Getting old and creaky…

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Regular readers will notice that I’ve been a bit quiet of late, partly that’s because I’ve been recovering from an operation, partly because I didn’t seem to have anything to say. (Those who know me personally know that this doesn’t happen very often)

My last week of training went really well, I managed to get in all the rides and runs that I had planned, and my Achilles were getting back to normal thanks to my physio and my exercises.  On the weekend I did my longest ride yet, which was great even if it did highlight that I need to look at a different seat, or at least harden my butt to the one I’ve got 🙂

Last week I went into hospital for an operation on my heart to fix (hopefully) the electrical issues I have once and for good.  While that sounds fairly major, it’s the third time I’ve had it (its hard to get a good surgeon these days) and I have been awake during the operation the last couple of times.  It’s actually quite surreal watching your heart on the screen as they operate.  Note this is a keyhole procedure, I’m looking at a computer monitor, there is no blood.

The downside of the operation is that I’m not allowed to do anything strenuous for two weeks afterwards and I’ve checked, this includes running and cycling.  So for the time being, I’ve just got to take it easy and keep up with my calf stretches and some other core work that I’ve been doing to counteract 25 years of sloth and gluttony.  I have been amazed at how much strength my body has lost and starting to get fit again has really highlighted just how it is so easy to kid yourself that you are more active than you actually are.

On a lighter note, I also hit 92kg and 5kg of weight loss.  I’m still not at my target weight but I am on my way and losing the weight is a great motivator.  Technically I’m still overweight with a BMI of 26.9 but I am now closer to healthy than I am obese!

  • Monday – Bike 17k
  • Wednesday – Bike 17k
  • Friday – Bike 17k
  • Saturday – Bike 35k, Run 5k
  • Monday – Bike 17k

What a weekend!

WP_20160120_06_01_17_Pro_LIWhat a weekend!  I watched the live stream and GPS tracking of this years Coast to Coast competitors with a mixture of fear and awe.  The winners of each of the respective races and sections were extremely humbling, the sheer pace they set absolutely staggered me – I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to run/bike that fast let alone do it now, it was truly inspirational to watch. Full details of the winners etc is available on the Coast to Coast website.

It would be easy to get discouraged by these seemingly inhuman feats of speed and endurance, but what really inspired me this weekend was the photos of the rest of the competitors, the average men and women who had decided that this was the year that they were going to test themselves like they’ve never tested themselves before.  Their photos, looking tired but happy along the course, really reaffirmed my decision to compete next year.  The oldest competitor this year has nearly 30 years on me, if he can do it then so can I.  So to all the athletes who competed this year, I salute you and thank you for the inspiration to keep going.  I’ll be going back to look over those photos again and again as the next 12 months roll past to give me a shot of inspiration and keep me on track.

This week training was a little sporadic – there’s no real excuse other than I just didn’t feel up to it.  I was originally planning on a combination of cycling and running but after Wednesday’s run I flagged the run for the rest of the week because my Achilles are still not 100% and I want to nip this in the bud before it sidelines me later in the year.  I did manage a new cycle route on Saturday, the weather was pretty warm but I decided to alter my normal route and go up Te Miro hill.  Te Miro is a slow steady climb over 4.5 kilometers with an elevation gain of 150m and its a long slow (well mine was) grind.  This was my first attempt at this route and I was happy to reach the top/school without stopping.  I did stop at the school and have something to drink and eat, and a well earned rest.

From there I carried on across the top to the hill that I normally run up and came down that hill (which is much steeper than Te Miro)  All in all I climbed a total of 350m on my ride that day and my legs were having a bit of a moan by the end of it, but the euphoria of actually riding a route that I had once thought of as unachieveable was pretty damn good and a great way to finish up a week that had felt a bit hum drum in the training stakes.

Tuesday – Ride 16k

Wednesday – Run 6k

Saturday – Ride 23k

 

Watching the progress live

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Just a quick post to let everyone know that the Coast to Coast live tracking site is up today and you can watch the progress of this years athletes as they complete the course.  Today its the two day competitors and tomorrow it will be both one and two day events.  Check it out here, you’ll want to make sure it works on your computer because next year you can follow ME!

http://www.coasttocoast.co.nz/2016-race-day/gps-tracking/

 

One Year Today

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By the time you read this the 2016 Coast to Coast 2 day race competitors will have started on their 243Km epic journey from the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand to the East Coast, finishing at Sumner Beach in Christchurch.  This is the event that I’m training for and this means that there is only 12 months to get me from couch potato to competitor.

