Monday, 10 February 2014

News Flash! Blooded Injured Again!

I'm full aware that training as much as I am for as long as I have scheduled is bound to result in the odd injury here or there. I've already had some twinges this year which has prevent me from following my training plan. However it is with reluctance that I have decided to take a complete week out from running.

My right foot (all of the right foot) is very painful after yesterday's 35 km long run. I didn't feel any pain during the run, but as soon as I took my trainers off I've hardly been able to walk.

I'm hoping it's just an inflamed series of tendons which, after a week of rest and anti-inflammatory tablets, will settle down. I've just looked at my race schedule and my first race (the Silverstone Half) is in 3 weeks. I want to run that race. So taking a week off now is probably the best course of action. It's frustrating because I was building my mileage up and putting in some good training runs, but I have to think about the bigger picture.

My next blog therefore will be in a couple of weeks' time... Injuries are a bugger!   

Learning to Embrace Early Mornings - ish

My thoughts on Early Morning Runs
Assuming I don't drink the night before, I think my body is starting to become accustomed to getting up early. In fact, having run across the spectrum of early morning, mid-morning, lunch-time, afternoon and evening, I can now say with some experience that running early morning is better for me. 

I also think that early morning runs are better if you are training for long distance races, since you are running on a fairly empty stomach which will likely to benefit me in the long run as my depleted glycogen levels will help promote fat burning. If I do this regularly (which is what I am doing) then I'll be training my body to readily access it's fat reserves, which can help prevent (or at least delay) the onset of bottoming out of my glycogen levels come race day and hitting "the wall".

I also find the roads (on the whole, but not always) are quieter, my HR is usually lower, and I am 100% focused on what I am doing, since I need to get back home to have a shower and get to work. I also prefer to run in the dark. Psychologically I find it easier to run longer distances in the dark than during the day (when you can see the huge distance you have to cover right before your eyes - sometimes that alone can be a very daunting sight!). Of course running early morning also means having to go to bed early and/or, more especially, no drinking the night before. I run 5 times a week as part of my training plan; so that's 5 nights I can't drink (or only drink a couple of low strength beers - wine is completely out of the question!). That means I spend less on alcohol each week, which is good for my bank balance. Of course, when it's pissing down with rain and it's windy, it is hard to get out of bed in the morning (as this week demonstrated). However I find that once I physically step out of bed then I am okay; it's such time from the alarm going off to actually stepping out of bed which is hard for me!

Finally, after a run (and irrespective of the type of run or the pace I've run), I always feel better about myself. Nothing like starting the day having done your exercise.

A Solid Week of Training
Despite what I said above, getting out of bed on Tuesday morning was hard. My legs still ached after my long run. Nevertheless, I was determined to stick to my plan this week.

Tuesday's run was the Progressive Run (13 km). As yet I have not actually completed this run to the set splits. That was about to change! The set splits were:

Interval 1.00 km 06:40 to 06:30 min/km
Interval 2.00 km 06:10 to 06:00 min/km
Interval 2.00 km 05:50 to 05:45 min/km
Interval 4.00 km 05:35 to 05:30 min/km
Interval 3.00 km 05:25 to 05:20 min/km
Interval 1.00 km 05:15 to 05:10 min/km

I felt quite good on the run and my breathing was fine and dandy. I didn't look at my HR once during the run, as this was a pace-based run. The only thing I could see on my watch was the time and pace. At the around the 5 km I got hugely pissed off with the traffic. A series of around 7 cars came towards me (separated by a small distance) whilst at the same
Pace Chart
time a series of 4 cars came in the other direction. I had no option but to stop and stand on the verge whilst they slowly plodded by. I was fuming red. I should have paused my watch but I didn't. Eventually they passed and I stopped swearing. I got back running and was shocked to see my average pace had come tumbling down from 5:30 min/km to 7:00 min/km. This was impacting on my average pace for Interval 4 (as shown). So rather than running Interval 4 at between 5:35 to 5:30 min/km, I ended up running it a lot faster (around 5:10) for approximately 3 km until my average got back down to 5:30 min/km. I completed the interval (4 km) right on target with a 5:31 bpm average. Looking back I can see this clearly on the HR graphic - my HR increases whilst I try to make up the average pace.

