Saturday, 24 December 2011

Oh, I'm so unfit!

During a little pre-Christmas break in Scotland, I had a run out on my favourite section of the West Highland Way. The original intention was to run from Drymen to Rowardennan, however, I noticed that there was a diversion in place to avoid the forest above Drymen. After a quick consultation with the WHW Race Forum to get the full story from the horses mouth, I decided to change plans to avoid the fallen trees and run from Balmaha to Rowardennan and back instead.

When I am running well, this is without doubt the section of the WHW I enjoy the most. The scenery is breathtaking, the trail interesting without being too tough and it's always sheltered from the worst of the weather. During the previous week, my confidence has been growing as I have suffered less and less from the stiffness/soreness in the evenings after a run, but did realise this would be the biggest acid test so far.

As I left Balmaha, it felt great to be back on this section again and I had a nice spring in my step. I allowed myself to run maybe a little faster than I have done so far and just tried to concentrate on a fluid style. For a while, I did not really think about my heel, everything felt normal and smooth as I settled into a lovely rhythm. As ever, I walked up the small climbs, but I noticed how much I was enjoying the downhill parts. I remember thinking how my quads would pay for that later; how right I was!

After an hour, I started to feel the heel, though it was more awkward rather than sore or painful. The problems seem to occur in the calf muscle as it tries to "protect" the tendon and, at present, the muscle is just not strong enough to make this compensation. Unfortunately, the only way to build up the muscle is to keep stressing it in a controlled way; it is just going to take time.

I do not think my running style was compromised on the return journey (take a look at the video) but I did take things noticably easier on the way back to Balmaha. Once I got past the 2 hour mark, I started to feel knackered, made worse as I remembered how I would zoom along this section when fit and here I was struggling to finish. It was great to get 3 hours under my belt, but it has highlighted the length of the road ahead to get back to full race fitness.

I am hoping to start a more structured training programme in the new year but am just going to concentrate on a few easy weeks at first, then in the middle of January, I'm going to try a "medium" week and see how the legs cope. Between now and then, I'm going to limit my runs to a maximum of 1:30 hours, with the majority under an hour. I find that writing things down in the blog tend to make them stick in my mind better and I'm more likely to follow the plan. That gives me another 4 weeks of steady training before I have my next serious test.

Happy Christmas to all!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Keswick AC Christmas Handicap Race

Yesterday, I competed in our club's traditional Christmas handicap race. We start and finish at the cricket pavilion in Fitz Park, doing a loop up into the woods on the lower slopes of Latrigg Fell. I set myself the same targets as last week; never faster than 10 mins/mile and walk all the hills. This did make my handicap rather difficult to work out, but I slotted in fairly near the front of the field.

It was a beautiful morning and I was just so excited to be in a "race" again. My previous competitive outing was in March and I've been so looking forward to this moment. It was a rather inauspicious start as the runners in front steadily ran into the distance and those behind slowly but surely caught and passed me, but I was loving it!

As we got on to the muddier and rougher ground, I was better able to keep up, though, stopping to keep filming did ruin my chances of a comeback win. Towards the end, I felt like I could have pushed the pace a bit, but forced myself to stick to the plan, using the video camera as an excuse to walk.

I eventually toddled over the line having been passed or outrun by the entire field, bar one, to claim second last place. Never has such a lowly placing felt so good.

In the last week I have been out running four times and each one has felt a bit more comfortable than the previous one and I have suffered less and less from soreness and stiffness in the evening. I feel very close to the point where I might be able to start a more structured training programme but have decided to keep this ad lib training going for the time being. The problem at present is the strain that hills put on the tendon, but even this is getting easier. During the last week of term, I got back into the habit of running from school after work and it felt really good to get back into that routine.

I received a few entries for the photo competition from last week, thank you to those that entered and I hope you enjoyed working out where the shots were taken and how far along the route each site is. Most seemed to comment that Photo 3 was the most difficult to pin-point. For those that had a look, here are the actual answers;
   Photo 1 - Crossroads in path at Arlehaven, just after crossing B821 (4.49 miles)
   Photo 2 - WHW marker post in last field before Drymen checkpoint (11.76 miles)
   Photo 3 - Ruin in Mugdock Woods, just as path swings to the left (1.43 miles)
   Photo 4 - Sharp left turn just before Gartness (9.55 miles)


Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 4


Ian Wallace






Debs M-C


John Kynaston



Congratulations Tim, less than a quarter of a mile out overall. First name in the Hall of Fame!

Monday, 12 December 2011

At last! A run on The Way

In the early stages of my recovery, I set a target to have an outing on the West Highland Way before Christmas. Initially, I hoped to get as far as Balmaha but over the last month I have had a sensible head on and realised that would be a bridge too far for now. Instead, I thought the relatively flat 12 miles from Milngavie to Drymen would be a more realistic target.

