2016 London Marathon Training – Week Five (1-7 February)

The week began conveniently enough with the start of a new month too. One thing that remained consistent with January moving into February was that the wind, which has been seeming ever present since November, was blowing as hard as ever. The first session of the week was an easy paced ten mile run, the legs felt tired but otherwise I was okay – the wind though made it nearly impossible to keep moving at times.

The evening was spent at the gym. Thirty minutes on the elliptical trainer was followed by a spin session. I increased my FTW slightly (from 260 to 265), the difference that makes is to hit certain colours or percentage of max FTW requires a little more effort. This was shown in the end result  an increase to 3.9 w/kg from  3.8 w/kg for the previous few weeks. I found the low cadence high resistance hill efforts easier than the high rpm sprint sections – those bits I struggled to maintain power.

Tuesday saw an early morning hour long session on the elliptical trainer, time spent with no issues other than the legs feeling fatigued. I headed out a couple of hours later for a ten mile run which was planned on being a marathon heart rate run. However with the legs feeling really tired and the wind blowing so fiercely pacing was nigh on impossible, the session was quietly shelved and became a mere easy paced ten mile run. A sign of the strength of wind is that the last two miles were 6:00 and 5:50 run with no more effort than the middle miles where seven minute miles was an effort.

It was just the one session on the Wednesday – the marathon heart rate session postponed from Tuesday. Again a ten mile run the schedule was six miles at marathon HR which became 10k to make it end at a convenient stopping point. The opening miles were tired and sluggish, therefore it was very pleasing that the 10k at marathon heart rate felt pretty comfortable and was relatively swift – running 36:40 for the 10k. The legs generally felt fine but the left IT band needed attention as the knee was beginning to ache.

Thankfully Thursday saw a planned massage session following another uneventful hour on the elliptical trainer, which helped ease some of the discomfort in the IT band. Thursday evening saw a GRC marathon paced session with six miles at the supposed pace of 7:30 per mile. The session was a success despite some of the miles being a touch on the quick side, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to maintain steady pace with others in front of me pulling away and then coming closer. I had a bit of a dodgy tummy during the run, following an emergency pit stop I was able to put in a couple more miles with a club mate on the way home.

Friday morning was virtually a day off, just an hour on the elliptical trainer following a strength and conditioning session. The legs felt a touch tired, I felt tired. I also felt myself fighting a cold and a slight cough was brewing.

The hardest part of Saturday’s run was making it out of bed having set the alarm for 6:30. As the alarm went I heard the rain smashing against the window. If ever there was a day to stay under the duvet it was today. It took ten minutes to drag myself from under the covers, hardly full of enthusiasm, but by 7:20, a cup of coffee and half a banana consumed I set out on my long run. The plan was similar to a couple of weeks ago – run some miles around town, take part in Belton House parkrun, then run some more miles before heading home.

As this run was planned to be twenty miles I wanted to get plenty of miles in before the parkrun. Things were looking fine with eight miles under the belt, despite the heavy rain falling, when my tummy once again struck trouble. The usual public conveniences were still closed thanks to it being a touch early, so I had to make an impromptu diversion back home to just about make it back in time.

Pit stop done I was out the door and picking up the pace to make it to parkrun in time. I made it with four minutes to spare, thankfully the pre-run briefing was kept brief as the rain lashed into our faces. With exactly twelve miles run I set off with Will Parkin and another young runner at my heels. I let them take the pace for the opening quarter mile as we battled with the wind, once we headed onto the grass I took the lead and, metaphorically speaking, never looked back. I was running with headphones and music, and it therefore felt exactly like a training run rather than a race, which parkrun can often feel like. I hadn’t reset my watch so I didn’t know my time, but I knew I was running sub 6 miles relatively comfortably. I finished first, 18:12 was called by the timekeeper, which was very pleasing considering that is just four seconds outside my course best. The next runner was over a minute behind so it was a fairly emphatic run.

