Thursday, 27 June 2019

Turbo Training and Swimming in Circles

Week 6 - Base Training
w/c 24.06.2019

I finally got the all clear to drive and returned back to work on Monday. I'd been confined to the home office for the past two weeks and it was a relief to get out of the office, visit some customers and not be stuck behind a desk. I had cancelled a three-day work trip in Wales in favour of seeing some local customers, keeping the commutes to a minimum and continued to ice my ankle at the end of the day - something the physio had recommended after any lengthy period of time on foot.  The ankle itself felt fine, although it felt slightly weird putting on a pair of work shoes for the first time after living in flip-flops for the past two weeks.  I continued with the exercises, 15-20 reps of each and there were definite signs of improvement as the week progressed although I still didn't have full mobility.

I miss running, I won't lie. I'd kept up-to-date on Strava and the club's Facebook page and enjoyed reading about other people's achievements and race reports, albeit disappointed that I wasn't involved. It's only been three weeks but it feels longer. I'd spent some time researching potential races, both local or further afield and came up with a few ideas for later this year and into 2020. I booked the Isle of Wight Half Marathon for August (well, it seemed pointless taking my running gear and not entering the local race whilst I was there!). I'd also pencilled in the following races although I won't commit to registering until I've got LiaD out of the way first...

Sunrise to Sunset Challenge - to run as far as you can in 15 hours - throughout the night. It's been on the radar for a couple of years but has always clashed with other events.

Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon - a race I do every year as I have family who live in Milton Keynes. Its billed as the last half marathon of the year and it coincides with the annual 'xmas present swap' whilst we see the family. It was made extra special last year as I ran with my wife (*her first Half Marathon!!!) and sister-in-law.

Icing on the Cake Marathon - and a return to the Shropshire Hills - Carding Mill Valley in particular. It was cancelled last year due to adverse weather conditions but there is always snow on the hills adding to its charm.

Ashby 20 - one of the first races in the diary every year. 20 undulating country miles, an awesome hoodie and a cheese cob! Perfect last run before a Spring Marathon.

Manchester Marathon - OK, this will be my 5th time but it always falls on the weekend of a trade show in Harrogate I attend for work. I'm half way there. I'm travelling North - it seems pointless not too...

Sea to Summit Ultra - I came across this whilst flicking through Facebook. 32 miles along the Offas Dyke footpath on the English/Welsh border. Sounds amazing!

Midnight Mountain Marathon - Starting at 17.30 and finishing at midnight, armed with a head torch running up the Brecon Beacons...sounds like my kind of race.

The Lap Ultra - something I had considered for this year as a warm-up for the LiaD but logistically it just didn't work. 45 miles around Lake Windermere in the Lake District.

I also took advantage of a free book a friend was giving away as she'd ordered it twice; 'Eat & Run - my unlikely journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek. I don't get chance to read as much as I would like to but one of the positives of being injured is that I suddenly have a lot more spare time on my hands - so thanks Kate. I look forward to reading it and will make sure I pass it on to somebody else once I'm done. 

On Monday, I managed to fit in another swim session, 1200 metres in just shy of 43 minutes - slightly further and faster than my previous efforts but just as tiring and unflattering.  What I have noticed about swimming is that, similar to running I suppose, there are times when I just switch off, get my head down (quite literally in this case), get into the zone and just get it done. I suppose it can be compared to your commute to work, you remember getting in the car but have no idea how you got there or the actual journey itself, you just go into autopilot. I have that same feeling with swimming, I remember getting in the water, maybe checking my watch occasionally for a distance update, then before I know it, I'm done and in the shower. I know I ache afterwards. I know I worry about swimming etiquette or holding people up, or not being as graceful as other swimmers but I very rarely remember any of the details. I'm happy that I've got it done but I can't honestly say I enjoy it.  Running for me is so much more rewarding.  What I have realised however, is that my O.C.D really kicks in when I'm swimming; so much so that on the past three occasions I've used the same locker, same changing cubicle, swam in the same lane and used the same shower - something I've only really thought about today.

I took Tuesday as a rest day but managed to fit in 20 minutes of core strength exercises - 'the dozen' - something I found on-line and had dabbled with in the past. OK, when I say dabbled, I'd done it a couple of times, found it excruciatingly difficult and sworn never to look at it again! It's on the training plan so I'll be seeing a lot more of it over the next 3 months!

