Knowing when to call it a day

Sometimes you just have to admit when today is not your day and yesterday was definitely not my day.

I got my swimming stuff together and set off to the germ pool ready to tackle a mammoth swim. As i arrived at the pool i revelled in the fact that it was so refreshing to need so little kit to train. Well that is until i realised that I’d forgotten my pull buoy, what a complete and utter tool i felt!

Nevertheless i began the swim and tried my best to crack on despite my heavy legs. Things seemed to be going as ok as they could be until i paused a few hundred metres in to sort my goggles out. I paused the swim and whilst messing around with my eyewear my watch vibrated, “hmmm i wonder if it’s restarted the swim?” I thought. No, in fact what had actually happened was that a drip of water sliding across the face of my watch had made it delete that activity.

FFS!

So i started a new swim and carried on.

After a while a person A started swimming in the same lane as me (the only lane available as the other one was being used for a private lesson). They were slower than me but we came to an unspoken agreement that we would keep to our own half of the pool and this seemed to work for a while.

Well, that is until person B joined the lane and it all went to rat shit. The increased population meant a change in the politics and one which me and person B seemed to grasp pretty quickly. We simply invoked the usual practice of all trying to swim in the same clockwise or anticlockwise direction which would’ve worked a treat had person A paid a blind bit of notice as to what was going on and been willing to alter their course but no, they just carried on doing as they pleased causing me and B to constantly zig zag our way about the lane clashing hands and feet.

I got to a mile in and came to a resounding conclusion of ‘Fuck it!’

You can’t win them all and some times you just have to pick your battles.

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Back once again

It’s been a good few weeks since i last posted anything on here due to a number of reasons such as being busy at home, busy at work and, truth be told, it’s hard writing stuff that isn’t just the same old shite each time.

Whilst I’ve been away from the screen the training has continued, the swimming is still monotonous and i cannot wait until the lake is warm enough to swim in just for some variety compared to the pool which hopefully won’t be too long now given the weather. I’ve been out on the bike which is as enjoyable as ever, especially with friends and it’s definitely my favourite discipline. The running has also continued and progressed which I’ll discuss in a minute.

It’s not all been positive though, two weeks ago i was struck down by some mysterious 24 hour fever which had me bed ridden for the best part of a day and sapped my strength for the whole weekend until my guts got back to normal which meant that my marathon was delayed.

I’m also having to work through a niggling ‘injury’ which i’ve self diagnosed as proximal hamstring tendinopothy, which is literally a pain in the arse. I know i should look at getting checked professionally but i just can’t seem to find the time to do that and it’s not holding back too much, i just have be mindful how to keep it under control and exacerbate it.

So the cycling is going ok and I’m trying to spend more time on the drops (the lowest part of the handlebars) or the Tri bars out front in order to be as streamline as possible and maximise my efficiency on the bike. Traditionally I’d only spend about 20% of the ride on the drops as I’d just find it too uncomfortable to be there any longer but little by little I’m managing to increase my time on them and they definitely make a difference, there’s some research out there which has shown how much of a benefit it is but i can’t recall the exact figures right now. I’m also becoming more efficient in terms of how much fuel I’m needing to take with me on a ride and how quickly I’m recovering after the climbs, etc so the stamina must be improving.

