Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Day 247 - Christmas mission accomplished

Although the primary goal of the training is to get a good time in the London Marathon, one of the more important secondary goals is to shift weight. To this end I was determined that, despite the plethora of sugary temptations and hearty food on offer at Christmas, I would not put on weight over the holidays.

So it was with a touch of trepidation that I stepped on the scales today, fearing that a couple of Christmas dinners and a box of Maltesers will have done me no good whatsoever.

But the result was pleasing - down 1kg on the pre-Christmas weight.

Day 246 - in the bleak mid winter

Type - Steady run

Distance - 6 miles

Time - 44 minutes and 18 seconds

Back to London, back to work and back to the familiar run along the Thames. It had been a rotten day in the City - a cold ride into work with a stiff, frozen north-easterly wind followed by an afternoon of intermittant rain. The weather report had suggested the rain would clear up by early evening. They were wrong.

I stepped out into Waterhouse Square to be enveloped in a swirlling mist of fine drizzle, quickly soaked and then frozen as an Artic wind blew under the arches of the building. There was only one thing to do - start running and warm up.

My boss had suggested I was at best odd for running in such conditions, or possibly mad. But these are the best runs. These are the runs when you feel that you are training over and beyond the usual. Stepping out of the comfort zone and enduring the nastiness of a British winter. With every rain sodden step, every foot-splashed pace and every involuntary shiver I was going closer to my goal of a sub-4 hour marathon.

It was an even run, with a decent negative split (running 7.5 minute miles for the first 3 miles and 7.25 minute miles for the final 3 miles) and a decent finishing time just over 44 minutes.

Days 244 - 245 Shopping to London

On Sunday I went out to Manchester to go shopping. My weight has now fallen so far, with chest and waist sizes similarly plunging, that I don't fit any of my work or casual clothes. My shirts are ridiculously tent-like, t-shirts that you could wrap around me twice and trousers that need tight belts just to stay up.

So I got a new wardrobe. Size 16" collars on shirts (down from 17.5"), 34" waist trousers (from 38") and t-shirts to fit a size 40" chest (down from 48"). And it felt great - great to be able to shop for clothes and not be repulsed by the reflection in the mirror! It has taken a heck of a lot of effort to get to this point, and I wouldn't want to repeat it. So I won't.

Back to London on Bank Holiday Monday. I got in at 2pm and went to the gym for a decent work out on the cross-trainer and then twenty minutes on the treadmill.

Day 243 - bloody mindedness

Type - Steady run

Distance - 6 miles

Time - 45 minutes and 12 seconds

Boxing Day. Another Christmas dinner, this time courtesy of my sister and her husband, another bloated stomach and a another day of ice, snow and rain. Some of the snow had melted from the pavements, but not enough to allow me to run the whole distance on the side. It was safer and faster to run in the road and then dart on to the kerb whenever necessary. A bit more traffic today as people emerge from Christmas Day slumber and venture out to visit relatives.

It was cold. And drizzly. And then it was cold and wet. And then the heavens opened. Rain slamming down, bouncing off the tarmac, coating the ice in a slippery sheen and dripping off my clothing. It eased up for a while. And then threw it down for the last mile. I was absolutely soaked, and had to shove all my clothes straight in the washing machine. The last time I had a similar experience was getting soaked on a paper round and having to get changed in the garage.

But the run was good. It was good to get out on Boxing Day. It was good to get out in the frozen wind and rain. It felt like a pretty steady, even run, even though I wouldn't necessarily advise a long run on a stomach stuffed with a full roast dinner.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Day 242 - Christmas run in snow and ice

Type - Steady run

Distance - 6 miles

Time - 45 minutes and 54 seconds

Stuffed with a Christmas dinner to surpass all Christmas dinners and topped up by a constant grazing on the seasonal surfeit of sweet things that come with the holidays, I felt overfed and languid. I wanted to go on a run, to try and shake off the Christmas ennui.

The only thing making me less than certain on setting out was a thick covering of snow that had frozen into ice across the pavements for miles around. A thaw had started, melting the snow on the roads, but this had not yet gone as far as clearing the ice from the sides. Still, it wouldn't be too hard to run on the road and hop on to the pavements whenever a car went past? Right?

I set off at 7pm after watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Is it dedication to running that forced me out of a warm house into a frozen, dark world with the rain starting to fall? Or simply a desire not to return to London weightier than I had left? Or perhaps wanting to ensure I started 2010 on the right training foot? Possibly it was just to avoid the Strictly Come Dancing special. I would run down Croston Road as it became Leyland Road into Leyland, and follow the road through the bottom of the town to the main roundabout. Three miles there, and three miles back to make it six miles in total.
I was also motivated from having read Donol Og Cusack's biography. An Irish hurler, who has earned global fame for having come out as openly gay, his story was inspiring not so much for his candid admissions but for the dedication he had to training. One particularly memorable section described his Christmas day training as the day when you felt you were going further than others simply by being out training.

It was chilly outside, but not horrendously cold. Warmer than the biting, Siberian winds that pinched Sunday's long run. The weather is turning, hopefully dispelling the worst wintery conditions which are hardly condusive to running. I was in my new winter running clothes, and felt warm enough.

The run was solid, an even enough performance despite having to hop every so often onto ice-covered pavements to avoid oncoming cars as I raced along the snow-free road. Given the extra effort of running along uneven ice and snow it was a decent enough time, and certainly helped me feel more virtuous after a day of indulgence.

Days 238 - 241 - Christmas week

I had intended to do a decent amount of exercise in the week before Christmas, anticipating some of the excesses that might come in the following week. The weather had other ideas, sending a heavy snow storm to London and making cycling all but impossible, and coating the north with thick snow and ice, making running at home difficult.
I managed to do a decent session on Wednesday in the gym before heading up to Preston for Christmas. I did half an hour of resistance training, 40 minutes on the cross trainer and a fifteen minute run at a relatively quick setting.
I was going to go for a run on Thursday, but the deep snow rendered this a treacherous and foolish idea. Still, we went out for a long walk on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and on Christmas Day the snow began to melt, so I managed to go out for an brisk and energising run.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Day 237 - twelve miles pre-Christmas, my trainer gave to me

Type - Steady run

Distance - 12.1 miles

Time - 1 hour 32 minutes and 02 seconds

I wasn't exactly relishing the prospect of a twelve mile run on a frozen Sunday morning. After Tuesday's chilly ten miles I had been shopping to buy some appropriate winter gear. I would be striding out with my new long-sleeve running top over my short sleeve top, a Hilly forehead/ear protector and thin running gloves. All part of striking a difficult balance between being frozen solid and miserable, and overheated and, well, miserable. The sweet spot is not to be too cold to begin with and warm into a cosy, steady pace whilst the Artic wind whips and wicks away most of the sweat.

I was running today with Jarlath, who was admirably getting back into training after running the Lisbon Marathon the week before. I wanted to get twelve miles in before finishing for the Christmas break - I wouldn't be doing any more long runs until 3 January when I would be embarking on my 16-week marathon training programme.

So, swaddled in far more running clothes than I had previously worn (Jarlath even had a jacket), we set off. The route was a traditional favourite - along the river, but this time taken further than I had ever managed. Previously I had gone down Lots Road, but today we would get all the way to Wandsworth Bridge Road. Aldwych to Fulham and back - a pretty long way (map).

Pacing would be the most important part of the run. It would be difficult to maintain a 7.5 minute mile pace much beyond 10 miles, and so we set off at a steady 8 minute 30 second pace, gently reducing this so that by the half way point we had reduced the average to just over 8 minute miles. We stopped briefly to get a drink in Sainsburys (the route managed to avoid any other shops on the way) and then headed back.

The run felt good, certainly for the first nine miles. My running was steady and I felt fresh. It was only the last few miles when it started to become a greater effort of endurance. It was obvious to me that we were picking up the pace, but only when we got back to the Aldwych was it apparent how much. We finished in 1 hour 32 minutes, averaging a little over 7.5 minute miles. Again, this will not continue in to my proper training because, as tantilising a prospect as it is, a 3 hour 15 minute marathon is not my goal. Well, not this year, at least.

Days 234 - 236 - cyclogym

I finally recovered my bike from the bike shop after paying over £175 in repairs. It still isn't fully fixed - the seat is a bit wonky and I'm sure the back breaks are playing up slightly. It makes an odd and annoying noise when I stand up to set off from stopping at lights.

