Training Turmoil – Help Needed!

I’m sitting on a train coming home from London writing this and it is now time to face up to the fact that I need a bit of help.  I need help to salvage a 16 day training plan for the Brighton Marathon!

Jose isn't happy with Mr Foy (from www.standard.co.uk)

Jose isn’t happy with Mr Foy (from http://www.standard.co.uk)

Sundays training run didn’t go to plan and I’ve spent the last 48 hours trying to work out why.  I was going well until about 16 miles when the tightness in my quads and calves really took its toll on my stamina.  After 19 miles I slowed to about 9 minutes mile pace and finally chucked in the towel after 20ish. Many top sports people deflect the reasons of under performance on to things outside of their control as a way of maintaining confidence in their self ability. Just look at Jose Mourinho at the weekend blaming Chris Foy, the referee for Chelsea’s defeat by Villa.

So my deflections include:

  • I was badly nourished because I consumed only 2100 calories on Saturday and burnt 600 during a 20 mile bike ride
  • I’d done hard sessions on the bike on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and (to a lesser degree) on Saturday so my legs were probably tired
  • It was hot and I’m still getting used to fluid intake in Spring conditions
  • I didn’t take any gels and tried flapjacks instead.  These work well on the bike but the one I tried after 15 miles made me choke because I was dehydrated and had no saliva to help it slip down!
Killer Flapjack's (from The Guardian)

Killer Flapjack’s (from The Guardian)

But my biggest worry is that my legs tightened up a lot and very early on.  I’ve not been running much because if the shin splints I’ve suffered from for a few weeks.  But now I think I’m caught in a viscous circle.  I’m limiting my running to ensure that the pain in my shins doesn’t get debilitating again, but because I’m not running my legs tighten up after a couple of hours due to working my muscles in a way they are not training for.  At least that is my theory. Does it stack up?  This is where I need some help.

How should I train over the next 16 days? It’s Tuesday evening now, my legs still ache and I’ve got pain in my shin.  I might try a run tomorrow evening depending on how my shin feels.  But what should I do now?  I’ve got a half marathon booked in as part of my tapering on Sunday and am keen to do this as a confidence booster, but don’t want to do any damage.

The way I see it, along with regular stretching, ice and anti-inflammatory tablets I have a few options:

  • Wait for the shin to stop hurting and do several shorter runs for the next 2 weeks. Limit these to no more than 8 miles but mostly at 4-6 miles?  Supplement this with longer, stamina building bike rides of 3-4 hours over the next 2 weekends?
  • Continue cycling during the week and do the half marathon to see if Sunday was a one off and hope that my condition is not deteriorating by doing this for a second week?
  • Total rest from running for 10 days followed by a 10 miler the week before the marathon and a recovery run?

Or another option that I haven’t thought of?

All and any opinions or suggestions are most welcome at this stage….. other than not doing the marathon because that’s not an option.

Tired and Emotional

After 2 weeks of relative inactivity, today was the day that I got back in to proper training.  Any of you that took the time to read my post about shin splints know exactly why I’ve had an enforced lay off from running.  Besides a short run on Tuesday I’d not ran since covering 20 miles 2 weeks ago so I was slightly anxious about todays 19 miler.

As always, I was really appreciative to run the first part of the route with Jim and Leanne.  The sun was out and we chatted  away whilst cruising our way around some country lanes to cover 11 miles before they peeled off.  I’d got another 8 miles or so to cover on my own and carried on at a steady pace alone.

I tried an energy bar instead of a gel today,  I wouldn’t recommend it!  Not only did it look disgusting after melting in my pocket for 90 minutes, I didn’t have enough saliva to swallow it so used up most of my water to get it down!  That proved to be the only real hiccup of the run though.  I covered the remaining miles at a steady pace, kicking myself a little about not taking enough fluid out with me, but largely OK.

My calves tightened up a little and my feet burnt in my new shoes, but my pace only slowed in the last couple of hilly miles so I was well happy when I got home.  But as I sat with ice on my shins whilst flicking through Facebook and Twitter, a funny sensation came over me …. I felt really emotional!

It doesn’t happen very often and is always linked to other peoples sporting achievements (Mo Farah, Sports Personality of the Year, Rocky II) and the thing that really got me was thinking about my brother-in-law who is training for the same marathon as me.  It’s the first time he has done anything like this and from a standing start he is doing brilliantly.  He’s lost 2 stones and has gone from running 10k to 19 miles in the last few months.  When he finishes the marathon he’ll have achieved something immense and I feel very proud.  I find his journey deeply inspiring and today had watery eyes whilst typing a note to tell him so.