The running has reached a new high as well. Yesterday i completed my first marathon and not just that but i did it all on my own round my own local route without any other runners, etc and it was agony! Stairs are not my friends today and i have the knees of an arthritic pensioner. I decided to a local route which consisted of 3 x laps of just under 9 miles so that it not only replicated the main events run which is laps rather than a single loop or point to point but also to experience the tedium which might arise from seeing the same sights again and again and again. It also gave me the chance to sack it off and head home if things went really wrong. I was also a little tight on time as although my wife had kindly given me the morning off to do the run and take our little boy out, i was aware that we had planned to go to the cinema in the afternoon and didn’t want to ruin our valuable family time by being late on my run so after walking the dog i set off on the run with my visor on to keep the sun out my eyes, my running vest on so that i didn’t overheat and my calf compression socks to help me through the run. I also made sure that i lubed up with run guard on the old nipples and other chafe points as there’s nothing more off putting than chafing (apart from a blister obviously). I decided to take 5 gels with me as I’ve figured out that one every four miles is around the best ratio for me as otherwise my guts are in bits. I also had my 2 x 250ml water bottles on my belt, each with a zero tab in it as i wanted to make sure that i kept my salts and electrolytes up given the inevitable sweating that was to come. I set off and made a conscious move not to look at my watch for as long as possible and this ended up being 12 miles before i checked my pace and time, etc to see that I’d been running reasonably comfortably at an average pace of 8-8.30 min/mile and was on for doing a sub 4 marathon on my first attempt, what a result! Or so i thought. Hello 18 miles and my new hell as my calves and knees just seemed to stop working. I’d drank all my fluids so called in to the first shop that i came to and stocked up despite nearly falling out with the time wasting prick that was monopolising the cashier. The run now became interspersed with the occasional bit of walking and stretching as i tried to drag my arse round the third and final lap. Fortunately there was no stitch and no blisters or pulled muscles, just very tired ones and despite all my best efforts and a second pit stop for fluids i missed out on the sub 4 time as i crossed the virtual finish line in 4.07.03 but i was still pleased that I’d managed to do.

I walked the last few hundred metres home to be met by my family and an excited little boy who couldn’t wait to go to the cinema. I threw some recovery shake down my neck, another pint of fluid and then literally crawled upstairs, laid on the bathroom floor and struggled to get undressed. I sat on the shower floor as the water brought some life back into me enough to put my recovery skins on and some other clothes before heading off to the cinema with my son ready to wake me up if i fell asleep in the movie (i didn’t).

There’s about 8 weeks to go to the big day now so it’s time to start bringing things together with brick sessions where possible and outside swimming asap. That is once my knees don’t cry when they see a step that is.

Laters

Every day’s a school day

Yet another long run and a need to try new routes near me very nearly left me injured.

It all began with the need to do a 15 mile recovery run. Fair enough, i thought, I’ll just do my usual route over the bridge and back which should be about there and if i have to tag something on the end to make the distance up then so be it.

But then my mind started to wander based upon the facts that a) the weather was lovely and b) that route had a large portion in the middle that could bore you to tears. Then one of my ideas popped into my head as I remembered that the cycle track along the foreshore had reopened after maintenance work and so not only would this provide me with the potential chance to run nearly half the route back home with some relatively new scenery but also on a fairly level path that was traffic free.

With a renewed vigour and mild excitement about the prospect of a little adventure down a new route (because that’s what my life has become through this training) i set off in the baking heat with not a cloud in the sky. I reached the halfway point and not long after turning around my watch showed ‘8 miles’, i figured the slightly flatter, straighter route home would mean that i should still be around the 15 mile mark so carried on unperturbed. I crossed the bridge for the second time, marvelling in its engineering magnificence as always, and had a plan for how i was going to get down to the foreshore but realised that this would add an extra bit of mileage and climbing onto my run that i could’ve done without as i was starting to feel the heat now that i was 9 miles in. Another idea entered my head and i remembered seeing an entrance to the park area under the bridge earlier in the run and figured that i could use this as a shortcut to keep me on track without making things worse.

How wrong was i!?