I then continued with the run whilst dodgy cars and swearing under my breath. I was hitting all my interval targets. I completed the final interval on a 5:05 min/km (a lot faster than originally planned). In the end it took me 1 hr 13 mins to complete the 13 km with an average pace of 5:37 min/km and HR of 161 bpm. My final splits were:

Interval 1.00 km 06:20 min/km
Interval 2.00 km 05:58 min/km
Interval 2.00 km 05:45 min/km
Interval 4.00 km 05:31 min/km
Interval 3.00 km 05:19 min/km
Interval 1.00 km 05:05 min/km

I was very happy with that run, despite nearly being run over a few times and having to make up pace due to traffic. Next time I will pause my watch whilst waiting for traffic to disappear. One could ask why I don't run along Greenham Common to avoid the traffic. Well to be honest I am sick of running on their, and this route is actually very good for a Progressive Run. It's flat but also have some gentle ascents and descents. Usually the traffic isn't this bad. These pace splits are slow compared with other Newbury Runners, but for me they show sign of progress. Anyway - traffic aside - I started the day on a mini-high! 

Wednesday was supposed to be a 17.30 km run at Zone 2 (139 bpm). However I looked out the window at 4:45am and immediately closed the blinds and went back to bed. The weather was horrendous...hard rain and wind. It's one thing getting caught out in this weather during a run, it's something else to start a 2 hour run in this shit weather. Your sole is destroyed before you've even taken your first step. The other reason for diving back into bed was that my Achilles was still a little sore. It's not going to heel quickly, but I at least wanted to give it an extra day of rest (in reality though, it probably makes little difference). In fact, until it is fully heeled, I've decided to ditch all speed work. This means intervals and Kenyan Hills. I'll still do the Progressive Run and Parkrun - just means updating my plan a little. 

On Thursday therefore, I replaced the interval with what should have been Wednesday's run. After having received an insinuated semi-bollocking from Andy Tucker regarding the pace of my runs last week (although I knew what I was doing when I ran them), I was determined to stick to my HR targets this week. That meant stick to Zone 2 for my mid-week (now Thursday) run. Given my very poor pace at this HR level, and the hilly route, I decided to give myself a couple of hours to run it. That meant starting the run earlier than normal (in fact, the earliest I've ever run!). I again set the alarm for 4:45am and again I looked out the window and the weather was terrible. I ended up back in bed!

However, through the course of the morning I started to feel a guilt trip. This was made worse by the Newbury Runners Leaderboard on Strava - I was way down the list on both the number of runs this week and distance. It was enough to get me out in the evening!

Just as I was about to set out on Thursday evening I discovered I'd lost my Inov-8 windproof jacket. I was mega pissed off! I loved that jacket and it cost me £56 last year. I had it tied onto the back of my hydration pack on Sunday. I can't image it fell off as it was secured so tightly; but I've not seen it since! This is why I bought a bigger vest, so I wouldn't have to tie my stuff to the outside of it. So angry!

Thankfully there'd been a break in the weather and I headed out around 7:30pm. It was
The Cleres & Hills Loop
raining just slightly and there was no rain. I was supposed to be running Zone 2, but to be honest I didn't want to be out all night. I therefore ran at a Zone 3 (max. 155 bpm). It was a hilly but lovely run, and a great route to take. Both legs and HR seemed to be behaving themselves. However the Achilles on my left foot started to hurt as I was going up hill. I need to keep an eye on's not good news.

