Sunday, 22 December 2013

good news

Apologies for the delay ... went to see the specialist a couple of weeks ago and the news came through that everything is good.

About time too.  No more operations or hospital visits needed ... until next time.  Hopefully many years into the future.  Strangely though, I like hospitals.  Always have.  Maybe it's the community spirit and camaraderie that exists in the wards.  Like one big family all striving for the same goal ...

hmmm ... like ultra running perhaps.

OK, let's get Christmas and New Year out of the way then I can begin training again.  As mentioned earlier I have been running (shhh !!!) and doing one or two bits and pieces indoors to keep fit but nothing approaching what anyone would call proper training.

The scheduled date for switching from running to training is Sunday 12 January and the target race in the Tooting Bec (London) 24 hr race on 20/21 September.

So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who reads this ... and the RUNNING blog will resume in a few weeks time.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Quick Update

Another brief post ... just to let everyone know that I had my final operation of the year (hopefully) about two weeks ago and I'm feeling happy about that.

Going to see the doctor next week and it should be confirmed that I won't need any more surgery for a few more years.

Then I've just got to wait for my body to recover from the surgery and for my breathing to return to normal after the swelling has gone down.  And then I can gradually start training again.

As mentioned earlier, I have been doing what I can to keep as fit as I can.  But that's never been a problem for as I enjoy running so much - even when I'm ill I go for a run when I'm able although the distance and speed are not important.  So ... 10 to 20 minutes a day.  If that's all I can do then I'll do that.

I know it's only a temporary hiatus.

Even chemotherapy didn't stop me, although back then it was a case of 'I don't feel ill so why should I behave as though I'm ill ?'

This autumn has been different though - laboured breathing has made me realise my current limitations.

More news after I've seen the doc next week.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

what's happening ?

This isn't going to be an easy post to write ... it may waffle at times but bear with me a bit and everything will come out.

The past 12 months or so have not gone very well but, until August, things were definitely improving.  I'm not going to go into any detail about what happened before that other than to give a very brief reminder ...

... injured badly at hour 21 in World 24 hr Championships (Poland) [Sep 2012] ... spent about ten weeks walking with crutches ... diagnosed with gout last December ... six months intensive rehab for the injury ... finally able to train normally from July this year ...

But then things deteriorated and at the end of August I ended up in hospital (again) with the throat problems explained below.

At the age of four I began to have trouble breathing (so I'm told - I don't remember) and this rapidly worsened causing my parents much distress.  I was taken to hospital and it was found that my trachea had been severely narrowed by the presence of many nodules.  A hospital stay of many weeks followed (I do remember that) during which I underwent various operations including a tracheotomy and removal of the nodules (as well as the start of a few years worth of speech therapy).

OK so far ... but, unusually, these nodules kept regrowing which meant many more operations until the age of 16 when they appeared to stop growing.  At this point the doctors thought that it would be something that would stop as I reached adulthood and it did appear that they were right, but in 1983 (age 19) I was back in hospital.

I remember that time well because I was at the Reading Festival when everything suddenly went wrong and I ended up in the back of an ambulance being taken to the specialist back in Bradford (a distance of about 320 km).

More hospital visits and operations followed in 1989 (less than a year before my first cancer operation), 1997 and 2004.

Back to the present ... in August my breathing deteriorated very rapidly and I was in hospital at the end of that month where I was told there were too many nodules to remove all at once.  The first operation removed the major ones but I was back for another go in mid September.  I'll be back inside next week and the surgeons may be able to remove the last few nodules.

I feel that I'll have to go back in November for the fourth time in four months.

Because of all this I feel I've not been keeping a close enough watch on what's happening to one or two other ultra running friends [sorry Fiona - I know you're getting better by the day].

Apologies for not letting you all know sooner about what has happened but I don't really enjoy going into such great detail about a very long standing medical condition.  Even if it does compromise my running at times - eg the smoke drifting across the course during the first Commonwealth Championships in Keswick caused a few problems regarding breathing.

Those of you who are aware of my condition - thanks for the messages of support.  Especially Andy Smith who gave me the kick up the backside I needed ... THANK YOU.  Although I have to say, if you're reading this Andy, I very rarely think about my past achievements but often think about what I can achieve in the future.

Ending on a positive note ... having been a runner since 1972 I have absolutely no intention of stopping anytime soon.  And as ultra distances are far and away my favourite races I have in mind that my return race will be the Tooting 24 hr race next September.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

last week ... next week

Not posted for a while mainly because it's been a bit hectic here recently.  Keir, home from university until September, invited his girlfriend to stay for a fortnight.  She arrived from Belfast at lunchtime on Tuesday but he didn't tell us she was would be staying until two days before that ...

So Monday was spent shopping, cleaning, organising, baking, washing ... and training.  Since then we've spent quite a lot of time out and about as Rachel has never been to Yorkshire ... and there a lot to see (it's a big place).  On Monday they're going to London for a few days to leave us in peace again for a while.

Tuesday morning's run was unusual because amongst all the hot, dry weather we've had this month along came a thunderstorm.  Which began just as I set out to run 15.1 km.  To say I returned rather wet is a bit of an understatement.

My second tempo run of the year was on Thursday morning - 4 k this time.  The kilometre splits were 4:05, 4:09, 4:15 and 4:24 and the target was somewhere between 4:13 and 4:16.  Need to get the get the pacing more even but I know that will come in time and it's all over the place at the moment because it's been too long since I did any tempo running.

Friday was my first session of hill reps.  The length was 709m and the climb 35m.  Much better than expected but I only did two, a good start though.  Eventually that will increase to a dozen or more.

Today is the start of an 'easy week'.  I like to have every fourth week easier than usual to help with recovery and recharge the mental batteries a bit.  During such a week I do about two thirds of my normal workload and have one long run instead of two (50% longer than usual though).  So, tomorrow I'll be running about 25 km.  I know that's not far but it's my longest training run since 12 August last year when I ran more than 48 km.  Reading again the what I wrote about that makes me a bit sad (see here) that I'm not up to that yet ... to be honest I'm not sure about 25 km.  I'm sure it'll be fine though.

