Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Most Successful Running Week!

Having bathed in the glory (and pain) of completing my first marathon, it was time to start thinking about getting back into training. I'd been hobbling around for the 4 days following the marathon with a sore right foot and achy thighs (walking up and downstairs was fun - not!). During that week of recovery I foolishly entered the Milton Keynes Marathon on the 5 May (click here for my blog entry on that decision) and so needed to get back out on the road.

1st Post-Manchester Run
On Friday 11 April I headed out for a 10km run. I decided to set off at just above the 4-hour marathon pace (5.40 min/km) - the pace I should have run at Manchester. No sooner had I started than my legs started to feel like someone had poured cement in them! They felt so heavy and almost immediately I was starting to question my decision to enter my next marathon in 3 weeks' time. I ran from Wash Common and did a complete loop of Greenham Common. It was a lovely night for running and the cows were out aplenty on the common. My pace 
was good and as planned, and I even managed to run up the two inclines without dropping my pace. However my HR was a little on the high side - especially towards the end. I put this down to the struggle of having to lift my heavy legs! I finished the 10k at the entrance to Greenham Common (near Greenacres). I stopped the watch and was happy to have kept to a consistent 5.35 min/km pace, although I was less than happy with the way my legs felt and the ridiculously highly HR (averaging 174 bpm).

2nd-Post Manchester Run
After the first run (above) I decided to knock the pace right down for my 2.5km run home. It was a gentle recovery run at 7.12 min/km. It felt good running at that pace and my legs did not feel so heavy. Managed to also bring the HR down. In actual fact it was a pleasant run home.  However I am now questioning what state I will be in on the 5 May. The only to find out is to get back to the grindstone and hit the road. I'm still managing my injury so will have to take my training one day at a time...

Tesco Garden Loop
After spending a few days resting what was an inflamed tendon, I decided to make the most of being off work and head out for a run on Monday. A small number of fellow runners tackle a route called the "Tesco Garden Loop". Looking at their stats it looks like they are flooring it each time they go out. That's not for me, and I wouldn't be able to keep up anyway. For me I needed a slower pace. Around mid-day on Monday I set off on the route.
Tesco Garden Loop

It was a fairly warm day and the first 10km was okay, average around 5.30 min/km, although my HR was on the somewhat high side (erm, okay, on the very high side). What I wasn't expecting was the number of hills between km 11 and the end of the run. My legs started to feel heavy (again!) and I starting to realise that perhaps Manchester had taken more out of me than I first though. My pace started to drop. The final drag up Andover Hill was just painful. For a training run I'd set off too quick (again!). I know I need to add pace-based runs into my training, but I'm now thinking it is a little too soon after Manchester. I finished the 17.33km run in 1hr 43 mins with an average pace of 5:58 min/km and a ridiculously high HR of 171 bpm. Not good! Bad northerner! 

It was an interesting route, but it was hilly. The next time I run this I will tackle it with a different strategy. I will also make sure I run it either early morning or in the evening. Hot weather, running up hills and with tired legs is not fun!

The Clares & Hills
Despite my hatred towards hills, I need to start running more of the or I'll not survive the trail marathon in Snowdonia on mid-summer's day (21st June and the day before my 40th birthday). I decided to get up early on Tuesday (by that I mean Xavier got me up early, as only a 3 year old can do!) and ran a familiar 22.5km hilly route. I've run this route a number of times and really enjoy it. The route is a standard 20km loop, but I decided to add a couple of extra kilometers to it this time. I ran this using my HR monitor and looked to stick to around 150 bpm as a maximum. This of course meant my pace was very slow, especially when running up the never-ending hills.

The Cleres & Hills +2H
First the first time since Manchester my legs did not feel heavy and my HR was plodding along at just under 150 bpm for the bulk of the run. There were times when it exceeded and spiked a few times, but on the whole I controlled the run to the HR target I'd set. It was sunny but not too hot, and was very pleasant to run in. It took me 2hrs 26 mins to plod around the route with an average pace of 6:31 min/km and average HR of 148 bpm. The "+2H" denotes I added 2km of hilly terrain onto the standard run. I'd achieved my target of running an average of sub-150 bpm, but I was still heavily criticised by some fellow runners for running too fast (i.e. running with my HR too high). Given I'd run 17.5km the day before, and this run was further, more controlled and with a lower HR over hilly terrain, I was more than happy. One major negative from this run is that I got another blood blister. I should have worn my double-layered Hilly socks but instead elected for my battered old running socks that ought to have been binned years' ago. Being a bloke I tend to keep socks until they've got holes in them. Time to invest in another pair of Hilly's - although expensive at £16 a pair, they are worth it. In the meantime a Compeed now covers the blister.

