Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A river runs through it

So just five days until my next 10k in a town called Crowborough. As I don't know the area particularly well I'd thought I'd pop over in the car for a reconnaissance mission and assess the course. I'm now wishing I hadn't. Whereas the Brighton course was flat and up and down the sea front this one is rather hilly. And despite it being just a run, not a triathlon and therefore no swim section it looks like I'm going to be getting wet anyway.

After finding the start of the course (which is in a loop) I followed it round in the direction I'd be running, along a main road by the name of Crowborough Hill. I couldn't help thinking that I was glad I'd be going down the hill and not up as it was incredibly steep. However logic dictates that if you are going down a hill, and knowing the run finishes where it begins, at some point I'd be coming back up, albeit from an alternative direction. After turning off Crowborough Hill I was met by this sight.

That's right a cascading river. As a lot of my running is cross country I don't have many inhibitions about running through whatever nature throws at me. However the temperature has dropped recently and there has been talk of snow at the weekend so I think my toes are going to be extremely frosty. As I mentioned this is relatively near the start of the run so I'm going to be cold and wet for the duration of it.

Oh and did I mention it's a two lap course? So just as I've dried off I'm going to be wading through it once again. The organisers have kindly mentioned that if the ford is too deep the 600 competitors can use the bridge.

I can't help feeling that if a vertically challenged person were to walk across with their pet chihuahua it would cause some heavy congestion so I'm not exactly sure how it's going to work with several hundred runners trying to get across at once. At least they've invested in some safety equipment and installed a barrier. On one side.

So once I've trotted down the steep hill, navigated the churning river I then have a hill to run up. Perhaps this picture doesn't do it justice, and yes the hill does continue round the bend, but even in the car it seemed to go on for an eternity.

While it may not be as steep as the hill I'll be coming down it does go on for a lot longer. And I've got to go up it twice. So as you can imagine I'm now incredibly excited about Sunday's run. I do think it generally pays to know your route so I'm hoping it will be more of a case of better the devil you know than ignorance is bliss. One thing I am pretty sure of is I'm not going to be troubling my personal best this time round.

Monday, 26 November 2012

It's not just about Ikea and meatballs

As I've mentioned before every other Saturday involves a longer swim session. These are the times when it takes the most will power to to stay for the run as the an hour and a half of swimming can take it out of you. Also after Thursday's disappointing 3km run I was concerned that I just wouldn't have it in the legs to run with my fellow EGTC club members. It was also quite a miserable day and I'd already spent 90 minutes getting wet in the pool so wasn't masively keen to spend another hour getting wet outside. I was coming up with some good excuses.

However I remained strong (well was encouraged to stay), didn't rush away in the car and was rewarded with a gentle run but with some interval sprints thrown in. This is commonly known as Fartlek training, which is Swedish for "speed play".

Sweden: home of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets and Fartlek running
Fartlek running involves varying your pace throughout your run, alternating between fast segments and slow jogs. Unlike traditional interval training that involves specific timed or measured segments, fartleks are more unstructured but you can experiment with pace and endurance. Therefore you can make the sprints and the jogs as tough or as gentle as you like, the work-rest intervals can be based on how the body feels. Ultimately it's good for improving both your speed and endurance.

This is a good session to do if you are in a group with mixed abilities because if you find you have got slightly ahead of the pack then you can use the slow jogs to amble back to the group. However it's also a good one to make things a bit more interesting if you are out on your own. What you do is choose a spot in the distance, perhaps a tree or a lamp post, and run to that spot at a harder pace. You then jog for a while until you feel ready for another hard burst. How often you do it, the intensity and duration of these harder bursts is entirely up to you.

With this weekend sandwiched between two 10k races I don't think this session could have come at a better time for me. I felt I was getting benefit from pushing myself with the sprints but during the gentle jogs I was really taking it easy. So from spending the early part of the morning convincing myself I wouldn't have any energy for the run I felt like I'd got some good training in. Now I just need to motivate myself to get to the gym today.

Read all about it

Just when I thought Smug Running Guy couldn't get any smugger he only goes and makes the local papers. Fortunately this time it isn't for exposing himself in an old people's home (LEGAL DISCLAIMER: That was a joke and didn't actually happen) but for knocking a minute off his personal best. Obviously the publisher's of this second rate paper have, for reasons only known to themselves, used his wacky nickname Charles Keitch rather than the moniker that appears on his birth certificate - Smug Running Guy.

Anyway, credit where credit's due, congratulations SRG. With his new found fame I'm looking forward to seeing SRG falling out of nightclubs with the cast of The Only Way is Essex very soon.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Sleep with the fishes

So despite feeling slightly fatigued I made it down to last night's EGTC swimming session. As I have mentioned before we are currently in the "Base" phase of training which involves building up stamina by swimming multiple lengths at a slow steady pace. This is made a bit more interesting with various different drills thrown in aimed to improve technique. I have previously mentioned that some swimming sessions require all manner of toys, however last night was not one of them.

If you would like to improve your technique but aren't prepared to part with any cash these are all drills that you can try in your pool. When I first joined the club, which was pretty much a year ago, I struggled quite a bit with these; so if you are trying these out for the first time it's probably best to do it when the pool is quiet. However I have discovered that sometimes trying out a few drills is a good way to get a lane to yourself. People soon clear the pool to get out of the way of the weirdo who looks like a failed synchronised swimmer having a heart attack and has been rejected by the swimmers he or she is meant to be synchronised with.

Anyway, the first drill is swimming with fists. The idea of this is that you improve the use of your forearm to propel yourself forward instead of solely relying on the flat of your hand. This video gives a good explanation as well as featuring an incredibly funky bassline, a man with a cool moustache and the amusing phrase: "what I like about fist."

