Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Where's my mojo?

This week I got back into the stride of running after taking a four day break. On Saturday the weather was great, a hot summer day (although a little windy). I had lunch with my brother and his wife (Satpal & Parm) and then we watched the Nissan Qasqui Challenge (Mountain Biking Freeride competition) by the Tate Modern (art museum) in London.

Mountain Biking - without mountains or fear!!!

Look Ma! No hands!!!

Urm look Ma! No bike!!!!

It was a nice change from running - I do miss the mountain biking. Hopefully I'll get to do a couple of days in Vail after the TRR with Satpal, since Satpal and Parm will be coming to Colorado to cheer us on at the finish line. Currently though I have to contend myself with looking at bike magazines as I cannot take the risk of injuring myself through a mountain bike crash (I'm not very safe and steady!!!).

We were supposed to run on Monday (bank holiday here in the UK) but it rained bucket loads. I do enjoy running in the rain, but I find it difficult to motivate myself to go out if it's raining from the off. It was a pretty grim day - more like November than May so we took the time to do sort out our finances. The course Jo had been on for the past four days was Wealth Mastery designed by Anthony Robbins. Jo and I have always been pretty poor at organising our finances, and we spend money like it's going out of fashion :( But after the course Jo came home with a new found determination to get the house in order and, maybe for once, for us to live within our means. So it was a pretty constructive day - but once you sit down and write down the numbers you are amazed at how much running costs you, over the year (especially when you take into account event entry fees). I suspect running supplies are considerably cheaper in the USA but as per usual we do get ripped off here in the UK with most running tops and shorts costing $50 each and trainers costing in the region of $130 a all adds up :(

I've kind of started a running club at work - running on Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes (probably why I felt I'd overdone it!). Anyway, I found none of the gang were around to run on Tuesday so decided to do a long run on my own. I decided to do a 12km loop, via the Regent's Canal, Limehouse, St Katharine Docks (home) and then back to Bishopsgate by Liverpool Street Station (work). I felt great almost immediately into the run. For once I was running with my iPod on and the shuffle was picking some great tunes. I did run a little fast, as per my usual "struggling to control my pace when running on my own" pace, but it was nice to shake off the cobwebs. Also it was a bit hot - especially since I had judged the weather by the previous day's grimness and gone running with an extra layer. Anyway, not much to tell regarding the run, but there was an incident which still bugs me....

As I was running along the canal I saw a man (probably about 65-70 years old) minding his own business, sitting by the canal and having a sandwich. As I was approaching the man ahead of me was a group of about 5 schools kids (it's half-term holidays at the moment) ranging in age from about 13 to 16. Most of the kids were pretty big but there was one small weed of a kid, and he approached the old guy from behind (unnoticed) and gave him a light but pretty disrespectful slap on the back of his head. The guy looked pretty shocked, and so was I.

The news in London these days is dominated by the yob culture in our youth today. Stabbings in London are becoming more and more common. It seems to be a common theme - kids torment society, someone stick up for themselves or others and then they are either kicked or stabbed to death. Sometimes gangs go on the rampage just so they can film it on their mobiles and laugh about it later. The police seem to be powerless to do anything about it (until there's an actual death involved) - they catch the yobs, send them to the courts and the courts slap their wrist and send them back out (to brag to their friends about how they beat the system).

Apart from giving the kid a pretty disgusted look I did nothing. In that moment I weighed up the situation and decided it was in my (and the man's) interest if I did not escalate the incident by confronting the evil brat. Also, I suspect, it's part of the British upbringing which encourages us to mind our own business. I should have at the very least told the kid off. No doubt part of it was fear, in case the kids carried knives. Although the news is littered with stories of people doing the right thing just before being beaten or stabbed to death I think, with hindsight, I think I made the wrong decision. Fear and conditioning are not an excuse - I should have confronted the yob. It may not have achieved anything but it would have been the right thing to do. We're all worm food at the end of the day - we enter the world with innocence and can only leave it with pride, so I think it's important to do the right thing irrespective of the consequences.

At the very least I should have asked the guy if he was okay - if anything it would have put him at ease.

Also, as Jo pointed out (when we discussed it later that day) I am a pretty big guy. I often "forget" how large and intimidating I can be. I wasn't particularly large as a kid - I shot up in height at the age of about sixteen. I've also been pretty skinny, until after I was 25 when work took over and I stopped playing tennis and football - then I got considerably heavier. Then over the years in my battle to get fit I piled on muscle rather than losing fat. I think the first time I ever realised I was "big" was when playing football one of the very large defenders on my team referred to me as "the big guy" - up until then I had always considered myself to be the skinny winger!! Doh!

