Category Archives: injury

‘Barefoot’ in the park – first experiences of minimalist/ barefoot running

Minimalist v normal running shoe. Less is more … or perhaps less is less? They have a sort of camouflage colour scheme – but so far I’ve been able to find them OK.

I have to admit that buying the minimalist running shoes was, quite possibly, a bit of badly-judged nonsense. I’m not sure I can explain it – but it felt something of a necessary rite of passage.

My achilles tendons hurt every day for more than four months training for the Rotterdam Marathon last year and one of the things that is prescribed in such a case is a running shoe with a bigger drop from the heel to the toe, to reduce stress on the tendons.

The minimalist shoes have pretty much zero drop (perhaps 1mm?) so they do not appear to be very Achilles-friendly and do not seem to be a wise choice. However, when was I likely to be sensible when it come to this sort of stuff?

Beyond that, they are against almost everything we know about running shoes … no gel inserts to cushion the shock, no multi-layer, multi-density foams to maximise energy return, no need for gait analysis to decide whether you under or over pronate so you can buy the necessary corrective shoes or supportive arches …

Well, perhaps it’s wrong to say minimalist/barefoot shoes are against what we know about running shoes – perhaps it would be more accurate to say they are against everything the running industry tells us is important in running shoes. The industry wants to differentiate and sell products so can we always take the claims on face value?

On the other hand, if the products don’t work as they should, we will find out so the manufacturers should be kept honest by that. If the gels and foams (and, dare I say it, carbon-infused launchpads) were just Emperor’s new clothes, wouldn’t we know it?

It’s all very confusing – and if you like interesting questions, could Kipchoge have run his sub 2 hour marathon without his Nike Vaporflys?

Anyway, back to the minimal. It might sound weird but when you put them on they make your feet feel a bit over-exposed and vulnerable – the biggest reservation I had was how the seemingly thin sole and the absence of any cushioning will protect my feet when landing on a sharp stone. I think the issue would be pain and bruising rather than penetration through the sole (but I’d not want to walk on a nail in them).

The shoes I have are supposed to be trail shoes (I take the fact that they are called ‘Merrell Vapor Glove 4 Trail Running Shoes’ as a clue) but that just emphasises the stone point.

Being from the east of the Atlantic, I would prefer ‘vapor’ to be spelt correctly – but I may be able to forgive Merrell the missing ‘u’ if the shoes are good.

Monday saw the start of the minimalist experiment. The morning’s physical stocktake revealed a slightly tender left calf and Achilles (addressed by heel drops) and the usual cranky left knee. I wore the shoes for a fairly short run on the road – just under 7km (about 4.2 miles). They felt great – light and comfortable and the run felt easy and pretty fast (for me).

I may just be deluding myself by feeling that the run was easy – I could just be thinking that to justify my purchase of the shoes but I guessed the proof of the pudding would be when I woke up the following day and saw how the legs were. The rest of Monday was spent out in the garden tackling an overgrown hedge (and removing nettles, brambles and ivy – again). It was very windy and we had a power cut in the afternoon which lasted until about 10.30pm.

On Tuesday the physical stocktake was just the same as Monday’s – no new aches or pains and nothing worse than usual. I’ll take that as a victory.

Accordingly, I ran in them again on Tuesday – tame trail running doing laps of Badbury Clump (about 7.7km – 4.75miles). Yes, you can feel stones and sticks through the sole of the shoe but no problems so far and they were a joy to run in.

On Wednesday morning both calf/achilles combos were a little tight and the knee was as cranky as usual. It could just be two consecutive days of running, it could be the shoes or it could be nothing much at all – but it will be a day without a run.

I think I’ll go back to the old shoes for the rest of the week – I doubt the new ones need ‘running-in’ but if they put extra (or different) strains on my muscles/joints/tendons/ligaments/psyche I guess that it’s me that might need to be a bit cautious in attuning to them.

