Thursday, 9 December 2010

Life is full of challenges

I think this may be the longest I've gone without blogging... and I'm terrible at it at the best of times.

The last few months have been incredibly busy, but not so much with training. I had my off-season, then just as i was starting to get back into training, I had a spot of bad luck.

A few months back I bought a motorbike and started commuting to work. It was economical and fun. After a few months of this, the bad luck struck. While driving through a town on my way to work, a car pulled put in front of me from a side street.. I had always heard that the biggest risk with motorbikes is other drivers and its very true. The driver just drove out directly in front of me. I was lucky in that i was probably only doing about 10-15mph when I impacted... But I hurt my wrist.

A visit to the hospital revealed that it was broken. The bad luck continued in that it wasn't a clean or simple break... So they dosed me up with morphine and something that removes your memory and did things to my wrist to try and set it right.

A week later some more X-rays meant more bad luck.. The bone wasn't setting right and I needed surgery. I am hugely impressed time and time again by the British National Health System. I was called in for surgery the nest day.

The surgery happened, I got a plate put in my arm and spent the night in hospital.

I'm not dwelling on details, and this is not a desire for pity of any kind... but its probably worth noting that I have a few little phobias about medical procedures... particularly needles. Surgery is something Ive always been terrified of, so it wasn't really a fun experience inside my head. Plus, the pain afterwards was pretty damn intense.

Its now 2 weeks post surgery. The pain is getting better, although I'm still popping painkillers 3-6 times a day. I'm due for a review appointment tomorrow morning, so please send good wishes and positive thoughts my way that everything is healing well!

Anyway.. there is a point to all this, and its not meant to be just a blog post of complaining. I haven't done any exercise in nearly a month now. Over the last few weeks I've been endlessly frustrated by only having one functional arm. The frustration isn't helped by having little sleep... but the thing is, its really hard to function with one arm. Simple things become lengthy and arduous tasks... things like picking up the baby, changing her diaper, buttoning a shirt, typing, putting on Zane's shoes, tying shoelaces etc etc. Some of these things seem damn near impossible with one hand... Seriously.. how do you tie shoelaces with one hand? If it wasnt for my awesome, wonderful wife I don't know what I would have done.

Through all this, through the pain and the frustration, I've found one thing often popping into my head... A guy called Jason Lester, here's a little part of Jason's story from his wiki page

Lester grew up playing baseball and football. When he was twelve years old, he was hit while on his bicycle by a woman driving 70 mph who ran a red light. He was left for dead with 21 broken bones and a collapsed lung. Lester lost the use of his right arm, which became partially paralyzed as a result of the accident. During the next several months he began a lengthy hospital recovery. While he was still in the hospital recovering, his father, and sole guardian, died of a heart attack.


Jason is now an endurance athlete. In 2008 he became the first physically challenged athlete ever to complete the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii finishing the ultra-distance triathlon where he swam 6.2 miles, biked 261.4 miles and ran 52.4 miles to the finish line.

In 2009 he won the ESPY award for best male with a disability.

Last year, himself and Rich Roll did the "Epic 5". 5 Ironman races in 5 days on the 5 islands of Hawaii

My accident was small by comparison. I wasn't going that fast and only broke one bone. However, on a personal perspective Ive had a horrible few weeks. I cant even imagine what Jason Lester went through. Ive had a few weeks of being frustrated about not being able to dress myself or my kids. Jason has done the Ultraman race with one arm.

This whole experience has really highlighted to me how much of a challenge disabled athletes face. My temporary disability has shown me how hard everyday life can be.. never mind training or competing.

So.... pop over to Jason's website maybe consider donating to the charity he runs and most importantly.... Just take a few minutes to just appreciate what you have in life. If you've got 2 functioning arms, legs, ears, eyes etc then be glad you do. And if you've been slipping on the training because its too dark or too cold? Get off your ass and go do a few miles for me please... I'm missing it.

Monday, 23 August 2010

70.3....... DONE


I'm going to actually try and make this a concise and short race report.
Yesterday I did my main "A race" for the year.
This was essentially what I had been training for all year.
Beyond that it was the next link in the chain that ultimately leads to doing a full Ironman. Suffice to say this was pretty important!

I had been really concerned over the last few weeks. I was injured. I'd been to see a physio a few times and I hadn't trained AT ALL for the last 3 weeks. You could consider it an extended taper... but my original intention would have been one more BIG week of training with 2 weeks of actual tapering (ie still training but less).
Instead I got 3 weeks of inactivity and, funnily enough, weight gain... Not ideal, but those were the cards I was dealt.

I arrived on race day excited and nervous. Nervous of what i was about to do, and even more nervous that my knee was going to pack in on me. I was early and I wandered around soaking up the atmosphere. It was awesome to bump into Lisa and her family as they had come down to give some support

As the start approached my nerves got worse... but so did the excitement.. eventually they led us out of transition and I walked with the 200 or so other competitors down to the beach.

THE SWIM
My last open water swim was ROUGH the sea had been very choppy and rough.. this time round it was flat and still. Last time round I also went out too hard, this time round I deliberately started as slow as I could.. and the tactic worked. The swim felt easy, I stayed relaxed and even when I got thumped or kicked in the head, it didn't throw me off (too much) and despite taking in some water, I cruised the two laps in what felt like a pretty easy 30 minutes and 10 seconds. For a 2km swim I'm very happy with that, especially considering the last one was only 1500m and took me 43:35. I took my time in transition and felt ready for the bike.

THE BIKE
The bike course was lovely. It was flat and pleasant with lovely scenery. In retrospect I realise now that I went out too hard.. but it felt good. the injured leg gave me a few twinges that caused me to hold back a little, but overall I was more than happy. Along the course the occasional spectators and the cheers from the volunteers was a fantastic boost.
At one point along the course I was going through the village of Donaghadee and totally unexpectedly saw my wife with Alexa and our friend Fiona. This unexpected site and their cheers of encouragement literally brought tears to my eyes :D
Although I did instantly realise that tears were a loss of body fluid that I couldnt afford and knocked that on the head immediately.

According to my garmin the course was a few miles long, so my time of 3:09:32 was perfect and I was pretty much on course for my best possible scenario race day... but with the lingering injury the worry was always the run...

THE RUN
I racked my bike, pulled on my shoes and headed out on the run and IT HURT STRAIGHT AWAY.
Funnily enough, the majority of the pain was in the leg that wasn't previously injured... although Id been feeling some twinges in that knee, probably from overcompensating for the injury. I knew within minutes that there was no way I was running the whole course. In fact I was very worried that I was going to have to just walk the whole thing.

It took me a while to work out what to do, and the off-road nature of the majority of the course made it hard to get into a routine.. but I settled eventually into a run/walk strategy of 4 mins run, 1 min walk.
For the first half of the run it basically worked something like this
Minute 1: Oh I feel ok, cool, whoooo, yeah
Minute 2: Oh, shit, no.. this hurts
Minute 3: oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit
Minute 4: ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG
Minute 5: Walk... hang on.. walking shouldn't still be hurting should it?
REPEAT.

As I progressed through the second half... It got harder. For the last few miles, I was having to throw in little extra walk breaks now and again.
But the knowledge that I was going to finish kept me going. I had totally lost track of my time, I was convinced that I must have stopped my stopwatch and re-started it at some point and i was convinced that I was about 15-20 minutes slower than it was saying. There was no way I was going to be close to 6 hours... as long as I was under 6:30 I was going to be happy.

