Monthly Archives: November 2018

Spade splayed, tendon tender, turbo trained (and some weights and running)

I’m sure it didn’t look like that in the shop

Sunday didn’t turn out to be a textbook rest day once I realised that the 50 hedging plants that were delivered on Saturday weren’t likely to plant themselves.

It was surprisingly hard – I was trying to fill gaps in an existing hedge and I struggled to plant the new ones between and around existing roots. I wouldn’t have been able to run because the right Achilles was still protesting about the run on Saturday – but that also made digging with a spade surprisingly tricky.

It wasn’t much helped by the fact that the spade bent early on – sadly, I think that owes more to it being a really poor quality spade than me becoming stronger. One of the few occasions that a spade has been better used the wrong way round …

Monday was the start of week 2 of marathon training. It was supposed to be a rest day but I’m already off piste in terms of doing any particular training on the right day, so I planned to run one of this week’s two 4 milers. First thing, the right Achilles tendon was suggesting that was a bad idea but it eased as the morning wore on so I decided to show it who’s boss and took it for a run anyway.

I’m not sure whether we came to a final decision as to who is boss as it complained all the way round – but together we did 4.44 miles (7.15km) at just over 4 hour marathon pace. The run was particularly useful as a test of whether I can run 2 days in 3 (recently it’s been 2 in 4, at best).

I hobbled about for much of the rest of the day before friends came over for supper. Graham was a good runner when he was in his 30s, living in the USA. He got very close to a 3:30 NY marathon and reckons that it’s necessary to do a few weeks in training where you run twice the target race distance. The programme I intent to follow (loosely) doesn’t come close to that. I hope he’s wrong.

Tuesday – sort of – gave me the answer to the ‘can I run 2 days in 3’ question. In the morning the legs were a bit better but still not right so, yes, I can run with just a day’s rest – but it’s probably better not to at this stage. Surely, it couldn’t be that the pain is a clue that things are not perfect at the back of (in particular) my right heel, could it?

I had to take a car into the garage in response to a manufacturer safety recall – I had planned to put a bike in the back and go for a ride while the car was being worked on but it was both cold and wet so that didn’t happen. I did get on the turbo in the evening for an intervals session to replace the intervals running – 21.45km in 45 minutes @28.6kph (13.3 miles @ 17.8mph).

Wednesday I probably could have run (with the usual discomfort) but it seemed more sensible to give the tendons an extra day’s rest, so I went for an enjoyable hour on the weights and rowing machine at the gym.

So, it’s early days and it’s going OK but I could really do with two healthy Achilles tendons. I can feel myself running a bit flat footed to protect the right one and would like to be able to run more naturally. There has to be a danger that a strange running style will cause some other problem in due course.

I could also shift a little weight – I probably need to restore my usual ‘if it looks like it owes more to the factory than the farm, eat less of it’ approach – but it’s only in the region of 7 lbs so, in the spirit of not getting (too) neurotic about any of this training lark, that can look after itself for now.

I suppose there’s always the possibility that lifting weights in gym is putting on a little muscle, but that’s probably just self delusion.

Marathon training: week 1 – run, cycle, run, gym, gym, run – and still breathing

Thursday, midday. Obviously, the locals are already in peak physical condition

It’s testimony to how hard the interval sessions on the turbo trainer are that, to avoid one, I decided to run on a windy Wednesday, dodging both snow and rain showers.

As always, the hardest part of the run was getting motivated to leave the house – once I was going I enjoyed it.

I did the week’s long slow run (target 6 miles – well, it is only the first week of the 20 week programme) but apart from the cold, the wind and the tendons the main issue was running slowly enough (that’s something I never thought I’d write).

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am a fast runner (my aim for the marathon at this stage is to do it sub-4 hours) but it’s just that I’m used to pushing reasonably hard if I’m running alone. As I understand the training plan, my long slow run should be done at somewhere around 11 minutes a mile – and that feels slower than even I’d expect to be running.

I actually ran 6.7 miles at 9min 58sec/mile (10.8km at 6.12minutes/km). I managed to get warm enough to take off my hat and one pair of gloves but I should be running another 10% slower for the future long slow runs.

The legs were in reasonable shape at the start so both Achilles’ must be improving – but I could feel the right one, a little, pretty well all the way round. It looks like I can run perhaps two or three times a week which is better than I’d been expecting.

I drove to the gym on Thursday (with the usual sore Achilles’ after running the day before) for an hour on the weights as the week’s cross training day.

