The Sugar Rush …

This week was a pretty big week in our house, it was the 20th anniversary of my wife and I’s first meeting and also our 17th wedding anniversary, so with something to celebrate we went away for a few days alone in the sunshine and it was a great little break to really kick back and relax. No training was done but we ate well and had a great time just thinking of nothing and letting the world go by.

BUT, one of the big things to come out of the week and quite accidentally too, was that I seemed to have kicked the sugar habit ….. hopefully for good, but I went the full week without any sugar in my coffee’s which for me is something big …. I had managed to cut down during the course of this year to the point where I was only putting in about half a teaspoon but now I think I can manage easily without any at all.

sugar

Again, its only a small change, but its a significant one … all the small changes to your diet do make a difference and I am really pleased to have done this now. I will keep it up and make sure I don’t slip back into sugar mode, but I am really pleased they had no sugar for that first cup of coffee I had on holiday … that was the starting point.

Next weekend sees the Wigan 10km race and my first running race for about 4 years, so I go into it with no real expectations other than a nice hour run around closed streets in my home town, so not much that doesn’t work there is there? I will be aiming to get around in under an hour which I should be able to do … a week without running needs some attention and I will probably go for a little easy paced run later today or tomorrow once I have caught up on enough sleep …

Tackling the Demons …

On my last post I mentioned the mental training that needs to be looked at when you are doing the physical work and this for me is sometimes a bigger challenge than the actual running – if you are not mentally ready, then you  are pretty much doomed to failure. So, as part of my training I will be looking to tackle those mental demons head on and take control back.

My biggest demon is running in the sunshine, I can’t even say heat because it isn’t that hot, but sunshine and warm weather absolutely destroy me … so how do you go about getting round that – well for me the first thing to do was to get out there and get on the start line:

Running Man

But rather than just plough on aimlessly, I needed a plan. Today was a warm and humid day with the sun poking its head out to say hello – it’s the perfect morning to sit on the decking with a nice cup of coffee and watch the world go by, it’s not a morning to be out running. I suppose most runners would think its the perfect day to be out running, but I have always been a rain, wind and cold weather man … always love to go out in those conditions, that is where I feel my strongest. But that has to change and today was the first small step to making those changes.

The plan was – to knock back the pace and not really worry about it, and to run a route of 12km with a good chunk off road and uphill … keep the HR under total control and get the distance in my legs and to start to “feel” how to run in the warm weather.

I pretty much nailed the session, but it still felt uncomfortable, but this time not in an energy sapping way … just hot and sweaty and I was happy to get it over – it never is enjoyable for me to run in the sun, but its a demon that needs to be taken down and I feel much better about it now, I feel more capable of going that bit further in the warm now … I feel like I might able to control my body a little bit more now.

Overall the pace was around 6.24/km which is still more than acceptable for me at this point in time over that distance and with 151m of climbing too it was a good session.

Mixing it Up …

I have always been a big believer in mixing my training up, even when I played rugby I rode my bike … it seemed to help mentally and physically too. More on that towards the end of this post.

The running is coming along very well and this week I have managed a short sharp run and then a really good 7km effort in torrential rain, which was a great session for “mental strength” which I have posted about on here before. The rain was absolutely hammering it down, but it was warm and my head was telling me to run … so out I went into evening with its puddles and its mud and I ran … there is something amazing about running through the country in the rain, under the trees with huge splodges of water smashing down onto your head. The Speedcross 3’s were well up to the task and I never put a foot wrong during the entire run. I have to admit to feeling it a little towards the end, a little tiredness in the legs, probably still from the Monday fast session, so I just need to make sure I don’t overdo it.

One good feature of the Garmin Fenix 2 watch is its ability to monitor your overall well being and fitness. As I run I get a buzz to tell me how I have recovered from the last session I did and then when I have finished it tells me how many hours recovery I need …. all very useful stuff.

Back to yesterday, a big day in our household as my eldest received his GCSE results, so we had a nervous morning before the relief and happiness of the results and then an evening of celebration which all was very enjoyable indeed. However, if we were celebrating it meant I felt the need to train, and my legs were not recovered enough to run, so:

Rear Tyre

It was out with the road bike for an hours spin around the village to loosen up the legs. Now I haven’t ridden for a month now due to holidays and of course the run training, so I found it quite tough, that combined with the blustery howling wind made for quite a hard session when I look back at it now. BUT, it did sort out the tiredness in my legs and help me recover that little bit quicker.

Mixing my run training with cycling will be a feature of my work over the winter and I will also throw in the odd swimming session too – all this combined with a weekly weights regime means I will be working hard in the coming months.

Pushing the Pace …

There are lots of different running plans out there and it can be a little confusing sometimes to understand what is the best way and which one you should choose. However, you can make it fairly easy by trying out a few of the suggested methods and see what works best for you. For me I like to be able to run 3 times a week and for those three runs, I like to do:

1 x Long Run – usually at weekends anywhere between 10-20km

1 x Fast Short Run – usually near the start of the week – around 5-8km in length, but with the pace pushed harder

1 x Other Run – freedom to choose what kind of run you want to do, either longish or fastish seeing how you feel

I personally think you can be ok with just two runs, the long one and the short faster run, so I don’t get too stressed if I don’t make the third run of the week, because sometimes life is like that and you can’t make your sessions – but not getting stressed about those missed sessions is key to having a strong mental state. Focus on what you HAVE done not what the paper says you should have done.

running

Anyway, the purpose of that little explanation was to lead on to my run from earlier this week, where I chose a 6km route (just short of) and tried to push the pace a little bit quicker than of late. I have been running around 5.55/6.00km pace so I wanted to be able to duck under the 5.30/km pace which would be around the level I needed to be at at this stage in the training process.