So far so good – I like them a lot but it remains to be seen if they like me …

Run, run, run, something in the woodshed

Sunday’s run wasn’t as good as Saturday’s – but I could feel both in my legs on Monday, especially the calf muscles. Why don’t I remember to stretch before I have the problems?

I suppose the good thing is that it was the muscles and not the Achilles tendons – throughout the training for the Rotterdam Marathon in April last year, they never needed any excuse to protest loudly.

I’m wondering if I’ve been running a bit flat footed for a while in order to protect the Achilles’. Subconsciously, I must have got a bit more confident in them and am striking a bit closer to the ball of the foot (thus putting more strain on the Achilles/calf chain – oh dear).

I did a short leg loosener Monday (5.5km, about 3.4miles) in some pretty muggy heat around midday. In the afternoon I started on another bit of garden – more nettles and brambles but thistles replacing ivy, for a change. It was more ripping stuff out than digging stuff up – by the evening my hands were like claws, incapable of gripping more than a cup of coffee.

I ran with my wife on Tuesday (6.7km, 4.2m) but, after 4 consecutive days of running (for only about 30km – over 18 miles) my back ached on Wednesday so I took it as a rest day from exercise.

I bought a chainsaw to start cutting up the wood taken out of the beech trees last year. I still have a full complement of limbs and digits so it went well – but it’s going to be a three session job to get it all cut and stored for the wood burner this winter.

Session 2 log cutting on Thursday (in the rain, so no running) and the same again on Friday (in yet more rain) which finished the job and leaves us with a fully stacked woodshed (plus overflow into another shed).

As the lockdown eases, we are allowed to create a ‘support bubble’ so our younger son, furloughed from his job and having been alone in his flat in London since the start of the virus lockdown, is now at home with us. It’s great to have him here in any event – but I ran the Rotterdam Marathon with him last year so I now have another running partner and another pair of hands with the labours around the house and garden … and he plays a mean game of croquet too.

He and I had a very good run on Saturday – a bit over 10km (6.35miles) in an hour. On Sunday the three of us drove up to London for a socially distanced picnic with our other son and his girlfriend – we’ve not seen them since skiing in late January. It was great.

Rook update – the hawk cut-out appears to be having some effect (for now, at least). I’ve not seen any in the chicken run and the chicken food seems to be lasting longer – so it looks like fewer rooks (unless the chickens have put themselves on a diet).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African proverb of the week: ‘Better to meet me with a warm heart than offer me dinner.’

2. BBC News website: ‘Coronavirus and how to beat it on the sausage frontline’

When the battle lines are drawn, it tends to all come down to the sausages

3. BBC News website: ‘Australia shark encounter: Teenage siblings film ‘really scary’ escape’

As opposed to a ‘really enjoyable’ escape from a shark

4. Foolish joke of the week: I had a ticket for a gig by an emo band but it was called off. I was really sad – which is, I suppose, what they would have wanted.

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

2/5 – 1540 (x1.15)

9/5 – 1688 (x1.09)

16/05 – 1902 (x1.13)

23/05 – 2020 (x1.06)

30/05 – 2065 (x1.02)

6/06 – 2093 (x1.01)

13/06 – 2109 (x1.01)

20/06 – 2126 (x1.01)

Run, stream, bonfires, run, run, rook-scarer-in-chief (failed)

Back to pounding the local roads

On Tuesday I ran with my wife and did an extra bit to make it 11.6km (7.2miles). The mental trick of setting out to run further, rather than ‘I might do an extra bit after she finishes’ does work.

I was thinking that I should increase the length of my longest run each week but Thursday marked the ’13 months until the postponed ultra marathon’ day. What would be the purpose of doing longer runs now, unless I was likely to do a long race later in the year? Of course, there might not be any – and I don’t see myself doing one, even if there are.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent clearing the stream at the end of the garden – what a surprise, more brambles, nettles and ivy.