Anyway - so there you have it...hopefully it wont happen again, but if something similar happens again then I'm committing myself to a different action next time.

Moving on, Jo and I ran on Wednesday morning. It's usually our 21km run before work, but we've decided it's too much. Doing a half-marathon before work was initially a confidence booster but now it's just wearing us out (especially getting up at 5am), so we've reverted back to doing 15km instead. We still found it hard though - it did make me wonder when would I get my running mojo back.

On Thursday morning Jo and I were pretty tired, but scheduled to run 12km at a hard (DPT) pace. I even gave Jo and opt-out; "We can run tomorrow instead", but we were up and awake by then so she wasn't about to cop out :(

In the end it was a great run, the pace was consistently fast and afterwards, after the run, I felt really great. Now that I've found my running mojo I'm looking forward to this weekend's runs....think Saturday is going to be a mammoth run ;)

Going forward, things begin to get a little harder from next week. We enter the "Strength & Pace Training" phase. Basically we step up to six runs a week (from five currently) which isn't so bad since we have had the odd week where we have had only one rest day already. The hard part is the fact that we will start doing interval training (to build strength and pace), but we've got to this point gradually. We've had over 15 weeks of training to get here and I'm not so worried/scared of intervals - I might even be looking forward to them!

We're not bothered about our pace, but if we improve our pace and strength then hopefully we've be able to overcome the things we cannot train for effectively here in London, the terrain (i.e. inclines) and the altitude.

As George pointed out though, in his comment recently, it's the miles under our feet that matter, the adrenaline will help with the rest when it comes to the actual event. So if we find the intervals and the high intensity runs are wrecking us then we'll just have a rethink and get back to slow long runs.

With regard to the altitude, sometime ago I did mention we were getting an altitude/mountain air generator; a hypoxic trainer. I know it seems a bit of an overkill - but my eyes always light-up when I discover a new training gadget/aid. I remember I started using a Polar HR Monitor back in the early 1990s, well before most people in the UK had even heard of them - I remember most of my 5-a-side football crowd looking at me like I had grown a 2nd head. I like to think I'm a bit of a trendsetter, so maybe in years to come these hypoxic trainers will be as common as heart rate trainers ;)

Well, anyway, we've been using the hypoxic trainer for almost three weeks now. Initially the aim was to sleep in an altitude tent. The problem with that was that Higher Peak cannot supply the "tent", the patent is held by a company called Hypoxio. I thought I'd get the hypoxic trainer from Higher Peak (as it worked out about $3000 shipped into the UK compared to the $8000 for the Hypoxio trainers - it's exactly the same hardware!!) and then get the "tent" from Hypoxio. Hypoxio, however, refuse to sell the "tent" to anyone who doesn't have one of their trainers. They even claimed any altitude generator I may have purchased from anyone else was a "pirate" and effectively "stolen property" - personally I think charging $8000 for something, when others supply it for $3000, is day-light robbery.

Portable mountain anyone?

Anyway - I tried making a "tent" myself (they don't have to be air-tight), but we found it got a bit hot sleeping in an enclosed space and Jo found it a bit claustrophobic. In the end we decided to just try sleeping with the oxygen masks supplied with the trainers. It was uncomfortable initially but I think we're getting used to them now. The trainer comes with guidelines as to what altitude to set it to, basically a mini-training plan. Now we've entered week three we've set it to 9000 feet. Apparently the first four weeks are really just for acclimatisation and then we should notice the improvements (as it takes new red blood cells about 3 weeks to mature hence provide our body with the oxygen transporting improvements). Jo's pretty certain that her breathing had improved a lot recently and I'm inclined to agree. We'll know more when we start doing the interval training and we'll definitely know at the end of June when we spend a week on holiday in the Swiss Alps...

One thing I'm sure this hardware does is to work my body a little while I sleep - I think that slight gain in heart rate should translate to a bit more of a fat calorie burn. Either way I hit a big milestone in my weight loss goals yesterday, so expect a posting on my journey so far on losing weight through fat loss very soon.

