One Foot in the stirrup

There is a saying about getting back on the horse when you have fallen off, this is often applied to accidents or unfortunate incidents or just when something doesn’t go to plan.

For me, I am not back on the horse but have taken my first step towards it, I am about to take a leg up!

This week I did my first longish run for a long time, a decent 8 miles plus backed this up with a a faster, shorter run in the week plus a couple of weekend runs.

More importantly I went climbing, putting the shoulder under some stress, I didn’t push the climbing and certainly was not climbing near my limits but just doing it and getting the feel again was great, during the climb the shoulder felt ok, not 100% but ok.

My long run did throw up an interesting scenario though, I experienced some stomach issues to the point where for the last 20 minutes I thought I was going mohave to do a Paula Radcliffe, and if not use the street my shorts were certainly under threat. This really did hamper the tail end of the run and meant knocking the pace down but the positive was everything stayed in my stomach!

The other interesting thing from the week was at ParkRun on Saturday I went for a more steady run rather than the usual go for broke, and this meant that I ran a steady pace at a fraction over 5 minutes per km but at no point did I ever feel I was pushing and at the end I still felt fresh. My reasoning for this was simply I didn’t feel as sharp as I have previously so decided to run steady and just enjoy the run.

Back to the shoulder, and this morning it did feel slightly sore, not a surprise after a climb plus running. However, after the run today it wasn’t too bad but as I type it is stiff but hopefully nothing more than the after effects of all the above and some gardening!

I am looking forward to keep on moving forward and hopefully getting back in the saddle, the acid test is likely to come with a return to the pool but that is in the future and when that happens the result will be what it will be.


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.


The three dreaded letters, DNF, did not finish, something that you go out of your way to avoid and something you never wish on anybody.

Well for me yesterday it finally happened and I got my first DNF. There were however, some positives to take from this, firstly it happened during a Park Run, so it was a free race  and secondly it meant I finally listened to my body after a few weeks of ignoring it.

I have had a problem for a few weeks, and this happened at the same time as I switched running shoe brands and models, I went back to a newer version of shoes I had used in the past. The problem I have is that I have done something to my a nerve or tendon that goes down from my lower back to my foot. The issue manifests itself firstly as back pain, then once I am moving it goes to my hip and then works its way down to stiffen up my calf and finally to tighten the achilles. These don’t all occur at once but one after the other!

Over the last couple of weeks, the pain when running has never really got beyond pain in the hip but yesterday it went straight from the hip  to tightening the achilles to the point I wasn’t sure if I carried I might snap it. I know that is an unlikely outcome but the stiffness was painful and a Park Run is not the place to risk it.

I have now found some exercises that seem to be making some difference and loosening things up, I am hopeful that this is not something serious and it is just something caught up or tweaked, I know I will be taking it a bit easy for a few days until I feel good again, and I have also ordered a pair of the shoes I have used recently to go back to the trusted ones incase the shoes did contribute.

Just Let Me Quit!

Yesterday was a race day and a day when I probably learnt a few things that I didn’t already know.

The duathlon at Dorney Lake was my 4th visit this year and came only 3 weeks after my last race. Training for this one had not been going brilliantly, see my last post, and so I went to this race thinking I would enjoy it and see what happened.

At this point I should admit that, the idea of turning up at a race and just seeing what happens and me are not good bed fellows, as when the gun goes the race mentality takes over and it is go as hard as possible. But, I did try an did myself that I would see what happened.

The weather was brilliant, it was actually hot and there wasn’t a massive head wind, perfect conditions for a pb but I was in realistic mood I was tired and speed probably wasn’t going to be there.

The gun went and off we went, and as usual I try and run the first km in a relaxed manner and then see what the pace is after that first one. At the 1km marker the pace wasn’t too bad but my legs didn’t feel great, no worry I thought I will keep this pace and see what happens. Next km the pace dropped a bit and the same the for the 3rd one, it did pick up a bit towards the end but I was not feeling too sharp.

At this point, I thought right, take it easy through the transition area and then cruise the first lap on the bike and see if the legs come back. Good plan that!