I had a meeting scheduled on Wednesday in Huddersfield which meant a 6 hour round trip up and down the M1.  As normal with the M1, the traffic was a nightmare but I'd managed to download a couple of podcasts the night before which helped with the commute. I'm currently flicking between two; the British Trail Podcast and the British Ultra Running Podcast which I find are both informative and engaging in their own way. As I was fairly late to the 'podcast' party, there's also an extensive back catalogue of episodes to get through so it'll be a while before I run out! I find that its also opens up the country to events further afield that aren't necessarily on the radar; or I've never heard of, which I would consider doing in the future - in particular the Hardmoors series or the Centurion 50/100 miles races.

It was fairly late by the time I got back from Huddersfield and as I'd been stuck behind the wheel for most of the day, I decided to set up my Turbo Trainer a friend had given me in a bid to maintain fitness levels. Fortunately for me, whilst asking for recommendations from fellow cyclists in my running club to purchase a Turbo Trainer, a friend, Helen offered me hers, together with a spare turbo tire which I gratefully accepted. My physio had given me the all clear to use the trainer as long as I set it at zero resistance so it wasn't putting any unnecessary strain on the ankle.

It took about 20 minutes to set up, change the tyre over and off I went. I've never used a turbo trainer before but I can see why people use them over the winter months and set them up with various online training programmes, it seems a good workout if a little on the dull side! I suppose a turbo trainer has its advantages, similar to a treadmill, but in my opinion nothing can match running or riding in the great outdoors, exploring the countryside or rugged terrain we have on offer in the UK. Alas, I can't do that at present so I put the radio on, got my head down and cycled for 40 minutes. With the setting at zero resistance, I tried to keep my Heart Rate down and soon got into a comfortable rhythm. I'd done a bit of reading up online about turbo trainers and a lot of people had mentioned fans - it soon became apparent why! I sweat bucket loads! Even with both office doors open and a steady breeze coming in, within 5 minutes my t-shirt was ringing wet! After 40 minutes, I felt like I'd done a proper workout - even on the easy setting! More pleasingly however, the ankle felt fine.

I jumped back on the bike on Thursday and did an hours workout, again conscious of keeping my Heart Rate levels in zones 2 and 3 - with zero to little resistance. I was just as hot, just as sweaty and just as relieved when it was over. 

On Saturday I went to Croome Court, a National Trust site in Worcestershire with the family. It was my first visit since completing the Croome Christmas Night Time Canter in December, although it looked completely different in daylight - and so much hillier! The temperature peaked at 31 degrees and although we had a lovely family day out, my ankle had swollen up by the evening. I'm not sure whether this was down to me overdoing it on the turbo trainer, being on my feet all day with the undulating terrain or just down to the heat, but I spent Saturday evening icing the ankle which helped. 

Sunday was a lazy garden day but I did manage to fit in another swim session in the afternoon; 2000 metres in 1:12, my furthest swim to date, before being joined by Ruth and the boys for a bit of family splash time. Again, I took it fairly easy and iced my ankle post exercise. 

I have a physio appointment scheduled for in the morning and despite the swelling, I am hopeful of some good news on the running front. However, in all honesty, I'm not feeling that confident with how the ankle has been this past week. 

Sunday, 23 June 2019

The Physio Knows Best!

Week 5 - Base Training
w/c 17.06.2019

Due to a late cancellation, I managed to get a consultation with the physio on Monday afternoon, a week after sending them the self referral form. I have to say, I have used the Princess of Wales Physiotherapy Outpatient Department numerous times and the service has always been second to none. On each occasion I've seen a different physio but they've all been professional, understanding and realistic in their assessment and recovery plan.

On this occasion I met with George and after the obligatory set of Q&A's, he did an assessment of the ankle, bending it every way possible - geez it hurt! The swelling had reduced by this point but the bruising had come out in my foot, shin and calf. Although I was weight bearing (mainly on my heel which could potentially cause issues elsewhere) I had very little mobility in the ankle but he was confident this would improve over the coming weeks. In short, {disclaimer - this is a personal exercise program so I'm not advocating this works for any other injury} I was advised to continue to ice the ankle, up to fifteen minutes three times a day, elevate and gently work the ankle to improve mobility. Short, low reps to start with, increasing as mobility improves and gently massaging the area if any swelling developed.  I was also encouraged to foam roll my calf's, thighs, hamstring and IT band to loosen up any stiff muscles - note to self: dust off the foam roller from the back of the wardrobe!

