Sunday, April 29, 2012

Up and down the ´Candela´

Something good happened on my training run yesterday. I went up the ´Candela´, the rather large hill next to my house which is a lovely little trail run and which commands great views of both Alicante city and the sea. The ascent went well because I warmed-up properly and managed, more or less, to keep within my target HR. Then, on the descent, I saw what looked like the fittest runner in Alicante sprinting up the ascent on the other side. As he passed me he gave me a big thumbs-up and a smile. Now I believe that this is the norm in the UK, or at least fairly common for runners to acknowledge each other, but in Spain it´s rare. This made me realise two things. First, I´m doing the right thing by running and not sitting on my backside and second, I´m not going to win my mountain HM.

These two things may seem obvious to anyone with a shred of common sense. However, at the age of 40 I´m supposed to be able to work all these things out for myself, so any help from outside sources is very welcome. The problem are fantasies. We all dream of glory so I don´t see anything absurd in imagining myself running faster than anyone else over longer distances, then lifting a trophy with a coy smile and an inner sense of supreme smugness. However, it does mean that I get disappointed with myself when I realise, or believe, that I´m running slowly. It doesn´t matter whether I´ve trained to run well or not, I still get disappointed. In the past this has demotivated me to the extent I´ve gone back to unhealthy habits. But then I realise that we´ll all a community and one that I´m very happy to be a member of.

In total I ran about 7.5k yesterday but in 5 weeks I have to run 20k. So I´m a bit behind my target and the training programme is going to be tight, as long as I keep myself healthy and injury-free. I know I´ve banged on about Maffetone in previous posts, but I´m  now also advocating the 15-minute warm-up and cool-down. If I´d ran yesterday´s session without them in the past, and subsequently not stretched, I´d be a mess this morning. But now, I hardly feel tight at all. Maffetone doesn´t endorse any stretching because he believes the warm-up and cool-down does the job and stretching can be damaging to the muscles. I reckon he´s on to something.

I´m also continuing to eat well. Yesterday was beef stew with veg (9 of them in all) which made for a great recovery meal. My kids also ate it, which made me happy. Then this morning, eggs and asparagus on rye bread and green tea for breakfast. Most people think they can´t do without their crap breakfasts but I have to say, you do get used to, and dare I say it, start to enjoy eating good stuff. It´s just a case of getting into the routine.

Monday, April 23, 2012

HRM´s, eating and that marathon death.

I´ve done my second day running in a row today and it feels great. I took the HRM again and, again, was very disciplined. It was a simple jog over 30 mins with a good warm-up and good cool-down. But even after only starting yesterday, I was able to jog the whole time today. I did say the benefits come quickly.

You can see both runs here and here. You can see the improvement on the second of them, although I´m hardly threatening to make a late entry into the olympic team. It doesn´t matter though because I know that by the time June 3rd comes around I´ll be struggling to even make a HR of 135 by running flat-out. The running is going well.

And so is the eating! Why is it that when I quit smoking my diet changes for the better? I have this strange urge to eat healthy stuff, whereas when I´m smoking I have a strange urge to eat rubbish. I´m not complaining though as I suppose it´s good for me, although the wife did complain about the salad tonight. She should remember that I´m on a mission, then maybe she´d choose her words more carefully. Honestly, does she think I run for myself?

Finally I have to say a word about the lady that died in the London Marathon. Like any death of a young person it´s tragic but when it´s from doing something you do yourself you have to think about it. Does it affect me to the extent I´m nervous about going out and running? I don´t think so as you have more chance of dying from a lightening strike or being attacked by dogs (apparently). One US study said that over 11 marathons they studied there was one death for every 259,000 runners. That´s incredible odds. So...get yourself checked out by all means, and also mourn the tragic death of someone who went too young, but don´t get hung up about running. A lot of her friends have been commenting upon how healthy she was - that remains to be seen. What I do know is that sitting on the couch is far worse for you in the long run, as is not living your life to the full like it appears that young lady did. RIP.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

8WOS - Lucky day

The best thing about this week´s blog, the great thing about it, the amazing thing about it, is that I have some running to report - and all went well. Considering there are 6 weeks to go before I launch myself over a HM´s worth of mountains this has to be a good thing.

It´s been hard mentally over the last few weeks, especially since I fell so low in my first week, but I finally put my foot down with myself and went running even if it wasn´t far and it wasn´t fast. I was considering leaving the HR monitor at home and just enjoying myself without being too disciplined but I decided in the end that this way would only lead to rack and ruin i.e. injury. So...with my HRM on I studiously did my 10 minute walking warm-up then found myself running and stopping, then running and stopping, because my HR kept creeping up over 135 (my limit for developing aerobic function). It was impossible to run for more than a few seconds at a time. However this didn´t matter to me. You see, I´ve been here before I know what it´s like when you lose your aerobic fitness - it´s like this. However, what I also know is that it comes back pretty quickly and I would expect, within two weeks or so, to be able to do at least 10-15k without getting near my HR limit.