As I came down the hill towards the last stretch, my awesome and amazing and supportive wife was there cheering. I head the announcer saying something that led me to believe I could still make it in under 6 hours... BUT, I didn't care. In the last race, at the end, Zane was there and came out to run beside me, but I was so focused that I didn't really see him and kept running. He ran beside me, but I was disappointed in myself for not realising he was there and running with him. I was NOT going to do that again and I didn't give a shit what the time on the clock was.
I stopped dead
"Wheres Zane?"
"He is over there on the beach!"
I shouted to him and he came over.
I took his hand and asked him if he wanted to run with me and he said yes.... So we ran the last stretch, hand in hand over the finish line. There wasn't a huge crowd but the cheers were amazing from those that were there, and the fact that I was running with Zane seemed to make people cheer even more :D
I crossed the finish line in 6 hours and 10 seconds and crossing that line, holding my wonderful son's hand was an incredible feeling.

SUMMARY
So, despite an injury, my last few weeks training being messed up and it being my first half ironman, I hit my target of 6 hours. Looking at my splits based on my training, experience and the level I am at, I think I was as fast as I could have been in the swim and fast as I could have been on the bike. The run was not even close to what I could have done if I was in peak running condition. But a 2:19 half marathon that is mostly off-road is still not bad, especially considering that the entire 13.1 miles actually felt like the last 6 miles of a marathon!

During the event, and particularly on the run, I gained a newfound repsect for those that do the full Ironman distance. While running it did run through my head that there was no way I could ever do that. I can though. And i will.

A few photos from the start courtesy of Lisa...


Monday, 9 August 2010

Two weeks out...

I'm now two weeks out from my main race of this year... the half ironman in Groomsport.

And I am NOT training

Yup, nothing at all.

I haven't done any exercise in 5 days now.
This is due to injury and not laziness.
Ive been seeing a physio over this tendon problem. Ive had a few treatments and have had to have complete rest.

Psychologically, this was tough to start with. To make the decision that after a years training, i stop 2 weeks out from my race is difficult.

Physically its even worse.
I worked out the other day that on a big training week I can burn off up to 11,000 calories.
That's over 4 days worth of food.
My body, despite not training, doesn't realise that it doesn't need the food. So I'm hungry, trying not to eat as much and gaining weight nonetheless.
Not great.
I'm rather on edge. I'm kinda cranky, and I'm sure I'm a total pain in the ass to be around at the moment as my body is really not dealing very well with the transition from lots of training to no training.

Still, the most important thing is to make sure this injury gets better so that I can show up to the start line in two weeks and do this event.
I no longer care about the time.
I was never THAT concerned.. but its nice to have targets.. things to aim for.
At the start of the season, my aim for the year was to complete a half ironman.
As the year progressed and my training went well, I started to have little internal time targets. At one point I was starting to aim pretty high.
Now I'm back to just wanting to show up uninjured and to complete it.

Despite all this, I'm totally upbeat and happy. These things happen.
My body has shown me that it has limitations... and that I pushed it too hard.
All I can do is learn the lesson and get better in time for the race.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

(Not a) RACE DAY (for me)

Today was my first experience of not racing in a race I had registered for.
The City of Lisburn sprint triathlon was my first Tri last year. Its where I got the bug and I had been really looking forward to doing it.
Sadly over the last few weeks I've been struggling with a hamstring tendon injury. I thought it was gone, but it seems its not. I went fro a swim yesterday to make sure I still knew how... its been a few weeks... and while i CAN swim.. the swim seems to have aggravated the hamstring injury.
I spent the rest of the day sore, cranky and irritable.
Mid afternoon I made the call.. I wasn't going to race today.
If it had been my A-race for the year, I would have done it anyway (probably stupid, but I would have). Its not though, it was a priority race, but my A-race for the year is my half ironman. Which is a mere 3 weeks away. If I had raced today, I KNOW i would have ended up hurting myself and not racing the half ironman. Now THAT would have sucked. Not only is it my A-race, its also an important step towards my overall longer term goal... Full Ironman. Last year I did the marathon. This year half Iron, next year, Ironman.
I cant afford to screw this up. But it was still hard to decide not to race a race that I knew would be fun. I also knew I would have made a very significant improvement over last year and was looking forward to seeing how much. Still, what can you do?

Howver, there waws one silver lining. My friend Lisa who I have been coaching this year.. for her The Lisburn tri was her A-race for the year. So I got to go and watch and cheer her on. Which was great. I was supposed to be in the wave after her so wouldn't have seen her race at all after the swim. As it was today I got to watch her swim with her dad, then met her dad, her husband and her kids to watch her on the bike course and again on the run course.

She executed her race perfectly. Her perfect race target was to get a sub 1:30 time... she managed it in 1:27. An amazing performance. It was fantastic to watch someone achieve their goals, especially when you've played some small part in helping them along towards those goals.

I always feel a bit of a fool saying I am coaching anyone.. I'm totally inexperienced myself. But Ive learned a lot through my own training, through my own mistakes, and through reading HUGE amounts of literature on training. Today I felt less of a fool and very glad that I had been able to help someone support someone in achieving what they set out to achieve. Lisa's race report will be on her own blog... http://windymillar.posterous.com/

It really help make up for not racing.

Now.. I have 3 weeks to get this niggling injury sorted, lose the extra pounds Ive put on this last month and execute my own A-race for the year.
:D

Monday, 19 July 2010

Oh so very delayed! Causeway Coast Triathlon Race Report

This is one seriously overdue blog. About 5 weeks back I did my first Olympic Triathlon. I was ready to write the blog straight away.. but life's been busy. Lots been happening, most importantly of which is the birth of my daughter Alexa Grace.

And here I am with both of my awesome kids...



SO, that's my excuse... Now on with the blog and race report.

My first Olympic triathlon was the Causeway coast triathlon on the 13th of June. It was both a hugely enjoyable experience and a very humbling one. The swim was my first open water swim, as my other tri's have been sprints with pool swims. It was TOUGH. And it wasn't just me that thought it was tough. The conditions were tough and swimming in the sea was like swimming in a washing machine. It was two laps of 750m.. but with the waves and currents, I definitely did more than this with lots of being dragged around. Here is a quote from the race organisers report on the race which highlights the difficulty...

"The average time for a swim of this length in benign conditions for elite swimmers is about 20 minutes so it was somewhat of a surprise when the first swimmer took 33 minutes to eventually emerge after 2 laps"

Yup, it was hard. The first lap was a struggle and when I came out after the first lap i was shaken and kinda scared to go back in again. This was me coming out of the water...



Part of me was even vaguely tempted to give up... Then I saw my wife, my mother in law and Zane cheering and that gave me the kick i needed. This was me waving as I ran back in for my second lap...



The second lap, I slowed down a bit. I found out later that I had gone out way to hard on the first lap. I did the first lap in 19:55 and the second in a much more realistic 23:30. Steph said afterwards that she was worried about me after the first lap because I was coming out FAR to close to the folks at the front :D

My total swim time was 43:35. The fastest guy out of the water did it in 33 Min's. The guy who WON the whole race did it in 40:26... So I was only 3 Min's behind the winner out of the water.
When I came out though, I was SHAKY. One of the race officials grabbed me and pulled me to the side to ask if I was OK. To be honest, I wasn't. I felt like I gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. But as I explained to the official, Id be OK once I had a nice wee sit down on the bike. At this he laughed and sent me on my way. In this pic you can see me just after this has happened. The guys who was concerned for me is on the left.. I love the fact that the other guy is cheering on my stupid determination.



I got my wetsuit off, grabbed the bike and got going. It took a while to get my heart rate down and get settled but once I did I loved it. The bike course was beautiful and I was able to keep a fairly decent speed despite it being pretty hilly. The 40k took me 1:12:26. If the distance was right and it was indeed a full 40k, then my average speed was 20.6mph... and I am MORE than happy with this.