I didn’t hang around too long, I didn’t want the legs to stiffen. I headed to the gated exit to find it was locked with strong winds due later in the day. I tracked back and ran another lap of the parkrun course before heading back home in a distance that couldn’t have been better judged – 20.1 miles (a bit extra to stop just past my home). I averaged 6:39 for the run and was delighted with how fresh I felt at the end. It was as though I’d just run the parkrun and come back again, forgetting the twelve miles run beforehand.

Sunday morning was Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride #4 – 48 miles planned on a route described as undulating. Group 5 (the fastest) merged with group 4 so it was a mixed bunch of riders setting off. I literally lost my bottle heading down the hill at South Parade, the lack of liquid for the ride was not a huge issue as it was only a few degrees above freezing, but it didn’t help.

The opening miles were brisk as we enjoyed a tailwind. I felt strong up the first climb at Londonthorpe and felt good enough to spend the first 30 or so miles at or near the front, spending plenty of time taking on the brisk headwind. It was a bit of a frustrating ride, we stopped three times for punctures, each time we stopped I got cold and struggled a bit to get going again.

On the run in the pace picked up as the group began to fracture. I managed to stay with the lead group as we approached the final climb at Skillington, but I was dropped on the hill as I was stuck at the back of the group on the approaching descent and missed the split as the front of the group put the hammer down. The exact same thing happened when we raced there last summer.

Dropped from the group I had to ride alone on a long drag into a stiff wind. I struggled and was caught by an older rider who had battled up the hill and was now riding better than I was. I stuck on his wheel and rode back to the club room, taking turns at the front which clearly weren’t that fast as he kept pushing on past me. It was pretty much my first bad patch of the year on the bike – looking back, it was hardly surprising given Saturday’s run. 18.4 mph was the final average speed, I seem to be getting slower week by week!

Riding home I kept an eye out for my dropped bottle as it is one of my favourites. Luckily I spotted it in the gutter, missing the liquid it contained but otherwise in the same condition as when it was dropped. Back in the cage I headed home and straight out for a ten km brick run. Like last week the first couple of miles were a bit of an effort but improved in the closing stages so I ended up running as though the ride hadn’t happened. It was though aided by a tailwind for the closing stages. Still 6:45 average and feeling comfortable was a pleasing end to the week.

69 miles of running for the week, three and a half hours on the elliptical trainer, 55 miles on the bike and an hour of spinning. All in all a good week, ending strongly after feeling tired during the week. Tiredness is to be expected, I just need to be careful not to overdo it and to be aware that there are loads of colds and viruses doing the rounds at the moment. I just hope I don’t catch any of them!

2016 London Marathon Training – Week Four (25-31 January)

Following the hard Witham Wheelers ride and brick run last Sunday I rewarded myself with a strong espresso at lunchtime. With no rest for the wicked I had the pleasure of entertaining the kids for the afternoon. Come 4pm I was barely able to keep my eyes open so I took the drastic measure of a third espresso for the day. By 5pm I was wide awake, scarily alert and resigned to the inevitable consequence that sleeping that night was not going to be easy. Lo and behold despite my best efforts to send myself into a coma – the port made an appearance at 11pm, by 2am I was still struggling to get to sleep.

Mercifully I managed to finally drift off, five hours or so later and I was up again. Monday morning session was an hour on the elliptical trainer, completed with no issues other than weariness. The evening’s spin session was in doubt right until the last minute as my wife was working in Cardiff and made it back just in time for me to make it to the gym. I’d every intention of taking the session easy but once Sam, our instructor, eased us into it, I found myself working away and feeling surprisingly comfortable.

It was all good until after a hard sprint effort Sam instructed us to hit the emergency brake button. I did as told, still putting plenty of power through the pedals my right calf cramped up dramatically and very painfully! Looking for a moment like I had been shot, the wave of pain soon past and I was back pedaling, putting in some very high cadence efforts to try and wash away the lactate.