I also had the scare of my life this week. This blog is supposed to be reporting on my training for the mountain HM in Pedreguer on 3rd June. The only slight catch, that I found out this week, is that this race doesn´t actually exist. I´m not sure how this happened. I overheard someone talking about the race when I was at my last one and I asked them to confirm it. As they were one of the organisers of said race, I presumed the info was solid. Apparently not. Luckily I found another mountain HM, on the same day, about 100k to the north of where I presumed my fantasy race was taking place. So not only do I still have a race, but I get to take the family away for the weekend. How lucky is that? Here´s hoping it´s a sign of things to come.

The profile of the race is here. As you can see, I wasn´t joking when I said there were mountains involved. I may have been joking when I said it was a HM though - it´s only 20K. Perhaps I´ll go for a jog around the village afterwards.

Just to end, I´d like to say a big congratulations to everyone who did the London Marathon today. It looked like a great event. And a big well done to everyone off the Runners Forum. You did us all proud.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

8 weeks of something - back into the fray

Well...I finally got back out there. After messing up my guts and my head I finally went out for a run with my mate. I was visiting him on holiday and only see him about once a year so, it was something else to see that he had also now quit smoking and was also into running. Anyway, we went on a nice gentle run up around a park near his house in Oviedo (the bit of Spain that looks like Wales) and it gave me immense pleasure to watch his face turn red while he tried to suck air in from the next valley across. Don´t get me wrong, I don´t like to see people struggle, but it was nice to know I hadn´t lost as much fitness as I thought. I found the whole thing quite easy.

I also imparted my considerable knowledge on warming up and cooling down with the indulgent air of someone who is bored with the whole subject, then I woke up the next morning with my hamstring laughing at me. I was injured. So I did what every pro does in these situations and drank and smoked my way through the rest of the week. Not the best reaction to adversity and definitely not the way to go with my mountain HM in 6 weeks. Why does he do it to himself you may ask? Why, when he has obviously got a good fitness base, enjoys running and is not afraid of challenging himself, does he fall apart at the first sign of a problem? Well the answer is easy - I´m a perfectionist. The problem with this label is that most people think it defines someone who does something to perfection. In my case it actually means someone who wants perfection. Therefore I get very affected by things not being perfect and run away (ha ha) at the first sign of a problem.

But this time...I don´t know. Something is chipping away at my soul. Instead of collapsing into an alcholic, tobacco-fuelled haze I entered a race. This gave me the motivation to chuck the fags away and get running again. I only managed 1k before my leg felt so bad I had to stop but at least I ran and it felt, at least aerobically-wise, very good. I even took a cold water bath to try to help the injury but I mainly just ended up swearing a lot. In the end my hamstring wouldn´t let me race but it didn´t matter - it was the preparation that mattered.

I forced myself back into it and back out there. I prefer it, I really do. So, I´m going to get some ice on my leg and keep my plans going. There´s a mountain to climb in 6 weeks time.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

8 weeks of something - part 2

I´m a useless, imbecilic, lanky streak of piss. That´s the result of week 1 of the 8-week challenge.

So what happened? I decided to take Phil Maffetone´s 2 week test to see if I had carbohydrate intolerance. It seemed like a good idea as I feel I´ve single handedly kept the sugar industry going through my eating habits the last two years. Refined carbs are a food of choice and/or luxury for some. For me, they´re 5-a-day and no mistake. Chocolate, coca-cola, muffins. cheesecake and a million other tempting, gorgeous things besides, all created for my own personal gratification. However I knew they weren´t doing me any good so in the end I reluctantly decided they had to go, at least for a while.

What has this got to do with running? Well apparently the well-informed and regarded Dr Maffetone says that our body will start to feel great and will also begin to burn fat for energy, an essential requisite for any self-respecting distance runner. How could I refuse? I started on Saturday, the same day I quit smoking again.

By Sunday evening I had a fever and my stomach was doing an Olympic gymnastics audition. Later, while vomiting, I thought to myself how unlucky I had been to catch such a virulent bug at the same time as undertaking such courageous endeavours. At least, I thought philosophically, I wasn´t hungry, so no need to worry about menu-planning. But this bug turned out to not be like others I´ve had in the past. The fever eventually subsided but the stomach pyrotechnics didn´t. I sought help from my forum friends, some of whom assured me I would feel bad and it would pass. But this bad?

However, I still felt positive. I wasn´t tired, even though I was ill, and I felt sharp, even though I was distracted by my belly-flips. However, even the hardiest soul, which I cannot claim to be, would get down in the end. On Wednesday evening I let some carbs back in and lo and behold, within a few hours, I started to feel much better. This was both a relief and a shocking revelation. A relief because I now believe it was the carb withdrawal that caused what it did, so I knew how to fix it. And a shocking revelation because I now believe it was the carb withdrawal that caused what it did, and I don´t know how to fix it.

All of us have heard about the withdrawal symptoms from drugs like heroin. Was I experiencing similar? Could sugar be that powerful? Some people think it can be but the worst thing is that if it is, I don´t know how long these symptoms would have lasted. If I´d gone an extra day, would it have all evened out and I´d now be a fat-burning juggernaut ready to roll over the highest hill? I´m not sure. I haven´t got the guts to find out because they´re still recovering from the shock.

So...let´s forget the diet for now and just try to eat sensibly. At least I haven´t gone back to anything really bad yet. I´m on holiday in Asturias and there are mountains all around me. Tomorrow, I´m off up one of them to find out about myself. I hope I look better than my insides feel.