Back to the gym for a decent cross-training session on Saturday - a bit of resistance training and a decent 35 minutes on the cross-trainer. All good preparation for the long run tomorrow.

Day 233 - last game

After last night's run I hopped onto my bike hoping to compound a healthy feeling by cycling home. I managed to get as far as Rosebury Avenue where a pedestrian walked out in front of a bus and straight into my path.

An emergency stop, a collision, a flight across the street, a head smacked on tarmac, five hours in A&E and a broken bike were the result.

Shaken up, but not badly injured, I was back at work the next day, and back on the football pitch the next evening. It was awful weather, wintery showers and biting winds. It was no big surprise that the team before us didn't play, or that the ones booked in for afterwards didn't either. The result - over an hour on the pitch and a decent cardio workout.

We also took a photo as an end of year thing. It was my first team photo. I was absurdly pleased.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Day 232 - the return to double digits

Type - Steady run

Distance - 10.5 miles

Time - 1 hour 19 minutes and 38 seconds

It has been a long time coming, getting over injury and laziness and to slowly build back into running double digits. But tonight was the night for my first 10 mile run in over six months.

I was planning a standard, if slightly longer than usual, river run (map). This would take me down from Fetter Lane to the river, along the river (via the usual Whitehall to Millbank kink) all the way to Chelsea and Lots Road. And back. It is the 'and back' part that is the killer.

I started off at a measured pace. I wanted to make sure I could complete the run, and was not interested in a quick first half followed by a pained or difficult second half. Eight minute miles across the whole run would see me get in at one hour twenty minutes, and that seemed fast enough.

Over the weekend I had met up with Jarlath to discuss the training plan for the actual Marathon. By 3 January 2010 it will only be 16 weeks from the marathon, and so it was time to put together a sixteen week training plan. Whilst chatting away we discussed training clothes, and I was saying how I couldn't understand the need for additional clothing in winter. Tonight was the first frigid, if not frozen, night that I definitely understood the need for additional clothes. I was cold, and it was a coldness that didn't go away with a few minutes running, or even with a few miles completed. It just gnarled at my core, sapping strength from my legs and arms. At the very least I think I will get a couple of long sleeve tops to go over my short sleeve t-shirts, a headband and wear gloves. I might even think about getting some tights. Ahem.

Tonight I had also forgotten to bring any shorts to put over my Skins. It felt quite wrong to be going out in just Skins - a little like running naked. I kinda got used to it, but I don't think I'll be repeating that in a hurry.

The run was going well, the first four miles were steady, with just a dull pain developing in my thighs and upper legs. This pain would start to increase as I got past half-way and beyond, but it was nothing particularly bad. By the time I was in the last few miles my legs were definitely suffering, but everything else was fine - heart-rate, breathing, no stitches and no unexplained pains. I had enough left in me to do a decent sprint finish for the last few hundred yards.

It seemed as though I was running faster than the sub 8 minute mile pace would suggest. Either my concept of time and distance was out of kilter, or I had plotted the wrong route. Almost inevitably it was the latter. It turns out I had run 10.5 miles in just under 1 hour 20 minutes, making it an average of 7.5 minute miles.

Days 230 - 231 - bikearama

Did a bit of cycling on the Sunday, and nothing much yesterday other than cycling into and back from work.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Day 229 - speed demon

Type - Tempo run

Distance - 6 miles

Time - 40 minutes and 22 seconds

I had just been on a date, meeting someone briefly for a drink at Pattisserie Valerie before we both went off to busy Saturdays. I felt justified in having a brioche bun and jam as I would be going for a run. Decent, sugary fuel. I then battled Saturday shopping traffic on Oxford Street to complete Christmas shopping and dropped stuff off at work, got changed and headed out.

It was bitingly cold today. It had just poured with rain, and was still a touch damp. But the chill that had descended at the beginning of the week had deepened, and I was glad that my Skins shorts and calf socks almost cover my leg. Still, I didn't feel like I would benefit from any more clothing - I wonder if I will need or want any other layers or equipment?

The run would be what has now become a familiar, smoothed and uncomplicated six. Down Fetter Lane, Embankment, Whitehall, a few back streets to Millbank, past the Tate and back.

I had decided to do a tempo run of sorts, given it was only six miles and that I wouldn't be able to do another run until Tuesday. I set off a touch quicker than I would normally for the first five minute warm up, and kept up the pace for the first half. I was running under seven minute miles, and having to breathe steadily and deeply to prevent any stitches from developing. My leg muscles were protesting gently, and it was far from an easy run.

It was not made easier by there being a decent amount of tourist trade on Whitehall and the surrounding streets. I wonder how much time is added dodging and zigzagging around people, having to have the second sense to avoid bumping the pedestrians who invariably fail to look where they are going. This was also the first time I have run this route in the daylight, and, with the various modifications, it was strange to see the buildings and route in the day.

The second half was run in negative splits, taking the overall time to just over 40 minutes. That is skirting close to 6.5 minutes miles, which would be an excellent run. It is also getting temptingly close to six in six, or trying to run the six miles in 36 minutes. We'll have to see whether that is going to happen any time soon.

Days 227 - 228 - life getting in the way

Ideally I would have gone for a run on either Thursday or Friday, and gone to the gym on the other day. But life does have a tendency to get in the way. On Thursday it was departmental Christmas drinks. On Friday it was a fantastic ceremony with Justin, Maria, Simmo and Wilhelmina and a decent chunk of the city's Swedish population at St. Pauls (Sankta Lucia).

Much better than training, but I will have to do a decent run on Saturday.

Day 226 - back to football

Because of injury, other commitments and a nagging doubt about my usefulness on the pitch I hadn't been to Wednesday night football for some time (missing about three weeks). I went tonight, and it was a good game. I was in goal for about five minutes, so spent most of the game running around and having a good, intensive speed workout.

Day 225 - weights from Birmingham

No exercise today, partially as a rest day and partially as I was in Birmingham. I did use the opportunity of being in the city centre to do some shopping. I bought a set of dumbbells and weights. This is part of a plan to broaden my training to incorporate more resistance work, and also to ensure that I can do exercises when at home (heading over to the gym is not always practical or possible with my hours).

Good purchase, although I ended up getting more of a workout than I had anticipated as carrying home 20kg of weights via the train and buses was not easy.

Day 224 - putting frustration to good use

Type - Steady run

Distance - 8 miles

Time - 56 minutes 14 seconds

I had it all planned out. After Friday's reintroduction to running and a weekend of decent gym-based activity, Monday was going to deliver a cracking run, and set me on the road to having 12 - 13 miles under my belt before the new year.

The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft a glay. And plans tend to go a glaying more often than not when you work in private practice as a solicitor. Unanticipated client demands, a piece of work taking longer than planned or even just messing up an appointment on your diary. And so it came to pass that my relaxing start to the week - a relatively early night, a good run, a long sleep and a good day's work on Tuesday quickly became working late on Monday, travelling to Birmingham on Tuesday, having less time to work than I had thought, and feeling distinctly annoyed with my lack of preparation.

It is all the more frustrating when you only have yourself to blame. And I was really frustrated. I had worked myself into a rage at the prospect of my relaxing week just slipping away into chaotic abandon. So the only thing to do was go on a run and see if that would help put things in perspective. It worked a treat. I cannot emphasise the restorative power of a decent run. At the start I was annoyed, my brain working overtime to plan the coming days and feeling on edge. By the end I had sorted out what needed to be done, was feeling calm, even euphoric. It was a great thing to do.

It was also a great run. Maybe I had channelled the anger into pace, the frustration into the miles. I ended up doing just over 8 miles in just over 56 minutes, so spot on 7 minute mile pace. Over a decent distance, this was a good result.

I set off from work on the usual route, heading down to the river (map). It make it eight miles I would cross over Vauxhall Bridge Road and continue to Lupus Street and the railway bridge. It had long gone dark when I set off, and there was a distinct bite to the air as the unseasonably warm December nights returned to a more seasonally apt frostiness. The gothic courtyard of Waterhouse Square was now decorated with lighted trees, and a Christmas glow hung the place.

Any warmth generated by thoughts of holiday joy were soon displaced as a stiff wind brought a few spots of frozen rain. The air retained the moisture, and my breath vapourised into smoke plumes as I inhaled and exhaled large gulps.