Also in the next few days I have a blood test as part of the new National Health Service free health check program for all 40 - 74 year olds.  Apparently, every five years, everyone of that age in England will be screened for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease.  It will come as no surprise to learn that I'm not worried at all about this except that I don't like needles.  Overall I think screening is good though.  So long as I'm healthy !!!

Saturday, 20 July 2013


Two days ago, on Thursday, I ran with Otley AC for the first time since ... last August probably.  It's been a long time and there was a few new faces but it was good to be back with old friends.

The following day I decided to run 3.2 km at tempo pace.  Not knowing what that would be at the moment I looked at all my race times over the past twelve months and putting the figures into various online forms such as this one from Runner's World I came up with 4:18 to 4:21 per km.

I haven't done any type of paced running in 10 months so I didn't know what 4:20 per km feels like.  I did know that I could adjust my pace as necessary every kilometre and that wouldn't be too bad.  Also, I vaguely remembered how my body felt running at tempo pace (breathing, tiredness, etc) so that's what I aimed for.

The first k passed in an amazing 3:59.  Couldn't believe that, I then expected to blow up or not even complete the whole distance.  So, I slowed down a bit and the second k took 4:04.  Something wasn't right, I thought, I shouldn't be feeling so good running so quickly ... I'm not fit enough for this.  Slowing down even more, the third kilometre took 4:12 and the final 200m took 50s.

So my overall target was to run 3.2 km between 13:51 and 14:00.  I managed 13:09 and felt OK doing so.  Next time I think I'll have to up the distance to 4k perhaps (or maybe more).  And the temperature at the local weather station was over 26 degrees C whilst I was out running.

Pleased with how this week has gone.

Other pace calculators can be found at Running for Fitness,, Runworks, Attackpoint, Santa Clarita Runners and many others.  Almost all of them are based Jack Daniels Running Formula and the idea of the vdot.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

guest post number one - recovery

As mentioned previously there will be a few Guest Posts over the next few months (and beyond ?).  The first one is here and it's from The Supplement Centre.  I know that almost everyone who reads this will be familiar with the content but I feel it's always worth reminding ourselves about this very often overlooked aspect of training.

Three roads to running recovery

Being a runner is as much about the recovery process as it is about the run itself.  If you don’t get the recovery part right, your body won’t be up for the running bit.   You’ll be aching and tired and the last thing you’ll fancy doing is donning your trainers and getting out there.

So here are three things you need to think about after you’ve done a hard run.  And they’re not chocolate, beer, and collapsing in a heap on the sofa.  Sorry about that.

1. Think about what you put into your body

Basically, this comes down to three things:

 - Liquid – a hard run will leave you dehydrated.
 - Carbohydrates – a hard run will leave your glycogen stores depleted.
 - Protein – a hard run will damage muscle cells, which need repairing.

The quickest way to get all three forms of nutrient into your body is to use sports supplements.  Have one or two energy gels to hand, and consume these along with a non-carbonated sports drink as soon as you’ve finished the run.

For the next 24 hours, drink plenty of water and eat regularly.  A balanced meal for a runner would be made up of 60% complex carbohydrates, 20% protein and 20% fat, plus a generous helping of fresh fruit and vegetables.  During this time, avoid alcohol and caffeine as these will dehydrate you.

2. Think about what you do to your body

Get yourself into a swimming pool.  Hydrotherapy will help flush everything out and keep the blood flowing to your legs.  If you don’t have access to a pool but do have a bit of time, treat yourself to an ice bath.  No ice? Try a cool bath or cold shower.  Failing that, turn a garden hose on your legs.  No, we’re not joking.  Do not succumb to the comfort of a hot bath, as this will hinder recovery.

Once you have fed, watered and cooled your body, take care of those blisters that are likely to have developed.

A sports massage is a wonderful thing, but for the first 24 hours you should do little more than have a good rubdown.  Save the sports massage for the next day, or you risk exacerbating the breakdown of muscle tissue brought about by the run.

3. Think about what you do with your body

Once you’ve replenished your water and nutrient levels after your hard run, your second priority is to do some stretching.  Even better is to combine the two by walking around while you pop those energy gels and knock back that sports drink.  If you don’t stretch, you will be so sore the next day that you’ll never want to run again – and for a while at least, you may not be able to

Next, try to get a good rest so you are ready for the last phase in your recovery – the recovery run.

In the wake of a marathon, you won’t find the professional runners at home, feet up, eating Pringles; they will be doing a recovery run – a slower, shorter run – because they know this is the best way to improve their fitness.

And now you know how to do that too. Good luck.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

a few bits and pieces

First of all an apology.  To all my race organiser friends, I know I've been pestering you for a couple of weeks now about when your races are likely to be held next year.

I hope you all understand that it's only because I'm feeling fit, healthy and ready to go after a lengthy absence.  All the more so now that we have some good weather.

Next up ... there may be a few guest posts in the future.  Not too many but if anyone reading this is interested let me know.  But please be aware that I will still retain full editorial control.

Training.  Week one finished and the introduction of my usual two longer runs (the first one as a fartlek session) has been successful.  Next week I'll be introducing tempo runs and I'm looking forward to that on Friday.

Finally it appears that my morning heart rate is now, on average, 47.1 which is the lowest since 19 September last year.  And my weight has now fallen to 60.3 kg which is the lowest it's been since 15 November last year (until 17 June this year my weight had been over 61.5 kg for at least six months).

Things are looking good ... if I can find a few races.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

so far ... so good

Four days into 'proper training' and everything seems to be going fine.

Sunday's run was nothing special except that I ran for distance instead of time.  That felt very unusual at first, being able to run as fast or as slow as I needed to and knowing that it would have an affect on how long I'd be outside.

Monday was my first 'long run' and my first fartlek session.  Felt good to run fast (at times) but it was hard work.  When I finished I thought it must have been the temperature making things hard ... it was over 24 degrees C when I was running.  Looking at the stats though it seems that it was hard because I was running fast [overall about 8 - 10 seconds per km quicker than fartlek sessions 15 months ago].

Tuesday morning was my second 'long run'.  I know 12.7 km it isn't long really but it was the furthest I've been since last September.  Just nice and relaxed after yesterday's hard run.

