Sunday, 31 July 2011

My base training

I won’t do this at the end of every week. I just thought it might be a good idea to start the process. When I step up from this phase to the next I’ll maybe give some reflection on how base went and then how the first few weeks of the next phase are going.

Oh, an important part of my new ethos is analysing everything so that the tell-tale signs of overtraining don’t get missed. In the past I’ve been quite dogged with my training and no matter how fatigued I’ve been, I’ve tended to just get on with it. I’ve found that too much of that can lead to as much as a two-month backward step!

So part of this new regime is taking a resting heart rate measurement as soon as I wake every morning. At present it is 45. I regard this as a clear indication that I am not in shape. When I was 26yrs old my RHR was 38. This was when I was at my fittest – in terms of overall fitness. Ironically I did a lot of upper body strength training then and as an indication of how my training priorities have changed, in the 9 yrs since then, my biceps have shrunk by 3inches in circumference. I would say though, that all of this has found its way to my quads!

My weekend trail runs have not been factored into this week or my heart rate measurements:

            Monday; (RHR 45)
            6am – walk 30mins with 40llb pack on.
Ex military folk might call this a tab. My mate asked me this week if there was any real benefit to the CV in doing this. Na, none really BUT this base phase is all about conditioning. For me, I am prone to niggling Achilles problems. I see this as a basic was of keeping the muscles and tendons ticking over. Also, due to my circadian cycle I really struggle with CV at this time in the morning.
            Lunch – 4 miles easy run.

            Tuesday; (RHR 45)
            6am – same walk as above.
            Lunch – cross train for 30mins.
I do this in the changing rooms at my work; some step ups, some lunge walks, depth jumps, calf raises and then 10mins of core training. This session is actually quite heavy on the legs and simply adds to my ethos of ‘conditioning’.

            Wednesday; (RHR 45)
            6am – 4 miles easy run
            After work – leg strength training for 25mins, and,
                                    4 miles run with 16llb pack on.
Wednesdays are classed as one of my priority sessions, of which in base I have two per week, the other one is on Saturdays. What I find odd about this is that my 4 miler with pack on is run at about the same time as my morning run, if not quicker!

            Thursday; (RHR 46)
            6am – walk as above.
            Lunch – 4 miles easy run.
I always run with an emergency go-gel in the pouch of my shorts and in the last mile of today’s run it was needed. I think this is another indication of how out of shape I have become recently.

            Friday; (RHR 47)
This morning I decided for the first time in my life to listen to my body – it was a bit tired and my resting heart rate confirmed this. I was due to do some x-training at lunch time and then go for a 6.5miler after work.
            After work – 4 miles easy run.
It would’ve been a bit more but marley was frothing at the mouth. It was a tad warm.

            Saturday; (RHR not recorded)
            Am – 12.5 miles easy run
I was in a bit of a bad mood this morning and did not want to record my RHR incase it gave me an excuse not to train. This is one of my priority sessions after all and I did more or less take the day off yesterday. What was with my mood? Ace (my 3yr old son) had quite a restless night sleep which meant I too suffered the same fate. I must’ve seen every half hour through the night.

Anyway, I went into the run with quite a bit of negative energy which only started to dissipate towards the end. I ran this in 1hr 49mins. The route was very hilly though. I’m not concerned about the slow time. In fact I’m actually quite happy with how disciplined I was at focussing on time on feet and not caning myself.

My heart rate averaged at 142 for this run which confirms how easy I was taking it. I would expect to take around 90secs a mile off this pace for the same effort in around 6 weeks of this type of training.

            Today; (RHR not recorded)
            Am – 1hr 45mins on the bike.
I had hoped for this to be an easy spin but half of my journey was back into the wind. Straight after this I got the foam roller out and did about 20mins on the quads which were feeling, as I call it, blocked.

So that’s it, a week’s training. I’m quite happy with myself for binning the planned sessions on Friday. Next week I step it up slightly and then cool the jets in the following week. I have another 5 weeks of base training.

