The week began much as exhausted and tired as it ended on the Sunday following a monster week of work covering the Australian GP. I headed out on Monday for an easy paced run. The pace was okay, unspectacular. Around two and a half miles into the run I began to feel little cramp in the right quad, similar to what I experienced on the Saturday previous. I stopped at a bike shop for a couple of minutes to discuss a little business before recommencing the run. At around four miles the cramp feelings dispersed and I felt okay to try and commit to my normal ten mile loop rather than cutting it short.
At around six and a half miles, from out of the blue, severe cramp hit both legs in the upper quads. I hadn’t experienced cramp like this since I won the Maverick trail race back in the Summer – where again an inexplicable bout of early cramp hindered me severely. Several miles away from home I battled on but the cramp got worse, not better, and around a mile away from home, coming down a hill, I had to stop and admit defeat. I did under a tunnel arch for a couple of minutes to recompose myself before hobbling slowly home.
I’m not entirely sure what caused the cramp but I reckon it is a combination of tiredness, dehydration, and possibly the consumption of an Indian takeaway the night before. I may be wrong, but I reckon that is now the third or fourth occasion I’ve had this attack of severe cramp following a takeaway the night before. It may be totally coincidental, but there has to be a reason for these early onset cramps.
Anyway, initially I thought that was it for the day, but at around 6pm I remembered I had booked onto a spinning class which I couldn’t cancel, so I hobbled there and sat myself on the stationary bike. I was expecting to be barely able to turn a pedal, such had been the discomfort earlier in the day, but actually the spinning wasn’t too bad. Indeed I reckon it did a good job of helping to shift the excess lactate in the quads.
Tuesday morning saw an early hour on the elliptical trainer, which was a tired affair, especially with the after effects of the cramp still felt in the legs. A few hours later I ventured out on a crap clearing run to try and help loosen the legs. I think it worked, the miles getting progressively quicker to the quicker side of my easy run zone. I was still very tired though – at one point I nearly got lost and disorientated running a route I’ve done near constantly for the past three months!
Wednesday was a busy day outside of training, which meant I had an early wake up and depart for my ten mile run with eight miles at marathon pace. The body and legs didn’t really want to know for the two mile warm up; the first mile at MP was a real struggle, 6:16. Thereafter things got significantly better, averaging around 5:58 for the final seven miles, but I never felt that fantastic, and indeed tired a lot in the final mile or two. The cramp had more or less gone from the quads, the right calf though ached a bit, as did the hip.
Thursday morning saw a routine hour on the elliptical trainer – no issues other than feeling tired. That evening was a ten mile run with Grantham Running Club, with the unexpected guest runner in the form of my brother, who had come over with his family from Germany. He has just begun his training for an autumn marathon and this was comfortably his longest run in several years, but he ran well – as did the entire group, to average comfortably under 7:30 for the eight miles at the marathon pace. I felt fairly comfortable and all in all it was a most pleasing run.
Friday was a day of rest and a day with my brother and his family at a very busy day as we celebrated Food Friday. I felt distinctly sub-par for the most part, feeling like I was fighting a cold – so much so I took a couple of flu and cold capsules mid-way through the day.
Saturday morning and I had to push aside any thoughts of feeling unwell as I had my last realistic opportunity of putting in the long one before London. The 24 mile run is a staple of pretty much all my marathon campaigns, the time spent on feet usually the same or a little bit longer than the actual time spent running in the marathon. I could have done loops of town, but with the calf pain feeling much diminished since the work done on the hip (with more done during another massage on the Thursday) I decided to map out a run which took me out of town and up and down some hills – which I’ve been a little lacking of during training in late.
I was out at 8 am – the weather was cloudy and the wind strong. The first few miles were lethargic and not that quick – over seven minutes per mile as I felt the effects of cold fighting on the body. I had a pit stop at five miles and thereafter felt a bit better, especially once I’d tackled the big climb of the day on the A52 pass the barracks. A spanner in the route plan came as the road I’d intended to run down was closed due to the initial Grantham bypass construction. This meant I had to run a section down the slightly dodgy High Dyke before taking a right hand turning which took me back on to my intended tracks. I had to then make some calculations as to how much extra I had run and how best to revise the route so as to get back to 24 miles.
