Climbing out of the doldrums

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It feels like every post of late has begun with something along the lines of, I’ve not written much lately…  and that’s true.  The truth is I was becoming a little bit befuggled, the winter mornings dark and cool make staying in bed look a lot more inviting than getting up for a run.  Add to that my feeling that I wasn’t making progress, and lack of planning out what I was going to be doing each morning/week and you have a perfect storm of rationalsation that would end up with me waking up in a few months going #$%^ I’m unfit again…

So what do you do when you find yourself lacking in motivation and drive?  The option that I was going with to start off with was to go with it and enjoy my sleep-ins, except that I wouldn’t actually enjoy them, I would lie there beating myself up for not getting out of bed all the while staying in bed…  some might label that a little on the stupid side, the least I could have done was skip a workout and enjoy the experience.  Clearly this work avoidance scheme wasn’t working for me any more than trying to train without a plan was working for me.  In fact it was beginning to feel like the photo above – well and truly out of control and in danger of crashing down.

Clearly it was time to bring some structure back to my training and to this end  I have engaged the services of local coach Mark Sutherland.  For those of you who have been paying attention to sport in NZ over the past 20 years you may have come across his name before, making his name coaching Ian Ferguson & Paul MacDonald back in 1987, Mark has continued to coach a number of international athletes to world acclaim.  needless to say I am far from the dizzying heights of olympic gold, but the skills and rigor that Mark has provided over the past couple of weeks have already shown me that I made the right decision to enlist his aid.

Having a plan laid out each week has made getting up in the dark that little bit easier, and having someone other than myself to explain why I chose the duvet rather than the pavement to is definitely a great motivator.  The plan Mark presented me with has added some much needed variety to my training while not increasing the volume overall.

After my first full week on the new programme I am already feeling the effects, I’m definitely working harder than I was before and I am seeing some improvement already, some of this is possibly due to having a bit of a break and then getting back into it with renewed vigor but I can already feel myself getting a little bit faster and stronger.

Its going to be an interesting few months coming up, I am traveling for work quite a bit so I’ll be training in some new places – new roads to ride and paths to run.  The weather is getting a lot cooler too so I am having to work out just what gear works when its below zero.  All I can say at the moment is that I need some gloves…

The first weeks training

Saturday – Bike 32k, Run 7k

Sunday – Kayak 14k

Monday – Ride 22k

Wednesday – Run 5k, Ride 13k

Thursday – Run 9k

If you want to contact Mark you can find him on his website http://www.thegoldmedalzone.co.nz/

 

Finding My Mojo

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Its been an interesting week, where I’ve begun to question my ability to run.  Basically I feel like I’ve lost my running mojo!  Before my operation a couple of weeks ago, I cut back on the amount of running I was doing to give my Achilles some rest and began to focus on cycling a bit more than I had been, what I had failed to recognise at the time was that it would be four weeks until I next ran again.

Those four weeks have somehow stolen my mojo, and my recent runs have been a real struggle, to the point that I have not managed to complete a single run without some walking.  In fact the first time I headed out for my run after I got the all clear, I was shocked at how much running fitness that I had lost.  Everything felt really heavy and I just couldn’t seem to hit the groove, it was quite disheartening, as I remembered just how it used to feel to run for 40 minutes without stopping while I was walking around my usual morning route.

It’s getting better, I can now run further than that first few runs, but I’m still not back where I was and its a little disheartening.  The fact that I’m recording all my runs on my Garmin watch, means that I am able to see the slow gains that I am making, which is great and definitely helping with the motivation.

On a rosier note I have started putting some hills into my weekly cycling routine and have started doing a 22k hill loop that climbs 350m overall and provides some pretty beautiful views as well when the sun starts to come up.  And its these moments that keep me getting up at 5am so that I can get the run or ride in before work.  The getting outside and “doing it” is really good for my sense of well being, even if its absolutely rubbish for the amount of sleep I’m getting, something that I am going to have to address, but a lifetime of being a night owl is not going to get overturned in a few months.  Still I do have to get used to going to sleep sometime between 9 and 10 because everything I read tells me that sleep is realllllllly important for recovery.

