Marathon des Sables 2013

Marathon des Sables 2013

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Swashbuckler revisited

A year ago I completed the Swashbuckler 70.3 (half ironman) in my best ever time of 5 hours 32 minutes.  It was such a good event that 6 of us, with 2 support members, decided to give it a go so we all headed down to the New Forest on Friday to get ready for Sunday's race.  Much banter was thrown around but when the alarm went off at 3.45 this morning it got serious.  I woke the house up to "Black Betty" at full blast just to get everyone energised.
As a group we were doing different distances; some standard/Olympic distance and others, including me, the half distance -  1.9k swim, 90km bike and 22 km run.  Unusually for me I needed three trips to the loo to "lose some weight" and two of them were in portaloos which involved holding my breath for longer than is healthy!
We were informed that the water temperature was 16 degrees but that we had some company in the water - jelly fish!  It was a tough tidal swim and I was delighted to get through it as my shoulder was still strapped up and I'd only been swimming for about 7 weeks.  In transition the strapping on my leg came off so I wasn't sure how this would affect me on the run - the good news is that it didn't.
I gave the bike everything I had as the temperature started to rise, but I was 12 minutes behind where I was last year and felt I perhaps pushed it too hard.  My effort came home to roost on the run.It's a slightly unusual run in that, in old money, its 14 miles - 2 x 7 mile laps on an undulating course (152 metres of ascending).  Half way through the first lap I knew that I was in trouble.  I was walking some of the hills and wanting to bin the race.  Knowing my time was nowhere near last years I lost my focus and also the fact this was meant to be a "long training session" not a race.  I am cross training with swimming, cycling and running only to build my fitness and reduce the chance of injury.   After all my A Race is the Grand Caynon in September.
It's amazing the mind games that go on when you are in a dark place when running, or swimming or cycling for that matter.  I knew at the half way point the supporters would be cheering me on, they were going mad which was great, but I just walked up the hill shaking my head saying "this is about survival" - 7 miles to go.  I started the second lap well but the heat really started to take its toll.  I was running at the same pace as another runner but she was beginning to really suffer so I decided that my race was over and I'd help her finish the race - this was as much to give me a reason to continue as anything else.  On route a runner had collapsed with heat exhaustion and an ambulance was soon with him.  My time was a disappointing 6hrs 21 minutes but as I reflect on this there were some important lessons to be taken away.
I got over the fear of jelly fish in a tough tidal swim.  I need to remember why I entered the race and not get caught up in the event itself - it gave me a competitive training day which benchmarked where I am with my fitness.  It highlighted that my core fitness is lacking but that's no real surprise.  What this will do is motivate me to get stronger which will be important for the canyon. Despite the poor time I will take heart that having walked a fair bit of the run my position in my age category was 4th!  A small reward for keeping going when really I'd happily have put my feet up and have had a beer.  The biggest learning was the mental strength that you need to get through the dark moments and the pain.  The support team were amazing and really lifted my spirits when it was most needed.  This event has been a good and timely reminder for what lies ahead. More work to be done. Bring it on.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Top "fuddery"

