Setting Goals and Getting Going

After ending 2014 with no motivation, targets or incentives, 2015 has begun in a spritely fashion!

On returning from my epic Pyrenees ride I did virtually no activity for 3 months. Ok, so I did start running again but a calf strain scuppered that in October and wrote off pretty much everything throughout November apart from a 50 mile sportive. Then of course it was Christmas which bought the annual binge drinking and dietary meltdown.

In the two weeks running up to Christmas, my work clothes had become uncomfortable and I began to look forward to January with a never-before-experienced sense of anticipation. In fact it was this trouser shrinkage issue that motivated me to get on the turbo trainer a few times before Christmas and then again a couple of times over the break.

I faced a harsh reality when heading out with the lads after New Year and realised the gulf in capability that had emerged between me (idle, unfit and fat) and them (keen, trained and fit). I was left behind on the very first hill and became the weakest link after just a few miles. For the first time in a while I was the one that people had to slow down for after a climb. And I didn’t like that.

So I’ve led the charge with the lads to set some goals for the year.

Hardknott Pass looks nice

Hardknott Pass looks nice

The Fred Whitton Challenge is probably the biggest thing we’ll do this year. It’s labelled as “the UK’s toughest sportive” at over 110 miles long with the infamous 30% Hardknott Pass cropping up at 94 miles so the motivation to get on my bike is screaming out at me! Of course there is also the annual Skeggy ride the following week and I’m also in the Tour of Cambridgeshire. So there is plenty to shoot for.

I’m also looking at monthly Strava challenges, some more local sportives and maybe another challenge after the summer. Oh, hang on, did I mention summer? That reminds me of a well located campsite I’ll be staying at for 2 weeks in August that is surprisingly close to some famous Alpine climbs (Madelaine, Telegraphe, Galibier, Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez).

Anyway, that’s half a year, 5 kilo’s, a lot of riding and 800 miles away.

For now it’s time to enjoy the winter: get out on the bike when the weather allows, get used to training on the turbo in the garage, and embrace the mud for some off-road running.

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A Hole

I’ve just realised that it was about a month between blog posts.  That’s a long time and let me tell you why.

The Post-Marathon Hole

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve loved life since the marathon (other than the ongoing will-it, won’t-it concern over one precarious looking toe nail).  No, I’ve had a great time and felt like there was almost a new found freedom.

But there was also a hole.  A gap left by something that had been a huge part of my live, both emotionally and physically, for six months.

I’ve not felt miserable but felt that something had gone.  Like something was missing.

And that is nuts considering that I’ve had brilliant evenings and weekends with my family.  Enjoying their company and (sometimes) them enjoying mine too.

I’ve had little enthusiasm for training up until a couple of weeks ago.  The concept of crawling out of bed at 5.30 to go for a run is so far removed from my mind that it’s like I never did it before the marathon.

Maybe it’s a bit of healing.  Over the weeks since the marathon I have had unexplained knee pains (not starting until 5 days after the race) and pains in my shoulder (come and gone in the space of a week) and I’ve taken these as signs of my body still healing from that amazing effort it produced in April.

It’s almost like grieving too.  You know that feeling when you’re not sad all the time but just a little down from time to time when you least expect it?  When sitting daydreaming is a better option that getting up and doing something?  It’s not like me to behave like that and I think I’m through it, but it was a little strange.

Call it post-marathon blues.  Or to continue to use the Shed Seven theme and call it A Hole.  I’m out of it now.  I’ve got a new bike, rode to Skegness again at the weekend, the big cycling trip of the year is planned and I continue to be inspired by Mrs G’s efforts in training for her London to Brighton challenge.

It’ll be summer soon.  That should bring warmer bike rides, brighter evenings, some French cycling and hopefully Mont Ventoux before the RAID in September.  

If that little lot can’t get you out of a motivational hole, nothing can!

 

 

 

 

 

5 days to go….

Not long now!!

Just 5 days to go until the Brighton Marathon and I can’t wait.

Ok, so training hasn’t been ideal over the last month but I did a good ten mile run on Sunday with a 7:30 average and have kept ticking over for the last two weeks with several 6k runs, so I am as fit as I can be.  Luckily I can combine running with cycling so that has helped me keep good fitness too.  And now I can’t wait!

I’m looking forward to the exhibition to pick up my number.

Todays Peas

Todays Peas

I’m looking forward to seeing friends in Brighton on Saturday.

I’m desperately excited to meet up with my brother-in-law at the start on Sunday morning.

I can’t wait to finally throw that old t-shirt over the barriers in the start line and get moving.

The thought of seeing my wife & kids and friends & family on my way round is giving me goosebumps.

And the prospect of crossing the finishing line and giving them a cuddle is bringing a tear to my eye.

The thought of being by the side of the course to cheer on my brother-in-law as he finishes nearly tops it all.

And then a beer (or two).

A long drive home (and maybe a snooze).

A glass of red wine and maybe a take-away.

A good nights sleep.

A hobble to school to drop off the kids

And a well earned day off work.

Anyway, it as just a quick entry to share the excitement and one last picture of these peas on my leg before I eat them next week!! Good luck to any marathoners with a few days to go.  Remember why you’re doing all this.  See you on the other side!