Anyway, feel free to post comments on your weight loss goals as well as any information on how you hope to train for and overcome the issue of altitude. It would be nice to hear from some of our readers from around the world - especially those, who have so far remained silent, from Australia, New Zealand and mainland Europe....I know you're out there and you've been reading the blog ;)

Week 16 Summary (19/05/2008 - 25/05/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 4:15
Running: 2x, 40.52km (25.0 miles)
Longest Run: 23.00km (14.2 miles)

Expended: 2825
Consumed: 2880 (Fat 37%, Carbs 39%, Protein 18%, Alcohol 5%)

Weight: 90.0kg
Body Fat(%): 21.0

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Rubber Band

For me, the mental and physical exertion related to running is akin to stretching a rubber band. Let me see if I can explain....

Have you ever trekked up a hill and at half way just craved a bit of flat land to stand on - somewhere you can ease the constant pressure on your leg muscles. It's the same as when you snowboard (or ski) you get to a point where you just want to take the weight off your calves - especially when on a snowboard you are cutting across a very gradual slope; you move slowly but if you stop you lose the little momentum that you have, but the constant pressure on your calf muscles begins to gnaw at your mind. Sometimes sitting down isn't the solution, you don't actually want to rest, you just want the legs to be able to stand still without feeling a strain. It's more of a mental thing.

Well, for me, running is like that. When you run slowly the pressure on the rubber band is minor - and it doesn't bother you at all. As you keep running eventually the pressure builds on the rubber band. Certainly if you go faster then the pressure really builds. As the tension of the rubber band builds the more you notice it - it cuts through your psyche such that eventually you cannot ignore it. Sometimes you cannot bear the pressure anymore, even when you run at slow speed and the tension isn't great. It's just constant pressure which irritates. It's your mental strength that keeps you goings, eventually you just have to stop and have a break from the incessant pressure. Sometimes the pressure builds and builds and then the rubber band snaps. This is when you cannot run anymore, not another step - a deeper desire to end it and go home. When the rubber band breaks then you know you've definitely overdone it.

Even though we weren't running too fast on Wednesday I still, almost, could not handle the tension of the rubber band. Only two kilometres into our 15km run at DPT level (up to 90% HR Max level, hence 9 out of 10 in effort) I wanted to stop, even though at that point we were only just warming up. If I wasn't running with Jo then I'm not sure what I would have done...maybe I would have walked, maybe I would have quit and gone home, or more likely I wouldn't have run in the first place. Jo think that I would have been fine even if she wasn't there - as she thinks I have pretty strong mental strength. When you first take up running it is this mental strength that you lack - physically you can do it but mentally you cannot handle any kind of pressure for longer than 20 or 30 minutes (probably because most people spend 20 to 30 minutes on gym equipment at a time).

The strange thing is that I looked down at my heart rate monitor and my HR was below 130. I guess this is what they call being "heart tired" - your legs are fine but your heart just doesn't feel up to beating faster to make your legs go faster. I'd noticed this recently - how I was struggling to get my heart rate did not seem to reflect the amount of perceived effort. Maybe the heart is fine, maybe the perceived effort gauge is wrong because mentally I'm tired which in turn is affecting my mental strength.

At one point in our run we began catching up to a runner that had overtaken us - this spurred me on and seem to kick-start my heart rate, making it go to the next level. Things became a bit more manageable, mentally, after that, but it was still hard.

I've never considered that under-training would be a problem for us. When Jo and I train together we always drive each other on and whatever I put into our training plan Jo pretty much just accepts. It's over-training that I've always known would be a problem.

When you over-train then it's not just an issue of picking up injuries; there are other and potentially worse symptoms. When you over-train your sleep suffers, you become irritable and worst of all you lose your enthusiasm for training. I know I haven't been sleeping well lately and I have been a little grumpy (especially around Jo). Also, I've really lacked the drive to run, since about Saturday. I also find that when I am mentally exhausted I am more likely to succumb to bad eating habits. On Thursday I almost had a Subway sandwich for lunch but managed to resist.

So in conclusion I'm pretty sure that I have over-trained (either that or my lazy alter ego has re-surfaced!), so I'm going to take a few days break. Jo's on a course from Thursday to Sunday (which is why we moved Wednesday and Thursdays runs to Tuesday and Wednesday instead, hence losing the Tuesday rest day - which couldn't have helped). The days are going to be long for her and she wont be able to train. I could train in her absence but I've decided not to - I'm taking this opportunity to have a break.

If I really want to run (i.e. I have my motivation back) then I will run - but not if the desire to run is fuelled by some inner guilt at missing a run or two. So no running for four days - wow, you have no idea how relieved that makes me feel.