I passed through the entrance and suddenly realised that the long, winding route down would actually take me in the opposite direction that i wished to go so i quickly looked around and saw that there was a beaten path through the woods in the right direction. “Bingo” i thought as i started along that route until it quickly turned into a downhill scramble on a much steeper gradient than i had anticipated, so much so that i had to direct my speedy descent towards a tree and throw my arm around it to stop me so that i could reassess my next move. This harsh braking left me with a pulled pec for the remaineder of the run which was a right laugh but not as much as the next bit of the descent which involved me climbing down a 10′ rock face, sliding down an embarkment on my arse before having to quickly stand up and use the momentum to jump a ditch and scramble up the other side with my knees jarred, aching and scratched to buggery! I managed to compose myself and found my way to the start of the foreshore path which was very scenic and pleasant but exposed to the sun and heat which just added to my growing fatigue and general homeless person appearance. Ah well, at least this path was going to take me all the way home nearly with just a little incline as i neared my house.

No, wrong again.

About 3 miles from home it quickly became apparent that the path had reached a point where it was only passable at low water (which it was now) if you were willing to walk across the muddy bank and negotiate all the rocks. Clearly this was not ideal for running on so i had to turn around and take the high water route which immediately filled me with dread as i knew exactly where it went and meant that all the incline I’d tried to avoid over the last few miles was now compounded into the hill that stood before me.

Fuck!

I pressed on, having to walk and swear at myself a few times as nearly all my drink had gone along with my gels, my knees were still killing me along with my pec and forearm that was scratched to hell from grabbing the tree. I’d underestimated the mileage (it ended up being a little over 16 miles) and my timing was shot to shit as a result of the park fiasco.

I eventually made it home exhausted with a mental note to research my routes better in future so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again as the risk of injury so close to the big day is not worth taking.

No pain no gain

Another day another run but I’d been dreading this one, the 20 miler!

Now previous posts will show that in the course of this training I’ve already surpassed my pb’s in terms of distance with the last one being 16 miles. So I basically had to top that by another 4 miles. To say I was shitting myself wouldn’t be too far from the truth!

Despite it being the Easter school break and us going away for the weekend I’d managed to keep my training up by using the holiday site’s gym to do my intervals in.

Big thanks to the wife for putting up with me for this.

But an extra 4 fucking miles! And it was going to be mid afternoon when I got to do it because my wife was at work that day so I had to wait until she got back home which I didn’t mind, it just meant I was dwelling on it more than I’d like to.

Right up until a few minutes before I started the run I was debating whether to do an out and back on a relatively straightforward, flattish/gently changing incline/decline albeit this would include a path/trail I’d never ran before so was unsure of its suitability or whether to do a haphazard compass style run that I’d devised near me.

I chose the latter as it meant that should I bail out or get injured, etc then I was never really that far from home and I could pass my house twice and use it as an aid station to fill up my water bottles and gels, etc.

I set off and did the first 5 miles ok before turning into the next branch which changed to a trail run involving some incline. I managed to nip this off and headed for my first fly by of home. I managed to ring my wife and asked her if she could take my bottles off me, refill them and leave them out for my return trip to pick up to which she agreed because she’s a good’un like that. I saw her waiting along with our little boy who was cheering me on and said that he wanted to come with me. Now given I still had about 11 miles left to do I told him that it maybe wasn’t such a good idea and he should go run me an ice bath instead. Cue the tears from him, bless him, and I then spent the next few miles with his upset face in my mind. The thing was earlier that day he’d ridden his bike without stabilisers for the first time and we were so proud of him, he’d shown me that anything is possible if you try hard enough so I used that thought to carry on.

I cracked on round the fields admiring the views, eating the swarms of flies that had appeared due to the slightly warmer weather and was glad to get back to road running at the 13 mile mark so that I didn’t have to watch my tired footing so much.

Then mile 15 came and the first point where I had to walk for a few seconds. I downed a gel, swore at myself and pushed on. This happened a few more times but I kept going whenever I could. I even had to stop myself from chasing other runners like I normally do by looking down so that I couldn’t see them as I knew that otherwise I’d just subconsciously pick the pace up and burn out even quicker.

Eventually mile 20 came and I was so relieved, not only because I’d made it but because I’d also managed to do it within the 3 hour maximum time limit that I’d set myself for it.