I was given a follow up appointment in two weeks and told as a guideline that I should be able to commence gentle running on flat terrain in as little as 3 weeks (hooray) but would require physio to build up the ankle for anything up to 3 months - dependant upon the healing process.

In terms of LiaD, and the nature of the terrain and elevation, I was advised to stay off the trails for at least 8 weeks, which meant no more Malvern or Lickey Hills runs in the interim.  Referring to my training plan, this meant that all training runs up to week 13 (build phase) would involve no trails, not ideal but doable. I'd have to embrace the roads! It also meant that I'd have to cancel the scheduled two week rest break at the end of August for the family holiday to the Isle of Wight - a conversation I wasn't looking forward to having with the wife! It looks like I'll be packing the running gear after-all...

It also put the Teesdale Way trail run in jeopardy in August (week 11), something Ian and I had organised as a training run prior to LiaD.  The Teesdale Way, a 92 mile trail alongside the banks of the river Tees, passing over the remote high moorlands of Cumbria and Durham, then dropping to the industrial landscapes of Teesdale and the coast. This wasn't part of an organised race as such, (although the LDWA do an annual event) but more of an adventure and to practice time on feet. We'd planned to run the 92 miles over three days - Friday through to Sunday - with support/transport from Naomi, my sister-in-law; picking us up at the end of the day before dropping us off from the same point the following morning until we'd covered the full 92 miles and reached the sea.

Maybe I'll just leave it on the plan, for now....

I had agreed with work that I'd spend another week working from home. Due to the nature of the injury and the fact that I wasn't 100% weight bearing, I was uninsured to drive and being a Business Development Manager covering a sales area from the Midlands down to Cornwall, driving is a fundamental part of my role. This wasn't ideal but there were plenty of projects, emails, phone calls, and reports that kept me busy. This also aided my recovery as I continued to ice and elevate my foot from the comfort of my home office.

In a bid to maintain fitness, I was encouraged to start swimming with immediate effect but to hold off cycling for at least 10 days.  I'd agreed to borrow a friends Turbo Trainer so I could get some miles in on the bike before work each morning but again, I'll put this on hold until next week - the physio knows best!

As cycling wasn't an option, I went swimming on Tuesday and Thursday, managing to do 1000 metres in just under 45 minutes and 39 minutes respectively, all in breaststroke. (Not sure where Garmin got the extra 25 metres from on Thursday though, I definitely started and finished at the same end of the pool).  I soon realised that the downside of swimming, or at least the way I swim, was that my shoulders and neck have never taken such a beating; I never ache this month after a long run! There's definitely an incentive to a) improve my technique and b) mix up the strokes if it's something I want to continue long term - which I'm not sure I do to be honest.  Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy swimming but find it difficult, it's the whole breathing thing. If I could swim widths and breath at either end I'd enjoy it a whole lot more, although I'm fully aware this isn't how normal swimmers operate. It also reconfirmed that my decision to rule out an ironman was indeed, the correct one.

I continued to rest and ice the ankle as much as possible and did the physio exercises daily; starting with ten reps of each, moving up to 15 reps by the end of the week. I soon noticed a vast improvement in mobility and was fully weight bearing by the weekend - which was great news.  The foam roller also made a few appearances which was as excruciating as I'd remembered it to be, there is definitely a love/hate relationship between us!

For Fathers Day the boys had got me a couple of medal hangers which I eventually got round to hanging up and displaying in my office. I'd already had two, bought for me back in 2016 when running was relatively new but these were now overflowing and as a result I'd started to have a collection in my sock drawer. I wasn't a big fan of displaying medals at first but the kids love them. James, my eldest (7), has done a couple of fun runs and his medals are hung proudly in his bedroom so if he can celebrate his achievements in this way, then so should I!

Monday, 10 June 2019

The Road to Recovery

Week 4 - Base Training
It's been a week since turning my ankle and cabin fever has set it. I mean, what did I do before running? Before kids, I used to embrace sofa days watching box set after box set without a care in the world. Weekend TV now consists of Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig and Blaze and the Monster Machine which we try to discourage as much as possible.  Now, even after a couple of days I'm climbing the walls itching to get outdoors. Don't get me wrong, it's great being around the family but with such awful weather outside (ahem, its June, what happened to the British summertime?) we've been stuck indoors and there are only so many games of Junior Monopoly, Labyrinth or Crocodile Snap that you can play in a day, as lovely as it is!  I've averaged 4-5 runs a week for the past 5 years so it's going to take some getting used to, even in the short-term.  As a family, we've never been one to stay indoors, we try and get the kids out for a walk or an adventure every weekend. It's how I justify the Sunday morning long runs. I leave in the early hours so I can get back shortly after the boys have been fed, washed and dressed. We then do something together as a family in the afternoon. 