The dragging fingers drill helps improve rotation as well as getting your elbows high out of the water. While this chap has a black swimming cap just like mine I don't look quite as smooth when practising this drill. This video didn't make me chuckle as much as the previous one.

As I have mentioned before my least favourite drill is swimming with one arm. The idea is that it massively builds up strength not only in each arm but also in the core stomach muscles. There was once an embarrassing incident when Greenpeace came bursting into the swim session as they'd heard there was a whale in great distress, however it was just me thrashing about with one arm. You'll be pleased to know that this video has been produced by the same people as the first so the funky bassline and moustache are back. However there are no childish innuendos to snigger at.

So there we go, three exercises to ruin what would have been a nice relaxing dip in the pool. Don't say I don't ever do anything for you.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

An alarming tale

Back in September, you may recall, I wrote a post on the importance of sleep in aiding recovery. Unfortunately this is a luxury that I have been deprived of this week. On Tuesday my day started bright and early as I had offered to drive Mrs Trihard's parents to the airport - at 4.45am.

By the evening I was exhausted so gave the club turbo training session a miss. Thinking that I could make up for it the following day after a good night's sleep I was mildly disappointed to be awoken by Mrs Trihard's car alarm at 1am. However this mild disappointment was superseded by increasing annoyance when it went off again at 2.30am. Soon after that Baby Trihard decided it was time for a feed and by 4.30am I still hadn't managed to get back to sleep.

As a result I wasn't particularly motivated to do any training, light or otherwise, yesterday. After a better night's sleep last night (and just the one interruption from the car alarm - it's now being booked into the garage) I decided it was time to get out for a short run to get my legs working once again.

However I think I have underestimated how much Sunday's endeavours have taken out of me as I had to stop several times to walk despite it being just a 3km route. With just ten days to my next 10km this is slightly unsettling as I want to get some good training sessions in before a short taper. Hopefully I should be able to get some good sleeps before then but I thought this might be a good time to look at other ways can you help facilitate recovery after a hard race or training session.

Joe Friel, author of The Triathlete's Training Bible, says that as soon as you finish your workout or race the most important thing you can do to speed recovery is to replace the carbohydrates and protein you just used for fuel. He says that in the first 30 minutes after an intense session your body is several times more capable of absorbing and replenishing those fuels at any other time. While there are lots of recovery products on the market Mr Friel advocates drinking chocolate milk.

Deirdre Pitney, co-author of Triathlon Training for Dummies, said that because the muscles absorb nutrients more effectively immediately after exercise you shouldn't wait for your next meal. She suggests fruit, beans or wholegrain bread. While I use carbohydrate gels when I am racing, and always have a drink high in electrolytes and magnesium for hydration afterwards, I usually wait to get home for a snack. Mrs Trihard did offer me a donut that her and Toddler Trihard had left me but I prefer my savoury goods and was feeling slightly nauseous after the run. By the time we had driven home and I'd had a shower it was at least an hour since finishing the race before I had some protein and carbs. So perhaps this has also impeded my recovery.

Mr Friel also recommends that you "be lazy for several hours" and stay off your feet for as long as possible. I've been doing this most of my life but I'm still feeling knackered.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Race report: Brighton 10k (and Smug Running Guy news)

Last week I was extolling the virtues of being fully prepared the night before a race. Following my own advice I got my racing kit together Saturday night only to find that the poppers for my race belt were missing. In case you don't know a race belt is something that you can attach your number to so you don't have to pin it to your shirt. Unfortunately the poppers are the integral part that attach the race number, without them the race belt is just a belt really. This realisation precipitated a mad scramble round the house to find some safety pins to attach my number to the shirt. So following on from last week's advice, it's probably best to get your racing kit together a good 24 hours before the race in case you need to get to the shops for something.

So after that initial mishap family Trihard made it out of the house in record time to get to Brighton a good half an hour before the run started. It was a glorious day with bright sunshine and no wind - perfect running conditions for me and spectating conditions for Baby, Toddler and Mrs Trihard. Learning from previous experience I limited my water intake and managed to get a toilet break in before things got going so I was feeling pretty good.

Feeling good, looking spectacular!
Last week I said  I was aiming for a sub 57 minute I have to confess that I was increasingly fancying my chances of having a crack at my personal best for a 10k, which was 54.47 minutes. To get near this I was going to have to aim for around 5 min 40 secs per kilometre. As always the start was pretty crammed but I managed to find a decent line without having to weave in and out too much. When we got to the the 1km I checked my time and found I'd done it in 5 min 22 secs. Obviously this was well ahead of the speed I required to beat my personal best but also one that I knew was unsustainable. I managed to slow down a bit and was going at a steady pace but once I passed the 2km mark it wasn't until I reached the 5km mark that I was able to get a bearing on my pace.

And they're off
 Pacing, in all disciplines, is something we work on a lot at Triathlon club and something you are advised to aim for is a "negative split". This doesn't mean an unfortunate tear in your lycra but pacing yourself so that you are able to finish the second half of the race quicker than the first part. I reached the 5km mark, which is very clearly marked with an arch of balloons, at 27 mins 55 secs. It wasn't quite as quick as I was hoping and while I wasn't exactly struggling I didn't think I would be able to keep up the pace I was going, let alone do the last 5km quicker than the first half. The course was right along Brighton sea front and the turnaround point was 6.5km. That 1.5km seemed to go on forever. Obviously you could see the quicker runners coming back down but the point where I could start the run back to the pier just wasn't coming. At that point I started to seriously flag, I was getting concerned that I was actually going to have to walk and that I wouldn't get anywhere near the 57 minutes I'd set for myself. But I finally reached the turnaround point which gave me a second wind. I then worked out that once I passed the 5km mark coming back the other way there was only 2km left - I was practically home. I managed to pick up a bit of speed again, the legendary second wind, and was soon at the 9km mark.

