Saturday, 20 December 2014

3 days before training really starts!

Injury free, just about, ran 6.4km two days ago so I'm just about ready for the hard graft of marathon running. My 16 week training plan starts on Tuesday. 

But training prep hasn't gone completely to plan. The injury in my last post has kept me out of action for the remainder of the football season, and I have gain at least half the weight I lost in the first place through lack of training. This is where the discipline will really need to kick in. 

Luckily for me, I am used to loosing weight I have gained and the quicker it goes on, the quicker it can come off. I can still run for over 40 mins, so the fitness is about still there and I don't have to start again completely from scratch. 

Starting to run is hard. Your body isn't used to it, and it is harder cardiovascular than almost any other form of exercise. But I know I need to keep at it, keep running when my body says no, but still listen to it when I am pushing it too much. Running is just as much a mental battle and it is a physical one. That's what happened when I tried to come back from injury too fast. 

I was running with a friend who is a little competitive, and I was running at my full pace when 3km in... Rip. My calf tore again, slightly different place. In one way it was good, the original injury was healing nicely, but I had a new one. More rest. More ice. More rehab. Less running. Less exercise. Less progress. 

The mental battle is about remembering that you are human, and that running is not a competition against anyone else apart from yourself. You win when you reach a distance, a time, a pace. You lose when you choose to not run when you can. Just getting out there and running the distance you want makes you a winner. (Being injured, or I'll doesn't count as being a loser, I'll let you off that one). 

If you need to walk to catch your breath for a couple of minutes do it. If you need to stop and stretch out your back or sore calf, do it. Making progress is about doing a little better than your previous run. 

The worst thing you can do as a runner though is to compare yourself to another runner. Comparison is general is just evil. You either feel good about yourself to a degree of cockiness, or you feel bad about yourself to a point of eventually saying, 'what's the point?' That's when you let yourself lose. 

So keep it up, run for the reason you want to run, to keep fit, to get fit, to reach a personal goal, to keep a healthy heart, to get some fresh air. I don't enjoy every single run I do, sometimes it's torture, but more times than not, I enjoy it. It clears my head, I find perspective again, and life feels a lot better. The next few months won't be most fun, but I'm looking forward to it. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Training plan set... Now just to shake off this injury!

Yep, thats right. I'm injured.

It happened a couple of months ago, I ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes, then stopped when I felt a cramp in my right calf. I flew back to Sweden a day later, and the next football training session I stepped in to block the ball and it went. I was hoping to shake it off, but no. The tendon was torn (as I was to find out). 
20 minutes after...

I could stand, but not walk. Anything where my ankle joint would push me forward was agony... Luckily i could still cycle. But I was out of action and I didn't know how long for. 

Thankfully it was 3 weeks, so I was told by my Physio. I went to a sports rehab clinic in Gothenburg, the same clinic that serves all the local sports teams, so I knew I they knew what they were doing. 

They started me on a very simple routine of ankle stretches that would straighten the muscle fibers as they healed, which seemed to go well.. I was being a good patient, following to the book. A week later and healing was going faster than expected (yes, of course I prayed for it), and it was going well. 

They upped my excercises and even put me on a gentle running routine the week after. Slow starting interval jogging, very light... However, the term had started, I had longer hours in the office so I could put in the running. 

The 'ghosts' of being injured had started to haunt me. You know, feeling down, missing the endorphins rush from the higher heart rate, not eating as much fruit, eating more ice cream, routine changes and it gets harder to keep up. And to add to it, stress levels have been rising and I haven't had that release I normally get from running. 

Then I went for a run, finally having a morning to myself... And 3km in, I'm back to the beginning. I had pushed myself to far too soon. The tear had come back, exactly the same. I cannot begin to describe the frustration I felt at that moment. Adding to the fact we had friends visiting who wanted to go to the local theme park, so I couldn't even rest it up. 

So the last 3 weeks have probably been the laziest weeks I've had in a long time in terms of exercise. I rested the first week from cycling even, to really rest my leg. Yesterday was the first time I went to the gym in 3 weeks, and today I ran 4.6km, slowly, in intervals, in very controlled circumstances (my wife was with me and reminded me often that I was still injured-that's pretty intense controlled circumstances). 

But it was ok. My calf is feeling a little sore, but I think that it good as I have pushed it to its limit, so I can now rest, let that repair and go again. 

Injury can be a real pain, and I think it took my mentality with it. I have accomplished a lot this year with fitness and weight loss, and I think I had let that become too much apart of who I was. Just as much as I had let being overweight for the majority of my life become my identity for the first 20 years of my life. It took a while to get that out of my system. Who I am is not what I do, who I am is not how far I run, how much weight I lose. I need to rest my identity in something so much more certain, then I can enjoy the fitness I have without being afraid of losing it. 