And today was another shorter run - identical to Sunday's.

A couple of accident's made thing a bit more interesting though.  Slicing my finger badly on a tin can lid on Monday was painful and running into a lamp post while trying to avoid a cyclist on Tuesday was even more so.  That has caused quite bad bruising to my left shoulder (and a few grazes too).

Why don't cyclists stay on the road ?

Saturday, 6 July 2013

now what ?!

Everything's fine ... hunky dory ... A OK ... great ... now what ?

Well, for a start I can now begin to train properly after three months of no running (and minimal strength work) followed by six months of a strict rehab regime.

Although I've been given the all clear it doesn't mean I'm going to immediately include all the things I did twelve months ago.  That would be stupid.  So, over the next few weeks I'll be introducing - one at a time - hill reps, fartlek, speed work, tempo runs, long runs.  I finally feel as if I've been let off the leash ... a bit.

Cycling will continue much as before but weight training will shift from an emphasis exclusively on muscular strength (especially ankle) to a mixture of strength and endurance.

So the next few weeks will be a period of transition from rehab to training.  And during that time I'll be looking around for some long races to enter (especially as I'll be 50 years old in February) ... any ideas ?

I feel that in one unexpected way this rehab stuff has had a positive effect though.  It has taken a certain mental strength to adhere strictly to the regime when it would have been all too easy to, for example, enter a race or run further/harder than I should ... especially when the ankle has been feeling great for the past few weeks and I only live five minutes walk away from where Otley AC train.  I think that will stand me in good stead for the training and racing to follow.

Much to look forward to then, including running with my club (Otley AC) occasionally on training nights and in the odd race and handicap events (autumn relays perhaps).

Finally, the doctor told me that the medication for gout is working fine and there's no need to change or adjust the dose.  It's not affecting my running at all and everything's under control.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

bits and pieces

I thought it was too goods to last ...

Things were going so well until Monday afternoon when, right at the very end of my strength training session I decided to do some dumbbell Romanian deadlifts.  Well, I guess the weights were too heavy because a few hours later my lower back began aching and by Tuesday morning it was quite painful.

I immediately decided against any cycling weight training for that day and I knew that Wednesday was to be a day free from all training so hopefully a couple of days recovery would see me back to normal.

Today ... everything's back to normal and the back is fine too.

I'm sure the coffee I managed to buy yesterday had a positive effect too.  Coming towards the end of my rehab I decided to celebrate with some of my favourite coffee.  I have long been a fan of coffee from Yemen but in recent years it has been increasingly difficult to find ... but I guess I was lucky because I found some in Leeds at Whittard of Chelsea.  Had a first cup this morning and it is absolutely divine.  Most readers will know that I've never been much good at writing reviews [need more practice I suppose] so I think it best to direct you to the Whittard website where there are a few.

Also bought the new album by Deep Purple which is probably their best for a decade or more.  It's really good and I'm looking forward to seeing them in Manchester in October.  At the Apollo again, been there numerous times over the years - my first visit was to see Rainbow in July 1981.  In the 32 years since then I've also seen Black Sabbath, Evanescence, Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Rose Tattoo, Samson and Whitesnake at that venue ... some good shows.

Friday, 21 June 2013

onto the final phase

Yesterday I proved to myself that my body (specifically my right ankle) is now strong enough to withstand running - alternating with walking - on four consecutive days.  For me this is an important milestone because my normal training regime includes running on four days and resting on the fifth.

Now ... the final phase of rehab is to do exactly the same but without the walking bit, ie running the whole time.  Beginning with 10 minutes tomorrow morning and ending with a full hour on Friday 5 July.

The following day I have an appointment with the physio just to confirm that everything is OK and that I'm fit enough to train normally again.  Also going to the doctor to check that the medicine for my gout is working and that it is the drug that suits me best ... I strongly suspect that everything's fine there.

Something to look forward to then.

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Spent a (mostly) enjoyable day on Wednesday helping with various tasks at the annual Otley 10 mile road race which attracted about 400 runners this year - the most for at least ten years.

Myself and a small team of volunteers began at 10.00am by putting up lots of signs around the race HQ (Otley Cricket Club).  Stuff such as 'car park', 'late entries', 'first aid', etc.  Then we set up the finishing funnel  and marked out the running route around the edge of the cricket pitch before getting organised for the afternoon's task.  Colin Best also drove around the course putting up lots of 'caution runners' signs.

At 4.00pm we reassembled to begin the task given to us this year by West Yorkshire Police.  We had to erect a temporary barrier along Pool Road so that runners had no choice but to use the footpath (not the actual road) for the first 1.3 miles of the race (2.1 km).  As we were doing this Tom Hannah drove around the course putting out the mile markers and one or two other signs.  This has to done fairly late because, in the past, some have been known to go missing.

That took about 90 minutes and afterwards I hurried home for a snack only to realise I had lost my house key.  Shit - I knew where it was - in the grass verge somewhere along Pool Road !!!  I also knew that it would take many hours to search for it properly so I just accepted it was lost for good and was thankful that if it was ever found there was no way it could be traced to my house.

6.20pm - time for the evening shift.  Began by giving out marshals high visibility clothing and explaining where they were expected to be, at what time, and what their duties were.  The latter varies with location of course.  After the race my job was to help Hugh Pearson write down the race numbers of every finisher - strictly in finishing order.  Not easy when two finishers didn't have numbers and a third had the number on her back.

Overall it was an enjoyable way to spend a day.  It is a good exercise for all runners for only then can we truly appreciate the effort that goes into staging even a small road race.  Colin Best has been race director for a few years now and he deserves much credit ... especially organising the 40 + marshals that are needed.  Well done to him.

Apart from all that I managed to fit in a short run of my own early in the morning and some strength training early in the afternoon.  So, a good day all round then.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

summer cold, etc

Just when things couldn't get much better they took a turn for the worse.  Over the past few days I've developed a rather bad cold.  Over the past five or six days I've noticed my morning pulse getting progressively higher and higher and that's usually a sign of illness.

