Monday, 28 July 2008

Week 25 Summary (21/07/2008 - 27/07/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 11hrs 40mins
Running: 6x, 105.50km (65.1 miles)

Expended: 3515
Consumed: 2230 (Fat 30%, Carbs 50%, Protein 18%, Alcohol 1%)

Weight: 87.4kg
Body Fat(%): 17.5

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Sunday, 27 July 2008

The long and the short of it!

Well, the final countdown has started. Only one month to go - can't believe it's August at the end of this week. The last month has been pretty frustrating from a training perspective for me and if I'm really honest, I wondered how this would impact my performance during the actual event. It's added another dimension to the challenge as mental attitude and alternatives to running have had to play their part to ensure I could come back stronger than before. So the past week has involved focused action to get me running again.

The week started with another sports massage by the latest member of the Team Can Do Sandhu support team - Adrian at Cannons gym in Kingly St, London. In a nutshell he's mad as a brush. Adrian's a fully qualified sports masseur but also part-time actor - that's quite a unique combination when you think about it . During these sessions I never know whether to laugh at his repertoire of bad jokes or cry at the pain he's inflicting with the massage - it usually ends up a mixture of the two! It's hell at the time but he knows his stuff and definitely does a good job. Anyone still curious to find out more can see him in panto in Rochdale in December! (yes, honestly!)

Sat's already mentioned I had a doctor's appointment which we expected to result in a referral to a physio. This duly happened and on Thursday I was introduced to Emma the physio at Milligan and Hill. After many questions, prodding and measuring she concluded that the pain I'd been experiencing was due to having one leg slightly longer than the other. I'd already been aware for some time that I had been blessed with this particular condition (!) but it had never been a problem before. Seems the pressure of all the running we'd been doing had finally taken it's toll.

Fortunately the (temporary) answer was quite simple - a thick layer of cushioning in the trainer of the shorter leg. She rounded the treatment off with my first ever exposure to accupuncture. It was an odd experience and the sensation of having needles twisted gently in my leg and foot was not something I'd want to repeat too often but along with the massage, physio exercises and the trainer bolstering solution, I'm in a much better place than when I started the week.

I'm sure I'll get some stick for confessing to this but I was far happier knowing what the problem was and what to do about it rather than it being some muscular or ligament injury which would prevent me from running for the foreseeable future.

I'm seeing Hannah The Podiatrist on Tuesday and Emma The Physio again on Thursday and I guess orthotics will be the longer-term solution but in the meantime I'm running again! Anyone looking for a physio in the City of London should look up these guys as I was impressed.

After a successful trip to the gym on Friday, I figured I had nothing to lose by heading out for our regular run on Saturday. The first hour was a bit painful but seemed to wear off after that so we managed 15km in the morning and another 6km in the evening. Today we did the full 21km in one hit and this was even better than yesterday. So we've done 2 half marathons this weekend and I feel great.

Hopefully our Welsh contingent will be pleased with this posting - they'd put in a special request for more postings from me! The plan is to produce more frequent (but shorter) postings over the next couple of weeks in our final stages of training.

Jog on...

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Bearly Living...

When we entered the TransRockies Run we weren't thinking of charity or changing the world etc, but once we entered we realised it would be foolish and irresponsible not to raise some fund for worthy causes while we were at it.

Jo chose to raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Support because she knows of several people who had suffered from cancer and to whom MacMillans made a huge difference, whether to help them in their recovery or to make their final journey that little bit more bearable.

I chose to raise money for WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) because some of their causes I feel very passionately about. I'd like to focus on one of these causes in my quest for your charity if I may - bile farming. What is bile and what are it's benefits? What are the alternatives to bile farms? I guess I should answer these key questions before I condemn bile farming.

Bile contains a key ingredient called ursodeoxycholic (UDCA) - a molecular magic bullet which heals by expelling excess heat from the body. Apparently it aids in treatment for anything from flabby libidos to cancer. UDCA has been shown to work - it is thought it plays a key role in a bear's ability to hibernate. It's effects come from it's ability to keep cells alive beyond their pre-programmed lifespan (self destruction through a process called apoptosis). All animals have UDCA in their bile - it's just that bears have the highest concentration (American Black Bears coming out on top).

