You win some, you lose some-dealing with disappointment

Mynydd Moel from Coed y Foel near Brithdir
Mynydd Moel from Coed y Foel near Brithdir

I’m trying to stay positive, I’d had in my head a whole load of subjects to blog about, but today’s run went not quite to plan. That’s left me trying to juggle a positive.

This weekend I wanted to average a marathon a day. I wanted to prove to myself that back to back marathons were in my grasp. All part of building the mental game up for Marathon des Sable.

Saturday started well. Out the door at 0530, run down to Barmouth, over the wooden railway bridge, up to Cregennan, up high above the A470 to Cross Foxes, down to Brithdir and then back home, 42.7 km in a shade under 4 hours. Cold to start, but a stunningly bright day being beautiful to run in. A nice day with the family and a great BBQ with friends up in Coed y Brenin – I made the most of having some calories to consume.

Sunday, out the door at 0600. A run out the Wnion valley, then back round the ride of Rhobell Fawr, through Llanfachreth and back home down the Mawddach valley. 33.4 km feeling pretty strong. Get home, do jobs, cut the grass, chill out with tired kids. All really good stuff.

This morning, I planned to run 58 km. Bed early, alarm on for 0415. Up and out the door at 0445. Tired legs, slightly heavier pack, but everything ran off well as I headed up the Tabor road out of Dolgellau. Everything feeling loose and comfortable as I ran down the Tal y Llyn pass as the light improved. Into the Dysynni valley, starting to feel like I was going to smash the long run before the weather broke. Just near the junction with Llanfihangell y Pennant a really sharp twinge in my calf slowed me. A quick stretch, then walked on it as I drink and eat. A light run and the niggle is still there. That’s it. No point in pushing. I want to run Trail Marathon Wales in 4 weekends. I tap out a text message, tuck the phone away, knowing that the message will go somewhere down near Bird Rock-no signal here.

I complete 27.5 km by the time the Pyjama Pant Patrol arrive-it’s early and everyone is in PJ’s. Katie asking me whether I’ve hurt my head. I suppose Buff’s look like bandages to a three year old.

The positive, 100+ km run in three days. Enough to slide me up the May Massive on Strava, would have been in the top ten (out of 2400) in UK had I finished today run. But the damage is in my head mainly.

My calf is fine, it’s a minor strain. I had really wanted to change my belief of being able to back to back marathons into knowledge. A really, really powerful talisman to have. But instead, I’ve grown a bit of doubt. Not lots, but enough that I’m going to have to work actively to take to pieces.

I know the long run is fine, but that is not the challenge for me in a stage race like Marathon des Sable. “It’s not a race… it’s a war!” The YouTube clip beneath is a good example of what I’m looking to do. I want to be in great mental condition to win the war.

I’ve a number of blog subjects I want to cover – Cancer, Awareness of the work of Myfanwy Melanoma Research Trust, sponsorship and loads of other random things. My goal was achievable, and it’s gutting to miss it through minor injury. But it’s one small goal in a much bigger picture. The other subjects going to have to wait for me to just find the belief again. It’s just round the corner, but it’s a really annoying corner to have to go round!

Best foot forward

March has been a bit of a weird month, lots of positives, a few disappointments, some good achievements and some hope for the future.

I started slowly with running in March, I was keen to check my leg was completely healed. Apart from a tight calf (the other one) all is good and I managed to get a couple of longer runs in and although my running fitness has fallen off a bit, I can still get some miles under my belt with no discomfort.

I received an email in the last week, inviting me to assessment on the 13th April to joing the TORQ Trail Running Team. I’m a realist, I’m no elite athlete and I suspect my chances of getting a supported place on the team is relatively minimal. However, I think just going along will teach me lots. Although the chances are small, there is a chance and so I’m off to Church Stretton to run in a new place, meet some new people and learn lots. With some sessions being taken by Stuart Mills, there is some serious expertise on offer. Stuart has a great blog – UltraStu, definitely worth a nose around!

I had my first ever sports massage. I’d had a nagging worry about my calves and wanted to get them rubbed down. I headed up to Plas y Brenin for a session with Bodhi Movement. First up, an induction of all the things I’ve broken, when and what I was doing training wise, and an assessment of how I plant my feet from my trainers. Then it was some elbow needling tight bits, but generally ok. A few tight spots on my right leg, but it seems stretching, foam rollering and wobble boarding are doing some good things. I’ll go back for another session to try and get my legs free of knots (though I know now that this isn’t the technical term). The day after I’d been warned that I might feel a bit fragile. Wow, I felt pretty assaulted on the morning after, but with fluids and some light exercise it all passed quickly and my legs felt terrific.