The run was uphill for the first 3 miles, then a bit of downhill and the last few km was on the beach... not an easy finish. Steph managed to get a quick photo of me just coming out of T2



Definitely looking better than I did coming out of the water and rocking my johnhirsch.org CREW tri-kit in all its glory.

I'm pretty sure the run was a little short of the full 10k as I finished it in 43:52.. which would be a 10k PR for me, but who am i to argue, I'll take it.

This is me just over the line.



The finish time shown in the photo was my correct finish time. 2:43:38. Totally happy with this. I did have a target going into the race to do it sub 2:45... and I did, despite the evil and pretty slow swim. I did way better than I expected in the bike and run and placed 40th overall and 9th in my age group. I was, and still am, totally happy with this result.

This was my first A-race of the year, my first Olympic triathlon and was an amazing experience. Roll on more races :D

Friday, 4 June 2010

Race season continues....

Since last posting I’ve had another race. On Sunday past I got up at a horribly early hour (5:30am) to drive to Derry to take part in the Liam Ball/ Northwest Sprint Triathlon. My “taper” for this race consisted of doing the most amount of cycling Ive ever done in one week, plus a bit of running and a wee swim. Basically.. this was a normal training week so no taper allowed! I started the week with some bike commuting. My daily commute is 30 miles, and this week I did 2 full days of bike commuting, thus clocking up 120 miles of cycling by Wednesday. I took Thursday as a rest day, had a 1 hour run on Friday, then on Saturday got in the pool for a quick check that I still knew how to swim as I hadn't done so in 2 weeks due to getting a tattoo. Thus I arrived on race day, far from refreshed and rested.. but exited nonetheless.

I had decided to follow some advice from my buddy and favourite pro-triathlete John Hirsch and “race like a Buddhist monk”. I wanted to get faster in transition so no messing around with unnecessary crap. So I cut my transition setup down to the bare minimum



Tri-suit
Goggles
T1: helmet, sunglasses, bikeshoes
T2: socks, shoes

No messing around.

I was glad I had opted for this strategy, as to start off with.. the race had a hell of a transition. The pool was upstairs (yes.. UPSTAIRS) in the leisure centre, so T1 involved a run the length of the leisure centre, down the stairs, through the sports hall, and halfway across some gravel pitches. T:2 was pretty long too.. so I was already expecting to struggle to PR on this course due to this.

I got into my lane for the swim and started out second, after a few lengths I passed the guy in front of me and led the swim and was first out of the water in my lane. I think I was maybe 2nd or 3rd out of the water in my wave. I'm not really that insanely fast or anything, If I had been in the next wave, I probably would have been way down the ranking.

The bike leg was a challenge. Strong headwinds on the way out and a course that was a mile longer than the standard sprint distance. I think the total length was 13.4 miles. This was fine by me, and it was a nice bike course. However, that extra mile when you aren’t expecting it is kinda tough… not in total.. but when you're expecting the turn around point to happen any second and it doesn’t!

T:2 was fun… I couldn’t find my shoes.. which slowed me down for a few seconds, and was equally frustrating and hilarious. The run course was, I think, a fair bit short of 5k as I did it way faster than I actually am capable of running at the moment.. but what the hell, I will take it.. a 20:11 5k sounds good!

In the last 100m, the guy who I had passed in the pool and who had been behind me for the whole bike leg, put a sprint on and passed me.. damn… I ended up finishing 4th in my wave, which I'm totally happy with, and 13th in my age group… which I am both HAPPY with and AMAZED by as its exactly the same placing as last time.

Overall, in terms of time I was a little slower than the last race, but with an extra mile in the bike leg and a lot longer transition, I consider it mentally a PR. RESULT.

Next race is another two weeks away when I do my first Olympic length tri… and my first open water swim……

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Kickin off the season...

This week was a busy one. I had a cold, travelled for 40 hours to the west coast of the states and back, had jetlag from hell and kicked off my triathlon season.

Not the easiest of weeks!

While over in the states I manged to get a few training sessions in. I went for an amazing 1 hour trail run in San Diego out in the Torrey pines State park in La Jolla. Spectacular trails that included a 1300 ft descent and climb. Not easy, at one point i was running (kinda) up and 18% grade. A hell of a lot of fun though.

The next day I met up with a Triathlon buddy, Morgan and we went for a nice easy 8.5 mile run down by the coast. It was his first long run since completing his first half -ironman so I was picking his brain extensively for tips. Meeting up with a friend while away from home is great and we had a cool afternoon training and hanging out.

SO, fast-forward to the weekend. I got home, suffered the worst jetlag Ive had in a LONG time and then come Saturday morning its time for the first tri of the season.

The tri was in Roe Valley, near limavady here in Norn Iron. Nice spot. I was very excited about the race. The bike course was actually pretty hilly and while this was in no way a priority race for me, i was very keen to see how my fitness was and how the winters training had come together. Also this was the first time Steph had been able to see me race a tri so I was extra excited about that.

On the morning of the race I wasn't certain whether to bother bringing my Garmin or not. For the simple reason that I wasn't going to be speeding up or slowing down based on anything it could tell me. In the end my decision was made for me as it turned out I had left it in work! So, stopwatch it was!

My friend Lisa, who I have been coaching, was in the first wave so I got to watch her and she did really well. A strong swim in a good time. Great to see.

Then I got myself ready and I hit the water in wave 3. Amazingly enough, one guy who was in my wave actually knew me... and apparently reads this blog! I was kinda nervous at this stage and this totally threw me so I didn't even catch his name.. so dude, if you're reading, drop me a note! :D


That's me sitting down at the poolside putting on my swimcap :D

The swim was OK. I probably could have been in wave 4, the slightly faster wave, as I had put in last years times. It looked like I was second fastest so I set out second. The swim was pretty tough going. I had probably drunk too much coffee beforehand and that combined with nerves had my heart rate way too high and this made breathing difficult so my swim was a bit scrappy. I was happy enough with it though and actually ended up being out of my lane first.

T1 seemed pretty fast then it was out on the bike. I pushed hard on the bike, the course was pretty hilly overall. Definitely not a fast easy ride! Luckily no one passed me on the bike and I passed a few people. Towards the end I think there were only 4 people ahead of me from my heat and we all came in pretty close together together with me as the last of that group to get in.




The run was flat enough and went well, I passed 1 of the 4 who had been ahead of me right at the start and was chasing down a second from about the halfway mark.. I just managed to get ahead at the end and crossed the line once second before him.. So I totally thank him for giving me the motivation to sprint across the line :D

I actually hadn't hit the start button on my stopwatch when I was in the pool so i didn't get my overall time till the official results were posted, although I was happy with my time. Today when I saw the result I was very happy. Here are the results with improvements over my time in Lisburn last year

Swim: 14:20 (2:58 improvement)
T1: 1:16 (00:20 improvement)
Bike: 38:23 (2:27 improvement on a MUCH tougher course)
T2: 1:20 (50 seconds slower)
Run: 21:21 (1:44 improvement)

A 6:36 improvement. YAY.
Very happy with this not just with the overall time but I also PRed at each of the individual sections. That's the fastest 5k I've done, fastest 750m swim and the fastest 20k bike. Plus, I know there is still significant room for improvement in this season.

In terms of overall placing I came 62/ 156 overall and 13th in my agegroup.
For a non-priority race at the start of the season for someone who has only done 2 sprint tri's before.. I'm DAMN happy with that.

Oh, and I am not setting my sights on a sub 20 min 5k. I'm gonna do it this season. I also now have a good measure of my fitness on a short course and something to aim for for the next few races.