I'd self certified off work for a few days and had been doing as little as possible to minimise the damage and 'RICE'ing' as much as possible. Ruth had been a godsend, waiting on me hand and foot and the kids have been doing their best not to jump on my ankle as much as they usually do! It's difficult trying to explain to a 2 year old that daddy's foot, all bandaged up, is not a seat to sit on, a target to step on or a climbing frame to clamber up!  I've filled in an on-line self referral form at the Princess of Wales Physiotherapy unit in Bromsgrove (handy as its only a ten minute walk away) so should have an appointment within the next week or two, after my reassessment at the hospital on Friday. 

On Sunday Ruth insisted we went for a walk around Upton Warren Lake, (I think I was a bit grumpy), ok, so when I say walk, we went and sat in the outside Beach Bus for some fresh air, a cup of tea and biscuits for the boys. It's usually a 5 minute walk from the car park to the Beach Bus and I must admit, walking on crutches is hard and tiring; so much so that it took me about 15 minutes!

Pretty cool Beach Bus - reminded us of Betsy Blue

It was lovely to get some fresh air but after about 20 minutes the clouds had circled above like vultures and with the heavens about to open, Ruth and the boys made the decision to make a run for it back to the car. I followed behind on my crutches and within seconds, we had a torrential downpour. It took me 8 minutes to get back to the car, soaked through to the skin but at my least my crutch skills had improved!

Just before the heavens opened

On Monday, I'd taken delivery of some running gear I'd ordered the week before with my Birthday money - oh the irony - receiving kit when you're injured! Anyway, I don't plan to be injured forever so at least I've got this lot to look forward to when I'm back pounding the roads/trails. Not all my usual brands but I'd read some good reviews and they were (relatively) cheap so thought they were worth a punt...

Inov-8 Rocklite 285's
I swear by Inov-8, it's one of my favourite brands and it's never let me down. LiaD has a fairly
intensive kit list (will do a separate blog on this shortly) and carrying lightweight, reliable gear is a must if you're going to be out in the fells for anything up to 24 hours.  I currently wear Inov-8 X-Tallon 212 which I love, but was looking for a second pair to wear alongside these.

Inov-8 Mudclaw 300's
I ordered the Mudclaw's to do a direct comparison against the Rocklite's with the intention of returning one but in all honesty, I'll probably keep them both. My initial opinion is that they are completely different shoes but each has its advantage dependant upon the terrain and distance.  Plus you can never have enough kit, right?

Salming Distance 3
OK, so these were a gamble. I'd never heard of them until I stumbled upon them on-line and read some reviews. They're a Swedish company who focus on stripped back, minimalist and lightweight running gear. They have a 5mm heal to toe drop and weight just 8oz.

Salming Speed S1 
Another gamble, the speed version shoe weights 7.7oz and is designed for track and shorter distance races.

Hilly Revive Compression Calf Sleeves
I've never worn compression calf sleeves before and bought these to test out on both runs and post-runs to aid healing and recovery.

Inov-8 All Terrain Running Visor
I've never been a full cap kind of guy, I find my head overheats too quickly. I own a black visor which I mainly wear in the summer to keep the sweat out of my eyes but that's about 5 years old and has been used a lot - I'll say no more, this is its replacement!  First impressions are its extremely lightweight, just like my other Inov-8 gear, which I like.

Inov-8 AT/C DRI Release T-Shirt
It's Inov-8, it's lightweight, it's breathable. What more can I say...   

Birthday prezzies! 

Birthday prezzies

I returned to work on Tuesday, albeit working from my home office. I'm still unable to drive but their's plenty of emails to answer, leads to chase up and generally catch up on the things that get put to the bottom of your to-do list. Also, my home office is a log cabin at the end of the garden so leaving the house for work also helped with the cabin fever and got me off the sofa! It also enabled me to continue to R.I.C.E my foot properly which by now was bruised and swollen but I took that as a good sign - it was healing!