Today I set up my training scheme for the marathon. I start on December 23rd, but I still need to get into shape before then. Then I will have 16 weeks to train properly. I have a target of under 4 hours. Maybe wishful thinking, but with the right discipline, the right diet, and enough support, I am sure I can crack that time. I am half-way to reaching my target amount, please join in by sponsoring me for this really important cause. The link is here.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Göteborgsvarvet done!!

Forget the yellow brick road...we followed
the blue line to our goal. 
Well I did it, 9 months of training, (6 months of which were a lot more serious), I completed probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and in my goal time too. It is hard to explain how it feels and what the experience was like, but please read on. This post will be more than just my thoughts on the race, I also have some advice for runners who are hoping to complete long distance races that could be life saving.

Race week
The week leading up to the race wasn't the best for preparation. I decided to do a double workout on the Sunday, to get an extra boost on a week of planned rest. I joined up with an Adidas Tribes promotional interval training event on the Sunday afternoon, followed by a big football training session in preparation for my debut for FC Fiskeback.

On the Monday I had my first game of football for my club and I played 65 minutes of it. I struggled in the game because I am not a great sprinter. The main problem tho, was that the grass was wet, and my leather boots soaked in water like sponge. The 3 hours of wet feet resulted in a head cold by Wednesday afternoon.

I spent Thursday in bed, and on the sofa, and went for a run on Friday to loosen up and calm any nerves. I had started to feel slow and tired. We went to a friends house, also running the race for the first time and enjoyed a good evening of carb loading... a vegetarian Marmite lasagne! Yes, you heard me, Marmite, and it was every bit as good as it sounds.

I went to bed that night however feeling exhausted, not the best prep week at all for the race of my life.

Me and Peter before the race. 
I woke up feeling ok, but having to clear my throat of phlegm, and topped up my inhalers which help this kind of thing. I cooked some spinach soup and had a 4 fruit smoothie with breakfast, along with prep. We got to the race site 3 hours before our start time, the first group started at 1pm, and I wanted to get the full effect of what the day was about.

The Göteborgsvarvet, (Gothenburg Half-marathon) is the biggest half marathon in the world, in terms of the amount of people. This is what i have heard from people in Sweden, if I am wrong please correct me. There were 52200 people racing, in 25 different start groups. I was in group 21, starting at 3.32 pm.

We ate, kept watered and applied sun block. I was feeling better, a little tired, but I kept topped up with Powerade, my chosen energy drink, and the excitement was filling my adrenaline stores... I was excited.

The Race
A few minutes before the race I couldn't quite believe I was running this... I had prepared, all my training, my running, my healthier eating was leading towards this day. I started with my friend who I wanted to try and stay level with but after 500 meters he gave me permission to keep going as he couldn't keep my pace, and I wanted to get a good start, and reach my 5km goal.

5KM in I had done it. I reached it within 25 minutes, it was a good start, and I was happy. However the 6th km was the first bridge, and I lost 300meters in the following 5 minutes. Bridges are hard. The first third of a bridge is a steep incline, and early on in a race it is hard to keep a good pace... I had to save my energy.

2km in... not even a drop of sweat!
The next 9KM, the Hisingen section, was flat and probably the easiest part, not that it was easy towards the end of this section. I was getting tired, and most of the route was in sunlight. I was feeling good, but with the cold (which wasn't bothering me) I wasn't going to do anything stupid. I stopped at all water stations to clear my throat and cool down.

The other good thing was that my shins hadn't hurt at all. I had been fighting off early signs of shin splints (I have had them before, and they hurt), and I normally started feeling that pressure about the 7KM mark. This time I didn't feel the pain and I was running comfortably. I had changed my running style, thanks to Bruce Van Horn's book 'You can go the distance'. It is a good book with a lot of running advice, and I changed my style to a shorter running stride and a more forward leaning body position that put more weight on the balls of my feet. This allowed me to transfer energy forward to the next step rather than the kinetic energy being wasted and swallowed into the cushioning in the heal. I will write another post about this technique, but all credit must go to Bruce van Horn, the author of the book.

I refueled at 13km, with an energy gel with caffeine in. It seemed to give me more energy and helped me through the second half of the race, but I think it may have been too much mixed with the Powerade, and with the hot sun and lack of water. I may also have taken this a little too late in the race. It worked better than the sugar only gel I used in the practice run, less lethal on the time it took the energy to get into my system, but I think I'll need to do a little bit more research into how these work best.