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

New Year, New Regime

Aarghh!!

Has anybody else got that perennial feeling of dismay after stepping on the scales or going for a ride and realising they’re back to the same stage they were this time last year?  After training with focus and determination during October and November the festive month of December has completely scuppered me!

The pinnacle of my autumnal training came at the start of December with a 14 mile run.  It was the most substantial distance of my early marathon training and a real confidence booster for the strains and stresses that lie ahead.  But that was it.  During the following week I contracted the man-flu that is doing the rounds (I was lucky but I know lots of other people using antibiotics to fight off the virus) and lost 10 days of training before heading out for my pre-Christmas half marathon (which was a big disappointment anyway)

I threw myself 100% in to New Years Eve

I threw myself 100% in to New Years Eve

Even on the run-up to the event I was fully in to Christmas party mode:  For two weeks I had drinks on Tuesdays, recovery Wednesdays, party on Thursdays, recovery on Friday, out on Saturday night…. you get the picture.  When the festivities were finally upon us, I was already feeling the bulge growing around my belly and my belt appeared to have shrunk again!  During this time the exercise all but dried up.  Even the Boxing Day bike ride that I arranged (from our local pub) didn’t help because my hangover started after about 10 miles!  Other than that, one short bike ride on a Saturday morning and plenty of postponed runs are not enough to maintain fitness whilst loading the body up with lager, wine, gin and mince pies!

So here I am again at the start of January, having enjoyed a brilliant months of partying, nursing the tail-end of my New Years Eve hangover and rueing the loss of that fitness I had just a month ago.

Yet I still feel hopeful of what the sporting year ahead may bring.  I’ll be repeating last years alcohol free January which helped me shed about half a stone and my marathon training schedule will

Todays Net Diary

Todays Net Diary

kick back in properly next week (with plans for a couple of runs/rides in the next few days).  As of today, I’ll resume using the app that helped me get on top of my food intake 18 months ago (that I’d highly recommend) and start avoiding the “3 C’s” of crisps, chocolate and cheese.  The tuna salad is already in my lunchbox along with some Greek yoghurt and fruit and I’ll be actively ignoring the treats lying in wait within the kids’ Christmas selection boxes!

So I think I’m in a good position – well informed and motivated for the marathon – and should be OK to drop the first few kilos that will get the ball rolling and enable me to see the rewards of my dietary discipline!

Is anyone else in the same boat as me and if so, what’s the plan?

Training Plan for the Brighton Marathon

Right, here is the aim.

6 April, Brighton Marathon, sub 3:30.

Given that I’ve run only one marathon in the past (London 5 years ago in 4:51) that is an ambitious target. So why do I think I can do it?

Well, I don’t know if I can.  Just like I didn’t know if I could finish the London.  Or if I could cycle to Skegness that first time.  Or if I could cycle to Paris.  But I did each of them, so that’s why I believe I can do this.

And the target is 3:30 because I see 4 hours as the upper limit of a serious time.

I’ll be blogging about the trials and tribulations of my training here throughout the winter.  Using a BUPA (Intermediate) training plan as a base, I’ve drawn up my plan this week.  Here goes:

Marathon Training Plan

Getting fit for the Standalone 10k

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Dad and Me doing stuff at an early Standalone 10K race

Each year I run the Standalone 10k race that my Dad used to organise.  I started running it when my sister had the idea that I run the 20th anniversary race (cheers Sis).  In hindsight taking part in that event, and being honoured by the North Herts Road Runners with handing out the winners prizes, has spurred me on to all of the sporting challenges I have completed since.

I think that first race took me about 53 minutes. The following year I entered my first three half marathons, eventually smashing the 2 hour barrier in the inaugural Birmingham Half. A few months later I was full of emotion whilst standing on the start line of the London Marathon and facing the biggest physical challenge of my life. So I owe a lot to my sisters idea and to the Standalone 10k.

This years race takes place on 6 October and is probably full with 1200 entries by now. My brother-in-law has been training hard to compete in his first ever road race after a knee injury prevented him from taking part last year.  My best friend from my school years is “competing to complete” after his training plan stalled in July but it’ll be great to see him there. It was a special occasion when my wifes brother ran with me, and every year my good friends Jim & Leanne have been there with us, running when they’ve been able to and this year will be no different.

My initial reason for writing this blog is because each of us has been on a different training journey to get fit for it.  So I thought a bit of a best practice review would be interesting because I’m not sure if my cycling led approach is worth recommending or if Matts stamina training might be a better idea.  However, after a very quick Google search, it appears that we are all doing just fine according to one plan or another.   For those of us who need to get fit quick, there are even 2 week training plans around …. I like that idea.  My only bit of advice (to myself a much as anyone else) is to take it steady and run at a sensible pace for the first 5k.  You can speed up if you feel good but, if your lungs and legs are dead after 7k, it’s a seriously unpleasant last 2 miles!

It is only 10k.  Which is 6.2 miles.  If the worst come to the worst you can walk that in less than an hour and a half.

It doesn’t matter that none of us have followed proper training plans.  It means the world to me that my friends and family take part with me and that we continue to celebrate the race that my Dad built. Thankyou.