Mind-numbing Greenham Common
The baron Common
Despite running two straight days I decided to make the most of having time off work and elected to go out for yet another run - this time a mid-distance run of 30km at Zone 2. The good news for me is that my max. HR has increased recently so my Zone 2 tolerance is now set at 143 bpm as opposed to 139 bpm. It may not seem much, but it does help when running.

As this was to be a HR-based run I wanted to do it on the flat, and unfortunately Greenham Common is about the flattest space in Newbury (all be it over rough, baron and tedious terrain wth no shelter from the elements - in this case the sun). I was also prepared for a long run. My Zone 2 usually means a piss-slow pace. My Garmin was set to beep every time I exceeded 143 bpm. So with the watch set and my hydration vest attached to my upper torso, I headed out for what would be a long morning.

A warm morning on the Common - 18km in

I left Wash Common and headed towards Greenham. As expected my pace was slow. Whilst on the baron terrain itself I could not only feel my tendon flaring up but I could also feel another blister brewing. Not good! I plodded around the course at a very slow pace. I didn't actually look at my pace; I was more focused on the HR. I went round 3 times, did some calculations in my head on known distances, and realised I could get away without going round for a fourth time - another half would suffice. The terrain was getting a little rough on the feet after pounding it for 3 hours. I was also seriously getting bored. My watch was constantly beeping to tell me my HR was too high and to slow down. I felt like feeding my watch to the cows! After 3.5 laps of the Common I headed back out to Wash Common for a total distance of 30km. It had taken me 3hrs 48 mins and I averaged a low Zone 2 HR of 141 bpm. This equated to an average pace of a positively backward 7.36 min/km. Now that is slow. I am ashamed of my HR vs. pace - I should be able to run faster at a lower HR, but I just can't seem to do it. What the run did do was indicate that perhaps I was still a little fatigued from Manchester.

Popped blisters
On the whole it was a good run. However, when I got home the blisters on my feet had worsened. I decided to pop them. Nice red liquid came from them - lovely! Thankfully I'm not running for a few days, but I know when I do those popped blisters are going to hurt.

<<<NEWS FLASH!!!!>>>
I saw a consultant on Wednesday evening about my tendon. I'm now booked in for an MRI scan next Tuesday. Wish me luck!

Doner Kabab Guilt-Trip Run
After taking a day off to allow the blisters to semi-heel (or at least for the pain to subside), I put the trainers back on headed back to the streets. To be honest I'd been suffering a stonking hangover from the previous night. I'd gone out for the night with my best mate and we'd drank so many pints of cider on empty stomachs that the next day we couldn't even remember how many we'd had! What I do remember is walking up Andover Hill (the dreaded hill I run up) whilst munching on a dodgy Doner Kabab in the early hours of the morning. The next morning (Good Friday) I felt somewhat delicate. After spending the day doing DIY, the guilt of drinking and munching on all those calories the night before got to me; I needed a run. I assessed the blisters; was happy with the condition of them; so headed into the sticks on a slow but hilly Zone 2 run.

I was a lovely day for a run and the legs and blisters felt fine. It was quite hilly I places but I made sure I kept to Zone 2 (max 143 bpm). At around the 8km mark I could feel the blisters but managed to continue through; stopping a few times to adjust the laces on my trainers to mitigate any further rubbing. This seemed to work. I competed the 14km run in 1hr 39 mins with an average HR of 140 bpm (good) and average pace of 7.04 min/km (wish it had been slightly faster).

After I'd rested I took off my socks and half expected another blister to have materialised. I was very happy to find no extra blisters! Yeah!