The title of this weeks blog may be alien to some of you but all my FB pals understand it, and you will by the end.
It's been a tough week and being in London on Thursday and Friday resulted in two very long days.  I needed to run on Friday morning so I took down my running gear (forgot my shaving gear - priorities!).  As I headed out at 6am in a tea shirt and shorts, I immediately stood out as a "northerner" as everyone else was wrapped up with anoraks, scarfs and hats.  It was really pleasant running along the banks of the Thames.  As soon as I got back to Glasgow I was off to a charity black tie dinner so it was a late night - but I stayed on the water as I had a busy weekends training.
On Saturday morning I was due to do a 50 mile TT on the bike - basically a flat out race against the clock.  The course was hilly with poor road conditions and not my favourite.  To make matters worse it was pissing down with rain and there was a wind.  Before you say "man up" understand that to get my bike out the car, which is a convertible, I need to put the roof down.  When the roof is down the bike jamed in the back of the car.  Much cursing as puddles form on the leather seats.  I eventually get the bike out but now I'm soaking wet and covered in oil.  The ride was brutal and I started to lose the feeling in my fingers and my feet.  After the first lap 3 of the 4 taking part gave up as we were too cold and another 25 miles wasn't worth the risk.  I turns out to have been my fastest ride this year! But we were due to run off the bike - bugger that, we couldn't feel our feet and while the rain continued to pour down, my car once again filled up with water. I put the bike back in and when I get in it, it was like a sauna and I couldn't see out the windows!  I headed off and did 2.4km in the pool - uneventful.
But the best "fuddery" is saved for this morning.  I was rushing around gathering all my bits for cycling - it's such a faf! On the way to the meeting point I am writing my blog in my head about how disorganised I have been - seems like a good topic.  Then I take my bike out the car and realise......I've forgotten my front wheel!  Now there's a first.  My pals are highly amused but one lives close by and soon we have a replacement wheel - thank you Michael Martin.  The ride was tough.  The group were all better than me and I was dropped on ever incline never mind hill.  It goes up over the Campsies and some of the gradients are testing.  But great practice for next weeks half ironman as it's more or less flat!  It was a mental and physical workout and when I finished the 81km I was bust - but needed to do a run off the bike.  It wasn't' as long as scheduled as I was literally running on empty - I lost 2 Lbs in weight!
After every race report from a fellow triathlete there are lessons to be learned.  After a weekend of "fuddery" I have learned my lessons in advance of the race.  This is a good omen as I can't report back to you next week having repeated this weekends performance.  A nice wee "kick up the arse" reminder to plan better and plan more in advance.  Looking forward to the Swashbuckler as I'll be with 6 fellow athletes and we'll all be racing "our own race".  I just hope I can fit into my wetsuit!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Inspiration from Dean Karnazes

As I get closer to my races, the mileage increases.  In order to fit around my work on Tuesday I headed out for a 2 hour run, starting at 5.30am.  The sun was up and there was almost no traffic so it was a pleasure to run through the rolling countryside, listening to the birds singing and taking time to smell the sent of summer approaching.  I then had an 8.15 am client meeting, drove down the coast for a 10.30 meeting, lunch meeting at 12.30, quickly back to the office and then off for a swim - that's how I fit the training in around my work.
On Friday we were flying to London for a 50th wedding anniversary of some wonderful long standing friends, so before getting on the plane I had a swim session which was my first continuous session to start to replicate my half ironman which is in two weeks time - until I typed that I thought it was three weeks away!  We partied until 2am on Saturday (these oldies party like it's an endurance event!).  My coach gave me the Saturday off which is just as well as when travelling back up I slept the whole way on the plane and then went onto an early night - rock and roll lifestyle!  That's how I fit in training around a social life.
But pay back was this morning.  3.5 hours on the bike at "race pace" followed by a 40 minute run off the bike.  Fortunately a friend had offered to come out as he wanted an "easy ride" - he a lot quicker and stronger than me.  But I got through it and although it was painful at times, I managed to increase my pace for the first time this season.  My run was uneventful although the new taping my physio put on helped support my foot - let's see how it goes with the long runs next week.
Sadly my G2G running partner has had to pull out of the event so I will be going solo.I'm not phased by this because the very nature of the event means I will make a whole load of new friends when I arrive - that's part of the fun as it was in MdS.  Mrs Stewart will be there at the finish line and we can "party" in Vegas afterwards.
Earlier in the week I had been recommended a book about an ultra runner Dean Karnazes as it featured the Grand 2 Grand race I am doing in September. OMG I could think of nothing else while I was out running.  This guy is seriously nuts and what he puts himself through defies everything you ever believed was possible.  One example is the 200 mile, non stop, relay race which includes some serious mountains.  Now relay suggests more than one but he took it on himself whereas everyone else was in a team and found it hard enough.  His descriptions of the pain, the dark points, the hallucinations, the uplifting moments and the blood (literally) sweat and tears.  It's an unbelievable story of how someone with a WHY can push himself both physically and mentally beyond what most sane people would think possible.  I haven't reached the chapter where he tackles the G2G but am sure to learn a lot.  Much of the book is about how you approach pain management and as I pushed myself on todays relatively short bike and definitely short run I reminded my self to "man up"!  Dean Karnazes I solute you sir and am sure to be repeating your mantra's in my head as I push myself beyond my limits.  Thank you.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Watershed week