Again, the bridge to come back over was tough, and I was passed by a few people, I knew I was down on my pace time, but I wasn't going to be stupid. It was the hottest day of the year so far, I hadn't had the chance to run this distance in this heat. I had to be sensible.

However I had looked forward to running through the city for a year. Ever since I watched the race last year at the 16th KM mark, I was looking forward to running that part, although on Sunday it all went by so fast. I didn't get the chance to enjoy it. In reality the last 5KM was a huge blur. I was concentrating on my goal time, something I would struggle with if I didn't keep my pace up. I made sure I kept hydrated, and focussed on a comfortable running pace around the 5:25min p/KM mark. I knew I wouldn't get record time, 1hr 50mins was out of the question, but I knew I couldn't still reach my goal time of 2hrs.

When I passed 20KM at 1hr 50, I was happy, I knew I would make it but I didn't want to sprint and be stupid. The last KM took me 6:26min, I thought I was faster, but I kept it comfortable and passed the finish line at 5:29pm. I had a time of 1hr 57min 06sec. Out of 52200 people I finished in place 15727, so works out to be in the top 30% of runners on the day. I did it! Reached my goal, and felt great about it!

Post race
The last few days have been tough. When we were done we are presented with a medal, a sports drink, a banana and a chocolate bar. I demolished this fast, and was trying to slow my heart down. I couldn't do a normal warm down as the queue past the finish line was long, and I tried jogging on the spot. But most others were just walking through. I had a protein bar when we go our bags, but on the way home the sickness set in. I felt cold and faint, and after getting home, a quick shower, I got straight into bed and slept for an hour. I woke up and ate chicken and potatoes and felt better. I cannot fully explain why I felt so bad. I had refueled as planned, I hadn't over done myself after the race. My thoughts were maybe the start of heat stroke, but I had put sun block on, and didn't get any sun burn.

The mistake that many people make it go faster in the final straight, but after a long distance this can be hard and not so great for the heart. The finish line wasn't great, there was a huge amount of people finishing with me and I was forced to stop straight after I crossed the line, a huge 'no-go' with long distances. When you stop, the heart doesn't like it, not when it has been keeping you going for 2 or so hours at a higher rate. The sad thing was that on the finish line that day, 3 people's heart had stopped, 2 people survived but one could not be revived. It was reported that he had heart problems anyway, and stopping straight away at the line might have been the trigger.

This was a fear of mine on the day. After I researched for my last post and read about it happening back in march in other half marathons, I have been asking myself why this would happen. You hear of less people dying from marathons than half-marathons. So what is it about the half-marathon that causes people to over do it. Maybe the people on the fringe see the half as a doable target, and one that they feel they should be able to do. It could also be that 15km is a doable distance for most runners without the need to refuel. The body can handle 90 minutes of continuous exercise. I can run 15KM no problem, and my record time is 1hr15mins (on the race I reached 15km in 1hr20min). The last 6km you are pushing your body a little further than what it can handle on its own (in my opinion). The need for a good refueling plan is paramount to anything longer than 17KM, (IMO).

I am still looking for a good refueling plan. I don't think I know enough about my own body yet to know what things are good, and when you should take them. This is something I will be seeking help for in preparation for the Brighton Marathon next year.

My upcoming blog posts will hopefully cover refueling, heart problems, and information on the charity I am running for. Thank you for reading, and if you have anything you would like to add, or comment on please do. I will be seeking a medical at some point in prep for the marathon, and hopefully getting a good marathon plan, so I know what I can do on the day and do over do it.

As you can tell, I am serious about running, and serious about raising money for 28 Too Many. If you would like to help me raise £750 for this charity, then please donate here.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Why do we run?

Asking yourself why you would do any sport is always a tough question. the first thought is always, 'becase I enjoy it', I play football because i enjoy the game. but with running its difficult to answer that, especially for an ENFP like myself. I get distracted easily, i get bored doing just thing at a time and I feel like I always have to multi-task. Not the sport you would have paired me up with.

Recently I convinced Annie (my wife) to come running with me. It always good to do things with your significant other, and include eaach other in different parts of your life, but her attitude, like many other people I have heard, was 'I hate running, its awful, what's the point?'. It started to be a very trying time for me, having patience, showing love, being encouraging... when I could have easily run on, and left her behind. But I am not that type of guy, and not how one should treat their wife (or husband for that matter, girls). 

Running needs to be enjoyed, but if like me, you need to work towards something, setting goals is paramount to running. In football and other team sports you have an opponent, you win or you lose, you have something to measure your progress by. But in running, you don't have that so much, (unless you are willing to compete with the likes of Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe). You have to do running for yourself. 