I’ve not said much about the Coast to Coast in the past on this blog for a couple of reasons, firstly when I first started it seemed so far away that it wasn’t that important; and secondly because its actually a bit scary.  But with 12 months to go its probably time to five you a quick overview of what the Coast to Coast actually entails…

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The Coast to Coast (C2C) started in 1982, Robin Judkins and 11 mates decided to “race” from the west coast to the east coast, combining running, cycling and kayaking to cover the 243Km, this first race was a pretty low key affair and was run over two days.  The first official race was the next year 1983 and 79 competitors turned up, far surpassing the 35 that were expected.  The next two years saw the race grow in size with 130 then 320 entries in 1985, by now the event had become a bit of a global phenomenon.

If the two day race wasn’t difficult enough, in 1987 the one day event “The Longest Day” was introduced, which follows the same course but without the overnight stop half way.  Needless to say I won’t be competing in this category next year.

The race today attracts around 800 competitors, from all around the globe and is a bit of a rite of passage among a certain type of person in New Zealand.  While none of the disciplines and distances in and of themselves are super difficult, chained together they make this a fearsome beast of a race that demands more than just strength and endurance but also determination and a willingness to compete regardless of how your body is feeling.

There are a number of different categories these days including teams, tandems and even corporate and school teams.  I will be competing in the classic two day race with my family as support crew to ensure that all my gear is ready and waiting for me at the transitions and to give me a pep talk to keep me going.

The total race is as follows

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Day one finishes at the end of the mountain run.

Good luck to all those competing this weekend and to the organisers, I’ll see you next year.

 

Shawn

It’s all a flutter

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I’ve been on this little get fit trip since the 13th of September, just after my 44th birthday.  I had been thinking about doing the Coast to Coast for some time, mainly for an excuse to actually get off my butt and do some exercise but also as its always been a race that I’ve looked at and thought that it would be great to do.  It involves a kayak – that pretty much sold it to me.

The getting fit and losing weight though that was really prompted by my cardiologist who said I needed to lose at least 10kg as there had appears to be a correlation between BMI > 28 and Atrial Fibrillation which is something that I have lived with for the last 12 years.  All has been going really well and I’ve not had an episode of arrhythmia since just before my birthday and I have been slowly but steadily losing weight, heading back into the “normal” zone of BMI and back to the weight that I remember myself being.

Well last week that all came crashing down, and my heart once more had an arrhythmia, worse it was brought on by a combination of forgetting to take my medication before my run and (probably) dehydration…

After the previous week of cycling to give my Achilles a rest and my big walk on the Saturday, I decided that as we had the Monday off that I would do a bike ride then a run, which would be the first time I trained two disciplines in one day, back to back.  I started out a little later than I would have liked, hey it was a lovely long weekend Monday, I felt I deserved a rest.  So heading out for the ride at at 9:30 I put in a reasonable time for my usual 17k loop ride, then got home, changed and drank a good litre of water before heading out for a 10k run.  Halfway through the run I noticed that my heart rate was not behaving like it usually did and when I returned home I realised that it was indeed out of normal sinus rhythm.

I’ve been dealing with this for over a decade, it should probably be scary, but its not, its annoying and I will do anything I can to avoid going to the hospital again… So I did my normal routine of things that will put it back into normal rhythm.  THEY ALL FAILED… Ugh…..

So Tuesday morning I headed to the emergency room where eventually I was rebooted and headed home to get on with living again. Now when I say rebooted, I mean just that.  Like a computer, if you turn the heart off momentarily it will restart itself back in a normal rhythm – this is done under light sedation so I don’t actually see myself jump the way they do on TV, its quick effective and I can then get on with normalcy.

Needless to say I didn’t run/ride on the Tuesday or Wednesday, I did get a good hill day in on the Thursday which kept a really good eye on my HR during my run.  On Saturday though I headed out for another run and just crumpled, the couple of niggles that I’ve been working through seemed to have flared up and I just couldn’t seem to make any headway, every time I’d start to run it just seemed like my body was slamming on the brakes.  I headed back home without really even getting a sweat up.

All in all it was a bit of a rubbish week training wise, the heart thing obviously had more of an effect than I thought – both physically but also mentally, but there is only one thing for it and that’s to get back on the horse that threw me, albeit with a renewed sense of caution.  The rest has actually done my aches and pains well though as they’ve had time to heal themselves.

Training last week:

Monday – Bike 16km, Run 10k

Thursday – Run 6k

 

Shawn

 

Ouch, that hurt…

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Last week I had a nice reminder that I’m getting on a bit, don’t get me wrong, I’m not old, but the halcyon days of my youth have become a gilded memory and my body is starting to remind me in subtle and not so subtle ways that I can’t quite perform at the levels I remember.