The bruising and swelling after day 3 

Friday soon came around and I had my follow-up consultation at the hospital.  Although I was feeling slightly apprehensive, personally I felt that the ankle was healing well (albeit it had only been a week) but I was still non weight bearing and wanted reassurance and some kind of recovery time-frame from the experts. The doctor did a quick assessment of the ankle, prodding away as they do before taking me to see the scan of the x-ray. He confirmed it was a grade 2 tear, but more worryingly at the time, there were several loose bone fragments in and around the ankle, maybe as a result of past football and running injuries rather than this current injury. Either way, as they has caused me no previous issues, he suggested just leaving them in there. That was fine by me.

The doctor was great, easy to talk to and very honest with his assessment. I explained that I was in training for an ultra and the required mileage I would need to be doing over the next three months and he reassured me that I should be able to commence gentle jogging in as little as 3-4 weeks - but maybe double that for trails/off-road due to the nature of the terrain. He also recommended physio to build the ankle back up, which as it happens, I had received a phone call from the physio the day before to confirm my first consultation on Monday. Great service all round.

Lakes in a day is back on....


Friday, 7 June 2019

Injury Setback

Week 3 - Base Training
w/c 03.06.2019

Recommended mileage: 20 miles
Actual mileage:  14 miles

Well, what can I say? I'm absolutely gutted but trying to stay positive.

The week had started well, I'd done a hills session on Monday followed by a day's rest before managing a steady four miler on Wednesday in celebration of a) Global Running Day and b) to christen my new trainers that Ruth had got me for my Birthday. Despite feeling a bit clumpy, Strava recorded one of my fastest ever times for the route, so I was more than happy with how they performed.

New shoes with Hickie's laces

Instead of club run on the Thursday, I'd posted on the club Facebook page that I'd be doing my normal 10k lap of the Lickey Hills, a country park in South Birmingham which is pretty much on my doorstep. The run has it all, some tough ascents, fast descents, 360 degree views of Birmingham and Worcestershire and trails through woodland and the park. Although the Lickey Hills aren't huge at 524 acres, there is a great 6 mile figure-of-eight loop which I run regularly. For the first time ever though I'd decided to run the route in reverse.

I met up with Suki, Paul, Helen, Hannah and Maria at just before 7pm who had agreed to join me for the run. We then proceeded to run the 10k route in reverse and although I'd run the route numerous times in the past, for some reason it seemed foreign when running in reverse. Anyway, I'd somehow managed to lead the group on course and returned to the starting line just shy of 6 miles. Now, as Strava doesn't lie and is often the case with runners, we decided to do an extra short loop to make the distance up to 10k. It was here that it all went wrong. The loop consisted of a bit of a long slog uphill before a short, sharp decent back on the straight to the finish. I was in conversation with Helen and probably not paying as much attention to my surroundings as I should have been when I suddenly turned my ankle and heard the dreaded 'crunch' sound of either bone or ligaments. It was agonising and I knew straight away it was a serious injury, the swelling pretty much came out straight away. I've always suffered with ankle ligament issues since my footballing days and I once tore ligaments in a local trail race - the Wasely Wobbler in 2016 - just a few hundred yards away from the finish line on the final decent. On that occasion, I asked the marshal's to carry me through the finish line so I didn't DNF and at least got a medal!

Luckily, I had the group with me and between Suki and Paul, they managed to carry me back to the car. I often dismiss Ruth's concerns that I regulaly run solo and if anything did happen I'd be stranded on the hills or in the woods with no-one around to help. This really bought it home today as there was no way I would have been able to hobble back up the hills on my own - so thanks guys! Once back to the car, Suki drove me to the hospital via home whilst Paul followed in my car.

I was in A&E for nearly 5 hours, and was finally x-ray'd and diagnosed by 2am. Luckily for me the x-ray confirmed no break, just ligament damage. I was given another appointment for a week's time to ascertain the severity of the problem as my ankle was too swollen to confirm. 

I had a pretty restless night but had plenty of time to reflect. LiaD is 5 months away so is still doable but deferring wouldn't be the end of the world. A&E was extremely busy last night and some of the patients looked in a bad way. I was saddened to see the number of poorly children or elderly needing help. My injury was self inflicted and will heal. I keep telling myself to stay positive and so far I am. As runners injuries are common place and as frustrating as they are, they're rarely life threatening. If I have to defer a race or two, then it's not the end of the world.

So for now, my main focus is not on running, not on the ultra but resting, recovering and rebuilding the ankle. I've self certified off work for a few days (my role involves a lot of driving) so will use this opportunity to R.I.C.E - rest, ice, compress and eat... I mean, elevate. Then I'll come back stronger and more determined!