I checked my watch. I can't remember exactly what the time was but I wasn't as far off my PB as I'd been at the half way mark. Sporting cliches ran through my mind, "leaving it all out on the field", "digging deep" and all that. I picked up my pace even more, but then I was worried about overdoing it and conking out 500m short. Then I saw the Trihard family at the side cheering me on. Toddler Trihard is very enthusiastic and very movingly says that she's going to run with Daddy when she's a big girl. With that I "dug even deeper".

Almost home and a wave from Toddler Trihard
 I could see the finish and the seconds were ticking down to 54 min 47 secs. I don't know how quickly I did that last kilometre but I certainly "left everything out on the field." According to my monitor my heart rate went up to 187bpm as I sprinted to the finishing line. I was working so hard over the last 150m that I wasn't able to see what time it was and if I was going to beat my personal best. Once I was over the line I stopped my timer - 55 mins 02 secs. Just 15 seconds shy. In terms of a negative split the second 5km was 48 seconds quicker than the first half.

More space needed in the trophy room
After collecting my medal I staggered through the spectators and other finishers to meet the Trihard supporters. Toddler Trihard came running up to me "Daddy, Daddy", she was calling. I knew she was going to say something heart melting, like how she wanted to be a great runner like me. "Daddy, daddy. I just saw a man dressed as a chicken!"

So there we go. I didn't beat my personal best but I came pretty close and there are plenty of races to go. And in other news Smug Running Guy, who was running a 10k in Suffolk, beat his previous personal best by a minute to finish in 39 mins 36 secs. He's such a Smug Running Guy.

Friday, 16 November 2012

New Year Revolution

While I love the yuletide season one question I used to dread is the inevitable "what do you want for Christmas?" As I have said before, once you start getting into triathlon you suddenly realise how much equipment is required - some more necessary than others. Christmas is therefore the ideal time to request new gear whether it is a handy gadget you have seen someone else using or replacing your swimming trunks that are wearing a bit thin and bordering on the illegal.

If you have been reading this blog mainly to laugh at my ineptitude but have been just a little bit inspired to get involved in running or triathlon then perhaps these books might be something to pop on the Christmas list.

As I have previously mentioned I do own a few running and triathlon text books but they are pretty hard going and rather technical. If it is your New Year's resolution to enter a run or a triathlon for the first time then you will want something a lot more digestible.

If you have read any other books in the Dummies series you'll know that they are extremely good at demystifying complex subjects. According to the marketing blurb: "Running a Marathon for Dummies will help first-timers prepare to successfully complete their race and also show experienced runners how to take their game to the next level.

"Providing tips and techniques to help improve stamina, speed and overall health it takes readers all the way from sitting on the couch through to their first marathon and beyond, with advice for practiced marathoners as to how to continue improving performance.

"Triathlon Training For Dummies is an essential guide for anyone who wants to participate and compete in triathlons, duathlons or aquathons regardless of their experience level.
"Triathlon Training For Dummies helps competitors get into the best competing shape possible by providing training programmes based on the readers perceived level of fitness and expected time to the finish line. As well as covering important areas such as eating for more energy and the all important motivation to train for and finish a race, it includes a four-hour-per-week training programme for a Sprint triathlon, eight hours
for an Olympic and 20 hours (a much greater time and mental commitment) for an Ironman."

I have only had a cursory look but I imagine I'll be referring to them a lot over the coming months. These were sent to me as preview copies but I believe they are now available to buy, or certainly will be very soon. Once you've gorged on a huge plate of turkey, roasties and all the trimmings there's nothing better than spending Christmas afternoon leafing through a new exercise book, planning the big changes you're going to make in the coming year once you've sobered up.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Eat, drink and be healthy

There's nothing like announcing to the world you've got a run in a few days to bring on a case of man flu. Mere hours after posting yesterday's blog entry I started to feel the beginnings of an illness. It's not surprising really, in the last couple of weeks Mrs Trihard, Toddler Trihard and now Baby Trihard have been producing industrial quantities of mucus. I'd managed to fend it off for a while but yesterday I started to get a lot of sinus pain and a headache. Obviously this would have put a lesser man down but I still managed to make it to turbo training last night. While I intend to lay about the house moaning incessantly to Mrs Trihard about how close to death I am over the next few days I still have every intention of making it to the starting line on Sunday - as I've mentioned before the general rule is that it's OK to exercise unless the symptoms of illness are below the neck.

There is no avoiding the fact that this time of year all the nasty bugs and viruses come out but it does seem that man flu knows whenever I've got a race on and that's the time to strike. Over the last year or so I have adopted the policy of taking double the recommended daily amount of vitamin supplements in a bid to ward off illness but apparently you can increase the odds of staying healthy by fine tuning your diet.

Nutrition journalist Kate Percy, who is also a highly competent marathon runner, says that winter training puts additional demands on the athlete's body, so it's sensible for athletes to adjust their dietary intake to give their bodies the best chance possible to fight infection. These are her five tips for staying healthy enough to train and compete in the winter months.

Boost 'nutrient-dense' calories

Intensive training out in the cold puts greater demands on the body than it does during the summer months. It is important to take in enough energy to support this, both to get what we want out of training and to recover well from each training session. When it is cold we instinctively reach for comfort foods to satisfy our hunger. Choose these foods unwisely and we'll end up emerging in the spring with unwanted extra layers. Comfort foods may soothe and nurture us during the winter months, but many are also high in quick-release carbohydrates, sugar and saturated fat.