I set myself a couple of ground rules before I set off; firstly, I would walk every uphill section regardless of how small and secondly, I would not run quicker than 10 mins/mile at any point. Following these rules would ensure I did not put any strain on the tendon and I could really enjoy just being out there.

It was a fantastic day, with a light dusting of snow but nothing to cause concern or risk slipping. Once settled in to the run I tried to run as smoothly as possible, but I am aware that at times I am perhaps not as balanced as I would normally be, trying to inflict as little pounding on my tendon as possible. It sounds so easy to try and run normally, but as soon as you start thinking about your running gait, it changes. I think running is best left to the sub-conscious.

It is moments like these that remind you why we do this - what a small number of people get to experience what we do - how few people see the vistas we see!

I got to Drymen in about 2:30 hours which was suitably slow but gave the tendon a good controlled workout. More importantly, I felt that buzz again. Getting all the kit together, packing for a weekend away, zooming up to Glasgow on Friday night, it's all part of my running regime and something I've missed.

I was a little sore and stiff in the evening but no more so than if I do a 3 mile run, so I guess things are going in the right direction. I feel a little more confident about the next few months now, so much so that on Sunday I spent a couple of hours with John Kynaston planning our training runs round The Lakeland 100 route. We are aiming to cover the route in 4 stages, each approx. 35 miles, once a month between March and June. This suits us both as we have generally kept to that kind of plan with our individual training over the last few years. I think it's safe to say we are both a little bit excited about this adventure!

As I ran along the WHW on Saturday, taking in the view and snapping away with the camera, I came up with the idea for a little competition. This one is for those of you with a knowledge of the WHW route (or who are especially good with maps/Google Earth). I have taken 4 photos along the route along with an exact distance for each via my GPS watch. I started the watch at the WHW post in the middle of Milngavie and took a split at each photo. What you have to do is estimate the distance travelled to my standing position for each photo from the start (in miles to 2 decimal places). The person with the least cumulative error over the 4 photos wins. The photos are NOT in the correct order!
If you send an entry via the comments box, I will not publish your comments until after the closing date which I'll set at midday on Sunday 19th December.
Hope it gets you thinking and looking at some maps - enjoy!

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3


Photo 4

Also got thinking about some other ideas for competitions, so we will see how those develop in the future.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

First Run

I am still very much in the dark as to how sore I should expect to be at this stage of the recovery. On Wednesday I went for a run/walk (mainly run) along the old railway and found myself chugging along at 8 min/mile pace, which at the time felt great, thinking I'm well on my way now, but later that night I was in quite a lot of pain and hobbling round the house. It feels a different kind of pain to the tendonitis trouble I've suffered with for a number of years, but I'm still not sure if this is what I should expect for the next month or so, or am I doing some damage. Each morning it feels OK, which is again, very different to tendonitis. I'm going to make an appointment to see the physio again next week, mainly for a chat rather than some physical physio.

On a positive note, I had my first full run for 8 months last night. Earlier in the week I fired an email round at work, inviting anyone who would like to join me for my first run. Most of the usual suspects responded, though I did get a few surprise responses along with comments like "this is my only chance to beat you". In the end, the weather was atrocious and only the hardy few toughed it out.

Pre-run photo
We did a nice steady 5.5 miles, working our way past the rugby club and theatre, down to the lake shore, along the shore through the woods, returning through the woods parallel to the Borrowdale Road and back to school. Everyone was chatting away, commenting on how much they were enjoying the get-together, suggesting we could make a regular thing of this - I hope so.

I felt OK as we were jogging along, but I made sure I kept my pace much slower than Wednesday's outing, generally keeping between 10 an 11 min/mile. Didn't feel too sore after and was just happy to get muddy and be with runners again.
Muddy again at last

It was lovely to have such support, but it was also simply one of those occasions where everyone enjoyed having some running company on a horrid night, rounding off the working week with a bit of banter. Who could ask for more?! I suppose there was only one way we could finish the whole occasion; this last photo is of the cool down. We are all stretching and having a few protein recovery drinks!

Cool down
There has been a bit of talk about "The Man Suit" and how you adapt to the toughness of the challenge. The general theory seems to be that when things start to get tough, you zip up your man suit and get on with it. If things get worse, you might also have to roll up the sleeves. I had an email from a friend in Spain (Hi, David) who suggested the next level of hardship would require spitting on your hands. Where do we go from here? In terms of a 100 mile race, the man suit might come into play at the 3-4 hour point which always seems a bad patch, the sleeves are rolled up at the 35 mile point when you realise you need a caffeine blast and you spit on you hands at the halfway point knowing you have to do it all again. How do we cope with the rest of the race?