The Cleres & Hills Loop Elevation
I completed the nice loop of 20km (slightly further than my plan states) in 2hrs 25 mins with an average HR of 152 bpm and pace of 7.16 min/km (I really wish I could run faster at a lower HR). In the end it was perfect running conditions. Very light rain, no wind and a reasonably cool temperature. Although I took a gel and bottle of water with me, I didn't need to take any - not even a sip of water. If Manchester could have the same conditions, then I'd be happy - or even Silverstone next month...

As I'd run in the evening I decided to take Friday off as a Rest Day, knowing that I would be running both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday was a gentle 10 km run at Zone 3. It was a very uneventful run on a rather uninspiring route, but I wanted to try and avoid the hills as much as possible. Achilles felt okay. It was then time to rest up for the remainder of the day, knowing what I had in store for the following day.

Sunday brought the Long Run (same route as last week). Last Sunday I ran 35 km and the route finished in the centre of Newbury (so I could pick my car up). This week I had planned to run all the way home (around 38 km), but due to the windy conditions I decided to scrap that idea very early in the run. After running 35 km the last thing I wanted to do was finish it off with another 3 km up Andover Hill into a headwind! I wouldn't have gained anything by doing it - not at this stage in my training. After Manchester I need to put more mileage in and also tackle more hills; but that's then and this is now, and I was quite happy just doing the 35 km.

So onto the run itself. I'd planned to run the route slower than last week. Last week was Zone 4; this week was going to be Zone 3 (max. 155 bpm). I know I should be running in Zone 2, but running such distances would be take too long and cut into my day. I have to strike the balance between training and family time / work time. Zone 3 is slow but not too slow, and will hopefully improve my anaerobic fitness. I got up at 4.45am, opened the window and the door slammed shut with the wind! This was going to be fun - not!

This was also my first run when I could test my new hydration pack. I layed up (minus my lost wind proof jacket) and put the hydration vest on. It's a fairly big vest and it fitted snuggly - in fact whilst running it was protecting my upper torso from the wind, which was nice.

The run along the A4 was just painful. It was around 13 km into a headwind! Yes I was
Long Run Elevation
protected with the various layers, but it sometimes felt for every step I went forward I was taking 3 back. I was relieved to get to Hungerford. As I approached Hungerford (after around 16 km) I pulled out an Alpen Bar. If you remember last week I had problems eating it as it was too dry. I tried again this week and the same problem. Nevertheless, as I was running slowly I thought I'd much in it slowly whilst running. I ran up Eddington Hill and that is one fucking steep hill. My pace slowed but I continued up (dodgy the cars around the blind corners on the way up). I was nearing the M4 underpass and pulled out some wine gums. I usually like wine gums, but as I discovered on Sunday, not whilst running. There were too chewy and sweet. I will get my food sorted one day - promise!

The long run back to Newbury through Wickam and Stockcross was pretty uneventual. I had the wind behind me (which was nice). I took a couple of gels and decided to walk whilst taking them - it was a training run afterall. The run into Hungerford against the wind had sapped some energy from my legs. Breathing and HR wise I was okay; but then again I was running at a slow pace. Whilst running through Stockcross and all the way back into town I was hoping I'd spot my lost windproof jacket, but to no avail. Hay-ho, it was a long shot..

I arrived back in town and ran along the high street until I hit the 35 km mark and then stopped. I did the run in 4hrs 1 min and averaged a 6:54 min/km pace and 155 bpm HR. It took me 23 minutes longer than last week, which was the goal. My long runs now are more about time on feet as opposed to distance and pace. It was also the first time I'd run 4 hours. I need to up the time on feet though - at best Manchester will be sub-4 hours, but Marlborough is likely to be around 7 hours; Trail Marathon Wales around 5hrs 30 mins; Endure24 (erm, 24 hours or until I can't physcially run anymore!); and Bath to Newbury around 11 hours. I have a lot more training to do! Eeeks!

