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16 Weeks – Time To Get Real

The weekend just gone marked 16 weeks until Ironman UK and the countdown begins!
We had the finance’s two sisters and their fellas visiting from Northern Ireland over Easter without their kids, so they were ready to let loose in Manchester. The girls went off looking at wedding dresses so I was left to entertain 2 Irish guys. To the pub, easy win.
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Took the Irish guys clay pigeon shooting

This drags me down with them I’m afraid. Although I could not keep up so was no point in trying, I did have a few more drinks than I usually can cope with and we ate out a lot over the 3 days they were here. Heavy on the wallet and liver. I pencilled in some shooting to break up the drinking – it kinda worked!
I was happy to have a big blow out to be honest. I’d been a bit under the weather twice in close proximity and was fairly fed up of feeling crap. I had an interrupted block of training, having to eventually give in to the cold and take nearly a full week off training. Even when I eased back into it I didn’t feel 100%.
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Lynsey & I Eating our way through the Easter weekend

The Easter weekend marked a turning point in my thinking and approach to IMUK from here on in. No more messing about with late nights out drinking and eating whatever is put in front of me and then everyone else’s leftovers! I can cope with that much in-take when I am slogging the training, but without it to balance things out, I was slipping into a motivational choke hold.
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Always going to be frosty up in The Peaks!

16 weeks pinged up in my calendar as a reminder that now shit needs to get serious. Although my swimming was looking good, my bike training was struggling. Motivation to throw a leg over the Turbo was creeping further down the list and my running was ticking along with the odd niggle beginning to creep in. My calves have pained me for a few weeks now and then my ITB’s have began to flare up after most long runs. Although they calm down reasonably quickly it’s just another problem to manage. Nobody said Ironman training was going to be simple, so you accept it and work around it.
I love getting out on my bike and savour the long rides now the weather is beginning to take an upward turn. I need to get back on the Turbo and hit those sessions as hard as I was before I contracted the dreaded cold. I took a ride over to Leeds to meet my new nephew. Felt good out on the road, didn’t feel my bike fitness had suffered as bad I’d anticipated. Aside, everybody meet Able Riding, healthy and happy. He’s awesome.
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My new nephew Abel, born 16/03/16

Up next is Wilmslow Half Marathon (see how the legs hold up in that one) and then a countdown to Monster Mojo (a half Iron distance race) will see me bring in the odd brick session to get that lovely feeling of running off the bike back in the muscle memory.
Onwards and upwards…
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Race Report: Stockport Trail Half

Another well ran event by Crazy Legs Events. It was the same events company I raced with recently at the Macclesfield Off-Road Duathlon at the beginning of February.
I spotted the Stockport Trail Half on their website at the same time as signing up for the Duathlon so thought I’d put my name down.
I’ve been steady running 90 minutes (12-13miles) each week, so I knew I could handle the distance and worth giving it a go at a slightly higher tempo.
I had to take Friday off work after feeling a bit peaky all week so I knew I wasn’t in tip top shape going into this race but happy to toe the line and enjoy a crisp and cold morning in Marple, Stockport.

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The route was as good as an out and back with the back 6 miles being into a chilly headwind. Following The Middlewood Way, starting out at Marple Rugby Club, the route was reasonably flat and bearable, with a few undulations in the final two miles.
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I had an elevated heart rate from early in the race, touching 170bpm as I stuck to 6:40-6:42 min/miles. I was curious to see how long I could hold a heart rate this high as I usually stay between 160 & 170bpm in my long interval Turbo sessions when I am working with FTP. I was happy to see my body able to continue working (running at a decent pace) with a heart rate that can better cope with the demands of increased lactate. A sign of improving fitness.
It was becoming harder work in the final 3 miles of the run, but this is when the field actually began coming back to me and I must have made up a good 5 places in that final quarter of the race. A good sign that my pacing is good and I have a good understanding of my own fitness.

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My calves were shot at the finish line. They just locked up. At the time I could barely walk back to the car, without any  prior warning during the race. It was instant as soon as I stopped running. Kinda love to hate that tight calf feeling! A good indication I worked hard. The same can be said for my left ITB, which tightened and caused a lot of pain as the afternoon went on – and then went on into the night and still hanging around the following morning! What a frustrating injury.
I did do around 15 minutes on the foam roller before I left the house for the race, but alas, I have not been plagued with the dreaded ITBS for a while. A concerning familiar feeling. Perhaps being a touch ill in the week and missing a long mid-week run just gave everything a chance to tighten up. I’ll defiantly be back on the foam roller for this week as I try to manage the ITB & recover ahead of Oulton Park Standard Distance Duathlon on March 6th.

