Back in the saddle

Another ‘rest day’ on the running plan so time to focus on a different discipline. What with the weather being so unseasonably fantastic it seemed only right that i get out on the bike and use the opportunity to try out my new saddle.

Now it seems that my arse is more sensitive than a highly opinionated snowflake teenager when it comes to bike saddles so over the past few years I’ve tried all sorts and ultimately just had to work through the pain that has seemingly been the erosion of my Humber Bridge (or Biffin’s Bridge, see Roger Mellie’s Profanisaurus if you’re unfamiliar with the term). However, i was lucky enough to receive an ISM saddle for my birthday (after many a huge hint was dropped) as I’d read the reviews and thrown all my eggs into one noseless basket hoping it would be the panacea for my problem.

I decided to do a very familiar route which worked out just under 40 miles and included some climbing (about 1600ft overall) some flats and plenty of lovely scenery with very little traffic.

Overall the ride was awesome and it always makes me wonder why i leave it so long between them. The awesomeness was not down to my effort as that was distinctly average due to the lack of road miles through my legs and this just being a lonely trundle round the Wolds but the views and weather were what really made it. At one point as i bobbed along a quiet country road an owl appeared over my shoulder and flew ahead of me at the same speed as if matching me. It was just a few feet above and in front of me and took my breath away how effortless it seemed whilst i wheezed and spluttered along.

The usual cafe stop was closed today so i tried a new one and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was so that will be remembered for next time.

The saddle was better than my old one but still needs some bedding in and to be fair to ISM, they do state this on their site and in the videos.

All in all I’m chalking it up as a success for now as i can sit down without fighting back tears, I’m not applying nappy rash cream and already looking forward to the next ride out.

Taking that first step

Firstly i have to say that i can’t believe this February weather in the UK. According to the news it was 20°C in some parts today! Imagine my delight when i was prepping my running stuff ready to go for a 10k run in the glorious sunshine only to find that I’d misread my training plan and it turned out that i only needed to do a 3 mile recovery run, get in! This bonus reduction in distance helped massively as i trying to fit the run in between doing the school runs and a load of housework so time was already tight.

Alas i set off on my run, which I’d decided to do on the trail whilst i had the chance to do so, and during it i was listening to a guided run on the app i use whereupon the coach, coach Bennett for those in the know, made an excellent point that we often celebrate those that finish an event and not those that start one when that is probably the most difficult bit if you think about it. We all have those days where we just can’t be arsed to leave the home, go to the gym or put those trainers on and head out on another run, i know I definitely do. I can’t wait for open water swimming to start again as the swimming pool is getting really monotonous already, I’m having to think up new tweaks to my running routes to keep them as interesting as they can be and my playlist is in need of new music to help distract me from the horrendous sound that is my breathing but i know that I’ve got to keep at it and the rewards will come in the end, i hope otherwise there’ll be a hell of a lot of swearing.

So next time you start a run or a ride or a swim or a class at the gym or even just a home workout then give yourself a little pat on the back just for getting started and know that by the end of it you’ll not only feel better but also be a better version of yourself.

P.S. yes i took some tissues with me after last time and no i didn’t need to use them.

When the s£$t hits the fan

*****content warning, this is most definitely an over share in terms of how posts go but like everything in life you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth so if you’re at all prude then it’s probably best you just skip this post and I’ll see you on the next one*****

A few posts ago I talked about listening to your body in terms of training and recovery and never more so has this lesson been more relevant than on my last run.

The day was Saturday and despite having worked nights that week and allowing my wife to have a lay in that morning (trying desperately to keep her in the good books despite all my incessant training) as well as looking after our 5 year old for most of the day due to her getting called out to work it was long run day so that’s what was planned.

It’s fair to say that i wasn’t feeling my freshest so before i set off on my 10 miler i quickly knocked back an energy gel with caffeine in it.