As many of my readers will know by now, I don't run fast. I really don't enjoy the pain. However recently I have been posting some PBs. The Manchester Marathon rewarded me with a 10k and Half marathon PB which, although the wrong strategy for a marathon, did put a slight smile on my face (especially as I wasn't trying to get those PBs). The last time I attended parkrun was around 3 weeks' ago and I managed to go sub-25 mins for the first time in a couple of years. Despite a long week of running I was up for a fast one on Saturday, with the aim not so much on time but to max my HR out. I therefore set the Virtual Pacer on my Garmin to 5:40 min/km over a 5.1km course (100m more than parkrun course). Whilst on the starting line I bumped into Brian Emms (a friend of mine). He agreed to pace me around for a sub-24 min time. I was so happy. It's too easy to ignore the watch; a lot harder to ignore when you also have someone shouting you! So the scene was set: I felt good; had the watch set to the pace I wanted; and I had Brian to pull me along if I started to dip. Ready, set, GO!

The first km we were just chatting and trying to wade through the 400+ runners along a narrow stretch. Started chatting about the benefits of Cliff Shot Bloks (mental note: must give them a try instead of gels!). We'd got to around 800m and my watch was telling me we were behind schedule (mainly because of the number of runners). We hit the 1km mark with time of 5:04 min/km. Not good; this meant we really needed to get motoring if we were to get back on target. By half way through the 2nd km my little Virtual Pacer man (on my watch) was telling me I was 80m behind my target pace. Brian and I kicked in and completed the 2nd km in a time of 4:31 min/km. We'd made some time up and I was a little closer to my Virtual Pacer. With the momentum with us we ploughed on at speed and completed the 3rd km in 4:29 min/km. The 4th km involves the two inclines. I looked at my watch and I was smack-bang on target (we'd made the distance back up!). I puffed and panted up the inclines and completed the 4th km in 4:38 min/km - the fasted I have ever run the 4th km! By this point I was starting to feel the affect of having to make up all that time from the first km. Brian kicked in and I couldn't keep up. At around the 4.5km mark I had to stop for a few seconds to catch my breath. When I started back again my watch was telling me I was around 15m behind my planned pace. I kicked in and crossed the line with a final km time of 4:36 min/km and a total race time of 23:27. I'd got a new PB!

After collapsing at the finish line I thanked Brian for helping me around. If only I hadn't stopped and if only we didn't have to make up so much time, then perhaps a sub-23 min would have been possible. Brian certainly thinks it was. Next time, but for now I am happy. My first 5km PB since July 2012.

Combe Gibbet
For my last run of the week I decided to run from Wash Common (near Newbury) to the top of Combe Gibbet and back (Combe Gibbet being the highest point in South-East England).I'd been planning on doing this run since last year but never got round to it. There had been predictions of storms and when the alarm went of at 5am on Easter Sunday I have to admit I did roll over and go back to sleep. My ankle needed a little rest. However the thought of running up the Gibbet played in my mind whilst dozing and at around 5:50am I got up, got ready and headed out. It wasn't raining and I wasn't sure how the run would go. I took my hydration vest, a couple of gels (which I never used in the end), and two water bottles. I also took my running cloves just in case I needed them and, more importantly, I programmed the directions into Google Maps so my phone could guide me to the top. I also planned to take my time and not burn myself out. I'd run the Gibbet last year as part of a tough 10km race; I learnt a lot of lessons in that race. I also planned to take a few stops to take pictures and some videos. I was going to enjoy this final run.
Huff Haus

The first 6km was a pretty uneventful flat route; however before I knew it I was starting the first of many ascents. I was looking to keep the HR low. My mobile phone was losing signal, so I was stopping every so often to make sure I was going in the right direction. I passed a Huff Haus en route - I love these houses. I remember seeing one on Grand Designs and thinking how cool it would be to own one.

One of the early ascents
I continued past the Huff Haus and up the gradual ascents. HR was starting to exceed Zone 2 (143 bpm) so I would really slow down or walk for a few seconds until the HR came back to Zone 2. It was a lovely run and thankfully it wasn't raining.

At around this point I was wishing I hadn't worn my long-sleeve running top as I was getting a little hot; nevertheless I was really enjoying the run (despite my phone constantly losing its signal and then regaining it).

