Catching Up

I am currently in the midst of the perennial hell that is known as the school holidays and as such fitness and blogging are difficult. I missed my big weekend run due to eating (accidentally) something with MSG in it. This gave me the usual nasty reaction that is worse than migraine. With that irritation at the back of my mind I got back on the horse as quickly as I could. I am slowly juggling my routine into alternate days of swimming and running with cycling dotted about wherever possible. Right now it is very cold here in England so I am waiting for it to warm up before I tackle some serious riding, although I am cycling home from the school run on the days I do not do a morning run.

Monday

My swim on Monday was as follows:

600 m • 26:11 • 1:46 min/100 m • 34.1 100m/hour •

Source: Swim

This was 6 drills of 6 laps front crawl.

Tuesday

Tuesday was a run which clocked in at just over 6 miles, however I once again managed to accidentally stop my Apple Watch recording meaning that, by my estimation I lost about 1.5 miles, but hey, at least I ran it, right?

Map

This was a very easy run compared to previous ones and I think that my body is benefiting from having every other day off from running. I had a renewed spring in my step and my cadence and speed simply felt much better. I have often been running and been tired all of the way round, so I think that this vindicates my current strategy. Even better is that swimming works the upper body far more than any other part, (as evidenced by my arm and chest muscles shaking afterwards!) so it divides by efforts between upper and lower body evenly and conveniently.

Wednesday

Yesterday was a swimming day and I have now doubled my distance in the pool from the 600 metre swim I did first time out this year.

Data

1,200 m • 34:30 • 1:55 min/100 m • 31.3 100m/hour •

Source: Swim

6 drills of 8 laps of front crawl.

I am not feeling like a particularly proficient swimmer as yet but it does not feel especially challenging to step up by adding two laps to each drill. At my swimming peak I would swim for 75-90 minutes without stopping. I am aiming to hit that this year. I would also love to try open water swimming but right now having young children means that I would have to do that alone which is extraordinarily dangerous and nobody should EVER do it. Once they are older and can be left safely with babysitters, or with friends then I will try to take on the challenge of open water swimming, probably in the Lake District.

Back to the Pool: Electric Boogaloo

Today was my second trip to the pool since I decided to take up swimming again, and I improved myself pretty easily. My last swim was 500 metres, consisting of 5 x 100 metre drills, three laps front crawl and one breaststroke. This time I did 600 metres, consisting of 100 metre drills, all front crawl. That means I was able to add 20% in terms of distance and I also stretched my endurance as I did not need the slower breaststroke lap. I reiterate that swimming is probably the hardest distance/endurance sport I have ever done. When you think about it you are pulling your body through an extremely resistive environment and you can only take in oxygen roughly 10% of the time. No wonder I am always panting at the end of drills.

Data

I love my Garmin Swim watch and it provides a great breakdown of the session.

600 m • 26:11 • 1:46 min/100 m • 34.1 100m/hour •

Source: Garmin Connect

Looking at those statistics is hard to believe that I used to swim for ninety minutes non-stop but that is encouraging. It is just a matter of time and pushing myself further each swim to attain that once again. This was only a 168 calorie swim. I used to burn 1000s! Still, with patience and application it should only be a few months until I can hit the heady heights I previously did. My main challenge regarding swimming is how boring it can be on occasion. Obviously I cannot listen to music or what have you so it is definitely a mental endurance challenge for me.

Weather Changes Everything: Upgrading my Routine

Doesn’t a sunny day always put you in a good mood? Today I had one, albeit one of those cold, free winter sunny days which the UK does so well and that I personally happen to love. It also changes things. I have now reached the point where I am running so far in the mornings that I have to alternate my days. I cannot run for two hours (and increasingly more) a day, every day. It is an impact sport and an endurance one for me too, so I am adjusting how I do things. My running distances are only going to increase over time, so now that I have hit ten miles I shall run on alternate days and on the off days I will swim and cycle. These two are both non-impact sports. Cycling is my favourite thing to do in the whole world and now that January is out of the way the nights are growing lighter, the rain is less frequent and it is getting warmer. I will be cycling on the school run home, and in the evenings I will swim. The swimming is important to me as it is probably the highest intensity sport of the three (I am always gasping for breath between drills when I do it) and it prioritises the upper body, something I do not really do too much of right now.

It was inevitable that I would reach this stage at some point. As I push on towards the fifteen mile mark I cannot seriously run every day, nor is it advisable to do so. Rest is as important as exercise and I have already felt the tightness in my leg muscles easing off with the benefit of a day’s rest for them.

