Monday 29 September 2008

Taper time

This week I tapered more than planned. I rested Sunday and Monday as usual, and truth be told I wouldn't have been up to a run anyway. Various tendons were sore or strained after all the climbing on Saturday doing the Open to Offas event.

I then had to unexpectedly work away from home on Tuesday, which was then extended to Thursday, so I missed my run on Tuesday and on Wednesday. Still, it probably wasn't a bad thing to recover from the weekend.

On Thursday evening I ran my speed session. I stuck to the targets of 1:36 for 400M and 3:12 for 800M and ran the splits to within a second or so of each. On the 1.5mile uphill run home, I do as a warm-down one of my ankle ligaments, and left hamstring was still sore, but nothing serious. I went to the gym as usual and did an hour strength and stability, then half an hour in the Sauna. I saw Clive who I used to have PT sessions with, and he asked if I fancied a run the following evening over the Staffordshire moors.

So, after work we drove to The Roaches near Leek, pictured.

We set off running about 5:30pm. I had no idea how far Clive wanted to run, I figured maybe around 2 hours, getting back at 7:30pm just as it got dark. An hour or so into the run Clive asked me when it got dark, as he had thought 8:30PM!! I told him it was 7:30pm and we would now probably end up finishing in darkness.

The route began my climbing Hen Cloud, then descending before marching up and then running along the ridgeline of The Roaches themselves. Next was a level section for about a mile before a descent into Ludds Church (pictured here) which is a natural cave which was used for the outlawed religious practice in the 15th century (see here). The descent continued to Gradbach Youth Hostel, before long steady climb then descent to the natural turning point called Three Shires Head.

I was carrying water, but nothing else, not anticipating being out this long. Despite the sunny day and amazing views of Staffordshire and Derbyshire it was very cold. I had shorts and t-shirt and was wearing an Under Armour heat-gear top for some silly reason (dissipates heat). So, I was starting to feel a little cold. I borrowed a long sleeve shirt from Clive, as he had a spare as well as a Pertex top. After a steady climb out of Three Shires Head the light was now all but gone, being around 7:40, we were forced to walk several sections on the way back to avoid injury. We descended down a different path to the Youth Hostel again before heading up through the woods towards The Roaches. It was too dark to run this section, and without the bit of light cast from Clive's PDA progress would have been even slower. I stumbled a couple of times, but no damage done. I was quite worried about turning an ankle in the darkness, but got out unscathed. We emerged back onto the road at Roach End, and returned by the road at a run. Climbing back over the Roaches in the dark would have been asking for trouble. We got back to the car about 8:30 and had covered 13 miles with 2600ft of ascent.

It was certainly more than I was planning on doing, and on Saturday my resting pulse was slightly elevated so I took that to mean I was not fully recovered and so should not run. My hamstrings were a little sore again too, so it was better to rest than force out 8 or 10 miles because that's what my training schedule said.

So now I have just one week of quite light training left before I go to South Africa on the evening of the 7th October for the KAEM. I've still not quite got all the food and kit I need so I really had better sort this out. My preparation really has been quite poor, and I'm far too laid back about the event, and bizarrely not apprehensive at all. This could well prove my undoing, so I need to buck my ideas up this week and get 'the fear'.

Have a good week!

Sunday 21 September 2008

LDWA: Open to Offas 30 mile

This week I didn't train on Tuesday evening, so I could go and get some chiropractic treatment (and a little sports massage too).

So, to make up for that missed session I ran 10 miles on Wednesday with a 5kg pack. There was around 1000ft of ascent and I ran average 6mph. I wore the same pair of shoes I used in the MDS to see if they might carry me through this event too, without having to buy another pair. For the first few miles my feet suffered, as even though the New Balance 1100MDS have quite a lot of cushioning, my sensitive little tootsies could tell the difference from the luxury cushioning road shoes I've been wearing for months. Either that, or the cushioning on the 1100 shoes has deteriorated. I estimate I've covered 250 miles in them, so normally I'd say they should be ok. However, I will be covering another 150 miles in them in South Africa which would tip the total over the 350 miles I usually change them at. Towards the end of the run my feet felt better, so I decided I'd use them at the weekend on the 30 mile LDWA event.

