#Swimrun Training Weeks 11 and 12 – Taper time

So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been pretty much resting up. I’ve logged about 30 miles of running and on top of that I’ve finally managed to get some race specific training done.

Me and Tom have been able to get up to Southwater lake and train in full kit. Swimming up and down the lake, jumping out and running around it before repeating.

The first time I tried this I found it really tough. I very quickly learnt how difficult it is to swim in your shoes. Its like dragging a lead weight behind you, and attempting to kick is murder on your leg muscles (which you’re trying to save for the run anyway.)

Talking points from the first attempt:

  • My goggles don’t work (cheapo emergency Zoggs from Tesco)
  • I don’t have the strength needed for paddles
  • I will not need a pull bouy
  • I don’t get on with swim hats

But on a more positive note

  • My wetsuit felt good, even on the run.
  • No Chafing
  • Running and swimming go together very well for me
  • The water was sooo warm!
  • My Inov8 X-Talons feel fine, if a little heavy in the water.

So before our next training session together I bought some new goggles, some base layers and some Bodyglide to help avoid chafing over longer distances.
Our next attempt was in the sea and there was quite a lot of chop. I’ve mentioned before that Tom is a great swimmer and this really showed in the sea. I struggled against the current in whichever direction and the salt water made me want to throw up everytime I downed a mouthful.
But we managed a decent distance out to a shipping bouy and back, we estimated it at about a mile. It looked much closer but when we finally got there I realised that its just fucking big! I’m glad we’re not swimming against strong currents at Buttermere, and praying for the lake to look like a mirror come Saturday morning.
My new goggles felt really comfortable, although I couldn’t see further than my hand as the water was too stirred up.

Last night we got up to Southwater again for our final Swimrun specific training session. This time I’d cut the legs off my wetsuit and donned my Gococo Compression socks too.

This session went perfectly, we dialled into a nice pace in the water with me swimming right on Toms toes. We’ve agreed that if I tap him on the foot then he’s just to ignore it, in fact, it means he can avoid checking to see if I’m still on his toes. If I pull his foot, it means I need to ease off the pace a bit.

We won’t be using a tether to keep us together as its just another bit of kit that we have to worry about, we’re going very minimal: no paddles, no buoys, no tether.

Visibility seemed much better this time round, Tom assured me it was just my goggles. I was actually able to see his feet. I’m anticipating this to be even better on the day up in the crystal waters of Buttermere.

Once again, climbing out and getting into our running stride felt good, we’re both pretty strong runners and fairly equal ability so we should both feel similar levels of comfort/discomfort on the day and know when we can push or ease off.

So thats training done, kit finalised, disclaimers signed. What’s next? Well, a 7 hour drive, 7+ hours of racing together, and 7 hours in the car coming home….we’re not even sure if we like each other that much! Tom’s already mentioned wearing a Belgium shirt for the Wales vs Belgium match in the Euro’s on Friday night – I’m Welsh by the way!

Final Kitlist:

  • Goggles: Speedo Futura Biofuse (Black)
  • Base Layer: Nike Pro Core Short Sleeve T – Maru Swim Jammers
  • Wetsuit: HEAD Swimrun Rough (Legs trimmed above the knee)
  • Socks: Gococo Compression Superior
  • Shoes: Inov8 X-Talon 212

If you’re going to be there at the weekend, I look forward to meeting you. Please make yourself known, especially if you’re staying in the YHA.

We’ll see you there!

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May Training

The Numbers:

Mileage for the month – 189 miles
Biggest week – 50 miles
Longest run – 14 Miles

The Positives

I beat my target of 175 miles for the month and I’ve been striking a decent balance between my easy and hard runs. My swimming is good (for me) and I think I’ve now got all my kit in place for Breca Swimrun in July. I’ll go through all my kit in another post soon.
The only thing I’m concerned about is my trainers.
I’ve got my Inov8 X-Talon 212’s which are great in tough conditions, but painful as hell when the ground is hard. I’ve seen a lot of competitors in these and also in the 190’s which have the same grip/lugs on the bottom. The other thing that concerns me is I think the 212’s might get a bit heavy when waterlogged.
I’d love to have a reserve pair of shoes to take up with me so I can decide once I’ve seen the terrain. Something like the Merrell Trail Gloves or maybe the Inov8 190’s as they look like a lighter build.
Light and grippy is what I’m looking for.

The Must Do Betters

A few more miles to go yet before I taper. I’d like to do a tough 16-18 miler with some of the steepest hills I can find locally.
I also need to test my kit, run in my wetsuit, swim in my shoes, get in the sea, and practice with my team-mate Tom. He’s much quicker than me in the water so we need to dial into our perfect team swim speed.
Finally, I need to work on my shoulders/back/triceps. Lots of press-ups, pull ups and hangs. 6k swimming in cold water dragging along wet shoes on my feet is going to be tough on my upper body.