Today I cycled home on the school run, taking a detour into town to collect a parcel. It was only a gentle seven miles. Seven miles may sound a lot but it was only thirty minutes or thereabouts and I wasn’t exactly pushing myself (even though, at 14-16 mph My Fitness Pal classifies my exertion as vigorous).

Map

6.95 mi • 27:52 • 4:01 min/mi • 15.0 mph • 189 ft

Source: Rosehill with Burnley Wood Ward Cycling

I am not especially interested in segments, calorie burn (except for daily tracking) and time trialling but its there, courtesy of Garmin, if that is your bag.

Achievement Unlocked: Double Figures!

I finally broke into double figures for my morning run and I did it today.

Map

Runtastic

Runtastic: you suck the sweat off a dead man’s balls. You will note above that there is a gap in the GPS track of my run. That is a nine minute segment where Runtastic decided to not work, the second time it has crashed since I started using Apple Watch. I am not impressed and I have told them so. This means that in reality I ran more than the 10.01 miles I clocked. What is doubly annoying is that the section that is missing was part of a steep climb so that was some serious calorie burn data that I have lost.

Positives

I have broken into double figures for running regularly! Yay! This is probably the most significant milestone I have hit since I took up running again and it is this year’s biggest positive in my running life. Physically it was quite easy to do but mentally it was tough, mainly because I had no interesting podcasts to listen to so I ended listening to someone complaining about the new Twitter algorithm. That is not my idea of fun. Next time I will curate my content a little bit better. Right now, however, I am basking in the ten mile glow. I also took the route out of town over Crown Point in Burnley and the weather was great, so below I have posted some photographs taken today from the route to show the beauty and joy that runners often experience.

Crown Point Running.

Crown Point Running.

Crown Point Running.

Achievement Unlocked: Dumbass

The title of today’s post is somewhat misleading as my real achievement for today was to breach the nine mile barrier for the morning run. What is annoying is the manner in which it happened.

Map

Upon setting off the heavens opened. First with sleet, then snow. This meant a change of plans as I had intended to do a climb over Crown Point (a hill near to where I live), however running over there in that kind of weather is very dangerous. It meant the possibility of a frozen road and also, as I have mentioned before, this is a route over which drivers can often drive like complete lunatics. It is just too high risk. Of course, now the sun is shining – isn’t it always?

What is also unfortunate is that the Runtastic Pro app on my Apple Watch froze and crashed and I had a nasty fall. This meant I lost my keys, likely during the fall but possibly as a result of continually pulling my phone from my pocket to check stats because the FREAKING WATCH APP DIDN’T WORK. I cannot begin to quantify the strength of my annoyance on this front. What is worse is that, having completed nine miles and being very tired I had to do the three mile (round trip) walk to my son’s school to get his key. Dressed in my spandex running gear. Brilliant.

I hope I am getting all of my bad luck for 2016 out of the way.

The Week in Review

Summary

This week has been an interesting one. I have pushed my morning run over the eight miles mark, I returned to the swimming pool (an event which itself spawned a post about irritating people at the pool), and I managed to sabotage a promising shot at a half-marathon distance run by ingesting fart fuel.

This week I have learned a lot about myself and the limitations of my body (i.e. I do not seem to be anywhere near reaching them yet) and the farting incident in particular has taught me a lot, especially in terms of planning my diet and timing meals well in relation to runs.

I have also hit a couple more personal milestones. The first is the fact that this is the first full week I have completed my running regimen whilst wearing proper running trousers, running gloves and running shoes. This turns out to have been far more important than I ever imagined in terms of keeping warm, comfortable and remaining injury free. Of course, I have no doubt that at some point I will pick up a strain or muscle tear but it is all about reducing the risk and likelihood of doing so. In addition to this I have purchased an Apple Watch. Whilst I confess to being an Apple devotee I will say that this watch was purchased with running in mind. I hate wearing my phone in an armband and I get annoyed when I have to stop to skip a podcast/song or check on my exercise statistics. Now it is all there in the Runtastic app on my watch; easily accessible with a mere flick of the wrist.

Unfortunately a tough night with the kids means I missed my cycle ride to university and I was not able to take the kids and dogs walking or hiking due to the fact that it has rained heavily more or less all weekend. I fear that the torrential rain that is predicted tomorrow is going to stop me from cycling again, but I will try my best. I am happy in wet conditions but I do take a few busy roads en route which I would not like to take on in a torrential downpour, purely from the point of view relating to safety concerns. Fingers crossed on that front.