I finished the session, averaging 245 watts. Predictably enough walking was pretty tough with the cramp, but I’ve suffered plenty of night cramps to know that, all things well, the effects are not too long lasting. Tuesady morning saw an hour on the elliptical trainer which had the calf feeling a touch tender but otherwise fine. A couple of hours later and I headed out for the first run of the week. It was meant to be 10 miles with 5 miles at marathon HR, but it didn’t quite materialise. The cramped calf felt fine after a minute or so, but the wind was strong which made pacing hard and, probably due to tiredness, I was finding it hard to get the heart rate up to marathon HR levels. The average pace was 6:21 with a pair of sub 6 minute miles to conclude (albeit wind assisted). Not a bad session considering but not quite what was intended.

Wednesday morning and in balmy conditions (touching 14C first thing) I put in the perfunctory hour on the elliptical trainer. A couple of hours later and I was out for another easy paced 10 mile run, again run in windy conditions. The right calf just ached a touch but generally felt as good as it was before I had the tightening 10 or so days earlier.

That was meant to be it for the day but after I completed the run the wife declared herself unable to go out in the evening, which meant I was free to head out if I wanted. GRC has a Wednesday night session which a fair few had declared an interest in attending, and I thought that an easy paced six or so miles would be a pleasant run and the opportunity to get in some extra miles, especially as I had no long run planned for the weekend.

It was indeed a most pleasant run – around 25 in attendance – as we headed on a 25 minutes out and back course in windy conditions. The pace was comfortable – just under eight minute miles – but the opportunity for a natter was most welcome.

Thursday morning was cold after in comparison to a couple of very warm days, the hour on the elliptical trainer passed without issue. The evening saw GRC’s marathon paced run around town, with five of the eight miles run at or around 7:30 pace. The run itself was easy enough, pacing in the wind proved very difficult, but I was most pleased with the efforts of those running.

Friday morning and once again I kicked off the day with an hour on the elliptical trainer and again there was no issues. The lunchtime run was merely scheduled to be around ten miles with no plans on its structure. It turned out to be a mixed bag in terms of the weather and the run itself. The first few miles were into a strong wind, a little less intense than earlier in the morning but still averaging around 25 mph. Conditions were blustery when I set out, but sunny and quite warm.

I had to stop at the Meres Leisure Center for an emergency pit stop. Feeling rejuvenated on my exit I headed to the A607 where I was aware that on a Belvoir Tri Club Pyramid session on Thursday evening, a runner had taken a segment of mine during one of their efforts, aided by a strong wind blowing behind him. I opted to take advantage of a similar wind and put in a hard two minute effort which I felt sure was quick enough to have taken the segment (It was, by twelve seconds and breaking 5 minutes per mile average!) Rather than make it a blatant steal a segment then take it easy effort, I decided to keep the pace high, running at approximately marathon to tempo heart rate for the final four miles. There was the healthy tail wind for the majority, but the mile splits of 5:34; 5:53; 5:51 and 5:47 were pleasing, especially as in the closing stages of the run the heavens opened and I was soaked to the bone with icy cold rain hitting my body almost vertically thanks to the wind.

Saturday was always going to be a day off as I was off to Doncaster to enjoy part two of my 40th Birthday present – Britain’s Strongest Man. I’ve enjoyed watching the Strongman tournaments since I was a young kid, raised on a diet of Geoff Capes and Bill Kazmaier. I now live just a few miles away from Geoff, although I’ve never met him. I had my chance on Saturday to meet Bill, enjoying my moment of being a fan as we stood together for a photo.

Me with Big Bill
Me with Big Bill

As for the competition itself. Awesome! I’ve seen quite a lot of high profile sporting events and I think think this was definitely one of the best in terms of sporting prowess and the crowd totally getting behind each and every competitor. It will be months before anything is seen on television but I thoroughly recommend it!

Saturday evening and I was at the cinema watching Creed. Another franchise I’ve been a fan of since I was a young lad, this was a brilliant watch, cleverly written – full of references and homage to previous Rocky episodes with a story distinctive enough in its own right to be totally absorbing. With as much testosterone driving the film as I’d witnessed at the strongman tournament I felt inspired that evening to totally smash the ride in the morning and every other session I’d ever do.