Before this all backfires on me and you all go out looking for the closest bear bile supplier, there are alternatives to getting UDCA from bear bile. It is possible to synthesize UDCA from scratch (but the process is complicated, hence expensive) or one could use a cheap readily available source - slaughterhouses. If you're going to kill cows, pigs and turkeys then you may as well extract UDCA from their gallbladders - this form of UDCA is available today online for as little as $13.50 a gram (much cheaper than black market, bear, bile extract). There are also herbal alternatives to UDCA that have been proved to work.

So, what's so bad about getting bile from bears?

There are two ways of getting bile from a bear, kill it or farm it; (via surgery) stick a (steel) catheter into it's gallbladder and milk it once or twice a day. Killing bears is becoming less feasible as they are now an endangered species in Asia (where bear bile demand is greatest) - the illegal killing of wild bears for their gallbladders has even spread to North America.

So, how about bear bile farming? Imagine being in a cage. Imagine that cage is so small that you can hardly turn around, sit up or stretch out. Now imagine being unlucky enough to survive...for up to fifteen years in that cage. The lucky ones (about half) die during (or soon after) surgery which is carried out by farmers who have no veterinary training. There are 7000 bears in captivity in bear bile farms in China (and another few thousand across the rest of Asia). WSPA visited one-third of these and as you can guess the behaviour of the bears was pretty much what you would expect from any living thing being kept in these atrocious cages, and many bears had infections/wounds around their catheters.

This is one of many worthy battles that WSPA fights. If you care about living in a world populated with wild animals (rather than just farmed animals or pets) then please sponsor me (link on the right).

Yes I know it would be pretty ironic if I was to get killed by a grizzly bear while we're running the TransRockies...if that happens then you have permission to laugh - but only if you've sponsored me ;)

Thanks for listening


The Journal of Life Sciences - "A Bear Market", by Julian Smith (May 17th 2007)

Consumer report on the trade in bear gall bladder and bear bile products in Singapore, by Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES)

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


It hasn't been a good few weeks.....we've been hit by the trainers worst enemy, inconsistency.

Inconsistency in our training, in our diet, and (as you can tell from my multiple blog posting) inconsistency in our blogging!!! :(

Four weeks ago Jo's leg was giving her pain, hence her training suffered - which in turn also affected my training. We tend to spur each other on, even if we're not actually running together, hence when one of us is injured or sick then the other's training is also affected. Jo has better will power than I have - I find it easier to excuse myself from training sessions when I know Jo isn't able to run! :(

Then we had our one week holiday in Switzerland, which wasn't too bad as we managed to get in quite a bit of hiking, but in a month of very little running it too stands out as a barrier to our running.

Once we returned from holiday we threw ourselves into a couple of good runs, but maybe the poor diet from the week before was now affecting us. We were both pretty tired and Jo's leg was still hurting hence we skipped another couple of planned runs.

When the weekend came we were back into the flow, although Jo's leg was still an issue, which slowed us down...hence making me feel as if we were going backwards. I'm not sure I was fully aware of how much trouble Jo's leg was giving her at this point. On the Sunday (a week ago) I felt terrible, but still headed out on a run with Jo. After a few hundred metres it was obvious I shouldn't be running, my heart rate was around 150 while we were just warming up (normally around 120-130), so I headed home while Jo continued her run, alone.

So last week was also a write off. Jo with her bad leg and me with a high temperature. Jo booked into a sports massage and I got onto the antibiotics. Jo switched to doing pool sessions instead just to keep active whereas I did sod all.

Jo's sister (Gill) and her boyfriend (Andy) were down last weekend. They have finally returned to the UK after their 6 month adventure in South America (blog link on the right). It was great to see them, and we had a great weekend. We still managed to get runs in on Saturday and Sunday - I felt great, back to normal, but Jo's leg was an issue, hence we cut Sunday's run short.

Recently our diet has been pretty poor, ever since our holiday, but on Monday we made a commitment to get back on track. I'm glad to say that after just a couple of days of healthy eating I'm feeling much better....and no longer craving chocolate (the unfortunate side-effect of a week in Switzerland).