[Edit: Some of you have asked how my tooth is after my little episode with pain. The course of antibiotics has cleared up the infection and the pain. So now I'm pain free, but seeing the specialist at the dentists on the 6th of June for a long term fix to the problem - which will hurt my wallet instead :( Thanks for asking.]

Week 15 Summary (12/05/2008 - 18/05/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 10:27
Running: 7x, 97.12km (60.3 miles)
Longest Run: 25.30km (15.7 miles)

Expended: 3486
Consumed: 2415 (Fat 38%, Carbs 41%, Protein 21%, Alcohol 0%)

Weight: 90.8kg
Body Fat(%): 20.5

HRrest: 46
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Paved with gold

I was going to do a posting on the substantial amount of weight I have lost so far this year as a result of our training, but that posting will have to wait. Instead I'd like to talk about something that's been bugging me for quite a while - and it was especially the case on yesterday morning's run.

The streets of London are indeed paved with gold - but it does not stinks...of urine. I'm probably exaggerating a bit, but I challenge anyone to walk one kilometre in London without coming across the smell of urine. On my two kilometre walk to work I usually pass about three urine hotspots - the underpass at Aldgate is particularly "nice"...I end up holding my breath for the 30 metres it takes to pass.

All this because London has very very few public toilets. The problem becomes even worse outside business working hours, as once the pubs and restaurants are closed then there are considerably less toilet facilities available. On our run along the river, from Tower Bridge to Chelsea Harbour (a distance of about 12 kilometres) there are five public toilets. The first of these consists of an Automated Public Toilet:

The advantage these have is that they are 24x7 (unless they are broken). They cost 20 pence. I've never ever used one of these toilets - I don't trust an automatic door on a toilet. It's a stupid idea! I've seen the Aldgate toilet with it's door open - and a bloke trying to hide his face as his arse was in plain view while he was doing his "business". I assume the door was faulty or his money ran out!

The 2nd public toilet along the route is by Blackfriars Bridge - it is rarely open. I think it works on a 9am to 5pm weekday only basis. It too charges 20 pence. The 3rd public toilet is brilliant - it's at Embankment. It's open from 7:30am to 11pm, seven days a week - and it is free and clean (because it is staffed). Brilliant. The 4th public toilet is at Westminster Underground Station - these seems to be open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday only. They charge 50 pence (yup - one whole dollar to "spend a penny" - bargain!!!). The final public toilets are a further 6 kilometres away at the start of Lots Road in Chelsea (in the Lots Road Park) - and they are free and clean. They seem to be open from about 8am to 6pm, seven days a week.

And that's it. Five public toilets (which are rarely open) along one of the main tourist routes in London. And it get's much worse if you head East from Tower Bridge - the first public toilet is 4 kilometres away, at Canary Wharf (and it's rarely open).

If you were homeless would you bother paying 20 to 50 pence for the use of a toilet - or would you just do your "business" on the pavement? In the middle of the night when there are no public toilets open would you walk all the way to your not-so-near Automated Public Toilet (which costs 20 pence) or would you just use the pavement? There's lots of homeless people in London. Also add to that the drunks from the bars and clubs on their way home - at which time the public toilets have closed. I think you now have a better understanding of how London's streets are "paved".

Surely there's plenty of retails establishments that people can pop into to use their toilets? Well, let me tell you about a conversation I overheard on Monday. It was in my gym, Fitness First. They had a handy man in to fix their doors. He was at reception:
"Could you tell me where your toilets are?"
"Urm, actually, they're out of order today."
"Yes, sorry."
"Ok. Can you tell me where you go when you need to use the toilet?"
"Urm, they're out of order"
"So, there's no where for you to go?"
"Urm, let me just go and check"
The receptionist then went and asked the manager if it was okay for the handy man to use the gym's toilets. He came back and gave him the direction to the changing rooms (which contain perfectly working toilets).

It was quite ironic that I heard that conversation because let me tell you what happened yesterday morning. The run was a long 21 kilometre slow run (i.e. half-marathon). It was an early start - waking up at 5am and heading out at 5:30am. About 45 minutes into the run I needed a toilet - now rest assured being a man if it was just a case of needed a pee then I would have just done it against a obviously we're talking about a "number two" here! My nearest public toilet was 3 kilometres away (at Lots Road) so I just had to "contain" myself and carry on. When we got to Lots Road the toilets were closed - I think it was about 6:40am. We knew there was a Shell Petrol Station another few minutes into Chelsea, so we headed to that. I went inside and found that their customer toilets were "out of order". So I began a conversation with the member of staff:
"Excuse me, are there any other toilets"
"No, sorry they are out of order."
"So, where do you go if you need a toilet"
"The toilets are out of order and I don't have a key for them."
"Yes, but if you needed to go where would you go?"
"I'm going home soon" (!)
"Earlier, if you needed to go where could you go?"
"Sorry I cannot help you"
"Look, I know you've got a staff toilet. I'll give you a pound if you let me use it."
"No, sorry I cannot help you."
It was obvious they had a staff toilet but he must have felt I was going to trash them or something. It was too much effort for him to be a decent human being and let me use them.