We live at the end of the village but the prevailing wind would share our bonfire smoke with everyone else. On Friday, the stars aligned (or, more accurately, the wind direction changed) so I lit the two huge bonfires that bore testament to all the recent days spent ripping ivy off walls and removing nettles and brambles.

It was hard physical work keeping both tended, while adding some scorch marks to the bramble damage to my forearms. I decided that gave me an exemption from the run I had intended.

My wife’s parents used to live next door to us and my father-in-law was a great one for bonfires. I could pretty much guarantee that, within 10 minutes of me lighting one, he’d be coming out to join me – cigarette in one hand and garden fork in the other.

He’s been dead for 10 years now but I still expect to see him walking over as the smoke starts to rise.

Saturday was our 33rd Wedding Anniversary – where in earth did all those years go?

I had an anniversary run to celebrate – a little over 10km (6.35miles) in just under the hour. It felt really good, despite the return of the heat, and I could (for once) have gone faster. I fear that this might find out if the Achilles are really ‘cured’ or if their tendency to get injured is waiting to make a comeback.

On Sunday I could feel the run in my legs (to say nothing of feeling the previous evening’s ‘Ottolenghi’ slow cooked lamb shoulder in my stomach) but such is the duty of the unpaid personal trainer that I ran with my wife – just over 7km, a little over 4.5 miles.

With lockdown, my hair is now into my eyes so I run in my ‘Galibier’ headband. I’ve had it for years but at least I feel entitled to wear it now after doing the Telegraph/Galibier climb last year.

For a while now I’ve been convinced that I’m feeding most of the rooks in the area. They have found our chickens’ run and are eating the pellets at a rate the chickens could only dream of. Sadly, the chickens are either cowards or rook lovers as they show no sign of making any effort to repel the raiders.

I decided to act so I rigged up some strings with silver foil tied to them so that the movement of the shiny bits would scare them away. As far as I could tell the rooks were not at all impressed and took no notice.

Next I set up a rudimentary scarecrow (scare-rook). Another failure – in fact, I suspect that the rooks put the word out that all the birds for a 10 mile radius should come over to laugh at the old bloke’s pitiful attempts at bird scaring.

My third attempt has been to cut out the silhouette of a hawk (as viewed from above) from a sheet of plywood and put that on a pole so that approaching rooks would see the potential predator and make themselves scarce. The jury is out on this attempt.

With only two remaining, elderly, chickens I’m not inclined to go much further but I think I do have some netting which I might be able to rig up as a roof to the run – if I reduced the size of the run. I’ll give it some thought.

Interesting stuff this week

1. BBC News website: The days of queuing for fish and chips are gone

The fabric of UK society collapses

2. My African proverb of the week: If you cry for rain don’t complain about the mud.

3. BBC News website: Coronavirus: Three firms still positive despite the virus crisis

Three … a whole three!

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

2/5 – 1540 (x1.15)

9/5 – 1688 (x1.09)

16/05 – 1902 (x1.13)

23/05 – 2020 (x1.06)

30/05 – 2065 (x1.02)

6/06 – 2093 (x1.01)

13/06 – 2109 (x1.007)

Turbo, ride, run (my unholy trinity)

After running on Tuesday and Thursday, it was back to the turbo on Friday. I was pinched for time so just 30 minutes but ridden quite hard; sadly, the speed was registered at 29.9kph by Strava.

After a day in the garden I went out on the bike late on Saturday – it wasn’t a difficult decision as it was that or the turbo trainer. I rode for just over 36km (22.5 miles) in 80 minutes and managed to take it reasonably sensibly … apart from the two times I found myself behind other road cyclists who, I could tell, really wanted to be chased and overtaken.

A bit pathetic for an old man? Guilty as charged.

The big problem, of course, is that once you overtake, you then have to push on hard for the next couple of miles to avoid looking like an idiot as they, effortlessly, cruise back past you.

One of them was down on his tri-bars which made the chase harder but also made me realise that I should refit mine. I am currently cycling alone and in relatively light traffic so it would be pretty safe and why turn down the couple of free kph that they tend to offer?