It hasn't been high enough to reduce my training in any way (until today) but yesterday afternoon the cold began in earnest.  Streaming nose, tiredness, lethargy, etc.  I immediately began taking lots of vitamin C as advocated by Frank Horwill and others.  Not as much as he suggested but I realise now that I should have started the 'medicine' a couple of days ago.

One thing I have noticed over the past six months or so is that I seem to have forgotten stuff like that.  I'm sure it will all come back once I get properly into training mode again - only another four weeks to go.

As mentioned above my morning pulse was exceptionally high - over 20 % higher than normal.  So, I've decided to ease back on the cycling and strength training for a few days.  The running, such that it is, is only at a very low level anyway at the moment.

One thing I have noticed ... England Athletics have put on their website details of an English 24 hr Championship - this year held in conjunction with the Tooting Bec race in London.  There appears to be some confusion though because there are slightly different details on the two pages it is mentioned - here and here - and no mention on the race website (or on the entry form).

If this is the beginning of an annual English Championship then that can only be a good thing as athletes in all other disciplines have a national championship to aim for.  For me it's just a shame I won't be fit enough to take part but hopefully it will be something the powers that be continue with - and maybe (hopefully) us it as a selection event for a home nations 24 hr championships.  Or is that a step too far ...

At this point I should mention that I suggested a championship to England Athletics back in 2009 when I also pointed out that the list of English records did not include ultra distance events.  Within a week or two some ultra records were included but, even now, the men's 100k is missing and the women's 24 hour (road) has not been updated to include Lizzy Hawker.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

three days ... four days

Today I reached another milestone.

I have now finished running three consecutive days with the fourth being a rest day.  On Friday I start the next, and final, phase of rehabilitation.  Running four consecutive days.

This morning's run was good in that there was no pain at all in the ankle ... but the calf muscle did ache a bit during the final 2k or so.  No aches or pains at all now, and no running tomorrow so I should be fine on Friday ... especially as I'm starting again at a very low level.

Looking forward to the final phase.  Hope the wonderful weather continues.

Summer at last.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

short race

Well, well, well that was unexpected.

Whilst in Northern Ireland, midweek, I decided which one of the two races this weekend to take part in.  I chose the local parkrun 5k - partly to make amends for messing things up at the beginning of March.

This morning I made absolutely sure I arrived in time for the 9 o'clock start.  I probably arrived a bit too early really but that's better than being late.  Not having done this 'racing' thing for a while I wasn't sure what to expect time wise ... recent training couldn't help either as I had only done one fast run all year and that was  12 weeks ago.  I decided 22 minutes would be a sensible target (4:24 per km).

After a good warm up and a few words from the race director we were off.  Of course I was blocked a bit at the start and couldn't get properly into my stride for 15 seconds or so.  But after that the first, downhill, kilometre flew by and as I approached the km marker I began struggling with the pace.  My watch showed 3:59 as I passed the sign so I wasn't surprised to be struggling a bit.  I immediately stepped off the gas and expected the next 2 to 3 km to be difficult.

The second kilometre was hard work but a 4:13 split was pleasing.  At this point I was still struggling a bit from the too-quick start but I began to think that I could indeed run under 22 minutes.  A 4:18 third kilometre confirmed this and by now I had very nearly recovered from the start and was running comfortably again.

The penultimate kilometre took 4:15 but is slightly downhill on the course around Woodhouse Moor in Leeds.  At this point I was saving myself for the final push but in reality I didn't think I had anything left for that final big effort.

In the final 500m or so I had a race for the line with another runner and together we pushed each other hard all the way to the finish.  I was surprised to find that my final kilometre took 4:13, my speed and effort at the end indicated something quite a bit faster than that.

However, I was well pleased with a time of 20:59.

Feeling pleased with myself I jogged down into Leeds for a well deserved coffee at Laynes.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

summer is here

Weather improving ... ankle improving again after a less than pain free few runs midweek ... things are looking good again.

Today's 40 minutes run, for instance, took me up the valley to the village of Burley in Wharfedale and on the way back I came across Zack Whitehead and we ran together back into Otley.  Zack has been running recently after a few years out of the sport because of a knee injury.  If he can get back to running the sort of times he was five years ago that will be a great boost for Otley AC.  Good to see him back running - enjoying it too.

My run, for no reason at all, was a over 15s per km quicker than expected.  I have noticed recently that I do seem to be running a bit further in the time allowed.  I guess my speed is returning as my fitness improves.

On Tuesday next week we travel to Belfast to help Keir tie up the loose ends regarding accommodation, etc at the end of his first year at university.  And he wants us to help carry all the stuff he has to bring home.  It's his birthday on Wednesday so we'll do something a bit special while we're there but he has recently acquired a girlfriend which we'll meet for the first time.  Apparently she's very nervous about meeting me and Fay ... that's OK though because we're quite nervous about meeting her.

Next Saturday I plan to run another race but I'm undecided between the Kirkby Malzeard 10k or the local parkrun 5k.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

seasonal weather ... very strange

I've been running on three consecutive days for a few weeks now and everything is still progressing well.  Recently progressed from alternating running and walking to running non-stop.  Feeling good but still doing lots of rehab exercises ...

... about 35 minutes a day at the moment which is much less than the 55 minutes I had to do daily in February.  It will continue to decrease over the next six months or so but I strongly suspect that I'll have to do a little for many years to come.

Thoughts of racing have recently started to come my way.  I'm trying very hard to not look for a race until late June or early July.  The very fact that I'm thinking that way is a good sign and mentally I'm ready to go.  Just need the body to catch up.

At last summer weather appears to be on the way.  The bad weather during the World 24 hr Championships in Steenbergen ... well we had similar stuff here in Yorkshire.  And William Sichel apparently had a heatwave during the 6 day race in Hungary at the same time.  It seems to me that the world's weather is not how I remember it back in the 1970s.  Summer's were hot and sunny, winter's were cold and snowy ... simple.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The race I didn't run

By all accounts the weekend's race in Steembergen, Netherlands was a hard one.  At one point there was a facebook post by the Aussie team which read:

"at the moment we're having four seasons worth of weather ... every 15 minutes."