My legs had loosened up considerably compared to the Friday run. It felt comfortable, and I managed to get to the half way point in 29 minutes. Completing the run in negative splits, the second half would only take 27 minutes.

I managed a last burst of speed up the hill towards Fleet Street from the Embankment, and then a final sprint along Fetter Lane to finish the run at 56 minutes 14 seconds.

Days 222 - 223 - and back to the gym

I followed my 'back to running' Friday with 'back to the gym' weekend. Same complaints as with the run - unfamiliar, painful and sore. But I did get more a workout done, and felt distinctly better for having managed a decent session on both days.

Day 221 - back into the beat

Type - Steady run

Distance - 6 miles

Time - 45 minutes

It was a chilly Friday evening when I got back to the road, a few unfortunate weeks after my 9.2 mile run. I wanted to ease back into it with a six mile run, following the usual route from Fetter Lane down to the Embankment and along to the Tate at Millbank.

I have slightly finessed the route, ironing out some of the more annoying or busy sections. Right at the start we had ironed out the bottleneck round Parliament. Now I have taken out the annoying gravel section through Horse Guards Parade, and instead go down the length of Whitehall to take a right down Great George Street. Similarly I turn off the Horseferry Road before Embankment and go down John Islip Street, behind the Burberry HQ and behind Thames House. This then comes out at Millbank and avoids the Lambeth Bridge roundabout and roadworks (map).

It was a difficult run. It is amazing how quickly you can get out of the swing of training, how soon your legs will protest at the unaccustomed activity and your muscles ache at the exertions you are demanding. The only positive from it is the knowledge that it won't take too long to get back into the groove. I started getting a pain in my upper leg and groin at about mile 2. The time wasn't blistering, just a little over 7.5 minute miles. I was breathing more heavily, and feeling the pressure from each step.

By the half-way point I was starting to relax into the run a little more, but it still felt difficult and my legs felt heavy and unresponsive. I picked up the pace a little for the final three miles, finishing the whole run in 45 minutes. It was far from a great run, far from my best. But it wasn't a bad one to get back to training with.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Days 196 - 220 busy, injury, tired and sick

The rest of November just didn't really get together. I got injured playing football, a sharp bruising to my chest which felt like I'd broken something and brought piercing pains whenever I breathed, and yelps of pain when I coughed or sneezed. It is still there, but fading away slowly.
I did a bit of cycling, a bit of running and a bit of gym. But nothing like what I had planned or wanted to do.

It was made more difficult by having my mum's 60th birthday on the first weekend and Antony's 30th birthday on the second. But there will be other events in the run up to the marathon, and I will have to train around them.

And then towards the end of the month, just when I wanted to get back into it, I came down with a vicious viral infection.
Well. I have four weeks until the 16 week point for serious training to begin (January 3). I think I am planning a 20 week training schedule, and will have to discuss this with Jarlath.

Day 195 - neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night

Type - Steady run

Distance - 9.2 miles

Time - 1 hour 6 minutes 14 seconds

It is still mild in London as we creep towards winter. Whilst the sunny evening runs are long consigned to memory, there is, as yet, no need to swaddle in winter running clothes. Is there ever a need to swaddle in winter running clothes? I expect this statement of bombastic hubris will come back to bite me when I buy the base layer and the tights to fend off frozen nights. But for now, shorts and t-shirt still cut it.

But whilst the temperature was mild everything else about tonight's run was viciously inclement. The heavens had opened with a torrential downpour that sent shallow streams running down the gutters and edges of roads. Thick, heavy rain that drips onto your face with such intensity that you might just drown standing up.

Still, I was going to get wet one way or the other - from sweat or rain. So I plunged into the night streets. I had planned a run of about 9 miles, heading down towards Chelsea and back. I was running from work, so had the first mile largely down hill towards the Embankment. It is not a perfect start, because it makes you run faster than you should for an opening warm up. And the price you pay for downward acceleration is a tough climb at the end when you are watching the final time.

The water starts to drip thickly from my scalp, mixing with whatever chemicals are in my hair and in the air and stinging my eyes. I might have to seriously consider getting a sweat band if I can stand to look like such an 80s reject. The stinging in my eyes is a perennial problem, and I can't imagine it would be much fun running the marathon in those conditions.

I make the half way point just past the Chelsea Hospital in good time. If I just equal that time then I will finish at just under 7.5 minute miles. If I manage negative splits then all the better.

The route back is tougher - shoes squelching, absolutely soaked through. My t-shirt clings irritatingly to my body and the only part that isn't affected is my lower body because I was sensible enough to get the Skins. Otherwise that would have chaffed like hell.

But I manage to pick up the pace. The wind is behind me on the way back. I hadn't really thought about the difference the wind can make. Obviously on the bike it is a really noticeable factor. But even on the road, it makes a difference. I am running at a fair pace now, as much in desperation to get back to the office and to the shower.

The last mile burns, heading up hill from the Embankment back to Chancery Lane. But I manage it in 1 hour 6 minutes 14 seconds. I plot the route afterwards and am pretty pleased to discover it was a 9.2 mile run.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Day 194 - rest

Rest day - just cycling into work and bike.

Day 193 - football

A decent night's game today - it feels as though my fitness levels have improved so that I can run around and do a little bit of damage. Even scored. Nice.

Day 192 - a decent six

Type - Steady run

Distance - 6 miles

Time - 44 minutes 14 seconds

I set off after work to fit in a steady six miles, running from work, down to the river and along until Tate Britain and back. The first section of the run takes me down Fetter Lane, along Fleet Street and then down to the river. It is downhill, and it is difficult to moderate with a warm up pace and not to overdo the speed. I went too fast, and would spend most of the rest of the run trying to keep a more measured pace.

My legs started aching after a couple of miles, a really deep pain at the top of my quads which had started after Saturday's long cycle. I carried on, but never really broke into a comfortable stride. I was pretty glad to have finished the run in 44 minutes which, although not the blistering 42 minutes I had done with Jarlath, was not bad.

Days 190 - 191 - recovery

Recovering from cycle exertions.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Day 189 - conquering Essex and Suffolk

Type - Steady cycle

Distance - 152 kilometres

Time - 6 hours 55 minutes

Average speed - 22 km/h

Out on the bikes and into a misty, murky and rain-drenched Essex. I was going on a long bike ride with Jarlath, and we had hitched the bikes to the back of his car and sped up the M11. The motorway exacerbates bad weather, but a torrential, lashing downpour was turned horrific by speeding cars. Visability reduced to just metres as arcs of spray and water .

We eventually arrived at Stansted Mountfitchet and parket up. The rain had eased off, but it was far from welcoming us into starting our 100 mile. We decided to nip to the shop, stock up on water and supplies and see if it would stop raining. It did. We were massively lucky in not having another drop of rain the whole day.

The first few hours stayed grey and oppressive, fantastic panoramas hidden behind a drizzly curtain, but the cycling was strong, the villages pretty and the roads quiet. We have both now got some proper cycle gear - shorts, tops, water bottles and all! It does seem to make a difference and, for the most part, we motored around the countryside, tackling hills and enjoying north Essex's flater geography. The only thing that was keeping my speed checked was the wet conditions and a fear of coming off my bike again.

A puncture in Clare was the only mechnical failure of the day (in fact the only mechanical failure Jarlath and I have had for ages, continue to touch wood). We had either overestimated the amount of daylight we would have, or underestimated the length of time it would take to finish.

We shaved 10 miles off the overall distance to try and get back in daylight, but only managed to get as far as Saffron Walden before having to cycle in the dark. Half an hour on a busy road being blinded by cars blazing full beam headlights was not idea. But a strong day's exercise, and a very decent piece of cross training.

Days 184 - 188 Perils of a sedentary life

I had to go to the emergency walk-in clinic at the beginning of this week to have a painful growth examined. Apparently it is a common side-effect of a sedentary lifestyle. I spent the rest of the week either sat on my office chair, sat on my bike or in bed. Not ideal.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Day 183 - half way point

So it has been half a year since I started this blog, started training, and took up running in a more serious way. Since then I have:
  • Run 216.5 miles;
  • Ran for 1779 minutes (29 hours, 39 minutes)
  • Finished a half marathon;
  • Sustained two injuries (shin splints and a twisted ankle);
  • Ran six miles in seven minute miles;
  • Lost 2.5 stones in weight; and
  • Got a place in the London Marathon for 2010.
I'm pretty pleased with progress so far, but there is still a long way to go. And now, with the clocks going back, we are firmly into the winter training schedule. I just need to keep at it through the winter, and I should emerge into 2010, spring and the London Marathon in good shape.