I was really happy with my 10k effort last Saturday and I felt good all things considered so on Monday I went for my normal 40 minute run, but I thought it was time to add the hill back into at least one of my weekly runs.  After all the Coast to Coast mountain run is 33k’s long but involves 800+m of elevation gain, so it makes sense to me to make sure I train on hills to get myself ready for the actual event.

Monday morning I woke up still a little stiff from the weekends long run and my Achilles were still a little tight, but I walked them loose before I began my slow run – 25 minutes up and 15 down – I actually had a good run, although it was well off my flat pace but I was definitely fitter and it was easier than the last time I had tackled the hill. (10 weeks ago just before I started the couch to 5k series – time really does fly when you’re pounding pavements) However on Tuesday morning my Achilles were really stiff and I was not as mobile as I should be.  Luckily I had an appointment with Laura my physio who had already been treating my stiff Achilles.

Laura took one look at me hobbling into her office and pretty much said “no more running for the rest of the week” To be honest, that was the best news out as it had gone beyond stiff and was fast approaching quite sore, I could ride my bike though so that meant that I could still get some training in.  Laura worked some of the tightness out of my calves and Achilles and sent me off with some more exercises to help with my underdeveloped calf muscles. (That’s what happens when you stop walking everywhere and only drive)

So for the rest of the week I had a welcome change of cycling instead of running, I cycled for the same duration as I normally run, and we’re lucky enough to have a 17k loop that takes me just on 40 minutes.  The riding and exercises to work my calves definitely helped my Achilles and by the weekend I had no pain and could blast out the exercises I had been given a lot easier than in the previous weeks.

Finally on Saturday I decided that even if I couldn’t run I was going to get some K’s in, so the dog and I walked up the hill and then continued on for a few more K’s enjoying the views and the sun from the top of Maungakawa.  We walked the majority of it but there was some running once we were on the top and everything was limber and pain free, it felt good to run a few K’s and Zoe (the dog) really enjoyed it as well – I’m going to have to take her out on a few of my morning runs as well.

All in all a good week, even though I was not running for all of it.  The biking was a nice change and a reminder that I also have two other disciplines that I need to work on.

The week that was:

  • Monday – Run 6k
  • Wednesday – Ride 17k
  • Thursday – Ride 17k
  • Saturday – Walk 14k

Two Weeks Holiday

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I’m back at work again after two glorious weeks off in the Wairarapa at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand.  I do have to apologise for the tardy postings while I was away, I had written the two articles that went out the other day and scheduled them to publish at intervals while I was away but something went wrong and for some reason they never published.  To make it worse I then published them in the incorrect order – never mind, I’m sure the 15 of you who regularly read the blog can work it out.

The holiday was great – the weather was a bit windy at the beginning, but nothing a crayfish and some fish couldn’t help.  We were pretty  much completely alone in our little bach on the beach, with beautiful sea views and empty farmlands all around.  I was excited to be somewhere different to go for a run and explore.

I managed to get 3 runs in a week as well as some hiking and kayaking – although the kayaking was in a sit on top fishing kayak, not a sea kayak or multi-sport boat.  Still I figure that at this stage any paddling will help to build kayaking muscle and I needed something a bit more stable to drop the cray pot with and fish from.

Once the weather sorted itself out the days were hot and sunny with beautiful sunrises and cloud free skies, the temperature was hot and the best time for any exercise was either first thing in the morning or at Gin O’clock – needless to say I was running first thing in the morning.  Behind our bach was a big hill which Chicken and I decided to climb on one of my rest days – we followed a ridge line up to the summit of the hill, a short 4k round trip, but the 250m elevation in the mid-morning sun made it a bit of a chore, not to mention that my 15yr old step-daughter is Waaaayyy fitter than I am.  To add a little insult to injury, Buddy had decided to race us to the top and came directly up the front of the hill – a far steeper and direct route.  We won, but only just.

As for fitting in training, well I had week 8 and 9 to complete which were to be 28 and 30 minutes of constant running, which to be honest I had already been doing the week before.  So while I finished the podcast series I was already running for 30-40 minutes by the end of the holiday.  The NHS Couch to 5k series has been really good for me, it forced me to pace myself as my fitness increased and made my progress much more linear than it had previously been and is a really great way to get yourself running.