I was impressed with the new vest. It's heaver than my old one and my shoulders were a little achy during the rest of the day, but that's just because I need to get use to it. My Achilles also seemed to hold up. More of a concern is the injury to my right foot. It seems to be reoccuring. I only felt it after I took my trainer off. I was then hobbling around all day and even today it is a little painful. I'm taking plenty of painkillers. I only noticed it after the long run. The 20 km last Thursday wasn't an issue, nor the 11 km on Saturday. I just need to keep an eye on it  - like the Achilles, it is all about pain management (and possibly replanning of some my runs).

This week I ran 79 km or 49 miles, which is bang on target for this week. Given the horrendous weather and my injuries (especially earlier in the week), I am amazed I ran that far. I also spent over 8 hours running.

Physically and I am fine - it's just the Achilles and right foot I need to be careful of. My knees (since getting the new trainers) are great. Not feeling any pain.

Not too sure what this week will bring. I know what is planned, but I need to see how my right foot is. At the time of writing it's not good, so I may reduce my mileage next week and use it as a "Recovery Week" - that is, rest the foot for 2 - days then gradually start running again towards the end of the week. I also need to make sure I don't batch up all my runs towards the back end of the week. Running on tired legs on a Sunday is good, but not all the time...

Happy running everyone....!

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Running Gods, Endure24 and an Ultra Virgin!

I was hoping after last weeks' frustrations that this week I could fall back into my training plan and hit all my specified targets for each run. Not to be: Day 1 / Run 1 - failed to get out of bed due to an injury!!!

I swear the Running Gods are against me this month!!

No sooner do I recover from my multiple illnesses and trainer blisters than those Running Gods laugh at me and reward my hard work with yet more pain. This time the pain was  on the top/side of my right foot. I had this pain before when I first ran in my trail shoes and it went after a while. I suspect the problem was either Extensor Tenonities (i.e., pressure on the tendons as a result of the laces being too tight), or the support in the new shows positioning my foot in a position it's not used to running in (hence the pain of the tendons having to adjust). It was probably both! Either way it was painful to walk on, let along run. The good news is that as the days passed, the pain got less. This was hugely frustrating - I just wanted to get out and run. I'd worked so hard the previous two weeks (through some difficult times), but this had stopped me in my tracks (literally).

New Hydration Pack
To cheer myself up I invested in a new hydration vest. I currently own a Camelbak Classic
My new "life jacket" - Camelbak Ultra LR

2ltr. I love that pack. Holds all the water I need and fits snugly on my back. I've never had any issues with it moving about and I never really feel the weight (even with 2 litres of water). However storage is limited -  very limited! At best I can pack my phone and keys into the pocket, attach my folded windproof jacket (which folds up tightly into its own case) to the mesh on the back, and if I am lucky I can stuff a gel into the main body (next to the bladder). If I want to carry anything else then I need to use my shorts' pockets or the SiS Gel Belt I have (another new purchase this week!). The pack is fine for medium length runs or runs that are supported, but for longer unsupported runs (e.g., in training), it's no good. I need to carry more junk.

After much deliberation, discussion with Stouty, and search through the forums and product reviews, I chose the Camelbak Ultra LR vest. It comes with a 2 ltr bladder which hangs on the waist, and the option to add 2 water bottles in the chest pockets. There is also plenty of storage. I know some people hate running with bladders because they cannot see how much water is left. I don't mind and prefer the weight on my back or around the waist as opposed to on my chest. Everyone is different - it's very much a personal choice. To top things off, I also got it at a bargain price. It retails for £110 and I picked it up on Amazon for £68. Thank you very much Mr Amazon - or is that, Mr Alton Sports!

It must be something about being ill or injured, but I seem to buy or sign up for things that I ought not to. I'm like a loose canon that needs controlling. Within the space of a month, and through illness or injury, I decided to run (and arrange) the Bath to Newbury 56 mile run for the Newbury Runners (what was I thinking!), and buy a new hydration vest. Well earlier this week I also decided, after reading Paul Ali's blog, to do Endure 24 as a solo runner!