I strolled through T1, in no hurry went onto he bike course and realised there wasn’t the usual power in my bike legs, I carried on and after about half way picked up a bit. At the end of the first lap I decided to give it one more lap and then if nothing felt better to quit as I wasn’t doing myself justice. The second lap I passed a few more people but was not comfortable in my aero position, felt like I was constantly shifting in the saddle, and kept thinking I will stop in a minute, just get to the end of the lap and quit. End of the 2nd lap I thought I may as well do another one, got about half way round the lap thinking why didn’t I stop? I was going to quit. 3 laps became 4 and then the bike leg was nearly over, still wanted to stop!

Coming into T2 I wasn’t concentrating and went to dismount the bike at speed and hadn’t taken my feet out of my cycling shoes so I dismounted and landed on the cleats, skidded forward and nearly crashed into the barriers, what an idiot. Good lesson to remember there, if you don’t take your feet out of your shoes slow right down before getting off!

Into T2 and back on with the running shoes, after about 50m I realised my legs were not moving well, I thought give it the first lap then stop, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the first run lap I took a drink and thought might as well carry on for a bit as you could stop easily on the run loop. Got halfway through the run loop and thought, right stop now, but I didn’t, I carried on. I knew I was getting slower and slower, I didn’t walk but might as well had done, and finally finished the run, it took 28 minutes to run 5km, my worst ever 5km time in a race.

The question I am left with, is why didn’t I stop, I felt rubbish, didn’t look ever like doing a decent time (it was my 2nd slowest of the year) there was no reason not to stop. In my head I had the conversation constantly, the voice saying just stop it doesn’t matter.

I didn’t stop, I am glad in some ways I didn’t as having a bad race is probably good for me as I think recently I have started to think I am a bit better at racing than I probably am and so a bit of humbling is good and a reminder not to take things for granted.

I will now take a bit of a rest from racing and decide what to build for next.

As they say, pain is temporary, quitting lasts for ever!

Shrug, smile sweetly and move on

I wonder if I have upset the sporting gods this week, it seems I was allowed one good session and3 not so good ones.

It started on Monday evening, a run session that was planned to be hard but not impossible, the weather was cold and I even remember to put a waterproof jacket on (more on this later). I headed out along a flat disused railway line which has been converted to a trail and for the first 5 minutes all was well, and then changed.

I felt a spot of rain, and thought well at least I have a waterproof on, and then as if someone turned a tap on, the drop become a deluge of freezing cold rain. In about 5 minutes I was soaked and cold, very cold. I tried to carry on and tough it out, but my leg muscles were so cold I gave in, and let the pace drop down to where I just jogged it in, yes I did the time but no where near the pace.

As for the waterproof jacket, well I have known for some time that it wasn’t really that waterproof but it used to keep a fair amount of the rain out but now it was basically useless, probably down to its age rather than anything else so time to research and buy a new one.

The next session that wasn’t perhaps as planned was the turbo session, this was an interval based assault really. In each interval for about the first of the three minutes I could hold the power and then it was a case of just holding on. It hurt and isn’t one I would be keen to repeat. Whilst I got through this, again the time was right but I never held the average power targets.

The next run I did however, was great, an evening trail run just pushing along not flat out. The sun was out the trails were drying out and it was a pleasure to be running across fields and through the woods. I even enjoyed the hills at the end!

Finally we come to todays bike ride, as my road bike is currently in bits awaiting some replacement parts I decided to head out on the cross bike and ride off road. It started off ok, came to the first interval and the legs went, “you must be joking” there didn’t seem to be much there. I plodded on up the hill and hoped they might return. After the next muddy section, I noticed the rear tyre was flat, not a major disaster, just pop in a new tube and away we go. Out came the rear wheel I put my hand in my bag and no tubes, what a plank I had forgotten to pack them. I never go out without spare tubes, well apparently I do now. Plan B, I had some patches, found the big thorn in the tyre, removed it, patched the tube and pumped it up. I could hear air escaping, found the second hole, patched that, pumped it up and all seemed well. Put the tyre back on and pumped it up again. Once more I could hear air escaping, tyre off again, found the third hole, patched it, tyre back on pumped it up and this time all was ok. However, I now had used all my patched, had no spare tubes and had really lost the enthusiasm so rode home.

I know that in context these are not the tales of real life disasters and there is plenty in the world which is worse, and I accept that but, these types of weeks make me wonder sometimes why I bother.

Next weekend is another race weekend, another duathlon and a chance to have some fun, race hard and remember that I do this for fun and that training weeks that don’t go so well really don’t matter!

One Of Those Weeks

This week has been one of those weeks that happen and you think what did I do to deserve that?