I’m sure that emotions are frayed when you’re exhausted.  I recall training for London 5 years ago and having a bit of a moment whilst having a shave after a long run.  But it’s a strange experience to feel overwhelmed when you’re unaccustomed to it … this is definitely not a smooth journey! Does anyone else have these sensations after a long run or ride?

After a hot shower, a couple of pints and a good dinner I feel back to my normal self but will remember how I felt today and use it to balance out any other wobbles over the next few weeks.

Shin Splints: A spanner in the works

Injury Alert!

It’s what every athlete worries about: getting injured in the run up to a big event.

Peas and Shin Splints

Peas and Shin Splints

I’m not sure if taking part in the Brighton Marathon is at risk, but I know the next couple of weeks of training are in jeopardy.  For the last few weeks I’ve been developing a pain in my lower right leg.  Having experienced shin splints in the past I’ve been conscious that I need to take care, so using my “special shoes” I’ve adapted my training plan to avoid running on consecutive days.  But as the intensity and volume of training has built up, the old curse has caught up with me again.

During a rare visit to my GP today (nagged relentlessly by Mrs G to make an appointment on account of my pronounced limp since Sundays 20 miler) I was told to rest, ice and elevate the leg whilst following a course of anti-inflammatory tablets.  The doctor told me that my leg might not get better in time for the marathon but experience tells me that these things usually pass within 10 days or so.  But being ready for 6 April is now a big concern so I am following instructions to the letter as you can see in the picture!

What are Shin Splints?

Common!  That’s what they are! Our medical mates would prefer to call the most common form of the condition by it’s

Shin Splints as Illustrated by Pro-Tec Athletics

Shin Splints as Illustrated by Pro-Tec Athletics

Sunday name of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).  The picture from the Pro-Tec Athletics gives you a good view of what we are talking about.

Shin splints is the term used for any pain at the front of your lower leg between the knee and ankle.  They are really a symptom of any type of lower leg malfunction! And there is no single cause for the pain.  The article given to me by my GP is held on patient.co.uk and I’ve provided the link here.  The pain can vary too: shins may become sensitive to touch or grow from an occasional dull ache through to a constant pain,

Due to the variety of issues that shin splints can be symptomatic of, the causes are wide and varied.  From my perspective, my self diagnosis is linked to under-pronation in my foot-fall due to having high arches (or stiletto feet as the’ve been called in the past).  For the last few weeks the pain has dissipated a minute or so in to a training run but returned the day after.  Other runners experience shin splints when they run further or faster, run on hard surfaces or when they wear they wrong types of shoes (or the right type of shoes that have worn out).

There are other possible causes of shin pain but stress fractures or muscle hernias are less common.

How should shin splints be treated?

I suppose that first of all you want the pain to stop.  So that means stopping training for a while until the pain goes.  You can speed up getting rid of the pain by following the normal guidance of using ice, elevation and painkillers.  But they won’t fully go (and they’ll probably get worse) if you don’t rest, rest, rest!

If the pain doesn’t go within a few days then it might be worth a trip to the doctor as there are other things that is could be which could need more attention.

From what I’ve read, you can still cross train or cycle during the rest period (great news which means I’ll be out on my bike  at the weekend!)

Avoiding them

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that you’ll shake them off never to return! Some tips that I’ve read about (but remember I’m sitting here with frozen peas on my leg) are:

  • Get proper running shoes fitted – go to a place with a gait machine, talk to experts, don’t scrimp!  Somewhere like my favourite shop The Running Fox in Loughborough is great
  • Change your shoes regularly make your own judgement but I think I’ve left it too long and the cushioning has gone which has caused this bout of pain
  • Train sensibly – too much too soon is only going to lead to problems
  • If the right trainers don’t help, visit a podiatrist to consider some insoles (or orthotics) for your trainers
  • Give up running, buy a bike and get cycling!!

References and Useful Links

NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/shin-splints/Pages/Introduction.aspx

BUPA: http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information/directory/s/shin-splints

Pro-Tech Athletics: http://www.pro-tecathletics.com/59055/Shin-Splints.html

I really didn’t want to go for that run

I really, really didn’t feel like going for a long run yesterday.