Lisa also kicked some ass in hers and confirms that she has now been fully bitten by the triathlon bug. Whooohooo... :D

So, today as I still had a 3 hour ride to do. Amazingly enough, not only did I get out and do it, I actually managed my furthest distance for a 3 hour ride too hitting 53.4 miles in 3 hours flat. An improvement over my previous best by a few miles. This is also good as now my target of a sub 3 hour ride in the half Ironman distance seems achievable. So tonight I'm feeling pretty tired, but very happy indeed.

Glad its a rest week this week though :D

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Good week!



Now that was a good training week.
Longest run: 2 hours
Longest swim: 2 hours
Longest ride: 2 hours


10 hour week in the bag. Did my first 5k swim on Friday. Which I completed in under 2 hours. Then the next day I competed in my first duathlon.
It was the midulster duathlon in Magherafelt. 2 mile run, 12 mile bike, 2 mile run.
Really enjoyed it. The field was pretty strong, i recognised a fiar few faces and those that I recognised I knew to be seasoned veterans. No on there looked like they were inexperienced. There was a LOT of nice and very expensive bikes. Plenty of people there with back wheels that cost more than my whole bike.

I went out, treating this as a hard training session and fitness test. I hadn't tapered, and indeed had done the 5k swim the day before and my longest run in months on just Wednesday night.

I was very happy with the race overall. The first 2 miles I finished in 13:49 (6:47 AP). The 12 mile took 36:58 (19.5mph avg) and the second run which was actually 2.25 miles due to a lap of the track at the end took 15:26 (6:52 AP).
Add in transitions and I completed in 1:07:54. My target was 1:10 as a perfect performance so I'm very happy with this overall. My favourite part of the day was that no one passed me on the bike. I was at the tail of the leading pack going on the bike and while I played cat and mouse with one guy for much of the course, I ended up finishing ahead of him and no one else came close to passing.

My buddy Lisa who I am currently helping out with a bit of coaching also competed. It was her first multisport event and she performed really well, despite feeling that is was torture and almost giving up on the second run.. but she didn't give up and she finished.. Much respect!

Today, despite the fatigue, I still got out and did my long ride, which I cut back to a 2 hour ride which was mostly on the flat. Tonight my legs are, without doubt, TIRED :D


Oh, and finally.. I can firmly recommend this as a warmup for a race....

Saturday, 10 April 2010

The best laid plans...

This week was pretty rough. Monday I flew from Dublin to New York then
on from new York to Miami. 2 flights totalling more than 10 hours.
Once I arrived I met my work colleague, we had some dinner and I went
out for a short run .It was about 3am bodyclock time, and indeed it
was after 10pm local time but I was intent to get a 10 hour training
week done according to schedule and also going for a run after arrival
helps with the jetlag.
I got an OK nights sleep and headed out running again early in the
morning. From that point on it went downhill.
I saw nothing of Miami other than the stretch of South beach I ran
on. After the run I had to go do the work I was there for and give a
seminar in the University. After this we had to head to the airport
for another two flights.. .first to Atlanta then on to Columbia, South
Carolina. The second flight was delayed and then when we got on the
flight, they had apparently put too much fuel on board and had to
remove it.
Yeah
Seriously.
Anyway.. long story short… we didn't arrive till much later than
expected and I didn't get to sleep till after 1am. Which was, of
course, 6am bodyclock time. Usually my trips to the states, I deal
with the time differences OK by going to bed as early as possible and
getting up early to train. Staying up till 1am the second night there
is NOT advisable.
Woke up the next morning and felt like total shit. Hit the pool and
got in an hours swim that just didn't feel good and was a struggle.
Then another day of work… unfortunately though, on the way to the
university in Columbia I started feeling sick. For the few days
before I had left Zane had a stomach bug and had been suffering from
vomiting and diarrhoea.
Oh no
I thought
Seriously.. no.. no way.
The next few days were due to be pretty much non-stop. We had checked
out of the hotel that morning and were flying that evening to Atlanta.
I can tell you know, feeling ill and knowing that you have work to do,
knowing you have to give a talk to a room full of people, knowing that
you have no bed you can go and lie in and knowing that you wont have
an opportunity to lie down and be alone for about 12 hours… well
that's not a nice feeling.
I didn't succumb to the same depth of nastiness that poor Zane did.
Thankfully there was no bowel or stomach emptying for me.. but I felt
rotten.
I struggled through the day, got to the airport and another flight and
we went to Atlanta. That night I was so relieved to get to the hotel.
I went straight to my room, grabbed some food and was asleep by about
9. I was hoping that I would wake bright and early feeling refreshed
and better.
Didn't work.
I woke early, felt mediocre and headed to the gym. I only had 30 mins
so I jumped on the stationary bike for 30 mins and was sweating within
about 2 mins.
DEFINITELY not right.
I certainly wasn't better.
That night we had to go to a dinner then the next day was an early
start. Today had been LONG and I was the last speaker of the day. Now,
here I am on the flight home. I still feel like crap and its been a
very tough week.
My plans of doing lots of training just went totally out the window
due to travel and illness.. I had hoped to get in at least 7 hours of
training. I managed around 3.
I'm lucky that in the several years of travelling as much as I do,
this is the first time I've fallen Ill while away. Also it wasn't that
bad, but It gave me a taste of how unpleasant it could have been. Now
I'm just really glad to be on my way home.

--
Sent from my mobile device

Monday, 5 April 2010

Long ride and recovery

Before I start her I would like to take a brief second here to mention
something non-training related.
Its amazing how much technology has developed over a few years. I was
having dinner with my boss and some colleagues the other day. My boss
was talking about how when he was in university, he and his friends
used to write letters to each other.
My joking response was something like "wow, you really are old"
Funny thing is that he isn't that old. I think he is just under 5
years older than me. When I was in first year in college people were
just starting to get email addresses. I've always been a tecjnology
"early adopter". I bought my first computer in first year and it was a
custom built desktop. Really powerful, 33hz processor. 4 meg of ram,
and I think a 250mb hard drive

My current computer is a 1000 fold increase in all of the above.

The first website I ever had was written in raw html and uploaded via ftp.

I'm currently writing this blog post from the passenger seat of a car
on my phone while driving to get a flight to dublin.

The pace of progress is crazy.

Anyway, back to training. I had mentioned in my last post about
cycling across Ireland. Well, it turned out that we weren't actually
staying where I thought. Rather than Donegal town we were heading to
Newtowncunningham. This is 75 miles from home rather than 100. I did
it. It rained the whole way, but it was an enjoyable ride. I left at
7am and made it in less than 5 hours. It was a great feeling to have
cycled that far and got that good a training session in the bag and to
be at my destination with the family by lunchtime!

I followed this up with my first proper "recovery week"
I'm now working on a 3 week mesocycle. I'm aware that my readership
varies from very experienced ironman triathletes to total beginners so
I will explain, but briefly.

Periodization is important in training
generally but particularly in triathlon. In a periodized training plan
your time is split up into microcycles (usually a week) mesocycles
(usually 3 or 4 weeks) and macrocycles (usually a year/ season).

The mesocycle consists of both training stress microcycles and rest
and recovery microcycles.

My mesocycle is 3 weeks. In simple terms, 2 training weeks and a
recovery week. In this particular cycle, due to the ride to donegal, I threw in an extra training week so I did two 10 hour training weeks
and an 8 hour week before this recovery week. I planned a 5 hour week
but ended up doing about 4. Overall it was interesting. I felt like
training more and probably pushed a little too hard in the time I was
training due to increased energy levels. This is obviously not the
thing to do! Yesterday on the bike I pushed harder than I should have
and my legs are a bit sore today.