The following three or four miles through to fifteen were tough as they were mostly slightly uphill and into a head / cross wind which, at times had me near dead stopping in my tracks. However once I came to the peak of the hill and turned direction I had the wind at my back and the pace picked up significantly to around 6:30 per mile. I made it down a steep hill without the feared bout of cramp in my quads. My calf felt good and I worked on clicking down the miles as efficiently as possible as I took to the canal path and back towards Grantham.
The heavens opened a few miles before home but that didn’t disturb me as I reveled in feeling fresh at 23 miles despite having taken on the run with no water, no gels, no breakfast and just a cup of coffee to see me through. I ended up running a bit over 24 miles – 25 and a quarter to be precise – in 2:54. I felt pretty good, certainly no worse than when I was doing the long 20 mile runs with a parkrun in the middle. With that in mind I headed to the Belvoir Sportive website to enter for the following day’s ride. Alas, they closed the entries at 10am!
Undeterred I headed out on Sunday morning to see if I could fit in a 160km ride that may have had similarities to the Belvoir Sportive without actually taking part in that event itself. As it happened I chanced upon meeting up with several members of Witham Wheelers, who were taking part in the shorter 100 km ride. I rode with them for around thirty miles before going my own way and riding the vast majority of the remainder of the ride solo. It was hard going with plenty of tough hills around Rutland and the Vale of Belvoir and a nasty headwind to contend with for the opening half of the ride and for all of the final hills. Despite this I felt relatively strong, taking it fairly easy on the flat stuff and pushing as best I could on the hills.
I rode a few extra miles at the end to confirm that I had ridden over 100 miles and came home tired, but content that another week’s training was in the bag – 67 miles of running, 105 miles of proper riding, around 25 miles of spinning, and a couple of hours on the elliptical trainer. This will likely be the biggest training week of the marathon campaign – hopefully it will see me in good stead come race day.
Those who have read the weekly training log for the week will know there was a real dilemma over whether to race the Fraction or take part in the Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride. I guess the title gives the decision away, but it wasn’t a clear cut decision.
I woke at 7am and headed downstairs to have a coffee and breakfast as I do when I ride. I had a full bowl of cereal, something I wouldn’t do normally when racing, and headed upstairs to get changed into my cycling gear. As I climbed up the stairs I did a set of eccentric calf raises and drops. Since the massage on Thursday I’ve been doing 100+ of them daily as I was trying to do some of the things I’ve done over the past six months that may have helped ease the pain in the calf and help me run. Through Friday and a lot of Saturday when I was doing them I was getting an intense burning sensation running up from the calf, up the hamstring and into the glute. This to me gave an indication that there was some nerve irritation going on, as I was getting no similar sensation in the other calf.
After parkrun on the Saturday I massaged the right hip and glute with a hockey ball as suggested by my massage guru David. Previous to his massage on Thursday this produced little in the way of relief or sensation, but today, probably as a result of the tear inducing work he performed on Thursday night, I was able to get a real sensation of things moving, shifting, releasing, unsticking. That evening when I did the calf raises and drops there was less of a burning sensation than before.
That set of raises and drops on the Sunday morning produced nothing but a deep stretch – just as they should. No burning, no pain. Wondering whether this would translate into a positive feeling when running, I quickly ditched the cycling clothes, grabbed some shorts and a running top, pulled on my trainers (making sure the Garmin was on and satellites locked….) and headed outside for a quick impromptu jog up and down the road. To my surprise there was little or no discomfort in the calf. I did another couple of minutes running. Still nothing. I did another minute or so to make it a mile, picking up the pace to something close to race pace. Zilch. By now it was too late to ride with the Wheelers. There was no pain. It was written in the stars. I was going to race!
Being a 10:30 start and it being a mere couple of miles from home, I now had an hour or so to kill. I spent the time wisely, stretching and some gentle massage. Plenty of positive vibes coming from the calf and hip. I left the house at 9:20 to allow myself an hour before the race. The venue – the Meres Leisure Center – is where I use the gym so it is like a second home. There was to be no stress before the race. Familiar faces as I collected my race number, some surprise from those who I’d told I definitely wasn’t racing.