Race Report: Cannock Chase Winter Classic 2014

Race Date: 23/02/14

Race Type: XC MTB

Result: 3rd

Performance: Very happy 8/10

I had done the Cannock Chase Winter Classic (organised by Go Run & Ride) the year before and when I saw it advertised again for 2014 I put my name down as I was itching to be entered for some races of some sort.

I hadn’t ridden the mountain bike for a while, so I went for a quick gentle spin around Clayton Vale just to blow the cobwebs out.

I got to Cannock an hour before the race time and managed to get a little section of the course in for a practice. I just wanted to warm up and check the gears, brakes and everything was all good.

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I positioned myself near the front of the start line so I could avoid the bottle neck traffic in the first corner. From previous racing experience, everyone goes mental at the start, enough to just hold you up when it turns single track and then it can become something of a queue.

I managed to consolidate 3rd position from the first few turns and didn’t lose touch with the leading pair until I hit the deck in the wet rooted wooded section. I took a hit to the ribs at low speed and didn’t really think much of it. I got up and had to rip out some rogue long grass that had been caught around my rear gear cassette. This cost me a few seconds and a couple of positions that I managed to claw back on one of the longer climbs. I was happy about that as it’s usually my climbing that can let me down in these races. I have the ability to go quickly down hill and do better at the more technical parts of the course.

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The 2014 route wasn’t that technical so there was less chance of me to make my usual gains. I think my riding skill comes mainly from the years spent motocross riding and being familiar with the bike being loose and comfortable with being uncomfortable. I tried to initiate a gap to 4th which pulled out enough for me relax and not have to take too many chances.

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I held on for a solid 3rd position, despite me losing some ground towards the end of the race. I had accounted for that which is where the big middle effort came from. I timed it well and was really happy to get a podium and a few pints afterwards.

The only bad news about this race possible came 2 days after. I ran 12 miles on Monday, the day after the race and woke up Tuesday with a severely tight and sore right ITB. Looking back on my history and discussing it with my coach Paul Savage, it can be traced back to running after mountain bike causes ITB issues.

The position of a road bike, TT bike and mountain bike differ quite a lot. I was riding the MTB hard and really pushing it. Then to do a long run the day after may have initiated the problem.

I’ve since, ran and ridden the road bike as usual without any problems to further point the finger at the guilty MTB!

Close Shave

I’ve been absent from the blog. I did a Duathlon on March 17th and picked up an injury which has been pretty hard to take. It’s a recurrence of my ITB injury and caught me by surprise to say the least. I had got up 8 miles in my return to running and was hitting some nice times with my negative splits and feeling strong as I built the distance back up. Then BANG – as I reached the final 2k of the second running leg of the Duathlon I felt it build and then come on strong. My leg was locked straight, just too painful to flex.
I have scratched around for some kind of reason as to why and how this occurred, 5 days after hitting a solid 8 mile run.

– It was a cold day
– The race organiser was running late and therefore rushed through the race briefing and left little time for a warm up or to organise kit
– I had a little flu bug a couple of days leading up to the race, leaving me on the couch rather than training.
– I ran harder than usual
– The course was undulating

Whatever the cause, it left me fairly depressed and feeling rather sorry for myself. The road to recovery has been long and precise, so to have been put back to square 1 was massively demoralising.

It took the wind out of my sails in a big way. I didn’t do any training for nearly a week afterwards and even then it was just steady swimming. I’d lost a lot of pool fitness just by taking this time out, I was struggling to walk and putting any weight on the knee was painful. It disturbed my sleep and it made me a general displeasure to be around.

I needed to snap out of it. Positive thinking will hopeful bare a quicker return, so I’ve heard. I had acupuncture treatment on the knee and also upgraded my foam roller to a rumble roller. This thing is agony, in a good way! Voltorol gel, a strict routine of stretching and yoga are all helping me train my mind into not wasting a day feeling sorry for myself but realise a comeback to full fitness is against the clock. I grew a beard too.

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Much like The Playoff Beard for my American friends. But I said I wouldn’t shave until I can run a pain free 2 miles! Not a lot granted, but the look, feel and taste of this beard reminds me that I need to foam roller and do all of my rehab stretching and exercises to get myself fit again. They help my knee and now also help get closer to that close shave.