Twisted ankle
Twisted ankle

I had planned to do a few longer runs back to back over the Easter weekend, but a game of squash on the Thursday night put that out of possibility. On game 2 of 9 games I turned my ankle over. The result was a lot of swelling and a good bit of discomfort.

This gave me a bit of an opportunity to see how much mental strength I’d have. After working on Good Friday I decided to see how the injury would cope on a rowing machine-limited range of motion but not too painful. This meant I was going to be okay to ride. Friday, Saturday and Sunday totaled 296km. So despite not getting lots of running in I definitely managed a bit of mind training. The mind is such a fundamental bit of endurance sports it never hurts to train it.

A quick round up of my human powered miles for March and a tune up towards 2013miles in 2013. March reads:

  1. Rowing 81.6 km
  2. Running 128.8 km
  3. Cycling 316.2 km

This gives a total of 526.6 km or 329.1 miles. (monthly target is 167.8 miles). So a solid month. 691.4 miles year to date so well ahead of the 503.3 miles I was aiming for.

I didn’t get much chance to snap any activity pictures so it’s just a few pictures from being out and about.

Oh, and there was an excellent game of rugby on 16th March !

Human powered miles for January

So sitting here on the 2nd of February, a mild fever making everything a bit foggy it’s time to look at January’s good and bad bits.

My long target for 2013.

Drop weight ready for Marathon des Sable.
2013 human powered miles
Some ultra runs (longer than marathon)

Weight- I love my food, I love my knees more. My target is to get under 80kgs from 90kg at the start of the year.

5kg gone in January, just by watching what I’m eating and staying motivated.

2013 miles needs shifting around for me as I work in km. The target each month is 268km. Despite hitting a glitch with lower leg injuries around the 12th I still managed to log 304km.

178km run, 79km cycled and 47km rowed.

Quite happy with that.

Ultra’s? 1st January was my first. Will skip one in Feb and get this leg healed.

Lots to be getting on with in preparation for a race more than a year away!

Another silly injury!

I can't help but get excited by the snow-a couple of photo's from Coed y Brenin to start.

Not sure what's caused it, but I've got shin splints.

Well that's a lie, I know what caused it-too much running on tarmac! I'd been getting lazy in exploring new places off road. That'll learn me!

I'd felt really good about my training, getting some good miles in, and then the weekend before last I had a dull ache on my shin, just above my ankle. So, I eased back on pounding the pavement and rested for five days. No aches at all. Then over this weekend I couldn't resist a run in the hills with all the snow. It's not a pain I feel, but an ache and after 15km it was there niggling away at me. The scenery is beautiful, even before the sun was up-so much ambient light. Apart from picking out the big icy patches no head torch was needed.

Up on Bwlch y Goriwared (400m)the dirfts were over head high, so I stopped as the sun was rising to take a photo. Not a great picture from a moile phone but not too bad!

Anyway back to this silly injury. Nothing to do but rest it from the impact. I'll get it better. Just annoying when everything was going so well!

Worse still is the “other option” for long cardio work is really hill sessions on a bike. When it's icy it really is hard yards to get the miles in. I'm sure I'll get on it though.

Just to toughen up a bit I thought I'd get on the rowing machine, which is great cardio and resistance training. I always target 8000m in 30 minutes if I'm not doing Tabata or Fartlek.

I followed that with a bit of Pavel Tsatsouline style, comrade toughness, take your MTFU juice and get some snatches done. I do love kettlebells!

Who said it was cold out?

A quick change of direction.

Bit gutted this week. I was all set to knock out some big mileage this weekend as part of The North Face Ultra Challenge on Strava. I'd put in enough mileage to be happy with smashing the 50k- I was hoping to do 3x 10km and 1x 40km. Unfortunately a moment of not concentrating in the dark on an easy run early on Monday morning I sprained my ankle really badly. This put the immediate stop on doing the run. I must be growing up! On the plus side I've done a reasonable week of cross training, just under 30km on the rowing machine (2x intervals, 2x 30 min threshold) two good kettlebell sessions and one 55km road ride. Along with a roller session every day and a wobble board session twice a day, it's not a bad week really. Think it might be time to chuck on some longer legs when riding the road grime is minging at the moment!
Bit gutted this week. I was all set to knock out some big mileage this weekend as part of The North Face Ultra Challenge on Strava. I’d put in enough mileage to be happy with smashing the 50k- I was hoping to do 3x 10km and 1x 40km. Unfortunately a moment of not concentrating in the dark on an easy run early on Monday morning I sprained my ankle really badly. This put the immediate stop on doing the run. I must be growing up! On the plus side I’ve done a reasonable week of cross training, just under 30km on the rowing machine (2x intervals, 2x 30 min threshold) two good kettlebell sessions and one 55km road ride. Along with a roller session every day and a wobble board session twice a day, it’s not a bad week really. Think it might be time to chuck on some longer legs when riding the road grime is minging at the moment!

