Category Archives: Marathons

Turbo, turbo, run, turbo, gym (in four days – this is probably kill or cure. I make the odds 50/50)

My wife seems to think I spend more time here than with her. Not sure if she thinks that’s a good or bad thing

Mixed results from Sunday’s return to running after the knee ligament sprain. The knee felt tight and ached a bit but both calf muscles hurt a lot.

Now I remember that I’d experienced calf muscle problems back in early December and had vowed to make sure they were well warmed up before, and well stretched after, any running – and to use the compression socks. That was a vow I’d completely forgotten.

Of course, the problem is what to do now for the knee. Do I assume it simply needs more time to recover (although the 7 weeks I gave it should have been enough) or is this just the result of running for the first time for a while – or is it something else completely?

I decided to go easy on the running this week, replacing running with sessions on the turbo trainer. I know that cycling does not really help with running faster but, at the moment, running faster is not the key aim. The turbo helps in terms of keeping the cardio-vascular system going – and for now that’s a worthwhile outcome by itself.

Accordingly, it was on the turbo on Monday evening – 45 minutes for 22.3km @ 29.67kph (13.8 miles @18.4mph).

With improving calf muscles and a pretty reasonable left knee it was turbo again on Tuesday (45 minutes for 22.25km @29.66kph, 13.8miles). Reluctant and lacklustre but almost identical to Monday’s effort. I can’t help but feel that exercise should count double when you really have to force yourself to do it.

A gentle run with my wife on Wednesday morning, just 4.6km (2.8 miles). Her first run since my injury.

I went for my first ‘double up’ day since the turn of the year and followed the run with a turbo session on Wednesday evening. Oddly, it was faster than recent efforts – 45 minutes for 22.85km @30.5kph (14.2 miles @ 19mph).

Weights in the gym on Thursday morning, which made it 5 training sessions in 4 days (and 11 in 11). None of them very long sessions – but sessions nonetheless.

I know I can’t make up for all the training I’ve missed recently and it would be mad to try – but it’s still tempting. I feel the need for a rest day coming up.

Turbo, and the first run for 7 weeks post ligament injury

I said I’d resume running in February, post knee injury, but ducked out on Saturday. I guess I was putting it off as I’m worried it might not have healed.

Instead I did an hour on the turbo (29.9km – 18.6 miles). I think the turbo is good rehabilitation as there is no impact on the knee and keeps the movement nice and straight, but, to be honest, the running would have been preferable. It was hard pushing on beyond the 45 minutes that I’ve been doing recently.

Sunday was fairly unpleasant and blustery but I’d been putting it off long enough. I took Lady Macbeth’s advice, screwed my courage to the sticking place, and went for a run.

It was my first since spraining the knee ligament 7 weeks previously, so no heroics. I ran for just 6.77km (4.2 miles). The Garmin says I was running at just under 6 minute/km pace. I’m not sure it was really that fast.

Post run, the knee feels a little tight but everything bends where it should and doesn’t bend where it shouldn’t, so I’ll take that as ‘so far so good’ and wait to see how things are tomorrow.

Turbo, turbo, turbo, gym and a dead laptop.

The last nine weeks in a nutshell: Barbados, Christmas, New Year, skiing, sprained Medial Collateral Ligament. Great (other than the MCL) but not exactly the training I needed.

However, all the holidays were all really enjoyable so perhaps the mental side of the (non)training has gone well and I now feel ready to get down to some hard(er) work. That’s no bad thing as the White Horse Challenge sportive is in April and the 50km ultra marathon follows in early July.

Skiing obviously involves a certain amount of exercise but it would be better if I walked up the slopes before skiing down – and I have no intention of doing that. Worse, staying in the French Alps involves eating a lot of bread and potatoes, which I usually tend to avoid, and even more cheese than usual. Being on holiday also means drinking on weekdays which I don’t normally do.