Off i went and after a few miles things seemed to be going well…that is, until about 4 miles in when i had ‘that’ feeling. That little rumble in your lower stomach that makes you think it might be a good idea to find a toilet. A quick assessment of my surroundings gave me the only real option of continuing on for another mile or so with the possibility of calling in my local pub and using their toilet. But, as the run progressed the feelings faded and so i knocked back another energy gel, again containing caffeine. I blazed passed the pub, round the bend and started off up the next long road. The rumble returned for a split second and so now i was in a state of constant vigilance and contingency planning consisting of wondering if it was ok to swing by my friends house unannounced in the early evening in a sweaty and panicked state demanding to use their toilet with no time to explain or exchange pleasantries.

But still i kept on running and I’d soon gone by their houses.

7 miles done and the next point of salvation was another pub that i was due to run by followed by an Indian restaurant but these were cast aside as my running continued at a good pace.

9 miles and i get stopped by a train crossing. Mother Funker! I keep running back and forth to try and maintain the pace until the barriers lift and i scream on by a few more pubs and a supermarket, all of which contained toilets.

Now in hindsight i should’ve stopped at the supermarket and paused the run with half a mile to go until i hit the magic 10 mile marker, sought sanctuary atop a porcelain throne and then finished the run in an endorphin filled state of tranquility akin to that of someone who had just reached true enlightenment.

But noooooooo, this nobhead was so determined not to ruin his pace that he thought he could make it home before nature played its hand.

I screamed down the final 400m and tick off the 10 miles before reality kicks in and i make a mad dash down into some waste ground that’s just ahead of me.

I creep into the darkness and turn off my flashing armbands as I’m damn sure that i don’t want anybody to notice me right now skulking through the undergrowth. I find a ‘suitable’ spot, drop my shorts and grab hold of the fence next to me to help prevent me from falling over and let rip with all that gravity will allow me resulting in me giving birth to something that a Great Dane would be proud of.

Now what i haven’t said is that not only was i wearing my shiny new fluorescent yellow trainers on that i was determined not to get covered in my own gift to the floor but i was also going commando and had no snood, hat or anything else that i could feasibly use to wipe my arse and i was damned if i was going to use my socks, i loved them socks!

A quick scour round the floor resulted in me having to use a broken piece of pipe to clean myself as my drifted off to the film Demolition Man and the ‘3 seashell’ thing finally becoming clear to me. It seems i had reached enlightenment to a certain degree after all!

Now all that was left to do was pull my shorts up and awkwardly waddle home to get cleaned up and vow to always take some paper with me on my runs in future.

Like i said, you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth (literally) and always be prepared. Also, never take yourself too seriously.

Hope you’ve had a laugh.

Happy training!

‘Rest Days’

Remember when rest days meant actually resting and doing nowt?

My heart sinks when i load up the running app that I’m using and the marathon planner shows ‘rest day’ because I suddenly remember that in actual fact the running side of things only counts for a third of what I’m training for and there are still two other disciplines to do when I’m not running.

Cue a quick visit to the local council chlorine pit and a mile in the pool. Like everything else things are getting slightly easier with practice and my stamina is definitely improving. My annual medical at work the other day shows me as weighing less now than i was 12 months ago and my resting heart has improved as well, it’s currently around 46 bpm which i think is the best it’s been for a long time.

The recovery shakes seem to be helping also. That being said they could be a total placebo but right now I’m not willing to risk giving them up just in case. Next time i remember when I’m in the shop I’ll be purchasing some beetroot juice to help with the endurance. It basically tastes like dirt but it’s scientifically proven, check it out if you don’t believe me (university of Loughborough if i remember rightly). Just try not to freak out when you go to the toilet and have pink pee, I’m aware of it but still have a micro panic every time until i realise that my kidney’s haven’t packed in.

The other thing that is helping me through the lack of sugar are the blessed 3 ingredient breakfast cookies that i found on the http://www.tasty.co website. I’ve put the recipe below and although you can do it with just 3 ingredients, i like to add chia seeds, palm oil free peanut butter, cinnamon and occasionally a blob of ‘choc shot’ to each one to give it that sweet taste. They have been life savers and the whole family loves them so they’re a really handy snack but that means you get through them quickly.

