Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Running Clenched

ARRGHH! Cracking run last night - almost the exact opposite tonight, but worse.
Last night was a romp around Fetterso Forest neat Stonehaven. Brilliant, brilliant place. 8 and a bit miles through the forest tracks, some biggish climbs, the odd deer around and I even saw a pine martin in the wild, just 20 feet from me. As usual started slow and grunty on the climb from the car park into the wind, but come 4miles I started to fly [all relative of course!] and was in full fast cruise mode my 5 miles. Last 2 miles were almost reaching respectable [sub 8min] speeds. What's more knee was strong, form felt better and the hills seemed comfortable.
Today though - I had spent a bit of time working up a training plan for the River Ayr Way in September to guide me for the next 20 weeks or so. This week, even though it was the 'first' of the plan, has been a bit messed up by the emergency trip offshore at the weekend and I [foolishly] put down a 15mile run from Altens to Milltimber and back for tonight. First of many 'schoolboy errors' tonight.
They were:-
1. Stupidly I put two 'hard; sessions next to each other. Last night was fast through the forest tracks. I should have had an easy today, but the prat I am I decided to run longish. To cut a long story short my ITB, which has been improving rapidly, decided to remind me it's still there and flared up about 9 miles in. Plodded on, but by 12.5 miles it was too much and it was time to call a taxi to take me the last couple of mile back to the office.
2. Having Hienz chilli baked beans last night, with salad, bran flakes for breakfast and more fruit and salad for lunch. I'll let you work out the rest, but I must have ran out the busy Deeside Way tonight with the tightest clenched buttocks in the history of Aberdeen. No where to go, not recommended and pretty stressful at times.
3. It's pretty clammy up here, and in the rush to go offshore on sunday I only packed one light running tee. That got well soaked with rain and sweat last night, and while it was dry today, by 7 miles into tonight's run I was soaked with sweat, and it was not evaporating away. Result - the tee shirt turned to sandpaper and gave me runners nipple - both sides. Lovely.

So if you can imaging me with cheeks tightly clenched, slightly worried expression on my face, checking out every clump of bushes that might offer cover while running with one knee throbbing and nipples being rubbed raw you can see why tonight was not the best. Basic, stupid mistakes, but it's what makes this lark such a challenge really and probably more of a mental exercise than it is often given credit for.
Thankfully I'm, at heart, a positive person, I can usually see the plus side of most things. OK the ITB complained, but that was on a longish run after a hard run the night before and a hard run on saturday. It's still improving though and I have no doubt I could run an easy or shortish session tomorrow if I wanted to. Likewise, I really need to layout a training plan for daily stretches and strengthening exercise, as I'm far too guilty of only doing them when I'm injured.
Ever onwards I suppose!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Just a Little Fling