Today I went for a bike ride out to north London and then back to the gym to do a resistance and cross training session.

Day 182 - running with the gays

Type - Steady run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 30 minutes 42 seconds

I had been meaning to join London's gay and lesbian running club, Front Runners, for a while. I had never quite got round to it. The Saturday run starts at 9.30am, so a late night on a Friday puts the kibosh on that. Monday's never fill me with enthusiasm to go for a first run with a new group, and I play football on Wednesdays. Last week I was going to go on the Saturday, but a late night round at Mark and Kate's meant there was no chance I was going in. But this week I had nothing on the Friday, had had an early night and was up and ready to go.

I was a bit nervous about heading down for the first run. I've never run with a group, and had no idea what to expect. Fortunately everyone was really friendly, and it seems like a great bunch - social but committed to running. There are people of different levels, with some really great runners who stormed ahead from the outset.

We get changed over at St. Mary's Hospital before congregating at the Italian Gardens near Lancaster Gate. People then do a 2, 4 or 6 mile run, and head off round Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Still feeling a bit sore after Thursday's run I decided just to do 4 miles (map). I started running at my own pace, which fell behind the faster runners but in front of a big chunk of people. I was finding it difficult to get in to a stride - perhaps being unfamiliar with the route and not knowing the mile markers fed into this. It wasn't a comfortable run for some reason, one of those sessions that doesn't quite come together. I did finish in just over half an hour, so still well under eight minute miles. But for a four mile run should have been able to do a bit better than that.

After the run the group heads off for breakfast, which feels like a very civilised way to spend a Saturday morning! Quite pleased, all in all, and I will be back.

Day 181 - In the Marathon!

Work away day in Birmingham today, up early and back late and absolutely knackered so no training. I had a missed call yesterday, and a voice message from Rachel in the fundraising team at Mind. I hadn't yet heard from the team about a place in the London Marathon, and Rachel's message wasn't clear as to whether she was phoning to offer me a place or commiserating on not being able to offer one.

So I called back today. Fortunately Rachel had called to offer me a place! So I've got my London Marathon place tied down. Very exciting! I now have to think about a training programme for the big day - with just a over half a year to go.

Day 180 - tempo fate

Type - Tempo run

Distance - 6 miles

Time - 42 minutes 0 seconds

I didn't have as much time as usual for the Thursday evening training run, so we decided to do a six mile run, and ended up doing an inadvertent tempo run. The run was over the usual riverside track, just finishing a bit earlier than last week to get in the round six miles (map). The first mile seemed a touch slow, but we picked it up to finish the first three miles in 22 minutes and 20 seconds.

But then we picked up the pace for the next three miles, finishing with a strong final mile and a dash up the hill to the Aldwych.

This was a good negative split, with a fantastic final three miles running at under 6.5 minute miles. We finished at 42 minutes dead - exactly seven minute miles for the whole six miles. It felt quick and, once complete, felt good. Whilst it is important to be increasing the distance I am running, I am pleased to be attacking the intensity of the training. It might get me a decent time for the next half marathon and any marathon to come.

Day 179 - football fun

Wednesday night and so an evening at the Bishopsgate 5-a-side pitches. A combination of increasing fitness and getting a bit more used to the wax and flow of the game meant that I felt more comfortable on the pitch than I have for ages. Whilst I am never going to be a good player, I am hoping that in time I will be a competent defender with a burst of speed and some vague skills. Perhaps more importantly it is fun again.

Days 177 - 178 - lazy days

I was planning to go on a run, but it just didn't happen. I would label it as recovery days, but, in reality, I just festered. Bad Ian.

Day 176 - back to the gym II

After yesterday's treadmill workout I went back to the gym for a spot of resistance training and a decent session on the cross-trainer.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Day 175 - to the gym

Type - Gradient treadmill run

Distance - 3 miles

Time - 28 minutes 45 seconds

Back to the gym for a decent cross training and running session. I spent the first half an hour on a variety of bicep, upper back and pec resistance machines before heading on the cross trainer for a half an hour session at a decent level of resistance. Suitably warmed up I decided to do a hill programme on the treadmill.

I had forgotten how difficult some of the settings could be, and thought that programme level 10 (out of 12) would be easy enough. It wasn't. Whilst it wasn't difficult to finish it, I was a big sweaty mess by the end. Still, that is the point of these training sessions - to vary from the usual steady runs and improve the overall stamina and fitness.

Day 174 - recovery Friday

Nothing special today, just cycling into work, over to Borough for Kate and Mark's drinks, and back again. Still, that is about 1 hour 20 minutes of cycling, which is better than nothing.

Day 173 - training with the stars

Type - Steady run

Distance - 8.62 miles

Time - 1 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds

A welcome return to training with Jarlath today. The man has been busy of late, running round like a blue-arsed fly trying to keep on top of the vast demands of freshers' fortnight at two institutions. On top of this he has been battling the man flu. He hadn't trained for a while, and so what he really needed was a good long run to sort him out.

Jarlath looked tired and a bit paler than last time I saw him. I'm used to him being the shiny, chirpy and good-natured encourager and facilitator of great training. Today, before going out on the road, he had lost some of this lustre. And that was before I heard him hacking and coughing, hulking great gobs of flem onto the street in an impressive display of mind over body.

The route was the standard river run, heading from LSE down to Chelsea's Albert Bridge and back. We completed the first half in just over 34 minutes, putting us on course for a 1 hour 9 minute run, at 8 minute miles. But this was to be a negative split training run, and we picked up the pace for the return leg.

This was my first run in a pair of Skins compression shorts. Combined with my Skins compression socks it leaves about an inch around my knee that is not compressed and encased in silky black lycra. Alright, so they are expensive, and a touch tarty, but they do the job and they also have the added advantage of tackling the chafage around the tackle. And did I mention they were silky? And tight?

Back to the run, and by the last few miles my upper legs were burning. I was having no problems with my breathing, with my chest or any stitches. But my legs felt as though they had burnt through their energy supplies and were starting to run on empty. Perhaps next time I will have to have a more substantial pre-run energy boost, or take some gels on the route.
We got to the last half mile at a significantly faster pace than the first half, pushing under 7 minute miles for the last three miles. The last half mile, from Waterloo Bridge to the Aldwych, took in the hill from Embankment. There was only one thing to do - hunker down and power up. I raced up, and then almost threw up. But it was a glorious finish to a great run.

By the end of the run the old Jarlath was back - a living example of the power of decent exercise and rising to the challenge. Hopefully it also sorted out the last vestiges of his cold.

And, when I computed the route through Gmap again it seemed that the run was actually 8.62 miles, an additional slither which reduced down our time per mile to 7.46. A cracking run, at a blistering pace. It will be interesting to see to what extent this can be sustained into double digits.

Day 172 - the dread grip of the icy night

Football tonight - and boy have the seasons shuddered and shifted since I last played. The last vestiges of an Indian summer, that sublime September, have faded long passed memory and have been replaced by dark nights, floodlit pitches and a biting wind that whips around the exposed parts and induces the desire to run around just to warm up.

It was a close, tight match and I was unfortunately on the losing side. Not by much, and we could have come back from defeat when the time was up. Good fun, though.

Day 166 - 171 - ain't nothing going on but the rent

It took a few days to recover from what had been an amazing run. One thing that didn't recover was my iPod shuffle which, after being soaked in the storm, succombed to water damage and gave up the ghost. I tried the online Apple recovery programmes and playing around with it but, ultimately, there is a limit to how much I am going to worry about a £30 MP3 player.

It did get me wondering how I would protect any replacement in the future. With winter round the corner and training runs getting longer the chance of keeping equipment rain free seems minimal. So I bought a waterproof MP3 holder, a rather nifty piece of kit which promises to enable swimming with the MP3 player safely encased in a protective plastic membrane, a headphone jack sealed into the design. We shall see. I also got a replacement Shuffle, in the same metalic blue. Its all as though nothing happened.