So we carried on running (back towards home/work). Eventually (6 kilometres later) we got to Westminster. The public toilets were closed. It was probably about 7:30am. So we carried on running. Finally I managed to use the public toilets at Embankment.

Is this really how a major developed and wealthy city should treat the most basic of it's peoples needs? What do they expect the public to do? Personally I would introduce a law that forced retails establishments to make their toilets available to anyone (maybe for a small charge, say 20 pence) and I would ensure there are plenty of free 24x7 public toilets available throughout the city. I know it costs money to staff public toilets 24x7 but how much do we end up spending cleaning urine and faeces from London's pavements.

And what price the impression tourists get when they walk those golden pavements?

Anyway, rant over. I think I'll write to Boris (our new London Mayor) and see if I can get a response from him. Otherwise maybe I'll run for mayor in 4 years - you never know, I may even win...stranger things have happened before! ;)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Thought I'd give Sat a bit of respite and do a posting of my own which is probably long overdue.

I guess Sat's covered most of it but I wanted to share my perspective on things as I really think we've taken a step up in our training and overall level of fitness. This is borne out by a couple of key events. The first was the bank holiday weekend at the beginning of this month.

Having set ourselves the challenge of a run every day over the 3 days with a marathon sandwiched in the middle of them wasn't something I'd have ever thought possible after I'd completed the London marathon 2 years ago. Back then I never wanted to run again. I'd only started running because I'd secured a place through the ballot we held at work to run for The Outward Bound Trust. I didn't enjoy the training, I moaned practically the whole way through the race to Sat and then suffered terribly from dehydration once it was all over and continued to suffer for the next few days as well. So a stint of nearly 70km the other week was a significant achievement from my point of view.

What was different you might ask. In my view, our mindset has a lot to do with it. We've certainly developed our mental toughness over the last few months and this can be attributed to the fact we spur each other on and have confidence in our own and each other's ability to achieve whatever goals we set ourselves.

Plus continuing to run after the London marathon also helped. Admittedly we weren't doing 26-milers anymore but I developed a taste for 5kms and entered several races last year. My best placing was in the Women's British 5km (held on the same day as the London 10km which Sat entered) last July.

I'm a firm believer that all relationships which we encounter in life happen for a reason. And on that Sunday morning of the race I got chatting with another race entrant and we hung out together until the start of the race. During our conversation it transpired she'd actually won the event the previous year and was hoping to retain her title. With this knowledge, I figured she knew a thing or two about successful racing so I asked her for any tips which would help me achieve a personal best. "I know there are conflicting views on this, but go out as fast as you can and try and maintain that pace. Even if you slow down it'll still be faster than you expect" was the advice she gave me.

So with that in mind, we stood at the start line together and that was about the last I saw of her as the starter gun went off and she disappeared into the distance. I set off as fast as I could, which compared to the leaders must've looked like I was in slow motion. The majority of the race was fairly enjoyable, especially when I overtook anyone but the final half km seemed to take an eternity. The race finished in Whitehall and looped back on itself - it was the longest 2oom I'd ever encountered (seems daft in hindsight but that's how it felt).

Crossing the finish line I was pleased to see my new found friend waiting to congratulate me. Unfortunately she didn't manage to win, but came a commendable second - I later learned her name was Jennifer Jenks. I never really got a chance to thank her for the advice she gave to me so I'd like to take this opportunity to do so. We should always try to look to experts for things we want to achieve in life. They do these things well so we should learn from them. In case you're wondering, I came 31st out of a field of a couple of hundred. I was pretty chuffed.

Anyway, back to the other key recent event...well, that was actually just this morning. The training plan has upped the ante and it was now 20km instead of the more customary 15km. Not much in it we thought, and that's completely true. We approached it in pretty much the same way as any usual early morning pre-work run, the only difference was we got up at 5am to ensure we had enough time without having to rush. Felt good to be out earlier than usual. The roads and streets were quieter and it was also quite cool so I was glad to have worn an extra layer.