It would have been easy to have got too relaxed, so I headed away from HQ and did my warm up alone to focus on the race. A mile and a bit of easy running. A slight ache in the calf, but very slight. I trusted the compression socks and placebo tapewould hold everything in place when the going got tough. Spotting the queue for the toilets at the track were long, I took advantage of my gym pass to use the deserted ones in the leisure center. I arrived back at the track for a hasty Grantham Running Club team photograph (I would be wearing their top over the Kenilworth Runners T-Shirt in an attempt to show allegiance to both my running clubs), said my farewells to the family, who had come to cheer me on, then went for one more toilet break just to calm the nerves.
I arrived at the start with two minutes to spare – perfect timing. I took my place near the front of the field and waited for the countdown, which were ten of the longest seconds ever counted down.
The horn sounded and we were off. Full of adrenaline at my home race I went off a little too enthusiastically and found myself leading briefly as we left the stadium. I glanced at my watch and realised I’d set off at sub five minute mile pace. I’m not Aaron Scott so I reduced my effort and allowed the pre-race favourite, Adam Holland, to take the lead. He was joined by James Skinner, a runner I wasn’t familiar with. As we turned left and headed towards Barrowby I sat a comfortable third. The legs, quads especially, began to feel a touch heavy. I lamented that spin / elliptical trainer session I did at the Meres a couple of days earlier. Thankfully after a mile or so the heaviness lifted and I felt full of running, although a little anxious that the watch clocked the first mile at 5:30 pace, more 5-10k sustainable pace than a half marathon.
I charged through Barrowby and towards the canal path in third place. The crowds were not exactly huge, more a smattering, but many knew who I was and were cheering me on in person. I cannot express how much of a boost this was. I was the local boy in third place, running for club and town.
I was running alone, with the leaders drifting ahead. For a minute or two I began to lose concentration, the race appearing as though it would be a typical time trial affair, with wide gaps between finishers near the front of the field. This was reflected in the second mile split – 5:49, although this was mostly uphill.
As we came down the drop at The Drift and onto the Canal Path I was caught and passed by Robert Windard and another runner. Robert was looking strong, especially on the downhill sections.
Oftentimes I would let other runners pull ahead and run my own race, often to heart rate. However today, as I glanced at my heart rate and saw it was in the right zone for a HM, I made a concerted effort to pick up the pace and stick on to the heels of Robert. Once there things magically felt easier, we had another Robert – Robert Scothern join us (This reminds me of the Not The 9 O’Clock News Skit about a car factory full of Bobs). I rarely get to run quick in a group, this was my chance, and it felt great! What was even greater was that the lead vehicle, replaced by a lead bike on the canal path, rather than disappear slowly into the distance as I had expected, was appearing to ever so slightly move closer to us.
Adam Holland by now had been caught by James Skinner and they were running together. Adam is a phenomenal talent – especially as an ultra runner. He holds the record for the fastest ten marathons in ten consecutive days, the youngest runner to have raced 100 marathons (He has since raced 244), he holds a treadmill endurance world record, and last autumn he embarked on a 2000 mile continuous run in 20 days, during which he ran a 2:28 marathon at Chester (where I saw him running hours after on a main road as I was driving home!), and later took victories at the Bristol to Bath marathon and the Newcastle Town Moor Marathon.
I’ve run with Adam at a few parkruns at Newark. I noticed two things about him. One he is the slowest looking quick runner you will ever see, his form is very deceptive as he barely appears to be trying. Second, I get the impression in a race type situation he will typically do just enough to win or finish highly. This may be an incorrect assessment but it appeared to be happening again at the Fraction, he was toying his opposition, waiting to pull well clear at any moment.
Still, as we ran along the three miles of canal path – very familiar to me on my training runs – he was still well in sight and a great rabbit to focus the mind and ignore the pace we were running. I don’t think I really looked at my watch much in that section other than to clock a 5k split and a 5 mile split, but miles 3, 4, and 5 were run in 5:28, 5:31, and 5:34. I passed 5k in 17:11 and 5 miles in 28:10 or so.
It was just as we were leaving the canal section and into Woolsthorpe where the right calf began to ache. It was the typical gentle ache, not enough to slow me, but enough to make me wonder if at any moment it would develop into something rapidly race ending. I rehearsed what I was going to say to the guys I was racing with if and when it did happen, something like that’s it boys, I’m done, go get ’em!