On matters ‘aero’, I’m still grappling with whether I should get a pair of deep rim carbon wheels. Although I don’t cycle at an average of 20mph (32kph, the speed at which they are said to come into their own) I do spend a reasonable amount of time at that speed – so they might be a genuine benefit (to everything but my bank balance).

I know a gentleman in Michigan and another in Tasmania who would consider that decision to be a total no-brainer.

On Sunday morning I ran with my wife – she wanted to do the local Strava hill segment again (competitive juices flowing strongly). We did that and then I ran on to do some laps around Badbury Clump for a total run of 8.3km (just over 5 miles).

The car park there has been shut during the lockdown so, although the whole area itself has been open, it’s been fairly deserted and a joy to run in. The car park has now reopened and was full – but at least the people were well spread out and social distancing was not an issue.

For some reason Strava hasn’t recorded the segment we ran but I can work out a time from the maps and the route tracker – she blitzed her previous time by between 10 and 15 seconds. What a performance.

Some years ago we ran the “Town and Gown” 10km race in Oxford three years in succession. It’s a great course through the city centre and the aim was for my wife to break the hour barrier. We managed 58 minutes odd on our last attempt – I’m working on getting her to enter next year but it’s an uphill battle.

The rest of Sunday will be spent mowing and playing croquet. It’s what Sundays were made for.

Stocktake after 8 weeks of lockdown

  • weight – 68 kg (decent)
  • resting pulse – 48 bpm (fair)
  • hair – long, grey and unkempt (but at least I don’t have to worry about the roots being a different colour)
  • mental health – entirely unchanged (not sure if that is good or bad, but I tend to put it down to a sad lack of imagination on my part)
  • running – OK, I’m enjoying it a lot, but I’m not doing any great distances (perhaps it’s a good thing the ultra marathon is postponed to 2021)
  • cycling – moderate at best (how on earth did I ever get fit enough to ride out to to the alps, let alone do the ‘Everest’?)
  • Achilles tendons, fine; calf muscles, fine; left knee, not fine
  • garden – better than ever.

Interesting things this week

1. African proverb: A frog’s happiness comes with the rains.

… and who doesn’t like a happy frog?

2. The Dutch government has issued new guidance to single people seeking intimacy during the pandemic, advising them to find a ‘sex buddy’.

The National Institute for Health and the Environment said that ‘Sex with yourself or with others at a distance is possible’.

I see the Dutch in an entirely new (red) light.

3. Steve Linick: Trump fires state department inspector general

I’m starting to feel left out because the President hasn’t bothered to fire me (yet).

4. With the division’s season coming to an early end, our local football club (Swindon Town) is set to be promoted and crowned Champions. Not how anyone would have wanted it to end – but we’ll take it.

Confirmed cases of Coronavirus for Oxfordshire: population c. 690,000

14/3 – 22

21/3 – 44 (x2 from previous week)

28/3 – 113 (x2.5)

4/4 – 356 (x3.2)

11/4 – 653 (x1.8)

18/4 – 1070 (x1.6)

25/4 – 1336 (x1.25)

2/5 – 1540 (x1.15)

9/5 – 1688 (x1.09)

16/05 – 1902 (1.13)

Run, turbo, run, (and a lesson re-learnt, soon to be re-forgotten, no doubt)

The bluebells putting on a great show

I learnt a lesson last week – or more accurately, re-learnt a lesson I’ve learnt and forgotten many times before, and no doubt will learn and forget again many times in the future.

Of course, warming up, cooling down and stretching are necessary to keep my ageing body working without the otherwise inevitable aches and pains. The big problem is that I remember that when I have a particular issue to address but forget it as soon as the issue goes away.

I remember them as remedial actions – and forget about them as preventative ones.