Had the iPod on low, got into our stride quite quickly and all was right with the world. At around 7km I got a stitch. Thought I'd keep it to myself and run it off. Communication in the Sandhu household is usually pretty good but on this occasion, I hadn't actually read Sat's last posting with the advice on how to get rid of a stitch. Fortunately mine wasn't for shifting so I mentioned it to him. He immediately sprang into solution mode and told me what I needed to do. I duly complied and lo and behold, it actually worked. After just a couple of minutes the stitch had eased and I was having a great run again.

Maybe it was cos it was early morning but we hadn't twigged that our 20km run would be just one short of a half marathon until we were 10km or so into it. We figured it'd be quite an achievement to do a half marathon so carried on a little further on our river route before heading back to ensure we did a full 21km.

By the time I'd got to work I was absolutely buzzing. I was so adrenalin-charged with the fact I'd run a half marathon before work I was really energised. That buzz has kept me going all day. When I think back to those early days of our London marathon training, 13 miles before breakfast on a weekday would have filled me with horror. How times change. I'm already looking forward to the next one! Bring it on...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Week 14 Summary (05/05/2008 - 11/05/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 9:44
Running: 5x, 83.57km (51.6 miles)
Longest Run: 30.50km (18.8 miles)

Expended: 3340
Consumed: 2416 (Fat 33%, Carbs 42%, Protein 18%, Alcohol 7%)

Weight: 92.8kg
Body Fat(%): 20.0
HRrest: 46
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Monday, 12 May 2008

Inspiration on the run

Last week was pretty good as training weeks go. We both managed to do all our runs, clocking in a total distance of about 83km (50 miles).

Wednesday's morning run was extra special. As we approached the Houses of Parliament we saw another runner, with a prosthetic limb (a "blade" to be exact). He was pretty damn fast - probably about twice as fast as Jo and I (at least). He gave us a wave and a smile and carried on. Jo commented that it put into perspective any pain or discomfort we may be feeling during our run. We carried on running and then he caught us up as we waited at the Vauxhall Bridge traffic lights (about 2 kilometres later) - and we got chatting. He was very friendly - a very positive character with an easy smile. He had run the London Marathon a few weeks ago - his target had been to run sub-three hours....he had been well on target at the half-way mark but a blister on his limb had slowed him down. He finished the marathon in 3 hours and 14 minutes. The guy's name was Abdifatah Dhulolow; we managed to find out more about him on the Internet.

To cut a long story short. He came to the UK as a refugee in 1998 and in 2004, after complications with his leg (injured during the Somalia civil war), he had his leg amputated. So about the time that Jo and I began our running - this man was embarking on a much tougher battle, learning to walk (and run) with an artificial leg. It puts it all into perspective, doesn't it?

Thursday's run was a stop-start affair because Jo got a stitch a few kilometres into the run. The inner organs hangs from several ligaments attached to the diaphragm, the muscular "plate" between chest and abdomen. Liver, spleen, stomach, small intestine and colon form a weight of several kilograms, hanging from the diaphragm. The impact of every step forces the inner organs to move downwards. Additionally, the diaphragm moves upwards on every expiration to force air out of the lungs. This continuous up/down stress may cause cramp in the diaphragm, i.e. a stitch. A stitch occurs most often on the right hand side because of the liver being the heaviest organ, and therefore the one stressing the diaphragm the most.

We tried stopping several times, and Jo also tried leaning forward to ease the pressure on the diaphragm, but it was to no avail. The stitch kept coming back.

In future we should try a more advanced approach. We need to synchronise the breathing pattern with our running, and exhale when the foot on the non-hurting side touches the ground, i.e. when you have stitch in your right hand side, try to exhale when your left foot touches the ground. By keeping this breathing pattern the diaphragm moves downward at the same time as the liver, hence decreasing the stress.

After the half-way point on the run Jo needed to adjust her rucksack as it was rubbing at the top, against the back of her neck. By adjusting it down (so that most of the weight was on her hips) we seemed to have eased her stitch considerably - hence the 2nd half of the run was considerably faster.

Also on Thursday I began to have problems with a toothache which is still plaguing me with problems as I type - saw the dentist yesterday. Apparently I have an infection - so I'll be on antibiotics for a week and then in a few weeks time I can expect some canal work (the root canal type, as opposed to the Regent's canal!). Better get myself mentally prepared for the pain (physical and to my wallet!). Anyway - the outcome of the toothache being that my sleep was badly affected for the past few days but we stuck to the running schedule. Now, however, I'm feeling pretty tired and sleepy - I suspect that's a side-effect of the medication (and possibly the start of the hay fever season!).

