Thursday, 3 May 2012

Group coaching sessions from next Wednesday

Up till now I have done most of my running training alone.  I really enjoy going at my own pace and the peace and quiet that comes from running alone.  Sometimes though it is nice to train with a group.

I used to do my Wednesday lunchtime runs with my colleagues at UBS and when I start there again next week I will see if they are interested to resume the lunchtime runs.  On top of that I have signed up for group coaching sessions, led by an American coach called Jeff Grant.  He runs these sessions once a week on Wednesday nights at the Sihlh√∂lzli track.

I prefer to take tuition from someone that can do what they are asking their pupils to do.  Jeff has completed the Marathon des Sables (2nd American home and top 50 place), the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc, the Swiss Inferno triathlon and the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.  That is a very respectable set of events to complete, and anyone who can complete all of those gets my respect hands down.  Jeff is trained in the Pose running technique and is also a Crossfit teacher.

It will be very interesting to see how I get on with the coaching sessions, especially the part where he teaches us the Pose running technique, as running always felt like one of those activities that we were born to do, and coaching in how to do it seems just a little unusual to me.  I have a very open mind though and have taken lots of coaching in others sports before, such as squash, so am happy to try it out.  The fitness gains from the drills and core conditioning workouts will also be invaluable.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

First time running in my Vibrams

Today being a day off and all, Anny and I went to Bad Ragaz to enjoy the thermal baths.  Strangely enough in Bad Ragaz everything was open, including Coop and Migros, and it didn't seem like a public holiday there at all.  Even the price we were charged for entry to the thermal baths was the weekday price and not the public holiday price.  I thought that Labour Day was a holiday in the whole of Switzerland, but maybe not.

The baths were great to relax my muscles.  I woke up to another cramp this morning at around 6am.  My left calf muscle just started cramping all of a sudden and Anny was awoken abruptly by the sound of me begging for her help to pull back my toes and stop the cramp from getting worse.  Luckily she did it in time and other than being tighter than usual there was no problem with the muscle afterwards.

The coldest bath was 17C and the hottest bath was 39C, and we spent time in each of them, although not so long in the coldest one.  It was a really great way to relax and unwind and we came back to Zurich very happy and relaxed.

After we got back we put on our running kit and headed out for a 30 minute jog with Negrita.  I decided to run in my Vibram FiveFingers.  It is the first time I have run in them.  The other times I was simply walking in them.  I didn't really find it any problem to run in them, although I was looking very carefully where I was treading when I was on the gravel path next to the Limmat, as if you step down heavily on a large stone it will still hurt, despite the fact that the VFFs do offer some protection.  By the end of the 30 minutes my knees were aching ever so slightly, and I think that I wouldn't have wanted to run for much longer than that.  It did go surprisingly well though, and I didn't feel any soreness in my calves or Achilles tendon like some people have reported.  I will be happy to go running in them again in the next couple of days.

That's all I have to report for tonight, other than the fact that I finished eating the chia bread that I baked the other day.  It tasted delicious but I didn't really notice any huge difference energy wise.  What I think I may do is to take a handful of chia seeds with me on a run, and when I feel I am flagging a little I will eat them and see if that makes me feel any more energetic.  It is quite hard to tell the difference when you are not really flagging and are already pretty energetic like I am usually.


Monday, 30 April 2012

My humungous August challenge - running 117km and almost the height of Everest in under 31 hours

Have ever of you heard of the Ticino Trail before?  Probably not, and neither had I until I just signed myself up for it.  If you want to take a look at the website it is here www.trail-ticino.ch.

The event is pretty mental, in the most positive sense of the word.  Basically I will have 31 hours or under to cover 117km of mountainous terrain, including 12 passes, making a grand total of 8,500 vertical metres (almost the height of Everest) and reaching altitudes of 2,500m above sea level.

I will have to deal with potentially bad weather, low visibility nighttime running, crazy amounts of ascending and all this whilst watching the clock to make sure I complete it under the time limit, or all was basically for nothing.

Can I do this?  I am not sure - it seems pretty tough by anyone's standards.  Why did I sign up for it?  Because I was saying how cool it looked to my MDS 2012 friends and then one of them announced he had signed up for it and I thought well I can't let him run it alone so I better join him now, especially since I was the one who suggested it.  I have entered what appears to be an elite world of crazy people who know no limits, who don't know when to throw in the towel and say enough is enough.  I have found a place where I can truly fit in, without seeming too crazy myself, where I am considered normal.

How am I going to train for this?  I am not sure yet but the training regime is going to have to be pretty brutal.  Given the huge amount of ascent involved in the race I will probably incorporate a lot of gym work into my training - squats especially.  I can imagine that strength is going to be hugely important.  Endurance will also be important, but at least it is not a multistage event, so as long as I train to run 50km fast, I reckon I can cope with 117km at a slower pace when it comes to it.  Hill work is also going to form a large part of my plan.