Call it clutching at straws, but I’m also reading this book ‘Chi Running’. I’ll let you know how it works out, but the basic principles and mechanics behind the running style does ring true for my symptoms and possible fixes.

20 Weeks to IMUK

When you set out your ‘A race’ of the season you tend to work backwards. So I hear anyway – I’ve never had an ‘A race’ – but in the case of IMUK 2013 I do. 4th August 2013 to be exact and this is now exactly 20 weeks away.

I have spent the winter really working hard on my base fitness, just getting time in the pool, miles in the saddle and a gradual return to running and upping the mileage on the knees. However, the last 5 week training plan has become slightly more tailored to refining that base fitness and working towards making me more triathlon specific fit. Mapping the progress has been half the fun. I’ve logged it all in my Training Log, but below I’ll try and go into a bit more detail of what each of these session has consisted of.

First of all, my week has had to some consistency. I like routine and to know what days I am doing what. It means I can balance my life outside of training and I also associate my days with my training. This is how my week has looked for the last 5 weeks, and I’ve have not missed a single session. My coach Paul is fantastic at putting together realistic plans that work for my ability, my work and also to keep her happy!

Monday – Run

Tuesday – Endurance Swim

Wednesday – Turbo Interval Session

Thursday – Run

Friday – Speed Swim & Turbo Build Session

Saturday – Long Ride

Sunday – REST

This all adds up to around 10 hours per week of training.

Swimming:

My endurance session on Tuesdays are tough. I work my butt off in 400m drills, which originally clocked in at 7min 40sec per 400m. By the 5th week of this plan, I was hitting these same 400m sets in 7min 10sec.

My speed work on a Friday varies between 50m, 100m and 200m drill sets. Again these have shown big increases in improvement and beast you all the same over 2, 500m. The marriage of these two swim sessions is obviously working if I am improving by 30 seconds in the space of 5 weeks. When I did my first sprint triathlon in August 2011, I swam the 400m leg in 9min 12sec, then again in 2012 in 8min 37sec. In less that a year I have taken a massive chunk of time off my short distance swimming.

Bike:

I put a  lot of focus on my bike session as that is where I will be spending most of my day in early August! IMUK is one of the hilliest bike routes on the Ironman Calendar, and arguably the most difficult in Europe, so I need to give this leg the respect it deserves. My long rides at the weekend are an over hilly 4 hour trip from Manchester to Derbyshire covering 60 miles. This is essentially just bike time. In the recent temperatures and winds across those hills, there is no room for heroes so It’s just hardening the ass for more of the same and also a good chance to test nutrition.

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My turbo session are where the real hard graft can pay dividends. I work of various interval sessions over a 90min period – 10min, 5min, 2min & 1min respectively, each within a specific range of perceived effort on the Borg Scale. Aside from the training benefits of the turbo sessions, its a good chance to tinker with your bike fit, rehearse transition and catch up on Paris-Nice! Physio-Coach Paul Savage has recently uploaded a video on his website of how to get the best from your turbo session.

Running:

My return to running has been a real confidence booster. Having worked back up literally from scratch to be now running distances that are more familiar to me is a great relief. My Monday runs involve negative splits, usually around 3 x 8min mile and then 3 x 7min mile. On Thursday I’ll do a slightly longer run, trying to stay around 7min 30sec per mile. Before and after each run I have an inbuilt habit of foam rolling and yoga stretching to keep the injury wolves from the door. There is no getting away from it, I have to do it. It’s part of the running and cycling days whereby a good 15 minutes spent on the roller is no hardship, followed by a series of specific stretches and planks to keep a happy & hard core!

That’s just the last 5 weeks. As we hit the 20 week countdown, I’ll be incorporating more brick sessions and some really specific turbo session to really hammer those legs! That will cover the next 4 weeks.

No knee’d for an op

I had my appointment at the docs brought forward by a week, so I saw the orthopedic guys on Friday and they told me some good news. My knee does not need an op. I just had a build up of fluid on my knee that had developed after a bit of scar tissue on my ITB had rubbed against the knee. This came back from an MR scan so I’ve got the green light to begin running again.

I managed to sneak a pic of the scan when the doc left!

I managed to sneak a pic of the scan when the doc left!

I’ll be taking the same course of action as when I recovered from my right ITB a year ago – 3 x 2 mile runs / 3 x 3 miles runs / 2 x 4 mile runs per week, with a new stretching and strength routine on top.

I had a look into this and came across some ideas of the exercises I can do. I’ll try and do these as daily as I can, around my run and turbo sessions. Nothing new, but worth writing down as a means of a reminder.