Saturday night bravado doesn’t always equate to Sunday morning reality however. The Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride wasn’t quite as satisfying as seven days earlier. The weather was poor with rain falling at times and a wind that always appeared to be a headwind until the final few miles. The numbers were down and I thought I’d try my hand in the quickest group – group five. As there were just four of use we did ten minute efforts on the front for the first hour or so. I assumed my heart rate monitor wasn’t working properly (I’d had to use an old one as the battery had failed on my soft strap and I’m awaiting a replacement) as it was very high from the off, but after an hour I had to conclude I was working hard for little in the way of return.

I struggled on the main climb of the day but stuck in with the other three. I kept with them but could no longer take turns at the front. Ten miles or so from the end pro Karl eased off the front of the group and disappeared into the distance. The other two sat up, I pushed on to the end, cold wet, and a touch miserable. 19.3 mph was the average, disappointed at the time in reflection it wasn’t that bad.

Once home I changed out of my sodden kit and put an excessive amount of running gear on. A mile into my 10k brick run and I was very warm, save for my feet which were still numb. The first 5k was quite hard work feeling dehydrated and tired, but the final 5k was much easier, probably as a result of the post ride slice of flapjack kicking in.

Another week down and some solid work done. Fifty five miles of running, a few more riding, and five or so hours on the elliptical trainer. The legs are feeling strong, but quite fatigued. This is to be expected though given the phase of training so I am not concerned. Next week is probably more of the same, albeit with hopefully the first 20 mile run of the year over the weekend.

2016 London Marathon Training – Week Two (11-17 January)

The week began waking in Camberley, tired, but thankfully without a hangover after a night out watching the World Darts final. As the world tried to cope with the news that David Bowie had died, I set out on a run revisiting old haunts. For the final year or so while at University I stayed with my Grandmother who lived in Sandhurst. It is just a couple of miles from Camberley to the famous army town, I set out on a run to try and reminisce on runs I must have done (but only vaguely remember). Sure enough some of the roads brought memories flooding back, the park was literally flooded and impossible to run in its entirety though. In conclusion I reckoned that my runs were very short (I seem to recall the longest run would be only around an hour or so) and that the most common run was one to Crowthorne, which I didn’t attempt.

A loop of Camberley town centre and it was another ten miles in the bag. I drove home later that morning, rested up in the afternoon before heading to the leisure center for the first spinning session of 2016. I warmed up for 20 minutes or so then operated at near full capacity for the session, pleased to average 258 watts, or 3.9 w/kg. A half hour warm down on the gym elliptical trainer and it was time for GRC’s committee meeting.

Tuesday was an emotional day of sorts as it was the last time the Kettler elliptical trainer was to be used. It had the usual hour session, alternating on 5 minute intervals between L5 and L7. The thing remained strong to the end despite being on the brink of falling apart. When it came to dismantling it the thing was far harder to break down than I had anticipated, the thing just didn’t want to go. It had to though, and as soon as the session was over I was helping the wife assemble the new one. My help consisted of taking the thing out of the box. The diagrams and instructions far beyond my comprehension. Thankfully she loves this sort of challenge and in a few hours the thing was up and ready to go. I had a quick spin – she was as steady as a rock and rode beautifully. She will be a great addition to the training family.

I was unsure what run to do in the evening. At the last moment I opted for the club intervals session as it was likely to be easier than running three miles at marathon pace, or so i figured. I wasn’t intending to push too hard. The initial 20 second sprints with 10 second recovery x 18 I treated as warm up strides. Next up was a relay hill session of sorts – around ten minutes of constant running up and down a shallow hill. I kept the effort at around marathon heart rate. To end the session was two one mile reps with three minutes recovery. The first was around 5:50, the last one 5:29 as I relaxed and pushed on a touch. Session over, I jogged home. Another ten miles in the bag.

Wednesday morning was an hour first on the new elliptical trainer, which was thankfully uneventful in the sense that everything felt sturdy and as it should with no dramas. Shortly after it was an easy ten mile run. I’d planned to stick the three miles at marathon pace in, but felt a little stiff after Tuesday’s intervals, so postponed those until Saturday. Otherwise everything felt good.