I am pushing hard to be a real distance runner by summer, regularly putting in runs of double figures and I would love to be able to run the 21.5 miles home from university at least once this semester. Whether or not I will be able to stretch myself that far without doing myself some damage is a matter of fine margins, but I can try my best nonetheless.

This Week’s Media

Video: BBC Question Time, Redmen TV

Podcasts: BBC Any Questions, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Rubin Report.

See you on the road.

I’m a Pretty Good Cook, However…

An Object Lesson in Planning

Today’s aborted long run was a reminder to me of how a good few little things can add up to one big thing when it comes to the best laid plans going awry. This evening I set off excitedly on what was to be a run of half marathon distance or greater. My excitement stemmed from it being the first run with my shiny new Apple Watch (I thoroughly recommend this piece of gadgetry by the way) and I was looking forward to road testing it, having spent the previous evening and pretty much all of today playing with it and showing it off to my partner. Then two words, two simple little words interrupted: mapo tofu. You see, I am a pretty damned fine cook and tonight I made this delicious Chinese dish. What I should have done is go for a run in the early evening and eaten later on. Sadly I did the opposite.

Mapo tofu is an oil-based, spicy dish that contains miso (a bean paste common in asian food). Any one of these on its own is, frankly, fart fuel. Combine oil, miso and chilli flakes and you get one thing: stomach cramps. I was forced to abandon tonight’s run because it felt as though half the world was about to blast out of my bum. I know, I know, it’s pretty gross, but there we are. I post it here as a cautionary tale. I was actually doing very well indeed, accelerating up the Crown Point hill with a greater speed and vigour than I had previously mustered but as soon as I hit the steeper bit it was a matter of time until nature took its course. At around four miles in I had turn back for home. I initially thought that running back home on the relatively flat part of the course would cause the cramps to subside and I would at least get a solid ten miles but, alas, it was not to be. It simply became too painful and so I dejectedly phoned home for a lift. I was also down to 15% battery on the watch which would not have been enough to complete the long run I had in mind, so another lesson learned: be fully charged upon setting off.

Add to this the fact that at 4.82 miles I learned that the crown on my watch could be activated by my sleeve and Runtastic abruptly stopped tracking at that point, forcing me to start recording the run again. This is all a rather annoying catalogue of events that scuppered a run that I has been very much looking forward to and was enjoying immensely. I now sit here, gutted and blogging about it.

Map

The Moral of the Story

Deep down I knew that this scenario was likely. I ate badly, planned badly and let my passion for a long run that I would certainly have enjoyed to circumvent my good sense, and given that it rained hard here all day until the weather cleared just as I set off I feel that I have passed up a great opportunity to grab a serious amount of road miles. It is therefore the moral of the story that good vibes and a good feeling are no substitute for good practices and good habits. Fortunately I can either run tomorrow (and miss the swim I had planned) or extend Monday’s morning run to the long run I could and should have done today, but I still feel very foolish for not planning intelligently and all I have to show for what was still a 1000 calorie is an evening of absolutely massive farts that shows no sign of getting any less windy. My self-generated wind power currently shows no signs of abating.

The joy of running overwhelmed me and my brain took a back seat. I will never let that happen again.

Achievement Unlocked: Eight Miles Broken on the Morning Run

Today I successfully broke through the eight mile barrier for my morning run, and it felt great.

Map

Course Selection

I had to run the final 1/2 mile or so by double backing on myself and re-covering a part of the course that I had already run through so it is clear that I am reaching the limits of the current track I am following (albeit broadly) that goes from one end of town to another (this is a crude approximation but more or less accurate). This means that in order to keep the route stimulating and interesting to run (I hate doing laps of a course unless running with a friend) I need to choose a new one, and I think I will now use my previous long weekend run as a template. I will need to add some distance to it as I will lose around two miles due to my starting from a location other than home, so I will just have to busk it from eight miles onward and see how it goes.

I think also that I may be reaching the sensible limits of a daily run. I do not want to overtrain, nor do I want to spend half of my time running since I have work to do and a family. I am still looking to really hammer the road on Saturdays so I am hoping that by the end of February I will be pushing marathon-like distances for that. Right now it is fun to see how far I can safely go and whilst I am still only a “short distance, long distance” runner as yet I do have one eye on life beyond the London Marathon and the mysterious world of ultra running. Time will tell as to whether that is a realistic target for a 39 year old chap from a northern mill town in the UK. What I do know right now is that to hit the sort of distances I am aiming for I cannot just run around the town. The place simply is not big enough, so I find myself looking for new road courses. The university at which I am reading for a masters degree is around 21.5 miles away, so it is worth me considering aiming to run home from my lectures. With summer coming the long nights may well make that a worthy prospect, however I worry that I may not be up to that distance before semester end, I will have to wait and see whether or not I can hit that target in time.