No doubt about it that is the stuff that makes things very difficult in a 24 hour race and, I guess on average, performances will have been reduced by about 5 % and the winner's distance was probably not as far as expected in a World 24 hr Championship race.  Previous winning distances (men) are shown below and full results can be found on the DUV website.

2013 ... 269 km
2012 ... 277 km
2010 ... 273 km
2009 ... 257 km
2008 ... 273 km
2007 ... 263 km
2006 ... 272 km
2005 ... 268 km
2004 ... 269 km
2003 ... 270 km
2001 ... 275 km

Some of the UK performances seem to have been quite amazing in those circumstances ...

Steve Holyoak ... over 246 km and a new pb
Robbie Britton ... over 239 km and a new pb
Sharon Law ... over 226 km and a new pb
Karen Hathaway ... over 210 km and a new pb

Sharon set new Scottish records for 200 km and 24 hours (on the road).  Amazing.

Debbie Martin-Consani, Emily Gelder, Pat Robbins, John Pares, Matt Moroz and Lizzy Hawker had less successful races and, unfortunately, I wasn't there so I can't really comment as to the reasons for that.  Perhaps an injury or two.

Congratulations also to Torill Fonn who beat her personal best by almost 5 %.

Overall, as I'm a recovering injured ultra runner, I found it quite difficult mentally to keep up to date with all that was happening in Steenbergen ... I guess I'm just missing the racing a bit.  I'm glad I persevered though as it has given me some much needed motivation for racing next year and training in the second half of this year (with perhaps a race thrown in ...).

Full results here.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Fay and me

As regular readers will know Fay and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  We didn't really know how to celebrate this milestone (not having done that before ...) but, in the end, we decided to go back to the place we spent our honeymoon.  Not the same hotel - I don't think that exists any more - but the same part of the world.

I suppose the story starts back in early 1985, a few months before Fay's 18th birthday.  We decided, without much fanfare, that we would get engaged on her 18th birthday and married on her 21st.  Between mid 1985 and April 1988 we hardly talked about marriage at all but we hadn't forgotten.

In March or April 1988 (I forget which) I secretly organised a wedding for us.  We both knew what we wanted - a quiet marriage with a minimum of fuss.  And that included nobody from our respective families and no large party afterwards.  On the first of May I asked Fay if she still wanted to marry me - the answer was 'yes' so I told her what plans I had made.  Bradford Register Office three days later, 4.00pm.

At that point we still didn't have a ring but that was no problem, on the morning of the wedding we went and bought one - but the one Fay liked was a bit too small, hmmmm.  After explaining the situation to the jeweller he agreed to try and stretch the patterned band of gold a tiny bit.  But we had to go back at 3.00pm to collect it.

As the time approached we remembered that we needed two witnesses ... no problem, I'm sure these two passer's by wouldn't mind helping out for a short while.  Luckily they agreed and our wedding went ahead without a hitch.  Afterwards we adjourned to McDonalds and laughed quietly to ourselves about what we had done.

Our honeymoon was spent on the wonderful Gower Peninsula in south Wales.  We were there five or six days touring the area and it's beautifully unspoilt beaches, coves and villages.

We realised we had to tell our families sooner or later so we arranged two trips and two bottles of champagne to help break the news.  Of course some people were not happy that they had missed out on a wedding.  Tough.  It's our life ... we'll do it our way.

Twenty five years later the whole area is still an undiscovered gem of a place with many quiet beaches and bays which are absolutely stunning on the sunny days we were there.

PS ... all the best to the UK runners in Steenbergen at the weekend.  Hope you all have a good one, and injury free.

PPS ... the same for William Sichel in a six day race he's running in Hungary (I believe Sharon Gayter will be there too).

PPPS ... also all the best to the other runners I know who are running in Steenbergen (Torill F, Sharon S, David K, etc).

Sunday, 28 April 2013

fitness improves

The week just gone was the one in which I began running on three consecutive days and resting on the fourth.  So far all has gone well and there are no problems at all, it's still very early stages yet though.

Cycling and strength training is also progressing exceptionally well at the moment and my aerobic fitness seems to be getting better almost daily.  One measure of this increase is heart rate when waking in the morning.  This year, on a week by week basis, that has been:

[figures are the mean of the previous 28 mornings]

6 January ..... 51.6
13 January ..... 50.5
20 January ..... 49.4
27 January ..... 49.1
3 February ..... 49.2
10 February ..... 49.9
17 February ..... 50.1
24 February ..... 49.6
3 March ..... 49.4
10 March ..... 49.4
17 March ..... 49.4
24 March ..... 49.5
31 March ..... 49.3
7 April ..... 49.0
14 April ..... 49.1
21 April ..... 48.6
28 April ..... 47.9

Shame about my weight though.  That remains about 3.5 kg above racing level.

Congratulations to Sue Harrison on her third place finish in the European 100k championships yesterday with a time of 7h 48:12.  The other runner from UK finished in thirteenth with 8h 29:03.  But where were all the other good British 100k road runners ?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

a marathon week

Well, this week has been fine for me.  Using different shoes for strength training has worked wonders and I'm back on track again.

Running on Thursday morning wasn't easy though.  Gale force winds and heavy rain meant that the 50 minutes felt like 150 minutes.  Character building, as I often tell myself.  Friday wasn't much better either.  If the runs on Sunday and Monday go well (as I expect they will) then I can begin training on three consecutive days.  Starting at a low level again and building up slowly so that the final three days will be running steadily for 50, 60 and 60 minutes.

But this week has been dominated by a couple of short races.  One in Boston, USA and the other in London, UK.

The Boston marathon will be remembered, not for being a great race, but for being the scene of a devastation rarely seen at sporting events.  Thankfully the perpetrators were identified and caught (or killed) but my thoughts go out to all those affected by the mindless violence of two brothers.

And so to tomorrow's race in London.  For the past few years, when watching the London Marathon, my attention has not so much been on the elite runners looking to win the race but on those rare souls who have taken part in every London Marathon.  The 'ever present club'.  In particular I will be watching out for Chris Finill who has run every London Marathon in less than 3 hours, a remarkable achievement.  Long may it continue Chris.

To finish today's post I thought I'd ask how many members there may be for the club of with the following rules:

 - been a runner continuously since before 1981
 - watched every single London Marathon live on TV
 - doesn't particularly want to take part in the London Marathon

Count me in ...