Any Other Business

I’m running a Beach 5 mile race on the 8th of June, not an important race at all, but a nice one to get out and be involved in. My team-mate has just smashed his 10k PB in Lisbon, at the end of a Triathlon no less, so I need to get some good race efforts in.
I’ve also got a club Aquathlon on the 10th of June. 400m swim/5k run I think. I probably won’t go all out on it, but I’d like to run hard off the swim for at least half of it.
Aside from all that, I’m starting to pick up clients requiring maintenance Sports Massage too which is brilliant. I’m looking forward to working with these people over the next few months in an attempt to keep them on the right side of injury.

June Goals:
Mileage: 175 miles
Long Run: 18 miles off road
Swim: Once a week pool, once a week Open Water
Yoga: Every Damn Day
Strength: A daily upper body workout
Kit: test, test and test again.

me & tom – lean’n’green

#Swimrun Training – Week 8

Total Miles: 49 Miles 
Average Pace:
 7:38 min/mile
Longest Run: 10.4 Miles – 21% of total
Speedwork: 3.8 miles – 8% of total

Now that was a fun week of training. I pushed a bit harder in most of my runs this week just for a bit of fun. Nothing too strenuous but closer to tempo than easy pace.

I got a bit lost on my run home from swimming on Thursday, ended up skirting fields that I never knew existed. I’d like to be able to say it was beautiful, but I was shattered by that point and it was pitch black so I have no idea, I was just pleased to get home!

I took an opportunity to lead the Sunday social running group (ShoreFit Run Club) and push the pace with the lead group for a change. It turned out to be an unplanned progression run of sorts. I’d like to do more of my runs like this – Its the Kenyan way apparently. Start at a snails amble, and gradually pick it up until the last half mile is at an almost all out effort.

I’ve been reading More Fire by Toby Tanser recently. Its a fascinating insight into how the Kenyans have become so dominant in distance running. Yes, there’s the geographical and genetic factors, but mostly, there’s desire, belief and damn hard work.
According to Toby Tanser, most group runs in Kenya turn into progression runs as everyone takes a turn up front and no one wants to be the one to let the pace drop.

kenya

Anyway, away from the dusty roads of Iten and the Rift Valley, and back to Worthing, England….. and specifically, the running track.

Workout Of The Week – Track Blackjack

I mentioned it was fun this week didn’t I? On Wednesday I took a pack of playing cards to the track to determine the evenings session.
We split the group into 3 teams of 7 or so runners, and dealt each team 5 cards.
The idea was that you turn your top card over and run that number of minutes at 5k pace, we walked the recoveries back to the start line ready to turn the next card. Tha aim of the game was to score as close to 21 as possible without going bust. In this game, Ace’s and Face’s were worth 1 minute.

Somehow, all 3 teams ended up scoring 21, albeit reaching it in different ways.

My team, ended up with efforts of 2mins, 8mins and 10mins – this was pretty brutal and by the time we got back to the start line, we could see from the other teams cards that we had to gamble otherwise we’d be in last place. The risk being that whatever we turned over we would have to run. Fortunately for us, it turned out to be an Ace (another 10 minute effort would have killed us!)

I’m looking forward to repeating this session later in the year, its great not knowing what your next effort will be. And the competitive element in trying to reach 21 adds a bit of fun, god knows running round in circles can get a bit, well…..repetitive.

On the swimming front, I managed one session in the pool and my wetsuit arrived right at the end of the week.
I’m on holiday for a week now and probably won’t get a chance to use it until I return. I’m already a bit apprehensive about the water temperature, I don’t really do cold.

The never-fails, FOOLPROOF method to running faster

You want to get better at running right, that’s why you’re here, reading this under that catchy headline?

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret, there are no shortcuts. However, there are simple changes you might be able to make that will produce results.

Still reading? Excellent, thank you! I’m sure I’ve lost a few already. You must be committed! I’m going to share with you the two things I consider most important in making steady improvements.

Becoming a better runner involves going out and running, a lot. You’ll see training plans all over the internet and in magazines. You might download and follow one, or adapt one to fit your own life. You might make one up yourself completely or have one set by a friend or a coach. One thing they’ll all have in common is that you go out the door and run.

But what kind of running? Easy? Threshold? Speedwork? Tempo? Recovery? Long Run?  And then there’s further questions such as how fast/slow? And how long?

And this brings me to my first point.

BALANCE

I’ve seen marathon plans that will have you running a 20 miler even though weekly mileage hits a maximum of 35 per week. I’ve seen lots of runners who ONLY run fast on all of their runs. And I see lots of injured runners who don’t take adequate rest.

The rules I recommend are as follows:

  • PACE – normal(easy) running, workouts, and recovery runs should all have a notably different feel to them.
  • Fast runs – these are your opportunities to run FAST, make the most of them
  • Long Runs – try and keep it below 30% of your overall weekly mileage, I personally like to keep it under 2 hours too.
  • Speedwork – keep this well below 10% of your overall weekly mileage

What do these rules mean? They should mean that you feel fresh enough to tackle your speedwork effectively, and that you are developing a strong aerobic engine without over-training.