For me running is for myself, it is not about winning or losing, it is about enndurance and discipline, and proving to myself that i can do it. I need to know what I can do, and then what to improve on, it is a competition with myself, I can chose to win by getting out on the road and run, or lose to myself by being lazy and staying in. A few friends have started running that same time as me, and there is the usual, 'what time have you got?' 'what's your average pace time for the 21km?' 'You'll be leaving me behind after 5 mins'. But I'm not interested in being a good runner to be better than others, I want to be better than my last run, but I also want to have fun. 

If you don't enjoy running, fitness is probably the main reason that you run, or at least it is the reason that you start running. That was the case for me. For those serious about running, there are health issues to be aware of, and it is always good to get checked out by your doctor before you start working out. I am mildly asthmatic, but that is managed by inhalers and after running 2 practise half marathons, there has been no issues. 

I did read today on Runners World of 2 runners who died in 2 different half marathons on the same day. One a teenager, one still quite young. Both pretty active people, so longer distances need to be managed properly. Both incidences were tragedies and it is saddening to hear that this happened. My prayers go out to the families who have been hurting for the last 7 weeks. Running is still a low risk sport and managed properly, even long distances are harmless. You can read the report here

When I first ran a practise 21km, I was completely unprepared. I hadn't planned to run so far, but I felt good at the 10km, 13km and 17km marks, so carried on. But when I finished, I was heavily dehydrated and spent 2 hours on my sofa feeling ill and forced some salty spinach soup and egg down. I did it all wrong. I rested a week, and read up on long distance running, then 3 weeks later I tried again and itwas a lot better. I made 20 minutes on my time, and refueled in the right places. I felt tired after, but not exhausted. 

Running raises the heart rate, and when hydrated well increases good bloodflow. Raising your heart rate reguarly helps fitness levels and ou can run faster and for longer, and you get in general better health. Mixed with a good diet of fruit and veg and life will start to look better. I am not a healthcare professional, so I would welcome comments on this. 

If you would like to donate to my marathon run and support me in my training (the money all goes to the charity, I will be supported in the encouragement I get from the donations), please give via my giving site.

I will post again about refueling and eating right, but what do you think? Why do you run? Do you enjoy it, or do you force yourself to run? How do you keep it going? 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A whole new blog for a whole new project!

Ok... so this isn't exactly a whole new project, I have been running for 9 months now, and about to run my first half marathon. I have only run one race before, and last summer I was chronically unfit... Like really bad!! 

I mean I had been doing some exercise, but having a kick-about once a week didn't really count. I had lost the fitness I once had at the end of my teenage years... many thanks to a diabolical university experience which really took a toll on my fitness... beer and shop value fish fingers every day are not a healthy lifestyle option... even if it is all I could afford. 

Anyway, a major lifestyle change (I became a born-again christian 3 weeks before I graduated) and some great people around me have really helped me get a better perspective on life, and after moving to Sweden 2 years ago, my now wife challenged me to run the Göteborgsvarvet, a half marathon around the city. I signed up, and the training plan had started to be formed... I looked for some practice runs, and saw that the Gothenburg midnattsloppet was taking place 2 weeks later... a 10km race held at night. I had never run more than 4km in one go before... so of course I signed up... 

Have I mentioned I am a little crazy btw? I like spontaneity, but I also follow though with 99% of anything I agree to (the 1% being dares that involved space travel and fish, don't ask). 

So yesterday I did the same... I signed up for a full Marathon. 26.2 miles. 42 Km. My wife told me I'm crazy, I told my self I'm crazy. But if in 9 months I have gone from unfit to running a half marathon in 1hr 50minutes, then in 11 months I know I can run a full marathon, in whatever time it takes. 

But I won't just be running for myself, I will be running for charity, a very good charity for a very important cause. 

I will be running the Brighton Marathon for 28 Too Many, a charity working to stop the legal (yes I said legal) practise of female genital mutilation (FGM). There are 28 countries in Africa where this is still legal, 28 too many (hence the name of the charity).  You can check out their website here

So this blog will be about running; the techniques, the food, health issues, clothes that help or hinder running, and also about the charity and cause that I am running for. I have made a promise that I will be training in the charity's t-shirt (as long as it is washed, I wouldn't want to contaminate a perfectly nice area of Gothenburg with my 4 days unwashed running gear). There have been books I have read on running, people I follow on Twitter who have inspired me, and people around me that have helped get behind me and back me up, pushing me to do better, and not least my faith that keeps me going in life and provides the rock I lean on. 

I still have my other blog, Captain's Blog, where I will write about my job, my faith, and my passions, but this will just be about running, my current project, the marathon and the charity I am running for. I hope that fellow runners and fundraisers will read and comment and share running advice and tehcniques. I am a rookie, with a growing love for running and fitness.