Creamy pasta dishes, gooey chocolate puddings and jacket potatoes slathered in butter will improve our mood and give us a short term energy boost, but will unfortunately pile on the kilos and leave us yearning for more within a short period of time.  Fortunately there are plenty of 'nutrient-dense' comfort foods to choose, such as high-fibre breads, vegetable soups, casseroles with pulses and beans and fruit-based desserts such as baked apples or poached pears.  These will provide the type of calories to power us through winter.

A diet made up of about 60% carbohydrates, 15% protein and the rest from fats should keep the average athlete with a spring in their step. Carbohydrates, particularly unrefined, slow-release carbohydrates, play an important role in fighting infection. Protein, found in eggs, milk, lean meat, fish, cheese and yoghurt, is also essential for an efficient immune system, as well as keeping the muscles in good condition. Fats are not necessarily the enemy either; an essential source of energy, they fulfil important physiological roles in the body. Unsaturated fats, particularly omega-6 and -3s, found in nuts, seeds, plant oils, avocado and oily fish will not only reduce vulnerability against disease but also improve the mood during the dark, colder months.

Super-defend the body with 'rainbow' foods

A 'rainbow' selection of different coloured fruit and vegetables such as sweet potato, tomatoes, butternut squash, beetroot, broccoli, citrus fruits, kiwis and red berries will provide vital vitamins and minerals, each colour representing a different combination of disease-fighting nutrients.
Time meals and snacks according to your exercise routine

Immunity is reduced after heavy exercise. Carbohydrate levels become depleted and important vitamins and minerals are lost through sweat. It is important to plan meals and snacks so that we refuel properly after exercise. The amount we sweat when it is cold can be deceptive, so we need to make sure we hydrate well during and after our workouts. A drink to replenish electrolytes and a carbohydrate/protein-combo snack within 15 minutes of a workout will enhance the immune function, as well as top up glycogen stores and synthesise new muscle and cells for repair and regeneration. Try a home-made smoothie, hot chocolate or sports drink, a honey sandwich and a piece of fruit.

Cut out high-glycaemic, processed foods

Replace processed foods with natural, unprocessed foods to help the body recover faster and become stronger. This will also improve general health and make us feel so much better. Go one step further by eating lower glycaemic foods. These will sustain energy levels and make you feel fuller for longer. Swap high-glycaemic sugary cereals for piping hot porridge in the mornings; swap the mid-morning pain au chocolat for a banana and a few brazil nuts, and eat plenty of starchy fruit and vegetables with your evening meal.

Spice it up

Spice up meals with ginger, garlic, turmeric and chilli to help stave off winter bugs and reduce muscle inflammation. Brimming with vitamins and minerals, these spices will add delicious flavour to food and act as a natural 'winter booster'. A delicious homemade Thai green curry will enhance the immune system, mood and morale so much more effectively than a vitamin or mineral supplement will.

So there we have it, tme to ditch the vitamins and don the chef's hat. You find more food related racing tips at Kate's website

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Doomsday preppers

So Sunday is the Brighton 10k, my first organised event of the season. A lot of people have been asking what time I hope to do it in. To be honest I really don't know! The last 10k I ran was in July at the end of my first Olympic distance triathlon which was quite a disaster. There was a lot of walking involved and I struggled over the finishing line at a time of 1hr 7 mins for that section of the race. My fastest run at this distance was in the 2010 London Bupa 10k when I finished in 54 mins 47 secs. Having just looked at the results for that I see that some chap by the name of Mo Farah finished in 27 mins 44 secs. I wonder whatever happened to him?

Not Mo Farah

At that time I was new to running, actually quite enjoyed it (can't you tell by the look of unadulterated joy on my face?!) and I think I was quicker than I am now. Having said that I have put in quite a bit of effort into my running since I started this blog and it's very different running in an event than it is in training. Once the adrenaline gets flowing you push yourself considerably harder and having a crowd watching helps to keep you going when you'd rather curl up on the floor and rock yourself in a disturbed manner. In the past I have found a good way to keep yourself going when you get is to pick someone out who is going at a similar pace and try and keep up with them. Also it is quite a flat course (along Brighton sea front) so it will be interesting to see what happens. I am therefore going to go out on a limb and aim for a time of under 57 mins.

So am I going to do anything different this week in terms of training and preparation? First of all I will definitely be staying off the booze this week. I do know that some runners like to have a glass of wine the night before to calm the nerves before a race, arguing that a small amount of alcohol helps to relax you and ensure a good night's sleep, without really doing any harm to your body - providing you haven't been getting sozzled all through the preceding week. I prefer to abstain, particularly because I have rather large wine glasses and because an opened bottle of wine feels like unfinished business. And I don't like to go to bed until the day's business has been resolved.

Sometimes though it can be difficult to get the best night's sleep before a race for a number of reasons. For a start it is difficult to stop thinking about the next day's exertions. You can't help thinking if you've done enough training, you're worried about getting there on time and on top of it all you're stressing about the fact that you can't get to sleep so you're going to be knackered. Sometimes it may be a race away from home so you're in an unfamiliar bed. I find the only way to get round this is to try and get several good night's sleep in the week leading up to it - I hope Baby Trihard is reading this.

One way to try and minimise your worries the night before is to make sure you have everything prepared so all you need to do the morning of the event is to have your breakfast and go. Have your racing kit - your race number, timing chip, trainers, water, pre and post-race snacks- packed and know exactly where you have got to get to and how you are going to get there. For bigger events there may be road closures and you don't want to be running a four minute mile just to get to the start in time. It's a good idea to have a bit of time for a warm up before the race but getting a new personal best when it doesn't count isn't really advisable. Also it is a good idea to have done a bit of a recce of the course so you know where you are running and what the terrain is like (whether it's all on road, if it's flat or hilly). On the morning of the race all you want to be thinking about is actually running.