The challenge this time is that I need to fit in all my training around a full time job.  I will have to try to eliminate dead time from my daily schedule, and make use of this time for running instead.  Why sit on a bus/tram to and from work when I can run to and from work for example.  Luckily Anny is now a "proper runner," so we can go for some training runs together.  I was very impressed with how much she has improved when I went out with her last night.  The main improvement I noticed other than the pace is that she is no longer concerned by the sensation of being out of breath like she was before.  She is mentally tougher, and able to push herself harder.  I don't think she will ever be interested in events like the Ticino Trail though - she thinks these kind of events are for crazy people like me.  She may however be happy to substitute hiking for trail running, which would be fantastic, as I much prefer trail running to hiking.

Apart from the fact I am going to have to train hard, the event itself is going to be fantastic.  The race starts in Airolo (on the 4th August) and it is such a beautiful part of the world.  Running over the passes is going to be breathtaking, and I cannot think of many places I would rather run.  Anny is also planning to come down to Ticino and support me.  Once again, knowing she will be there waiting for me is going to be an amazing mental boost.  It may even mean the difference between success and failure.  My MDS 2012 friend Steve will also be running in the race alongside me.

I am still planning to do a sub 3 hour marathon at the end of October (and have entered the Lucern marathon), and I figure by training for this event I will be in tip top condition for that challenge too.  All I need to watch is that I do not sacrifice too much speed for endurance in my training regime.  Having done almost solely endurance based training for events such as La Marmotte in the past, and having seen how people who focussed on strength and speed were able to beat me and cope with the extra distance when it came to the crunch, I am not going to base my training around very long slow runs alone.  Speed work and strength work will also play an important part.


Another toe nail fell off - ewwwww

I thought looking down at my feet that the toenail on my right little toe didn't look too healthy.  It was a darker colour, and very brittle.  Upon closer inspection it started to come off in my hand.  That is now the second toenail that has fallen completely off since I finished the Marathon des Sables.  All of the remaining ones look very healthy, so that should be it now (I hope).

I hope that the new toenails that grow back are nice and healthy, and that I don't have any problems with them growing back at strange angles or becoming ingrown as some people experience.  I have never lost a toenail before, so when it first happened I was a little worried that it might never grow back, but after reading a lot of forums it seems they usually do.  At least it is not painful now - I think that was the cause of a lot of my pain during the race, but since then the skin underneath has toughened up considerably.  I thought that usually the toenails just go black and fall off when a new one has grown underneath it, but in my case the dead ones just fell off with no replacement in sight, and they never actually went black (just a darker shade of brown).  This way maybe the new ones can grow unobstructed.

I was asked to start work at UBS next Monday instead of this Wednesday due to some paperwork that still needs to be completed first, so I think I will use the next few days to restart my hot yoga classes and go for some more gentle runs.  Anyway, that's it for now folks as I need to go and take Negrita for a walk.    She is looking at me with those cute puppy eyes and that little waggy tail - how cute.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

First run since the MDS finished

Hi all.  I just came back from a 5km run along the Limmat river with Anny and Negrita.  Anny had to run 5km today as part of her 10km training plan, and she was trying to persuade me to join her all day long.  At first I was a little reluctant as I had planned to just do a very short run by myself tomorrow to see how things went, what with it being my first run since completing the MDS and all.  But she told me she wasn't planning to run fast, so I decided to join her.  It is the first time I have run or done any form of exercise since the MDS finished 2 weeks ago.  I gave my body a complete rest for those 2 weeks in order to allow it to strengthen and repair itself.

Sometimes when I go to get up after sitting or lying down for long periods my left knee makes a loud cracking noise.  There is no associated pain, and after the initial crack it makes no further noises.  I think it is caused by tight quads pulling on my knee cap.  This was something I was monitoring closely tonight, and I did not notice anything unusual whilst running, so hopefully all is good.  In fact the run may have even helped to loosen up my quads a bit.

I was running in my Newton Sir Isaac guidance trainers for the very first time since I got them.  At first they felt a little strange, but by the end of the run I found them perfectly comfortable.  They are meant to help you make the transition from heel striking to a more efficient mid foot strike, and I tried to follow the advice on the box about how to run in them.  I focussed on landing on the balls of my feet (not on the toes themselves) and on lifting my knees up directly rather than trying to push off with my feet.  The shoes feature a bevelled heel (not that I noticed really since I was focussing on not landing on my heel) and patented Action/Reaction Technology that works by having lugs on the midsole that store energy upon impact and release it as your knee lifts your foot off the ground.  At first it did feel like I was running with a pole up my arse, if you will excuse my French.

The Newton Sir Isaac Guidance Trainers

I am happy with how tonight's run went, and can plan to start running a couple of times per week again.  Anything from a couple of kilometres up to 5km is ample distance for now, especially as I will be running either in my Newton guidance trainers or in my Vibram FiveFingers, both of which are completely different to what I am currently used to.  If I find running in them too strange I always have the option of reverting to my tried and tested PT03 winter shoes till I get used to the new shoes.  I am convinced that running in the VFFs will be a lot of fun though, and probably the Newtons too.