On Thursday I did my speed session. It has been pointed out to me in comments from my last post that I shouldn't be trying to beat by interval target times, as this could prove detrimental. However, not armed with that knowledge when I did this weeks session, I went out and blitzed most of the target times, as seen below. 400M target - 1:36, 800M - 3:12

400m 01:36
400m 01:35
400m 01:28
400m 01:34
400m 01:28
400m 01:33
400m 01:28
400m 01:33
800m 03:09
800m 02:59
800m 03:09
800m 02:59

Now I know better, I will ease off and stick to the target times for the next couple of weeks. Especially since I am now tapering my mileage. My right ITB was still a little sore, but it didn't feel too bad on either Wednesday or Thursday.

I also went to the gym on Thursday for my strength and stability gym session, and half hour sauna. I'm warming myself up (excuse pun) for having a nightly sauna sessions for the next couple of weeks, in an attempt to increase my sweat rate and maybe gain a little acclimatisation in the process. I'm not sure there is any scientific study to say that this (Sauna) works, but psychologically it makes me feel better, and that is equally as important I think. If I think I've done all I can in advance, to prepare for the heat, then I won't have a nagging worry in my mind that my preparation is lacking.

Preparation was certainly lacking on my part, for the event on Saturday, the 30 mile Open to Offas LDWA event. I'd had some flooring put down in my house on Friday evening, and as a result the whole house was upside down. I got my computer back up and running about 10pm. I hastily transferred the route onto my PDA and then made my packing preparations. By the time I finished it was 00:30, so I didn't get to sleep before 1am and then had to be up at 6:20am to drive to the event for the8:30 start. Usually I take the time to study the route, memorize where and for how long there are uphill, downhill and flat sections etc. I didn't do any of that. All I knew was there was a lot of up and down, and very little flat; a total of just over 7000ft of ascent. Also, I usually ensure I have directions to the start all set out, but I just gambled that setting my cars sat nav to 'town centre' of Cilcain (the small village where we started) would work.

Well, where the sat nav thought was this little village, wasn't. So, I got a little lost. This meant I missed the start, setting off 15 minutes after everyone else.

A lot more details on the event can be found here.
I wore the 1100MDS trainers, and for the first time, some compression tights on my legs, my usual Raidriders shirt and a 6.5kg weighted rucksack. The full length tights certainly drew a few confused glances in the hot sunshine that we enjoyed all day. The day was very warm for this time of year (about 20-22C), but still a good 20C down on South Africa.

The first 5 miles were straightforward enough; a couple of small hills but nothing too serious. I caught many of the walkers up before the first checkpoint and a few of the runners too. CP1 to CP2 was where the route followed the Offas Dyke footpath, and the serious climbing began.

From Desert Racer

As you can see form the hill profile, it is just steep uphill, then downhill for the next 15-20 miles.

From Desert Racer

I made a critical error just before CP2, following some runners in the distance rather than my own navigation. I descended a steep hill called Moel Arthur, apparently Queen Boudica's burial place! I got to the very bottom and wondered why I had lost sight of the other runners. I realised to my horror that I should have diverted to get to the very top of the hill and a checkpoint, before descending. So I added a mile extra onto my route and had to make a very steep ascent, which really took it out of me for such an early stage in the race (8 miles).

I eventually got back up, checked in, and left again, loosing around 20 minutes I'd guess and then had to start catching up and passing all the people I had already passed(after alread starting 15 minutes behind them and catching them once before, arrggh!!!). I had a lot of problems with my Bluetooth GPS which kept losing comms with my PDA. This drove me nuts all day and I lost 10 or more minutes sorting that out as well.

The next checkpoint was on the highest peak of the day, Moel Famau, shown below (plus views to the sides) but here seen in winter for some perspective of the mountain range (Clywidian) of the Offas Dyke

From Desert Racer

From Desert Racer

From Desert Racer
Next there was a welcoming 1 mile descent to the next checkpoint. It should have been welcoming but my right knee felt weak. As the run progressed it actually turned out to be my right quad muscle in spasm. It cramped on every footstep when climbing and made my knee feel very unstable when descending. I stopped some miles later and found a painful bunched muscle. I gave myself some impromptu massage which sorted it out. Anyway, I descended to CP4 where there was a lot of food laid on. There were 3 routes running; a 14, 21 and 30. I declared I was going on for the 30 and after a 5 minute stop to top up water and food set off. I was warned that the next climb Foel Fenlli was very steep. If you glance at the route map above, I'm certain you will be able to pick out the right hill (around 14 miles)! It's not a massively long climb, but it is steep, with sets of stairs from some of it. Just before the half way stage, and already after a lot of tiring climbing it wasn't very welcome. I happened to be with a group of 4 people I'd caught up and made the climb with them, so chatted away to take my mind off the screaming muscles. At the top (CP5) I resumed running on my own again.