If anybody reading this has any other recipes that they’re willing to share then let me know as I’m always on the look out for new stuff to try.

Otherwise, enjoy

Battling the inner demons

Howdy, it’s been a while since I’ve managed to post anything as work and home life have been stupidly busy on top of the training but I’ve managed to grab a few minutes so i thought I’d tap away on what popped into my head during todays run.

All this training I’m doing is starting to take it’s toll both physically and mentally on me. Physically it’s just tiring as despite following a marathon training plan on my running app, the days labelled as ‘rest days’ are essentially days where i just have to try and squeeze in a ride or a swim or something else. My body is doing it’s best to recover and I’m doing what i can to help it by taking a recovery supplement and eating as well as i can. The struggle to stay off sugar is a constant battle and being off the booze has no doubt lowered my beer tolerance to that of a child. That said, it’s rare that i feel bloated or sluggish which is always a winner.

Mentally the training is effecting me as I’m constantly trying to juggle work, home and exercise without any of them suffering. I’ve said it before but i know that soon enough I’m going to have to start getting up at silly o’clock in the morning or go out late at night to fit in some of the runs or rides so that they don’t impact upon the family life.

However, one of the things that i enjoy during my runs or rides is the fact that i can often just let my mind wander. Some times i use that opportunity to think through some of my problems or issues that are present in my life and other times i use it as a chance to distract me entirely from them. All the while the minutes and miles tick by and before i know it I’m well into that session. You have to find a way to help you get through the monotony of some of the stuff like running the same old routes or when you get to a sparse landscape that seems to drag on forever. A perfect example was the other day when Rob and I ran 10 miles round his town, the first mile was literally on ice due to the recent snowfall and then it was through the lovely picturesque market town that he lives in. Then came miles five and six which were along a fairly new bypass that had been built and consisted of a long straight boring stretch of a road that seemed to last forever made worse by the horrendously cold headwind slamming into our faces. I had to send my mind off to somewhere else and so ended up thinking about what i was going to do at the weekend when the wife and i are going away for a night, where we’d eat, what i was going to drink (yes I’m gonna let the diet slip for a night), what sweet stuff would i spoil myself with, just anything to get over that dull section. Alas we managed to finish and that was another decent run under our belt.

Yesterday was speed runs which basically meant sprints. I followed the apps advice and warmed up, headed to the start of my section (which i measured out on google the previous night so i knew where the markers for on this 200m stretch that i had to do) and i was off. Now when i was younger i was a sprinter, not a distance runner and i hated the cross country at school but the 100m and 200m were my events. I loved them! They were simply, run as hard and as fast as you could for a short distance and enjoy maximum applause if you won. Jump 20-25 years later and it appears that somewhere along the way I’ve swapped all my fast twitch fibres with slow twitch ones as these sprints felt a whole lot different. My body was giving all it could whilst my mind was thinking “what the hell is this!?” It felt like i was stuck in second gear doing maximum revs and unable to find third. What a mental kick in the nuts that was as i realised how much I’d slowed down over the years. Now rather than accept that I’ve made it a little sub goal to try and win some of that speed back as it’ll help me on the bike but also to reclaim some of my youth. Just another example of the inner demons that we all face like the ones that make you think you can’t run a certain distance or beat a certain time, etc. We are all the masters of our own destiny and once you set yourself a goal then it’s down to you and you alone to achieve it as once you do you’ll feel so much better about yourself and everything else.

So until then i shall listen out for the cry “Shut up legs!” As that’s what I’ll be screaming to bust through the pain barrier.

Laters!

Memories

“If you can’t laugh at yourself then somebody else will“, words to live by and a good reminder that you shouldn’t always take things so seriously otherwise life will pass you by along with any sort of enjoyment you might have had.

With that in mind I thought I’d take a break from boring you with yet another run or swim, etc and instead I’d like to share some memories from previous events.

Dipping my toe in the water

My first taste of triathlon took place a few years ago when I decided to enter my local super sprint tri as a relay team in conjunction with my brother (who did the run) and a very good friend of mine (who did the bike) whilst I threw myself in the pool.