Saturday was the Highland Fling 53 mile race from Milngavie up to Tyndrum. I decided after the D33 that even attempting this was not the correct thing to do. As if to reinforce that decision, the ITB I picked up at the D33 has made much running awkward lately. However and it is a big however, I got put onto a team for the Fling relay who were short of a runner or two by the ever running Ian Beattie. I am so so thankful for that call Ian 'cos I had a great time. The arrangements were tricky with me meeting Stan at the end of leg 1, to run me down to the start [and back to the car] before handing over to Liz Mestecky for leg 2 who would then hand onto Stan himself, before Sarah from the legendary Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum to complete course to Tyndrum.
So there I was lining up beside the other relay runners in an underpass an hour or three after the ultra guys had headed off. I have to say it is a strange place to start a long distance path like the WHW, but I guess it is what it is. As usual I started off slow and grunting working my way through Mugdock park at the back of the relay pack. About five minutes into the run my phone [carried for safety purpose may I add!] went off. I missed trhe call, but the voice mail was my boss saying something about incident... offshore... call please. So there I was running on the WHW for the first time ever, phoning him back and saying, "I'm running from Milngavie....[pant] can I call you later...[pant].....". Not really the usual start to a race is it? Ten minutes in began to feel decent, by twenty minutes feeling great, but the long long downhill section near Dumgoyach was not good for my ITB, so that was walked down. Fabulous feeling though as I broached that initial crest and looked out towards Glengoyne. Somewhere after the bottom of that section, I and the two girls I was following managed to 'get lost' and somehow missed the turn onto the railtrack and ended up going east up onto the main road and along there till we met the WHW again. By this point I was feeling bl*/*dy marvellous and started getting into that lovely fast cruise mode where I was running easy, yet faster than at any point before. I've kinda decided that 10Ks are not for me. It takes me 4-5miles to get warmed up and into that fast cruise mode and by that time a 10K is almost over!
The last few miles flew by as they do when I'm running well and in the groove. Was a bit surprise by the few steep hills right at the end before Drymen, but half a mile or so out, Stan met me and ran in with me up and down those last few hills to the handover with Liz. Not my best run ever, but nevertheless one of my favourites to date.
The big surprise was at the handover where apart from Liz, there were a few other Harriers there. It's so good to see unexpected faces when you finish.
After getting home to Jo and Gregor we went and picked up Storm who had been running in her first ever X-country race for the school. She finished a very respectable 61st from 119, which is brilliant. Given by the way she was struggling later on, I think she must have run her little heart out. What a superstar! It seemed a shame to drag them all over the Tyndrum, but I was keen to see the finish, meet up with our team and see if we could see Ian and Graham finish the full event. We ended up staying till nine, keeping Graham's family company while they waited for him to finish, which we did 10mins or so before the cutoff. An absolutely brilliant performance from Graham in his first Fling and he had never ran beyond 33 miles before.
What did I learn that day then?
  1. If I have any Fling / WHW ambitions I need to get out there and know the route. I managed to 'get lost' on the easiest section of the easiest section and knowing the route means also there are no surprise hills to greet you - only bl*/*dy big hills you know about already.
  2. The Fling, and by extension the WHW are brutal affairs, but achievable. Not every finisher I saw was a young racing snake by any means. If they can, I can, not because I'm competitive BTW, but because I just want to do it.
  3. Only in Scotland could we have an Ultra race sponsored partly by a chip shop [even if it is the best Chip shop in the world]
  4. Don't answer the phone during races. I missed half my weekend as I ended up sat on a special chopper out of Aberdeen on sunday morning with 2 other guys from work to see what on earth had gone wrong.
  5. Lastly and most importantly - injuries do go away. at times they feel like 'I'll never run again', but mind over matter, rest and recovery they do go away and we get to run again and in many ways that feels better than anything almost.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Falling Forward

Hey, I put some new shoes on,
And suddenly everything is right,
I said, hey, I put some new shoes on and everybody's smiling,
It so inviting,
Oh, short on money, But long on time,
Slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine,
And I'm running late, dont need an excuse,
'cause I'm wearing my brand new shoes
(Paulo Nutini)

Well mondays night's run was a 5-ish mile trip round Stonehaven, and despite the new insoles the Saunconys were feeling, well, a bit...err solid and clunky. So that was it - definitely need new shoes. With the best part of 400miles on them, the Sauconys had had there day and needed to be retired so it back into Run4It to try the ASICs they had got in for me on. I have to say they felt good and compliant in the shop, and since they have a great reputation for cushioning the heavy runner, so as long as they fitted I was going to buy them - which I did [obviously].
Tonights run was planned to be back round Scolty hill at Banchory again, but gale force, freezing winds and occasional blizzards during the day persuaded me to stick to shelter. As I headed out of the flat for a trip round Ury Estate north of Stonehaven, the ASICs felt lovely. Just like my first pair of Sauconys did. Not squishy or indistinct underfoot, but rather soft and compliant. Good choice was the first impression. The other matter to attend to was my attitude. Not my mental state or outlook on running, but the way I run. I know I have a strange running style. I seem to lean backwards with my legs pulling me forwards each step and while it feels ok for me, I know it looks bizarre. Really really odd, and photos of me running rarely look like I'm actually moving at all. I believe it is due to my highly trained [not!] super relaxed abdominal muscles as the picture below shows.
I know I need to change how I run if I'm to improve, and tonights focus was on leaning forward as espoused by several of the current running books. I have to say the whole 'falling forward' thing is a bit odd for me, not least as it means I 'm looking down slightly and not ahead as I usually do. It took a bit of concentration to try and hold that position, but I found a couple of mental images and preprioceptive thoughts to hold onto and they seemed to help. The result? I seemed to run noticably faster, but breathing was a but harder at first, and heart rate was up a bit. However when I got past my usual 5 mile warm up period that all became a bit easier and while heart rate was up, it was comfortable and breathing was slow and easy.
All told a cracking run. The first decent one in ages. 6.1 miles in 57 minutes, including a a stiff climb out of Stonehaven, and a few stops for traffic etc. What's more the shoes felt fabulous, the ITB gave no more than the slightest tiny twitch to remind me it's still there [but responding really well to rehabilitation] and I was running freely for the first time in a couple of weeks, and felt like I could have gone on easily enough. What more could any runner ask for? Not running in an evening blizzard in mid april for a start perhaps.....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

