can remove all the parts and put them onto a frame accepting of gears, I like to think that is almost like planning.

So, how was the one gear experience? Well it was interesting, I am currently running a 32 x 18 set up, which might be slightly over geared for thick mud, but I reckon will be ok in the dry, dusty summer months, however, it was different to what I expected.

I had really thought it was going to be purgatory as I was never going to be in the correct gear, and whilst that it true, what you discover is that if you try and smooth out your peddling style you can actually make reasonable progress.

I did a couple of hills, not super steep, but ones that I know I normally have to change down the gears on, and got up them, I did some descending, which with a fully rigid set up was just like riding the cross bike but with a bit more give in the tyres.

The downsides, well I had two punctures, it might be time to go to the tubeless set up as I’m sure those little thorn punctures would have been avoided, but punctures are not the fault of the bike, and so other than that it was actually ok.

Now, I am a realist and so one ride doesn’t make me an expert or a convert, but it means I have the door slightly ajar into a new world, and one which I understand is populated by a variety of characters who are all slightly barmy (well I might have made the last bit up but it wouldn’t surprise me)

Will I do it again, oh yes, will this become my offroaf bike of choice, not sure as I love riding my cross bike, but I did find something very satisfying in plodding around never having to change gear even if I did try to change them a few times.

So, thank you to Nev for introducing me to this world and offering me a lot of good advice and I will be back for me, I might even write about it.

Are The Times A Changin?

To borrow a title from Bob Dylan is brave on my part as there is no way my writing stacks up against Bob’s and I am unlikely to write anything that is remembered and celebrated like him, but irrespective of this I will continue to share my exploits.

Back to the main reason for writing, as anyone who has read these before will know over the years I have had some challenges with a certain sport, and that sport is one third of a triathlon and has led me to not have carried on with the challenge of triathlon for the last few years.

For anyone who hasn’t guessed so far, the sport in question is swimming, a sport that those who do it don’t understand anyone who can’t and those who can’t or struggle wonder how anyone can possibly enjoy it.

I am firmly in the camp of how can anyone enjoy it, it takes place in artificially lit plastic boxes with cold chemical filled water, which as if to make it harder gets deeper at one end.

For those of us that struggle with swimming the act of getting from the shallow end to the deep end gets more fraught as you go on as once you get past a certain point you can’t stand up and so the chance of drowning becomes a realistic possibility. The return journey is not as bad as the water gets shallower but I get more tired so drowning remains possible as you can drown in a few inches of water!

Now, it turns out swimming has two major components firstly technique, very important and secondly the mental side which is probably more important as if you can’t relax in the water than swimming is almost impossilbe.

I have struggled with both of these components and frankly thought the idea of ever swimming in a relaxed enjoyable way was not for me, it was something other people did.

Recently I have been thinking about future challenges and triathlon kept coming to mind as I obviously felt I had unfinished business and so it became a simple question of either of overcoming the struggle of swimming or forget triathlon for good, and find other areas to go at.

Unfortunately there is never an easy way to overcome a struggle, and so my approach was simple, go to the pool and try swimming again with no pressure and then find some lessons to sort out the technical side and hopefully the mental one as well.

The few times I went to the pool, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, I did some lengths and tried hard to be as relaxed as possible, it seemed that perhaps there was a chance swimming was possible. The outcome of these trips was that I decided to search out some lessons

Finding appropriate swim lessons is tricky, you need to find someone who you can trust, someone who is able to help you and break the technique down into chunks you can understand. Luckily for me via social media I saw an advert for a course run by someone I met years ago when trying triathlon who I knew was a good swimmer and was now coaching full time.

The lessons were over a 5 week period, and to summarise the course it basically broke the technique down and each week a different element was worked on, culminating in the last week of reassembling it and swimming!

I quite enjoyed the course and whilst it certainly wasn’t easy I did learn a lot and had my first experience of swimming where it felt I was on top of the water rather than dragging myself through it.

Since the course I have been swimming at an open air pool, which is heated and is so much more enjoyable than the normal leisure centre one, it also has the advantage of being open on my way home from work.

This week I had the new experience of a whole swimming session feeling “easy” or rather moving through water and the amount of speed reflecting the amount of effort rather than the effort out weighing the movement.

Perhaps the most important part of this is that I have been enjoying swimming, and actually looking forward going which is making it easier mentally.

The final part of the puzzle is that I have decided to enter a sprint triathlon in July and that is going to be the acid test, where this will take me in the end is unknown but this is a start, and a good one at that.

If you want some swim lessons then look up Bex Tri Fit there are various courses and I am sure you will learn.

Who knew that I would finally find swimming enjoyable and believe that I could again try triathlon.

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!