I look back and whilst I’m disheartened that I had to walk a few times I draw strength (how corny does that sound and I’m the one writing this shit) from the fact that I was to complete it, in my time limit, despite also making it (unnecessarily) harder on myself by including the trail sections but like the old saying goes “train hard, fight easy”.

The ice bath was most welcome at the end as always as was the recovery shake and roast dinner to pile the calories back in.

As for our son and his desire to run with me well we did that today when we ran to the park and back which he seemed to enjoy even if I did run like Forest Gump in his callipers.

Ps if you look closely you’ll be able to chart the pain and agony across my face during the course of the run. Great days and all that.

When you think the whole world’s against you

First post in a little while but like my opening gambit said, it’s a case of when I’ve got time and if i can be bothered. It’s the time that’s been in short supply as work has been busy but then we’ve dropped straight into the Easter break from school.

We (the family) managed to get away for a quick break over the weekend so prior to that i was cramming runs and swims in to make sure that i didn’t need to do anything over the weekend.

In order to try and not be a boring arsehole i let the diet slip a bit and had a few drinks and the occasional bit of chocolate, ok a lot of chocolate and i could feel my self restraint slipping. Everywhere you go at the minute there’s chocolate and sweets splashed all over the place and it’s absolutely killing me (not literally obviously before the pedants start) not to gorge myself on it.

Then there’s the small fact that a few weeks ago my Ironman partner Rob told me that he’d injured his knee and may have to defer his place in this year’s event until next year. As i write this he’s waiting an MRI scan to see the true severity of the injury and is receiving physio on it. I’ve been working under the assumption that I’d be taking part in the event on my own and dreading that prospect as yes there’ll be other people there but that’s not the same as going through it with someone you’ve trained with and who can really help you along as much as you are them to get through it.

And finally there’s the Nike app that i use to plan my run schedule, those of you that use the NRC app with a training plan know that once a week it will adapt to suit your needs depending on how your training is going. So yesterday morning i checked the app and it said that i needed to do a 3 mile tempo run. It also asked me if i wanted to adapt the plan and i clicked ‘yes’. It updated so i checked it again the tempo run was still there. The day was a busy one and i made the evening meal (I call it tea as I’m far too working class to refer to it as ‘dinner’) for the family and plated mine up to save it for later. I walked the dog and then quickly changed into my running gear as time ticked on and was about to leave the house (the time being nearly 9pm) when i loaded up the app only to find that the tempo run had now been replaced with a ‘rest day’. FFS! So i sat down, ate my tea and was mightily fucked off that I’d been messed around.

All these temptations and knocks can’t help but make you wonder if you’re up to the task at hand. Then, this afternoon, whilst out with the family i got some (potentially) good news from Rob stating that the physio was optimistic about his injury and hadn’t ruled him out of the Ironman. Cue Rocky style training montage in my head as i set off on an 11 mile recovery run which was difficult but not impossible.

As the sayings go, “the night is darkest just before the dawn” and i believe Churchill remarked that “success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”.

Basically I just need to give myself another kick up the arse and crack on moving forwards.

When the mind is willing but the body is not.

5am has gradually (and with the stealth of a ninja) become the new 6am for me in that i see it as an early wake up but not as outrageously as i once did. So despite the run plan telling me to rest i decided, as the forecast looked favourable, to get up at 5 and get out on the bike briefly before starting work.

I woke up, left my now trademark early morning pre event/exercise toilet surprise for the wife to find as i daren’t flush the toilet and wake the whole house up (sadly she’s used to it by now), got my gear and set off. I rode the relatively short distance to work and dropped my bag off (hoping that an abandoned rucksack thrown under a staircase did not cause mass hysteria and panic first thing in the morning) and headed off to the nearby hills that i know rather well.