My usual gym companion hadn’t been able to make it on Thursday but I saw him in the evening and he suggested going on Friday – so I went back for another hour in the gym with him.  On Saturday morning I ran (partly with Mrs O) for a gentle 5.1 miles (8.2km).

Sunday is, fittingly, going to be a day of rest to see if that helps the Achilles tendons to be in a position to run on Monday.

So, that’s week one of the marathon training programme ticked off. The three ‘normal’ runs (with an extra 2 miles), two days cross-training (one as a spare!) and one turbo trainer session to replace the interval running (because that didn’t look too sensible with the dodgy Achilles’).

Week Run Cycle (R=road) Gym
1 16.1 m  (25.9km) 9.8 m  (15.8km) 2:00
‘Running’ totals      

The start of Marathon training … well, not quite … perhaps a bit … sort of (oh yes, and Snow Patrol)

Snow Patrol. Absolutely excellent in London on Monday night

This is the first week of my 20 week training programme for the Rotterdam Marathon on 7th April 2019. Bizarrely, the programme started with a rest day!

It looks like a bit of straight line thinking by the programme designer – subsequent Mondays come after a long slow run on Sunday so it seems sensible for them to be rest days. By definition, that’s not the case for the first Monday!

The plan has four runs each week (two at marathon pace, a session of intervals/speed work and a long slow run) and one day of cross-training. For the first few weeks the two shorter runs are 4 miles each and the long run starts at 6 miles and increases by a mile a week.

My aim had been to arrive at the start of the training in good shape, ready and able to take up the challenge. I failed and I arrived with dodgy Achilles tendons – either the result of age deterioration, poor running style or stupid calf raises with too much weight on the gym’s leg press machine.

The result of Sunday’s run was a sore right Achilles for the rest of the day, despite an ice pack, stretching and compression and it was quite painful when I woke on Monday.

On the plus side, it was no worse than it has been for the last couple of weeks and the left Achilles was not too bad at all.

I’ve said that I will be flexible about the training programme and am starting the way I intend to carry on by deciding that the run with my son on Sunday actually took place on Monday and so counts towards the first week’s training.

In part, that’s because we were up in London on Monday. Mrs O won tickets for us to go to a London performance by Snow Patrol (I like them but she really likes them).

I was not too enthused but I have to admit that they (with just a three-man lineup, no drummer or bassist) were absolutely excellent. It was a small, intimate, venue (no more than 600) and we were in the front row. I just hope that Gary Lightbody didn’t look down from the stage, see a 63 year old retired solicitor, and wonder if that’s an ominous sign as to where his career is heading.

While the legs wouldn’t have let me run on Monday, I had to resist the temptation to get out for a run in London on Tuesday morning. Later, back home, on Tuesday I did 30 minutes on the turbo for 15.85km @30.7kph (9.85miles @19.7mph).

The key questions now are:

  • does carrying on running worsen the injury (not really acceptable)
  • does carrying on running benefit the training but slow down the recovery just a little (probably acceptable)
  • will more on the turbo help the training, without consequences for the Achilles?

Although, originally, I hurt both Achilles, I re-hurt the right one more recently. The fact that the left leg has certainly improved suggests that perhaps carrying on as I have been, with a little running but more in the gym and on the turbo, will work.

What is clear is that I’m not going to be running four times a week just yet. So, for now I’ll try to run twice a week, one run of about 4 miles and the other being the long slow run. I’ll cover the other two scheduled running days with the turbo trainer, adding a gym session for the official cross training day.

Seems like a plan.

Running, cycling, in the gym, mowing cow pats and watching (poor) football


Little Coxwell part of a lovely route I’m likely to see a lot of in the next few months

I kept to my decision not to exercise on Wednesday. I’d done 15 out of 16 days and although no individual day was excessive the cumulative effect was beginning to tell.

Instead, I mowed. It was suitably hard work – with longer grass than usual and the contents of several trees strewn on top. The grass collection system constantly blocked up and I was strangely reluctant to stick my hand in it to clear it out (even after turning off the engine).

Could that be something to do with the fact that I’d hoped the ‘calling cards’ left by the invading cows last month would dry and become easier to remove – but they hadn’t dried and hadn’t been removed. Cow pats do not mow well.

The legs benefitted from the rest but, to give them a longer break from the running, on Thursday I drove to the gym (with my usual gym companion) for about an hour on the weights but also including the rowing machine and a gentle km on the treadmill – just to test the tendons.