The Lickey Hills Gang 

Leading the run

A&E was busy

Finally seen and diagnosed - I'll be on crutches for a while but no fracture

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Shropshire Hills & Carding Mill Valley

Week 2 - Base Training 
w/c 27.05.2019

Recommended mileage: 20 miles
Actual mileage: 32.1 miles

Week 2 started with my 40th Birthday on the Monday and although I knew Ruth had booked a surprise week away, I had no idea where we were going. To my surprise, she had booked the week in a converted bus; Betsy Blue - just outside Carding Mill Valley in the Shropshire Hills! It was ace, quirky, quiet and relaxing - but also just a few minutes away from the local trails and hills! Now, I had packed my running stuff (I knew Ruth's family were also coming away with us and in particular, Ian, whom I'm doing the LiaD with was going to be there) so we'd kind of hinted at getting away for the odd morning to do some runs, but I never expected to have local trails practically on the doorstep. Funnily enough and by complete coincidence, the Wild Stiles Trail Running group had organised a trail run in the same area for the up-coming Sunday and as we were staying until Friday, it meant another trip back to Shropshire on the Sunday. (If I had known I would have arranged to stay on for another couple of days).  

Home for the week!

Relaxing with the boys

The week was perfect, I managed to get out for a solo run early Wednesday, just shy of 8 miles in total up some tough hills, but the rest of the week was family time, lots of walking, drinking, BBQ's and relaxing in the private hot tub! In the five days, I still managed to clock up 19 miles - although these were mostly walks with a child or 2 on my shoulders or the odd mile of hill running whilst circling back to regroup with the others who were ascending the hills at a more leisurely pace. I also got to do a short hills session with Ian, both sporting the same OMM running jacket! Oh, the shame!

OMM Twins!

I took Saturday as a rest day as I knew I was back up the hills again on the Sunday running the 'May the Fourth be with you route' which funnily enough, I had run the marathon there 4 weeks earlier, finishing in 5th position. (the marathon being 2 laps whereas this run was just one lap of a very hard course).

I had arranged to get a lift on the Sunday with a friend and we arrived at Carding Mill Valley at 8.15am, ready for a 9am start. In total, there were 13 of us. Only 2 of us, Dylan the organiser and myself had done the route before. 13.7 miles with a total elevation of 2500 ft. I had rested quite well in the week so found the run quite comfortable despite the 2 major climbs at miles 2 and 11. Looking back on the run, the one thing that I took away was that my ascents are a lot better than my descents and this is definitely an area I need to work on as I tend to lose a lot of time on the technical downhill section of races.  The run took us 2hrs 15 mins and the company was great, they were a great bunch of guys and gals - hopefully we can get out and run some more trails again in the near future!    

Celebrating my 5th place finish with the boys at the 'May the fourth be with you' race 4 weeks prior

Wild Stiles Running Group tour of the Shropshire Hills

Killer of an ascent at mile 2 - at least I only had to do it once this time round!

The Shropshire Hills

Let the Training Plan Commence...

Week 1 - Base Training
w/c 20.05.2019

Recommended mileage: 20 miles
Actual mileage: 43.1 miles

Well, the first week of training didn't necessarily go to plan so not the best start !?!  In exceeding my recommended mileage and not doing any strength work (which I've no doubt will be the hardest regime to stick to) is not the way forward and something I need to focus on to ensure I don't overdo it and get myself injured as the mileage increases!

I'd also come off the back of a 50 mile bike sportive in Milton Keynes and a 20 mile walk for the Hathersage Hurtle race a week before so I was suffering from heavy legs and went into the week a little too determined and stubborn to get some miles in.

Crossing the finish line at the Hathersage Hurtle 20 mile walk with Ruth, my wife and Naomi, my sister-in-law 

Monday saw me do a short, sharp hills session, just over 5k 'around the block'. I'm lucky that I live on a hill and there are a couple of hilly side roads which makes three laps of hilly 5k right on the doorstep - beneficial for those evenings when free time is of an issue. Plus with 13,400ft of elevation to overcome, hills need to be my new best friend!

Tuesday and Wednesday were steady solo runs, 5 miles for each and are so called 'boring miles' which I've no doubt help long term but aren't at all exciting!

Thursday was club run with Kings Heath Running Club - a social, chatty run of 10k along the canals in Birmingham. I used to live in Birmingham and although it's a good 25/30 minute drive away now, I have met some great like-minded people at club and I always think the commute there and back on a Thursday evening is worth it and it's great to run in a group.