Thursday saw another hour on the elliptical trainer in the morning; then in the evening I was taking a new GRC evening session. To help prepare some of our runners for spring marathons I’m planning on taking a group on an eight mile town circuit, where a number of the miles are run at marathon pace, which I’ve set at 7:30 per mile. Runners are free to stick with it, or drift ahead or behind depending on feel. The first week we were to have three miles at marathon pace (MP), it will be increased by a mile each week until we are running eight miles at MP on a ten mile course, then after a brief cut back, working towards one or two sessions where there are ten miles at MP on a 12 mile circuit.

The first week saw an encouraging number turn up. After two miles of easy running we set off. Keeping pace wasn’t easy, especially as there was an icy cold wind blowing into our faces at times, then becoming a strong tail wind. Despite that and some hills to disrupt the pace, I managed to clock 7:30; 7:30 and 7:26. Mission accomplished. We jogged back to base then did some easy miles home with a runner who wanted to make it his long run for the week. I stuck at 12 miles.

Friday was again the rest day which had an hour on the elliptical trainer and some strength and conditioning beforehand. Saturday I had a long run of 16 miles planned which had Belton House parkrun bunged in somewhere in the middle. It was a crisp cold morning, well below freezing and with a fair amount of ice. That said, once warmed up, it was ideal for running, and I was able to put in 8 steady miles before the start of parkrun. I’d planned to do parkrun at marathon HR, when I found myself in the lead three minutes in with club mate Chris on my shoulder, that plan went a little out of the window, averaging instead something closer to half marathon HR.

We shared the lead for the first lap and a bit before Chris eased ahead and I let him pull away. 18:14 was just six seconds outside my course PB and I was pleased, although the left groin tightened a touch with the sub six minute miles. I jogged a few miles back into town with Chris before concluding with a quicker couple of miles. Sixteen and a half miles at 6:44 pace was pleasing.

Sunday did not go quite as well. I’d hoped to take part in the Witham Wheelers Reliability Ride, but that was cancelled first thing as snow had fallen overnight leaving some roads treacherous with ice. I opted to go instead for a run. After a stiff first mile things felt fine as I headed to the canal path. At around eight miles and out of the blue I felt my right calf tighten, in a manner almost identical to how it tightened in mid November last year at parkrun. Like that morning I was able to carry on with a moderate amount of discomfort, but shortly after finishing the 14 mile run the calf felt very sore and tight. Thankfully by the evening it had eased off  somewhat, the next morning I was able to cross train fine, but the calf feels although running might be off the agenda for a short while. I left it two weeks last November, hopefully I will be able to come back a little sooner, but time will tell.

A disappointing conclusion to what had been a very good week of training, more so as I was sure the calf problem had been fixed and that it struck again without warning. Hopefully it will be easy to treat (Massage and stretching fixed it last time) and I won’t be gone too long.

VLM Training Update – No Distance Left To Run

After four good weeks of training for the VLM, spirits were high as I began week five. Monday morning saw me run 10km on my familiar out and back route through Grantham’s three parks. From the off I felt fresh and very comfortable for a recovery run – indeed the final four miles were all run without difficulty in under 6:50 per mile. I stopped near the end to chat to Scott, who was doing his rounds. We commented on how well I’d recovered from injury and how my average pace over the training runs was, without really trying, the quickest it had ever been.

That evening I had the opportunity to train, guilt free, on the elliptical trainer, so I put in a very easy hour. The following evening it was marathon heart rate run time – the key session for the week. Now my training partner Janis had gone to Norway for a few months, it was back to me pacing myself and my music player as my companion. Despite the lack of company it was a good run, possibly the best marathon heart rate run I’ve ever done. There was a touch of shin pain in the first mile, the left knee ached a bit too from where I’d accidentally whacked it against a door. Other than that everything felt good and relatively easy. For the 10.5 mile run I averaged 6:13 pace – this included a 6:57 first mile and then three miles at sub six minute mile pace. The music was a good motivator – Blur’s No Distance Left to Run came on at three miles. Normally I skip these slower tempo songs but, for some reason, I decided to let it play and then thought no more of it.

