Monday, 31 December 2012

What to do when your training plan starts in 11 weeks?

I'm planning for a big run in August this year. The Trail Running Association organises The Ridgeway Challenge, 85 miles of The Ridgeway National Trail: "through ancient landscapes.  Over rolling, open downland to the west of the River Thames, and through secluded valleys and woods in The Chilterns to the east, following the same route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers."

The 24 week training plan I'm going to use starts in the middle of March. That's 11 weeks away. So what do I do in the meantime?

As I see it, there are two options. Start the training plan now, but take a couple of weeks off before starting the plan properly in March. Or just do some lengthy base building.

I'm leaning towards the base building, getting used to running with some weight in a backpack, strength work, long hills, trying some different fuel options.

So, into the 24 week plan early, or base building. What would you do?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Women need to show that they are worth watching

I just saw this short clip on Vimeo:

Finding Traction Trailer from Partnership Productions on Vimeo.

It's awesome, seriously, the running, the passion, the mentality.. "a 5 minute nap". Hard. As. Nails.

But, one of Nikki's comments is "Women need to take our place in professional sports, and we need to show that we are worth watching". They're not worth watching? When the UTMB is on, I follow one person, Lizzie Hawker.

Whilst we've all heard that men are stronger than women, most of us know that when runners go long it's about inner strength, and women have just as much of that as men.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Moving past the honeymoon

It's been a while since the revelation of minimalist running...

Everything you read about it suggests that you're likely to over do it and end up injured, and so from day one I took it easy. My mileage went from around 40 a week to 10, and that was REALLY hard to do. I don't run for competition, so the drop in mileage didn't compromise any race plans. I run for the pleasure, both physical and mental and losing that daily time out on the trail was hard. Although the different feeling of running the trails with a minimal shoe made it difficult to stop. Even now the feeling makes me grin.

I slowly built up my mileage back to 40 odd miles a week, and I think my longest run was about 15 miles. But it was ridiculously hard on my lower legs. I can chuckle now at my stupidity, at my inability to walk first thing in the morning and pain for most of the day. Of course it was only muscular pain so my legs would get used to it eventually; right? Wrong!

At the 500 mile point I simply had to take a month off because mileage was decreasing and the soreness wasn't going, oh and tendinitis was beginning to show itself again.

But now I'm back into it. Rather than repeating the last 500 miles as I'm prone to doing (run, injure, rest, run, injure, rest etc) I've bought my XT Wings back into the mix, and ensuring that I don't run with the same shoe 2 runs in a row (Vivo's, XT Wings, VFFs) seems to be really helping. Oh and resting. I'm no longer punishing myself if I don't run for a couple of days.

But I can't help myself if the weather is dire. You simply can't beat getting out in the cold wind and rain. The harder the better and all that.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Vivobarefoot's sustainable product guarantee.

I was really dubious about this, as it seems to be a great policy but could ultimately cause the death of a company if things go slightly wrong.

Well, after an email or two, the company said they'd exchange my shoes. So I jumped on the train and took them back to the Covent Garden store. They knew I was coming and after explaining the problem, I left with a replacement pair without any fuss. Impressed.

Of course, I had a good look at all of their other shoes whilst I was there. Niiiiice.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

250 miles later...

Since I bought the Breatho Trail shoes back in February, apart from one run, they're the only shoes I've been on the trail in. I've done some VFF work and a little barefoot but the Vivobarefoot shoes have been the shoe of choice.

All of my running routes from home take in about 1 mile of "unsurfaced road" which is essentially compacted pebbles/stones which have been rollered into the ground. About 2 weeks ago I took a decent impact on the ball of my left foot, probably somewhere between the second and third metatarsal, but I've continued to run... down that same track which hasn't allowed the bruise to heal. But why now? I've been running that track for almost 3 months.