After a weeks holiday with my kids I was well relaxed and really only wanted to spend a final day with them before going back to work.  I’d done a tough 65km bike ride on Saturday followed by dinner at Frankie & Benny’s where I stuffed myself on a double cheeseburger.  So whilst my muscles ached, I knew I’d not fuelled myself properly and my brain was still on holiday – and I definitely didn’t want to go for a run.

The trees in my garden showed the tell tale signs of another strong wind and the grey clouds on the horizon suggested another damp run.  When the kids got up they both sat with me and we started watching Mr Stink on TV – an adaptation of the David Walliams book.  We only got half way through before I had to get ready to go for the run (that I definitely didn’t want to do) and I promised we’d watch the rest when I got home.

Thankfully, my friend Leanne was running the first 12 miles with me and because we’d arranged an 8.30 start I got myself in to gear and we headed off out in to the wind.  With the breeze behind us we headed through the village, dropping off my spare drink bottle on a wall outside our friend Emma’s house.  After a few hundred yards the sharp pain in my right calf/shin had subsided to a dull throb and ,even though my legs continued to feel heavy, we settled in to a good pace.

The first 12 miles passed at about my target pace of 8 min/miles.  I said goodbye to Leanne and grabbed my second drink off Emma’s wall and set of for loop number 2 daydreaming about what I’d be eating when I arrived home.  The fantasy was a sausage sandwich on thick fresh bread, but eventually reality turned out to be beans on toast. Deliberating which way to avoid the worst exposure to the wind (and getting it wrong) I took the steady drag out of the village, looped back across a small country lane and got back in to the boundaries of Stoney Stanton with about 18.6 miles under my belt.

If I’d have headed straight home I’d have covered just over 19 miles.  But from somewhere I found some motivation to tip it over 20 miles.  I figured that 20 is a great milestone to have under my belt and that it would be a fantastic confidence booster to do “over 20” rather than “over 19”.

Training-wise it probably makes little difference and my average pace was a little slower than I’d want, but hey – I’ve now done over 20 miles (20.01 miles to be exact).  That only leaves 6 more to do on the day (6.19 to be exact).  And with another couple of runs at around the same distance, but hopefully in better conditions, I should be well on target for a good run in 6 April.

Not bad considering I really didn’t want to go for a run.

A fast short long one …

It was a welcome respite from those long, long Sunday runs this week as my training plan suggested a fast 10k run (or race) was the best way to spend Sunday morning.  Coincidentally, it was the same weekend that we’d booked to go away to a cottage in the Cotswolds so it all fell together quite nicely.

One of many flooded fields in Oxfordshire

One of many flooded fields in Oxfordshire

I love running somewhere new and this weekend was no exception.  We were staying just outside of the small village of Kingham which was far enough north to have escaped the worst of the flooding, but still wet enough to change the landscape for a few days.

My route around Kingham, Churchill and back looked straightforward when I planned it and the first two kilometres were great.  The sun was shining for the first time in weeks and, whilst it was cool and crisp, the calmness of the air made it the most enjoyable running conditions so for this year!

I intentionally set out at a fast tempo avoiding any frosty patches that the sun hadn’t yet warmed and covered the first few kilometres through the village in good time.  The road kicked up a couple of times so inevitably my pace slowed a little but things got even more troublesome in the final kilometre or so when I realised I must have taken a wrong turn and began running on an unfamiliar road clearly in the wrong direction!

I should have paid more attention to this

I should have paid more attention to this

Being dedicated to running as fast a 10k as possible I just ignored the fact that I was lost and kept going until Runkeeper announced I’d done the distance I set out to do (albeit finishing a couple of miles south of where I’d intended!!!).  Taking stock of where I’d ended up, I made the embarrassing S.O.S. call to Mrs G and heard my eldest daughter in the background saying “Is Daddy lost again!!”

When my wife arrived to my rescue I tried to deflect from the daftness of getting lost by gloating that I’d averaged under 7 minute miles for the 10k but it was to no avail.  So when I was taking a post-run hot-tub back at the cottage I just had to soak up the stick I was taking from them all.  Like I said – I love running in new places but really should pay a bit of attention to where I’m going!

But I still averaged 6.59 minute miles and that’ll keep me buzzing until next weekends 19 miler!

Remember This Run

Remember that run.  That run that you didn’t want to do.