Cp5 to Cp6 was only 5 miles, but it felt like more, over two or three more climbs. I was working hard with the weight, and now in the warmest part of the day, sweating quite heavily.
From Desert Racer
The scenery as you can see in all the photos was superb. This taken just before CP6.

From Desert Racer
I'd been slowly catching up another runner between CP5 and CP6, and came into that CP just behind him. I sat and refuelled for 5 minutes and then ran with the chap, Roger, for the remainder of the route. He'd done the route 3 times, so guaranteed I didn't get lost again. I could probably have pushed harder if I was on my own, but I rationalised it as 'time on my feet' being more important than a fast finish in preparation for South Africa. Also, I had lost so much time with the problems earlier I was averaging a pretty poor pace and time anyway.
The worst of the climbing was over apart from a log slog up a steep road, and then onto a footpath onto a Limestone hillside called Pothole Crags and CP8 (there was no CP7). Where these photo's were taken from, looking back across the valley to some of the hill tops I had ran on, an hour or two earlier.
From Desert Racer

From Desert Racer

One of me, in all my gear.
From Desert Racer
There was one final unpleasant climb between CP8 and CP9 where the three routes merged at that final CP. We made another 5 minute stop to refuel and then ran the whole distance from CP9 to the finish along a pleasant path with just a small climb at the end. It took me 8 hours and 15 minutes, which is quite poor, compared to recent performance. However, I was wearing a race weight pack and there was an awful lot of climbing! I suffered a couple of hotspots underneath my left foot, and this has more or less convinced me that the 1100MDS shoes have had their day, and won't make it through another event. I have been wearing New Balance MT800's for the last few months when doing off-road LDWA events, with no problems so I may see if I can get hold of them in a size larger to take to South Africa.
I'll make a separate post about my kit later this week maybe, as I've made a few changes.

My ITB didn't cause me problems on the run, but it was sore on Sunday, along with a few other tendons on my knees and ankles. Still a few lingering aches today, but with less mileage this week I should be ok.
That's it for now. Have a good week

Sunday 14 September 2008

ITB bites back

My right iliotibial band has been playing up this week. :(

I did my speed session on Tuesday, results below (targets: 1:40 and 3:12)
400m| 01:36
400m| 01:36
400m| 01:33
400m| 01:35
400m| 01:33
400m| 01:35
400m| 01:33
400m| 01:36
800m| 03:10
800m| 03:05
800m| 03:11
800m| 02:57

Towards the end and on the 1.5 mile warm-down run home the right ITB was really hurting, side of my leg just above the knee. As soon as I slow to a walk it goes away. Now, I read somewhere that adding a lot of speed work could cause this, but I am more inclined to believe I just need straightening out again! I'm going to see my Uncle chiropractor on Tuesday evening, and I hope that will cure it.

On Wednesday it didn't feel right, so I wisely rested. Instead of doing another speed session on Thursday I ran 8 miles tempo run. Half road, half trail 900ft of ascent and average 7:55 minute miles. I very very cautious for the first 2 miles, running about 9.5 minute miles to warm up the ITB. The niggling pain got less after that and enabled me to speed up, but never really went away, coming back on hills especially.

Come Friday, I decided 4 miles into a scheduled 12 mile run that I should play safe and cut it short, so I basically repeated the previous days effort and did the same 8 mile course. This time the pain wasn't as bad at all, and was barely noticeable. I was tempted to add more miles on the end, but again played safe. I was very tempted to can my planned 15 mile run on Saturday and do 2 hours on the exercise bike. However, just the thought of riding on the spot for 2 hours seemed worse than any ITB niggle. I spent some extra time on my inversion rack over the next couple of days. I also did some extra stretching and used my foam roller too. Basically throwing everything at the problem!

On Saturday I dug out my MDS racing pack and loaded it up for the first time since the MDS (I’ve used a light camelback for the last few weeks). I put only 5kg of weight inside. You remember, I have gambled with my training for the KAEM (in 3 weeks), and not trained with any weight so far. Well, I completed the 15 miles run with few issues. Again slight ITB niggles, but no showstopper. The route had 1250ft of ascent, and 70% of it was on the road. I only averaged 6.1mph, but that isn't too bad with the 5kg pack.

