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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Little Changes

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I’m always amazed at how quickly time passes when you’re busy with life and how easy it is to fall into bad habits when you’re not paying attention.  I mean, that’s how I ended up being 44 and seriously unfit, slowly eating more than I was burning, walking less and less until one day I woke up 20Kg’s heavier than I was in my 20’s and unable to run to the end of the road.  But the last three months have been pretty transformative and I am starting to see the benefits.

Hard to believe that I have been on this “health kick” for three months, that equates to exercising 54 times in 13 weeks! Looking back at my training diary I am amazed at how consistent I have been, for people who know me they will be aware that I don’t do routine well and it has to be said that I have definitely had to work to avoid boredom in my routine.

One way I have been tackling this is to mix up my routes when I run, heading the other way as I leave the driveway can really change my outlook on the run in the morning and makes it a little more interesting.  Of course heading overseas a couple of times has also provided some much needed variety in the scenery as well as the added challenge of running in the heat.  Given that the Coast to Coast is run in the height of summer this is all good practice for the big day.

I have also discovered that little changes can have marked effects on how I feel after a run.  I was struggling with some knee pain which would also come with a sore hip joint, changing where I ran to a road with a little less camber (well a lot less camber really) helped this enormously.  I also changed from my Innov8’s to an old pair of Vibram 5 fingers I had.  These made me run a little slower and altered my gait subtly which meant that the knee pain has now completely disappeared.  I intend to give the Innov8’s another try mainly because I can’t get 5 fingers in New Zealand (or Australia) anymore and I need to find a pair of shoes that I can run in when the event finally does roll around.

When I started this crusade to get fit, I didn’t really consider the profound effects it would have on my day to day life.  Getting up at 5:45 hasn’t got any easier, but it has become routine.  I’m still not a morning person, but I do feel guilty when I hit snooze and contemplate staying in bed a little longer.  I also never really considered what losing weight would mean, I am not at my target weight yet, but even so I am seeing some changes in body makeup, and I’m going to have to buy a new belt in the not too distant future…

It is still 14 months until the Coast to Coast 2017, which seems like forever and not enough time at the same time.  My fitness has improved out of sight, but I still can’t run for 30 minutes without stopping.  On the other hand I regularly walk/run 10k’s which I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before I started this and I am starting to hit 5k on my morning run, even with the walking sections of the Couch to 5K so I am definitely getting quicker and the stamina is building.  There is still a long way to go, but I’m feeling confident that these little changes will keep adding up until I am actually fit and will be able to complete the Coast to Coast.  That’s not too bad for a second hand dad…

 

Travelling again

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It’s been a pretty good year for travel this year.  Usually I don’t travel that much these days, but this year I have been overseas twice for work and last week Jane and I headed back to sunny Queensland to attend her uncles 70th birthday!  So yaaayyy for traveling, but its not so good for maintaining running schedule, still, I had already traveled and come up with my 8 tips for running while you travel so it should be fine right?

It’s amazing just how much difference 6 weeks can make to the weather, and whereas last time I was on the Gold Coast I was running in the mid-high 20’s this time it was hitting the low 30’s quite early in the morning.   I did still get out for my runs though, and Jane joined me for one as well – she would walk with me for my warm-up and I would then run and turn round at the end of my running sections of the Week 4 couch to 5k podcast and then walk back to meet her.  As a result I did a couple of days where I put in some decent K’s.

Planning my runs worked really well for the first few days in Coolangatta where the beach front path provides some of the best running scenery around, but I got it a bit wrong when we moved inland to stay with family.  I planned a route on google maps but the reality wasn’t as good as the map indicated.  The run started OK but I hit a fairly decent hill just as my run was about to start and there was also no footpath for one section.  Not to be discouraged I pushed myself up the hill and round the course I had decided upon, and then proceeded to get lost when I missed a fairly major “feature” on the run. (I mean how was I to know there was a railway line in the way).  Needless to say the run wasn’t my best, although with getting lost and a small detour meant that I covered about 8-9k in total.  To add insult to injury, Brisbane had decided that the previous days of 30+ temperatures were just not on and it rained on me for the entire hour or so that I was out.

We flew out on the Monday, which should have been a run day, but I’ve decided to redo week 4 this week so that I can do it justice and week 5 has some big runs that I thought some more training wouldn’t hurt to do before I gave them a go.

 

Monday – 5.0 K’s

Thursday – 4.75K plus 5k Walk

Saturday – 9k due to getting lost and walked about half.

 

 

The week that was…

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Last week started out pretty tough, I hadn’t really made any plans for training after the round the bridges, and as that run was on the Sunday my normal Monday morning run wasn’t really an option.  After my experience on the Round the Bridges run I decided that I needed to change the focus of my training from relatively casual, but distance based to a more focussed plan that was geared to get me up to the point where I could run for 30 minutes/5 k.

Luckily there are plenty of couch to 5k plans out there on the internet either written down or as podcasts and being a bit of a geek I went down the podcast route.  I looked at a couple but settled on the NHS couch to 5k series, for no other reason that a get fit guide produced by the UK National Health Service is unlikely to set unrealistic goals or cause me to injure myself.

The first week was really good – the run/walk is a 5 minute warm up walk then 60 seconds running interspersed with 90 seconds of walking.  After the previous work I have done I found that the first few running sections were quite easy, however after the 5th and 6th I was getting quite tired and I really appreciated the ‘coach’ letting me know what was coming up and making me stick to the regime. My only criticisim of the podcast was that it didn’t tell me when I had gone halfway through the podcast and I ended up going for a bit longer than the 30 minutes on the first day.  Apparently it will take 9 weeks to get me to a point where I’m able to run for 30 minutes or 5k, and at the moment I’m doing 4.5k in the 30 minute programme so hopefully I will be able to do a bit more than the 5k in 30 minutes by the end.

Tuesday – Run 4.46k  36:30

Friday – Run 4.5k 32:00

Saturday – Run 4.8k 35:00