The long lazy days were perfect for pushing out the length of my runs, with no real calls on my time and the ability to have an afternoon snooze, it just felt right to push my run duration out to 40 minutes.  Needless to day the distances covered while on holiday are a bit longer than I’ve been doing in the past, but I’ve felt really good about the additional distance and my body seems to be ready to stretch the distances I’m running.

On Saturday I felt like I was ready for a new challenge and I decided to go on a longer run than I had done previously, so I readied myself for an hours run and decided on an appropriate course and set off.  I was listening to an audiofuel podcast of 160bpm music and monitoring my heart rate as per the Maffetone method and busted out the 10k of my chosen route in a little over an hour, not bad considering my Round the Bridges 6.5k was 52 minutes.

Holiday Training.

Week 1

  • Tuesday – Run 6k
  • Wednesday – Walk 4k
  • Thursday – Run 5k
  • Friday – Paddle 8k
  • Saturday – Run 7k

Week 2

  • Tuesday – Run 7k
  • Tuesday – Paddle 5.6k
  • Wednesday – Paddle 6k
  • Thursday – Run 6k
  • Saturday – Run 10k

Back to Work

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Yep, all too soon the Christmas break ended and I’ve been back at work, although a 4 day week went some way to making the transition a bit easier.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while now, you may notice that the picture looks a little different today.  Normally I try to get a good shot during my warm ups (or turn rounds) on at least one run of the week but because I got the chance to paddle last week I managed to get some shots while I was in the boat.  The one above is from the limestone rock formations in the Raglan harbour.  As you can see the weather was fantastic even if the rock gardening was a little tame in the harbour.  Strangely enough I was a bit busy paddling in the rougher stuff at the harbour mouth and didn’t manage to get a decent picture, I’ll have to work on something to make that a bit better.

It’s been quite a good week for exercise too, I managed to get out on my bike again for the first time since starting the couch to 5k series and I can see the improvement in my bike times just from the additional fitness.  Who knew, getting fit in one area has benefits in others, its almost like its a conspiracy 🙂  I managed to drop a couple of minutes on my round the block time and did it keeping my heart rate in my training zone.

Which is a nice segue into a change I have made to my training.  I’ve been reading quite a bit around endurance training and different methodologies and came across Phil Maffetone who is a proponent of purely aerobic training dictated by HR and keeping it in a specific zone.  Once I got my Garmin watch with Heart Rate I decided to give this a try and see how it worked for me.  It’s early days but it seems to be showing some promise and I will keep using it for the time being, and write a more in depth post about it in the near future.

I have found it invaluable on my longer run, I’ve run around the block twice now which is a nice even 6k and have managed to run the entire distance (YAAAYYY) and more importantly have done so without hurting myself or feeling like I was dying, which is probably more important at the moment.

  • Monday – Run 5.24k
  • Wednesday – Run 5.34k
  • Thursday – Bike 17k
  • Friday – Run 6k (the block)

We’re off on holiday for the next two weeks so posts will come when I can get to the internet.  Have fun and I’ll talk soon.

 

 

 

 

The power of planning

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I’m a 44 year old bloke, we don’t read the manual…

I mean I’ve watched a couple of documentaries about running/training/endurance events and I once used to be fit so I must be able to put together a quick plan to get myself fit.

Well that’s what I thought when I began this journey and to be fair, I wasn’t just winging it, I did set myself goals for each week and schedule runs and bikes before each week.  And I’ve watched the kids training for their cycling races so I know how important it is to have a plan so I made one – I made it up each week, and I stuck to it.  And I didn’t really get the results I was looking for.

Looking back now I can see where I went wrong and there were a number of areas where I made rookie mistakes, mistakes that I’m sure aren’t new or original but mistakes nevertheless.

So here’s my assessment of where I went wrong:

  • I overestimated my level of fitness – I still thought that I was fitter than I actually was, even after my first attempts had clearly shown me that I wasn’t
  • I underestimated the amount of time it takes to make progress – I thought that I would improve after each run, that I would go faster and further each time.
  • I set unrealistic goals – I felt that because I was training for a 6k run that I would just go out and run 6k and get progressively faster as my fitness improved.  I also spent a lot of time running up hills (or attempting to) when I couldn’t even run on the flat.
  • I focused on distance rather than time – instead of building stamina over time, I just tried to go further each time I went out, while this did build stamina the results were mixed and I would walk/run longer to achieve bigger distances rather than concentrating on running longer within a given time
  • I was a bit hard on myself when I didn’t achieve my goals.  This one took a while to get my head around, I wasn’t happy with my Round the Bridges time, I’m still not happy with it, but looking back it was the time I deserved and the time I was capable of at the time.