The calf I tweaked last Saturday benefitted from confinement to the turbo on Sunday but was not properly right by the time this week started (as many do) with a run with my wife on Monday. We went through the village together, with her then doing hill reps while I ran round the old hill fort – about 5 miles for me.

All the better for the bluebells being out.

Turbo for 45 minutes on Tuesday to be kinder to the calf and knees. It went reasonably well but it was my 7th day of exercise in a row and I was starting to flag so it was going to be a rest day on Wednesday – but my personal trainer duties took over and I ran with my wife, nearly 5 miles, on Wednesday.

A lovely run in glorious weather, spoilt only by being passed by a delivery van that my wife thought might have a delivery for her. Urged to go ahead to make sure we didn’t miss it by being out, I sprinted the last km, arriving at the house sweating and breathing heavily, only to find there was no delivery, the driver was just taking a break by hiding at the end of the village for a few minutes.

Things I’ve enjoyed this week

1. I struggle with the concept of oil prices going negative. If anyone in the States would like to pick up and store a few barrels for me, you can let me have them, and the cash you’ll owe me, later in the year.

2. Kenyan proverb: “An old man never knows what makes him look after cattle at his age.”

What?

3. Romania has issued 200,000 fines in under a month to people who failed to comply with restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. The relatively high fines handed out between 24 March and 19 April amount to £69m (€78m), said to equal Romania’s February 2020 corporate tax take.

Taking the economy seriously!

4. Army veteran’s 100th-birthday walk for ‘magnificent’ NHS

Captain Tom Moore’s walk had a fund raising target of £1,000 and has now raised over £28 million. Needs no comment.

Turbo, run and a bit of gardening (has it really come to this?)

Dragon Hill from White Horse Hill, Uffington

On Monday I extended the ‘clap for the NHS’ concept. I decided that my evening training was a ‘Turbo for Covid19 sufferers’. 45 minutes for 21km – they deserved better.

Although I hold no particular brief for him, that includes Boris Johnson. Like him or not, agree with his politics or not, and whether he was the Prime Minister or not, he’s a human being and that alone justifies my hopes that he recovers – as I hope for everyone suffering with the infection.

He’s an interesting (and somewhat divisive) character, even ignoring the politics. I believe he is very intelligent but he can come across as a buffoon. While David Cameron never shook off the ‘Eton schoolboy’ tag (used as something of a slight), that never seems to be thrown at Johnson. He has a bit of a ‘teflon’ coating that means his mistakes don’t seem to stick and his reputed philandering doesn’t seem to be held against him very widely. I have no idea how he does it.

On Tuesday I ran with my wife – further than our usual runs together at 5.1 miles. It was the first time this year that I got properly warm on a run and it was great but I feel that the approaching need to move smoothly from complaining about the cold to complaining equally passionately about it being too hot.

I then enforced the eviction notice I had served on the plants seeking sanctuary in the conservatory. The forecast suggests we have no frosts on the horizon so the garden is now rich in geraniums, olive trees, catmint, erigeron, a lemon tree and some unidentified bulbs that have done nothing for months.

There were encouraging looking UK coronavirus numbers on Sunday and Monday but, sadly, they owed more to delays in reporting over the weekend and deaths in the UK rose again in the numbers released on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I’m sure that it’s important to look at the figures over a few days to understand them properly but the rate of growth seems to be slowing. The experience of Italy and Spain would suggest that the peak is still ahead (but getting closer).

Of course, then the question will be how to ease the lockdown – and what that does to the the infection rate. In the absence of a vaccination and no ‘herd immunity’ yet, I guess it’s not going away any time soon.

We continue to follow the rules and are relatively little affected on a day to day basis as we have no new work patterns to adapt to and no small children to accommodate, but have plenty of garden space, lots to do and great access to fairly empty and attractive running routes. Although it’s a great shame not being able to socialise with friends, the biggest issue is not being able to see our sons in London. One is ‘furloughed’ from the end of this week and the other is working as hard as ever from home – but both are safe and healthy, which is the main thing.