Finally I actually won something this week! Not a race, but I won a supply of EM’s power cookies from a competition that I entered on Facebook.  They’ve not arrived yet but that was a pretty excellent way to start my weekend.

Shawn

  • Monday – Ride 22k
  • Tuesday – Run 6k
  • Thursday – Ride 17k, Run 6k
  • Saturday – Run 5k
  • Sunday – Ride 31k

 

 

Hello Darkness…

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Last week was two weeks after my operation and I was officially allowed to start exercising again. Taking an enforced two weeks off was harder than I thought it would be, I actually missed going for a run or a ride, something that if you’d told my unfitter self at the beginning of this crusade I would have scoffed at you!

The first week of recovery was pretty much spent taking it really easy and either sleeping or doing things that didn’t require much energy.  That meant that I read a lot, got quite a bit further through Fallout 4 and caught up on a lot of sleep.  During the second week however, as I started to feel better and was able to get around easier without feeling like I had already run 5k with each set of stairs, I started to get the urge to “just go for a quick ride or run.”  I did resist the urge to go, I was under doctors orders and having been through this surgery before I knew that the appearance of feeling better was a bit of an illusion for the first couple of weeks.

Finally the day came when I was able to get back on my bike again, but those two weeks off had changed the experience somewhat.  For a start it was dark, and I don’t mean the sun will be up soon, its starting to get light dark.  I mean holy moly, I can’t see my hand in front of my face dark.  Luckily I had picked up a cheap generic CREE bicycle front light, which makes it like riding with car headlights, plenty of lumens to see and be seen by.

The other change was the drop off in fitness.  It wasn’t a huge drop but it was noticeable, legs ached a bit more than they had, and times were a bit slower.  I’m not really too worried about that, the first ride was intentionally slow and I kept my heart rate about 10 beats lower than I usually do my aerobic training at to ensure that everything is still working as intended.  Riding in the dark was slightly surreal, there are even fewer cars on the road than there have been in the past, but the blinking lights of a cyclist about half a kilometer almost ruined my resolve to have a slow recovery ride as I repeatedly had to kill the urge to catch up.  Luckily the slight reduction in fitness made that choice ultimately easy to make as I would have never been able to maintain the pace necessary to catch the unknown cyclist up.

Of course now that I had the green light to start exercising again I decided to ease back into it, so a ride on Wednesday followed by a gentle 6k on Thursday morning.  Running in the dark was really cool, although I tended to stick to the flatter sections of the road and keep off the rough stuff in the light of my headlamp.  I’ve been looking for a high visibility running vest, but the local offerings are a bit thin on the ground so I’ve ordered one off the internet.  I do struggle with running and cycling kit that isn’t highly visible, especially the winter stuff.  Even in the best weather its better to be able to be seen, and with modern coatings I shouldn’t have to look like I’m straight out of the 80’s in flouro.  (now there’s an  image – me in headband, arm bands and leg warmers and lycra all in flouro…  the best thing is that you can’t unsee that image now muhahahaha)

The run was hard, I really struggled to keep going and it wasn’t until I looked bck at my training log that I realised that it was a month since I had last run.  I had forgotten that I had stopped running to give my Achilles some time to heal.  The good news is that I had no Achilles pain at all, the exercises and rest had done their job, unfortunately every running muscle was calling out in pain for the next couple of days.

Friday I went for another ride, another relatively slow one to just turn my legs over and work some of the ache out of them.  The ride was pretty uneventful except for the rain that started the minute I left the house and stopped about 2k from home.  Signs of the months ahead and an indicator in what clothing I’m going to need to get to ensure that I can continue to train through the upcoming winter months.

  • Wednesday – Ride 17k
  • Thursday – Run 6k
  • Friday – Ride 17k

 

 

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Running while the sun shines

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By the time you read this I will be sitting on the wairarapa coast of New Zealand looking out over the sea wondering if I will be having shellfish or fish for dinner.  Yep, summer is a great time the world over and New Zealand summers can be some of the best in the world.  Those idyllic days where the sky seems bigger than the whole world and time ticks by at 80 seconds to a minute, nowhere to go and nothing to do other than bait hooks, move the umbrella so you’re out of the direct sun and swim to cool off whenever necessary.