Spent the weekend and the surrounding days doing a variety of fitness related activities - the gym, cycling, but decided to have a little rest from the running.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Day 165 - let it rain on me

Type - Steady run

Distance - 8 miles

Time - 59 minutes 53 seconds

I was geared up and prepared for tonight's run. I had remembered my inhaler, had eaten properly during the day and was properly hydrated. And then it rained. Not a refreshing autumnal shower, but a wintery, wind-blasted deluge that did not ease up for the entire run. It was dark by the time I got out of the office, and the umbrella festooned streets, bent, hurrying commuters and flurescant orange glow from street lamps finished off any lingering summery memories prolonged by the warm September.

I had planned a run (map) that would finish up between 7.5 and 8 miles, with the option to take it to 8 miles if I felt up to it. I would warm up heading down Fetter Lane towards Fleet Street, down to the Embankment and then a simple river run to Chelsea railway bridge and then back. Despite the wind and rain I was running well - a measured, steady pace that brought me into a 7.5 minute mile pace and into the halfway point at a few seconds past 30 minutes.

Turning around and the rain finally finished off my exposed and delicate iPod Shuffle. It spluttered in the first chorus of Rihanna's Don't Stop the Music and wouldn't restart. The last three miles would be done without the encouraging beat of high energy music, and only the drumming rain on my forehead, the wind screaming past my ears and the constant roar of traffic would interupt the quiet. I will have to investigate a waterproof case for the winter. This is just the start of a new round of equipment purchases that the change in season will require.

The last mile finished up along the embankment, before a half mile ascent to the end of Fetter Lane. I was bang on target for a sub-hour finish, but needed to maintain the pace with burning legs and deep, heavy breaths.

And I did. With literally seconds to spare I made a last, flailing and undignified sprint for the finish. I looked stupid, I was soaked and aching, but it was worth it. Back on track, back on form and hopefully back for good.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

164 - a return

Type - Tempo run

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 29 minutes 19 seconds

I felt absolutely awful this morning. I looked out at the heavy, slaten sky - dull clouds pregnant with heavy rain and watched as the water splashed off roof tops and windows. I entertained the notion of donning waterproofs and braving the elements, and then decided that just getting back to work after being ill was enough and the bus would do fine.

I felt distinctly worse when I got to my desk, a creeping, insidious tiredness that drooped heavy eyelids. I felt exhausted to the core, unable to concentrate and about to go home early. And then. And then. Thank god for the and then. By 3pm I felt considerably better - picked up in under an hour. I had entertained the idea of going home at 4pm after a meeting, but surged with renewed enthusiasm in to the evening. I would finsih my work, and then go home for a run.

So that was the evening yang to the morning's yin. I got home and put on my running kit. I decided to go for a tempo run tonight and then try for a longer run tomorrow evening. I sped off, feeling surprisingly limber and nimble. And then I remembered - I had forgotten (once again, damn you) to take my inhaler. At this pace it wasn't long before my breathing became restricted and I was wheezing through desperate, pained intakes of air. But it was only a four mile run. I would be alright. By the middle it didn't feel so good, so I just adopted a race pace. But, as a mirror to the day, by the end I surged, striding the last mile and sprinting the last few yards to get in under half an hour.

I ended up with seven minute twenty second miles, which felt pretty good considering the stupid initial mistake. Which I hope not to repeat.

Day 159 - 163 - under the weather

I was feeling under the weather at yesterday's football. By Thursday it had developed into a full blown cold and by Friday I was feeling slightly delirious. I had all kinds of plans for fitness at the weekend - but sleeping in until 3pm on Saturday put the kibosh on most of them. By Sunday I was feeling like death, and had to take Monday off work.

Day 158 - the drubbing

Football tonight. Unfortunately. My body, heart and soul were just not in it today. I would have given up if we weren't already short a player. I was starting to feel run down - a cold around the corner? I had just recovered from a crippling bout of post-alcohol, post-medication anxiety, the first time I've had such an attack in ages. I just couldn't be bothered.

Still, I tried to buck up and play my best. Whether my foul mood was in some way a contributory factor to our side's complete and utter drubbing I don't know. I stopped counting when they were five, six and then seven ahead.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Day 157 - uphill struggle

Type - Steady run

Distance - 7.1 miles

Time - 53 minutes 21 seconds

I had a break from running to attend a wedding over the weekend. I was well rested and thought that I would do a decent, long run today to consolidate the distance that I reached last week. I had to extend the usual Highbury Loop run with a northern jaunt up to Manor House and back down through Stoke Newington (map).

I made a blistering first mile, going uphill to Manor House and making the first mile in 7 minutes. Too quick. Far too quick. If I am going to be running longer and longer distances I need to be more careful about my initial warm up, and not using up all of my energy in the opening miles. I slowed down a touch, but by mile three my legs were feeling jelly like and I was slowing down. It was only by mile four that I managed to get back into something like a rhythm.

The course was of varying gradients, with a few climbs (admittedly not of great ascent, but noticeably uphill). I managed to mark my miles on this run, and could control the pace after the stupidly quick first mile. With a little further work I should be able to get a very decent eight mile time within the fortnight. By the end of this run, however, I was feeling slightly abused.

But I managed to get a very respectable time which put me at 7.4 minute miles for the seven mile plus distance. Given the course had a fair few climbs (up to Manor House, up along Canonbury Road and up Highbury Hill) this compares well to the largely flat Thames run.

Day 151 - 156 wedding break

Not much training as I spent a long weekend in Somerset at Mark and Kate's wedding.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Day 150 - an unintentional distance

Type - Steady run

Distance - 5.8 miles

Time - 44 minutes 43 seconds

I had measured out a 5 mile run on Gmap Pedometer that would take in the usual Highbury Loop with a now familiar Stoke Newington extension. The only problem is that now familiar Stoke Newington extension never seems to work out. Last time I took a right at Albion Road and added almost a mile to the run. Today I managed to miss Albion Road altogether and add 0.8 miles.

That said I didn't mind too much. I was running well today, with a measured and moderately quick pace. I had taken my ventolin, had my ankle secured and so had in place more protections than I had managed on Friday. Things felt smooth - no burning pain in the chest, no lack of oxygen and no cramps.

This was the first run of the 'winter' season - the evening runs now start out in the dark. This seems to add something novel to them, and certainly helps with temperature control.

I averaged 7.6 minute miles, so all in all a decent mid-week run.

Days 147 - 149 - long weekend

Not much in the way of dedicated training this weekend - had my mum down on Saturday so spent a long time walking around Stoke Newington and surrounding parks, and managed to do the same on Sunday with JB. Monday was, for some reason, a completely dead day and I had to have a very early night.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Day 146 - back to the river

Type - Steady run

Distance - 7.67 miles

Time - 58 minutes 57 seconds

I was feeling good about today's run. I was going to go straight from work, head down to the river and run along the Embankment (map). This was a long overdue return to the water - it has been months since I've done a run down there. Not since leaving the DWP and developing shin splints have I been able to enjoy the flat course, the wind from the river and the largely empty, wide pavements.

Today's run would have been excellent but for two serious oversights. I failed to take my ventolin inhaler before running, and I forgot my ankle support. These two things conspired to turn what should have been an enjoyable return to form into a bit of struggle. Rasping, wheezing breaths over an hour long course is no fun, and the occasional jolt to the ankle serious enough to remind you of the original injury is far from ideal.

The run was tough - I could feel my body crying out for more oxygen but, with the asthmatically reduced flow through the lungs, couldn't deliver. It made my legs heavier, dulled the running stride and ensured the early onset of tiredness.

That said I did manage to put in a fantastic performance. I had wanted to do seven miles in under an hour, and actually managed 7.67 miles in under an hour, turning in 7.7 minute miles. I am now looking forward to consolidating this next Thursday with a 7.5 mile run with all the proper aids in place.

Day 145 - PWD

Nothing much today other than cycling to and from work, mainly due to attending post-work drinks with the team.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Day 144 - fantastic physio

After yesterday's calamatous cycle home I spent the day slightly numb and in pain. One upside was going to see a new physio about my ankle. A colleague and fulsomely recommended Danny Armitage at Central Health, and with BUPA covering my costs, I thought it was worth a shot. He had been nicknamed the 'solution' by those who had recommended him - a practical, no-nonsense approach combined with a deft manipulation of muscles and joints means he got results quickly.

He had a look over my ankle, and noted it was heavily swollen. He explained how the swelling was nature's way of starting a healing process, an air-bag to cushion the ankle against further damage. He thought it was a pretty classic sprain, but, after pulling, pushing and manipulating the tendons he didn't think the damage was too severe.