So, I'll get treatment in the next few days, and hopefully that'll be the end of ITB worries. I may only do one speed session this week too.

I am doing the Open to Offas LDWA event on Saturday. It is a 30 mile course taking in over 7000ft of ascent, so I am expecting it to be tough. The paths looks much better than the Rhayader Mountain trail thankfully, but a hill is a hill, so my legs should know about it come Saturday evening. It will also wrap up my one and only 50 mile week, and then it is two weeks of taper before the KAEM. It seems to be coming around so quickly and I feel ill prepared if truth be told. I have not yet got all the kit and food I need, so I had really better start my preparations in earnest. I need to be approaching this event with even more respect that I gave the MDS, since it is going to be tougher, but so far I have not done that. I'm not sure why, but I definitely need to give myself a good talking to! Mind you, people tend to get locked up for doing that sort of thing. That said, I think most of us who tackle these events are certifiable!

Enjoy you week.

Monday 8 September 2008

LDWA: Hills and Dales 2008

More of Hills and Dales in just a moment, but first the rest of the week.

Week two of my training has gone well enough. I did my speed sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, raising my intervals target by 6 seconds for 400M (target 1:36) and 12 seconds for 800M (target 3:11).

Tuesday | Thursday
Time | Time
01:34 | 01:33
01:34 | 01:38
01:31 | 01:31
01:35 | 01:34
01:32 | 01:31
01:35 | 01:34
01:34 | 01:31
01:35 | 01:33
03:13 | 03:10
03:05 | 03:07
03:14 | 03:10
03:07 | 03:07

You may notice that every other split is slightly faster. This is because the 400M and 800M leg isn't flat. There is a slight incline, so I run slightly slower on the uphill and slightly faster on the downhill. The 400M split is very comfortable indeed. I daresay I could raise the target by 10 seconds and still feel quite comfortable over the 8 x 400M intervals. However, the 800M are less comfortable, because of the incline. I will keep the targets the same for the next week of training.

On Wednesday I did an 9 mile steady run, but unusually for me, on a treadmill. I can never be accused of being a fine weather jogger, but the weather this week has been awful. There is flooding in many parts of the country. On Wednesday night, it was raining so hard and the ground was already so wet I decided to run at the gym.
I ran at a 11.5kph for 7.5miles, and wound it up to 13kph, and then 14kph for the last mile and a half.

After my speed session on Thursday I did an hour and a half in the gym, doing strength and stability exercises and then a half hour in the sauna. I'm probably going to repeat my nightly sauna sessions in the last two weeks before the KAEM in South Africa, just in case it does give any acclimatisation benefit.

It rained hard all day Friday, and through into Saturday morning. As I got up at 7am and got ready for the LDWA Hills and Dales event, I knew the weather and terrain was going to be unpleasant. I wore running tights, and a waterproof jacket. I had only a light camelback rucksack, perhaps 2.5 kilo's in weight. I arrived at High Ash field study centre with about 20 minutes to spare and checked the route on the map there. The walkers had started at 8am, and a few runners were leaving early, before the scheduled start at 9am. I guess they wanted to get it over and done with because of the rain. About 150 were expected and only 70 turned up (all entrants). Only about 10 runners started at 9am, of which I was one. Clearly all of us made of sterner stuff than the people who had bailed on the event, and were lazing in bed!

Within 100 yards of the start everyone was ankle deep in mud and water, so wet feet straight away and so it would be for the whole course. I fell behind the other runners fairly quickly as I started steady. I was also really distracted for the first 3 hours. I had bitten my tongue on the drive to the event, whilst chewing on a sports bar and it wouldn't stop bleeding. Just a steady trickle of blood, which I was spitting out. I think because your mouth is always wet the blood doesn't clot, so a cut just bleeds. At times I ran with my finger pressed on my tongue, applying pressure, but when I took it off, it just bled again. It trickled away for 3 hours, eventually stopping when I tore up some of the route description and bit down on it for 20 minutes. So, that distraction did me no favours early on. Route finding was surprisingly difficult in the first few miles. I lost 15 minutes going the wrong way, and had to turn a group of 10 walkers (who I had already passed) around, who had made the same mistake as me. Then half a mile later, I could see maybe 20 walkers ahead who I thought were going the wrong (slightly longer, but less ascent) route. I spent 10 minutes searching for a near invisible path down into a valley, up the other side and then along a lane to the Travellers Rest pub on the Leek to Buxton Road. So before I got to checkpoint 1 I had lost half an hour with route finding, and was still suffering with my tongue injury! Great start!