On Wednesday I drafted the accounts for my father’s estate, having got the probate pretty quickly. It’s sobering and terribly sad to think how many people will be doing the same over the next few months.

Injury update

Knee: I was rather premature when I decided it was injury-free in December. I was probably whistling in the dark because I was going to ski on it in January, come what may. It still hurts a bit – not entirely cured but much better. With no sportive and no ultra marathon to train for I’m wondering if I should ease off to give it time to heal – but it had 9 weeks at the start of the year and an outbreak of good sense like that is unlikely to happen again so soon.

Achilles Tendons: these hurt every morning from about October to April last year, while I was training for the Rotterdam Marathon. I managed to carry on training with them but after the run itself they had a proper rest over the summer and are now fine. I found that hills aggravated them badly but now I might start to reintroduce hill running.

Calf muscles: I guess the problem with these hurting after a run was that I’d over-protected them because of the Achilles problems. Stretching after the runs and some work on them in the gym (ah, I remember the gym fondly) has sorted the problem out but I still stretch more diligently, just in case.

Turbo, gym, cycle OUTSIDE (who’d have thought it possible?)

On Monday I could feel the previous day’s 22km run in my legs but nothing was particularly painful (and even the knee didn’t hurt any more than normal so I’ll take that as a bit of a win).

The weather remains pretty poor so it was on the turbo in the early evening but I’m getting very bored of it.

There is a perfectly harmless game show on weekdays for 45 minutes, starting at 17.15. If I cycle for the duration of the show I get a decent, distracted, 45 minute ride. If I want to go longer I have to start before the programme starts – if I start cycling when the programme starts I struggle to carry on after it finishes. Subconsciously, I must associate the end of the programme with the end of the turbo session.

On Monday the trick worked – early start and then 1 hour for 27.56km (17.2miles).

On Tuesday the ‘finger socks’ arrived. I know that the ‘go to’ brand is injinji – but they seem really expensive so I disguised my inherent meanness as mere caution in case I didn’t like them and went for something cheap from the internet. Apart from putting them on being every bit as difficult as getting a small child into a pair of gloves, I think they are really good. I’ll try them on a run later in the week.

Tuesday also saw me at the gym for an hour.

I know I’m probably doing too much training (13 days out of 14 now) but I can see the end of the week being bad and the flip side of the excitement at taking on challenges is the fear that I won’t complete them.

It’s fear that I’ll fall ill or get injured and won’t be able to train, or fear that my knee won’t let me run more than three times a week so I won’t be able to do the ultra marathon training properly.

Yes, I appreciate that excess training is likely to bring on the injuries or illnesses I’m concerned about – but my lucid moments only last a short while and I tend to forget that insight.

I fought back by deciding not to do the turbo session I’d planned on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday a few strange things were going on – it wasn’t raining, it wasn’t freezing, the wind dropped below 20mph and I went for a ride outside. My first since October!

I was fairly sensible apart from when I found myself at the bottom of the Uffington White Horse Hill and could not resist riding up it (about 1km at 9%) and on a wind-assisted stretch with 6.2km at over 40kph (nearly 4 miles at 25mph). In all, 42.8km in 1h 44minutes with 490m of ascent (26.6 miles and 1600 feet).

It was really enjoyable – I think the riding outside idea could catch on.

Gym, run, torn toenails, turbo, run, gym, turbo, run (a decent week … apart from the toenails)

Saturday and Sunday had seen my first runs on consecutive days for a long time. My knee wasn’t entirely happy with that so, rather than push my luck with another run, I went to the gym on Monday morning.

I had a good 50 minutes but it was noticeably hard – all thoughts of making Monday the week’s double exercise day were abandoned. I am concerned about these occasional outbreaks of common sense.

Tuesday was fairly cold and blowy but dry. It didn’t look like the rest of the week was going to be much better so I went for a run anyway. Again pushing the distance a bit – 16.85km (about 10.5 miles) at about 6:20 per km (a bit outside 10 minute miles). Not fast but a pretty consistent pace and it’s about distance not speed.