 I've been pondering how long it will take for the sole on a minimalist shoe to compress, and whether it will matter in the same way that concern is shown with traditional running shoes. Well the insole has compressed a little, but I can't really determine if the sole has compressed, but what has happened is shown below:

The lugs have worn down really badly. In the 250 miles I've done in these shoes maybe 20 have been on the road, the rest has been on trails.

Whilst the wear pattern implies that I'm landing on the outside of my foot I wouldn't expect (and have never experienced) such wear after so few miles. I know that this is a new shoe from Vivobarefoot, maybe the sole is too soft, we'll see what they have to say.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The day that running changed.

For a couple of decades I've had an employer that likes me to be fit, so much so that I'm able to step out of the office and head to the trails when I feel the need. Consequently, this body has seen the inside of a fair few gyms, run too many miles on treadmills and has spent many an hour out on the trails. I'm under no illusion that I'm a pretty lucky bloke.

Why all the blurb? Well today, running changed for me; and considering how many years I've been doing it, that could be seen as a bit odd. I slipped on my spangly new shoes this morning to try them out on my lunchtime trail. But cautious of all the warnings about overdoing it in minimalist shoes, and that I tend to run until I break, then rest, then repeat I only planned to go for 4 miles.

Now I've run in my VFFs a bit, and done a little barefooting both on tarmac and off road, so I've had a taste of the different technique required. I've also been forefoot running for years and so just slipping on a set of minimalist shoes should be easy, and it is.


If you have a cushioned heel, you're going to use it whether you want to or not. When you use the barefoot running technique of forefoot-midfoot-heel (almost but not quite at the same time) then your heel is using that cushioning even though you're not slamming your heel into the ground with a heel strike. Whilst the mechanics of the technique are there, it's not the same, although I think it's good to get your head into the system, and your body used to the movement. That cushioning will give you greater endurance, even though you're not really using your heels.

Now that your heels are falling at least an extra centimetre and probably more due to the reduction of drop (difference in height between the ball of the foot and heel), your calf is getting an extra stretch with every footfall. That's why this way of running is renowned for trashing your legs until the muscles tendons and bones get used to it. Combine this with the bent knees and shorter stride and your cadence naturally picks up. Consequently it's really quite easy to end up sprinting off into the distance in the bent knee barefoot pose as my time on this morning's 4 miler proved (it was meant to be slow).

My VFF tarmac distance PB is 5 miles, and at the end of that my calves were toast. This minimalist shoe, or barefoot, running really does give a different focus on the muscles; not different muscles, I think they're just being taken beyond that familiar movement range. Consequently, my endurance is down and I've no idea how long it's going to take to get back to 2 hour+ runs. I have no plans to get into double figure mileage in these shoes for some time. I guess that the indicator will be when I don't have aching legs the morning after a run.

And all of that really does put into perspective the 14 miler that I accidentally took BarefootApe on in his Vivobarefoot Neo Trails. Impressive.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Spangly new shoes

I mentioned back at the beginning of January that I was after some minimalist trail running shoes. Well after waiting, and looking, and searching and waiting, New Balance failed.

As I was in London today I took a trip into the Vivobarefoot shop in Covent Garden and tried on lots of shoes; had a go on the treadmill, tried some more and then bought these beauties.

They're Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails and they won't ever be so clean again.

Friday, 20 January 2012

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I've never been of the "I can't do it" mentality; essentially nothing is impossible in my book. For someone who aspires to run all day, and longer, this mindset is a great asset, but it's also a double edged sword.

The ability to push on when you're tired, when you've been running/walking for so long that your body makes you sleep whilst you're still moving is something that I think we all have. Although some have to dig quite deep to find the mental reserve that enables you to separate the mind from the body so that this weak thing that we're attached to can be pushed through the tiredness and sleep barrier. To keep going when sleep is the only thing you crave, "Just 5 minutes, I'll be fine after that". To push on when the tears flow because you're just so exhausted; these are just mental battles which make me chuckle when I think about past times that I've been there.

But what do you do when your body simply can't do what you're asking? When pushing on breaks your body?