It was a fresh spring morning as I nervously lined up in the changing rooms waiting to be called forward for my start time along with several other people all at various levels of experience ranging from first timers like myself right up to Ironman veterans using this as a fitness test to benchmark themselves at the start of ‘the season’.

I set off in the pool and eventually made it to the end although this could be because I drank most of the water as I floundered my way through lap after lap. Climbing out at the end I took off outside and down to transition where I handed the relay bracelet over to my friend and off he went on the bike.

At the end of the event, having watched all the other participants challenge themselves, my mind started wandering and that afternoon when I got home I immediately entered the same event’s second super sprint tri which was due to take place that autumn. This gave me a few months to put some training in so that by the time the event came round I managed to drag myself round the whole course and though it may not have looked pretty or been fast, etc I’d caught the bug and wanted more of it.

Fast forward another year and a few events later, I’d managed to talk a few friends from work into entering a super sprint tri with me with bragging rights up for grabs.

We all met up one cold and misty Sunday morning at the leisure centre that was to be the start and end of one of the funniest events I’ve been involved in. We’d all put the same estimated swim times in so we all lined up at the pool ready to start at the same time. Rob and I had done several running and cycle events together previously and had both been open and honest about how terrible we were at swimming so we stood casually by our lanes and joked about various things whilst Gaz, our other friend and colleague, paced around the edge of his lane like a boxer ready for a title fight. Now even though Gaz had been a royal marine in his past it’s fair to say that his waist line had seen better days and he’d often been the butt of many a ‘chunky’ joke, all of which were taken in good spirits as that’s the type of friendship and camaraderie that we all had. What we weren’t aware of was that in his youth Gaz had been really rather good at swimming and so when the whistle went he was off like a torpedo whilst Rob and I splashed around. Gaz was out of the pool whilst we still had about 4 lengths left to do. This gave great pleasure to some of our shift who had managed to turn up and watch as he took off down the ramp and into transition well ahead of the two of us. Rob was out of the pool about 60 seconds ahead of me and it seems all three of us were pushing hard on the bikes.

The cycle route was an out and back route meaning that we passed each other at least once going opposite directions and this buoyed Gaz who was still in the lead as we all got through the bike section and on to the run the gaps between us had closed and it was all to play for.

The run took us out of the leisure centre car park, through the nearby town centre and out along a country lane towards a cone that was to be our half way point before heading back. As I approached the half way point (although I didn’t know it yet) I saw both Gaz and Rob running towards me on the other side of the lane, I was running faster than I normally do in an event but was desperate not to be last and somehow, between breaths, I managed to shout at them “how far to the cone!?” Gaz, ever the tactician and thinking literally on his feet shouted back “about 5 mins down that way” as he nodded over his shoulder. As my head dropped a little at this thought I plodded on and quickly realised, as the mist lifted, that what he’d said was utter bullshit as the cone appeared about 50m away! I rounded it and picked up the pace, determined to hunt that tool down as I headed back into the town centre. As I ran through the high street and out the other side I could see that Gaz was only a few hundred metres ahead of me as he approached the small bridge that would take us over the canal that ran alongside the leisure centre where the finish line was located. Rob was nowhere to be seen but this was to be expected as he was (and still is) easily the better runner amongst us.

As I approached the top of the canal bridge I’d closed the gap on Gaz to about 20 metres as he’d gone through the turnstile and dropped down the muddy footpath towards the towpath alongside the canal and the side of the leisure centre. I practically fell down that footpath as I chased him down and before I knew it we were on the final straight and heading for the finish line 50 metres away from us alongside the canal. Now I had two options, do I run on the dew covered grass and risk slipping or the loose gravel and risk having to slow down. I chose the grass and gave it my all as the commentator, who had previously lost the will to live as he congratulated the occasional participant that crossed the finishing line, lit up at the sight of a sprint finish between two guys that were clearly blowing out of their arses! He was jumping up and down in the commentary booth cheering us on but all I could hear were the voices of my shift in my head as, despite giving it my absolute all, I had nothing else to give and Gaz crossed the finishing line 2 seconds ahead of me! 2 sodding seconds! Rob had finished 90 seconds ahead of us but that was immaterial as the fat lad had beaten the gobshite! So excited was Gaz that whilst Rob and I enjoyed our full English breakfasts at the nearby truckers cafe to replace the lost calories, Gaz was too distracted as he rang friends and family to regale them with what had just taken place.

