Marathon des Sables 2013

Marathon des Sables 2013

Sunday, 20 November 2016

End of season blog

2016 has been a challenging year but I achieved the objectives I set. In 2015 I had a couple of injuries which meant the race I wanted to do in 2016 would need to be postponed till 2017.  But to keep my training going I entered Ironman Frankfurt and started the training in October.  I chose this race because 7 other club members had entered it and it would be good to have some company for a change while training for the same target.
The Swashbuckler half ironman was in May and would give me a good indication of how my training was going.  I smashed my previous PB for a 70.3 and it was looking good for Frankfurt.  But an infection and a tweaked hamstring meant my training in the last 5 weeks was severely compromised (no running!).  But with my coach we worked out a plan which led to an 11 hour 50 min PB although had I been properly fit a much quicker time would have been possible as I had a very poor 4hr 33 min marathon (followed by the medical tent!) - I was aiming for 3hr 59 min.  I had announced my retirement from IM well before the race so now my focus is on the goal I had to postpone - Grand 2 Grand.  170 mile in the Grand Canyon carrying your own gear in 6 days.
Following IM Frankfurt, the post IM blues set in and the challenge of continuing to eat what I was while training led to the weight going back on which was good because I looked very under weight.  But not training wasn't a problem.  I regained a social life, caught up family and friends and my chosen hydration was wine rather than a protein drink!
Now I'm dipping my toe back into training.  I have no set plan, that starts in January, but am running 3 to 4 times a week albeit slow.  However yesterday I tripped at Chatelherault and my hamstring didn't appreciate it. Today I was running on icy roads and a slip could set me back weeks so I need to be careful.  Fortunately my wife has just taken up running and we had delivered a treadmill which I will use on the cold dark nights.
So 2017 is approaching and I have my goals firmly set.  I'm repeating the Swashbuckler half ironman and this will keep up my cross training.  But that is there as part of my plan for the Grand 2 Grand.  Before that we have the festive period to look forward to.  So on that note I am signing off for the remainder of the year.  I'll be back in January and hope to have good news to report which will be that my weight is lower than it is today as running with a "front rucksack" is not my idea of fun!  All the best to my fellow triathletes who are all getting ready for smashing their goals in 2017. Merry Xmas everybody and thank you for following my blog.

Sunday, 13 November 2016


My training plan starts in January but between now and then I am slowly getting back to exercise if nothing else than to halt the expanding waste line!  16 pounds gained in 4 months.  Some say I look healthier but carrying the surplus weight around is not my idea of fun.  Yesterday I looked out a picture I'd taken the night before ironman as I was putting on my number tattoo.  I looked in top condition but I know I'll get back to this shape when the real training kicks in and my diet gets back to normal.
Yesterday 3 of my team mates joined me for the usual Chatelherault run.  What a difference it makes to have company when you are training.  It motivates you to perform at a higher level which leads to better results.  As long as you agree on the objective before you start I.e. No racing and a level pace then everyone benefits.  We kept the pace steady but in the last kilometre began to increase it slightly - no something I'd find easy to do if on my own.  In the end a very satisfactory training run and in the months to come the 10k will extend to 20 & 30k and I'll be wearing a weighted rucksack.  Before that I will have to work on my core strength but I'm limited just now because of my shoulder injury.
Today I went out with my coach for a longer pacier road run.  It's a tough undulating route which is 13k.  Doing back to back runs helps because you get used to running on tired legs which is something I need to train for.  In the canyon I'll be running 6 days in a row so it's something I need to get my mind prepared for.  That's right, my mind and not my body.  The mind always gives up before the body because it has an inbuilt safety switch which is set way to easy and you need to learn to ignore it.  But even today on a couple of the long inclines my mind was saying it would be nice walk for a short while which obviously I will do in the canyon.  But not on a 13k run.  Having company also stops you from taking it easy and in the last km she put in a couple of short bursts to make sure I didn't relax.
I believe training with the right partners who have similar objectives for the session will bring out the best in everyone hence 1+1=3.  If your training partners are going to fast as they are training for a 10k when you are training for a marathon, then find someone who's goals are more aligned.  Happy training folks.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Learning from Andy Murray