Most of us push on at least a little, because it's that little push that makes us fitter and stronger. Personally I find it hard to gauge that "little push" which is why I'm prone to injury; and why I'm sat here (again) with a lower limb strain/injury/thing that stops me running/whatever.

This never used to happen, but ever since I turned 40 a few years back it has... So it would appear that I can no longer smash through the tiredness and aches and pains to emerge on the other side stronger than ever. I have to make slower progress now, and really abide by the 10% rule.

But with a wry smile I still consider that as I get fitter, and stronger, maybe I will be able to go back to the ways of my younger days *eyeroll*

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Compression kit and shin splints

These last couple of years, for some reason, I've become prone to shin splints and the only way that I've been able to recover is by resting. Sometimes it takes two weeks because I often try and push through the injury; "run it off".

I've been using Skins tights for a couple of years, hoping to preserve my legs as I push on past 4 hours on the trail, which they certainly do once you're used to their tightness. I also have the recovery version which are also pretty awesome, and sleeping in them really does help.

I've never run in compression socks, but I have them for wearing after the run; they just look a bit odd to be seen running in, even if Paula carries it off, she has the talent to be seen in them.
But I've had it with the shin splint I have in my left leg right now.. I've rested for days, hydrated well, RICEd but it's taking forever to go away. Then I remembered that Salomon make a compression sleeve for the calf (another reason that buying Unbreakable was worth it).

Right now, the Salomon Exo IV Calf is available, but I picked up a pair of IIIs from ebay and headed out for 7 miles of trails today and the only thing I can say is WOW!

You can read about how they're supposed to work (or how some think they don't work) all over the web but all I'll say is that they enabled me to run, pretty much pain free for an hour. So, placebo or not, they absolutely work for me and are now firmly in my kit pile for treating/training with tired legs.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Frustrated by New Balance in the UK

Whilst I sit with my leg in full RICE mode it gives me time to do a bit of running admin ie looking at maps for new routes, checking out gear 'n' the like.

I've been looking at trying to get hold of some New Balance Minimus Trails that iRunFar have reviewed and Anton Krupicka has advertised on YouTube. I like the whole minimalist ideal, and get out and about in my VFFs occasionally as part of my routine. So it seemed sensible to have a look at someone else's shoes.

At least, I would if I could. I might be a bit of a traditionalist but I like to actually get my hands on a shoe before I buy it, and trying them on is essential. Unfortunately there aren't many NB shops in the UK, typically a running shop will shop will stock many different brands, and a few of the NB range, but certainly not the whole NB range. There's nothing useful on the New Balance website, nothing that points to which shop stocks what model of shoe, so is it really this hit and miss for getting hold of their kit? Where is the New Balance UK store?

I jumped onto Facebook, and asked on the New Balance UK page, but alas, no replies; and it would seem I'm not the only one asking the question.

At which point I start looking at other companies, such as Salomon and Inov8.

Friday, 6 January 2012

You're obviously injured, why oh why would you run?

Everyone who puts a bit of effort into their running will stretch, strain, pull, bang, chafe something at some time. But, what do you do, push on or rest?

I've no specific race in mind (although the Ridgeway Challenge in August this year is looking like it may get a look at) but I've just started a 24 week 50 miler plan, just to give my training a bit of direction. Of course, these plans are meant to get you to give the most benefit, but chances are it'll be too much and you'll over train, and end up injured.

My left calf is giving me some grief at the moment, with what I can only describe as a shin splint feeling, but deep within my calf, so deep that I can't really tell where the pain is. I've run about 25 miles with it, but I'm am at that point of "Strap it and run (it'll probably get worse) or strap it and rest?" It's a ridiculous question, especially when I have no specific goal that I'm training for. So I'll take 4 days off and get down with my Grid then start back into the plan next week.

Unless I get up tomorrow morning and it feels fine, in which case, there's 14 miles to do.

But there's always that nagging question... "If I'd carried on, would it have ended up worse?"