I picked a hilly course, you can’t avoid them where I live so you have to run them …. my pace varied over the course from a fastest of 4.40/km down to 6.13/km but once I had finished and downloaded all the data, I had hit my target with an average pace over the whole run of 5.28/km and it felt good too …. always in control of my engine and the legs are starting to respond a bit more now too.

I have completed nearly three weeks of running now since my comeback and I think it might be time to have a sports massage as I can start to notice the signs of tightness in my upper back – need to keep well on top of all this if I want to remain injury free.

Another Milestone Achieved …

With five very solid runs behind me and two weeks into the comeback, I felt suitably comfortable with my overnight decision to push the distance on my Saturday run. I have run really sensibly and very conservatively over these last two weeks and that has eased me back into the groove very nicely. The regular runs have been good and there are no signs of any aches or pains, so it seems the first part of the jigsaw is firmly in place.

Today was a great day to run, a nice mix of warm sunshine, then dark clouds and a breeze to freshen you up.

My route was going to be a fairly challenging one … mainly off road and quite undulating with a mix of terrain, gravel tracks, mud, grass and bits of tarmac and even a football field at the end of it. We are spoiled with the tracks around my village, just perfect for running.

Cemetery Walk

After a few freshly brewed coffee’s and a breakfast of toast and smoked salmon I was prepared – a large glass of water before I closed the door and off we went. Glorious is the word to describe how I felt today … I was just buzzing and loving the serene quiet of the tracks with my iPod blasting out Feeder and Just a Day …. the week had ended magnificently at work with a deal I have working on for ages dropping into place and I felt relaxed and motivated when I got up this morning.

The run went well, I still kept control of the effort, keeping the HR at an average of 126 today, so slightly lower than that last couple of efforts, but the pace remained on track and even a bit quicker .. sure signs of getting fitter and a bit faster with it.

Total Distance completed: 10.18km in 1.00hr, so just dipping under the 6.00/km average again and that is brilliant over the increased distance.

I am running the Wigan 10km in a few weeks over a pretty flat course and it will be my first stand alone 10km race … and with the work I am doing at the moment I am pretty confident of a fairly decent time (for me that is).

Crack of Dawn …

I may have mentioned if before on this blog, but one of the major changes and improvements to my running training came when I got out of bed early in the morning and ran.

Although my day job isn’t manually challenging, it’s one that requires mental concentration and accuracy all day long and often when I get back home in the evening, I am just too tired to get any quality running done – sure I can force myself out of the door, but that often leads to disappointment and a poor session.

So, this morning I set the alarm for 6.30am and got all my running kit together, plus Garmin, plus iPod and prepared to see the crack of dawn once more.

Long Trail

Now I appreciate that 6.30am isn’t really that early and to be honest my alarm goes off at that time when the kids are at school, so it wasn’t a huge thing really, but making the effort and getting out of the house and on to the trails before 7am was and this morning I managed to do that and boy was it worth it !

The sun was warm and it was streaming through the trees as I set off for a 5.66km run around the locality – most of the run off road again with hardly a soul around … it was liberating and very enjoyable too – still not pushing on these runs, just “keeping it steady” which for me relates to controlling my breathing and keeping the HR to around 130-140 which is “the” zone that I run to when I am running well.

I think the pleasing thing for me today, was that although not pushing harder than last week (and the stats bear that out) I was running faster … dipping under 6.00/km for the whole run for the first time since coming back to running – that is further encouragement for me and very pleasing indeed.

The extra effort on the diet seems to be working too, with clothes noticeable looser and again that can only encourage.

As time goes on the “Crack of Dawn” club will get earlier, as I will need more time to run further and I am really looking forward to that over the winter time … there is something ace about running in the cold, in the wet and in the wind …. I love it much more than the sunshine in that regard.

Choose Your Fuel …

Sports Science has taken over the world – we see everything scrutinised and everything is analysed and pages and pages of data are produced. Now I am a data lover, data is great and it gives you lots to think about and this aspect of sports science is brilliant.

But there is a dark side to sports science … the dark side  that sells sugary rubbish to athletes to “boost their perfomance” and to “unlock their potential” … you see it all the time, short 5km races with people guzzling energy gels …. it is this are that the marketing departments have jumped on and taken advantage of … the marketing companies that make “sports drinks” and “natural health drinks” and all the association of fizzy drinks with being cool, trendy and sporty – that has to change.

A recent visit to a cafe highlights what is wrong:

Drinks

Row upon row of sugar and carbonated death juice … only water and milk as real drinks of any benefit – but this is what is offered to consumers – a terrible state of affairs.

I am embarking on something a bit different for my marathon training, I have already road tested it a little on the bike where I can now ride 3-4 hours on just a bidon of pure water, no gels, no bars and no carbs needed, just a solid healthy breakfast of eggs and salmon. I haven’t tried this with the running, but I am pretty sure the same adaptations can be gained over a period of time and that will help me fuel properly for the marathon itself.

It’s a big question, but can I run the marathon without any food at all and rely just on water ? Not sure ?

If I need food, then what food should I have and how much of it will I need to have ?

It will be an interesting journey back to old school running and something that I am looking forward to as the cold months close in.