Over the weekend we decided to mix socialising with our training. When you're training for a big event like the TransRockies it's easy to get self-absorbed with the training and end up with no or little time for friends and family - we want to ensure we still make time for family and friends. My brother, Satpal, and his wife, Parm, live in Camberley (it's about 35 miles South-West of London - about an hour or so drive from the centre of London). We decided to catch a train to Guildford (about 25 miles south of London, also about an hours drive from Central London) and then to run to my brother's place (a distance of about 30 kilometres/19 miles via the route we picked).

The aim was to run to Satpal's, go out for a meal, stay the night, run locally on Sunday morning and then catch a train home. So on Saturday morning we had breakfast and packed our rucksacks with plenty of fluid, a change of clothing, an extra running kit for Sunday and toiletries (which in my case was just a toothbrush, whereas in Jo's case it was considerably more!!). We caught the train to Guildford and were off an running at about 10:15am.

We left Guildford via the canal, heading south (Camberley is North-West of Guildford) to join the North Downs Way (a well marked walk in the chain of little hills just south of London called the North Downs). Then we ran along the North Downs Way - heading West. It was a brilliant path - soft underfoot (sometimes a little too soft, i.e. sand) and with great scenery. It was very peaceful, apart from the other (very friendly) walkers, runners or mountain bikers. It was also very hilly which suited us perfectly as we need to get some hill training in. It was in fact amazing how much the hills impacted us - hence shows there's no room for complacency in our training.

We initially tried to run for five kilometres and then have a walking break but this was too long a run section in what was turning out to be a very hot day (in the mid to high 20s I reckon), so we opted to do four kilometres and then have a walking break - we stuck to that for most of the run but we did also have quite a few stops to check the maps as we were unsure of the route (neither one of us had ever been down this leg of the North Downs Way).

At a village called Seale we left the North Downs Way and headed north. We crossed the Hogs Back to Ash and picked up another canal heading north towards Frimley. Years ago (about 15 years to be precise) I used to work in Frimley - so for me it was a bit of a trip down memory lane.

Eventually we left the canal (just before Deepcut) and headed north to Camberley. We arrived at my brother's place some four hours after we set out...about 30 minutes later than we had hoped. I indulged in a beer (or two) and we chilled out and had a lovely lunch in the garden. Later we went for a nice meal and then we on the Nintendo was a perfect day.

On Sunday we went out for a 10km run with Satpal - let's just say it was considerably harder than our usual runs (because of the hills and the pace). We rewarded ourselves with a pub lunch. All in all a superb weekend

I woke up on Monday and my body was aching...not from the running, but rather from playing on the Wii. I think it was mainly the Wii Sports Boxing...that opponent just wouldn't stay down, no matter how many times I knocked him down (but I, deservedly, won on a points decision)!!!! ;)

Thursday, 8 May 2008

African Safari

Africa? Safari? What on earth am I on about I hear you ask!? (listens....silent tumble weed drifts past!!) Maybe I've been in the sun too long, but let me explain....

Last week was an "easy week". Rest is as important as training - especially when the training spans a long period (seven months in our case), so we've put a few easy weeks into our training plan to give our bodies a chance to recover. Rest allows the body to catch up with the ongoing repairs it's struggling to keep up with. It's better to actually have planned rest or easy weeks otherwise you end up only having a rest when it's too late (i.e. you're knackered and come down with a "man" flu). Last week's rest period should have consisted of shorter easier runs, but instead we totally skipped our Wednesday (15k BT1) and Thursday (12k DPT) runs hence giving us four full days of activity free bliss! :)

We made up for it at the weekend though....

On Saturday we did our usual 15k easy run along the Thames. The weather has finally turned - it is now officially spring (or even summer) :)

On Sunday we decided to run a marathon (42k/26miles) - well it seemed like the right thing to do at the time!! We chose to run along the same route I took last weekend (along the Regent's Canal to Camden and, this time, beyond). It wasn't as enjoyable as the previous week's solo adventure - that was down to a number of factors; It wasn't as hot and sunny (although the weather was ideal running weather - it was nice, but I prefer it hot!!). Having run the most of the route last week it no longer had that feeling of discovery that keeps your mind off the running and relaxed. Most of the people on the towpath were all (typically) grumpy Londoners. And finally Jo wasn't (initially) in a good mental state (let's just say she too was a little grumpy!!!).