In terms of training I will be taking things easy this week. I will be going along to the swimming and turbo training sessions at the tri club but I won't be pushing myself too hard and I certainly won't be attending the run session on Saturday. This is what is know as "tapering" where you wind down the intensity of training in the build up to the race. The longer the race the longer the tapering period should be.

Also you want to make sure you have got lots of fuel in the engine so I will also be stuffing my face with pasta on Saturday night. Finally you have to make sure you have timed your toilet breaks to precision before the race. It's tempting to drink lots of water but you don't want to then be hunting for a toilet when you should be running, as I was in Amsterdam.

That also applies for the other type of toilet business. As a very good friend once told me - "You're never going to run your personal best when you've got a bullet jammed in the chamber."

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Bloody Cyclists

While cycling is my favourite discipline in triathlon it is without doubt the most dangerous. As I mentioned in a previous post before I moved out to the wilds of West Sussex I used to commute around London on my bike. During this time I had several accidents, luckily none serious, but ones that could have been a lot worse. One required a brief visit to hospital and two required an expensive trip to the bike shop. One or two were down to my lack of road awareness, a couple were due to ignorant drivers and one was due to me neglecting bike maintenance. 
It goes without saying that it is imperative that your bike is kept roadworthy and you ensure that you are highly visible when out on a ride and don't do anything too silly; I obviously found out the hard way. The reason I'm mentioning this? Yesterday Britain's greatest cyclist, Bradley Wiggins, was knocked off his bike while riding near his house. 
Get well soon Wiggo
 According to Sky News  The accident happened at about 6pm on Wednesday in Wrightington, Lancashire, near to his family home in Eccleston, between Preston and Wigan. Apparently Wiggo was on a mountain bike on his way to meet a group of local cyclists. Lancashire Police said: "Police were called to the scene of a road traffic accident at Crow Orchard Road in Wrightington at about 6pm.  

In a statement on its website, Team Sky said: "We can confirm that on Wednesday evening Bradley Wiggins was involved in a road traffic accident whilst riding his bike near his home in Lancashire.
"He is being kept in hospital overnight for observation but the injuries he has sustained are not thought to be serious and he is expected to make a full and speedy recovery."
If you are thinking of taking part in some triathlon races over the next 12 months it can't hurt to become a member of the British Triathlon Federation. It costs £51 for the year (£40 if you are a member of a club) and as well as making it cheaper for each race you compete in you are also insured for any bike accidents that occur whilst training (by this I mean you are covered for any injuries that you incur rather than damage to the bike). You are also covered against any injury or damage you may cause to someone else if the accident is your fault. Your membership also entitles you to legal advice through their legal partner.

My understanding (although you may want to clarify this with the BTF) is that the term training is used in the broadest sense, cycling to work or to the shops is deemed to be training so you would be covered if you were unfortunate enough to have a mishap.

I wasn't a member at the time of the incidents I was involved in and unfortunately didn't pursue the cases where it wasn't my fault. With proper legal advice I am sure I would have done and not incurred the cost of replacing my bike. But there we go. Anyway, I hope I haven't put you all on a downer. Anyway get well soon Wiggo and as the EGTC club development officer, Big Dave, says in his weekly email - Train Safe readers.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Interview: On the run with James Dunne

To give you all a break from my inane ramblings I thought I'd get some proper expert coaching insight for today's post. James Dunne was a professional rugby union player with Wasps and Ealing before becoming an endurance sport coach. As one of Europe's leading specialist running technique coaches he is the founder of Kinetic Revolution and regularly contributes to the best selling triathlon and running magazines. He very generously gave up his time to answer some questions and as well as revealing his sporting hero (who isn't a runner, rugby player or triathlete) he demonstrated the ridiculous lengths he will go to, to understand his clients needs. It's a bit of a long one but well worth the effort. And if you need to give your eyes a rest you can find an audio version here.

James Dunne

You were obviously a professional rugby player so how did you get in to endurance sports? Was this something you participated in prior to your rugby career?

Prior to rugby, and rugby for me really took off for me around the age of 16, prior to that I always enjoyed pretty unstructured running. So there was always the odd local cross country race or 10k but my parents lived on a cliff top, they still live on a cliff top in Suffolk, and you can go to the end of the garden, out of the gate and you have literally got 10 miles of beach to run one way and 10 miles of beach to run the other way. So I’d take the dog and go for a run after school. It was just a fantastic thing I used to love to do.

So as I said there was no real structure to that training but one day, when my rugby got slightly more structured and slightly more serious around the age of 16, a coach said if you are ever serious about becoming a decent rugby player you have got to know that your pace at the best of times lets you down. So all this long, steady work you are doing has to stop so the furthest you are going to be doing as a rugby player in one burst is 40, 50 metres. As a second row it is very much short, sharp bursts in terms of the game play so I had to start training that way.

So between the ages of 16 and 23,24 when injury forced me out of the game that was pretty much all I would do so it would be that short, sharp natured training – completely different to endurance sport of any nature and that has thrown up its own problems trying to get into an endurance sport mentality out of the back of a rugby career. It is learning to slow down, after being used to redlining everything as a rugby player.

Who has been you biggest sporting inspiration/hero?

Ben Ainslie the multiple Olympic gold medallist sailor. As I said I was brought up on the north Suffolk coast just very much at the south end of the Norfolk broads and I spent my whole childhood on the water or in the water, although you wouldn’t know it to look at my swimming! I remember meeting Ben Ainslie at the Laser nationals, Laser being a class of dinghy, in 1998 or 1999 when I was 15 or 16 and being very much in awe of this guy who I knew was top dog on the international stage in our class of dinghy. It was the one time I met him and I’ve always followed his career with immense admiration. For me one of the highlights of the Olympics was watching him win the Finn class after such a torid week.