New video, work and @2012milesin2012 update

Work has been cycling up with a good bit on recently, the World Cup in Cardiff that starts tomorrow is taking everyone’s time up, but it is an amazing event to have in Wales. I had a break from my normal job, last week with the Mawddach Paddlefest. It’s really good to see so many happy faces on the water. And the weather came good, with the wind dying out on Sunday for some stand up paddleboard action.

The chart above shows the big dip in hours spent training since tearing my calf muscle. I’ve taken my eye off the challenge of 2012 miles in 2012. So I thought that as the end of a month has passed, I should have a quick check of how far behind I am. Whilst I’ve been doing my rehab, I haven’t been logging my miles too diligently, but I’m at 493miles so far. That means I need to fire some miles out over the next few months, while the weather is good to stand any chance of getting there.

Silly things like minor injuries are a real annoyance, but the don’t stop me getting out. 

Got to do something about my old, badly fitting trail shoes!

I’ve had a another go at putting some running footage together, definitely got some things right, but also got more to learn. On the plus side, I like the fade across big areas, and I like that I’ve cut the time down. On the bad side, I don’t like that the render changes the frame size when panning and zooming. Also hadn’t realised that the copyright on some music tracks means that YouTube won’t deliver the clip to mobile devices.

However the clip looks, it was a nice day to be in the hills, first day of the year for me when a vest and shorts was plenty all the way to the top and back. It was actually much harder to get the footage on the hill as it was, in effect, a really long, hard, set of hill intervals.

Looking forwards to Trail Marathon Wales in 3 weeks.

Schoolboy error, Racing your Training

A favourite picture of mine taken on a trip out to Grassholm, and island of Pembrokeshire I try to work on things harder when I make a mistake, especially frustratng ones. Trying to work out why I injured my calf is something that has been under my skin for a few weeks..  I was so sure that in order to race Trail Marathon Wales I needed a programme. What I forgot is that I need to enjoy running. So when I plugged myself into a phone based MiCoach training programme and ran with that voice in my ear phones saying
A favourite picture of mine taken on a trip out to Grassholm, and island of Pembrokeshire I try to work on things harder when I make a mistake, especially frustratng ones. Trying to work out why I injured my calf is something that has been under my skin for a few weeks..  I was so sure that in order to race Trail Marathon Wales I needed a programme. What I forgot is that I need to enjoy running. So when I plugged myself into a phone based MiCoach training programme and ran with that voice in my ear phones saying “Speed up to yellow zone”, or “Slow down to blue zone” I was compromising. I wasn’t enjoying the reason I run. I like running outdoors, I like music. MiCoach seemed to address both these things. I had never exercised with ear phones in, but that was a definite appeal during the winter months. I overlooked that it takes one of your senses away. I like hearing my breathing, I like hearing the birds, I like hearing a squirrel firing off into the woods, rustling through the dry leaves. It was like gagging one of my most important senses when I ran. It also fired up my competitive streak. I was trying to beat that voice. I wasn’t content to ‘just’ do the session, just complete it, I wanted to BEAT the session. This goes along way in identifying why I got injured. So for Trail Marathon Wales, I’ve taken personal goals of times away. I’m going to treat the run as training. Part of a bigger things. I run purely to enjoy; with a specfic race time in mind, I would definitely need a race programme. But the big challenge- Marathon des Sable is about getting to the end. I’m never going to race it. I’m going to get through each day. As I said in a previous blog, I want to get to those last ten steps. To do that I need to keep active, I need to run in the hills, in wild places. I need to mix it up with some mountain biking, some open water swimming, some kayaking, some sets on a rowing machine or just riding into work and back. Since reading about Pavel Tsatsouline a couple of years agi, I love a good session with a Kettlebell-I want to get my 200 in the Secret Service Snatch Test before the race. I can’t do that range of things whilst running 6 sessions a week, “on programme”. I know a programme means keeping focus is easier, but the dedication to train is about doing it. Like brushing your teeth, putting a schedule into habit. But listening to feedback that your body and brain gives. Not sweating the small stuff, one session missed isn’t going to ruin a weeks training. The game for me is mental. I need to train my mind too. I can’t do that effectively when “on programme”. I need the balance. My Dad tried to train my brain when I was a teenager with “De Bono’s Thinking Course”. I didn’t respond well! I hope I won’t be proved wrong, but volume of training is important for a long race. Sustaining that volume needs mental fortitude. To have that means being mentally relaxed. I believe that as long as I remember not to race my training, don’t break myself physically or mentally, those last ten steps will be mine.  