The Five Most Annoying People at the Swimming Pool

Returning to the pool for the first time in a few years brought it all flooding back. Every annoying wazzock I ever came across there suddenly came to the forefront of my mind so I have compiled my top five. Call this venting if you like but I find it cathartic to berate these people.

Here are my top five annoying idiots found at the swimming pool.

1. The Over Extender

Because I returned to the pool last night for the first time in ages I knew that I was unlikely to be up to much, so I did drills of four lengths and called it a day after 500 metres. I’ll soon be up to speed. The Over Extender cannot do that. You see, he (and it always is a he) is a similar age to me (39) and also has not swum much recently, but he cannot admit it to himself. So, rather than pacing himself and gently easing back into it sensibly he instead hurtles along, front crawl for one and a half laps and then spends the rest of his time pretending that he is doing some strange interval swim. That is the only way he can cover up the fact that he has exerted himself far too hard, has probably pulled something and so he keeps doing single laps to prove he still has it.

You don’t need to do anything about this guy. He is already hurt and it is a matter of time until he has to stop.

2. The Fast Lane Zombie

The first of two idiots who blockade the fast lane, Fast Lane Zombie is a man or woman who clearly cannot swim fast by any measure, yet insists on hogging the fast lane. They also are completely oblivious to other swimmers getting annoyed at having to wait for them because they don’t let you go before them – something I personally am happy to do when faced with someone clearly in a different league to me. I hate you not because you’re slow, but because you’re too dense to observe the world around you and adapt to make life easy for all. It is a communal pool after all.

Zombie is best dealt with  by swimming around them and splashing them. Glaring or even not-so-subtle hints do not crack their thick skulls. They’re completely clueless.

3. Two by Two

Two by Two are like the Binars from Star Trek: The Next Generation. They do everything together, at least in and around the pool. They swim on both sides of the lane so that nobody can get through and they talk incessantly. They talk when they swim. They talk when they rest. They talk when they get out. They talk in the showers. They talk on the way out. All the while they are in my way. No human being can possibly have the need to talk non-stop for hours like that.

The best way to deal with them is via the lifeguard, otherwise you get a tantrum.

4. Sista Doing it for Herself

I can already hear legions of feminist attack dogs being primed for this one but I don’t care. Sista Doing it for Herself is the one I hate the most. She is a slow swimmer in the fast lane and she isn’t letting you through under ANY circumstances, even though you’re obviously a lot faster than she is. Why? Because you’re a man, and the one thing she has had drummed into her for decades is to concede NOTHING to a man. She won’t let you through, she won’t let you pass, she won’t admit that you’re a better swimmer than she is, she won’t go in the slow lane where she belongs and she won’t respond well to even the most polite request to be reasonable and let the other swimmers flow more easily, because screw you Mr Male.

There is no point reasoning with her. She is doing it for the cause. The only way to deal with her is to get in front, splash her as much as possible and hopefully drive her out of the lane with an “accidental” kick in the face. She will usually clear off after that.

5. Doggy Paddler

The final one is a strange one. There are people, and Doggy Paddler is the worst, who swim on one side in the lane. By which I mean; rather than swing the body sideways to breathe a la front crawl, they swim the entire time on one side of their bodies. It is very strange and it makes them very difficult to navigate around because they are unaware of the world on the other side. These people really should not be lane swimming. They don’t need to. If they swim in the regular pool they will be no worse off, but lane swimmers have to constantly dodge them and try to get them to consider others but they don’t. They are best off ignored where possible.

Achievement Unlocked: Seven Miles Broken on the Morning Run

Today I broke through seven miles on the morning run. After running, cycling and swimming yesterday I expected to suffer a little bit on this one but I seemed to find the strength and stamina to complete this run with relative ease. Put that down to good shoes and clothing, training properly and safely (including warming up, warming down and stretching off well) and good nutrition. I have yet to say a great deal about food but I will at some point.

Map

I am hoping that I can push for eight miles tomorrow and then on my long endurance run on Saturday I would quite like to break a half marathon. I am harbouring ambitions at the back of my mind and one is to complete the 2017 London Marathon. I am certainly on track in terms of improving my distances. I think the key for this will be mental strength and that has yet to be tested to that distance. Right now I feel pretty confident.