Great Britain's Ben Ainslie

What has been your biggest sporting achievement or most memorable moment whether it’s winning the egg and spoon race as a child, something from your rugby days, achieving a personal best or entering your first endurance event?

Although I was at Wasps and played rugby union professionally there for a couple of years and played national leagues with Ealing, and had fantastic seasons there being promoted, I think it was playing my first game for England schools, so playing England under 16s against Wales at Rodney Parade in Newport. We lost. Across the under 18s and under 16s we played Wales four times and they beat us every single time so definitely some unfinished business there but I don't think I'll ever get the chance to go back and finish that business! So the first schoolboy cap at under 16 level, that is massively memorable and what sticks out there is singing the national anthem.

If we are thinking more endurance sports I guess it would have to be the Helsinki marathon last year. Not because it was quick or anything like that because believe me it wasn't and in fact that was all part of the reason why it was so memorable. I'd coached a number of ironman athletes that summer, helping them back from injury and the typical situation is that they'd come in three or four months before their race saying they had a calf or achilles problem and couldn't run more than 20 minutes before the problem flared up. Not ideal if you are training for an iron distance race (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, nicely topped off with a marathon run).

We worked through the problem and got them to the point where they were able to run without the injruy flaring up. However listening to their reports after race day, their calf muscles or achilles held up but their bodies weren't used to the loading of running a marathon, they just didn't have any miles in their legs. It made total sense - it's one thing rehabbing an injury but if you are trying to fast track yourself to be ironman fit or even marathon fit, you can't bluff that really. 

So I wanted to know what they were going through so I limited myself to somewhere between 5 and 10km a week maximum for three months ahead of the marathon which was 22 August 2011. I wanted to know what it felt like to run a marathon with no miles in the legs - forget running it off the bike, that adds in a whole new perspective I just wanted to know what a standalone marathon feels like with no miles in the legs. It was horrific, it was absolutely horrendous.

It's something I would never recommend anyone to do for obvious reasons but I'm really glad I did. It was quite an education in terms of pacing but also in terms of finding out what form and strength alone will get you. I'm 6ft 6 and 110kg so that's quite a lump to get round a fairly undulating course in Helsinki. So I had to rely on an underlying level of fitness but for me the most important thing coming out of that was knowing that a certain level of strength, a certain ability technique wise will get you round.

I came out with no injuries not even a blister, although I was coming down the stairs backwards the next day my calves in particular were screaming at me. So I think the 3.54 I got round Helsinki in that day really sticks in my mind I felt an incredible sense of achievement getting around that because I was setting off thinking "oh my god there is no way this is going to end well I am categorically the least prepared person here." It's a funny feeling. So getting around that, which I wasn't convinced I would at first, was very satisfying.

How did your company Kinetic Revolution come about?

I studied at St Mary's University College in Twickenham, London and during my time there I started Sport Rehabilitation. The degree I started out doing was actually Sports Science but I found I gravitated towards a Sports Rehab degree through watching what a lot of my friends were doing who were on the Rehab course. So after doing two years of Sports Science I asked to start again so I went into this Rehab degree and really took a shine to the biomechanics side of things and the movement analysis. 

So when I came out of University having graduated I was quite fortunate to get a job in a clinic which worked pretty much on that front in terms of not just delivering the usual hands on pyhsio treatment but really focusing on athlete and their specific rehab needs. So taking them to the gym, going through their exercises with them and when the time comes helping them get into running and look at their techniques, their compensations, their biomechanical flaws that got them injured in the first place.

So I learnt a hell of a lot there and then after three years working there in 2010 I essentially decided I wanted to do this for myself, there were certain things I agreed with and certain things I didn't agree with in terms of the way in which things were structured. I had my own thoughts and I had my own take on certain coaching practices and I wanted to be specific to endurance athletes.

St Mary's College Twickenham
One of the biggest issues I had really was the fact that at times it was a one size fits all approach when it came to running techniques so you'd be working with a professional footballer one hour teaching them one thing and then working with a 13 hour ironman athlete the next hour and teaching them exactly the same thing in terms of running technique when there are really different elements required and different specific coaching points. Coaching points you'd use when coaching a sprint athlete are different to that of an endurance athlete, as you can imagine, so I wanted to offer a more bespoke solution.

Also I wanted to focus on doing everything outdoors because I fundamentally believe running on treadmills is completely different to running outside as we all do in terms of competition. For me analysing and coaching running gait on a treadmill and then asking them to recreate that outdoors doesn't make a whole load of sense so I very much set out to make sure athletes get a specific experience to what they need in terms of their event. 

As you can imagine it would make no sense for an ironman athlete to do technique work on a treadmill running far faster than they'd run in ironman events or in training up a ridiculous incline for a short period when what they really need to do is work on holding efficient technique over an extended period at a specific pace more like their race pace. So I just wanted to be specific in what I was offering and that's proven after the last few years to get some fantastic results so I am obviously very happy with the angle I have taken there.

Are there any common mistakes people make when training for endurance events particularly if they are self coached or training on their own?

There are two major things that I see again and again. I think particularly in a sport like Triathlon if you are self-coached and you are given the choice between doing a session you enjoy and the one you need to do which, which you won't enjoy but will hold the most benefit for you the majority of us will gravitate towards the session we enjoy. I think the main message I try to give people a lot of the time is look at what you specifically need to get out of the session rather than going for the session you enjoy. There is obviously a time and a place to swim for the pleasure of swimming and run for the pleasure of running but at the same time if you specifically need something in a session to get better even if you hate that session, get it done. Don’t just constantly do what you enjoy and nothing else.