I listened to a podcast the other night which was an interview with Geoff Roes, winner of the 2010 Western States. What struck me was that this guy just runs i.e. he does no strength training, cross training or Plyometrics. I think that if I didn’t have to work I’d pretty much just do the same as him.

He trains in the mountains around where he lives in Alaska. This, as I found in the build up to my BGR, is by far the best type of training. It’s all aspects rolled into one. For the time being though, I’m going to continue to condition my body in preparation for the rigours of my next event.

This won’t get me finishing anywhere near the front but as I’ve stated before, I have to be realistic with my expectations and progression through this type of sport. In around 3 or 4 years time, when I’ve fully conditioned myself, I’ll start to focus on just running, alone. It is then that I expect to start motoring through the pack!   

Am I naive?
I started off my last blog post by suggesting that I would be naive not to listen to the specialist reference the NHS refusing to operate on me and take care of my long standing injury.

On discussing this with a friend yesterday she informed me that the NHS have now started refusing people for operations where only last year they would’ve been given them. This is no rumour or story but apparently fact and was reported as such in the national news only last week!

Why so? Because of cut-backs; there is the hope that many of us will turn to private healthcare in the face of this dilemma. I can’t help thinking this is similar to the situation with NHS dental care! This does little to help me though. I wonder how helpful my National Health Service would be had I not taken care of my body (well, mostly) and tried to do the right thing throughout my life........

You know this situation is similar to something my wife and I found astonishing the other day; we were watching one of those Police, Camera, Action programmes when one of the scenes was of a woman chasing a man down the street brandishing an axe. She had a bit of a drug problem and was already well known to the police. Guess what she got for that escapade? Zilch!

What would happen to one of us?

Are the ordinary law abiding folk of this country just going to keep getting shit on?

Monday, 25 July 2011


Three full days have passed since I had my bad news. Now that the dust has settled I realise the specialist was more than likely giving his best advice. It would be naive of me to think otherwise. To summarise my thoughts;

·      I have posterior impingement. The bone spur is, however, relatively small at the moment.
·      It is highly likely to continue to grow but can take up to 5 years (sometimes longer) before it gets so bad that I can barely walk.
·      It prevents me from fell running. Any fell runner who has knowledge of this injury will know precisely what I mean.
·      It prevents me from running consecutively large volumes i.e. a training programme revolved entirely on running – due to the soft tissue damage the bone spur causes around the joint.


·      Nothing has effectively changed from where I have been for the past year; I have managed to train and run albeit with difficulty at times.
·      Therefore, for the time being it does not prevent me from training.
·      Although I do not have a running related injury it is nevertheless liable to cause other injuries e.g. the bursitis on my right Achilles. Therefore the measures I put in place now will seek to minimise the likely damage.
·      I have a pending appointment with a pain therapist to discuss ‘symptom management’.

So it is with this that I have decided to enter into a new phase of training. There is another reason why I am keen to do this; so far to date, I have never managed to complete a full training programme. They are written with the intention of completing at least 75% of the volume and therefore include contingencies to cater for this.

However life’s little dramas always seem to get in the way. From memory, I’ve only done 4 or 5 mountain marathons. The training for each of these was basic to say the least (except this year’s one). I started seriously looking into training properly for my BGR and for this year’s Highlander Mountain Marathon where I thought I had all the angles covered.

But both last year and this year I had some major (external) problems that occurred about mid-way into both training programmes which just completely threw me off track. For both events I was no-where near where I had intended to be. But to be honest, both programmes were set with over ambitious expectations.

I can say that now, knowing what I know. For example, in the 3 months since doing this year’s Highland Fling I have learnt far more about training from reading the blogs of ultra endurance runners than I have in the 3 years previous! This is one of the reasons I write a blog – I want to be able to give something back. I think there’s something very modern about the collaboration of blogging.