Jo's booked in to see the doctor on Thursday so she can get referred to a's a stupid system; insurance companies insist that you are referred by a doctor, as surely there is no way that you could possibly know that you need to see a physio (!) - £10 bet that the doctor spends 1 minute listening to Jo and then says "You need to see a physio"!! Jo did see her sports masseur again yesterday - and he's confident that Jo's leg problem stems from a problem with her hip (Jo did have hip pain a week or so before the leg problem manifested itself). We'll see if the physio agrees.

I'm back to running proper distances again - in the morning before work. Yesterday I ran to work via Limehouse and the Regents Canal (i.e. 11km route, instead of the direct 2km route to work). Today I ran past Limehouse, on to Canary Wharf, back to Limehouse and picked up the Regents Canal, carried on (to Islington) past the point where I turn off to work, and then back to work...a total of 17km (10.5 miles). I'm hoping to do the same again pretty much everyday until we have to's only a month to go (YIKES!).

I have changed our training plan - I have removed interval and intensive training sessions and put back the long slow runs. It's about getting back to being confident about running the distance rather than worrying about how fast we can be.

Hopefully Jo's leg/hip get sorted soon and we manage a couple of decent weekends of running - fingers crossed.

Now than we've only got a few weeks of training left I must confess that we're getting a little nervous! :(

Week 24 Summary (14/07/2008 - 20/07/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 1hr 52mins
Running: 2x, 17.90km (11.0 miles)

Expended: 2501
Consumed: 2293 (Fat 24%, Carbs 55%, Protein 19%, Alcohol 2%)

Weight: 87.6kg
Body Fat(%): 19.0

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Week 23 Summary (07/07/2008 - 13/07/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 3hrs 41mins
Running: 3x, 34.90km (21.5 miles)

Expended: 2585
Consumed: 2403 (Fat 30%, Carbs 51%, Protein 18%, Alcohol 1%)

Weight: 88.4kg
Body Fat(%): 19.5

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Friday, 11 July 2008

Week 22 Summary (30/06/2008 - 06/07/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 16hrs 18mins
Trekking: 5x, 62.10km (38.3 miles)
Total Incline: 3150 metres (10335 feet)
Total Decline: 3350 metres (10991 feet)

Expended: 3199
Consumed: 2826 (Fat 43%, Carbs 40%, Protein 16%, Alcohol 1%)

Weight: 88.8kg
Body Fat(%): 19.5

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Week 21 Summary (23/06/2008 - 29/06/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 5hrs 42mins
Running: 2x, 13.70km (8.5 miles)
Trekking: 1x, 15.70km (9.7 miles)
Total Incline: 1625 metres (5331 feet)
Total Decline: 1000 metres (3281 feet)

Expended: 2720
Consumed: 2592 (Fat 29%, Carbs 52%, Protein 17%, Alcohol 2%)

Weight: 88.8kg
Body Fat(%): 19.5

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Sunday, 6 July 2008


We've been a bit quiet lately as we were on holiday last week. We had wonderful week of hiking in the Swiss Alps. Our intention was to get some proper mountain running in, but we found the gradients a bit too steep - doing 700 metres over a 5km distance is on average much more than we'd expect to do in the TransRockies (and those stretches in the Rockies that are this steep will also have to be trekked rather than run). Also it seemed like ages since we actually had a "holiday" rather than a "training camp" - so we eased up a little to recharge our batteries. Initially the aim was to get some altitude training in - but to be honest the hiking trails didn't go above 3000 metres hence there wasn't any noticeable oxygen depletion to test us. We did, later in the week, go up to 3700 metres - where the going was tough, but mainly due to the gradient and the thick slushy snow...the lungs seemed fine.

Below is a short summary of our achievements and adventures each day.

Saturday 28th June
Still half-asleep, we were up at 3am for our 6.20am flight from Heathrow to Zurich. With only a slight delay before take-off we were in the land of cuckoo clocks and chocolate by 9am and had plenty of time to drop our bags off at the fly-rail counter, apparently they'd follow on to the hotel behind us later in the day. In the UK, 4 separate train journeys with minutes between connections would be treated with a great deal of cynicism, the Swiss version of events, however, we a totally pleasurable experience. Zurich Airport to Lucerne, Lucerne to Interlaken Ost, Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen and finally Lauterbrunnen to Wengen all ran completely to time and the ever-changing scenery was fantastic. The climb up into the mountains was breath-taking. All in all we were in pretty good shape by the time we got to Wengen.