We had a short section of flat before the first of two big hills on the course at Woolsthorpe. The race by now was clearly developing into a highly tactical affair, developments were likely on this half mile plus climb which Strava states averages 6% but is signposted at 12% average. The climb began as we passed six miles, the sixth mile showing little slowing in pace with a 5:37. There was a drinks station where I failed no less than three times to grab a cup of water, to the mirth of Robert Scothern, who received an impromptu shower. On a different, warmer, day I would have been concerned about taking on no liquid. But conditions were perfect for racing at around 9C with early mist and fog gently clearing to reveal blue skies later in the race (Once we topped Woolsthorpe Hill, to be precise). I also normally take a gel during a half marathon but, probably as this is a training route for me, the thought never occurred to carry one. I didn’t seem to miss it.
I’ve had plenty of times to rehearse Woolsthorpe Hill. Right from the foot of the ascent I took to the front of the pack and eased gently ahead of the two Bobs I was running with. I’ve climbed the hill quicker but today I had to pace it carefully, one because I didn’t want to push the heart rate too high, two because my calf was giving worrying aches when I tried to lengthen the stride on the steeper sections, and three my guts were beginning to churn a little with the increased effort – a legacy of the roast dinner the night before no doubt.
I noticed ahead of me the lead vehicle was definitely getting closer. James had pulled a little clear of Adam who appeared to be labouring a touch, but I appeared to be marginally the fastest of the lead five climbing the hill. I reached the summit in third and pushed on without delay. The Lincoln Bob (Robert Windard) was chasing me as we gently drifted clear of RAF Bob (Robert Scothern). I heard a shout out from Grantham running legend Chris Armstrong, who was a very fine runner back in the 1980s and I recalled the clip he posted of his victory at the 1986 Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon. I didn’t much fancy being greeted at the finish by bagpipes but I was inspired by the thought of perhaps finishing in the top three. We were halfway through the race, I was third, and, barring injury, there was a chance I could stay there.
The run down from Woolsthorpe Hill to Denton is all downhill, mostly gradual with a fairly steep descent to finish. Adam had retaken the lead of the race but wasn’t really extending the gap – the lead vehicle sometimes coming very close to us as it struggled with some traffic. There was more support from friends – this time on bike and I was beginning to feel very racy. I was fully switched from chasing a time mode to how best to tactically race mode.
The first decision was to let Lincoln Bob catch me and to let him take the pace – we were running into a very slight breeze and I wanted to conserve as much energy as possible. As we dropped into Denton he pulled five seconds or so clear as I couldn’t live with his downhill prowess. He used this skill to catch second placed James. As we turned left in Denton onto the Casthorpe Road I was cheered on in name by some of the council guys in charge of closing the roads. The sense of not letting them down spurred me on. I made a concerted effort to close the gap to James and Bob who were running side by side. On the slight rise out of Denton I managed it and for then next two miles sat firmly in their slipstream.
Miles 7, 8, 9 and 10 were covered in 6:15 (Woolsthorpe Hill included, so 5:33 with Strava Gap incorporated), 5:34, 5:33, and 5:38 – my watch showing ten miles covered in what would be a PB time of 56:44. Adam had not pulled into the distance but I reckoned he had enough of a gap to comfortably take the win.
My strategy was to implement local knowledge and try to break the two I was running with on the second and hardest of the two climbs in the race – Casthorpe Hill – before putting in a flat out last two miles towards the finish back at the Meres. It was a plan I had rehearsed at the culmination of a long 20 mile plus run a few weeks earlier with some considerable success, a pair of Strava segments my reward.
Strava again lists the climb at half a mile long and with a 6% average gradient. In reality it is, in its entirety, a little bit longer, and although may average 6%, the steepest section in the last part of the climb averages 12% with a short section of 14%. I let the pair drift a few yards ahead as we dropped briefly before the start of the climb, recuperating myself for the upcoming effort. There is a long gentle drag uphill where I pulled alongside them, dropped back, then pushed on again, harder and with more determination.
The attack had almost the desired effect and an unintended beneficial consequence. Lincoln Bob couldn’t quite live with the pace as we pitter-pattered up the steepest section of the hill, covered in rain water still cascading down from the surrounding fields after the recent heavy rainfall. James remained on my heels, resolutely unwilling to be broken (Following the race it turned out that he had finished third at the race in 2015 – so was well aware of Casthorpe Hill). We nearly, very nearly, caught Adam. I reckon the gap was down to around 8-10 seconds at the top of the climb.