After a long day at work and a long drive home in the pouring rain, you know you’ve got to run.

Get home, run the bath for the kids, get changed, put the kids in the bath and kiss them goodnight as you head out.

Leave a loving partner at home doing the hard work to help you chase your dreams on the winter streets.

No time for dinner and no time to waste.  The only numbers that count are the 50 minutes or whatever your training plan dictates.

It’s dark and raining. Hard. Trainers have just dried out from the last run. Wear a hat, gloves and jacket in a futile attempt at staying warm and dry.

Close the front door and start running. Unable to spot the puddles on the road.  Streetlights illuminating the rain splashing on the ground like sparks.

Feet soaked through.  No point in wearing gloves.  Head’s too hot with the hat on, too cold with it off. Splash in to a puddle. The first mile is done.

Hang on. If you’re out, you’re out. Make it count. You signed up to this for a reason. Make it mean something.

Pick up the pace.  Work hard and envisage the route.  Picture the streets you’ll run and keep the milestones in mind.

The rain gets harder. So what? Wet already and still running well.

Good pace kept up. Run nearly finished.  Add on a loop to top it up by a mile. The reach the front door with a splash and a smile.

Remember that run. The one you’ve just done.

Remember it when you just can’t be arsed, or when the plan dictates a few miles too far.

Remember that run on a Saturday in April, knowing that tomorrow you’ll feel proud because you did the hard work one night in January.

The Run of a Drowned Rat

The two pieces of information didn’t sit well with me.  Looking at the 14 mile run scheduled on my training plan and then looking up at the weather forecast had my mind racing.

What excuses could the devil on my shoulder give me that would make it OK to stay in bed rather than setting a 7am alarm for my long Sunday run?  My normal running parters, Jim and Leanne, had already given me a warning that they’d not be training if the weather was bad.  I’d already cycled 40 miles on Saturday morning…. surely it was enough?

But another look at my training plan showed that it was 15 miles next week and 16 the week after.  I couldn’t find a hiding place.  No excuse was good enough, so I set the alarm and got up in the dark to go out for the run I knew I had to do.

And I’m chuffed that I did!

It’s the fourth “long” run this year and I’m getting more and more confident each week.  Last weeks run was a bit of an epiphany for me.  I actually did what I’d say to everyone else: set off at a steady pace and kept it steady throughout – finishing with a better average over 13 than I had done over 12 the week before.

This week I satisfied my need for speed with a high tempo 6.5 miles on Friday so, once again, steady was the name of the game.  And it’s just as well.

As soon as I left the village I was running (largely up hill) in to the wind for 5 miles.  The wind. The icy wind.  The very strong, icy wind. The very strong, icy wind carrying very heavy, very wet rain.

I was delighted to turn out of the wind with an average pace of just under 8 min/m but I was completely saturated.  You know when you’re so wet that your feet squelch in your trainers? Yeah, just like that.  But I felt great.

Steadily bouncing along another 4 miles or so I reached the bottom of a steep climb (coming out of Croft towards Huncote in case you know it) but still kept a fantastic rhythm going.  I slowed a little after that though.  I lost concentration and started fantasising about what I was going to eat when I got home!  The prospect of scrambled eggs and baked beans cost me about 20 seconds on that mile!!  But as I turned a corner, my daydreaming stopped.

The sight of an overflowing ford known as Watery Gates reminded me that I’d had an easy ride in the elements for the last few miles.  The following wind had tricked me in to thinking that the rain had stopped.  So, it was with an impending sense of doom that I tackled the last three miles.

One more right-hander and I was head-on in to the elements again.  The steady, mile long rise combined with the stinging rain and battering wind made it the hardest mile of my training so far.  There was an upside to the conditions though: my legs were so cold that they didn’t ache, so I was able to push as hard as possible to keep the pace up.

After a brief respite, another battle in to the wind got me home with 14 miles on the clock and an 8.02 min/m average pace.  Spot on!  If I can turn out that sort of pace in those sort of conditions I think I’m in good shape to look towards sustaining that pace come April.

So if there are any fellow drowned rats reading this, give yourself a big pat on the back and recognise that it’s runs like the ones we did today that will make the difference when the weather turns.

(The eggs and beans were delicious too)

Not the sort of bonk you want …

Check out how smug I was in my last post where I was bragging about how I’d done so well losing weight since the turn of the year!  Well, I learnt a good lesson about dieting and training on Saturday morning.