Back on the turbo trainer on Friday after a morning picking up (another) six wheelbarrow loads of fallen apples. The turbo was a particularly tough session – 45 minutes with 4 x 5 minute hard intervals (clicking up two gears and trying to maintain the cadence). In all, 22.69km at an average of 30.25kph (14.1miles @ 18.8mph).

I can’t help thinking that this particular workout is much tougher than running 5 miles, which would have taken a similar time. Something like this may be able to replace any runs I’m not up to in the coming weeks.

The turbo on Saturday morning was slightly gentler – 30 minutes with two 5 minute intervals – this time keeping the same gear but holding a higher speed for the intervals – I don’t know why, just for something different I suppose. Another hard 15.28km (9.5miles).

It never ceases to surprise me how doing intervals makes a ride of the same distance at the same average speed so much harder.

My cross-training is coming on well but I can’t help thinking that it’s supposed to be in addition to, and not instead of, running.

Our younger son (Alex, who will be running the Rotterdam Marathon with me) came home for the weekend and we went to watch Swindon Town – our local football team. They are on a terrible run of form and replaced their manager in the week. There is often a positive bounce in those circumstances as the players try to impress the new boss. Sadly, there was no evidence of that on Saturday as they lost 4-0 and were fairly dismal, now standing 86th out of 92 league teams. Despite that, a really enjoyable trip out together.

With improving tendons, we ran together this morning (Sunday) – my first run for 8 days. A fairly gentle 6.9km @5:51 per km (4.3 miles @ 9:22 per mile) – left leg pretty good, right leg a bit so-so.

Good fun and encouraging, subject to the reaction of the tendons tomorrow …….




Thinking about marathon training (it’s so much easier than actually training)


Looking out at the garden on a bright November morning thinking about marathon running – it should have been a good day for a run

I’m not sure that my brain is ever truly in any recognisable state these days but, if anything, it is now in marathon planning mode (if only my legs were too).

I understand the words ‘long’, ‘slow’ and ‘run’ individually but it looks like thinking has changed over the last 20 years – or I simply misunderstood what they meant when put together in a training context. When I last ran marathons in 1998 and 1999 I did my longest runs (20 miles) at marathon pace. Now I see they should be more at a pace that means 20 miles takes about the whole of the intended marathon time.

The more I read, the more I realise that everything I thought I knew about running is wrong!

Next year (assuming I get to do them at all) I could do the longer runs here in the Oxfordshire countryside – but that will mean running on roads without pavements or street lighting. I’m thinking about fitting some of those in with trips to London or Bournemouth – warmer(?), safer and better lit.

The big London parks are really pleasant to run in and the Bournemouth seafront is wonderfully flat and almost completely traffic free – but it can blow a gale up the Channel. I once followed a chap riding a mountain bike who got slower and slower before he actually dismounted and walked – on the flat – such was the headwind.

Being retired I’m lucky that I can run during the day to get the best of the light and the weather. I don’t have to fit in the long runs at the weekends but I will have to fit in a couple of weeks’ skiing (oh dear) which could be a bit of a disaster for the running if the roads are iced or covered in snow.

Certainly, skiing is a bit physical but taking all those lifts rather undermines the true aerobic benefits. Last year I had a day skiing where the Garmin said I’d burnt over 8,000 calories – then I realised that it had assumed I went uphill under my own steam. Perhaps 2019 is the year to try Nordic skiing?

I’m not going to fret unduly if the training does not go to plan. I didn’t keep to a training schedule last time I ran a marathon and that worked out OK. Sure, I might be 20 years older now but just think of all that extra wisdom experience knowledge insight ….. physical deterioration. Damn.


After Sunday’s run, the Achilles tendons were ‘mixed’ on Monday. The left one (which was hurt a couple of months ago) was not bad at all but the right (also hurt a couple of months ago but re-hurt last Monday) was not quite so good.

The new pain is lower than the original which is good news in that the old injury is healing well – but bad news in that I’ve picked up a new injury despite, I thought, being pretty careful.

So, it will have to be easy on the running this week to see if I can start my 20 week training next week. Looks like it might be a marathon training programme with a difference …. very little running. I wonder what the record is for hopping a marathon?

I had planned to try running on a treadmill in a gym but I’ve read that treadmills can cause more Achilles tendon harm – I’m not sure why, perhaps people tend to up the intensity on the treadmill. It looks like the turbo trainer is the best alternative to running when injured but it’s hard to gauge exactly how minutes on the turbo equate to minutes running.