At the top of the climb James pulled alongside me and we ran together briefly before he edged ahead and Lincoln Bob remained in the wings just behind ready to pass if I faltered at any moment. I had plans to attack immediately at the top of the hill and give it full gas, as I had done on my long run a few weeks earlier. However the cumulative efforts of the race and the subtle, but noticeable headwind we had in the final miles meant the attack never quite materialised (I ran 6:29 (hill included, 5:32 with Strava GAP), 5:33, and 5:41 for miles 11-13, around 10-15 seconds slower per mile than on my training run). As we ran through Barrowby I was pretty regularly being cheered on in person or by come on Grantham! by local supporters and that was enough to keep the desire to ease up and settle for a comfortable fourth at bay.
This year alone I must have run down from Barrowby to the Meres Leisure Center ten times or more yet, weirdly, this last section of the race appeared to be the least familiar. Maybe it was because I am usually running very comfortably along this stretch, but right now, all I wanted to do was stop. The legs were heavy, the calf more than a little achy, the tanks beginning to run empty. James pulled around 5 seconds clear as we approached the Meres, Lincoln Bob a little more behind, Adam still strangely close to us in the lead.
As we entered the stadium a lady who had helped volunteered at parkrun the day before shouted Go on Matt, you can catch him! I didn’t believe I could but was alarmed when I looked around to see that the gap to fourth had shrunk from over five seconds to less than a couple! I was determined to finish in the top three. My strategy as we entered the final 300 meters of the race was to attack for second in the hope that if Robert passed us both, at least I would still be third.
As we hit the back straight I picked up the pace. I could hear the shouts of encouragement from the spectators gathered at the finish line. They spurred me on. The gap to James and I melted. At the top of the bend I decided not to wait and went for all out for the sprint finish, the aim being to catch James unawares and leave him unable to close any gap. It appeared to work as I passed him and eked out a small gap. However, at the start of the home straight, with only around 80 meters remaining, the early sprint took its toll and I began to tire badly. I looked around anxiously, as Mo Farah does at the end of a race, and swore that James and Robert were catching me fast. Willed on by the support at the finish and sheer bloody mindedness not to lose my recently gained second place, I did what Mo does – gritted my teeth and kicked and kicked again – hard all the way to and just past the finish line – not forgetting of course to stop my watch at the finish line (Old habits die very hard).
No one passed me. I was second!
As I crossed the line there was a broad smile and a small fist pump. Then as I stopped running, the euphoria mixed with a little bit of pain and I looked to the sky before sinking to my knees to catch my breath. Moments later I recomposed myself and was quick to congratulate those I had just beaten.
Genuinely more thrilling than the second position was the manner in which the race had panned out. I’d forgotten about times – it turned out I’d run 1:15:30, my third fastest ever, one second slower than my Power of 10 PB set at Nottingham in 2014 – and run a race full of tactics, changing of positions and uncertain in its conclusion literally until we had crossed the finish line. For the record, I was one second ahead of James and three seconds clear of Robert. Adam had finished fifteen seconds ahead of me, which meant the top four was covered by less than twenty seconds!
I spent a longer than usual amount of time chatting with the guys I’d just raced, including Adam, who was typically unassuming in his victory, totally unaware of his finishing time. I slowly walked to meet my family and then the large contingency of GRC, Belvoir Tri Club and Grantham Athletics Club members and supporters who had congregated at the finish. The number of people coming to congratulate me was heartwarming as was the pleasure of seeing many of my friends coming home with new Personal Bests.
Unfortunately I had to miss some of them as there was the small matter of receiving my prize for finishing second. Still a rare occurrence for myself, I smiled a little uneasily as a small ripple of applause erupted around the room as I collected my wares (A trophy, £60 voucher towards a pair of Brooks trainers and some seeds), proud to have my two daughters alongside me. A virtual tear welled up the next day when my eldest proudly told all she could at school and sports club that daddy had finished second in the running race.
Having had a couple of days to reflect, I don’t think I could have done anything differently on the day to change the result. Had I not the calf issue it is possible I may have attacked a little harder on the hills and perhaps closed and caught Adam. But I firmly believe he would have found a little extra to make sure he would have been the deserving winner.