We just chilled for the rest of the day and discovered the mega food prices as we went out for Pizza.

Sunday 29th June
We got kitted out expecting to run from Wengen (altitude 1300 metres) to Kleine Scheidegg (altitude 2000 metres) but the gradient was too steep to run. Doing a fast trek in the very hot sunshine had Jo's heart rate in the BT2/DPT zones hence we wouldn't have been able to push to a run without wearing ourselves out. So we completed the 6km fast trek and savoured the amazing views at Kleine Scheidegg - looking up at the north face of the Eiger. Awesome - truly awesome.

Eiger - North Face

Once we got our breath back (from the views - not the trek) we had lunch and then headed downhill to Grindelwald (altitude 1000 metres).

Nice view from restaurant - Kleine Scheidegg towards Jungfrau

We ran quite a bit of the 10km as we wanted to get as much downhill running training in as possible - it uses a totally different set of muscles. The Swiss Alps seem to be very popular with Japanese walkers - who were incredibly friends...especially when you took the time out to say "konichiwa" :)

We treated ourselves to ice-creams and then headed back to Wengen via the train. We again discovered food is very expensive in Switzerland - around £40 for the two of us (no alcohol, no starter and no desert!)

Monday 30th June
On the previous day Jo had used her trekking poles to hike up to Kleine Scheidegg. I had borrowed these for the downhill to Grindelwald - I wanted to find out whether I felt comfortable actually running with them rather than just using them for hiking. I discovered I felt fine running with them so we got a 2nd set of hiking poles for me in the morning.

We took the gondola up from Wengen to Mannlichen (altitude 2200 metres) and then fast-hiked down to Kleine Scheidegg (6km).

Top of Mannlichen

We continued on up from there to the Eigergletscher (a train station at the foot of the Eiger, at altitude 2300 metres). On our return to Kleine Scheidegg (total loop 5km) we treated ourselves to another ice-cream and then ran down to Wengen (6km) - in the pouring rain. I ran with my hiking poles and eventually Jo realised it wasn't so bad running with the poles. It's good to know that when we're in terrain which requires a constant switching between hiking and running that we can keep our poles out and run with them rather than having to shrink them down attach them to our backpacks every time we want to run. Incidentally our backpacks were pretty heavy all week...we'd pack them with about 4-5litres of liquid each, some food, some extra clothing layers and I also had my digital SLR and it's lenses. So I reckon the packs were between 7-10 kgs each.

Easier way of coming down??

That evening we went to the Victoria hotel for dinner - and were flabbergasted to be told they charge for tap water (£2 for 1 litre) - so we left no tip :P

Tuesday 1st July
These days I am rarely ill, but sleep deprivation and hay-fever joined forces and forced me to take this day as a very easy recovery day, especially since our legs were really feeling it from the downhill running. The sleep deprivation was partly my own fault - I kept reading late (ish) because I was hooked on the (Sir) Ranulph Fiennes autobiography (Mad, bad and dangerous to know) - but mainly it was because (with our windows open in our hot Sunstar hotel room) we kept getting woken up in the middle of the night by inconsiderate morons walking on the main (traffic-free) street - the worst being a group of Brits screaming and swearing at wonder most of the world doesn't like us British. The hay-fever I can't really do anything about - every July I encounter a 2-3 week period of intense hay-fever (drugs only help a little). Sometimes going abroad helps (escaping from whatever pollen is affecting me) but not this time, if anything my hay-fever was worse in the Swiss Alps.

So, after spending a small fortune on medicine, we decided to walk down to Lauterbrunnen (altitude only 800 metre) and then spend the rest of the day travelling via trains and gondolas. The walk down to Lauterbrunner was actually harder (steep and monotonous) than we wanted, but we had a nice relaxing day walking around Lauterbrunner and later in Murren (via gondola) - although Jo wasn't too happy when she threw (and lost) her sunglasses into a 100 metres we spent a while in Murren looking for a new pair of sports sunglasses!!!

New sunglasses!!