Accordingly, on Monday morning I was about 69kg – 2 and a bit kg over par (152 pounds, nearly 5 pounds over target). Reasonably encouraging.

I decided that I would not run until February to give the knee just a few more days for recovery so Monday evening it was back to the turbo – 22.02km in 45 minutes @29.13kph (13.7 miles @18mph). It was hard work and both knees were a little unhappy. I guess the skiing gave them both a bit of a work out – otherwise I can’t think why the right knee was protesting. Perhaps it’s just coming out in sympathy.

Another 45 minutes on Tuesday – 23.54km @ 31.4kph (14.6 miles @ 19.5mph), and 45 minutes again on Wednesday – 22.62km @ 30.16kph (14 miles @ 18.75mph).

Gym on Thursday morning for quite a tough 50 minutes, with most of the weights back to normal (but 5kg off leg curls and extensions).

No reaction from the knee but I gave the turbo a miss in the evening.

The other thing this week has been my wife’s laptop which died just before we went skiing. It turned out to be a real fatality – a completely defunct hard drive. We’d been talking about replacing it but hadn’t done anything until it was too late.

Of course, it then became clear that it hadn’t been backed up to the external hard drive for several months – and our ‘One Drive’ storage was full (and had been for a while) so that wasn’t helpful either. In a flash of inspiration I remembered that we’d taken a ‘cloud’ subscription when we bought it all those years ago (6 or more). Even more strangely I could find the links and the password so many happy hours were spent on Thursday downloading ridiculous amounts of data – mainly photos onto a new machine.

A very close call flirting with disaster which would, of course, have been all my fault. No sessions on Friday as the new laptop had not behaved properly in its recovery of the files from the cloud so another happy day on that.

First week back in harness – three turbo sessions and one in the gym in 5 days. Gently does it.

Next week is a bit important for me as I find out if the knee has recovered enough to start getting to a place where I can begin the ultra training programme in March.

2020 vision?


Our sons came back on the 23rd and the Christmas Eve meal with my wife’s brothers and their families was excellent. We don’t all get together very often so the effort was well worthwhile.

Christmas Day featured a huge lunch (turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, sausages, bacon, carrots, parsnips, sprouts, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, cumberland sauce) washed down by a good wine. All lovely, but there may be some truth in the old “my stomach has shrunk as a result of eating less in recent months” as I didn’t want to eat for the rest of the day.

I have to get a bit more disciplined over big meals – I am quite good at eating sensibly when it’s not there in front of me, but if someone has been kind enough to prepare it and put it on the table, my discipline disappears. I think I’m getting more minimalist as I get older. I had a great Christmas but I’m wondering if we could do it with less food, drink and fewer presents.

On Boxing Day I took our sons to watch our local team, Swindon. Although I infected them with my own affiliations from an early age, I admire my sons’ determination to support our local side. We’ve been through a lot with Swindon over the years (including three defeats of increasing severity – 1-0, 2-0 and 4-0 – in three visits to Wembley) but they are currently top of their league. Admittedly it’s the lowest of the football league structure but they played pretty well in an emphatic and thoroughly enjoyable 4-0 win.

Our older son had to go back to London on Boxing Day evening. A really good few days.

Happily, the knee is a good deal better, and has needed no medical intervention. I took the new knee brace for a long walk through the fields on Saturday. It performed well and the walk was great, apart from a moment of carelessness when I kicked a thick and unyielding clump of grass and got a sharp reminder that the knee does not like twisting or lateral movement just now.

Drinks party on Sunday (the hosts are both doctors and there were, unsurprisingly, lots of other doctors in attendance) it’s amazing how many of them had ACL issues, but mine is happily pretty trivial. Our younger son went back to London on Tuesday and we hosted a New Year’s supper for some friends.

No running or cycling for over two weeks now, throughout an outbreak of good sense. I miss them and what with Christmas too, my waistline shows the price to be paid.