I am more than delighted with my second position. I ran well in the face of a little adversity and uncertainty. Tactically I played all my cards correctly. I was spurred on by the local support of friends, family, and just locals who recognised the Grantham vest. All in all it’s right up there in my top three best races ever and I really hope the calf injury clears up so I can enjoy some more races like that again soon!
Week 11 of training had long one been down as a week that could either see some of the highest volume in the training plan or some of the lowest. It turned out to be the latter.
Monday morning I woke really stiff and sore from the exploits of the Fraction the day before. I got myself on the elliptical trainer first thing for a very gentle hour of pushing the legs back and forth. I headed to the gym that evening for a spin session, which was treated very much as a recovery ride, keeping the FTW low at 230 and averaging just 3.4 w/kg.
Tuesday and I was busy preparing for the Australian Grand Prix weekend, having already woken at 1:40 for an hour or so prologue effort as the first images from the event began to head my way. That meant I just had the evening to train. I had an unexpected opportunity to visit the gym and managed to grab the last place for the spin class. First I headed to the treadmill for a very easy paced recovery 5k, beginning at just over 6 mph and peaking at around 8 mph. Everything was pretty stiff, especially the calves, but I was thankful to be even able to run.
The spin session was much easier than the day previous, I increased the FTW to 240 (my normal figure is 260-265) and put in a solid but deliberately not too taxing effort, averaging 3.7 w/kg. I then put in 30 minutes on one of the gym elliptical trainers, the effort quite high compared to the home machine thanks to the ramp feature mine does not have.
Wednesday and I was up at 2 am to begin work proper on the Australian GP. I only got to sleep at around 11pm so was pretty shattered when I finished work at around 11 am and headed to bed for a few hours fairly dreadful sleep. I dragged my sorry body out at 4 pm for a really tough easy ten mile run. Both calves continued to ache and generally I just felt really lethargic, both from not enough sleep and the efforts of Sunday. It says something for my form at the moment, that I averaged a fairly respectable 7:20 per mile pace.
In recent years this week of covering the Australian GP has offered the opportunity to put in a surprising amount of running – two years ago I put in my first, and probably only ever, one hundred mile week. The reason I could fit this into a busy working schedule was the GP was held at twilight, which meant I could go to bed at 10 or so, wake at 3 or 4 am, work for six or seven hours, get a couple of hours nap, then have the late afternoon and early evening to run.
Following the tragic accident of Jules Bianchi they have largely dispensed with races ending in poor light and so the practice sessions, coupled with an eleven hour time difference, were beginning as early as 1:30 am, with my work beginning an hour or so before that. This transpired to make things very difficult.
I got around three hours sleep Wednesday night before waking at 2 am on Thursday evening for ten hours continuous effort behind the desk, finishing at 11:30 or so and retiring to bed. I am a dreadful daytime sleeper and managed just a couple of hours sleep before giving up and pottering around the house for a bit. I’d agreed to take Grantham Running Club’s Thursday night marathon paced session, so I was out at 6:30 to meet up with the other guys. The legs were tired, the hip a bit bothersome. I threatened repeatedly to drop out when we passed my house at six miles, but there was some kind of team spirit going on as I found myself continuing and completing the ten mile group run and putting in another mile or so to make it 13.1 for the day.
I headed to bed at around 9:30 but found it impossible to get to sleep, knowing I had 12:30 am alarm set. So I finally drifted off to sleep at around 11:45, giving myself just 45 minutes sleep to ready myself for a break free 12 hours stint as the opening practice sessions of the 2016 F1 season took place. Shattered I headed straight to bed, but by now my body was virtually jet lagged and woke less than two hours after getting to sleep.
I took Friday as a rest day, as I often do. I went to bed at 10:15pm and was able to get around 3 1/2 hours sleep before waking at 2 am for qualifying day. This was not quite as long a day as Friday and I was done by 11:30 am. I got a couple of hours sleep before waking again prematurely. I had plans to run 16 miles or so. I set out at 4 pm. I was tired but actually running quite well, the first mile 7:20, the fourth mile 6:39. Then, out of the blue I found the very top of the right thigh, near the hip flexor giving off alarming pains, very much like an attack of cramp.