The route after CP1 was familiar right up to CP4, so route finding became easy. My tongue stopped bleeding between CP2 and CP3, just before the long climb up to the Trig point at Roach End. I had run the Roaches section countless times in training, and I also knew the route to CP4 from memory, knowing areas of bad ground to avoid as well. Now the tongue distraction had gone, I was able to pick up my pace. I passed the last of the walkers before CP3 and had gone past the early start runners as well. After CP3 there is a fairly long climb up to the Mermaid pub (one of the highest pubs in England). There was a route choice of a shorter path over grass, or a longer path following a winding farm track. A group of 3 runners I could see quarter of a mile ahead had picked the most direct path, which I had made the mistake of choosing in the past. It is steeper, and the ground is shocking; up to the knees in mud. I stayed on the winding track and ended up quarter of a mile ahead of them in the space of a mile, once we all emerged on the road again. CP4 was a half mile up the road further, and they caught back up again as I had some juice there. They confirmed the ground was as bad as I remembered, and I think they'll remember the farm track for next time too.

I set off from CP4 just ahead of them, and was glad of GPS for the whole section to CP5 because there was little, and sometimes no path, through fields and later thick Heather. I waved to the 3 runners just behind a few times to make sure they stayed on the right track behind me, but lost sight of them before CP5. Two other runners had gone astray in the last section, and had fallen behind as well. I set off from CP5 for the last leg home. I felt a very sharp pain on my back and heard a buzzing noise. A bee or a wasp had got stuck between my back and my backpack and stung me. I had not been stung since I was a child and hoped my head didn't swell up to the size of a balloon! I tried not to think about it too much and ran on, but stings are quite sore.

I got to the finish, about 19 miles and 3700ft of ascent, in 4hrs 45. So, not very fast at all, but the ground, weather and all the little hiccups contributed to that. 3 or 4 other runners had finished well ahead, I think just over 4 hour’s maybe, and the others came in over the next half hour or so.

The catering on this event is the best! There are lots of friendly staff and the checkpoints and at the centre. They supplied a hot meal and had a tombola and a few things to buy; all for the Chernobyl Children’s Charity. I had a couple of cups of tea, to warm back up and set off home.

No LDWA event planed for next weekend, but I may take a look to see if anything appropriate is on. If not, I'll just stick to my training plan.

Have a good week.

Monday 1 September 2008

Hot and Sandy

My first week back in training, officially.

On Tuesday and Thursday I did my speed sessions. I have a 1.3 mile run down hill to a area which is reasonably flat (there is some ascent, so it possibly skews the times a little). After I complete the session I have the same 1.3 mile run back, up hill this time of course.

The speed session involves 8 x 400M, with 1 minute break in between, then a 5 minute break followed by 4 x 800M with 3 minutes rest in between them.

This weeks target was 1:42 for 400M, and 3:24 for 800M. Here's how I did below. I was using my watch and gauging my pace to try and stay just within the split.

Dist Tues Thursday
400m 01:28 | 01:39
400m 01:41 | 01:41
400m 01:36 | 01:38
400m 01:38 | 01:40
400m 01:38 | 01:36
400m 01:39 | 01:40
400m 01:37 | 01:38
400m 01:41 | 01:43

800m 03:14 | 03:21
800m 03:23 | 03:22
800m 03:17 | 03:17
800m 03:14 | 03:18

I was certainly more tired during Thursdays session, as I had also done an 8 mile steady run in between, on the Wednesday. I'll see how I feel next week. I'll either keep the targets the same, or look to get slightly faster.

On Friday, after work I had a long drive down to Essex, arriving at 9pm so leaving no time to run. I spent the weekend camping at a car show. It was 28C and perfect blue cloudless sky on the Saturday, so being on the coast I took the opportunity to run on the beach. I did an 11 mile run at a nice steady 6mph. I wasn't carrying a pack, just water. I was comfortable and the heat didn't bother my at all. I suspect that will be the last very warm weekend we have here as Summer draws to a close.

In the week ahead, it's more of the same, but with an LDWA event on Saturday. I'm looking forward to it. Have a good week, and good luck to those of you on the forum running the Bullock Smithy.