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.