Wednesday morning firstly saw me knock out an easy recovery hour on the elliptical trainer. My training notes indicate no issue except a touch of tightness in the left Piraformis. I then headed out an hour or so later for a 10k recovery run. Once again this felt good for a run the morning after a tough session, averaging 7:10 per mile. The left Piraformis ached ever so slightly, as did the left hip. I also got one sensation of some tightness right in the base of the spine. I thought nothing of any of this however as the aches felt very minor – I’ve run through aches 100x worse.

Thursday morning and I was on the elliptical trainer for another easy hour which saw no issues. That evening I headed to the running club for what I hoped would be a fairly casually paced run with a big weekend of training planned. All was going well, but as we neared the top of Somerby Hill and passed the barracks, the ache in the left glute / Piraformis, which was an occasional affair the day before, became more pronounced and more uncomfortable. As the run continued the discomfort intensified. It was still nothing that I hadn’t run through many times before, but it was disconcerting.

As we returned to Grantham near the end of the run, I instinctively quickened the pace and ran back alone. Passing the local triathlon club runners at the end of the run, I still felt discomfort but nothing too disturbing. The run complete, I waited for a few minutes for the rest of my club mates to return. We chatted for around ten minutes and then I set off to run the mile or so back home. Alarmingly I found that in standing around for a few minutes I was now no longer able to comfortably put my weight on my left leg. This felt alarmingly similar to last October when it transpired I’d fractured my sacrum on the right side of my body.

I walked for a hundred yards or so then attempted a slow jog. Somehow I managed to make it home, but the pace had dropped from around 6:30 per mile to 9:00 per mile. Once home I showered, but found I could barely move. I had to resort to crawling around the house. I was in agony. Something was very amiss. I couldn’t stop singing that bloody Blur song: It’s over, you don’t need to tell me… I’ve got no distance left to run…

The following morning and I was still resorting to crawling around the house. My wife, who last time this happened had wanted me to head straight to A&E, this time put her foot down and literally drove me to the doors of the Grantham branch of this much maligned NHS service. I must have looked in pain, for the moment the assessment nurse saw me, the first thing she did was offer me additional painkillers to the ones that I’d already taken, with little effect, at home.

I was fortunate to be seen by a doctor who is a keen runner and who saw that I was given a CT scan there and then (Well an hour or two after being seen, but this is pretty amazing for the NHS). The results came back negative but he was quick to stress that a stress fracture would not appear this quickly on a scan; if the pain was still significant in 10 days or so I should return to request an MRI scan.

I was already doing sums to determine whether, if it was a fracture, I could still participate at London. My initial thoughts were no way! and part of me still believes that, but at the same time, the romantic in me really wants to be at the start line, even if I may be in no shape to achieve the kind of time I was looking for at the start of the year. Saturday and I dragged my pained body onto the elliptical trainer, where I managed a painful hour. I was mindful that this was thirty minutes more than I’d managed at the same stage back in October, which brought optimism. I also rode ten minutes on the turbo trainer to see how things were on that. I was expecting it to be less painful, was surprised to see that it was nearly pain free.

With that in mind I headed to Witham Wheelers on Sunday morning to take part in their Reliability Ride. I could barely walk, but on the bike I was at around 85% capacity. I couldn’t really accelerate nor stand on the pedals, but could happily spin the pedals with the merest of discomfort. I managed the 65 miles at an average of 18.6 mph which I was pleased with, especially as I was dropped from the quickest group at around 45 miles, but managed to dig in and claw them back in the final miles.

Monday saw me on the elliptical trainer for two hours. It was a laborious affair – the first hour was on the threshold of being too painful, the second less so, but unable to put too much power through the leg. The only solace was that the session was less painful than when hobbling around the house. I rode for an hour on the turbo trainer on the Wednesday, it was nearly pain free but so interminably boring that I decided from then on to concentrate as much as possible on the elliptical trainer, with an hour straight after the turbo trainer completed.