It started on Monday when on an easy paced trail run I basically bonked, had the jelly legs and the odd feeling. Not sure what caused it but it certainly put pay to any chance of a decent run. The only way I got through about 45 minutes was because I stopped for a few minutes and luckily started to feel better. One day in and one dodgy session

Tuesday was a good day, the weights session went well, always good to get a positive in the writing

Wednesday an interval session on the turbo trainer, really tough going got through it in a sweaty mess but the numbers were nothing to write home about. 3 days in and we are back at 2-1 for not great.

Thursday, a run for 75 minutes, simple enough on paper. I went to an old dissed railway that has bene converted into a path, it rained, and it rained hard but no matter I had a waterproof. The running went ok, the factor I forgot was that it gets dark still and so the last 10 minutes were in total darkness, luckily there was no body else on the path but add another one to the not great sessions, 3-1 now.

Friday, a rest day, even I couldn’t mess that up this week! 3-2

Saturday, and my first attempt at a Park Run, now I have been signed up to Park Run for ages but have just never got round to doing one. So, 5k as fast as possible.

Well, I ran 5K but have to say the end result was a disappointment , yes the grass was soft and muddy and there a set of steps on the back of the course but even so to record a time of 24:15 was disappointing. 4-2 to the downside and only one day to go.

Finally on Sunday a bike session that went to plan and was fun to do, it might have been helped by the sunshine or something else but it went to plan and so pulled one back.

After adding up the scores it was 4-3 to the downsides and frankly it was a fair reflection especially when one of the positive days was a rest day!

Despite all of these things next week is the last duathlon race I have booked in and hopefully it will be decent, but based on this week who knows!

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?

Relaxing In The Mud

After a week where I have found the training hard and haven’t felt as tired at the end of it for ages, it was good today to go out and run the trails with no pressure of time or pace.

I know to some, the idea of running off road in the mud, up and down the hills with the ever changing terrain and levels of grip, isn’t their idea of a relaxing run, but to me it is.

There is nothing better than going and spending time running the trails, you are away from traffic, and the only people you see are also out enjoying the countryside, be that on foot, bikes or horses.

The Chilterns are not the biggest of hills, but they do provide some excellent running and often you are treated to great views across the valley’s. You have companions in the red kites flying over head adding a little more variety.

Today, the sun was out, it might have only been 4C but that was enough to allow just a base layer & t-shirt combined with hat and gloves for the perfect attire to enjoy the mud.

The condition of the trails today is best described as muddy and wet, but if you are running off-road yo have to expect mud, after all you can’t make a cake without breaking a few eggs!

Sometimes I wonder that if I stopped doing races and just decided to run when I felt like it and ride my bike the rest of the time would I be any worse off? I might miss the competitive side of it all but also there wouldn’t be really hard weeks of training. A question of another time I think.

Back to the run today, and basically it was the best part of an hour and a half spent out in the fresh air enjoying the countryside and feeling good about life, when you are out like that there are no stresses or pressures, you leave them at home.

Next weekend is the first duathlon race of the year, and I am hoping to use it as a benchmark for the other ones, the main aim is to enjoy it, but everyone knows what happens when the gun goes and the race is on, all rationale thinking goes out of the window and race mode takes over!

I Dream of Sunshine

On my run tonight it was dark and cold again. Infant it seems to have been like that for months. Overtime I go for an evening run I need a head torch, hi viz vest, hat, gloves and layers and I have had enough of it.

I cannot wait of those light evenings where the toughest choice is which lens to put in the sunglasses but those times seem so far away.

Running fast in the dark and cold is hard, especially when your only light is from your head torch, as we have no street lighting where I live, and so those sessions often produce results that on paper look a bit disappointing.

Every year I think that around this time of year I should really arrange to go away somewhere sunny for a week, take my bike, running shoes and probably the wife and go and enjoy some warm weather somewhere.

I have never done this, but I can’t help but think it must give you a boost on a couple of fronts, firstly you can train during the day in warm weather in a new environment, and secondly I think it would give you a mental boost. You would come back invigorated and looking forward to the race season, rather than seemingly plodding your way into it as I feel I am doing currently.

But, as I haven’t booked a trip this year then I will have to put up with it, and put some new batteries in the head torch and get back out on the road again later this week.

I can dream of the sunshine in the meantime!