I hadn't planned to run on Friday evening (it's good to be home occasionally!) but another running group I run with; Wild Stiles Trail Running had organised a 6 mile trail run in Dodford, which is less than a mile away from my house so it was rude not too! Anyway, that was an enjoyable trail run through woods, fields and stables - until I electrocuted myself on a fence. Twice. But we won't talk about that!

By far the toughest run of the week was on Saturday. I'd agreed to meet a couple of friends and run 18 miles / 4500 ft up the Malvern Hills - which made my decision to run the night before even more stupid! It was a struggle. A real struggle which led to me writing the following post on the club website:

Not a race report as such but more a reflection on today's Malvern Hills run with Matt MacKenzie and Katie Mac. The first 9 miles, from North Quarry to Hollybush went really well, the sun was shining and the company was great! Matt had joined me before and it was Katie's first run up the Malverns and I hope they both really enjoyed it. The issues for me started at mile 10 on the return leg. Running solo on tired legs, the hills were now a real struggle and by mile 12 I had pretty much resigned to walking, not only the hills but also the flats and downhills! By mile 12 I found myself in the Malvern Hills Hotel bar with a pint of coke, a pint of water and a packet of Nobby's nuts feeling sorry for myself (dry roasted for anyone who's interested!). I even phoned the wife, I was in a pretty bad place and although she was adamant that she would come and pick me up, I persuaded her to let me carry on. It was 6 miles back to the car, albeit the long trek back up and over the Worcestershire Beacon which was the highest elevation on the run but I figured it would take me less time than her getting the kids ready and driving down from Bromsgrove. The last 6 miles took an age, my calves were screaming, my head was banging and all I wanted to do was to get to the car and rest up! Which I did, eventually! 17.5 miles and 4,500ft of elevation.

I appreciate we all have bad runs and next time I've no doubt it will be easier. Now I'm home, showered and relaxing (well I've been summoned for a game of football with the boys so as relaxed as one can be I suppose) in reflection I'm glad I carried on. Today was tough, both mentally and physically, but it's over now, tomorrow is a new day and no doubt I'll get a short recovery in and today will soon be forgotten about...

The after effects of the Malvern Hills!

Tough run but amazing views

9 miles out, 9 miles back. Up and over every hill

I never ran on Sunday, surprise surprise.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Training Plan

I've always been meticulous and methodical when it comes to keeping a training diary. I don't necessarily follow a plan of such, but I do like to keep a note of all the runs I do and be mindful of my weekly mileage. Since I ran my first marathon in 2016, I've recorded all of my road marathon training runs on a spreadsheet (much to my wife's amusement) - usually on a 25 week plan, as it's always interested me to see how many miles I run in preparation for a marathon. If truth be told, I think I enjoy the training and build up to a marathon more than the actual run itself.

For my first marathon; Manchester in 2015, over a 25 week training period I accumulated 563 miles in the bag - or the equivalent to running directly from Birmingham UK to Geneva in Switzerland.

For my last marathon, Manchester (again) in 2019, over the same training period I accumulated 810 miles in the bag - or the equivalent to running directly from Birmingham UK to Venice in Italy.

I find that crazy, that someone who didn't run 7 years ago can now run from Birmingham to Italy in 25 weeks!

Anyway, back to LiaD and due to the enormity of the task in hand, I thought it would be advisable to do some research on ultramarathon training plans and in all honesty, its a minefield out there! Filtering though endless plans available on-line, I settled for the 50 mile training plan from Runners World as a guide and have adapted it slightly to best fit my home/work/family routine. I've no doubt that I'll have to shift things around, the long run will get moved due to a 7 year old kids party on the weekend or work deadlines will mean I have to sacrifice a night run etc but I'll make it work, somehow.

The Next Challenge...

So why LiaD?  

I turned 40 this year and had been thinking of a new challenge for quite some time. Something that would push me to my limits, something that would fill me with fear like a marathon used to do. I'm not saying its the norm now not to get a little nervous or apprehensive before running a marathon but once you've completed your first 26.2 miles you always have that in the back of your mind. I accept that not all races are the same and each brings its own challenge, but knowing that you've run the distance before takes that uncertainty away.  I've also completed an ultramarathon; the Stort 30 in Hertfordshire, again, something I never thought possible when I first started running but once you've crossed the finish line of a 30 mile event, you know the distance is achievable.  Could I go further, 50 miles, 75 miles, 100 miles.....?