Not the best possible approach – but perhaps the best approach possible.

In that spirit, I went on the turbo on Monday – a lacklustre 14.83km (9.2miles) in 30 minutes – and again on Tuesday for an interval session with two hard 5 minutes intervals. I suffered much more during the hard bits than I recovered during the others but, in all, 30 minutes for 15.27km (9.5miles) @ 30.5kph average.

That’s 15 days of training in the last 16 – although none have been excessive by themselves, they are adding up and I’m rather jaded and still suffering with the back end of the cold/cough from the weekend.

A day off on Wednesday, I think.


A week until marathon training begins and it’s going OK (except for the running)


Running for the over 60’s: the key tools of the trade

To be honest, when I signed up for the Rotterdam Marathon I was expecting to be thinking about running shorts, shirts and trainers – not compression socks, ankle supports and ice packs.

Welcome to marathon running for the over 60’s!

On Thursday, my gym companion, Ian, and I drove to the gym instead of running as both of us are protecting injuries. To compensate we did 50 minutes, which is a bit more than usual on the weights and rowing machines. I’m concentrating on leg exercises but am doing a bit of everything to keep some balance.

Friends came over for supper that evening and although the injuries felt a bit better on Friday morning I decided not to run, partly to rest the tendons, partly because Mrs O has generously shared her cold/flu with me and partly so I could fully enjoy the delight that is clearing out gutters (I just love this rock and roll lifestyle).

Instead it was back to the turbo in the evening for 15km in 30 minutes (18.6mph).

On Saturday we went to Bicester Village – a very stylishly done designer outlet shopping centre, with an impressive array of brands (if you’re impressed by such things). It has its own mainline railway station – the only one I’ve come across in the UK where announcements are made in Chinese and Arabic – such is the tourist pull of the place.

Definitely outlet shopping on steroids.

In general, that sort of thing is my idea of hell but I’ve not been for years and they do have a Rapha shop. In fact, I discovered that they also have an Asics shop (very down-market beside Stella McCartney, Lacoste, Armani, Gucci etc) where I managed to get a pair of their top range cushioned running shoes for 36% of the RRP. If I can’t run injury-free in those, I can’t run injury-free in anything.

In the afternoon I was back on the turbo for 23.27km in 45 minutes @31kph (14.45 miles @ 19.26mph) while watching the first half of Scotland v Fiji (Rugby Union). It was hard – I’d clicked up a gear towards the end of Thursday’s session and forgot to click it back down.

A strange thing happened this (Sunday) morning – the Achilles felt pretty good so I put on some kit and went for a run. I believe this is quite permissible as part of marathon training.

It wasn’t too dramatic – the same as Monday: 6.8km (4.2miles) at almost exactly 4 hour marathon pace. I could just feel both Achilles’ for the first mile but the left then eased. The right stayed at nothing more than a slightly nagging level of discomfort … but we’ll see how they are tomorrow.

So, some exercise all 7 days this week – 120km on the bike (74.5miles), 13.6km running (8.4 miles) and 50 minutes in the gym – and exercise for 13 of the last 14 days.

Once I start to increase the intensity of effort on specific days I’ll certainly enjoy the days off – currently I’m very tired before 9.30pm most evenings and that’s a whole 30 minutes earlier than normal!







Two steps forward, three steps back


From a pretty bridge near Fairford, Gloucestershire, on Monday

On Monday I went for a very social ride with two friends, stopping at a pub for lunch. About 67km (41.5miles) with 520m (1,700feet) of ascent, taken at a leisurely pace around some great country roads and through some picturesque villages. It was thoroughly enjoyable – it’s good to have a reminder that a gentle cycle can be as much fun as the normal thrash at a speed that makes it (at least slightly) painful.

I used the winter wheels after Saturday’s tyre disaster. While the best rear wheel has had a continuous rattle and a slip in top gear since I fell and bent the rear mech hanger in July, these ran smooth, silent and without any slipping. I’m not sure how that works.

On Tuesday morning Mrs O was feeling better but not quite up to running so I went alone – 6.8km (4.2 miles) at a reasonable pace but with some pain at the back of my right heel, below the current Achilles tenderness. I noted it as one to watch.

On Wednesday morning, I found that the original Achilles problems (which were just above ankle height on both legs) were much better – but the new one (below ankle height on the right leg) much worse.