ITB, Hills and Doubles

I'm beginning to realise just what the D33 took out of me. Barely ran at all last week with my left knee giving me some gip. 100% sure it is ITB with a sharp pain below the knee but on the outside of the 'top' of the lower leg bone [if that makes sense]. Like all injured runners I've been doing my research on this and have turned again to the mighty tome that is "The Lore of Running" by Tim Noakes MD. He feels this is a injury that strikes stiff footed runners [tick], often strike when the hip abductors are fatigued [tick - after 20m in the D33] and is caused by a lack of shock absorbtion in the leg. This is interesting as for ages now I've puzzled about the way my feet behave, when viewed from above, when I'm running. The left foot always seems to run straight and directly ahead landing midfoot and bolt upright, but the right seems to land on the outside edge and roll inwards. I have thought that the right foot was 'wrong', but I've re-assesed this and am now of the opinion that the right foot is behaving 'correctly' landing supinated and rolling inward to absorb the footstrike and the left foot is a rigid 'clunk' foot. Hence if there was one side going to be prone to things like ITB it would be the left side.
As another side issue, that has become suddenly relevant is my shoes. Since I took up running a few years ago I've run in Saucony Triumphs. The first pair I had [triumph 5s] were brilliantly cushioned and did me really well for a year. The next pair were triumph 6s and my current pair are triumph 7s. With each new model I've had the impression that they were not as cushioned as the first pair, but was inclined to think of that as some sort of memory distortion from nostalgia. I am sure they are actually stiffer now having dug my beloved first pair out and compared them both closely. The reason this has become relevant is that Tim Noakes advice is that ITB often comes from too stiff shoes and what is often required is a change to softer shoes for the 'clunk' footed runner along with stretching of the ITB and hip abductor strengthening.
So since my current pair have around 350miles on them, it is almost time for a change so I popped into Run4It in Aberdeen and tried on a few pairs with the help of a really helpfull Kiwi guy. As it turned out the pair of ASICs I might try were not available in my size, but I bought a pair of sorbothane inserts to help cushion my existing shoes some more. So did this work?
Last week and on monday I ran around the beach at Stonehaven. At exactly the same point the pain arrived some 2.1miles into the loop. On tuesday, after getting the insoles, I headed out to Banchory and the trails around Scolty hill. Never been here before, but a tip from a pal at work about places to run off tarmac pointed me towards this spot. Scolty is a quite prominent hill on the southside of the Dee with a tall tower at it's summit. I headed off on the forest track, and while not exactly lost followed my nose this way and that around the base of the hill before heading almost vertically up through scrub along a mountain bike 'down' track, before the final semi run-able push to the top.
What a great view. The path down from there was very steep,and since the knee is not brilliant downhill at the moment, this was walked down. No matter. When I got to the bottom it was time to run again and off around the base of the hill again I went. I even found myself running fast [for me] in the last mile or so with my Garmin recording sub 8min/mi pace which is almost unheard of. All in that was a 4.5mile run in a beautiful place with only very mild discomfort on the knee which is a huge improvement on what had been possible just the night before.
One other thing Noake's book says is that running can continue but only up to the point of discomfort at which point it must stop. To try and keep the fitness up I have decided to try doing 'doubles' or two runs a day on some days. The idea is to split each run i would normally do into 2 parts, neither of which goes past the point of discomfort. One minor problem. I have never been able to get up early to exercise. I can get up at 5am for work or travel but have never, even when I was sailing Finns seriously internationally could I get up and train. This morning the plan was to get up at 6:30 and get out for a run. Of course that failed, but at 7am guilt got the better of me and out I went. Just 2.5miles round the beach, but do you know what - I really enjoyed it! Tonight was the other half and I headed out along the cliffs to Dunottar and beyond. When i reached the bottom of the Bervie Braes I ran into the middle of a pack of a dozen other local runners as they came round the corner and headed up the hill. I have to say they did look a bit confused at where I had come from and who I was, but after pegging slowly behind them for a bit decided to blank them out and run at my own speed up the hill, which was a tad faster than they were going. Lovely run out to Dunottar, taking care to walk the steep downhills, but running the flats and uphills seems to cause little problem right now. Absolutely cracking sun in the spring sunshine and a nice 5miles to finish the day off. Definitely going to 'do doubles' again. It's a great feeling to have run twice in one day, even if it was only 7 and a bit miles in total.
I have noticed that I do seem to cruise a tad faster and easier than prior to the D33, but that my strength in my legs seems to have been sapped. I knew that the D33 would take it out of me, but here I am two weeks later still feeling the effects. Hopefully by next weekend I'll be fit enough to be able to run in the Fling relay if that comes together. It would be a shame to miss it and my first venture onto the WHW route.
One last important milestone though - my belly has reduced enough to allow me to wear my Harriers 25th anniversary running top for the first time. It's only a year since I got it but my gut used to stick out of the bottom and 'flap in the breeze' so I've never worn it before. How good [and bad] is that!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Goals and Gates