Sweat, no tears

A week of rest and rehab has paid off. After following advice from Matt I’m back on the low impact cardio.

After 10 very frustrating days before talking to a physio, perhaps there is some science I should get to know.

The foam roller is definitely still breaking down some weird muscle damage in my right calf, but stretches are definitely looser than 3 weeks ago.

The rowing machine is absolutely not my favourite way if getting a sweat on. The sound the fan makes reminds me of the 3 hour sessions I did prior to rowing a little boat from Lands End up to Wales. But, it feels so nice to extend my lungs. I know I’m supposed to ease into it but that little voice on my shoulder doesn’t like slacking -8017m in 30 mins. The yoof would say “boom”, I think.

I’m sure the family are chuffed to have reeking kit back in the wash bin!

I still want to be running the hills above the inversions we’ve been having in Meirionydd since Saturday, but I can beat that little voice, at least for now.

A big fat Zero for the last fortnight on 2012 miles in 2012! I’m back!

My wife says I go at everything like I can do it, without even considering I might not. Marathon training-I can do that, I used to be able to run a fairly respectable 3hr15 marathon... 12 years ago. So 2012 has seen me getting back in the groove for Trail Marathon Wales in June and asr a milestone on the way to Marathon des Salble. It seemed easy.
My wife says I go at everything like I can do it, without even considering I might not. Marathon training-I can do that, I used to be able to run a fairly respectable 3hr15 marathon… 12 years ago. So 2012 has seen me getting back in the groove for Trail Marathon Wales in June and asr a milestone on the way to Marathon des Salble. It seemed easy. “Just start banging the miles in on a programme” I thought. A quick 44 mile round trip cycle to work on a rest day, got to be good for you! A jarring pain 3 weeks ago in my calf stopped a run, go on the rest, ice, compression, elevate. Some gentle walks and tthen last Saturday headed out for a gentle, 20 minutes later, my right calf twanged again. My wife and the two girls came to pick me up in the car, with Katie (2) saying “pwore diddy, sore leeg” on the way home. Living in rural Wales is great but access to things like physio’s isn’t so easy. Monday night, Matt from The Physio Clinic Bristol came to the rescue with a SKYPE consultation. Matt explained about Myofacial release using a foam roller, talked me through calf guards-I think they’ll make me look like a drag act pulling off Britney in her bald phase, but if it stops the pain then great! Then he talked me through poor biomechanical allignment- how to identify it and eradicate it. Add some dynamic warm ups and reassuring me that the rest of my proprioception and stretching is probably ok was a great comfort. Now, I’ve always been a a fan of putting my shoes on and going running. Nothing fancy. Turns out I need to be a bit more sophisticated to get this body back to where it was. So Matt gave me a plan to get my body sorted- it’s definitely working. The foam roller, though sore in some places is defitnitely working, started on gentle explosive drives this evening and there is no pain. I’m going to get on the rowing maching soon and give that an easy try. I’m missing my cardio. I’m sure it’ll come  But my brain turned downhill massively. I don’t quit. But, my head just lost motivation, doubt, loss of belief. All really crappy. I think mixed with a lack of exercise it was just the right recipe. But on Wednesday morning when I work up my email said someone had donated £150. One hundred and fifty pounds! Initially I thought it was a scam, but checking into JustGiving revealed that an old uni friend, Jon Bauer, had made a donation. Now knowing, Jon he probably planned it, but it really helped. This guy, marketeer turned author, now living in Oz showed me a spark of belief. That was enough. Negativity went and I decided, training could be rehab too, it doesn’t have to be pounding the pavement. Matt said 1 week in 6 should be a rest week at high intensity, well rehab is my training until I’m fixed. I’m really going to try and get a copy of Jon’s book “Rocks in the Belly” for one of my weeks of- the Guardian thought it was quite good! A massive thank you to those two guys for keeping me going early days; I’m sure there are tough times ahead, but getting me back on track is a good foundation for the dark days to come. So my 2012 miles in 2012 is on pause, no pressure to get the miles back. I’m going to do it. Thats just it. In North Wales today, it was warm, time to get the little boat out and get some flatwater work in. Katie had her first trip up to one of my local spots with deepwater and a slight flow. At two she is showing some adventurous streaks, and takes after me wanting to strip off whenever possible. Not a bad fortnight really.