The other one, and I'm massively guilty of this myself in my own training and I should know better, but it's essentially making you're easy runs too hard and your hard runs too easy. It's essentially not getting the full benefit from your long steady runs pushing yourself that little bit too hard, pushing yourself above the heart rate zones that you should be working in at that nice aerobic pace so you're not getting the benefit from that and then in your harder sessions, your interval sessions during the week, not pushing yourself hard enough.

So I’m massively guilty of that. Because of my rugby background I'm used to redlining everything I attempt so even if I set out intentionally trying to be very conservative about my pacing on my long Sunday run I'll look at my pace and realise that I'm running 30-45 seconds per kilometre faster than I set out to run and have to reel it back in, slow myself down and make sure I truly am getting the aerobic benefit from that run as opposed to essentially  working that little bit  too hard and metabolically tiring myself out for that two hour run I went on. That will have a knock on effect later in the week.

If I worked too hard for that two hour run not only am I getting the aerobic benefit but I have fatigued myself more than I should have done for that "easy" session. Therefore when I approach my intervals I end up being pretty fatigued for that interval session, not working as hard as I should do and not taking the full benefit from that session at the high end. So you get into a spiral where everything ends up at a mediocre pace and there is not a big difference between your easy pace and your hard pace. So to package that up: make your easy runs easy and your hard runs hard it’s simple. But you'd be amazed at the number of people who just spend the whole time at a mediocre midline pace.

Do your coaching and training philosophies differ for the particular distance or is it largely based on the same approach?

I'm a massive fan of looking at what the athlete has to achieve within their events. Alistair Brownlee for example can get away with being right up on his forefoot for that distance. If someone is looking to run a hard 5k or hard 10k it's worth taking them from a heel striker to more of a forefoot striker but looking longer than that if someone wants to improve their running form for the iron distance or ultramarathon then really if they are coming in as quite a heavy heel striker then it's easier to work on a whole load of postural drills.

You have to work on getting the alignment right, stop them from over striding - that's the big one - so they are not essentially applying the brakes every time they put their foot on the ground they are landing close to underneath their hips and allow the foot to land however is most comfortable so if it's most comfortable for them to still heel strike albeit the heel strike is closer to under their hips rather than out in front of them as previously then that's fine.

If you look at Crowie (five time World Ironman Triathlon Champion and World Record holder Craig 'Crowie' Alexander) although he starts off with this nice midfoot strike, towards that 20 mile mark he's definitely heel striking. So you've got to ask the question if you're an ironman athlete what are the demands of the sport? Is it more important for you to start out with a fore to mid foot strike and hold it for as long as possible or is it more important to say I'm going to almost certainly at some point end up heel striking on this marathon when fatigue kicks in? So perhaps it's best to work on holding as good as form as possible in that heel strike.

So many athletes don't work on that, so many athletes don't focus on holding good form and good posture with the heel strike. They either think I'm either going to leave my technique as I have always done or they go down the route of trying to change to this mid foot, bare foot natural running type style. Instead there is a middle ground, so that middle ground is essentially keeping posture in right place keep the cadence in the right place and allow that foot to come down and land however is appropriate particularly when looking at the level of fatigue in a longer race.

Australia's Craig 'Crowie' Alexander
 What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about taking up running/triathlon (perhaps from being inspired by the Olympics) but is worried they are too old/young/unfit or perhaps haven't done any sport since they were at school?!

Three things. Firstly start slow, build it up. Don't just try and throw lots of intensity at it to begin with or lots of volume at it to begin with because either way you'll end up injured. Start out gently building up in terms of volume and intensity almost regardless of the sport you are talking about and build gradually. Secondly, as you are building gradually, get in the gym. Any kind of strength work to accompany the running, swimming and cycling you are doing will help to make your body more resilient to the work you are putting in. Thirdly, enjoy it. While there is certainly a place when it comes to  really trying to push your performance where you have got to get through those sessions you hate, when you are getting into it and developing your love for the sport just enjoy, get out there and train with a smile on your face. That's pretty cheesy but you get the picture.
A lot has been made of the "Olympic legacy." Have you been aware of more people wanting to get involved in running/triathlon or perhaps people who have done a few races and have now been inspired to try and take it to the next level?

Definitely on both fronts. If you look at the continual growth of an event like Park Run they are constantly seeing new runners coming in and entering new races on a regular basis, numbers are swelling significantly. In terms of people taking it on to the next level the biggest thing I've seen personally in talking to clients and prospective clients it's people who have either just run or cycled previously who have seen the success of the Brownlees at the Olympics but people also cite people like Chrissie Wellington (four times World Ironman Champion) and have just been inspired by what they have seen of triathlon in the media and heard from friends and fancy giving it a bash. In my mind triathlon is set to continue as this growth sport in the next few years.

Great Britain's Chrissie Wellington
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I suppose the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is just to go with your gut feeling. If your gut tells y ou something strongly enough then even if you don’t know what the reason is just go with it. I find that on the whole that has treated me pretty well and the times I have come unstuck is when for some reason I haven’t listened to what intuitively on some level I feel has been right

Monday, 5 November 2012

Back on track

This weekend was the first EGTC training session dedicated to building strength and fitness following October's focus on technique. You may recall that last season I had a tendency to sneak off before the run session began. So I am pleased to announce that I summoned up all my will power not to jump in the car and burn out of the car park with the squealing of tyres before someone could stop me. But I was tempted.

To start with Saturday's swim drills included one armed swimming. Not only is this incredibly tiring but we did it in a way that I hadn't done it before with the non stroking arm trailing as is shown on the video below at 1.00 minute.