Tomorrow Andy Murray will become the World number 1 tennis player.  What an unbelievable achievement in an era dominated by Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.  He's only the 4th man in the last 13 years to climb to the no 1 position.  So what lessons can we take from this incredible achievement?
I had the privilege of working with Andy Murray creating 3 promotional DVDs for David Lloyd Leisure to extend the 3 x 3 hour sessions they had of his time into a years worth of material.  It's not the type of work I'm normally involved in but they wanted my tennis (I used to be a pro tennis coach) and marketing experience.  He was an absolute joy to work with and the way he gave his time to kids, while keeping Sky Sports waiting, showed his class.  But back then in 2007/8 he was number 11 in the world when I first met him.  5 months later he was 4 in the world and nobody (including John McEnroe and Peter Fleming) thought he'd get to number 1 never mind win Wimbledon.  But Andy believed he would and has worked tirelessly to achieve that seemingly impossible goal.  It took him another 8 years with some big set backs along the way but he did it.
I was thinking about Andy's achievement as I was out running today.  Building it up slowly with a 10km trail run and improving on my time by 2 minutes from the day before - incremental gains!  However if I was to think about my main goal next year which is a 6 day staged race in the Grand Canyon (Day 1 30 miles, Day 2 30 miles, Day 3 53 miles, Day 4 26 miles, Day 5 26 miles, Day 6 7 miles) with the heat, the altitude and the physical climbing, it seems nearly impossible / improbable.  But understanding what Andy Murray has done to achieve his number 1 world ranking is inspirational as he's beating all the odds.  In a small way I intend doing the same!
So while I'm running short distances around Chatelherault, I will be thinking how these are the building blacks to my main goal.  I'm working on my breathing and controlling my heart rate so that when the distance starts getting longer, and I'm running with a weighted rucksack, I won't be wasting energy breathing inefficiently which reduces my chance of success.  I'll be getting my head into "Andy's mindset" which is you can achieve whatever you want if you have the desire. 
I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes; "a goal without a plan is just a wish".  Get planning!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A life in pictures

Yesterday I had the privilege of celebrating the life of an elderly gentleman who had a very good innings.  I'd known him for 10 years however for the last two, he wasn't as sharp as he had been.  Fortunately he didn't suffer for a long time with dementia and he had a wonderful family who brought him so much joy.  As you'll have heard me say it before, we all know the end of this movie and no one gets out alive so we should make the most of it.  This isn't a sad message, this is one we should grasp with both hands.
At the funeral they had a plasma screen showing pictures of his life.  I was mesmerised to see this young dapper young man who had a love of cycling and sports cars.  As the pictures went through the stages of his life, student, single, married, children and grand children it got me thinking.  What would the pictures of my life be like?  Which pictures would my kids choose?  What would they say?
I'm sure they would be a lot of laughter at the shorts (very short and tight) that I wore in early 80s (and the perm!) but if this was taking place in 20/30 years time what would any grandchildren be thinking about the "lycra phase"!  How would the kids explain it.
I've been involved in this magnificent madness for 8 years now, 7 of it covered by this blog, and I don't see it stopping anytime soon.  I've treated it as a scientific experiment to see what my body and mind was capable of and it's beyond anything I thought possible.  Yesterday I was reading through emails that were sent to me when I was running in the MdS 3 years ago.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as the memories of sitting at night in the tent, knackered and eating boil in the bag food while nursing blisters came back to me.  Having family and friends that support you get you through the toughest of challenges and make you realise that if you understand the "WHY" then you will achieve your goals.
Today I was at a "breathing workshop" run by the wonderful Mark Russell.  I need to breathe better otherwise I'll be dropping out of this movie earlier than the script intends.  I'm going to work with this new learning so I can be more efficient in my swimming, cycling, running and cope better with the stresses of life.  Think about the pictures that would sum up your life to date and the pictures you'd like to create in the future.  Breathe easy and live life to the full my friends.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The champagne diet