Despite my frank admission of expecting too much from myself, I remain convinced of my ability and where I see myself in say, 5 years time for example. But I’m not going to bore anyone with my reasons for these self beliefs suffice to say that I can justify them to myself.

The programme I’m entering into is so basic I’ve even called it ‘back to the bare basics’. It is my dual aim to complete this programme and run/race a 44miler (referred to in my last blog) which will be on Christmas eve this year.

In some ways I feel it is a step back from where I want to be but in others I think it’s something I have to do. The beauty of this is that it is a programme which can be easily adjusted with future events in mind. My progress throughout will be carefully monitored so that any problems can be quickly catered for with adjustments to the programme if necessary.

With regards the injury, the bone spur, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s there and the fact that it will continue to hamper me until it is taken out. I can now take the pragmatic view that an operation to remove it has to be the done at the right time and as advised, that may not be right now but rather when it’s a bit bigger.

I am 35 years old; it’s not as if my life is over. It could take another few years to get this sorted out and then I will be able to get into running as much as I want to. Nevertheless, should I get to Christmas in a lot of pain and unable to complete the training programme I will seek out a private second opinion.

P.S. the training began this morning and continues this lunch time!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Much, much more besides my MRI results

What follows is quite a lengthy blog post. I think staying with it will be quite rewarding; there are a few tips on the type of things I do and a couple of things I’ve found out along the way. There’s also my reflections’ regarding the obvious.

For those who are results orientated I’ll tell you now, it was bad news; as I had suspected all along, I do have posterior impingement. What’s more, they’re not willing to operate and suggest I manage the pain by giving up running!

Obviously that’s not going to happen and my thoughts on the matter are somewhere below.

Trail running
Whilst waiting for my injury to be diagnosed I have been trying to stay motivated. One of the things I decided to do was run the local mtb trails to give myself some times to beat in the future;

First up was Dalbeattie, which I ran with my friend Allie Wilson. We did this in a comfortable 2hrs23mins.

Then I did Mabie a week later by myself. I was quite tired when I did this after a big couple of weeks cross training and ran it in 1hr24mins.

Today I did Ae. In the run up to this beast I took my foot off the training in an attempt to give myself a good run of it. So for example, my last decent days training was Wednesday when I did the following;
  • 6am – a 30min walk with a 40llb pack on.
  • Lunch – 30mins cross training.
  • p.m. – an easy 4miler (32mins).

I had set myself a target of roughly 2 and a half hours as this route is hillier that Dalbeattie. I was delighted with 1hr59mins though. Having said that there were problems; after an hour I slowed considerably. This may have been due to the pain of running with a foot attached to my leg via a pancake of broken glass (not literally ofcourse!) though I suspect it had more to do with my total lack of any decent base training of late.

Anyway, that’s them done now. It’s my plan to strip myself back to basics and hone in on as near a perfect base training programme as I can. One day I’ll return to these courses and set a new pb on all. In fact, Ae is a round trip of 44 miles from my house including the trail. I think I’ll make this an ultra to aim for one day. Wait out on that one.

Camelbak Delaney fit
I tried this bad boy out today and got the idea when running with Allie at Dalbeattie. She was lugging this huge bum bag around and I was wearing my usual; my camelback octane. The backpack is a brilliant bit of kit but it’s probably a bit much for a run in the region of 2-3hours. Click on the link for some technical info.

At first, it felt as though the bottle would pop out at any time. Bear in mind that this is the first time I have used this type of product. However, after about 20mins I got used to the feeling and by the end of the run was very pleased with it. You do have to keep tightening the strap though and I’m not sure how I would get on in an ultra with the belt strapped tight across the lower half of my tummy, which leads me to my next tip;

Many ultra runners suffer with tummy problems, I being one of them. I don’t know if this is common knowledge but ginger goes some way to mitigating these issues. I’m not saying it is the be all and end all but it definitely helps.