The old Achilles problems didn’t stop me running but I can’t run with the current one and that’s a bit depressing.

I was expecting the marathon training to be a bit of an exercise in injury avoidance and management – but I’ve not even started the proper training before I’ve failed on the avoidance and am into management!

There is at least some encouragement that I’ve managed to run through the original problems but it’s back to the OMIL-patented icing approach (two pairs of socks with a freezer pack stuffed down between them behind the heel).

No running on Wednesday as a result but I got on the turbo for 30 minutes for 14.7km (9.1m). I kept my right heel pretty locked to avoid too much movement but of course even that requires some strain on the Achilles – it will be interesting if the exercise has done more harm than good.

We had friends over for supper on Sunday and Thursday, were out for lunch on Tuesday and will be out both for lunch and supper next Sunday. Needless to say the weight reduction programme is on hold.

This is not going terribly well so far. It can only get better …


Run (✓) ride (✓) lift weights (✓) destroy tyre (✓)


The second picture of a Continental GP4000S ii with a gash in the side wall that I’ve posted within about 400 miles. Perhaps it’s a new take on inner tube ventilation

On Thursday morning it was raining. I don’t mind running in light rain – up to the point where your trainers start to squelch – and it’s a good idea to experience most conditions as you don’t know what you’ll get on the day of any particular event.

However, running to the gym in the rain is less pleasant as you end up doing weights while wet – either from the rain itself or from sweat if you run in a jacket – and that probably means you get cold as well.

Despite that, I ran to the gym with a friend, did 30 minutes weights (feeling cold and wet) and ran back. In all 5.7km (3.5m) done fairly gently as he is coming back from his twisted ankle and the conditions were poor.

I ran in my ‘London Prepares’ jacket (from the series of test events run in preparation for the London Olympics in 2012 where Mrs O and I were Games Makers). A nice jacket but definitely a bit ‘boil in the bag’.

On Friday I went on the turbo again. It’s been very cold here this week and this was the first time since the start of the year that I’ve had to pre-heat the conservatory – it was only a week ago that I was opening the door to keep cool. I did click down a gear for the first 35 minutes and click it back up for the last 5. In total, 20km (12.5m) in the 40 minutes @ 30kph (18.7mph).

I was very cold to start with, and very hot the end – but it is little consolation that, on average, I must have been enjoying a really comfortable temperature.

The club ride on Saturday was interesting. It wasn’t too cold at the start and although it clouded over and got colder in a strong wind later on (the sort that leaves you pedalling to make forward progress downhill), I was enjoying it. Unfortunately on a fairly quick descent, I heard the ominous noise of a front wheel blow-out.

I was expecting to hit the tarmac but was greatly relieved to bring the bike to a safe stop. I then discovered that whatever caused the puncture had also taken out the side wall of the tyre. I changed the tyre, reinforcing the gash in the side wall with a bit of a crisp packet found nearby but couldn’t get any air into it with my pump.

The chap who had kindly stopped with me had a gas canister but as soon as that inflated the tube, it immediately let the air back out. It wasn’t a pinch in the tube with tyre levers (as I’d changed it with just my hands) so I took it as a sign that the cycling gods had decided that was the end of my ride. Collection by a very kind Mrs O was a rather ignominious end to it.

Just 58.55km (36 miles) with 600m (1970 feet) of climbing (not counting the journey back in the car).

That’s the second tyre I’ve lost to a side wall gash in under 4 months (and 4 months of not much cycling on that bike). I’ve always liked the Continental GP4000S ii tyres but that’s rather undermined my confidence in them – I’ve seen suggestions online doubting them because the side walls are vulnerable. Although I appreciate that any tyre might have failed in this incident, I’m now also in that doubters camp.

When I got it home, I found a large hole in the inner tube, nowhere near the site of the damaged wall. It’s a tube that I bought out in the alps in July (I can tell because the French tubes do not have threaded valve stems). I don’t like to buy into conspiracy theories but it can’t be part of a French response to Brexit, can it?

Sunday morning Mrs O was not feeling too good and I had the start of a sore throat so we are treating it as a day of rest (there is good precedent for that).

So, a decent week with 95km (59 miles) of cycling, 20.28km (12.6m) of running and 30 minutes of weights, with 6 consecutive days of exercise. Two weeks until the start of my 20 week marathon training course.

To date, my achilles tendons have hurt first thing every morning but eased very quickly as I get moving. This morning they don’t hut as much as normal so that’s good(ish).

More running next week.