… and so ends 2019. Not a bad year, I loved the Rotterdam Marathon (and our younger son breaking the 4 hour mark), I had a great time cycling out in the alps (twice) and walking in the Lake District was terrific, as always. All overshadowed by my father’s death in December, but even that came with great gratitude for a (very) long life, well lived, and a real appreciation that he did not have to suffer any long drawn-out illness or slow but inexorable decline.

2020 is the year of the ultra marathon and getting back on the bike. I can’t wait (but in a rare outbreak of good sense, I’ll take it easy while the knee heals).

Wishing everyone a great year – as my mother-in-law used to say ‘I wish you everything you would wish yourself’.

Run, gym, digging thistles and the revenge of the beech trees

Next at the cycle park is wild flower and tree planting

We were expecting a parcel Wednesday so we took turns to run and wait in. As a result, I ran a bit further and faster than usual – just over 10km (6.3 miles) at 4 hour marathon pace.

I can’t help but continually think about runs as fractions of next year’s ultra – that’s just a fifth. It wasn’t too cold, but cold enough to be the first run with hat and gloves for many months – winter is approaching.

I went into the run with a sore left buttock. I came out of the run with an additional twinge in my left knee and two painful calf muscles. At least the calf pain seems to be too high to be the troublesome Achilles tendons so it could be worse.

The sore buttock is testimony to the willpower of beech trees. After Monday’s bonfire made decent inroads into the beech tree cuttings, it was still smouldering on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the wind had turned and was blowing towards the village so I decided to put the fire out. Walking backwards pulling the long hose I tripped over a cut log and landed sitting heavily on another. The trees might be cut back but they are still fighting.

Back to the gym Thursday morning with my usual gym companion. He is still suffering with plantar fasciitis (since early April) and not sure if he will be able to attempt the ultra with me next year. It would be good to have his company – but what if we wanted to pace it differently? I’m wondering whether long distance running is essentially a selfish pursuit.

The afternoon was wet so there was little to be done beyond sloe picking. An earlier recce had suggested it was going to be a good year for sloes but although they were plentiful, they had not grown very big – it remains to be seen if they will produce good sloe gin. Happily I had some left over sloes in the freezer from last year so I have started with them.

I was up at the cycle park on Friday, digging an area to be used for a small wild flower meadow. It was extremely hard work – thank goodness I did not have a manual working career, it might have killed me. Because of that effort I gave myself an evening off the turbo, for which the still-aching calf muscles and left buttock were suitably grateful.

I tend to struggle to get beyond the simple “running is the best training for running’ and ‘cycling is the best training for cycling’ but I’m hoping all the work at the gym is going to help (besides which, I like it).

If it tunes up (or builds up) the legs I guess I will then need to build the cardio vascular system further to support them properly (better muscles need more oxygen?). Is that how it works?

The aim is to have an easier couple of weeks now and then start ramping up the cardio and the running to be in good shape to start my programme for the White Horse Challenge sportive in early February and begin the training programme for the Race to the Stones (the first week calls for 31 miles) in early March.

One thing I have promised myself is to get the mountain bike up on the Ridgeway – good cycling, a necessary recce of the ultra marathon course and excellent cardio training all rolled in together.

Ultra marathon? – all sorted (oh, apart from starting training and actually running it)

Rotterdam – site of this year’s marathon, and blessedly flat

For my 3 marathons so far, ‘run all the way’ has been target No3, just behind ‘get round safely’ and ‘try to enjoy it’. Having now signed up for an off-road ultra, early research suggests I need a rethink.

Although I’m sure there are many great athletes who run ultra marathons from start to finish, it seems that, for a mere mortal like me, a run/walk approach is recommended. I’ve seen claims that incorporating, say, a minute of walking for every 10 minutes of running can perhaps double an individual’s effective range.

Instinctively, i’m the sort of person who would prefer to run until I could run no more, and then walk the rest. Apparently, that doesn’t work well for an ultra as the walking miles are likely to be something of a death march – the benefit of recovery while walking needs to be taken regularly and before it is too late.