Sunday, 14 April 2013

injury update

Another week gone ... not too bad.  Not perfect but OK.

Everything was fine at the start of the week but in the middle my ankle began to rebel a bit.  Not much but enough for me to postpone thoughts of another race for a while.  As it happened yesterday's run was entirely pain free but I thought it better to be safe than sorry.

Today was much better and confidence has been restored again.

I think the slight relapse was caused by the shoes I have been wearing for strength training.  Wore a different pair today and it was like having new ankles ... absolutely no pain whatsoever.

Running earlier in the morning than usual is also a risk factor for ankle injuries because the achilles tendon remains relatively stiff for a while after waking up.  Taking care to warm up properly has been helping with that, and I find it more fun running at that time of day.  I've also been doing quite a bit more general flexibility work recently.

Still doing rehab exercises five times a day - eccentric achilles stretches, calf stretches and straight leg hamstring stretches.

Overall, progress is still being made and, as I've said before, I'm not interested in a quick fix.  I want a permanent solution.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

more ramblings ...

I know I haven't posted for a while but until I can start training and racing properly again I don't really have much say.

Everything is looking up though at the moment, especially in the early morning spring sunshine.  Running at the break of dawn has been a real boost for me and I feel a renewed sense of wanting to get back to running for more than a few miles at a time.

Still must stick to the schedule though.  That in itself is good training ... good mental discipline to stick so rigidly to a schedule for such a prolonged period.

The recent holiday period was good, especially as Keir finally managed to get here ... and then managed to get back to Northern Ireland without any problems despite the threat of more snow.  We didn't hang around at the airport any longer than we needed to as Leeds Bradford Airport is a very cold place even in summer.  Being situated on the top of a very large hill doesn't help.

Between training I've been helping Fay with decorating and fixing things about the house.  Note that I'm only helping, Fay is much better at decorating than me so I let her get on with it.  She enjoys it much more than I do too.  Her recent health scare is well and truly in the past now too.

Although Fiona's is still ongoing and will be for quite some time probably.

Anyway that's enough of me rambling on for now ... more later.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Latest News

I've recently seen that there is likely to be a third Commonwealth Mountain & Ultra Distance Championships.  The organisers have invited countries to submit bids with a view to staging the races in 2015.  The long term aim is still to have mountain races and ultra distance races at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast, Australia).

I represented England at both of the first two Commonwealth Championships (Keswick 2009 and Llandudno 2011) and they were extremely enjoyable events at which the camaraderie amongst the athletes of different countries and disciplines was second to none.

I will definitely be aiming for a place in the England team for 2015 and 2018 ...

... but reading the tender document put together by the Commonwealth Association of Mountain and Ultra Distance Running to help with prospective bids I see there is no mention at all of 24 hour races except on the final page.  And that solitary mention is a bit ambiguous in that it could mean that the 24 hour race has been omitted from the document by mistake.  Maybe.  Hope so.

As you probably know I'm now running on two consecutive days (well, running and walking) and it seems to be going well.  No problems at all although I sense that the walking bit is still necessary at the moment.  Getting there though.

Keir finally arrived home on Sunday.  He was due to arrive on Friday evening but his flight was cancelled until lunch time on Sunday.  That flight took off OK and made it all the way to Yorkshire before circling over Leeds Bradford Airport for 30 mins or so.  We did wonder about that but we were then even more shocked to learn that it was flying back to Manchester as there was too much snow to make a safe landing in Yorkshire.  He finally arrived home at about 4.00pm on Sunday.  Normally the journey from Ulster University to Otley would take him about 6 or 7 hours ... this one took an amazing 51 hours.

Hope the weather is better when he flies back at the end of next week.

Before I go, well done to Debbie M-C on her win at the Thames Path 100 mile race at the weekend.  Apparently the weather was atrocious and the race was diverted from it's normal route.  Personally, I wouldn't race 100 miles (161 km) only seven weeks before a 24 hour race but recovery rates vary enormously between runners and I'm sure she'll have a brilliant race in Steenbergen - and come away with another pb and Scottish record.

And finally ... all the best to those taking part in the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k in Perth [Scotland, not Australia] in a few days time.  Hope the temperatures increase slightly.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Keir and the World Championships

Woke up this morning to find lots of snow all around - I guess it must have been 10cm or so, everywhere.  I know that isn't particularly deep but for this part of the world, near the end of March, it's lots.

Apparently there are only two places in the whole country with so much snow at the moment - Yorkshire and Northern Ireland and the consequences are that Leeds Bradford Airport and Belfast City Airport were both closed.  They are open now ... but only just and with many flights cancelled or delayed.

Keir is coming home from university today for the Easter holiday.  He is at Ulster University and is flying from Belfast City to Leeds Bradford.  There are three flights today ... he's on the third but the first two have been cancelled.  I think it's fair to say we're a bit worried at the moment.

Apart from that, news has recently appeared from British Athletics [new name for UK Athletics ... not sure why] about the team for the World 24 hr Championships in Steenbergen in May.  On the men's team is John Pares, Pat Robbins, Matt Moroz, Robbie Britton and Steve Holyoak.  If John is fit he should do very well - he's is capable of a top 5 placing at his best.  Pat and Steve are both capable of over 240 km and I don't know too much about Robbie and Matt except that perhaps they prefer the trails.  I really do hope everyone has an outstanding race though.

The women are represented by Lizzy Hawker, Emily Gelder, Debbie Martin-Consani, Sharon Law and Karen Hathaway.  Lizzy broke the world 24 hr road record in her last race of this type (Llandudno - Sep 2010), Emily finished third in the last world championships and Debbie is the Scottish record holder.  An excellent team and, again, I wish them all every success.

My recovery seems to be going well at the moment too.  On Wednesday I had to forego my strength training and cycling though as I had to do some emergency DIY repairs in the bathroom.  Without going into great detail I had to replace the light fitting, pull cord and part of the ceiling.  Managed 20 minutes through the snow this morning with the same tomorrow and all in all everything seems OK.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

end of this phase

Well, today I've finally reached the end of this section of rehab.  Since 24 January I've been running every second day which also means that every second day is a recovery day.

