As you know, I have been a coached athlete since October last year. This has been an enlightening period for me and I felt it was time for a bit of a review. One of the biggest issues I faced when following a generic plan was that of exhaustion. I blindly followed the instructions and constantly found myself very tired. With no-one to talk to, it’s hard to understand why and what you should do about it.
Since having a coach, one of the biggest benefits has been having someone to discuss minutiae with. How a session went, what you should do if you’re just not feeling it etc. It’s been very refreshing! Secondly I’ve also found that whilst I am working very hard, the gains have been significant; across all aspects. I’m tired, as the sessions are hard, but with the structure of someone who knows what they’re doing, I rarely find myself beyond the brink. If I do, we talk and we adapt. Simples!
I’ve always been a fairly strong swimmer, but it’s fair to say also a little lacking in technique. I’m fairly resigned to the fact that I will never have a decent kick, but hey it’s something to work on. I’ve seen huge progress in the past few months, with times (for all they matter in training) tumbling down. Shaving 10 seconds off a 400m PB AFTER a 1900m set was a highlight. Equally, almost a year apart to the day I did a 20 x 100m set and each 100m was 15 seconds quicker. Fingers crossed this form continues over to the outdoor stuff!
The single biggest area of progress in my mind has been in my running. Since changing my shoes I have seen massive gains in my running performance. I still don’t know if it’s psychological or a genuine change from natural running, but it’s working. I am now comfortably running in excess of 10k in every training session, from easy runs through to tempo sessions. Most importantly I’m able to run faster and further with it.
These are harder to measure. Most of my work over the winter has been, like many, on the turbo. I’ve done a few rides outdoors and initially didn’t feel like much had changed, probably due to the point in the training block. Recently i’ve done a couple of solo rides where things have just clicked. I was able to zip along at speeds that previously were only really done when in a large group on a fine day; rather than alone in a hurricane! Time will tell with this one, but things are looking good!
One thing I did try recently was some different nutrition products. I’ve been a Science in Sport user for some time and figured that the off season was a chance to experiment. I won some Ucan at a show last year but hadn’t got round to trying it. First impressions were that whilst it seemed good from an energy point of view, (although tricky to tell off one ride with so much else that has changed), the consistency isn’t great. It was reminiscent of certain gels, I felt like I needed some water to wash it down. Not ideal from the hydration element of your fuelling strategy! So things aren’t looking good for our relationship!
We’ve recently entered another level of training, so we’ll see how that goes. But fingers crossed, things are looking good for the season aims.
I’ve had a fairly long term relationship with Brooks. Since deciding to get back into running for my ill fated London Marathon attempt, Brooks were my go to shoe. That appears to be over. Welcome Skechers! More specifically, welcome the Go Run 4 – 2016.
I had looked at them a few times online, mainly due to the awesome colour options! But, i’d ruled them out on the grounds of having a very low, 4mm, drop. Based on my previous bad experience with low drop shoes, Brooks Pure Flow and Pure Cadence, I had assumed that low drop was bad. I can’t pinpoint when I first started having calf problems but it was around the time I started using the Pure Flow. As a result, I moved to a more cushioned, 12mm drop shoe, the Ghost 8.
During all of this time, I continued to do what I always do, research, research, research. I tried all manor of brands (Saucony, New Balance, Mizuno, Asics to name but a few) and kept coming back to Brooks as the most comfortable. I also kept putting my ongoing calf problems down to other factors.
My ongoing injury problems are well documented on here. For over 3 years I have suffered with problems in both calfs. I’ve seen physiotherapists, had regular sports massages, tried all manor of exercises and stretches even wearing calf guards semi permanently but the problem remains.
Since I have started working with a coach I have spent a great deal more time on Strength and Conditioning. Particularly this workout I found on Youtube, she has loads of other great workouts too so I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you!