First of all sorry for the late post from last week.  I forgot to press the "publish" button!  If you haven't read it it was all about my shredded legs due to running downhill.  This week I worked those shredded legs even harder and it will be, in my opinion, a watershed week in my preparation for the Grand Canyon.
My swimming has gone well with my shoulder now behaving itself - that's only taken 5 months!  I now feel that as long as I can fit in my wetsuit, I'll be able to complete the 1.9m swim in the 70.3 race in 4 weeks time.  It won't be my fastest as I have missed so much swimming but the whole purpose of this event is to keep me cross training and injury free.  Now my shoulder is better the physio can take a look at my foot.  It sounds like taping is in order so the debate about shaving my legs disappears - it's happening!
I've felt tired with the increase in training and had my longest continuous run this week - 18k.  On Saturday I went out with the bike group and for 3 hours suffered.  I enjoyed the company but was pushing it to hang on.  So I knew today was going to be even tougher and this is where the watershed moment came.  I had 2 hours to do solo on the bike and a 40 minute run off the bike and I was tired before I started.  The weather was to be dry, 10 degrees but a 20 mph wind.  The thought of battling the wind on my own knowing I wouldn't hit my target speed didn't excite me and then my wife said, "why bother?"  It's a fair question but my answer was immediate- because that's what's in my training plan.  The words just came straight out of my mouth and as I reflected on it I realised, that's why I am able to do what I do (ironman, ultra runs, MdS).  I completely trust my coaches judgement and know that she knows I am tired but I need to train while being tired.
I headed out on the bike and deliberately turned straight into the headwind and kept going for an hour before turning back.  My legs felt like lead but I kept them spinning.  After a while they felt better and when I turned down wind I was able to fly home.  But I still had a quick turnaround and back out for a 40 minute run.  My "disco legs" were doing their thing as I headed up the hill but I managed to keep my heart rate under control.  I tried to ignore the fact that I had just slogged for 2 hours on the bike and before I knew it I was heading back home into an increasing headwind.  Stretch, shower and a huge lunch which my wife kindly cooked for me as she could see I needed to take it easy.
This will go down as an important weeks training.  There will be harder ones but mentally I crossed a line today as I realised what gets me to the startline of every race.  Perseverance.
And to top the day off I managed a round of golf with my son so I think I will enjoy my day off training tomorrow.  It's amazing what we can put our bodies through if we have a WHY and as you know mine is about raising money for Maggies Cancer Caring Centres.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Shredded legs!

The weather is definitely getting better.  At least in the short-term.  This week has been amazing.  It's light at 6am.  The birds are waking me up with their song and I'm even running without music so I can tune in to them.  This is the time of year that I really enjoy waking up and heading out to train.  Tomorrow will be a 6am start as I get ready to tackle the pool.
It's been a tough week of training and my body is feeling the effort.  On Thursday I had to do a 7 mile run in the morning.  My wife dropped me off on the way to work and the run was mainly down hill.  Easy peasy and the pace was faster than normal which you'd expect.  In the evening I had another 3 mile run and again the pace was fast so I was feeling great.  The next morning I jumped out of bed to go swimming only to find my quads were like bricks.  I walked down the stairs as though I'd ran a marathon!  Running down hill shreds your legs.  I knew this from the highland fling but this was a very sharp reminder.  Very important as the Grand 2 Grand has 14,500 feet of descending!
On Saturday I still had the DOMS and I had a 2.5 hour bike ride.  So I took a couple of pain killers and headed out.  My legs felt great, until the pain killers wore off and I was hobbling again.  I'd better get used to this as the training is only going to get tougher.
This morning I had to head out early on the bike for a 2 hour ride followed by a 30 minute run.  My legs were heavy and the speed confirmed that I was "cycling on empty".  However my 30 minute run was my fastest pace this year - just shows my body seems to cope with running better than cycling when tired.
Afterwards it was off to celebrate my son's birthday with a juicy steak and an overdose of liquid carbs!  I'm not a professional athlete, far from it, so I can have the odd "session" - can't I?  Next weekend the forecast is for snow

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Hairy or shaved legs?