Well a few days after the D33 and I'm still fairly sore and stiff, [but not as bad as I have been previously] and thoughts are turning to what to do next. I had posted a question on the Fling and WHW forums about whether the Fling would be do-able for me and despite overwhelming encouragement to go for it, I'm getting more of the the opinion that not to do the Fling is the correct thing to do. It's not that I perhaps couldn't do it, and it's not that I'm afraid of failing, but more that right now it does not seem the right thing to do. To everybody who gave their encouragement on the forums I say a big thanks and I'll I hope you'll understand the reasons why.
The D33 was a stretch 3 month goal for me. Well a bit more than a goal actually, more like a combined goal and gate. Now I've made it through the gate I have a whole bunch of possible ways from here I can go. If I had not made it to the gate the options would not have been there. One thing I had discussed was doing the Speyside Way or River Ayr Way, but both of those were highly dependant on how the D33 went. If I hated the D33 I would not even be thinking about those races, and would probably be thinking about alternative challenges to try. As it happened I enjoyed the D33 and those 1 or 2 races later this year seem like a reasonable next step. To move quickly into cliches, one mistake I probably made in the D33 was to try to run too fast too soon. I think entering the Fling this year would be that sort of mistake. It will still be there next year and I have to remember if I am going to try a bit more ultra running, that the long view is important not only in the event but in the process of getting there too.
I made tons of schoolboy errors in the D33, but like all experience it is only when you have made the mistakes do you have a chance of eliminating them. A colleague at work last week used the proverb "you build your first boat for your enemy, your second for your friend and your third for yourself". I kind of like that and in many ways the D33 was like building my first boat.
So where now?
I am slowly condensing my thoughts into a route map to take forward. At the moment I know what is possibly over the page [2011], but I'm not looking to closely at that at the moment. The Speyside and River Ayr ways are 20-23 weeks away, which is a tad too long for me to plan effectively towards so I'm going to probably find some intermediate goal to work towards. I'm working offshore for 3 days now which will help my legs recover a bit more and hopefully give me time to formulate a plan to get me to the Speyside or River Ayr events in top form.
Right now I think the plan will have to include:-
Speedwork - I only really concentrated on 'going long' in the run up to the D33. I should really make more of an effort to run with faster runners to drag my speed up a bit. If I can go a bit faster I need to be out there for less time.
Strength - I'm 99% sure my knee problem was ITB brought on as my legs fatigued. I need to spend more time running on the trails as I think since most of my training was on easy running tarmac, the soft trails at the weekend had big effect.
More weight loss. I'm now 110kgs down from ~118kgs at xmas. Getting down to double figures will make a huge difference I'm sure to both of the above. One thing I don't lack though is momentum!
Mileage. I do need to up my mileage a bit and keep the LSD going. More off road track running is required for sure.

I grew up in Troon and my folks still live there so a run to Ayr will have significance for me. So the overall goal/gate I've set for the remander of the summer is to do the River Ayr Way and possibly the Speyside Way as a warm up 3 weeks before [What am I saying! a 35mile run as a wrm up event!]. Beyond that lies only dreams and is too far away to make concrete plans for. This time though I also want to run almost all of it and not run/walk for a third of it. So the next immediate step is to formulate an outline training plan while I am offshore this week and more importantly a philosophy to allow the plan to change and respond as stuff happens through the year [as it will]. As always all and any suggestions and input is gratefully recieved.