Steepest ascent - VERY STEEP!
Before I knew it the ascents got steeper and I'd given up trying to keep my HR in Zone 2. As long as I didn't blow my HR then I was happy. I was still running a slow pace and was doing a good job of keeping my HR to around the 155 - 160 bpm range. At this stage I started filming the run using my phone. I really enjoyed it, but looking at the video now I have decide not to publish it. Very wobbly and if you suffer motion sickness then it's not something you'll enjoy. This was also the point (around the 9km mark) that I started to hit the steepest ascent on the run. I took a picture and I know it doesn't look that steep, but trust me it was!

Lovely views

As I continued to ascend the temperature started to drop and the heavy fog and clouds started to cover the landscape. It was at this point I was then glad I'd worn my long-sleeved running top. So up and up I went at a slow place with the watch beeping to let me know I was no longer in Zone 2.

Start of the track
Soon the road turned into a gravel and rocky track. I continued for another couple of kms and I soon started to recognise that track. It was the same one used on the Gibbet 10k. I continued long (shooting more video). My trainers were not ideal on this terrain. I really needed my trail shoes, but given most of the route is on road then I had to stick with the road runners. My ankle was starting to twist and turn, and for the first time the tendon in the right foot started to hurt slightly.

View from the summit - in fog/cloud
With nothing insight due to the fog/cloud I reached the final 500m and the ascent up to the summit of Gibbet. The wind was really howling and it was getting really cold. I ignored my HR as I knew when I got to the top I'd be able to catch my breath. I reached the summit and stopped the watch so I could take in the views. However there were none as these pictures can testify to! Too much cloud.

Gibbet Summit - in fog/cloud

It was a lovely run to the top and I clocked 12km from my house to the top. I decided to take another video whilst up there, and as you can see (and hear) the conditions were pretty awful. I'm just thankful it didn't rain. I pulled out my cloves and put them on - my hands were getting a tad-cold! 

A steep descent

After around 5 minutes on the summit I decided to head back. It was nice running downhill for a change. My HR though wouldn't drop into Zone 2 for a quite a while. Some of the hills are harder descending than they are ascending, and you really have to stop yourself from going fast; but it is a nice feeling going downhill!

In the end the run had a total distance of 24.68km and I completed it in a leisurely 2hrs 46 minutes (which included all the faffing around I was doing with sat nav on the phone and taking pictures and videos). My average pace actually fell within Zone 2 with a 142 bpm but a max of 171 bpm as I ran up to the summit. I also averaged 6.44 min/km.

This was a really lovely route and one I plan on doing many times over the coming months. There is also plenty to scope to expand the route both in terms of distance covered and the number of hills. These are all options I'm going to consider over the next week or two.

Final Thoughts
This has been a great week for me. I took advantage of being off work for the first 3 days of the week and there being a Bank Holiday in the form of Good Friday. I ran 6 times, covered a total distance of 113km (70 miles) and achieved a new 5km PB at parkrun. I've never run that far in a single week in my life! Okay I've also got blisters on my feet and my tendon is sore, but it's been worth it to get the mileage in. I've ran some interesting routes this week and made the most of my time.

Gibbet Route
It's back to work next week and I also need to start thinking about tapering for the Milton Keynes Marathon in a couple of weeks. But first I shall take a couple of days' off from running and get the MRI scan on Tuesday night. I'm just hoping I am still allowed to run. A break of just a couple of months would wipe out my entire season of running, given the length of time it takes to get back up to marathon fitness. So my fingers and toes are all crossed!

I hope everyone has had a good week running and eaten lots of Easter Eggs!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

News Flash! A New Challenge

Having completed the Manchester Marathon (all be it injured), I feel I have unfinished business with the marathon (target sub-4 hours). I've therefore decided to make some changes to my running schedule:

  • I've now entered the Milton Keynes Marathon on the 5 May 2014 (not sure I will go sub-4 hours, but hope to make a significant improvement on my time at Manchester)
  • I'm seriously considering withdrawing from the Marlborough Downs Challenge on the 10 May 2014 due to stress it will put on my right foot
  • I am withdrawing from the Bath to Newbury Ultra in August 2014 due to the lack of medical support should there be an issue with my right foot.
  • I'm still hopeful of running my first ultramarathon this year, with Enudure 24 still on the cards.
  • I am considering the Robin Hood Marathon on the 28 September 2014, but will make the decision closer to the time

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Uploading Garmin Runs via Mobile Device

If you are one of those people who love to upload their Garmin runs to either Garmin Connect or Strava but are reliant on a laptop or PC to do it, then look no further as there is now a way you can do it using your mobile phone - all be it with a little cost.