That was over 4 years ago but we still laugh about it now and it goes to show that you should never underestimate someone, either that or do your research on them before challenging them to an event!

Feel free to share your stories or just laugh at mine.

Laters!

You can run but you can’t hide from the truth.

Yesterday was reverse Tri day at the gym (i.e. run, bike and then swim) but before all that i hopped onto the Boditrax machine and weighed myself for the first time in about 5 weeks. I put that last scan on an earlier post but I’ve stuck it below just so it’s easier to compare the two.

It seems that Santa brought me an extra couple of kilos for Christmas but this was to be expected as i let myself enjoy all the delights that the festive period usually brings in terms of food or drink before saying goodbye to the naughty stuff for several months. The real test will come at the start of March when i weigh myself again to see how the figures stack up and whether my diet and training are working or if there are changes to be had.

In terms of my current diet my wife has been using Slimming World recipes for a few months so for the sake of ease, and to shift some timber, I’ve done the same and i have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised at how good the meals and recipes are once you get your head round the basic rules. I even get to enjoy my Sunday lunch still!

I’ve always been pretty good in terms of staying hydrated as ever since i was about 16 I’ve made a conscious effort to drink around 2 litres of water a day so i haven’t really had to change anything there.

Just today I’ve ordered some recovery shake powder as it’s clear that my body is going to need all the help it can get recovering from one session to another. I used to use protein shakes when i was more into strength and weight training and always found them useful if you can afford them. But, like everything else in life, it’s a case of each to their own as some people can’t stand them, some flavours work much better than others, some people are dead against them and prefer to stick to diet alone to see them through. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to stick to chicken breasts, fat free Greek yoghurt and fish, etc but it’s expensive to do that, time consuming with all the prep as well as the frequent trips to the shops to stock up so bring on the powder and shaker to bridge the gaps between meals.

Thankfully after three consecutive days of training tomorrow is a rest day which is a good thing seeing as how I’ve got a 12 hour shift to look forward to, joy!

Giving ‘Go Tri’ a try

Today was ‘Go Tri’ day and i was not feeling up for it, allow me to explain why.

Training had been going well over the last week but then on Friday we got an offer from one of the grandparents to look after our little boy on the Saturday night which meant that we could have an ad hoc date night. This included a few drinks (as i couldn’t be a party pooper) and ended up with a curry and later night than originally planned, none of which makes for brilliant event prep but then again as the old saying goes ‘happy wife = happy life’.

I woke up today not feeling too bad but i did feel sluggish thanks to the curry (which was awesome). As i drove to the event location (I’ve mentioned Go Tri in a previous post hence why I’m not going over it too much in this one) i saw on my car’s dashboard that the outside temperature was -0.5°C! I met my friend and training partner at the car park and there were only a few people present so things were looking grim. We both joked that we’d woke up with the thought of giving the whole thing a miss but then over the course of the next 15 minutes more and more people turned up and got set up resulting in the largest field of participants that they had ever had (around 42 i think) at that location.

The morning mist was still lifting when we set off on the first run which was 2k long. My friend Rob started off fast as he always does but years of running events with him along with a stomach full of naan breads, mushroom bahjee and pilau rice, etc meant that i didn’t even try to keep up with him and instead settled into my own pace.

Two laps completed and it was into transition to bang my helmet on and grab my bike. I, as had a lot of people, had decided against a ‘proper transition’ consisting of changing my footwear and clipping into my pedals because the risk of slipping on the bike was quite high given the freezing conditions. I’d stopped my watch at the end of the run and tried to start it off in ‘bike mode’ but i soon realised after the first corner that I’d accidentally started it in ‘swimming mode’ so i had to get rid of that one and chalk it up to experience. The bike went well considering I’d not ridden it in a few months apart from the moment i tried to pull my sock up as it’d dropped down my leg. I started to pull it up when the bike started to wobble more than a politician at a press conference so i left the sock and turned my attention to staying upright.