The expression "go easy on your easy days" obviously counts double on
recovery weeks.

Now I'm off to the states for a week of lots of travelling. 3 states
in 5 days. Lots of travel. But I'm back to a training week so my aim
is to get in 10 hours of training this week.

Wish me luck!

--
Sent from my mobile device

Friday, 19 March 2010

Should I?

An opportunity has arisen that may allow me to cycle from one side of Ireland to the other. Looks like we might be getting away for a few days to Donegal over easter. It also turns out that Ireland is frickin tiny and that I can easily cycle coast to coast.
Only problem is that Im meant to be on a rest week next week.. not cycling 100 miles
Should I do it?
Comments would be REALLY appreciated.


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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Its been a while...

Actually it hasnt really been that long.. but for some reason that line from a song by Staind just jumped into my head as I opened blogger.
There's a band I havent heard in a long time.
Todays blog post is brought to you by "stream of consciousness"

No overriding theme for this post, just a general update.
My last post was the end of February. Its now mid march, so I can update on the last few weeks which have continued with the February theme...
Training is going well.
In the first two weeks of this month, Ive manged to get in 4 swims, 7 bike rides and 3 runs.
This isnt really ideally balanced, but its the base period and I'm doing the sensible thing and training my weakness.
Im not the worlds best runner, but I already have the capacity to run pretty long and run pretty fast. So for the moment Im just focussing on maintaining that by keeping the aerobic base with long runs and a bit of speedwork.
Im not really focussing on swimming per se, but I am trying to get consistent with 2 swims per week. Ideally I would be swimming 3 times a week I guess, perhaps later in the season I will do so.
Last week was a bit of a breakthrough week. On sunday I managed to complete a 50 mile bike ride in just under 3 hours. For me this is fast. My target for the Half Ironman distance is to complete the bike leg in around 3 hours. Obviously Im still a good bit off that pace, but I now think it is achievable. The race is still 5 months away and 5 months ago I think my longest bike ride had been 35 miles.
Generally speaking, on longer rides, Ive struggled to get my average speed much over 15mph. On this ride, however, there were a few variable.
Firstly.. I discovered my bike was set up wrong. Not going to bother with details but basically the seat was way too low. Idiotic rookie mistake. Its now fixed. That helped.
Secondly, nutrition. I havent done enough longer distance riding to really judge need for nutrition and the little experimentation Ive done has been with gels. Last week my wife made me some homemade energy bars. These things are phenomenal. Normally on a long ride I spend the last 30-60 mins obsessing over food and arrive home and eat everything I can get my hands on. For this ride I ate an energy bar before leaving and another one at the halfway mark and it made a huge difference. My average speed for the first hour was 16.9mph. The second hour was 15.2. Normally my last hour slows down significantly due to fatigue and lack of fuel. On this occasion my last hour average speed was 18.6mph. On a few occcasions I was even pushing over 25mph on the flats.
One final consideration was that I went a different route that doesnt have a few miles of climbing at the end. Overall this helped my speed at the end. I think the other factors were probably more significant though.

Final note.. last week was also a breakthrough as it was the first time I actually manged to do over 10 hours of training. Yesterday was a rest day and I NEEDED it. This week is going to be another > 10 hour week.. then a recovery week.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Kickass Month.

Just a quick blog post...

This month has been pretty damn good for training.

I did my first century on the bike. Which, incidentally, was also more mileage than I had ever done in a week. I checked that.. I had always fallen a bit short.

Ive also started to hit the pool. As I've mentioned before, Ive never really done any swim training... well, I hit the pool in the second week of the month and then joined a gym and have started to establish a bit of a routine. Ive now done more swimming in the last 3 weeks than I did in all of 2009. This isn't exactly a reflection of three weeks of intense swimming.. its a sign that I just didn't swim last year. In the last 3 weeks Ive swum 10700m... Over 10k of swimming. Sweet!

2 weeks back I hit a good target of 2 workouts in each sport for the week. 2 swims, 2 bikes, 2 runs... AND a weights session.
This week I hit the 2 X 2 X 2 again and its only Friday, which means I'm likely to hit my ideal target for the week which is 2 X swim, 3 X bike, 3 X run for ~ a 10 hour training week.

Today is a rest day though, and I'm very glad of it. I don't yearn for rest days that often, but today I need one.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Mental toughness and always learning.

Ive 2 themes to cover in this blog.. Learning and mental toughness...

There are lots of things I like about training.

I like the fact that it calms me, centers me, keeps me fit and will hopefully let me live longer to see my kids grow and stay active enough to keep up with them.
I'm not going to list off all the other good things about training, that would be dull.. and would also probably abrogate the necessity for ever writing another blog post.
Lets focus on one thing right now... I like the fact that I have to keep learning.
I spend an ungodly amount of time in the education system. 7 years in primary school, 5 years in high school, 3 years in tech (ehh.. for you Americans this is like a bridge between high school and university), then 8 years in university. That's 23 years of education.
One thing you get out of this is a love of learning. Not really a conscious love. Its not like you wake up thinking "HELL YEAH MAN I WANNA GO AND LEARN SOME SHIT".
No, its a bit more subtle. A "PhD" is a Doctor of Philosophy. Philosophy from the Greek "philosophia" which is the love of wisdom. This stems from "philia" which means love (of the dispassionate and virtuous kind) and "sophia" which means wisdom.
So its a dispassionate, virtuous love for wisdom and knowledge.
This sounds fancy and pretentious... but there is an element of truth. Although it may not be so much of a love and more of a compulsion. A compulsive desire to understand things. Sometimes I get frustrated when my toddler asks "why" about everything... but I try not too because I do it myself in my head all the time.
How does this apply to training???? Where am I going with this??? Do I know? Possibly, stick with it and see....

Basically, I tend to analyse what I do. when I take on something, I need to know a lot about it. So when I started running, it wasn't enough to go out, buy some shoes and run. I needed to read about running, research it, understand it. I also needed to stupidly ignore much of the "wisdom" I read and make mistakes. I probably needed to get injured, cuz sometimes its easier, sadly, to learn from your own mistakes than from the teachings of others.

The truth is though, that I like to learn. I like to read triathletes world, and runners world, and blogs and books about training. I listen to podcasts to absorb as much info as possible. Triathlon offers a lot to learn. On the surface this is obvious... its 3 sports rather than one. It goes beyond that though. There is also nutrition, transition, multisport (brick) workouts and the mindset that goes with triathlon.

So, in short, one of the things I love about triathlon, is that its like studying again.. but studying something immediately applicable that I love.

That last paragraph could possibly replace all the initial preabmle... but Im not deleting it now.

OK.. Theme 2.
Mental Toughness.

Training requires toughness and conditioning of the body. But it also requires toughness and conditioning of the mind. I'm pretty sure these two things are of equal importance.

One of the reasons that most endurance sports seem to be dominated by older folks has got to be partially due to the mental aspect. As we go through life we accumulate experience and mental toughness. We all go through hard times, life does kick the shit out of you at times, and as the expression goes... what doesnt kill us only makes us stronger. I think Nietzsche originally said this... more philosophy for you.

There is an alternative theory that whatever doesnt kill us leaves us battered, weakened and vulnerable... but lets ignore that and go with Nietzsche's theory for now.