Which all sounds a bit negative, but its really just coming to terms with the enormity of the task I have set.  And I didn’t do it all wrong, in fact I feel that there were some things that I did do right.

Things I did right:

  • I made a plan – Yes it may not have been a perfect plan but at 6am when its dark and you’re still half asleep, knowing what you are supposed to be doing is a great motivator. In order to keep track of my plan I use Training Peaks to plan and then record my actual session against the plan – it changes colour once you’ve entered your actual data to indicate if you achieved your goal or missed.  Trying to keep each session green appeals to my OCD (Red means it wasn’t achieved or not done, yellow means you took >10% longer than planned)
  • I stuck to the plan – Even when I was tired and a little disillusioned I got up and went for a run, when it was raining I went for a run, when I was away for work I went for a run. Sticking to the plan has really been the secret of my success.
  • I started this blog – Yes telling the world about getting fit makes it a lot more difficult to just chuck in the towel and having to come up with an article at least once a week gives me something to think about when I’m running.
  • I changed the plan when it didn’t fit into my life – Wait? didn’t I just say I stuck to the plan, well yes I did, but I also modified the plan when my week didn’t fit in with my normal routine.  BUT – the plan was modified at the start of the week when I was planning the week, not the morning of the run.  I’ve looked at many plans for getting beginner runners up to varying distances from 5k to half marathons and there are some out there that look terrible – not just too ambitious but also look like they would be really difficult to fit into a normal working life.  The ability to change things slightly has kept me at it and as I progress I find that the urge to change the routine actually diminishes with time and I go to greater lengths to fit the exercise into my day.
  • I bought the right clothes – I’d heard of chafing, chafing is what athletes get when they run marathons… It’s also what unfit 44 year olds get when they run in cotton and sweat a lot.  A set of running clothes (t-shirt and shorts) transformed my running comfort and made it a little nicer to go out each morning.  A decent pair of shoes also helped.
  • I recorded every run/bike session – I used apps on my phone to record each session and I then entered it into Training Peaks so that I can look back over my progress.
  • I reassessed my training after my first event – I knew a couple of weeks out from the Round the Bridges that I wasn’t making consistent progress – that’s when someone mentioned the Couch to 5K series on the internet.  I didn’t want to change my training right before the event, but I knew I needed to change my training and did so as soon as the event was over.  Could I have changed the plan before the event? Probably and I possibly would have seen some improvements, but sticking with the original plan was the right decision at the time.

So on balance it looks like I did more right than wrong which is always great, even better because I recorded every session I can plot my improvement.  I pulled the data out of Training Peaks and graphed them in Excel, as you can see having a more structured plan has definitely paid off with my average minutes per kilometer coming steadily down each week as the plan ramps up.  I will finish week 5 on Christmas Eve and the whole program will finish when we are away on holiday.

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The red triangle is the Round the Bridges race and the green dots are the C25K runs.

So what will I do next – its clear that having a plan with a bit more structure leads to better results so I think I might look at a half marathon training program – the main run for the Coast to Coast is 33k so pretty much 3/4 of a Marathon so getting the half distance sorted feels like the next logical step, of course I will be adding some more cycling and kayaking into this mix which means that rest days will become fewer and further between…  2016 is going to be an interesting year.

Shawn

 

 

Merry Christmas!

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Well a merry Christmas to everyone, I hope you enjoyed the festive season and Santa was kind to you.

Santa (aka Jane) was extremely good to me, I’ve been lusting after a bit of exercise tech ever since I started on this get fit kick and Santa was kind enough to ensure that it was waiting for me under the tree this Christmas!

So amongst the presents under our tree was a brand new Garmin Forerunner 920XT and a set of sensors for my bike!  The Forerunner 920XT is a premium multisport watch and even has a quick release kit to allow it to fit on a standard Garmin bike mount.  It collects a heap of data from your run/ride/swim or paddle and will help me ensure that I’m training as efficiently as possible, plus it looks the part which is always important.  Once I’ve worked out all the functions and how to use it I will post a review (to add to the many that are already out there) and my thoughts on it.

I did manage to get in all my runs this week, although there was some juggling of the program so that I wasn’t running on Christmas morning and had a couple of days off over the busiest part of the Christmas break.  The weather has turned extremely hot in the last few days, so running early is really important otherwise I just burn to a crisp.  The upside is that I’ve been in the pool quite a lot and have been putting in some lengths which is working my shoulders and other paddling muscles in preparation for our holiday later in January and the beginning of my kayak training.

  • Tuesday – Run 5.0k
  • Thursday – Run 5.0k
  • Sunday – Run 5.0k