I found this rather confusing, particularly breathing over the non-moving shoulder, so managed to drink a considerable amount of the pool while floundering around like a beached whale. I did eventually get the technique (more or less!) but I have to confess at that point I was already thinking: "I might not stay for the run."

So after the 45 minute swim we then had a core session. This basically involves being made to assume positions you would normally see during a game of twister. Because of my weekly trips to the gym, where I mainly focus on my core muscles, I assumed that I was going to find the first session of the year easy but this wasn't the case. So midway through the 30 minute core session I found myself thinking: "I might not stay for the run."

Copyright Lorraine Cowell
 But with some gentle persuasion (some might call it harassment) from my fellow club members I stayed for the dreaded run. As there are different abilities of runners at the club we are generally put into appropriate groups. This week was a "gentle" run which, with the use of an online route planner I later discovered was about 6km. At time it felt nearer 16km but I think I was probably running at a harder pace than I normally would. That is obviously the benefit of running with others - you do tend to push yourself a little bit harder than normal. So obviously once I was back at EGTC base camp I was pretty pleased that I'd stayed for the whole session, as I undoubtedly will every Saturday the rest of the season...

So then it was time to return home and await the arrival of Smug Running Guy. So how did my run with him go on Sunday morning. Well what can I say? We got so carried away with the excitement of letting off fireworks for Toddler Trihard and Smug Running Toddler that we were a bit too tired to go for a run. And it was hailing and very windy. OK I had a hangover. But Smug Running Guy evidently wasn't suffering as much as me - he texted me the read out of his fancy heart rate monitor later that evening to show he'd done an 8km run when he got home. In 39 minutes 31 seconds. He's such a Smug Running Guy.

But I have been out for a 10km run today, and yes I have checked the distance and it was definitely 10km. Well almost. It was 9.6km but I think that's acceptable.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Turbo Trainer Torture!

Here is a video I found on You Tube (just three minutes long) which depicts the horror of turbo training in general but at the end it also shows a diagram illustrating heart rate.

Best laid plans

The last you heard from me I was bragging about the fact that I'd got extremely organised and had planned exactly what I was going to write each day. However I've had an extremely busy week, haven't organised my time properly, so therefore haven't been able to update you with with what's been going on. Part of the reason I haven't been able to update the blog is due to the fact that I've had a lot of work on, which has been good for the Trihard coffers but not good for those who eagerly anticipate the next entry of my adventures. So a big apology to my mum and sister.

Anyway I mentioned on Monday that this week was the start of base training and I therefore had quite a gruelling week ahead of me. This has been met with mixed success and guess what? The biggest casualty has been my running! Unfortunately I have managed a grand total of just 2km on the treadmill. On the positive side a large section of that was having the treadmill at a steep incline to improve my hill running. In retrospect I think I should have steadily increased the incline instead of whacking up to one of the highest points and lasted longer. Perhaps next time.

I did make it to the turbo training session though. When doing this at home I had just been concentrating at keeping my heart rate above a certain level with the use of my heart rate monitor. This wasn't quite how the training session was conducted but wasn't too far off.

As well as doing some drills to improve cycling technique (cycling one footed so you are pushing throughout the cycle of the pedalling motion) rather than just up and down) the aim was to keep cycling at intervals of 90 rpm and 120 rpm cadence (the number of times the wheel goes round in a minute to me and you) and using the gears to increase intensity. The idea is that you are then aiming to work at different percentages of your maximum heart  rate. Unfortunately there were a few setbacks to this. Firstly I didn't have a cadence sensor on my bike, so was trying to guess by continually staring at the coaches legs to ensure mine were moving at roughly the same pace as his, and secondly I don't know what my maximum heart rate is.

To rectify the first issue on my return home I immediately set about finding a decent cadence sensor on the internet.

Unfortunately my heart rate monitor is not compatible with this cadence sensor (or any other) so I then set about finding a new heart rate monitor that was compatible. I'd forgotten how expensive my heart rate monitor was and this is one that isn't compatible with a cadence sensor. It was a good job I wasn't wearing one when trying to find a new monitor that is compatible because it would have properly exploded. If I was balking at the price there was no way I was going to get clearance from Mrs Trihard. Luckily after some searching I found one that was massively reduced. After some careful negotiations, which involved me not divulging  how much it was but justifying it by saying it was a mere fraction of the money I'd earned from this weeks working endeavours I got the all clear.

So now all I need to do to get the most out of my turbo training (and other sessions) is work out my maximum heart rate. One very simple way of doing this, according to the heart rate monitor manual, is with the equation 210-(0.65 x AGE). However this is very much an estimate and the manual recommends that you speak to a coach (athletic not National Express) to work out how to safely determine this. For example I am the same age as Smug Running Guy but I suspect that I'd be having cardiac arrest before he reached 70 per cent of his maximum. And this weekend perhaps we'll find out. Anyway there was a turbo training session in October where the purpose was to work out your maximum heart rate. Put simply this involves a warm up followed by cycling at 90rpm at the highest intensity you can for 20 minutes. Unfortunately I missed it so can either go with the estimate or attempt to do it at home. I have spoken to the head coach who said it is possible to do at home but said you are less likely to work as hard as you would when doing it with fellow club members.

So in summary. I have bought some more expensive equipment to get the most out of my training. It looks like I'll need some sort of PHD to work out how to use it properly but I'm sure some of my more cerebally gifted club members will be able to assist. I am going to attempt the maximum heart rate test but am waiting for a new skewer (the bit that attaches the wheel to the bike and to the turbo trainer) to arrive as mine broke when getting the bike out of the car on my return home on Tuesday night. My god this is an expensive hobby.