Which is fantastic, but how the hell do you fit some running into that mix and not get it in the way of spending quality family time which is actually the real purpose of going on a beach holiday in my opinion.  You know the kind where you just hang out together, no plans other than probably meeting for meals, perhaps a walk in the evening enjoying the last rays of the sun and then some games together before bed.   Yeah, running doesn’t really fit into that picture, but if I’m going to keep progressing with my training I will have to go for six runs in the two weeks we are away.

I have been thinking about this and I think I have a few options that will make this not only possible but potentially enjoyable not only for me but also the rest of the family!  I’ve outlined them below, have a read and let me know what you think in the comments.

  1. Run Early – I know that early mornings and holidays are a bit of an oxymoron, but I am finding that I am waking earlier in the morning even when my alarm isn’t set.  Throwing on my running kit and going for a run before everyone else gets up is a great idea to get my run in without taking away from family time.  Best case scenario, I get back everyone is still in bed and I can take Jane a cup of tea.  Worst case scenario is that Jane and the kids get up while I’m out and I come back to find breakfast is being cooked and a coffee waiting for me. (or is that the best case??)
  2. Introduce some cross training, we’re taking bikes with us this holiday so there is always the option to switch out a run for a bike with the whole family.  This is a good option as I’m probably the slowest in the family on the bike so I’d get a good workout and hopefully prove to the kids that old age and treachery can overcome youth and skill.
  3. Make the run part of a larger adventure.  We’ve always loved coastal walks where we all clamber over the rocks and look in rock pools for life and interesting stuff and gently make our way around the coast.  I reckon that there is no reason why I can’t start out with the family on my normal starting walk, then when its time to kick it up a gear go for my run in the same direction that they will be walking and have them follow me.  As long as I turn round about 20 mins into my 30 min run I should get back to them about the time I finish.  Then we can walk on together.  There are a few problems with this – mainly running on the beach or rocks will be difficult but the C2C run is pretty brutal off road so this will be good practice.

So there you go, three as yet untried techniques for fitting runs in around a family holiday.  I’m hoping that at least one of these has some legs and I do actually get my runs in.  I am of course taking a kayak (well two actually) so there will be plenty of paddling and some biking, so the chances of getting no exercise are pretty much nil.  I’ll let you know how I get on when we get back, in the meantime if you have any thoughts about the suggestions above or any of your own please leave a comment.

 

Shawn

 

Happy New Year!!!

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I love being on holiday, its a fantastic time of the year to get some good training sessions in and then with few demands on my time I can relax and recover to my hearts content.  Of course there is still plenty to do on the socialising front and beer and wine to be consumed with friends in the warm summers evenings…

I also had the opportunity to test a new kayak this week.  I had the pleasure of taking out the new Paddling Perfection Adventurer kayak so that I can write a review for a kayaking magazine.  I was a bit worried that my skills were a bit rusty after nearly a year out of the cockpit and the first time I headed over the hill to Raglan I arrived and the wind was pretty ferocious and I turned around and headed back home, not the day to be testing a new boat.  The next day though was beautifully sunny and calm and the perfect day to test a new boat.  I’m not going to give a review here just yet, but getting out in a kayak again reminded me of why I decided on the Coast to Coast, I can take or leave running, I have always enjoyed cycling as a form of transport but I love kayaking and the kayaking section of the race is the bit that I’m looking forward to the most.

Getting out in the Adventurer was great fun, I worked some long neglected muscles and also felt the benefit of my recent training as my aerobic fitness.  I played in the rock formations around the coast and then paddled out and surfed the bar at the harbour mouth, excellent fun and a great way to spend the morning.

I also completed week six of the couch to 5k and because of the way that I rejigged my training to fit Christmas and New Years celebrations I also started Week 7.

Tuesday – Run 5k

Wednesday – Paddle 8.25k

Thursday – Run 6k

Saturday – Run 5k

Sunday – Walk 10k