– Clams

– Lateral Leg Raises

– Donkey Kicks

– and the theraband balancing drill

There is a download of these exercises available here at Runners Connect

I’ve not had to use my brain properly for a while, so when I started doing a bit of physiological research, it felt a bit like the old uni days! I came across these 2 guys. Firstly at Runners World, this article shows that prevention is better than cure and talk about ‘Getting The Band Back Together‘ – very clever title – and all about the research this dude called Ferber has done.

Then when I tried to find a bit more on Ferber, I came across this blog ‘Weak Hips, Weak Theory’. Hardly the digging and research of a first rate solicitor, but with the vast information available on the internet, in a matter of minutes I had found conflicting views by people in the industry. I think it’s really important for us to work out what we think is best. Nobody knows your body like yourself, so whether an academic spends years in a lab or a guy at a gym discovers a great new method, it’s all about doing what suits you best. I have my favourite stretches that I do daily, but I am also open to trying new ideas.

I think Ferber’s work sounds incredible and a value to know for any nerdy athlete who wants to know more about the science of their movements. It’s a bit tight on this other guy to question everything, but again a worthy argument that sparks debate, enough so to give his own information. So the benefits for the keen observer like me, mean I can take both sides and work out a grey area inbetween that suits me best. Get out the chamois cream as I’m going to sit on this fence for a bit longer!

What I’m trying to say is we can make our opinions quietly in the background when two guys go off and debate enough to do research that backs up their own idealistic endeavors. Let them do the hardwork.

Just saying.

Training Is Changing

I’m back training after a week of feeling pretty run down and coldy. Last weeks big ride may have been a little too much and I paid the price for being out in the cold for so long. I was back visiting my folks and had a bit of rest up instead of keeping the training going and making myself worse.

Starting back this week fresh was worth it. Being back running has been a great introduction as I’ve progressively added miles. I don’t think I’ll ever be full of confidence with my ITB history so reaching 4 miles in my running rehab has almost been as rewarding as when I first nailed that 3k swim.

The turbo sessions now have more intervals in there, varied and now on back to back days. I spread the intervals over a 75min session and usually with a bit of India v England test cricket on the box. It’s all getting a bit chilly out there so the turbo is becoming my best friend. If I only I could make use of that wattage the thing produces it could power the Christmas lights. Or even be used as a record player like this!

My swimming continues to be strong and consistent. I’ve introduced some more basic drills to my sessions, now my base fitness is reaching a decent level. Working off time and distance is all new to me and my lack of swimming experience. I’ve done 20 x 100m off 2min 30 & also 10 x 200m off 4min 30. Both are pretty exhausting by the end. My second day of swimming is combination of swim and pull buoy for a bit of fitness and technique.

As well as my Training Log on here, I also update my activity on a wall planner that I see first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to bed. A good reminder!

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Swim – Orange, Bike – Green, Run – Yellow, Race – Star

Swimming Lesson Cancelled ;-)

I began my training program on Monday 27th August with a 4 mile run which flared up my niggling ITB injury so I’ve taken a bit of time off running and concentrating on my swimming and turbo bike sessions. I’ve added what I’ve done so far in my training log.

I visited my physio to address the ongoing pain from my left ITB and have been hammering the foam roller and a routine of stretches daily to do everything I can to get back to running. There’s a nice piece here on injury prevention around the ITB and the importance of the glutes in running. The roller is beautifully brutal!
Looking at the positive it has meant I have been hitting the pool pretty hard. It’s hard to believe myself that I can now consistently swim 2k front crawl non-stop! I know thats nothing too amazing, but for me its massive. I did have a swimming lesson booked to kick start my training but when I got a text from the swimming instructor that was signed off with a ‘x’ and a winky smiley face I had to cancel. I’ve never met the guy, whats that all about?! 😉

So I watched and copied some local guys that were pretty sharp and sorted my technique out all by myself, well done me.

I also did a bit of shopping last week. I got my Saucony Guide 5’s – again. I’ve never done this before – bought the same thing twice – but I love these kicks. I have about 300 miles in my current Guide 5’s and if I’m working around this ITB injury I need to take every precaution. I got them from a place called Rat Race, based over in York, for £30 less than the high street shop I got them from last time. Again, well done me.

Putting the new ones against the old ones, its nerdily interesting to see what I do to pair of trainers.

Sunday is my first rest day since I began training so I’ll stop looking at trainers and take my old man to watch British Superbikes in the sunshine.