I am sure that part of my decision is psychological but I feel as though something needs to change, so…
Quite by accident, whilst on holiday in Somerset, I found a pair of Skechers reduced to clear in a sports shop. Whilst my wife was buying a few things I decided to try them on. First impressions were almost of disbelief. They are so light, but at the same time so comfortable! (220g vs 290g). I had often noticed a bit of a hard spot on my big toe with the Brooks but hadn’t really taken any notice of it. Clearly Skechers just suit my feet, more so than any other shoe i’ve worn. The cushioning is more inline with the Launch 2 (277g) that I used for races.
I didn’t buy them there and then as I was concerned about the low drop. I discussed it later with coach and we decided on a plan to introduce them steadily. So I went back and bought them the next day, a steal at £40!
It’s early days, but my initial thoughts haven’t changed. They really are crazy light. There is less cushioning than with the Ghosts, but that’s not too surprising. From asking an expert, it seems that the Forza is the shoe I may need to add to my repertoire.
Other things of note, in no particular order; I find them noisier when running though this has eased off since i’ve got more used to them. I love the little ‘Quick Fit’ loop at the back. Did I mention how light they are? The colour is awesome, though I may have to get the latest model too! The knitted front feels literally like a glove. Oh and they’re fast… I’ve only been running short runs at the moment but they feel very quick, they encourage a quick ground transition (Garmin agrees with me!) So things bode well for the future. I even forgot to take my calf guards with me one day and was fine – back to the psychology I guess, do I or don’t I need them!?
I guess in summary. Don’t be afraid to change things but do try every single shoe on, you’ll know when you’ve found the one that fits you. Fingers crossed this really is it this time and I can move on to racing!!!
Last weekend I was incredibly lucky to spend a weekend training with Helen Jenkins, it was a competition I won from 220 Triathlon magazine and was facilitated by Science in Sport, so a special thank you to them as well as Marc, Helen’s husband and triathlete himself!
I received an email earlier in the week informing me that I had won and even better that I could take a friend, cue invite to Anth (thetrinerd). The weekend took place in the sunny Welsh town of Porthcawl, home of the only (in my experience) tarmac beach! Even better it was actually sunny pretty much the whole time!
We had arrived early and were a little unsure what to expect but it turned out upon meeting Helen, Marc and Emma (from Science in Sport) that it was going to be a fairly intensive weekend of training but that they would be joining us for everything – including breakfast! We were presented with a nice Science in Sport Endurance Pack and their new Electrolyte Gels to help us get through the weekend too! We were joined by the other competition winners, Heather, Pete, Ashley and Matt.
Our training schedule for the weekend was as follows:
9am – Park Run
11.30am – Bike Ride
5.30pm – Sea Swim
After all the excitement of the first day we went to bed, ready to do both mine and Anths’ first ever Parkrun in the morning.
We were up at 8am to meet in reception at 8.30 for a warm up. It turns out the Helen had found out the course record and being a typical athlete had decided she needed to have a crack at it – go girl! My right calf has still been causing me grief so I wasn’t expecting much from the Parkrun so I had decided to go out steady and see how we felt…. which was fine until we got to a descent with a dead turn at the end. My calf screamed no as I tried to head back up the hill, thus I had to take it even steadier back, but overall i was happy with a debut time of 23:40!
More importantly is that Helen went out and nailed it, finishing 1st overall and taking the women’s course record in 16:40! Hugely impressive stuff! The prize from Parkrun is probably already in her trophy cabinet…. that’s right, a stick of rock!
After the run we headed back to the hotel for a highly nutritious breakfast, a fried breakfast! Following that we had a short break before meeting downstairs for our cycle ride. The original schedule had alluded to a 2 hour ride, what we ended up with was a little different. A 3+ hour out and back 78km ride through some beautiful countryside, culminating in a climb up a local legend of a hill called the Bwlch. It was a bit of a beast and I was lacking energy… still it was a cracking climb and although I got dropped, who cares, i’d spent large portions of the ride chatting with a double World Champion – the sort of thing you have to pinch yourself for! We were also joined by a friend of Marc and Helen’s, Darren, owner of PedalCover
After the epic ride we had a stretching session with Helen (we got some very odd looks lying on the restaurant floor!) some lunch and a bit of a rest before heading to the sea front for my first ever ocean swim, and indeed the first ever open water swim for a couple of folks!