Last week I was talking about "the breath".  I got another sharp reminder about this on Saturday as I struggled on the second half of the Chatelherault loop.  Every year I have set myself a challenge and when you are beginning to prepare for the hard training during the autumn and winter the same thought enters my head.  How I am going to recover and build my fitness to be ready for the main race?  When I was breathing out my backside and my heart rate was through the roof it certainly left me in know doubt how much work I have ahead.  When I was training for the Marathon des Sables 3 years ago I was running 4 laps with 8kg on my back and then repeating it the following day? I'll need to return to that but it is some way away.
After a coffee, scone with jam and butter I felt better but I had a different type of endurance session planned for the afternoon and the evening.  One where I'd have to pace myself carefully.  The first discipline involve a champagne cream tea. Calorie overload washed down with champagne and Peroni!  Then onto another event where a couple of cheeky Peronis kept the "machine" ticking over.  Then onto the final event.  The ATHelite curry night with guess what, more Peroni and some red wine to wash it all down.  Now I know what you're thinking.  Isn't he meant to be an athlete and how will this help his performance.  Well this is going to surprise you!
After yesterday's "preparation" I headed out with my coach for a 13 km run this morning. She insisted on wearing my Garmin so I couldn't see my heart rate reading which has been an issue for the last few weeks - too high.  It was a beautiful sunny morning and we headed off.  We had run the same route the week before so I was delighted to find we ran it 2 mins quicker and my heart rate behaved itself.  Was this because I couldn't see my heart rate?  Perhaps it was because of my "hydration" the day before.  This is the second time after a big "hydration" session I've actually improved my results.
However rest assured the "champagne diet" is not going to be part of my training plan or if it is, I won't be achieving my goals! Cheers!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

It's all about the breath

Bit of an obvious statement, it's all about the breath, but today I finally came to that conclusion.  As a kid I had asthma and used to attend a weekly clinic.  I can't remember what we did but I still smile when I drive past the Clarkston Library where it was held.  Fortunately I grew out of it as a kid but my breathing has never been my strong point whether swimming, cycling or running.
This blog was originally started as a journal so I could look back on my journey.  That was 7 years ago and it's been an amazing adventure.  It continues as I start to get back to fitness.  I've put on a stone since Ironman Frankfurt and most think I'm looking healthier, including myself.  However I'm not happy carrying that fat!  I'll be happier if I can lose the fat and replace 50% with muscle but to do that I have to get my finger out!
This week I have run 2 x 10km and 1 x 12.8km.  Yesterday I ran at Chatelherault and it was good to be back.  But my breathing was all over the place and I was pleased when it was finished.  This will make up a large part of my winter training and I am looking forward to it.
Today I headed our with my coach for a run.  It's a toughie and if my heart rate monitor was to be believed I'd be dead!  My breathing was shallow and at the end I was really struggling.  At least three yoga teachers have spoken to me about my breathing but I really do need to work on this over the winter as it is limiting my performance.
Once the shoulder injury is fixed I'll be swimming again and the turbo training will start later on this week. It's all happening and it's great to have my goals lined up for 2017.  It's also encouraging to see my friends "press the button" for Ironman 2017 and I wish them well on that journey.  The one thing that is for sure is, without breath the journey will have ended!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Long shadows

This is my favourite time of year when the colours are changing and the shadows get longer.  You can rely on autumn more than you can summer in Scotland.  It's cool and fresh with blue skies on the good days and this morning was one of those classic autumn mornings so I pulled on my running shoes and headed out.
I've just come back from London and the contrast couldn't be greater. When walking through the busy streets, runners are trying to cram in a short lunchtime run and they have to compete for any pavement space available or run in the cycle lanes which isn't that safe as cyclists are very protective of the space they have been granted.  You also have the pollution to contend with but when I run in London it's always in the beautiful parks to avoid this congestion.
This morning I went out for 11km run.  The air was fresh and clean.  The sun shone and the sky was blue - not something I've seen too much of this summer.  On my run I met 5 cyclists, 1 runner and two dog walkers.  There was a handful of cars as I came back into town but that was it.  Quiet a contrast to the last few days in London.
Ideally I would have gone for a trail run but needed new trail shoes which I bought later today.  This will get me back into the forest runs where I'll enjoy kicking up the fallen golden leaves.  I'm so lucky to live in beautiful countryside where outdoor activities are even more special.  Autumn will coax me out onto the trails which are just waiting for me.  Here's to autumn.