He worked over the ankle, discharging some of the fluid in the swelling and we did some exercises that quickly had the ankle feeling and functioning like an ankle again. I left with a literal spring in my step and felt incredibly positive about future training.

I went to the gym this evening for an all over upper-body resistance work out and a long, intense session on the cross trainer (40 minutes, 700 calories, much sweat).

Day 143 - the post that nearly wasn't

I had planned a rest from exercise today, just the usual cycling into and from work. Leaving work at 7pm and riding into a heavy and sustained downpour. As I cycled into Islington the rain picked up a gear and sheeted down like a displaced monsoon. Torrents of water flowed by the roadside, puddles deepened and spread across the streets. Familiar roads took new and treacherous characteristics.

I was going slower than usual, and crossed Upper Street onto Canonbury Lane. A sharp left around the park and suddenly I lose control of my bike. The front wheel slips to the right, I slump off to the left and my handle bars twist back to front. I am thrown onto the pavement, smashing my leg and shoulder and grazing skin off my elbow and hands. My bike is left in the road, wheel spinning listlessly until coming to a halt. A pedestrian helps me up, and I put my bike back in the right direction, and pause.

Fortunately there were no parked cars to my left, and mercifully no moving cars to the right. I am not sure how it happened - I wasn't going particularly fast and the corner wasn't particularly tight. Admittedly my thin road tires are not exactly made for excellent grip, but this was nothing out of the ordinary.

So I was left, dazed, shaken, soaking, bloody and pained, to make the final fifteen minutes home. The next morning my whole left side was aching, bruised or scraped and my clothes were still wet.

Worst. Cycle. Ever.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Day 142 - testing out the ankle

Type - Steady run

Distance - 5.27 miles

Time - 40 minutes 0 seconds

It was with mounting trepidation and a slight sense of foreboding that I put on my accumulated running gear. The usual light shorts, breathable, synthetic top, pocket wrist band, cotton sweat band, stop watch, double-lined Hilly socks and Brooks trainers joined by an ankle support for my still slightly swollen and still oddly coloured left ankle. I am not sure it was sensible to run. I probably should have taken it easier, perhaps a gentle jog. But, as this blog has already demonstrated, I just ain't a gentle jog kinda guy.

But I restricted myself to planning out a five mile run, and decided to take it easy. I set off, heading down Lordship Park on the extended loop that would bring me back onto the corner of Stoke Newington Church Street and Green Lanes two miles into the run (map). I started off fine, slowly warming up into nice, long and even strides without any pain in my ankle or legs. I veered off on to Bouverie Road and Defoe Road and then got a little bit lost. It didn't take long to get back into familiar territory, and I continued on Stoke Newington Church Street. The only problem with a navigation failure is that you lose confidence in your mile markers - had I done more or less than the planned route?

As I headed down Petherton Road the last light from a receding and suddenly Autumnal sun dappled the tree tops with a spray of burning gold, made more brilliant by the flickering street lights that cast down their searing orange light on the pavement. I was making sure to watch the pavement, wary of uneven slabs or curbs that might sent my ankle collapsing to the ground.

This was my first run into the night - a sign of the wintry training to come. Since starting running I have only had light evenings, with the long summer days stretching way past my usual running times. But it won't be long before daylight running is forgotten for five months, especially when he clocks go back at the end of October. Fortunately I quite like it - it adds to the pleasant anonymity, quietens down the streets and, perhaps more importantly, is a perfect way of ensuring cooler temperatures.

The run was going well as I crossed over to climb Highbury Hill. Whilst this is not the steepest or longest of climbs, it is enough of an incline to be more than noticeable and adds a nice challenege to the usual run. I picked up speed coming down the hill and maintained a solid and manageable speed all round Arsenal and back onto the Blackstock Road. I finished with a flying sprint to try and get in under 40 minutes for the five miles, almost desperate to hit eight minute miles. I hit the stop watch somewhat improbably but exactly on 40 minutes 0 seconds.

It was a tough, but very satisfying. run. I got back and eventually plotted the revised route on Gmaps to see whether I had actually done less than five miles. It came in at 5.27 miles, which made the 40 minute time seem marvellous (slightly over 7.5 minute miles).

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Day 141 - north London soul

Type - Steady cycle

Distance - 49 kilometres

Time - 2 hours 20 minutes

Average speed - 21 km/h

I started the day with some encouraging signs of losing weight as I tried on a suit I had bought in 2005 and hadn't been able to fit into since. I had intended to see how much I needed to get it adjusted so I could wear it at the wedding, and was pleasantly surprised to squeeze into it without too much bother. A couple more weeks of weight loss and adjustment shouldn't be necessary. I might regret making the decision not to have it altered, but only time will tell!

My ankle has improved massively since
before the weekend. The swelling has gone done noticeably, the bruising fading into paler reds and purples and I've not had any pain moving it since Friday. I still didn't think it was quite the right time to go for a run, and instead decided to take to the bike.

I didn't have much of a plan and just set off from my house heading north (map). I got to Finsbury Park, looped round and made for Crouch End. There are two pretty steep hills leading northwards - up Crouch Hill and Muswell Hill, and these ground me down to a crawl. After mounting these twin impediments the going was easier, and I circled round through Finchley, Hendon and Golders Green. Eventually I looped back to Hampstead, back into central London and around the Royal Parks.

I didn't manage the quickest of times, but, with the traffic jams, lights and other delays inherent in central London cycling, it wasn't a bad effort. I got back at 3pm with enough time to head to Clissold Leisure Centre and do a decent upper body weights workout and a session on the cross trainer.

Day 140 - birthday breather

Not much exercise today as I took time out to say a big happy 30th birthday to one of my best mates. Did manage a couple of hours walking around London to and from London Fields, and a splash in the pool, but nothing with massive health benefits!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Day 139 - the (not quite) two hour time trial

Type - Steady cycle

Distance - 35.6 kilometres

Time - 1 hours 40 minutes

Average speed - 21.5 km/h

The plan for today was to go for a run on the back of Monday's very pleasing performance. Wednesday's ankle smashing antics put the firm kibosh on that. But fortunately cycling was not causing any problems at all, so instead I decided to do an inner London two hour time trial on the bike.

The route would take me first west through the Royal Parks (down the Mall with St. James's on the left, through Green Park and Hyde Park before looping back down) then along the Embankment through the City and out on the Mile End Road until Bow, up to Victoria Park, along the park until the north-west tip, through Hackney, Stoke Newington, Stamford Hill and back home (map).

Obviously central London at rush hour is not the best place for a time trial. A lot of red lights, traffic jams and other cyclists slow things down. Going through the parks and the Embankment improved things - fewer delays and some faster sections. I thought I would get to two hours, but only managed 1 hour 40 minutes by the time I got home. I could have extended it, but the lure of home with a bath and food was too much. Besides, I wasn't suitably dressed for the long haul in my commuter clothes. An average speed of 21.5 km/h was, considering the obstacles and impediments, a decent time.

Day 138 - on speaking too soon

I went to bed thinking that it had been a slightly unfortunate knock, but nothing too severe. I was hoping that the elevation, ice and compression would ensure that . In the morning I went over to Boots and bought an elasticated ankle support, and this made moving around a lot easier.

It was only when I got home and took the increasingly painful ankle support off that I realised that perhaps I had twisted my ankle a bit more seriously than I had thought (see picture above). A swirling maelstrom of purples, reds with an angry black centre decorated an ankle that had swelled well beyond its usual size. More disturbingly was a dark red inch thick, four inch long straight bruise beneath the ankle. Wrighty had said that this might develop, and was a sign of something more serious. It was only when I saw this that I thought I might be out of action for longer.

Still, there are small mercies. It is not painful to cycle, and I managed to power myself into and from work tonight. I don't think I'll be running this weekend, but I should be able to do some cycling and an upper body workout. It would, however, be nice to go a bit longer injury free.

Day 137 - playing with the big boys

Football tonight, and feeling good for tonight's match. The recent exercise kick has left me feeling healthier than I've been for a long time, and I fit far more easily into my football shirt. We started playing and, although our side seemed the weaker of the two, managed to keep the scores roughly even.

I have been getting more into the game, going in for challenges and vaguely controlling the ball. I went in for a hard tackle towards the edge of the pitch. Between the wall, the ball and Yaz's foot there was not much give, and the thing that finally did give was my ankle as my foot collapsed on itself. An unmanly yelp, followed by a grimmace on the sideline. A searing pain on my left ankle, and a quick retreat into goal as I breathed the pain away.