It was a decent run apart from the fact that, inside the first 3 miles, one toenail started attacking its neighbour and I finished with two torn nails and two bloodied toes. One of the toes has previous convictions and I’m thinking of trying a pair of ‘finger’ socks to stop the fighting.

OK, it’s not the most severe injury I’ve heard of recently (and I sympathise with those who have suffered worse) but it is closer to home.

Turbo for 45 minutes, 21.95 km (13.6miles) on Wednesday – shorter because of the longer run on Tuesday.

Thursday morning was cold and wet but we’d agreed to run and did our usual 6.24km (3.9miles). It was probably a good thing that I’d committed to run with my wife as, alone, I’d have found an excuse not to.

We had an excellent evening with friends over for supper but, with an effort, I managed to get myself to the gym on Friday morning for an hour’s weights. That went OK but I added the 5 minute planks routine on at the end and found it really hard.

I was feeling very jaded after 10 successive days with some form of exercise but I pushed myself to make it a double exercise day and got on the turbo in the evening (45 minutes for 21.7km – 13.5miles). That made it 12 sessions in those 10 days.

At least that was in the knowledge that a rest day loomed as we were having one of my goddaughters and her family over for Saturday lunch. I was ready for the rest on Saturday and had an exceptionally good day, before rounding off the week with another run on Sunday.

It started mild and windy, rained a little at the 3 mile mark, rained heavily and holizontally at the 6 mile mark but finished dry.

Again, I pushed the distance a bit – 22.11km (13.75miles). Yet again, not fast but consistent – no km faster than 6m 10s and only one of the 22 outside 6 minutes odd (and that was 7m 02 sec).

In all, three runs and over 28 miles, two gym sessions and twice on the turbo. That’s me done for the week – shattered.

Turbo x2, run x3 (one snow, one hailstones, one weak sunshine), gym. A very good week (it’s not all about training)

The Thames, with Hammersmith Bridge on the right. A bit sunnier this morning – lots of rowing activity as the Boat Race approaches at the end of the month

Following two rest days I was back on the turbo on Wednesday, pushing the session out beyond what I’ve been doing recently – 1h 15min for 34.45km @27.6kph (21.4 miles @17.1mph).

That’s part of my plan to increase the length and intensity of the training – but I wish I knew how the turbo equates to cycling on the road.

Of course, there are no uphills or headwinds on the turbo – but equally, there are no downhills or tailwinds. Also there are no junctions or red lights which might provide a short break – one appropriate word for the turbo is ‘relentless’.

More importantly, in the absence of things like power meters, it is hard to gauge the strength of the resistance the turbo provides.

By feel, my turbo offers a good deal more than the normal resistance of cycling on a flat road. That’s backed up by the fact that I’ve not got into any of the bike’s three top gears with this turbo trainer. Cycling in a lower gear but still managing somewhere in the range 17-19mph (27.5-30kph) suggests that I’m working significantly harder than I would be out on the road. The turbo has no adjustment but seems to be set to replicate rolling resistance, the resistance of the air, plus a constant upslope of perhaps 2%?

I wonder if that’s true – or whether I’m deluding myself.

We woke to a dusting of snow on Thursday but we’d planned to go for a run and, slightly reluctantly, kept to that for a gentle 6.2km (just under 4 miles). It was surprisingly enjoyable, proving (yet again) that the hardest part of most runs is getting out of the door.

I decided to make Thursday ‘double up’ day for the exercise so I got on the turbo later for 45 minutes: 21.75km @ 28kph (13.5miles @ 17.4mph).

Gym on Friday morning and then a leisurely day doing domestic stuff before we drove to London. Our older son and his girlfriend are on holiday in South Africa so on Saturday we went to check on his flat, to provide some rations for when they get back and to explore the area. It’s proved to be a great choice for them – walkable to both of their offices in the east of the city – a ‘young professionals’, up and coming area rich in ‘artisan’ type businesses – bread shops, gin distilleries, food outlets and a great weekly market.