We struggled to find the right pace to run's not often that it happens but every now and then Jo and I find our natural/comfortable pace is different to each others - Sunday was just one of those days. We saw a couple of swans with a dozen or so cygnets - that lifted our spirits a bit and helped us relax. Most of the run to Camdem was pretty uneventful. For the first time in ages we ended up having walking breaks - to be honest there's nothing wrong with walking breaks, in fact I think we should plan in walking breaks into our long runs. If you are forced to walk because you're tired it can get a bit demoralising (and then it becomes too easy to switch to a walk whenever the going gets tough), whereas if you walk because you planned to then it just becomes a nice welcome break - leaving you rested and recovered to run the next leg. Anyway - we walked most of the overland section of the Islington tunnel but then picked it up a bit for the run into Camden.

Oh to find a route that skips Camden!!!

Camden wasn't as busy as last week - but it still took a good ten minutes to negotiate past the 50 yards or so of the market (and the wonderful smelling food) and to continue on past (to new uncharted territory). The run got more enjoyable past Camden.

The Regent's Canal runs right through Regent's Park - no surprise there, but we found it also runs right through London Zoo (based in the park). Wow! One minute we're running along enjoying the greenery of the park and the next minute we're running through the Africa section in London Zoo. We could see African Wild Dogs and Red River Hogs on our left and a massive bird aviary on the right. Cool, not something you see everyday while out running, is it!?

Where's the barbecue when you need one!???

Thought it was a bit cruel teasing these poor doggies with the Red River Hogs in the pen next to them!!

It was a bit of a shame to continue running and leave Regent's Park, but I was looking forward to seeing "Little Venice" in Maida Vale. It was a massive disappointment. Initially the towpath became restricted so that bikes were no longer allowed - which I don't approve off (even though the bikes get in our way when we're running, being an avid mountain biker it angers me as to how little London - and the UK in general - provides for cyclists). And then it got worse - the towpath (at Little Venice) become a private access only path for moored boat owners only - walkers/runners/cyclists had to move off onto adjoining roads and their pavements. That wouldn't be so bad but the pavement was wide enough for a anorexic catwalk model on a diet, while breathing in. Things like that just get my goat - surely the waterways should belong to the whole nation (and it's peoples) rather than local councils having the authority to turn them into privately owned moorings? I'm probably being a grumpy old man (again) and there was probably an accessible towpath on the other side of the canal but it's my blog and I'll be grumpy if I want to! ;)

Anyway, "Little Venice" was our half way point (21km) - although I think (having since looked at a map) it was probably short by one or so kilometres (hence we may not have done a full marathon - it's difficult to know for sure; sometimes the Polar foot pod and (especially) the Nike+ can be a bit inaccurate...I think it depends on our running pace.

The return journey was pretty uneventful but around 30km or so we tired considerably and had to have a few walking breaks. We even stopped for a well earned tea break near Mile End - there are going to be tea shops along the TransRockies route aren't there?

We picked up the pace once we got off the canal and back to the Thames. When we finished we still felt pretty good considering we'd just run a marathon. It took us considerably longer than we expected (over 5 hours) - but that's fine; we're not out to break any personal bests (although it was for Jo). Jo was in a much better state than she was in after the London Marathon a couple of years ago. I did, however, manage to aggravate the sore joint under one of my toes - but found that if I iced and massaged it then it was fine for a run the next day.

And that's exactly what we did - we ran the next day. We were supposed to do a slow 10km run but we felt so good that we picked up the pace a bit and ran a sub-one hour 10km (which is fast for us). We feel that last weekend we passed a major milestone - it's only the 2nd time in Jo's life that she's run a marathon distance (4th time for me) and certainly the first time she's ever done a run the day after a marathon (I did the British 10k the day after last years training marathon run!!).

So it was a great weekend - a big confidence booster. we're hoping to push on and do some more long distance runs in the coming weeks, but ensure we don't overdo it (or peak too soon).

Thanks for reading - and keep on running :)

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Week 13 Summary (28/04/2008 - 04/05/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 7:46
Running: 3x, 65.39km (40.6 miles)
Longest Run: 42.50km (26.4 miles)

Expended: 3076
Consumed: 2419 (Fat 35%, Carbs 49%, Protein 16%, Alcohol 1%)

Weight: 92.4kg
Body Fat(%): 21.5

HRrest: 46
HRmax: 180 (estimated)