One final thing - I have recieved several very kind comments both on here and from fellow Strathearn Harriers about the D33. I am truely deeply touched by all of them and the sense of being part of a community they bring. Thank you again and again!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Deeside 33

Well I did it. I completed the D33 ultra. Perhaps not in the manner I would have prefered, but I finished never the less. I am so happy about it regardless as this was always going to be a bit of a long shot. I had done the Glen Clova half in november [badly] after a very sparse year of running for all sorts of reasons, and then did zero through till xmas. It was just after new year that tired of being fatter than I would like and with a bit of a sore back I decided to get back into running more forcefully as a kind of new years resolution. So on the 7th of Jan I headed out for a whole 2 miles which was as much as I could honestly manage at the time. I had no great plans per se, perhaps hill racing, but somewhere around the middle of january I heard of the Deeside 33, and since it was the first place I ever ran any distance [a whole 6 miles] it had a certain appeal. Could I do it? Get up to that sort of mileage in a bit under 3 months from where I was. Probably not was the answer, but heh! - worth a go regardless. From there I kept the idea pretty quiet, only asking the sage advice of Ian Beattie at the Harriers 'do' if it was even worth trying.
Well I did it. Including today's run I've done 407 miles this year which is way more than the whole of 2009. Chuffed is not the word

As to the event -the forecast was rain, heavy rain, but apart from a few showers it stayed dry. Two other Harriers were running - Graham Martin and Ian Beattie. Jo did try and get a picture of Ian but he ran off as the photo was taken and she ended up with a picture of someone else!

For Graham this was his 30mile test before the Fling, for Ian his 75th ultra/marathon on his 20th year of running anniversary.

Definetly felt like the proverbial fat boy at the back amongst all the racing snakes, but as the race started droppped into a [possibly too quick] 9:00ish pace. Felt really good all the way out past Culter, but was starting to flag a bit as I came into the Milton of Crathes car park where Jo and the kids had arrange to meet me. Storm was there to greet me on the approach path and Gregor near the road.
From there it was only a mile and a half to half way, which seemed to be some sort of party in the woods, with lots of runners taking advantage of the free jam sandwiches and cake.
The return leg was not so good. I hit left knee pain which meant I was struggling to run freely and started on a long run/walk cycle to get me home. There was no way I was giving up, but it was a long unpleasant trip home. A Culter station I went to take a small stone out of my shoe and got hit by severe cramp in the left calf which had me rolling about in absolute agony much to the amusement of a few old grannies. I admit to reaching for the phone and canning the run, but decided to wait till it cleared and keep going. I learned later that Graham had had some hip problems, but Jo and the kids wouldn't let him give up and get in the car! Not sure if he was thankfull at the end or not. That last 6 miles or so was tough, but despite my knee and calves my head was good and I was in pretty decent spirts. No way was I giving up!
So 6hrs, 35 minutes after the start I crawled across the line.
I may not have had a super race but I think the smile on my face says it all. I actually really enjoyed it. The others? Ian finished literally miles ahead in 4:37 and was thankfully still around. Graham finished half an hour ahead of me in 6:05, but I'll let him clarify what his finishing mood was.
The funniest bit though has to be the finish. I had ran / walked the last 10miles and while it was not great it worked and my legs never felt like I could not move them. 30 seconds after the finish though they locked and it took me ages of waddling like a penguin to go the 30yards across to the car. Getting in the car was even more hilarious!
So all in all a good day, and the question of willI do an ultra again is yes - I may have only done the 75% I predicted and walked the other 25%, but my head was in the right place and for sure I will do another. I had toyed with the idea of the Fling, but I'm way way off being strong enough for that. Next year though? Hmmmm.

Friday, April 2, 2010

12hrs 42minutes 28 seconds to go

As I write this, my countdown timer on the PC tells me it is 12hrs 42minutes 28 seconds to go till I start the D33. Absolutely bricking it and excited at the same time about it. This will be my first ultra marathon and to be honest I'll be doing my first marathon on the same day, just before the final 10k and bit needed to get to the 33mile mark. There are two other Harriers running - Ian who does this sort of thing every week [it seems] and Graham who I think is probably in the same place as me, but is probably a stronger faster runner. Best of luck to both of them!
I don't think I have ever been so well prepared logistically for anything. Not even when I was sailing internationally on a regular basis had I covered the bases as well as tonight. All my gear is chosen, drinks made up, backpack stocked, lightweight phone charged, spares of everything. We even recc'ied where Jo and the kids are going to meet me [1.5 before the half way mark at Milton of Crathes]. I've tapered, been carefull this week with my ankle [almost there I think!], even carbed up according to the book and no alcohol since my birthday on tuesday. Estimated times are 2:30-2:45 to half way mark and 6:00 - 6:30 to finish.
Everything suggests I can do this, but that hasn't stopped me sleeping badly all week thinking about this run till the early hours. Tonight will be late-ish bedtime with Horlicks to help me along before getting up at 6 for porridge and bananas.
Will I succeed? If the ankle holds up and I can make it back to Milltimber bridge [mile 27] I am sure I can. Will I though? - I'll find out tomorrow!