I'd pondered doing this last year but elected not to. I was planning on running the Lakeland Marathon instead. However, after reading Paul Ali's blog I quickly logged onto the website and signed up! There were only 10 places left.

Now this may seem like a totally stupid thing to do, especially as it is only 1 week after a very tough trail marathon Snowdonia. However I think running solo would be good for me for a number of reasons:
  • Financially it is cheaper than travelling up north to run the Lakeland marathon and spending money on two nights' accommodations and petrol. £70 to enter Endure24 is a lot, but I'd spend more than that on petrol just getting to the Lakes and back! Not surprisingly the Lakeland Marathon is now out of the schedule.
  • Although it's only 1 week after the Trail Marathon Wales, I will still have a week to recover (meaning no running whatsoever!) and in theory, given the mileage I'll be running by then, I shouldn't be too tired (hopefully I won't pick up an injury in Wales!)
  • There is no pressure on me at Endure24. I'm running solo so have no pressure in relation to team mates. I can run as fast or as slow as I want; I can eat, sleep, walk when I want. I see it as complete freedom. If I want to push myself then I can.
  • It's a safe place to push my running limits. The 5 mile circuit is perfect - never too far away from a marshal.
I haven't set a goal yet for Endure24 - I will do that closer to the time. However I would like to see how far I can run within the 24 hours. I have the Bath to Newbury (56 miles) run in August and I suspect that will take approximately 10 - 12 hours to complete depending on the weather. If I can run 50 miles from the outset and within that time-frame, then I should be able to take 4 or 5 hours rest (during the evening) and then run some more. If I could do 70 miles I'd be happy, but as I say, I haven't set any real targets yet. Too early in my training, and the above might just be wishful thinking anyway.

Although I'm entered as a solo runner, I had to create a team name. My 1-man team is called An Ultra Virgin. Technically I won't be an ultra virgin due to Marlborough, but in reality I will have so much to learn that it still makes me a virgin. I feel Endure24 is the perfect place to do that learning.

Back to Running
After a few days off running and feeling very frustrated, I tentatively headed out on Thursday evening. I'd bought some Hilly doubled-layered socks to try and prevent further blistering. I decided to test them out on Thursday. This was more a free run - that is, I wasn't focusing on pace or HR. I just ran. I could still feel a little pain in the right foot. I stopped, played around with the laces, then continued. The pain started to subside. I ran out towards Ball Hill and into the sticks. It was pitch black and very foggy...very hard to see with only a headtorch. It was, nevertheless, very peaceful. I ended up running a fairly hilly 17.30km. This was a planned distance as it was exactly half the distance of my Sunday Long Run. I was just short of home when my watch told me the run had finished, so I then reset it and plodded home for the final km as part of a cool down. In the end I covered 18.30 km. The right foot felt great - no pain whatsoever. I felt a tiny blister appear on my left foot, but when I got home it wasn't the case. It was just the old blister (which is now healing up). The run took 1hr 49mins with an average pace of 6.21 min/km and a HR of 171 bpm. In actual fact my pace was faster - it was just the 3 killer hills that slowed me right down. I felt really good after the run...although my HR was high for a training run. Andy Tucker would not be happy with that!

I took Friday as a rest day and on Saturday I went for a gentle recovery run. I ran 9km in 58 mins with an average pace of 6.27 bpm. Average HR was again around the 162 bpm mark (too high really).

My HR readings are a little frustrating...they seem to fluctuate so much depending on the time of day. The other issue I have is that as my runs get longer, especially during the week, then I need to up the pace in order to finish them before I go to work. This week I ran in the evening, but that was an exception. Usually it's first thing in the morning. That said,  I do need to start running at a faster pace.