Lets vaguely connect this to training.
Yesterday morning I woke up at 6am.
Yeah, 6am on a sunday, another example of how training changes us.
I woke up at 6am, all ready for my long bike ride. I had prepped the night before. I had sorted out the flat on my bike, packed my bag and layed out all my gear so it would be easier to just haul ass and hit the road.
I walked, zombielike, down the stairs, looked out the window and there was 3 INCHES OF FRICKIN SNOW.
Cue me standing at the window, bleary, half asleep looking backwards and forwards between kitchen (place of coffee), window (place of snow), stairs (direction of bed and place of sleep).
It was a tough call.
Eventually I decided to phase the movement. I hit the kitchen, put on the kettle and opened up the laptop and googled "cycling in the snow"
Long story short... I decided to go for it. I was actually too psyched up. I hadnt had a long bike ride in a few weeks, I had planned a 9 hour training week and had already dropped an hour on friday night and there was no way I was don g 3 hours on the trainer.
So off I went.
It was tough going. It started off very difficult. Turns out you cant clip in to pedals when your cleats are jammed with snow. Also, I reckon its probably pretty funny watching a guy sitting on a bike, leaning on a lampost and picking at his shoes with an alan key.
Also, going down a really steep hill in deep snow on slicks is SCARY.
Once I got out on the main roads though it got easier and i got a 3 hour, 45 mile ride in the bag and felt great afterwards.

So what did I LEARN????
AHA!!!! See? The themes come together.. you'd think I clevely planned this, rather than rambling till it made sense
I learned a few things... and I think if we pay attention we can learn something, if not from every training session, but at least from every training cycle.
Key lessons from yesterday.

1. Dont give up cuz it looks like its going to be hard. Or, in shorter form. DONT BE A WUSS.
2. Dont do speedwork the day before a long ride. Thats an obvious one and again, something I had to learn from my own stupidity rather than just paying attention to what Id been told before. I had done a 7 mile run the night before. The 3 miles in the middle were 400m repeats at 6:30 with 400m recoveries. I also did this after being on my feet all day down at the market in Belfast. Despite this making my ride much harder... it also highligted key lesson number three...
3. Mental toughness makes a huge difference. I did 45 miles yesterday on sore and tired legs in the snow. Did it seem unduly hard?
Not really.
Compared with cycling across that frickin mountain in California at the tail end of a century ride it was piss easy.
Ive done lots of way more tough workouts. a "tough workout" is totally relative.
For you it may be a 3 mile run.
For me, a year ago, (quick check of training log), an 8 mile run at a 10 minute mile pace was tough going.
6 months before that, running for 30 minutes non-stop wasnt even possible.

So, learning and mental toughness. Really important and intrinsically linked.
The body learns how to work harder. The mind learns how to train better. Similarly the body learns to handle the pressure you pile on it, and the mind learns to listen to the body to judge the effort level in order to properly judge the appropriate load to put on the body. And of course, the mind learns to be tougher. To realise when the bodys complaints can be ignored and when they need to be listened too.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Hectic few weeks 2: First century ride


While in SF I managed to do my first century ride. The evidence is above in that dreadful photo.
I arrived on Monday and got to bed pretty early. Then, I woke after about 4 and half hours sleep at 2:30 on Tuesday morning. i struggle to call 2:30am "Tuesday morning", but i guess it technically is. There was no way that I was getting back to sleep so I just got up. I spent a good few hours getting some work done then at 8am I headed out.
I ran the three miles from the hotel to the bike rental place. I picked up my Giant Defy 2 and went on my way.

It was a hell of an adventure. I hadn't really planned a route so having a map and google maps on my phone helped. Didn't do a lot for my overall average speed though to have to stop regularly to figure out where to go.

I started out by heading across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito, as I had done last time. Stopped there for a cup of coffee and to watch the ocean for a while, then started out properly to really do the distance.
I cycled up through Corte Madera. The last time I had done this Corte Madera was my turnaround point. The total distance that day was 33.91 miles, and was my longest run to date... a mere 8 months ago. At that stage I didn't even own a road bike yet. Today's aim was a little more ambitious.

I headed on up past Corte Madera, through Fairfax and onward north. I hit the coast again at Anelmo.. and at that point was at the 40 mile mark. In order to do the full century, this meant continuing north for a further 10 miles, then turning round.
That 10 miles north was hard.
Once i turned round and started heading back it was OK again. I had planned on stopping for lunch at some point after the halfway point... but after the halfway point heading back down the coast, there was nowhere to stop for lunch! I also ran out of water after a while.
At about the 70 mile mark I actually began to feel kinda dodgy. Id been out of water for a while and hadn't eaten enough. Up to this point I had eaten two cliff bars and that was it. I started feeling like I was on the verge of "bonking". So, I stopped, had a little break and ate the last thing I had left in my camelback... which was a powerbar. It fought off the impending "bonk" but I gotta tell ya... those things suck when you eat them without water. they are drrrryyyyyyy.
A few miles down the road I finally came across a shop and picked up a bottle of water and a bottle of gatorade... The gatorade was downed straight away and I started feeling OK again.
The last 25 miles involved crossing a small mountain range.
It was HARD GOING. There were climbs that had to be over a 10% elevation and lots of long climbs that were around 3 miles long.
I was crawling up these at about 5mph in the easiest gear I had and my heart rate was STILL pretty high.
The many downhill sweeps were 25-30mph, with not pedalling and the brakes on.
It really was tough.
BUT
It was a breakthrough training session.
I managed a century. I managed LOTS of hills and I managed it under far from perfect conditions. I was jetlagged, was functioning on less than 5 hours sleep and despite it being done during the day in real time.. but by my body clock, it was well after midnight by the time I had finished and I had actually done the guts of a full days work before starting.
If that's not building mental endurance I don't know what is.
Below is the route and the elevation profile.
I also took some video footage which I may post as a follow up.

Minor addition... The ride included over 5,000 feet of clmibing. I dont really have a point of reference for how much this is, but I just checked and Britains highest mountain is Ben Nevis, and its 4,409 feet. So I figure OMG THAT WAS A LOT.



Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Hectic few weeks 1: Belfast4Haiti 5K

I actually started out doing one LONG blog post.. but it was too long even for me so Im cutting it into two and will, in my usual style, be posting 2 blog posts in two days after nothing for a few weeks.


What a hectic couple of weeks!
This was mostly written the day after the Belfast 4 Haiti 5k on a flight en route to San Francisco for work.

Yesterday was a completely amazing day. It was an incredible success.
We had around 250 pre-registered for the event and right now I'm not 100% sure how many registered on the day.
I had printed 200 registeration forms
We ran out of these
We had 550 race numbers
we ran out of these too.
Not bad going for a couple of complete of people doing it in their spare time with no previous experience and pretty busy day jobs to do as well.

My colleauges Lisa and Lorraine did a phenomenal job and the list of volunteers who came to help out on the day were amazing.
Everyone invovled worked for free and with amazing enthusiasm.
We even had some local heroes come along... The picture above is me standing with Dame Mary Peters... A Northern Ireland athlete who won Olympic gold in the pentathalon in 1972. You gotta love my obnoxious orange/ yellow stylin combo.. and the fact that i seem to be scratching my nose...
I managed to do the run myself in a pretty decent time of 22:15.
We had a great day and in total the run raised over £7,000.
The total raised by the combination of the run and the two evening events is now over £40,000
Im unbelievably proud and happy to have been involved and to have been able to help in whatever small way I did.
Thanks to everyone who helped, took part and offered support.
For those of you who still want to donate, please feel free to do so, my donation page will remain open for another while.

Finally.. a bunch of nice photos... You can click on them for full size versions.

The first two pics below are me posing with the first lady across the line, Catriona McCorkell and a shot of the midpack, which gives a good perspective of the numbers if you look in the background. Thanks to Eddie for the photos

The next three come from Shereen The first is me being interviewed (which was weird) by the local news folks, the second are the two lads who came first (on the left) and second (on the right), the third shows people lining up and in the foreground, just behind those two random blokes are my co-organisers Lisa (left, in the Belfast4haiti t-shirt) and Lorraine (in the furry looking jacket).