I'll get back to the title of the blog in a minute but I'm happy with how this week has gone having returned from two week holiday.  I'm so pleased I kept up some training on holiday or it might have been an even tougher week.  A combination of the time difference meant most mornings I was awake by 5am, and when building in five full days of work plus 6 days training, it's fair to say it was a tough week.
My physio taped back my shoulder again after another painful massage session but my two swim sessions went well and getting my weight under control means I should be able to squeeze into my wetsuit in May!
On Wednesday I did my first double run session.  10km in the morning and 6 km in the evening - this means less strain on my foot which I am trying to protect.  I was tired when I did the 10km and my heart rate was higher than the target which gave an indication of my fitness/fatigue level.  So when I got home from work I had to drag myself out the door for another run.  And as happens on these occasions, I had my best run this year!  Work that one out.  I was flying and my heart rate was under the target until the last 0.5km when I was really pushing it.  But I felt great.
On Saturday I went out with my pals in ATHelite Tri Club.  I haven't cycled with them since before Ironman last summer.  With changeable weather the big decision was what to wear as you don't want to be too hot or too cold.  I chose 3/4 length cycling tights and as soon as turned up the focus was on my hairy legs.  "Get those shaved" I was instructed.  "They're disgusting" said another.  Cyclists really are a funny bunch.  The guys get their legs waxed or shaved believing it either makes them faster or helps if you come off your bike and get a gravel rash.  I agree with the latter point but I think it's more about vanity.  I've shaved my legs twice before and the only advantage is that it makes a sports massage more pleasant.  But my wife then refers to me as "chicken legs" - you can't win.  I did 65km on a hilly course and know I need many more of these rides before my 70.3 ironman.  It was good to be with the guys as they are supportive during the ride and wait for anyone who drops off in the climbs.  I'll get fitter and there will be less waiting for me in the future but there's a lot of hard miles before then.  So another week closer to the main event and lets see what this week brings.  I don't think it will be shaved legs though!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

42 days and counting

The holiday is over.  After a week in the Maldives in paradice we then flew onto Dubai to meet the children for another 6 days of fun in the sun.  We had a fantastic time enjoying the best Dubai had to offer.  I was really looking forward to my first ever free fall skydive with my two boys but the wind was too strong and it was cancelled.  This was a big thing for me as I was scared of going out the plane - but I wanted to face my fear. Having flown hang gliders and paragliders years ago I was comfortable once out the door, but that intial exit was going to test my mental strength.  I spent the holiday preparing mentally for it and was really up for the challenge when the news came through.
Another of my challenges with being on holiday was to keep the training ticking over, while enjoying a family holiday, and not putting on any weight.  I'm glad to report that I was the same weight this morning as when I left despite all the good food and wine I consumed.
I ran three 11 km early morning runs which were tough in the heat and the humidity.  But it was a great start to the day.  The heat built during the run and the sweat stung my eyes as I ran along the boardwalk on the Palm.  I needed to carry water with me as I recon I'd have been in trouble if I'd gone out without water.  It was good practice for the Grand Caynon although the canyon will be warmer and 11 km isn't even a warm up!
My first event of the year is rapidly approaching - 42 days to be exact.  The Swashbuckler 70.3 in the New Forrest.  I entered the event last year and it was my fastest 70.3 to date.  This years there are 7 of us going down so it will be good to be there with club mates competing.  For me it's just a training day.  The purpose of this event, and another 70.3 6 weeks later, is just to give me something to cross train for (swim/bike/run).  The cross training keeps me fit without putting too much strain on my running.  My foot's been a bit niggly so I need to be careful and not overload it before the canyon.  My shoulder is getting better so I'll be returning to swimming this week - I did a bit on holiday.
This morning I went out for a couple of hours on the bike.  The weather was good for Scotland but a lot cooler than I've been used to recently.  It was good to be back on my summer bike.  I'll get my training schedule through from my coach later today.  I know it's about to get tougher and I'm looking forward to it.  I'm feeling rested from my holiday and now my focus will sharpen with an event around the corner.