The weather was great as it had been most of the week so far - the rain when it came was usually confined to the evening and nighttime hence generally we stayed dry on the trails.

Wednesday 2nd July
Wow - what a great day! We took the train to Alpiglen (altitude 1600 metres) and trekked the Eiger Trail (7.5km up to Eigergletscher). The trail takes you right to the foot of the Eiger - cutting across the scree slopes of the north face. No wonder so many climbers want to climb it (and so many fail and die) as it really is an awesome mountain that mesmerises you - not for me though, I'll keep my feet firmly on terra firma!!

Eiger Trail

After the Eiger Trail we walked down to Kleine Scheidegg for lunch (and more ice-cream) and then trekked up to Mannlichen, taking the gondola back down to Wengen.

Thursday 3rd July
Today the weather forecast was for rain - lots of rain. The forecast was spot on - we took the train down to Lauterbrunnen and hiked up 6.5km to Murren (altitude 1700 metres).

Gloomy weather towards Murren

The hike was mega steep - sometimes the gradient was a 1:1 (one foot/metre upwards for every one foot/metre forwards, i.e. 45 degrees), and rarely did it get any better than a 1:2 (1 up for 2 forward, i.e. 22.5 degrees). When we got to Murren the heavens really opened up and we were faced with torrential rain so we found shelter in a cafe and had some tea and food. We then trekked down to Lauterbrunnen and then continued back up the other side of the valley back up to Wengen (4.4km) - getting to the hotel in time to avoid the 2nd spell of torrential rainfall.

Friday 4th July
Our last full day in the Swiss Alps was reserved for a trip up to Jungfrau (the "Top of Europe"). We took the train up (via Kleine Scheidegg) - it passes the Eigerwand station (carved into the rock of the Eiger) from where most climbers would get off and tackle the north face (avoiding the "boring" first few hundred metres). Eventually we arrived at Jungfrau station (altitude 3500 metres), well above the clouds.

Damn - should have brought our snowboards!

The views were amazing - we were surrounded by snow and ice as far as the eye can see (the views to the other side of the Eiger - the greener/warmer valleys was blocked by cloud).

Jo, surrounded by snow

The Jungfrau peak is actually just above 4000 metres, but it's not possible to trek to it, so we trekked to another smaller peak at 3750 metres. The trek was considerably longer than it looked (snow has that sort of affect on the visuals) - it was about 3.5kms whereas it looked as if it was a few hundred metres!! The going was quite tough - it is difficult to know whether the it was hard because of the altitude or whether the ankle deep slushy snow and gradient had more to do with it. We did however cover the distance in the same sort of speed as we had managed at much lower altitudes (e.g. the Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg trek) hence I'm inclined to think the altitude wasn't a factor (this time).

Top of Europe!!!

Back a bit more please!!!

At the end of the trek there was a nice restaurant - well the seating area was nice with great views, but the food was, erm, interesting. We both ordered cheese on toast (mine with egg - which Jo hates) - we thought it's nice and simple and everyone (surely) knows what cheese on toast should look like, right? Wrong!!

What we actually got was a bowl of melted cheese - with a sloppy slice of bread at the bottom (no idea whether it was toasted) and mine had a fried egg dumped on top. How truly disgusting - it was like soup - except it was all melted cheese. We could feel our arteries clogging up with each sip/mouthful - we gave up after a few spoonful. To make matters worse each dish was about £9 - I would have preferred to just set light to a £20 note!

So just be careful what you order in Switzerland - and remember they have a sadistic point of view when it comes to pricing everything!!

Anyway we headed back to Wengen and a well earned slap-up (proper) meal. The next day we packed and said our goodbyes to the mountains and headed back home via their great train system.

Since we've got back we've been a bit slow getting back into running properly. Jo's got a tight calf muscle - and I'm lacking a little in motivation. I had a couple of really good runs at the start of the week - but they were short and fast (11km in 1 hour and 8km in 42 mins). Really need to get in a couple of 20km+ runs to get back into the distance game. Hopefully we'll kick start this weekend and burn of some of that Swiss chocolate we've been stuffing ourselves with (don't expect any weight reduction in my next training summary!!).

(BTW: If you want to see the rest of our Switzerland photos then feel free to dive into my photo album website -