The following instructions are aimed at those people wishing to upload their Garmin runs using an Android Smartphone only. Instructions on uploading using a 10" tablet are better covered by DC Rainmaker on the following link:


Unfortunately you are unable to upload runs to an iPhone, due to the nature of the Apple ecosystem and the restrictive nature it poses.

STEP 1:  Is my device compatible?
The only way to get the data from your watch to the phone is through the use of an On The Go (OTG) adaptor, which allows you to connect a standard USB connector to a Micro USB cable. What this means is that you take the USB cable from your Garmin charger, plug it into the OTG adaptor which then plugs into your phone via the Micro USB socket. I purchased mine from eBay for the total sum of £2.75.

In order to use this device, your mobile needs to be enabled to allow OTG attachments. This can only be done via your mobile operator as part of the firmware. To check for compatibility simply download from Google Play the USB OTG Checker.

If your device is compatible you can then delete the app.

STEP 2: Download the main application
To download the data you will need to use an uploader. In this case we are using the Sportablet application pack. There are two versions: the main Sportablet app which should be used with 10" tablets, and the Uploader for Garmin app. We will be using the  Uploader for Garmin app. You can download it for free, but you only get to do one upload to test it on your device. Thereafter you are prompted to buy. It costs £4.19.

STEP 3: Uploading a run
In this example I was using a Sony Xperia T and Garmin Forerunner 305.

Plug the OTG adaptor into your phone and the Uploader for Garmin app will automatically launch.

Click OK to begin the upload

The data will be uploaded from your phone to the application.

Click the Done button to show the uploaded run(s)

Click on the run to view the details

At this stage you can only see the basic information and you are unable to edit in this app (e.g. by giving your run a title). The main app (for 10" tablets) will allow you to do this, but not the Uploader for Garmin Edits need to be made in Garmin Connect or Strava.

Click on the Export button and select where you want to send/publish your run. There are lots of options, but for this example I will be uploading to Garmin Connect (this will be followed by how to upload to Strava, which is slightly different). 

Scroll down the list and select Garmin Connect. You will be prompted for your Garmin login details

Once entered, click okay and your run will be uploaded to Garmin Connect

You can then either click on the link to view the run in Garmin Connect or you can login into Garmin Connect via your browser to edit the run. In this example I will just click on the link to demonstrate that it does actually upload

This run wasn't really a run but more me turning on the phone for a couple of seconds to record a run...hence the strange values in the data fields

There we have it - your run uploaded!

It is possible using your phone to edit your run using the browser...or if you have a tablet at hand (in my case an iPad Mini) then you can edit your run using a slightly larger screen. Your choice...

It may look like a faff, but once you've established if your phone will support the OTG cable and you have bought the app, the actual process of uploading the run is very quick. What it means is that you can upload your run to Garmin Connect and edit the run all before getting back to your car to drive home...now that is handy!

Uploading to Strava
Uploading to Strava is not quite as simple and uses a different approach.

When you get the option to select where you wish to send the run, select Strava (email)

This method uses email (which is a bit of a faff)

Ensure you use the right email address. I have two Gmail accounts on my phone, and need to make sure I select the right one (which is the one that isn't my default).

Select your primary email client (in my case it is the Gmail app)

In this example I need to switch to the account I use for Strava, which is the .subscription account

The GPX file is automatically attached to the email which will be sent to upload@strava.com (the To: field is automatically populated for you)

Give the email a Subject and some basic text in the body and then send

The email app will automatically close and the screen will revert back to the app, where there will be a confirmation screen that the email (and run) has been sent to Strava

Within 30 seconds you will receive an email confirming the run has been sent and that it should be available to view shortly. In my experience it has taken a good couple of minutes.

Close the Upload for Garmin app...

...and either launch the Strava app or login via a web browser (in this example I launched the app)

The run marked Salford is the one I am using. Again this run wasn't really a run but more me turning on the phone for a couple of seconds to record a run...hence the strange values in the data fields

Click on the run for further details

Much like Garmin Connect, you will need to edit the run whilst in Strava (e.g. giving it a name).

I hope this is helpful...and happy running!