We had a very enjoyable morning doing the Spa Terminus and the Maltby Street Market and then back to our place.

Frustrated at missing out on my favourite seaside run on Monday because of the weather in Bournemouth, I was determined to have the pleasure of running along the Thames since I was up in London.

Although the weather wasn’t looking too good, later in the afternoon I ran to Hammersmith, over the bridge, down the Thames Path on the west side of the river, across Putney Bridge, up the Thames Path on the other side and back via Hammersmith and Baron’s Court. A bit over 10.85km (6.75miles) at 4 hour marathon pace.

It was terrific – although I could have done without the rain (which turned to hailstones just after Putney Bridge). The roar as I passed Craven Cottage Football Ground was particularly encouraging but I admit that could have been for the match (Fulham v Preston North End – final score 2-0 to Fulham) and not for me.

My knee hurt that night and I couldn’t get it comfortable in bed for quite a while. Despite that, early on Sunday morning my wife and I went for another (shorter and more gentle) run down the Thames Path – 6.4km (4 miles) in a cold breeze but weak sunshine.

Brunch with our younger son and back to Oxfordshire.

Not the heaviest week for training but really enjoyable, and I know which is more important.

Little and often – or fewer, bigger chunks?

On Sunday my wife went up to London for a couple of days, and after my run I went down to Bournemouth. I sorted out a few bits on Monday and thought about a run along the promenade.

If I’m down in Bournemouth, I love to run along the sea front but this time it looked like a run would be foolish for at least three reasons:

  • first, because it would be the 9th day in a row with exercise
  • second, my knee was complaining a bit after Sunday’s run
  • third, the weather was a little ‘frisky’, with rain lashing down and 60 mph gale force winds.

The English Channel is aptly named in the way it funnels the wind along the coastline. Once I followed someone riding a bike into a strong headwind along the promenade, until he gave up pedalling, got off the bike and pushed it.

This time I decided that discretion was the better part of valour (doublespeak for ‘I wimped out’) and the running kit stayed in the bag. Getting back to Oxfordshire I resisted the temptation to do a session on the turbo – a real rest day! I won’t deny the feeling that I should have done something, but I’ll get used to it …

… and I did. I took Tuesday off too.

That brings me to the question posed in the title: would I be better off doing, for example

  • 6 days of exercise with medium length runs (c 6-8 miles) and 45-60 minutes on the turbo, or
  • 4 days with longer runs (9-12 miles) and turbo sessions of over an hour, with more rest days
  • days with multiple short sessions?

As a simplistic example, if I wanted to run for 6 hours a week, would it be best to run for three 20 minutes sessions on 6 days, or six one hour runs across 6 days, or four 90 minute runs across 4 days?

As always, I expect the answer starts ‘It depends …’.

Several short sessions in a day, compared to the same time spent in one session

I can see that several shorter sessions in a day might keep the heart rate up for longer, and I understand why some people would be able to fit them into a working day more easily – and even find it easier to get motivated for a short session. Personally, being retired, the time is less of an issue and I think I might struggle with several short sessions (to say nothing of the washing of smelly kit).

One shorter session on more days a week, versus fewer longer sessions with more rest days

With the importance of rest days, I guess fewer, longer sessions might be better? Also, that feels like a better use of time (change, warm up and stretch afterwards just once for a 2 hour session instead of twice for two one hour sessions?) …. but are longer sessions likely to be riskier from an injury perspective?

I have no idea as to the correct answer but I keep reading that training for the ultra needs time on your feet, running when already jaded and ever longer runs to help replicate the race day itself. Feels like fewer, longer sessions are what I’ll try in the next few weeks.

I expect that all approaches are reasonable if not taken to the extremes – I once ran a marathon with a chap who decided that running one half marathon each week would be good training. It didn’t end well …