I was delighted to get out on the bikes with my mate Stu who I cycled to France with.  He’s had a number of injuries over the last 12 months but seems to be on the mend so I hope he’ll be out with us more often this year.  We had a good chat and some banter around the first 27 miles of our route, then Stuey sensed the end was in sight and picked the pace up a little.

In normal circumstances I find the last 8 mile run-in on this route a good blast. It’s largely downhill from a beautiful village called Bitteswell, along quiet country lanes in the Leicestershire countryside.  Anyway, on Saturday I wasn’t so keen.

As soon as I had to start working harder, I found there was nothing in the tank. My quads felt heavy and ached to the point of exhaustion as I tailed behind Stu who was holding a 19-20 mph pace.  As soon as we hit the solitary incline on the run home I dropped way back despite pushing as much as I could.  The rest of the way home was just a case of keeping the wheels spinning and reserving some strength for Sundays 12 mile run.

Now, I do suffer from bad days from time to time and I am conscious that form and fitness only come along with hard work and dedication.  But this felt like something different and it didn’t take much analysis to work out what was going on.

I think I bonked.

Bonking is a “technical” cycling term relating to the point when you’ve got no energy left to draw on in your body.  Chris Froome was in danger of doing it in last years Tour de France and suffered a 20 second penalty when he got a late energy gel from the ever-loyal Richie Porte.  I’m not saying that the situation coming in to Sapcote was anything like the one Team Sky endured on l’Alpe d’Huez, but I do think I bonked!

A picture from the BBC showing Froome and Porte

Looking at what I ate on Friday helps explain.  With a total intake of around 1500 calories I hadn’t fuelled up for the ride which burnt 1200 calories in itself.  The tank was well and truly empty!

On rides of that distance I don’t bother with snacks but could’ve murdered a banana just to get some strength back.  As soon as I got home I started steadily carb loading with some macaroni cheese for lunch and a pasta dish for dinner.  I think I just about got enough in to cope with the 12 mile run on Sunday, but won’t be risking the same situation happening again.

So, lesson learned: In place of my daily tuna salad I’ll be having a pasta salad on Fridays from now on, with a proper carb balanced dinner in the evening. That’s about the best I think I can do to prevent any unwanted bonking in the future but I’m open to other suggestions?…

Progress Already!!

Just a short update on how the New Year has faired so far.

Each week I’ll be (trying) to do a weigh in to gauge my progress to running the Brighton Marathon a good few pounds lighter than at the turn of the year.

I know that these things seem easier when you’re just in “in the zone” so I’m hopping that blogging about it will keep me in that zone for as long as possible.

Anyway, we’re one week in to the New Year – how is everyone getting along with their plan and resolutions?  From my perspective it was about getting back to fitness, more clean living and dropping a few pounds.  Here’s what I have changed:

  • Back on the training plan and I have run 4 times/27 miles
  • Completely cut out some “bad” stuff:
    • The B’s = bread, biscuits, booze
    • The C’s = crisps, chocolate, cheese
  • Used My Net App to stay on top of what’s going in and what’s being burned
  • Started back on skimmed milk and cereal for breakfast
  • Fast food now means soup
  • Drinking herbal teas as a direct substitute to wine!
My little helpers!

My little helpers!

I’m pleased with progress on everything other than fitness – but that’ll come back with time.  I’ve already lost 5lb’s in weight and that is just the motivation I need to get out for a run later!  I hope it’s going well for you too?

A Little Wet One

The logic is this:  Run in the winter because cycling when the weather is bad can be rubbish.

Now that marathon training us well underway I am running twice each weekend (unless Saturday is good in which case I’ll take the chance for a ride).  So I’ve applied new logic too: If it looks like bad weather on both Saturday and Sunday, embrace it and go trail running on the Saturday.

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Sounds good in theory, but lessons I learned this week include:

  • Running across fields and slipping all over the place doesn’t really replicate a road run
  • Slipping can be dangerous
  • Pay attention to the telly when it says there is flooding everywhere
  • Wading through 15 inches of flood water is not great training
  • Have the kettle ready to go … it’s pretty grim out there!

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It was a character building run on Saturday but I twisted my knee a little while running through a swamp!  Subsequently, Sundays 10 mile run was a little disappointing.  I suppose there’ll be plenty of good and bad training runs before April. Let’s hope this running lark gets a bit more fruitful in the next few weeks!

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