It didn't seem to bad after a few minutes, and I managed to get out of goal and play again. Out of the football kit and it seemed a touch swollen, but not too bad. I got home, and applied the RICE guidelines - rest, ice, compress and elevate.

Day 136 - and we continue ...

Not only did I do a decent run on my day off I also managed to go on a decent two and a half hour bike ride round central London - all in all a decent days exercise which certainly sorted out any lingering vestiges of hangover and sleep deprivation.

And so back to work. On bike, of course. And after work a decent session in the gym with an upper body resistance work out. I realised that I need to throw weights in to the mix, and did a decent session focusing on biceps, pectorals and upper back. Then it was onto the cross trainer for a nice 30 minute intensive cardio session.

Today also marked crossing over an important weight threshold. The past few weeks have seen me plunge below 100kg, and today marked the point at which I was no longer technically obsese! Okay, so it might seem strange to celebrate being merely overweight, but, in the scheme of things, it is an achievement. The next milestones will be truly impressive - down to a normal weight, BMI, waist measurement and figure. Rock on.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Day 135 - alcohol fuelled running

Type - Steady run

Distance - 5.7 miles

Time - 44 minutes 01 seconds

I wasn't too sure how a morning run would go down today. I got back from Mark's stag in Brighton late yesterday, and had just about recovered. But I was still feeling a little woozy. I downloaded some new tunes for the ipod, and devised a route that would take in about 5.5 miles (map).

I set off strongly, pacing into a warm up for the first five minutes and then breaking into a quick first mile. I had added a loop around the back of Clissold Park that would add a first two miles before I got onto the usual Highbury loop.

I noticed that I was doing a good time as the miles clocked up. The running felt comfortable, with long, steady strides and a smooth arm action making it a quick and pleasant run. I had none of the issues that had bothered me before - certainly no complaints from my shins, but also nothing at all from the groin or hips.

By the last mile I was going strong with steady, long strides and a decent speed that I eventually built into a sprint for the last few metres. The result? At 44 minutes for 5.7 miles I finished with 7.7 minute miles, which was a pleasing run and marked something of a return to form. I still felt that I had the energy to push for something more.

Days 132 - 134 stagging

Off to Brighton for the weekend for Mark's stag. No exercise of any particular note, unless competitive drinking and the arm bending of pints towards lips count.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Day 131 - double cycling

No running today, but I did feel like doing something active so added an hour's cycle to my journey home this evening.

Day 130 - let it rain on me

The demise of summer and transition into autumn was clearly expressed in the weather. The bank holiday had basked under blue skies and a relentless sun. Switch into September and the cloud rolls in, building up to a torrential storm by Wednesday. We had been emailed the football teams by Simmo, and I had looked at the BBC weather rain chart with a touch of trepidation. Playing in a shower is quite refreshing. I wasn't sure what the drill was when it forecast thundering, driving rain.

The evening started with a sky pregnant with brooding, blackened clouds. The light failed, and a few drops fell outlined clearly against the intense light of pitch floodlights. I had changed into my football gear and was just doing a few stretches before the match. By the time the other players had arrived it was pouring down, thick globs of rain that soaked the pitch through.

If football be the food of love, then play on. And we did. It seemed to me that the teams were mismatched, and, unfortunately, I was in the weaker grouping. But after a thoroughly enjoyable clash of wills, we ended up in the lead and retained the lead through the match, ending two goals ahead. I ran around, trying, at the very least, not to damage our side's chances. Again, a great cardio-workout with sprinting and intervals a plenty. By the end, a rain and sweat soaked mess,and it was time to cycle home and get soaked again.

Day 129 - much needed rest

After an energetic and exercise-filled bank holiday weekend a much needed rest today. Still, cycling into and from work ensured a bit of sweat at each end of the day.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Day 128 - banking on the holiday

Type - Steady run

Distance - 5 miles

Time - 39 minutes 31 seconds

For a British bank holiday it has been a surprisingly sunny and pleasant weekend. The good weather burst into hot August sunshine in time for today, bathing the Notting Hill Carnival in brilliant and undisturbed sunshine. But that was for later. Before I headed out to west London I wanted to get in a five mile run.

I decided to enlarge my standard loop by taking in Lordship Road and half of Clissold Park before rejoining Green Lanes and heading down Pemberton Road to Highbury and then up back around Drayton Park and into a long loop along the streets near Digby Crescent (map).

It was warm outside, just before the noon-time intensity, but still warm enough when running in unshaded streets. I started warming up with a slower start, and then eased into the run. I haven't had any problems with my old injuries (the shin splints and groin strain), and today I wasn't bothered by any of the other niggles that have been bothering me recently.

I sped into a steady eight minute mile pace, gradually lengthening the stride and quickly soaking my running top in sweat. I tried to dodge into the shaded parts of the road, but, with the sun almost directly overhead, there wasn't much shade to be had. I eased into the run by mile three and had no breathing or stitch problems. Instead my legs felt a bit tired, but nothing that made me check my pace.

Once over the Blackstock Road I had another mile to go, weaving up and down the streets running parallel with the Blackstock Road. I sped up a little, and, once on the last stretch on Brownswood Road I broke into a sprint just to get the run in at under 40 minutes. When I pressed the button at 39 minutes 31 seconds it seemed that I was back on track with some proper running.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Day 127 - cross training

Spent a decent couple of hours at the gym doing a full resistance/weights routine, a bit of cycling and a good thrash on the cross-trainer.

Day 126 - through the heart of Herts

Type - Steady cycle

Distance - 90 kilometres

Time - 3 hours 50 minutes

Average speed - 23.5 km/h

After the fantastic cycling in Ireland and repeatedly quick runs in to work I've decided to broaden the scope of my training and this blog. Although my primary aim remains a decent time in the London Marathon, the point of the training was always wider than this single event - I wanted to get fit, lose weight and start racing. Given the headstart I already have in cycling, it seems a good idea to incorporate that with an aim to taking part in duathlons (if not triathalons if I can ever get my swimming up to scratch). Given the cross training benefits of cycling improve running performance overall, it has to be a win-win decision.

So, with that in mind, I set off to Finsbury Park station and took a quick train out to Hadley Wood. Barely quarter of an hour later I was cycling out of Greater London and passed the southern boundary of Hertfordshire. A couple of hill climbs later I was through Potters Bar heading north to Hatfield. Here the route gets a bit messy, as the area between Hatfield and Potters Bar is a mess of main roads, motorways and railway lines. I eventually strike out on the right B road heading north-west through the Hertfordshire countryside to Hitchin via Wheathampstead.

The cycling is decent, but a stiff breeze keeps the speed of any descents in check and makes surging up the ascents more difficult. It barely affects the steady pace, and I make good time through the villages into Hitchin. I have a quick break, lunch, and a wander round a pretty unremarkable town centre, and head back on the road.

Heading back down to Wheathampstead, but via a different route just to create a bit of variety, and the cycle is speedy - winds now blowing in my direction and creating a smooth, even and fast cadence.

I get back into Potters Bar 3 hours and 50 minutes later, having cycled 90 kilometres. It works out at an average speed of 23.5 km/h, which I am pretty happy with. I sit, bug blasted and dusty, on a train heading back to London and wonder how much quicker it would be once I buy my new bike.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Day 125 - return of the Mac

Type - Steady run

Distance - 4.7 miles

Time - 37 minutes 18 seconds

My last outdoor run had gone well but for forgetting to take my inhaler - it had felt as though it would have been a cracking run if I hadn't spent half an hour wheezing around the four miles. I didn't want to repeat that mistake, and took my inhaler once I had got inside from cycling home.

This was going to be the first of my 'comeback' runs - back to a regular pattern of training, stretching and exercise. The road to today has been pretty long, and the recovery continues. I went to see the physio this morning and went though some additional strength routines that I need to do in addition to the training. But being able to run again feels fine.

I planned a four and one-third mile run, just a stready increment on last week's distance. The run was a fairly standard route, down Green Lanes and Pemberton Road, over St. Paul's Road and back up Highbury before doing the Drayton Park loop. I started off feeling a little bit stiff, and warmed up for the first five minutes or so.

And then the running style came back to me. Longer strides, pumping arms and regular breathing. By the time I got over St. Paul's Road I was running strongly.
I decided to increase the distance by backing on myself through Highbury Field (map) and going along Brownswood Road to the further end of Digby Crescent.