I decided that day if I was going to get any positives out of this injury and if I wanted any chance of being able to run at London, I needed to train at a level similar to what I was doing in December last year, where I tried to be on the elliptical trainer for two hours each day. Thursday saw a day off through work, Friday and Saturday saw two hours on both days, spread over several hours and numerous stops as I covered the F1 test. Sunday saw me still working, but a quieter time in Barcelona allowed me a run of three hours broken into two chunks and a long lunch break. It was the first time I’d managed three hours on my elliptical trainer since 2001 – it was so painful back then that the memories are still firmly etched on my mind. I was relieved that today was a far more pleasant affair, albeit with the left side still sore.

Monday saw an hour on the trainer in the morning before a trip to A&E, which after several hours of waiting, allowed me to allow my GP to make an urgent request for an MRI. The pain was still significant, still very similar to what went before me a few months earlier. The comfort is that I know this inability to walk properly should diminish significantly in the next couple o weeks. I then need to know whether there is a fracture so I don’t make any efforts to run before I should.

That evening saw my first swim in many years. It was hard going – the left leg unable to effectively kick in the water, but I managed a km, timed and monitored by my Gamin for the first time (It made for fairly depressing reading). Making full use of my recently acquired leisure center membership, I then put 40 minutes on their elliptical trainer, finding myself able to reach heart rates far higher than my creaky machine at home.

Tuesday saw two hours on my elliptical trainer at home. Wednesday saw an hour at home on the trainer in the morning followed by 4×20 minutes on the gym elliptical trainer at approximately marathon heart rate. Quite sore in the back and glute area, this was a real challenge as to attain those heart rates required some rather rapid cadence (Around 120rpm). I was pleased though in how aerobically strong I felt, very frustrated in being unable to translate this into running at present.

F1 testing resumed on Thursday and bringing us up to date it was three days of two hours on the elliptical trainer, each session taking considerably longer thanks to gaps where work had to be done… I was tired on Thursday, Friday felt easy, Saturday was feeling distinctly fatigued.

Things are still pretty painful but at least for the last few days I’ve been able to sleep undisturbed and walking is improving slowly but surely on a daily basis. Thanks to some amazing work by my GP I was given an MRI scan on the Friday – hopefully I’ll have the results in a week or so. Once I have this information I can better decide my strategy training wise. Currently I am assuming a 6-8 week layoff from running, which will allow me 2-4 weeks of running before London. This is a tall order but I’m keeping it as an option to keep me motivated to train. If it isn’t a fracture then I’m very much at a loss as I’ll then have no idea what the injury is. So perversely I am kind of hoping it is the same injury as last time but on the other leg, that it heals stronger and that will be the end of it. Time will tell.



108 Days to VLM – A Mixed Bag.

The idea over Christmas and the New Year was to slowly build up the time running, so that I was running around 35 minutes on New Year’s Day. This should have been straightforward but this time of year for those with family and those who enjoy Christmas and all its excess will realise that rehabilitation, excess alcohol and rich, sugar filled food, not enough sleep, too much driving and unfamiliar beds is hardly likely to be a recipe for success.

The plan began well enough. I’m often banned from running on Christmas Day, but I was unlikely to be missed too much with just a three minute run – which passed without incident. Boxing day saw a six minute run a tenth short of a mile. The pace was fine, the abductors and groins feeling really tight. I managed an hour of high cadence on the elliptical trainer, which helped to burn off some of the Christmas dinner and Christmas Cake, and mince pies, and the fry up, and the bottle and a bit of champagne, and everything else consumed that most enjoyable of days.

Saturday was a day off from exercise as we drove down to my parents’ house in Minehead. As is customary plenty was consumed on our first night down. Heading to bed at around 1am, I woke at 5am parched and with a fuzzy head. Thankfully an emergency pint of water and numerous cups of teas later and I was feeling human again. Somehow I got out to run – the enthusiasm of beginning to run again helping no doubt. I went out for six minutes, nearly making it into town. The abductors in particular were fearsomely tight, so I did a full stretch before heading back, for a 1.67 run. The pace was pleasing but it still felt weird to be running as, though my legs weren’t quite used to what they were doing.