I read about it on an American guys blog (can’t remember who now – sorry) so went and got myself the product in the picture from Holland and Barratts. I can say this works for me because when running with Allie after about only 90mins my stomach was just not settling; I had the tell tale signs of burping a lot. After about 5mins of taking one of these sweets not only had it completely settled but I was re-energised.

I know that electrolytes problems also contribute to stomach problems but have yet to come up with a master plan for that one. I do, however, use nuun tablets in my water.

Over the past few weeks I have been spending an almost identical time studying as I have been devising a super-duper training programme.

I have developed it by giving every session a weighting (a score) which revolve around only two priority sessions every week in base and three in the specialisation weeks. This way, my focus is on giving those priorities as much quality time as I can complete with adequate recovery either side of said sessions.

Obviously I can’t run huge volumes. So now during the course of a (base) week where I train every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times, I have included;
  • fast walking wearing a weighted pack (between 35-55llbs),
  • leg strength training followed by a short distance run wearing a 16llb pack,
  • easy short distance runs,
  • lunch time cross training,
  • one mid-long distance run every Saturday, and,
  • a medium distance easy cycle ride on Sundays
The priority sessions are increased in duration every week and all other sessions remain the same.

To mitigate and lasting pain from the mid-long distance runs I have done the following;
  1. Bought myself a pair of Hoka Bondi B’s. These will be used only for the long distance runs. Why? Have you seen the price of them? My focus here will be time on feet and ensuring I don’t overdo it. I really miss long distance runs. They are the cornerstone of ultra training in my view as they bring about an overall efficiency in everything else in training.
  2. Bought myself compression socks. I will wear these both during my runs and afterwards. Save yourself the time of hunting for the best; I’ve read a few reviews. 1000mile does a very good pair.  
  3. Upped the flexibility stuff and bought myself a foam roller to use after my priority sessions.

I’ve got a lot more planned for the specialisation phase but for now I’ll see how I get on with the base. As far as I’m concerned there are so many variables to training that it makes sense to approach it methodically. I have even made myself an A3 sized training log!

So hopefully now you’ll see that I’ve been thinking a lot recently! All of this has been on the back of my last blog chapter. In all honesty I have set myself some decent targets. My approach to training is how I intend to achieve those aims.

MRI results
The consultant told me that there would be a risk of permanent damage if I was operated on. He also conceded that the bone spur would continue to grow and that in a few years they would probably be forced to operate as it would impact on my day to day life!

These people have no idea; my day to day life! Even if I don’t run I’m in pain. What they’re saying is that I’ve got to be a cripple before they’ll do something. If I was still in the Army, I’m fairly certain I’d have been operated on by now. If I was famous I’m sure a private surgeon would’ve sorted me!

I’m still a little bit shocked by the whole episode. After I left his office, I actually broke down. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was feeling incredibly sorry for myself and that my wife was waiting for me (she works at the hospital). We immediately went outside and I had a proper cry!

Post MRI results
When I sorted myself out and said goodbye to the missus I phone Rob. He helped me see that this doesn’t spell the end (actually, my wife helped me out here too). We all know that I’m not going to give up. There are a few options. For example, I text my dad as he wanted to know how I got on. He immediately phoned me and offered to pay for a private consultant. This really is a god send and is something I’m considering.

When I returned to work my boss asked me how I got on. He knows me pretty well and the discussion revolved around the aims I have set myself;

“I know I have the determination but I don’t know if I have the genetics to achieve my aims. To date, I feel my injuries and Hons degree have been preventing me from putting in the hard yards to answer that question.”

Life and running are two and the same thing for me, for example;
  • You are facing challenges all the time, some self inflicted ofcourse,
  • There are many up’s and down’s,
  • You constantly learn much about yourself and others,
  • Sometimes life gets in the way of running (and vice versa),
  • You get out of it what you put in.

So it is from the lows of yesterday’s tears to the highs of today’s trail run that I realise that all I have to do is unlock another of life’s secret doors before I can proceed to the next.

And besides, isn’t this one of the things life should be about.............