Me and Cat, who kicked ass.


A bit of perspective of the pack


Me being interviewed


The superfast winning males.


The Pack.. and my co-organisers.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Race Day!

Ive had a hectic few weeks helping organise this Belfast 4 Haiti 5k benefit run.
Despite being one of the race directors... Im still aiming to actually run the race myself!
So, for all of those that cant attend or run themselves... please, give some support. Click the donate button below.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Running for GOOD


At 16:53 on the 12th of January, an earthquake of catastrophic magnitude struck Haiti.
The red cross estimate that about 3 million people have been affected by this.
The Haitian authorities have confirmed, as of the 24th of January, that over 150,000 people have been buried.
The death toll may reach 300,000
More than 400,000 people are homeless.
To top this off, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Its been great to see the efforts worldwide to raise funds to support the rescue and rebuild efforts in Haiti.
It restores my faith in the inherent goodness of humanity to see such things.

Here in Belfast a team of people have pulled together to do what they can to raise some cash.
It started with a few local musicians who had the idea of putting on a Benefit gig.
The positive response they received was phenomenal so they set about putting togethet the logistics and formed the "Belfast4Haiti" group.

My friend, Lisa Millar, heard about this on twitter and suggested that perhaps in addition to the benefit gig, perhaps we could also have some sort of fund raising sporting event

Like a fun run... and so the Belfast 4 Haiti 5k was born.
I joined the organisational team, as did Lorraine Anthony a PR specialist.
3 people who pretty much just know each other via twitter.

At the start when Lisa was talking to a race director from another race, she was told that trying to organise a race in 2 weeks was next to impossible

This person didnt count on the dedication of a good team, the amazing support we've been given and the countless people who have given freely of their time to MAKE THIS EVENT HAPPEN.

Not only do we have a race.. we've got a family fun day out. We've got tea, coffee, buns, cakes, facepainting and balloon modelling and post race footrubs and massages.
We've even got a damn carnival band!!!!!

Cant organise a race in 2 weeks huh?

SO.. please, if you are from Northern Ireland.... Register for the race, get yourself to Belfast for Sunday mornign and run or walk with us.

If youre unsure, or undecided... watch this video...



Thanks,

The Belfast4Haiti 5k team
Follow us on twitter
Check the facebook page



Thursday, 21 January 2010

The importance of a plan...

Ive posted before on the importance of goals and realism. I'm pretty sure Ive also pointed out the importance ofplanning your training. Its not exactly a secret. Planning your training is vital if you want to achieve specificgoals and reach a certain point.

There is a reason I mention this. I will come back to it.

So I did my "birthday triathlon" on Sunday. Started out with a nice 35 mile cycle at a respectable (for me) speed. Then straight off the bike and out again for a 3.5 mile run. Started out with the usual jelly legs but at a 7:45 minute mile pace so no problem there. Slowed down after a while but it was still respectable.

Then headed off to my in-laws for a much needed lunch then hit the pool for my 35 lengths. Which i completed... slowly. I'm not a strong or fast swimmer.. and I can see why the swim comes first in a triathlon. Put it at the end and you do your swim pretty much just using your arms.
Still.. good upper body workout.

I arrived home and mentioned that Id completed my efforts on facebook and twitter. One of my decidedly unsporty friends commented "not going to do 35 pushups then?"
So yeah, I dropped and did 35 pushups.
Grrr.

So why did I mention planning at the start?
Well, about 10 miles into my bike ride... my legs were tired and sore.
Seriously... 10 miles in.
It was at this point I thought to myself... On Friday I had done a hard "hill" workout on the trainer.
On Saturday morning i went out and did 4 miles at a 7:43 average pace. I know that's not fast for you Boston qualifiers and pro-ironmen out there.. but its pretty damn fast for me folks.
Come Sunday morning and my longer workout and my legs were TIRED AND SORE.

I'm still working through the process of planning my season. Ive got three A races, a half marathon, a half ironman and a marathon, so its kinda complex to plan for this. I'm sure a coach would have no problem, but to work it out from scratch takes a bit of work and I have like ZERO spare time so Im working in a rather impromptu manner with my workouts at the moment. So, the moral of the story is... PLAN YOUR WORKOUTS. Remember that rest is critical and dont push yourself too hard.

Luckily I didn't do anything stupid like injure myself. I felt something not right in a few muscles, so I took Monday of (as planned) and have had two easy low intensity bike workouts this week to let my body recover. So I'm not all stupid.


Finally... I've become involved with a group called "belfast4haiti" and I'm helping organise a 5k fun run to raise funds for the victims of the haitian earthquake. I will be writing a full blog post on this over the next few days. For more info, drop me a mail or follow me on twitter or facebook if you don't already do so.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Birthday Triathlon

Its my birthday next week.
YAY
Im 35....
ummm...
Not so yay.
Im going to be officially closer to 40 than to 30.
This does not fill me with Joy. But Im not going to get all depressed about it.
I love birthdays. Its an excuse for a party. At the moment though Im off booze. So the party consists of going to Nandos then the cinema with a bunch of mates.
We're doing that on Saturday, then on Sunday morning I am going to do a BIRTHDAY TRIATHLON

This will consist of 35 lengths in a pool, 35 mile bike ride and a 3.5 mile run.
These are rather disproportionate distances for a triathlon... but its the only way I can work it out that's achievable!

I may also be forced to do it in a non-triathlon order.. ie, rather than the traditional Swim, Bike, Run order I may have to Bike, Swim, Run. As my local pool doesn't open till 10am on a Sunday.
Actually, my LOCAL pool is currently shut due to the fact that it is leaking.
Yes, I kid you not. The pool at the valley leisure centre was closed for a month for some work to be done (don't know what) and it was due to reopen on the 11th of Jan, but has not done so because its leaking and they don't know why.
So my next nearest pool doesn't open till 10am, and I'm hoping to start at about 7. I can get the bike and maybe the run done first. Although that greatly increases my risk of drowning due to exhaustion, but what the hell. It should be fun. I believe my in-laws are then cooking me brunch and my parents are cooking me dinner.. which is a result cuz I'm gonna be STARVING.

This will be a very unusual change from a normal Sunday of a birthday weekend which would normally be spent languishing in bed nursing a horrendous hangover and pondering my dubious life choices. Wish me luck!

I leave you with a picture of a a can-opener and a guy on a bike chasing another dude

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Weight Loss

I’m actually writing this in response to being asked some questions about this by friends.
I’m not an expert on this, I’m not a professional.
However, as a sciencey type, I’m quite good at research. Im also good at pattern recognition and logical thinking (at times). As a result I tend to be vaguely useful at pulling together lots of data and information from a variety of sources and trying to derive core principles.
I’ve also got a bit of common sense (unusual for a scientist) so I can tend to pull useful information out of the sea of crap.
All the information I’m relaying here can be found in books, the internet, and your own common sense… so apologies if it seems I am stating the obvious. If this helps you, I’m happy.

Right.. First and most important point. Weight loss is EASY
In theory.
All you have to do is burn more calories than you consume.
Seriously it’s that easy.
All diets and exercise plans are based around this simple premise.
Your body needs a certain number of calories per day to keep it alive and to make it do whatever you have to do.
Your caloric requirement very much depends on your lifestyle.
If you are a professional athlete, you need a tremendously large amount of calories,
If you work in an office, get out of breath climbing the stairs and spend every evening watching 7 hours of TV.. Your calorie requirements are not so much.