Monday saw a big jump in distance, bringing it up to near as damn it 5k. The legs felt a little less stiff but the heart rate was quite high, The next day and before heading to the next port of call, I managed four miles in a minute under thirty. All was well until the final hundred meters when I felt the right thigh begin to cramp. It ached a bit for a few hours but the pain subsided.

New Year’s Eve and we were in Eckington, near Pershore, and after a reasonably early night, albeit fuelled with some more alcohol, I headed out on what initially was a glorious run under blue skies and rolling scenic countryside. The legs initially felt a bit better than they had, albeit with abductors still tight. The third mile and as I caught a fellow runner I was feeling good, running mid six minute miles. Then the left thigh began to cramp, as the right did a day earlier, but more dramatically and far more painfully. I pulled up and stretched, turned around and tried to jog home. I managed around half a mile, but, after stopping three times, I admitted defeat and walked the two miles back to base. It was a disappointing and painful way to end the year, but as the pain subsided over the course of the day I was resigned to it being just down to the excesses of the time of year and a severe lack of stretching.

New Year’s Eve was fun, plenty of alcohol consumed but not too much as to have me suffering the following morning. There was no running New Year’s Day as we drove back home and I let the left leg recover. January 2nd saw me head out on what I’d planned to be a 20 minute run. At just over a km I felt the left thigh begin to cramp up again and before I even had chance to ease up and assess the situation the wave of pain shot all through the thigh and left me temporarily doubled up in pain. I hobbled back home and licked my wounds – not the most auspicious of ways to begin the year’s campaign, although, once again, the pain eased somewhat over the course of the day.

It was not so painful that I couldn’t make it to the local Aldi where they were selling a load of books about things such as stretching, yoga, pilates and back care for £2.99 each. On the spur of the moment I bought six of them. That evening I ran through the book about stretching and it soon became apparent why the thigh was cramping – the hip abductors and just about every muscle, for that matter, were ridiculously tight.

The next day and I was back on the elliptical trainer, putting in an easy an hour as it could be considering the excesses of Christmas. The left thigh felt okay and so I decided to take part in Witham Wheelers’ Reliability Ride on Sunday Morning. What should have been a 32 mile ride was under severe jeopardy thanks to a perfect storm of daytime rain followed by clear skies overnight, which saw temperatures plummet to -4 Celsius and untreated roads turn to ice rinks.

I gingerly made my way to the cycle club on Sunday morning, my fingers numb by the time I’d ridden the three miles or so. It was decided that the vast majority of the depleted numbers who turned up would ride an altered course, slightly shorter and using busier roads which, for the most part, had been gritted. The plan had been for most to ride at 16-17 mph due to the conditions. In my cycling naivety I took off on the first hill out of Grantham which created a splinter group who looked set to average 20mph. I hadn’t planned to ride that fast but after a few miles and with no idea where we were heading I had little choice but to sit at the back and hang on as best I could so I could find my way home. I hung on until the final few miles, which were on lethally icy roads and I didn’t fancy a tumble. 28 miles at an average of 19.6mph wasn’t a bad effort under the circumstances.

Once I’d cycled home, I had planned to hit the elliptical trainer for an hour, but as the left thigh felt fine I decided to head out for a short run. To my surprise the legs felt pretty good, and I put in 5km at just over 7 minute mile pace.

Flushed with confidence, the following day saw me run 4.5 miles and heading slightly further away from home. Again, although I felt ponderous and as though I was plodding, the pace was pretty pleasing. Yesterday I couldn’t get out as I was looking after the children, so I put in a two hour session on the elliptical trainer, which saw me digging into my suitcase of courage in the final half hour as the legs ran out of energy.

Today saw me on the streets again, and from the moment I set off I felt the legs were finally running again. I went a little further than planned, at just under 10km, but the pace was good and it felt easy. More importantly there was little pain, the abductors happier after targeted stretching and the core feeling stronger after five sessions in the last six days.

The plan now is to continue increasing the mileage, to continue using the elliptical trainer as it helps with both the running and the cycling, and to cycle on the Sunday’s with Witham Wheelers with the intention of possibly running a Duathlon in March. That is a long way away yet, but signs in the last few days are promising.