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.

Day 106 - cross training

Just a spot of cross training in the gym combined with cycling to and from work.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Day 105 - in the swing

Firmly getting back into the swing of exercising again with a long bike ride. I had no problems after yesterday's run, and it is feeling great to be able to just break into a trot without a stabbing pain. Today was a bit of preparation for biking in Ireland, but a three hour cycle on a relatively flat London loop of the Royal Parks and east London is not quite as taxing as the much longer and much more varied terrain that awaits in Co. Cork and Co. Kerry. Still, decent enough work out.

Day 104 - 3 miles under 30 minutes

Type - Steady run (treadmill)

Distance - 3 miles

Time - 28 minutes 59 seconds

It isn't an amazing run to get three miles in under 30 minutes. Ten minute miles are not taxing, and far longer than the eight minute miles I was running in June. But, and this is an important but, it was almost as rewarding to do a solid, uncomplicated and vaguely respectable run in this time.

I am sticking with the treadmill for now - although I might be tempted on to the open road for the few days I am in Ireland and away from the gym. But for the most part the treadmill takes some of the strain from running - impact, terrain and pace are all controlled and easier. I went on the cross trainer for a quarter of an hour to ensure I had a decent warm up before even hitting the treadmill.

Then I started with a five minute warm up at 9 km/h, and then ran at 10.2 km/h for a while before finishing with ten minutes at 10.5 km/h. By the end it certainly felt as though I had gone through a decent workout, but the tiredness was just the usual complaint from muscles that had fallen out of routine with running. No shin pains, no groin pains. A five minute warm down, and stretches, and fine.

Day 103 - from the ashes?

So last night's run at the gym was fun enough. No annoying post-run niggles, no pains, strains, aches or agues. And the good news continues into today. After weeks of post-exercise pain, nothing. Not even a twinge. Taking it slowly, building back into it is making the whole thing enjoyable again.

But no running today. Instead I did an hour and a half cycle after work and finished up at the gym to do a session on the cross trainer. Energised, pumped up and unable to sleep. Great!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Day 102 - Gym'll fix it

Type - Steady run

Distance - 2.5 miles

Time - 24 minutes 34 seconds

Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey. Absolutely no racing to double digit running. No shin-splint endurance half-marathons. A slow, gentle build up of basic, core running strength and capacity before I start to increase the distance anywhere near five miles. More strength work, more focus on technique, more building stamina and losing more weight. This time I refuse to let haste ruin another two months of fitness training.

So, to the gym. I warmed up with twenty minutes on the cross trainer at a relatively decent intensity. Then moved on to the treadmill for a gentle warm up into a gentle run. After five minutes I increased the speed to a steady 10.5 km/h, with a 1% gradient to mimic the outside conditions (I don't want to forget that it is my ultimate aim to return to the wild).

It was painfree as far as the shin-splints and groin issues. After 25 minutes my legs began to weaken in strength, but that could be as much down to the pre-run cross training and the pre-gym cycle. And, of course, the fact I have been away from running for a while.

All in all a promising run. Now just to keep it up.

Days 100 - 101 - ill

Ill. Again. There is a summer bug that is coursing through the air conditioning system and I seem to pick it up wherever I work. I contracted a serious one at the DWP last month, and this month was knocked out by the Wragge equivalent. No swine flu. As yet.

Day 99 - finally physio

I went to see a physiotherapist today. News not great for the immediate resumption of running. Instead I am going to have to undergo a regimen of core strength building, stretches and non-impact training. Any cardio work has to be restricted to cross-training and, if possible, treadmill running. Absolutly no running on asphalt for the moment.

The physio was nice enough - a little on the efficient side but when you are limited to forty minutes there ain't much time for the pleasantries. We went through a few movement exercises, she inspected my standing position, got me to stand on each leg independently, hop on each leg, walk around. She managed to detect a curve in my right leg which means I place too much of a strain on my groin muscles instead of letting the hamstrings do the work.

My exercises include some stair-based raising the leg from the toes, more calf stretches and a series of groin stretches that involve pressing as hard as possible on a towel folded between the legs. There is nothing so strange that I will not give a go at this stage!

Days 95 - 98 - lazy

Lazy old laziness. I really need to kick things into gear. Even if I can't run much there are plenty of other ways I can get fit. God damn it.

Day 94 - football

Footie tonight. Slightly apprehensive as I haven't played in a long time. No worries about my legs - they held up marvellously without even a twinge of soreness after running around for forty minutes. But my playing was heart-breakingly awful. Truly, run away from it all, hang your head in shame and quit awful. But I won't. Not yet.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Days 92 - 93 Not much

I have to say it ain't as much fun writing about not running. Just keeping up the cross training with cycling into work.