With diets alone you restrict what you eat. You also eat different types of food.
This is important. You can just go on an insane diet of eating nothing. You can starve yourself, but this will mess you up. Your body learns to adapt and you will start shutting down every function you can. Your body is amazing at survival so if you don’t feed it will start to shut itself down piece by piece till you die.
Thus I strongly don’t recommend anorexia, bulimia or starvation diets as a good weight loss method.

With exercise alone you try to burn more calories than you consume. Again though, the body is pretty good at survival so if you don’t eat enough and try to make your body burn insane amounts of calories you’re going to get sick or injured.

So the simplest and most successful approach is a good diet with the right amount of calories and a decent exercise program. Restrict your caloric intake. Try and ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet that has all the main food groups represented and has a sensible GI load. Then, do some exercise.

All statements of the obvious
Right?

So why isn’t it REALLY easy?
Why does anyone have weight issues?

Well I think there are a variety of reasons first up… diet.

Diet:
Eating the right diet actually isn’t easy. The biggest problem is that most people don’t KNOW what a good balanced diet is. All diet fads used to be about cutting out fat. It was fat that made us fat. This is obvious right?
Actually… no. We need fats. Just like we need protein and carbs.
Then Dr. Robert Atkins came along and said “screw fat… stop eating carbs”
I should probably state for legal reasons that Atkins very probably never said these words.
Still you all know how it is… he realised that by eating less carbs we can lose weight. So he came up with an insane diet plan that cuts out carbs.
It works, but it messes you up, is hard and I’d avoid it like the plague.
So, one needs to work out a balanced diet that has the right amounts of carbs, fats, proteins etc.

Its not easy.. and it takes a bit of work. But the internet is full of great resources for this.. for example, check out the daily plate on the Livestrong website. Its pretty cool.
If you don’t wanna do it yourself, you can get help on this from someone. Yup… just like with exercise you can get a coach. My buddy Christine in NYC is great at this.. give her a shout
You can of course also follow set diet plans which do work. You might want to check out the South Beach Diet. Im going to link you to the wikki entry rather than the company’s website. I’m in no way affiliated with these folks, but I have bought their book, know a few people whove followed it and both myself and my wife dropped a few pounds following it and learned a lot from it. The guy who came up with this diet is a cardiologist and it’s a sensible, scientifically sound and healthy diet.

What I will stress though that while working out what you should and shouldn’t eat is not easy.. its also not that hard. Seriously, its not rocket science. Do a bit of reading, learn a bit about what a balanced diet is, use something like the daily plate for a while and try and understand your own nutrition. Its very important.

Enough on diet… what about exercise?
So with exercise, again, its not easy… but its really not that hard. To be honest, it’s a lot easier for me than the diet bit.
With exercise, what we are doing is burning calories. But before I get into any detail.. Lets do some maths.

The standard recommended calorie intake for an “average” male is about 2500. for a female its about 2000.

So, let say that I, as the average male consume 2500 calories a day, but I have a desk job, I drive to and from work and I do no exercise at all. This estimate may be way too high. My actual daily requirement could be as low as 2100 to stay the same weight.
This means I am taking in 400 calories too much every day. That’s 2800 calories per week. That’s 11,200 per month. If we vector in the fact that there are 3,500 calories in a pond of fat, then guess what? At this rate I’m gaining over 3lb per month.

So, not I can talk about exercise.
Exercise is the key. You don’t need to run a marathon or an Ironman triathlon to burn calories. Take the above example. Me with no exercise taking in 400 calories too much per day. What do I do? Well, I could eat less.. and I could exercise. A 30 minute run at a pretty easy pace for me would probably burn those 400 calories. I could throw in a few sprint intervals and knock that up to 600 calories and be gradually losing weight. I could go for a walk at a brisk pace for an hour a day.. that would probably burn about 300 calories. Maybe one less sandwich at lunch and drop the sugar from my coffee and Id be fine, no weight gain.

This is where it becomes individualised.
For me, doing for a 30 minute run a day, now, would be downright easy. In fact I would probably go nuts from lack of activity. I enjoy running. When I started… I hated it. Honestly. Running for one minute was horrible. I started out doing a 1 minute run 2 minute walk routine for 30 mins and it was just unbelievably hard. Now I happily run for literally hours and can enjoy it.
The most important thing with exercise is to find something you enjoy, but also to recognise that it may take time to enjoy it.
Every year, around the world in January I would imagine that sales of diet books and treadmills go through the roof.
The same diet books and treadmills will probably be gathering dust in the garages of the owners within a few months.

So ask yourself some simple questions... firstly.. is there any exercise you actually already enjoy? You might like walking. That’s totally fine, do some calculations, work out the number of calories youre going to burn by walking and just do it. Then modify your diet accordingly to ensure that youre going to lose a bit of weight.
Do you enjoy cycling? Cool, its an awesome way to burn calories. Just get on your bike and cycle. Again though, look into the number of calories youre burning and make sure that youre in balance.

If you genuinely don’t like any form of exercise that you’ve tried.. is there something you’ve never tried and would like to? Maybe rock climbing? Ever tried that? It’s a great workout. Go to a climbing wall and try it out. Failing that, just start running, cycling or swimming and have the willpower to stick with it until you’ve got over the initial “this is too hard” stage. It really doesn’t take that long. You don’t need to join an expensive gym or buy a top of the range bike either. Just go run on the streets, ride your friends or kids unused mountain bike or go to the local pool.

Final note… Its very easy to start exercising and actually eat more as a result of it. You need to be aware of both your diet and your exercise. You need to be aware of the caloric intake and the calorie output. And really.. its very simple maths. If you need some help with it, give me a shout. The most important thing is that you CAN do it. As I’ve mentioned before, Over the last year and half Ive lost over 40lb. That’s about 140,000 calories worth of fat. Unnerving huh?

Notes:

You can mess around with figuring out your calorie requirements using loads of calorie calculators on the internet. I cant recommend any specifically but by googling here are two I found one and two. If anyone reading knows of better ones or knows these to be bad, please let me know.

You can calculate the calories burned doing different forms of exercise again using various web pages. Again, just from googling here are 2 that look good. One and two.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

2009 in review

Happy new year everyone!

Its the new year. Its actually the last day of my much desired, if not needed, two week holiday from work and the first time ive had a chance to sit down and consider a blog update.
I actually got up earlier than the rest of my household today for the first time in a while to do some training, but having had breakfast, Ive decided today will be a good day to do my lactate threshold test, which is only a 30 minute workout so I will wait till Steph and Zane wake up then go and do that on the trainer upstairs where I wont be disturbed.

2009 was a great year for me. Generally speaking, life was good and from a training and fitness perspective.. well, it was great as it had no predecessor! I set PR's at every distance, but this is easy to do when you are doing them all for the first time. In total I did 2 10k's, 2 half marathons, 2 sprint triathlons and 1 marathon

PR's...
10k: 45:10
Half Marathon: 1:43:16
Marathon: 3:43:41
Sprint Tri: 1:23:13 (Tri splits: Swim: 17:12/ T1: 1:37/ Bike: 40:51/ T2: 00:30/Run: 23:05)

I also cycled a 50 mile ride and then a metric century.. 100km. Not bad going for a guy who at the end of 2008 had done one 10k and barely cycled at all in about 20 years.

Ive also kicked off most of my excess weight. In the last year and a half Ive lost over 40lb. I talked about this in a blog post in June my current weight is now around 175lb. Im pretty much happy with this and reckon that within a few months of core work I may even get to the point of having a six pack :D

This results of course in none of my trousers actually fitting me anymore... as shown below...
Im gonna cut this now and leave my 2010 plans and goals for a separate post.