I'd toyed with the idea of a triathlon in the past, something I'd never actually got round to doing but always wanted to give it a go. My issue was, I know I would set the barrier too high and would probably jump straight into a half/ironman which would end disastrously! The run and bike would be doable (I say as someone who's never done one!) but the swim scares me too much and is way out of my comfort zone!  I used to think I was a good swimmer until I went swimming once with my wife. It soon became apparent that whilst she was gliding through the water effortlessly, I on the other hand was splashing around uncontrollably trying to keep up! Too much time dive bombing as a kid rather than swimming lengths I imagine!    

Another option was to run a marathon or ultramarathon abroad. It's definitely something I want to do one day but with a young family and it's associated costs (childcare, food, out-of-school activities and yes, food again (I have 3 boys who eat for England!!!), financially its just not the right time.

Which brings me back to LiaD...

My brother-in-law, a fell runner and all round great guy ran the LiaD last year but sensibly DNF'd after 30 miles due to a small storm - OK, 'Storm Callum' - battering the Lake District. There were reported winds of 60mph+ up on the fells and runners wading though knee length water for 20+ miles as Lake Windermere burst its banks - the pictures and reports were horrendous! In total 238 runners completed the course (astonishingly) whilst 139 runners DNF'd.

Anyway, not to be defeated he made the decision to sign up for it for the following year and asked me if I was interested. Initially, it was a straight NO! The next day he asked again, it was also a NO but with a little hesitation. By the third day I found myself pulling over into a lay-by on route to Norwich for work, on the day registration opened and signing up.  I hadn't told the wife. I spend the next 5 days working away reading every blog, race report and Facebook post worrying about what I had just committed to! The challenge had been set.

Monday, 3 June 2019


So, I, like thousands of other like-minded people have decided to start a blog to record my running journey. Not for self gratification (Ok, that maybe a small part of it) but hopefully so that one day my kids will read this and be inspired to do something similar.  7 years ago I could barely run to the bus stop, climb stairs without being out of breath or had any set challenges outside of the family home - which trust me, with 3 young boys (7, 4 and 2 at the time of writing this) they create their own challenges!

I started running in 2012. I had played football since I could pretty much walk but retired at the graceful age of 32 due to reoccurring ankle, back and leg injuries (you name it, I had it which I'd put it down as a sign of getting old!). From there I got married, had a couple of kids and with a happy life, the weight started to pile on. My father passed away at an early age and the warning signs were there. I wanted to do something about it and running seemed a viable option...

It started with short laps around Bromsgrove, a mile first followed by a couple of miles soon after. It was a walk/run routine which slowly resulted in more running than walking.  Eventually I stumbled upon parkrun in August, 2014 and got myself round in a respectable time of 30:46. I soon got addicted and the competitive nature set in, wanting to beat my previous time as so many others tend to do - PB's are a reward for all the hard work after all, aren't they?!?

Fast forward 7 years and I've run numerous 10k's, Half Marathons, Marathons and an Ultra Marathon. I joined Kings Heath Running Club in 2015 which helped massively, both physically and socially.  I'll never be the fastest, I'm a mid table runner but it's my passion, something that keeps me sane and relatively fit!  This blog isn't about those races though or previous achievements, it is to record and document my next serious challenge, something at the time of writing I still don't know whether I can achieve but I welcome  the challenge. It's what gets me through the boring 4-5 mile runs around the quiet streets in the early hours or late night runs to clock up the miles.

I've entered the Lakes in a Day ultra marathon in October, 2019. My training plan started a week before my 40th Birthday and I'm under no illusion that this will be my hardest challenge to date. 50 miles, 4000 metres (13,400 feet of elevation) of self navigation between Caldbeck at the top of the Lake District and Cartmel at the Southern point.  One line, straight down the middle of the Lake District. Sounds fun, right?

50 miles, 4000m ascent – a journey on foot from the very top of the Lake District at Caldbeck to the very bottom, at Cartmel, via the stunning Helvellyn Ridge and the western shoreline of Lake Windermere. It might not be the easiest traverse but it will be the most spectacular!

It will be a day never to be forgotten.

- taken from the official Lakes in a Day website

The Imber Ultra 2020

My first official ultra of the year and a run I thoroughly enjoyed! The Imber Ultra is a trail run covering approximately 33 miles of the ...