Five laps done on the bike and back into transition, fumbling around trying to undo my helmet strap with gloves on took me back to the first time i tried to unfasten a girlfriend’s bra but just like back then i eventually managed it and i was back out onto the track for my final lap on foot.

As i always do in events and brick sessions i took off as if i was sprinting for the finish line before reminding myself to reign it back in and this is where a watch that shows you your current pace is worth it’s weight in gold.

1k later and it was all over as i crossed the finish line in 24:27 with my eyes streaming (they always seem to in the cold), my nose running and one calf sleeve rolled down, i looked like a right mess! That being said i really enjoyed the session and feel that they will make an excellent fitness test and means of gauging my progress as time and training go on. A big thank you to the people that took the time and effort to put that event on so thanks very much Go Tri Hull and Humber Triathletes.

Home for a warm bath, pick our little boy up and prep for Sunday lunch to replace those lost calories in time for tomorrow’s session.

Happy Sunday folks!

Training with others

The benefits of training with others, especially those with a similar goal to yours, are fairly obvious. From helping to keep each other motivated through a run or a ride, to spotting for one another during a weights session and beyond. That being said some people prefer to train on their own and enjoy the solitude that that brings with it or are somewhat forced to mostly by virtue of a lack of training partners.

I’ve got a foot in both camps as due to working shifts I have to fit in my training as and when i can manage it, if my friends can make it then that’s a bonus as is if I’m able to attend a class such as spinning as opposed to just going out on the bike on my own.

A very good/gullible friend of mine has also signed up to attempt the Ironman along with me as have a lot of our triathlon club so over the next few weeks and months we’ll hopefully be able to spur each other on so that come the day we can not only reach that finish line but cross it with our heads held high as opposed to dragging ourselves over it.

This morning was the first chance my friend and i have been able to go for a run together before work and, despite the sub zero temperatures thanks to a delightful wind, we managed to hit the ground running and with a decent pace even though neither of us were particularly in the mood for it at the beginning. As my friend had to start work a little bit before me he tailed off after 4 miles whilst i decided to carry on to take it up to a 10k and when i looked back at my split times after the run i noticed that my pace during the 5th mile was slower despite the route being fairly flat at that point. I picked it up again for the final mile or so but i always put that down to wanting to finish strong. Nonetheless it was plain to see that when i was left to my own devices i took my foot off the gas a little and this is something that I’m going to have to work on.

We’ve both got the ‘Go Tri’ session on Sunday followed by a brick session at the gym on the Monday if all goes according to plan so we’ll see how we both do and how we manage through the transitions…

Powered by party food

So it’s the weekend and Saturday was taken up with attending a birthday party for a toddler. I tried not to be dullard yet restrained myself as much as I could around the party food but equally I wasn’t going to get another chance to eat so it was a case of trying to choose the best stuff hence why I ended up with a plate full of peppers, carrot and cucumber sticks and a few sandwiches.

Feeling like I’d lost the battle that day and getting home late, we ended up getting pizzas and they were lovely.

Sunday arrives and it’s time to try and balance it out with a run so that’s what I did, on with the trail shoes, in with the headphones and off into the wind. Clearly the fuel in my body was not the best and it quickly showed. The run was hard, partly because of the inclines, partly because I was overheating as I underestimated how mild it was outside and mostly because I was full of beige food.

Nonetheless I really enjoyed it as the sun was shining, the trails were busy with dog walkers and ramblers alike all out to walk off their Sunday dinner or work up an appetite ready for one and the scenery was amazing as always. Straight into the shower once I’d got home, off with the sweat and then on with the skins to help my calves and back playing with the family and doing homework, etc ready for the week to begin.

The healthy eating returned with a slimming world chicken kebab, rice and salad followed by fruit and fat free yoghurt.

Back to work tomorrow and it starts all over again.