Things were a little interrupted as, as we were entering the sea via the lifeboat launch, they got called out. A minor disruption but slightly exciting! This was my first time swimming in the sea for any reason other than a holiday paddle. I found it very different to a wetsuit swim in a lake, the salt water tasted awful of course but I felt the extra buoyancy it offered. I also learned that the currents play havoc with my inability to swim in a straight line… something I need to work on and also something that Marc and Helen gave me some guidance on!
After the swim it was back to the hotel for dinner and some well deserved sleep, I was knackered!
Up very early as we were meeting on the beach at 6.30am for our second sea swim, getting into a damp wetsuit is not fun! We were entering the sea from the beach this time which gave us an opportunity to practice beach starts and mid swim beach exits too. Such a shame that I hate sand between my toes!!!! This time I had some time with Marc, Helen and another friend of theirs (sorry i forgot your name!) who were all helping with my sighting issue – it seemed I was able to swim, breathe and sight, just sadly not all at the same time! It also transpired that we were there early as there was a local sprint triathlon on at the same time.
After a well deserved breakfast (another fry up!) and a short rest we were setting off on a gentle recovery ride, that turned out to be the same route the triathlon had taken earlier that day. This was a more relaxed affair but still enjoyable. We had planned a sort of brick session for when we got back, but my calf was still sore from the run the day before and I only managed a very short one before it was too painful.
We all re-convened back at the hotel, with the others going for much longer runs than I! We then sat around and had a really casual chat. Such a surreal environment but it never felt anything other than normal and great fun, Helen and Marc are two of the nicest and most genuine people you could meet. Emma was lovely too – don’t want her feeling left out! Thanks all for such a great weekend!
Well yesterday was a significant day, I had my first run since ‘completing’ the London Marathon in April and also the final run of 2014. Suffice to say that last run didn’t go well, with pretty major damage to most ligaments in my right knee. Months of physio later, an inguinal hernia and a hernia operation we reach today. The knee is not quite 100% yet and I’m strengthening my quads and lengthening my hamstrings on the physio’s orders but I really wanted to get a run in.
It was an ideal time to try, ice on the ground and freezing cold. Having recently moved house, finding my running clothes was not too easy either! All that said I was relieved to find that I settled into a nice steady pace of around 7:30 per mile, sadly in not too great a distance I also discovered that not running in such a long time has an impact on your fitness and stamina! I had only planned a short run anyway but backed off a little as the heart rate rose a little too high.
Things are a little achy today, as expected, particularly the calf muscles which is common with my Brooks Pure Flow 3 due to the natural running style. Fingers crossed as I am not planning any long runs I should be able to build up strength and speed for triathlon events, I’m planning to sign up for the salubrious Halesowen Tri in April!
Speeds Cycles – a new local bike shop!
In other news I also visited a local cycle shop Speeds Cycles near where we’ve moved to, handily they’re a Trek dealer. I managed a bit of drool too as they had a Project One bike in the window in my colour scheme, from speaking to them it turns out they sponsor Hannah Drewett and it was her bike, see below.
She also works on their blog and they’re working to get her in for talks in the evening too. All stuff to look forward to, as well as the bike fit i’ve arranged for early in the New Year – I’ve decided it’s a sensible thing to do given the knee injury.
The Droitwich Half Marathon was finally held today, an event I was due to run in the build up to London 2014. Sadly as my knee still hadn’t recovered and owing to the hernia I handed my position over to my sister. She’s a good runner but had never done anything over a 10k before. Perhaps giving her more then a months notice might have helped too…. As it was though, with a bit of coaching and some nutrition advice she went out there and set a PB (obviously) but more impressively was 2nd in her age group and finished in 1:44:50. Great stuff!!
One bad thing, I may struggle to get my Garmin FR620 back as she borrowed it in the build up – i think she’s rather taken with it too!!