I’ll need to practice the run/walk to see how it works for me but perhaps the walk bit could be used for the steeper uphill sections?

I don’t mean to underestimate the challenge but I can’t help but think that as my ultra is ‘only’ another 8km (5 miles) more than a marathon, I could keep with ‘run all the way’ and just do normal marathon training (plus a bit). However, my occasional lucid moments tell me that those who have completed ultras know much better than me, and I’ll find that ‘just’ those 5 miles, the hills and the absence of a good road surface will make a huge difference.

So, being too far away to start any specific training i’ve been doing the next best thing – researching on the internet. Recognising that internet research is a dangerous thing if I have not been able to separate the wheat from the chaff, more key learning from my reading so far:

  • losing weight is a good idea (well, how did they think that one up)
  • hydration and nutrition are vital (ditto)
  • don’t get injured – who, me?
  • there are 4 feed stations on the route – only 10 km between them so it looks like carrying one bottle will be enough, unless it is very hot
  • that might mean just a running belt to hold the bottle and some snacks?
  • I need to run on the Ridgeway in training – partly for familiarisation, partly for the training benefit and partly it will help decide on appropriate footwear (will running shoes be enough?)
  • I can keep cycling (good cardio exercise and easier on the body than running)
  • I can keep up with the gym (especially good for the core)
  • the 16 week training schedule I found that started with a 31 mile week is not by any means out of the ordinary! Damn
  • back to back long runs seem to be a vital part of the training. Double damn.

It’s just possible that next year could be a bit tough. The training now won’t help with the cardio aspects but I can carry on because I enjoy it – and any strengthening of my core and legs will be a bonus if taken through into the early spring.

How hard can it be …

Run, cycle training, gym, gym, run, gym

Back to hitting the mean streets of Little Coxwell

The training continues – I’ve been to the gym, run or used the turbo trainer on 11 of the last 12 days – but with no challenges until next year, I wonder about its use. I think it’s just ‘enjoy it for what it is’.

It rained heavily through Saturday night but we ran on Sunday morning – 6.2km (a bit under 4 miles). The light rain at the start was very pleasant but we ended in rather heavier rain which was a bit less so.

Later we went to the cycle path to do some more training – despite the weather we had a lot of children on the balance bikes, some more of whom, I think, will be cycling properly next week.

A bit of the afternoon was spent watching the men’s road race at the world championships in Yorkshire. The weather was foul and led to a shortening of the route; they cut out the Buttertubs and Grinton Moor climbs that I remember so fondly from our visit to Yorkshire for the early stages of Le Tour back in 2014. It was a seriously tough day for riding a bike – with 75km still to go, more than half the field had abandoned in the pouring rain and with temperatures down around 12ā„ƒ (low 50’sā„‰).

On Monday morning it was back to the gym for an hour. I’ve increased some of the weights again. I tend to do 3 sets of 12 reps until that gets comfortable, then I increase the weights and reduce the reps to 3 sets of 8 (if I can) , before building them back up again. I’ve no idea whether that’s a good way to do it …

I’m now on the machines’ maximum weights for leg press (200kg), abductors and adductors (both 60kg). On the leg curl and leg extension machines I’m at 55kg … again, no idea if that’s good, bad or indifferent – but it really doesn’t matter, I’m enjoying it.

I had planned on running on Tuesday but it was raining heavily so I went to the gym again and I ran with my wife on Wednesday morning – just under 4 miles on a cool, clear and crisp morning – and faster than we have run together for a year. I know that the gym is no replacement for running or cycling but I’m looking forward to a ‘proper’ run or cycle to see how I shape up at the moment.

Gym on Thursday and a day off on Friday to rest the tired muscles – and a very good weekend in prospect.

Congratulations to Katarina Johnson-Thompson for gold in the world heptathlon. Great athletics – dismal crowds in the stadium.