The first hill went well and the downhill felt great as i was hugging bends and relishing the speed. The second hill was shorter but steeper and this got the thighs burning. The temperature had dropped to 3º but I’d planned for this by putting my winter kit on which was great initially, however i quickly heat up and so the sweat was running down my back more than a fat kid in a snow suit, eating a curry, in a sauna, that is on fire.

Whilst I summited the hill without having to stand up on the pedals I could just tell that my thighs hadn’t properly woken up and didn’t have to the energy in them that i was for to complete the route that I’d planned. With that in mind i looked at the time and crunched the numbers in my head. Part of me was thinking that i didn’t want to throw the towel in as i knew that I’d be able to complete it even if it took a little longer. The other more sensible part of me tried to remain objective and knew full well that I’d end up being late for work and that it just wasn’t worth the hassle so it came up with an alternative, go balls out on a shorter route and complete the first hill again before getting to work on time.

This went well (all things considered) and i got to work, showered and changed, on time with no alarm being caused by my bag, result. Well i say ‘result’ but the fact remains that i was still a little disappointed by my legs and it made me think that any future early morning rides like that should consist mostly of flatter terrain or certainly start off flatter before incorporating hills so i can warm the muscles up more thoroughly.

Time will tell.

Still, it wasn’t a total loss, the scenery was worth it.

Surprising myself

Another couple of days and another couple of runs. Spring is in the air and the weather seems to be improving so the bike should be coming out more often soon and hopefully the water will warm up enough to get in the lake.

Hot on the heels of running the furthest I’d ever ran last week the plan said I had to go one better and add another mile onto it and then follow it up a day later with some speed intervals. This was going to be unpleasant at best and potentially even demoralising as I looked at my schedule for the weekend and realised that in order for it not to impact too much on family life I’d have to get up at 5am on my day off to do the long run. Even worse was that I had to turn down the chance of a lay in from the wife 😭.

5am came, I rolled out of bed and crept downstairs, got my gear on and had my nervous pre run poo (standard routine) and set off. I’d changed the route slightly from before to incorporate some different villages to try and keep it interesting and before I knew it I was 10 miles in before I had to stop for a wee. I had to complete just over 16 miles so my plan was to sink a gel every 4 miles. It was a gorgeous morning and things seemed to be going well right up until about 13-14 miles when my legs seemed to tighten up so I had to slow it down and do some quick stretching. At about 15 miles I actually felt like I got a second wind as the pace seemed to increase which I put down to ‘home straight giddiness’.

I arrived home, knocked back my overnight oats and recovery shake and jumped straight into the ice bath that my family had prepared for me much to their amusement as it was agony plunging into that icy water and feel my testicles jump so high internally that I thought I’d got my tonsils back. That being said the bath worked wonders and I’ll definitely be including them into my long run routine from now on whenever I can. There was no soreness and I was able to run around with my boy on his bike that morning and not feel like a pensioner.

(FYI my nuts dropped back down again after a few hours you’ll be glad to know)

That run led me into the next day feeling quite positive but then my wife got called out to work so my run had to be pushed back later in the day (selfish I know but she does love her work and she’s great at it so never mind 😜). I’d had a full Sunday roast dinner just a few hours earlier and set off on the one mile warm up with a stitch already building in my gut but luckily this passed. I’d decided to wear my triathlon trainers (ASICS gel noosa) for a change and they felt incredibly light so as I set off on the first of 14 intervals I felt like my younger self back at school sports day zipping along towards the finish line. I managed all 14 intervals without being sick and with the pace being around 1 minute faster than the suggested rate despite cutting the rest period down between each one as I was keen to get the job done. I waltzed into the living room afterwards (not literally of course, that would require a different set of shoes) with a stupid grin on my face and my wife thinking I’d gone off the rails. I explained I was just riding the endorphin riddled high that had come from surprising myself on back to back runs and realising that the punishing training schedule actually seemed to be paying off.

“That’s nice dear, now move out the way of the tv please and make yourself useful by rubbing my feet” she said.

“Yes dear” I said and normality had returned.