The next stage, beginning on Tuesday, repeats everything since 24 January except that every third day is a recovery day.  Which means running for two consecutive days - will the ankle be OK.

Of course it will ...

And when this stage ends I repeat everything again with the recovery days being every fourth day.  And then every fifth day.

I'm aiming for a long term solution, not a quick fix.

And for the Irish readers (Eoin, Thomas, Daniel, John, etc) ...

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Fay and Fiona

OK I know that title is a bit strange but there is a good reason.

Let's start with Fiona.  She's a Scottish ultra runner who is seriously ill at the minute - and not for the first time.  She's a lovely woman who needs all the support she can get, and if she reads this she should know that I really do wish her all the best.  I know she'll make a full recovery - she's a tough cookie, that one.

Now let's move on to Fay.  On Tuesday evening, at home, we had a little 'episode'.  Well, quite a major episode as it turned out.  She began feeling unwell at about 6:00pm and at 7:45pm I phoned for an ambulance which took us to the A & E in Leeds.

We were there until 3 o'clock the following morning when the doctors finally managed to sort out what was wrong and get things under control.  I'm not going to go into great detail (you really don't want me to ...) but the problem was that the new contraception we're using had caused a blood disorder.

For a menstruating woman, having blood that doesn't clot is not good.

Happy to report that everything is under control now but it was quite scary on Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning.

There was light hearted moment when we finally got home though.  Fay said to me:  "I know you're supposed to go for a run after breakfast but why don't you go now (4 am).  You're tired and it's dark outside, it'll be just like a 24 hour race.  You'll enjoy it."

I politely declined on the grounds that I was too tired.  But really I wanted to keep an eye on her to make sure everything was OK.  It is, and everything's back to normal.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

bad race

This morning was a shambles.

The original plan was to run for an hour but include a local 5k race.  But with the slight recurrence of ankle pain a couple of days ago I decided to only run for 50 minutes but still include the 5k race.

But ... for reasons totally beyond my control [traffic problems and Fay being ill] I arrived late and missed the start by at least 20 minutes.  Never mind, I thought, I can still run a quicker than usual 5k which will be good training if nothing else.

And then, after about 1.8k I took a wrong turn.  Unbelievable.  Today was just getting worse.  I continued and eventually got back on the correct route.  Back at home, looking at a map, I can see that I probably ran about 60m short.

And so to the times.  I knew that my official time would be of no use whatsoever but I had set myself a tentative target of running the 5k in about 22:30.  Using my stopwatch I ran the first kilometre in a quick 4:11 - slightly downhill and chasing people.  I didn't time the next three kilometres (the wrong turn would have made the second and third km wrong anyway) but the final one was timed at 4:35.

I stopped my watch at 22:11 but have adjusted that to 22:27 which is my slowest ever timed 5k.

Officially my time was 45:17 which is my slowest ever time in a 10k race.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Anyway ... a fun exercise in fairly bad weather.  The time was OK too.  And the ankle held up better than expected so I've decided my next training runs should be:

Monday 11 March ... 50 minutes
Wednesday 13 March ...50 minutes
Friday 15 March ... 60 minutes
Sunday 17 March ... 60 minutes

and then, on 19 March, back to alternating running and walking (10 minutes at first) but on two consecutive days before a recovery day.  This is six days later than planned but I don't want to rush things - a proper, long term, recovery is needed.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

now what ?

Today's run was not good.

Apart from it feeling unusually difficult to run for 50 minutes my ankle began hurting about 5 - 6 minutes before the end.  Now, it could be that the course was not as flat as my recent routes.  Or it could be that, at the moment, 50 minutes is my limit.

Or maybe it's just a blip.  After icing the area and taking some extra protein I got some advice from the physio.

The suggestion is that, for the moment, I should continue so long as it isn't debilitating.  The problem is that ultra distance runners have a different perception of pain to the rest of the population ...

Will listen extra carefully to my body for the next few days.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

40 minutes ... and a UK team

On Friday, and today, I ran for 40 minutes.  Non stop.  I managed 7.6 km and 7.8 km respectively but the pace wasn't important in the slightest.

The important thing was that that 40 minutes was the longest time I've been able to run since last September. Although 24 hours is a bit longer than 40 minutes.

Feeling good at the moment though.  And next there's 50 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday and then 60 minutes on Saturday - which will incorporate a 5k race.

And now I can also begin strength training with the legs.  Very small weights at first though, but it is progress.

The UK team for the European Championships 100km has recently been announced and I was amazed to find that no men have been selected.  Four women but no men.  After thinking about this for a few days perhaps the reasons are:

- the Anglo Celtic Plate 100km is only weeks before the European Championships
- qualifying times are not easy to come by, especially as there are very few 100k races in this country
- few races partly because of the increased difficulty in staging road races (stringent licencing requirements, etc)
- few races also because ultra trail races seem to be ever more popular, more people enjoy those apparently
- many runners capable of achieving the required standard would rather run an enjoyable ultra trail race in the UK than a long road race abroad

I'm not sure what can be done to reverse this trend but I do believe we should be represented (men and women) in all championship events.  Congratulations to Emma Gooderham, Susan Harrison, Karen Rushton and Helen Taranowski.

Monday, 25 February 2013

thoughts for today

This morning, for the first time since last August, I went somewhere and ran home.  Only 30 minutes mind but it's a start ... slowly getting back to normal.

Not that many people think I'm normal in any way.  But that's OK with me.

Fay was going shopping this morning in Guiseley (about 6 km from here) so she suggested buying me a coffee before I left her to run home.  Brilliant idea.

And talking about ideas ... I've decided to run the Leeds 5k parkrun on 9 March and Fay has already agreed to resume her role as 'bag person'.  I'm due to run for 60 minutes on that day anyway so I can easily incorporate a 5k run at a slightly faster pace than normal !!!

And in early May Fay and I have decided to have short walking holiday in the Yorkshire Dales to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We were talking over a couple of cups of coffee (one each, of course ...) this morning and we decided that there's no real need for us to spend a fortune just because we've been married 25 years.  Twenty five is no different really to 24 or 26 and there's no doubt we'll be together for a long time to come.  Barring accidents and illnesses of course.