I stopped at a bus shelter, sat for a minute or so then began to stretch the hip. I set off again and was able to run with a moderate amount of discomfort. I was in a strange situation where I felt I couldn’t possibly run 16 miles but didn’t feel bad enough that I had to take the very shortest route home. So I ended up meandering a little, finally drifting home having covered nine miles at an average of 6:56 per mile. I assumed it was a cramp as the pain was quite intense having finished, but by the time I retired to bed had mostly dissipated. I was though quite clearly exhausted, so I gave up any ideas of supplementing the missing miles with an hour on the elliptical trainer and settled down to watch the World Indoor Athletics Championships.
I managed to get nearly four undisturbed hours sleep on Saturday night before waking at 2 am for the final day of work covering the Australian Grand Prix. The race itself was quite eventful, I began work at 2 am. I was hopeful perhaps of finishing early enough so I could ride solo the 13 Hills ride Witham Wheelers were taking part in on Sunday morning. Any hopes of an early finish were dashed with the sheer volume of work coming in, we reckoned it was our busiest race ever!
I kind of finished at 1pm and crashed on the sofa, hoping to get an hour or so nap before maybe going on a bike ride. By 3 pm I still hadn’t got to sleep, but I was too shattered to contemplate leaving the sofa. Finally I got to sleep and before I knew it it was 5 pm. With more work still to be done I abandoned any notion of exercise and resigned myself to a very easy week of training, but a really hard week physically in terms of sleep deprivation – hoping that a quiter week before Easter may see more opportunities to put in a full week of training.
The week began, Monday morning, with an hour on the elliptical trainer. The right calf was still quite sore after Saturday’s Duathlon, but not enough to slow me any. In the evening I headed to the gym for the Monday night gym session. Thinking I was still probably fatigued from the weekend’s efforts I reduced the FTW from 265 to 250. To my surprise I felt really strong throughout the session, able to push hard during the reps and recover at quite a high intensity. To my surprise I averaged 260 watts which worked out at a PB of 4.1 w/kg. It seems I peaked a couple of days too late on the bike – if only I’d felt that strong on Saturday during the Duathlon.
Talking of Duathlon, I spent Tuesday lunchtime securing the purchase of a time trial bike. Having discussed matters with the boss it was decided that life is too short to wonder what I could do if only I had decent equipment so I dug a little into the savings to give myself less excuses than I currently have.
Before that sale I went about potentially destroying any chance I have of running or racing properly in the near future. I set out for an easy paced run which I set at 8 miles as I was running a little short on time. The right calf was okay for the first mile or so then began to ache a touch, not enough to slow, but enough to remind me there was an issue. This continued for much of the run and I thought I had gotten away with it. Then in literally the last few hundred meters I first felt the arch of the foot tighten then a searing pain deep in the middle of the calf, which had me stop dead in my tracks before resuming again, albeit with a pronounced limp.
I wouldn’t have been able to run much further, fortunately it was literally only a few yards before I was home. The calf was really painful to touch, as was the hamstring, and walking anywhere wasn’t easy. That said, I was able to go on the elliptical trainer in the evening, where the calf was sore but it wasn’t bad enough to stop me pushing quite hard.
Wednesday and Thursday saw a pair of two hour efforts on the elliptical trainer. Thursday’s I pushed pretty hard, keen to break ’60km’ for the effort, which I managed with a little to spare. There was little difficulty cross training but the calf felt far too sore to consider running on. Fortunately that evening a slot for a massage came available and I jumped at the opportunity. David worked his magic, inducing tears as he worked deep into the right hip and glutes before working to loosen the calf and hamstring. His conclusion was that the source of the problem is coming from the hip which is incredibly tight. I’ve thought this to be the case for some time now. There was no miracle cure – the calf still felt tender, but at least I had something to work on in terms of finding a cure.
The dilemma of the week was that on Sunday I was entered for the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon, Grantham’s only road race. I was really keen to take part, having not done so since I became a Grantham resident, but Thursday night I was already confiding with friends that my participation looked very unlikely and that I’d likely go cycling with Witham Wheelers instead.
That mindset didn’t alter going into Friday. Normally with a race on Sunday I’d do a very easy session or none at all, but I headed to the gym where I put in firstly an hour on their elliptical trainer, where I worked at really high RPM, and then a slightly odd spin session which was attended by just one other person and had us for the most part out of the saddle putting in long efforts in the red zone. This really worked the quads hard, walking up and down stairs was an effort for much of Friday and Saturday…
The only concession I made to entertaining the possibility of racing was Saturday would be a rest day from exercise. I’d volunteered my services to help marshal the local parkrun at Belton House. I was on finish token duties, which was fun as I congratulated each and every finisher, but, on a really cold morning, left my fingers red and numb and wishing I’d opted for a different role.