Sunday was the Long Run again. This time I was without my running partner Robin. The plan was to run the following route: Wash Common - Newbury - Hungerford (along the A34) - Wickham - Stockcross - Newbury. Given there was no wind I wanted to up the pace but still keep to a HR no higher than 165 bpm.

I set off at 5.50am and headed down Andover Road into town. It was nice to start the run downhill! I reached Waitrose and the it was a long slow slog up to the bridge over the A34. I decided to slow the pace...bearing in mind my HR target. The run along the A4 to Hungford was pleasent. There was no wind and I able to run at close to or exceeding my marathon pace all the way to Hungerford; only slowing down slightly when running up a hill.

I hit Hungerford and swung a right at the Shell garage. I then walked for a couple of minutes at the base of Eddington Hill (A338) whilst taking on some food. At this point I'd covered 16 km and it had taken me 1 hr 38 mins. I tested the Alpen bar to see what it was like. It felt heavy to chew, and I was needing a lot of water to swollen it. It's a nice bar, but I'm not too sure I'd want to eat it during a warmer climate. Although I was walking a little (and my average pace for that km increasing), I felt it was more important to test the food. I then started moving my legs faster and started the ascent up Eddington Hill towards to the M4 junction. This was a bitch of a road. Traffic was a nightmare - they come round blind corners fast and there is no pavement to run along. Thankfully at that time of the morning it was quiet, but when a car did past me, I'm sure my HR spiked a little. The road itself seemed like a never-ending series of steep ascents and descents. A real leg-sapper, especially after already running 16 km. I eventually reached the M4, but even then the hills did not stop.

After stopping to take an energy gel and put my gap on,  I the proceeded along the road to
Run Elevation

Wickham. It's one thing running in the dark along a very long straight road (and not seeing the pain that lies ahead), but it's another doing it during the day when all you can see in front of you is miles of open road. Lots of descents and ascents mixed with long straights. Mentally it was a little challenge. I saw some cyclists (I'm sure I said hello to Gobi Lord as he flew past!) and thought, "wow, it's a lot easier cycling this route than running it!". No sooner do you get to a end of a long straight, then you turn the corner and there is another one. Running in the dark has it's advantages...and now I prefer to run in the dark.

I'd probably hit the 26 km mark and my legs were starting to feel the effect of the running on Thursday and Saturday. Breathing and HR were good, and very consistent, but my legs on the ascents were starting to feel heavy; I eventually hit Stockcross and psychologically I'd hit a milestone. I stopped to take another gel and realised I only had one more ascent to make - past the Vineyard restaurant. I came out back on the A4 and the bridge that crossed the A34. I ran back down the A4 towards Waitrose. I had to pick my car up as I'd left it at the Parkway car park. I hit the centre of town and ran along the high street. I finished at the entrance to Parkway and stopped the watch. It read 34.50km - perfect distance which I couldn't have planned better (I'd aimed for a 34.60 km).

HR Chart
I'd averaged 6:18 min/km and a 161 bpm. I was one very happy bunny. I was only 4 miles short of completing the marathon distance and I wasn't puffing or panting, although my legs did feel heavy. 

I was really pleased with this run. Yes it's not at Zone 2, but I am happy sitting at around the 160 bpm mark. I also seem to be running faster at the this HR range. Over the past 3 weeks I've been at this range, and my pace has increased each week.

Finding the Right Food
As you probably gathered from this and previous blogs, I am in the process of trying to find the right food to eat whilst running. In the past I've had jelly tots, jelly beans, jelly babies and various cereal bars, and none of them have been right for me. They are either too sweet, too dry, or too chewy. I used SiS gels, which are good, but a few they also become too sweet. On the Long Run

I've just bought some wine gums. I think wine gums and they aren't too sweet. They also contain the same amount of calories as jelly babies, so hopefully they'll work. I still need to find the right "bar" to munch on. I feel this is going to be case of trial and error, but hopefully I'll find something soon. I may give the Alpen bar another try next week, and eat it more slowly.