Monday, 18 February 2013

what's going on here

The ten minutes I spent running yesterday proved to be quite strange.  After all the recent snow, rain and cold weather it turned out to be very sunny and quite warm.  But what was even more remarkable was that I lost some weight.

I know, I know ... losing weight whilst running isn't unusual, but losing 0.54 kg (1.2 lb) in ten minutes is very strange.

That's a sweat rate of almost 3 litres per hour.  In February.

So what's going on ?  I've no idea but at least I'm losing some of the small amount of extra weight I've accumulated in the past five months.

Also, between now and mid June, to help with motivation during rehab, I'm allowed to enter a few short races (no longer than an hour) on two conditions. 1) I don't overdo things ... 2) I don't run at all on the following day.

Expect the first race to be in March.  No personal bests though ... not even an attempt.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

progression ... at last

Went back to the physio today and the good news is that the ankle is still improving and my running (!), cycling, etc has not made things worse.

Which means that I have permission to progress as follows:

when I can manage 60 minutes of alternating running and walking every other day ...
I can run continuously, increasing from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, every other day, then ...
I alternate running and walking, 2 days out of 3, increasing from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, then ...
running continuously, 2 days out of 3, increasing from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, then ...
alternating running and walking, 3 days out of 4, increasing from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, then ...
running continuously, 3 days out of 4, increasing from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, then ...

alternating running and walking, 4 days out of 5, increasing from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, then ...
running continuously, 4 days out of 5, increasing from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, then ...

I can begin 'normal' training.

In the meantime I have to continue the rehab exercises for a few more months, at least.  But I can start again with the leg strength exercises ... squats, lunges, etc.  Obviously with light weights at first and not many reps.

Things are looking up now.  But there's still a long way to go.

Many thanks to James Sneath for all his help with understanding the injury and especially for teaching me how to manage it and which things will help and which will make it worse.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

not much news here

Not a lot has been happening here in Wharfedale recently.  It must be true because yesterday a reporter from the local newspaper telephoned for a chat to find out about my future plans ... post injury.

He had been reading this blog and knew about the injury but we had a long chat anyway.  About possible plans for this year and next, and training, and the planning that goes into racing very long distances - nutrition, pacing, etc., and why ultra distance runners don't have such a high profile ...

And one or two other running related things.  Not sure when, and if, anything will appear in print.  Depends whether anything more important happens locally I suppose.

I know at the moment I'm only running every other day but using my usual percentage scoring system I reckon the worst run has been about 98% (where 0 is almost impossible to run and 100 is no pain whatsoever).  So I'm feeling really good at the moment.

But running on consecutive days is a different prospect and I'll wait until I've seen the physio again (12 February) before I try that.

Right now though I feel as if I'll be able to take part in an ultra race in the autumn.  No promises though ...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

change here ... for recovery

Haven't posted for a while because nothing has happened here really.  Except that I've been reading an awful lot about weight training ... how heavy, how many, how frequent, etc.  More about that in a future post in the not too distant future.

In the meantime my gout medication was changed earlier this week and I was also prescribed a different rehab regime.  It seems I have been doing not enough passive stretching and far too many eccentric achilles stretches.  225 per day instead of the recommended 90 and that has probably been having a negative affect on my knee causing a patella tracking problem in the left leg.

So now I also have straight leg quadriceps stretches to do three times per day.  But I can also run ... every other day.  Starting at the beginning again with alternating 5 minutes running with the same amount of walking for a total of ten minutes.

Tomorrow morning.

As far as I'm concerned though there's no rush to get back to full fitness so long as it is FULL fitness.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Oh well ...

On Tuesday morning I had a routine appointment with the physio to assess how the first month or running had gone.  After an extensive examination and some tests I was disappointed to learn that four weeks or so of light running has been making things slightly worse with my ankle.

Having recently being diagnosed with gout hasn't helped and the medication for that will probably have to be changed but have no doubt ... I will be back running the races I love.  And that means those that are at least 100 miles (161 km) in length.

Shit happens sometimes I guess ... but cancer had two failed attempts at stopping me so I'm sure I can beat this one too.

Things have obviously not gone too well for me over the past few months but maybe typing out the following song lyric will make me feel a bit better:

LA CONNECTION (Rainbow - 1978)

Carry home my broken bones and lay me down to rest
Forty days of cries and moans
I guess I've failed to pass the test
I've been sent away not a thing to say
I'm banished from the fold
I'm a fallen angel who's lost his wing and left out in the cold

Right now I seem to have a lot of early Whitesnake songs (1978 to 1980) on my mp3 player when I'm cycling.  I guess I'm WALKING IN THE SHADOW OF THE BLUES ... but, you know what,  I AIN'T GONNA CRY NO MORE.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

recent happenings

Keir has now returned to University in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.  We were a bit worried about him travelling alone through Belfast when there is quite lot of trouble there at the moment.

He was due to arrive at about 9.00pm and we had asked him to text us when he arrived.  At 10.30pm we still hadn't had a message and we were, by now, starting to get concerned.  Half an hour later we sent him a text knowing that he almost always replies within a couple of minutes.  Another thirty minutes passed and we decided to not go to bed until we had heard from him ... or at least knew what had happened.

Within ten minutes of that decision he phoned to say that he had forgotten to send a text [teenager speak for 'stop worrying'].

Running continues to progress, and slowly improve, which is pleasing.  Running non-stop for half an hour is quite tiring though !!!  Even at 8:30 per mile (5:17 per km).  I know that will soon get better though.

In the meantime Here's something I've recently found which addresses the issue of whether or not to eat/drink during training.  Over the past few years I've read lots of evidence and anecdotes which have been contradictory and seem to be inconclusive as to which is the better protocol.  For me this article by Andy DuBois clarifies everything nicely.

To finish this post I found something on the BBC news yesterday about a man who had recently received a hand transplant - the first in the UK.  And the hospital where the surgery was performed is only 10 miles (16 km) from here.  What caught my attention was that he needed a new hand because of complications arising from gout.  I'll make sure I take my medication and be a good patient.