Saturday afternoon and the decision on whether to run or ride appeared to be swinging towards the latter. Normally before a big race my meal the night before will be strictly regulated – usually a pizza and certainly not the full roast dinner I knocked up and served to the family that evening, complete with sherry, a few glasses of white wine and a crusted port to take myself to bed with. That’s the kind of preparation for a long relaxes bike ride, not an intense half marathon race. Once in bed I set the alarm for 7am, fully intending to cycle in the morning.
As in week eight of training, week nine was long scheduled to be a week light on running due to covering F1 testing that turned out to be even lighter on running as the right calf issues that have plagued me for the past six months continued to cause woe.
Monday was the only weekday when I wasn’t working, I began the day with half an hour on the elliptical trainer, then select aside thirty minutes of transition practice ahead of Saturday’s Dambuster Duathlon. This consisted of setting up my bike outside my house, fixing the bike shoes to the pedals and practicing putting on the bike helmet, mounting the bike,putting on the shoes while on the bike, dismounting from the bike minus the shoes, removing helmet, putting on trainers and running a short distance before repeating the exercise six or seven times.
The first two attempts were comically bad and nearly very painful. Forgetting that the shoes move around unless your feet are on them I very nearly went over the handlebars as one of the shoes dug into the ground and threw up the rear wheel. The same thing happened at least two more times before I got a grip on what needed to be done. I then nearly came unstuck on some gravel at my turnaround point, only some quick reactions saved me from an embarrassing and potentially painful fall.
That evening I headed to the gym for a spin session. I was still very tired from the weekend’s efforts, so I reduced the FTW from 265 to 255 to reduce the exertion. The first 20 minutes of the session were really hard work but it got easier as it went on – 240 watts average a fair reflection of the effort put in. With an extended warm up and warm down in total I spent one hour forty minutes on the spin bike.
Tuesday was the first day of the second F1 test. Not as busy as the first day of the first test, I was able to put in an hour on the elliptical trainer during quiet moments in the middle of the day. I was hoping to run in the evening, I did get out but only had long enough to do a simple thirty minute fartlek session on multiple loops around the block. My legs felt reasonable, the right calf ached a touch during the run but worryingly tightened a lot following it.
Wednesday saw two hours on the elliptical trainer in quiet spells during the test, which meant a lot more time off the trainer than on it. A bit frustrated I took it out on the trainer in the final minutes maxing the Watt counter with >399 watts registered. The following day saw an hour on the trainer at lunchtime. I had hoped to run in the evening with the club but work ran late. I could have gone out by myself but I had no confidence in the calf and judged it would be more prudent to rest rather than to risk a run.
Friday saw ninety more minutes on the elliptical trainer, split into chunks during the final day of testing. I felt a bit more tired than I would have liked – indeed the theme for much of the week was how tired I was, it had taken me a long time to recover from the Cross Country race and the ride on the Sunday.
Saturday saw the Duathlon that is reported on elsewhere. Following the event my right calf was very tight and sore, so Sunday would be a case of wake up and see how it felt before committing to any exercise. On waking I was quite stiff and sore but good enough to head out with the Wheelers for what is possibly the last Reliability Ride I will take part in this year. Again with Group 4, which had a few Group 5 riders thrown in, I made a deliberate ploy to begin more steadily than the week before, not taking a turn at the front until we hit the main hill of the day. the tactic seemed to work, I only began to tire around 45 miles into the ride.
I was dropped, along with a couple of others, on a drag up at 60 miles – there was just nothing left in the tank. The only surprise was I’d been able to keep up for so long. I dug fairly deep to finish the ride as the snow began to fall, averaging 18.8 mph for the 68 mile ride. There was to be no brick run on returning home, so it was just the three miles home to finish the exercise for the week.
A frustrating week in many ways, although the planned work covering testing probably meant in terms of miles ran I lost very little anyway to the injured calf. Going forward the calf continues to be the biggest concern, with no prospect in the short term of being able to run on a regular basis. The elliptical trainer, I think, is going to see a lot of action.