I was still going strong as I came down Highbury Hill and turned right to the Emirates Stadium and back along Drayton Park. I was running quick, long and steady strides and felt completely fine as I came towards the end of the run. I finished with a sprint along Brownswood Road and came in at 4.7 miles in just over 37 miles. This was a little over 7.5 minute miles, and a decent run by my previous standards.

Day 124 - rest

Cycling into and back from work. Other than that nothing more - a rest after a week of exertion!

Day 123 - goal-a-game Curry

Back to the football today, which is proving to be one of the most intensive training sessions I have. It is obviously different from the steady runs, requiring sprints, bursts of speed and changes of direction. It is decent interval training.

We started playing in an indifferent, low light and soon even that failed and we were playing my first game under the floodlights. A fine rain started to fall, its cooling drops augmented by a fresh breeze. We warmed into a fast paced game, and, for the second week in a run, I was on the winning team and scored a goal. Nothing much in that, but it feels like I am improving - I officially upgraded my performance from appalling to bad. If I try hard then by October I might even scrape in as mediocre!

Managed to spend most of the game on the pitch (only in goal for a couple of minutes until Yaz got injured) and didn't feel completely shot to pieces, so hopefully my fitness is coming back.

Day 122 - indoor sprint

Type - Steady run (indoor)

Distance - 4 miles

Time - 34 minutes 12 seconds

The plan for the evening was to warm up on the cross trainer and then do four miles on the treadmill. Before I started training I always seemed to find the treadmill easier than running outside, so I thought that the four miles would be an easy enough run. The cross training went well, and I ended up doing fifteen minutes of relatively intense exericse.

The on to the treadmill. I started off with a warm up, running at 10 km/h. After five minutes I sped up gradually to 12 km/h before topping off at 12.5 km/h. It was tough going, and soon the sweat was pouring. Perhaps running on the treadmill was only easy at the slower speeds. After half an hour I was still a few hundred metres away from the four mile goal, and so I burst into a sprint for a couple of minutes, raising the speed to 16 km/h. I then quickly slowed down, and finished in the relatively laggardly time of 34 minutes 12 seconds.

I stepped off the treadmill absolutely dripping, t-shirt sodden and shorts dripping. I am still not too sure why it seemed to require such effort to achieve a modest time.

Day 121 - Clissold cross training

Spot of cross training at the Clissold Leisure Centre in the evening on top of cycling to and from work. The weekend at home off my bike seems to have done wonders for my Achilles tendon, which no longer hurts. There is a stubborn stiffness to it, but nothing disconcerting. My cycling to work has notched up another gear, and I am getting to work in less than 20 minutes, which is a massive improvement on the previous time of 30 - 35 minutes.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Day 120 - Keeping on going

Type - Steady run

Distance - 3.8 miles

Time - 31 minutes 48 seconds

Feeling pretty strong today after my brief spell of tendinitis on my right Achilles tendon disappeared overnight. I think it might have just needed a break from cycling, as it came over a weekend at home when I was without my bike.

I set off on a perfect Sunday evening as the sun was dipping behind the houses but still bathing Clissold Park in a final burning glow. I ran a basic route, down to St. Paul's Road and back up Highbury Hill (map). I wanted to elongate it to make it a four mile route, and so added the loop past the Emirates Stadium and along Ambler Road.

Everything was working well except for my lungs - I had failed to take my Ventolin inhaler before running and was feeling the burn of constricted and wheezing wind pipes. It is a particularly annoying mistake, as, in all other respects, this was an enjoyable and textbook run with no complaints, niggles or pains.

By the time I got back to check the route it fell slightly short of 4 miles - I'll have to save that distance for the gym on Tuesday.

Days 118 - 119 Back to Preston

Back to Preston, so just a little walking with the parents and cycling to and from work on Friday.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Day 117 - back to the road

Type - Steady run

Distance - 3.6 miles

Time - 30 minutes 39 seconds

After a week's solid exercise I was feeling pretty healthy. My cycling into work had improved as I applied some of the cycling strength and techniques I had picked up in Ireland, shaving 5 - 10 minutes from my morning commute. But as positive as this was, it wasn't helping my running recovery. It was time to hit the road.

I planned a relaxed 3 mile route (map), with the option to do 3.5 miles if i wasn't feeling any stiffness or pain in my calves or groin. Instead I just had a dull ache from my Achilles tendon, a stubborn injury from the cycling which won't shift. But this doesn't seem to be exacerbated by running, so I pushed on regardless.

The run started well, a light five minute warm up before speeding up on the descent down Pemberton Road. My legs felt strong, and I did not lose my breath at all. It was a strong run, felt very positive and I only got the slightest twinge in my adductor muscles right at the end of the run. I worked out the route on Gmap pedometre and had done 3.6 miles in just over 30 minutes, which was decent enough for a start.

Day 116 - back to the road

Type - Steady run (treadmill)

Distance - 3.5 miles

Time - 30 minutes 32 seconds

Bolstered by a decent and painfree run on Saturday I took to the treadmill with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. I warmed up with a ten minute session on the cross-trainer and a slower first five minutes, but then started a proper run at 10.7 km/h, rising to 11 km/h.

A nice, solid run - nothing special, but nothing hurting either. And that is, for the moment, the most important thing.

Days 109 - 115 - of emerald fields and surging seas

A week off work usually involves disruption of a training programme. This week was no different, but was no let up in the intensity of exercise as I swapped running for cycling on a biking holiday in the south west and south of Ireland.

The cycling started gently - I had to go into central London on Thursday and then cycle across to Jarlath's. We loaded the car and set off to South Wales for the first night in a B&B in Fishguard in the Pembroke National Park. We had a ferry booked for the next afternoon and we planned to do a morning's cycling along the coast. The B&B was opulent. I had read a few reviews of the place, and the reality surpassed even the glowing recommendations online. We arrived, and were invited to take tea in the conservatory overlooking a stunning sunset over the Presili mountains and the surrounding fields. Tea was presented on a silver tray with cake and biscuits. A very nice touch. The place was beautifully decorated, and the next morning the breakfast lived up to the promise suggested by our evening snack.

We slotted in a 20 mile cycle in the morning, heading to the coast and then uphill back to Newport and back to the B&B. We had a few minutes to shower and then set off for the ferry.

The next twelve hours were the most stressful points on the trip. The ferry was delayed, plunging straight into the Stygian gloom of a fog smothered Irish Sea. The gloom and mist had shrouded the whole area, including the whole of Ireland. Not only was the ferry late, but traffic crawled out of Rosslare on the single lane road that snaked its way west through towns clogged with traffic. No dual carriageways until Cork, and no bypasses until 2010.

We finally made it to Schull after 11pm, rain lashed and soaked as we unloaded the gear. Only getting to sleep and waking up to a view across the harbour, fields and mountains restored spirits. It didn't seem like we would have the weather on our side with the morning damp and grey. We cycled west from Schull along the south of the Mizen peninsula, marvelling at the views across the Atlantic. By the time we reached Mizen Head, the most south-westerly point in Ireland and the site of Marconi's radio experiments, the sun had chased away the mist, and had burst through a suddenly blue sky. The landscape was transformed from beautiful to simply stunning - shimmering seas in a kaleidoscope of blues crashing frothing white waves against sharp granite cliffs. The place lived up to its name, the emerald isle shining a translucent green from lush, verdant fields.

The afternoon's cycling was excellent - we pushed hard and managed a decent 21 - 22 km/h average, pushing hard up the ascents and enjoying fast descents.

Day 108 - shoot and score

Football is a great opportunity for interval training, and leaves me far more knackered than a steady run over the same period of time. That said, after the rubbish performance in my last two matches, I was starting to wonder whether it was for me.

Fortunately tonight I played a half decent game (admittedly by my own woeful standards!) and I was on the winning side - dispelling my two big fears in one go. I even scored. Not bad for an evening's exercise.

Day 107 - treading the board

Type - Steady run (treadmill)

Distance - 3 miles

Time - 28 minutes 32 seconds

Bolstered by a decent and painfree run on Saturday I took to the treadmill with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. I warmed up with a ten minute session on the cross-trainer and a slower first five minutes, but then started a proper run at 10.7 km/h, rising to 11 km/h.

A nice, solid run - nothing special, but nothing hurting either. And that is, for the moment, the most important thing.