If your speedwork or long run go over these amounts, they often demand more recovery time which may result in lost training days…..or worse…..injury.

A simplified example training week – play with the no’s but pay attention to the %’s
Total Mileage: 40 miles
Long Run: 10 miles = 25%
Speedwork: 3 miles = 7.5%  (eg 12 x 400m)
Tempo run: 5 miles – pace between HM to 10k pace.
Easy runs: 22 miles
Rest: At least one full day.

Getting the BALANCE right will mean you are more likely to achieve my second point without incurring injury or fatigue.

CONSISTENCY

 This bit’s easy on paper. Just go out and do it, week in/week out. But as we all know, life likes to throw obstacles in the way, so here are my tips on remaining consistent:

  • Make sure you’re enjoying running
  • Write a weekly plan (but be prepared to change it)
  • Get the balance right to avoid injury
  • Keep your runs/routes varied to keep it interesting
  • Increase volume or pace over a period of weeks, don’t make big jumps.
  • Find a partner or club to maintain motivation

Final Important point.

  • Listen to your body!

If it’s getting tired after a number of weeks, it might mean you need to pull back on something. Maybe cut the mileage, or trim your pace a little.

Your body will normally give you signs that its reaching breaking point (elevated resting heart-rate, poor sleep, lack of motivation, restlessness, halt in progress etc.) listen to them before it’s too late.

We walk a fine line between peak performance and overtraining, lets try and stay on the right side.

Rest and recovery is equally as important as running, its where your body adapts to the training you’re putting it through. This will demand a blog post all of its own but here’s 3 quick pointers:

  • Find yourself a good Sports Masseuse to help with mobility & maintenance once a month
  • Find yourself a running-friendly Yoga teacher who understands how to stretch you out without taking too much tension out of your muscles.
  • Get on top of your nutrition as this helps everything from rebuilding to refuelling

 

If you can keep up well balanced training consistently then results WILL follow.

 

 

Race Report – Three Forts Half Marathon

The Three Forts Half Marathon

Pre-race

I arrived at Hill Barn Playing fields after my normal Sunday morning 0-5k group run. This served as a nice warm-up without taxing the legs too much, although I probably wouldn’t do it if was a serious target race.
The sun was shining and it was warm enough to strip down to race kit nice and early. I went through my normal warm-up routine and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere around the start-line.
An old family friend of mine, Andy (Wiggy) had come down from the Midlands to run the full, his first marathon and I found him looking nervous amongst the 700 or so people milling around. I reminded him of a 3k fun-run we’d done together, we must have only been about 6 years old. Our Dad’s then went on to do the 5 or 10k race afterwards but we weren’t allowed to do that one. Wiggy didn’t remember any of this and I don’t think it helped settle his nerves!

team tuff
Me, Sim and Dom

At 10am the full marathoners were off and the number of people in the field was reduced by half. I had a pre-race chat with Simone and Dom from my Tri Club (Tuff Fitty) and Simon, my wingman from ShoreFit run club. We were all in high spirits and really looking forward to having a nice run on the South Downs.
As we posed for a Tuff Fitty team photo, we suddenly heard the Town Crier ringing his bell and shouting GO! – for a moment we thought we’d missed the start of our race but he was only setting off the Cani-X runners! Phew!

With a few minutes to go, I made my way to the front row of the start line and got ready to go.

Mile 1-2
Another ring of the Town Criers bell and we were off, I found myself part of a group of 4 runners as we made the first climb up Cissbury Ring. 500ft of ascent later and we’d already put quite a gap on the next group.
We rounded the top and went full throttle into the chalky descent around the back. I’d opted for my retired Adidas Adios 2’s for this race as they’ve got nothing left in them for the roads but I thought they’d be OK on dry trails. Some of the chalk paths were baked as hard as concrete and I was kind of wishing I’d gone for something with a bit more cushioning left in them.
I grabbed a cup of water at the first aid station and failed miserably at getting any more than 2 drops into my mouth.

Mile 3
This section is normally pretty quick, I should be going at sub-7min pace along here quite comfortably……only I’m not. The guys in front of me are moving away and I’ve got a crippling pain trying to fold me in half.
I thought it was a stitch at the time, and I blamed/cursed those water drops a few moments earlier. With hindsight, I recognise that the effort I’d put in going up and down the first hill had given me abdominal cramps, it was nothing to do with the water and it wasn’t a stitch. I slowed my pace and as I tried to get control of my body again I was caught by the next group of runners.

Mile 4-7
Uphill…..Uphill…..then a bit more Uphill. Another 500ft upwards. Resulting in fine views from Chanctonbury Ring of both the North and South Downs. Managed to negotiate a couple of cattle grids at the top by running straight over them rather than waste time with the National Trust gates. One of the few benefits of size 12 running shoes.

Mile 8-10
Downhill, in varying degrees. Culminating in a quad-smashing 12% descent. All this sounds wonderful, and it was a great opportunity to get my breath back a bit, but it destroyed my legs just before I hit one of the hardest climbs of the race.

Miles 11-13.1
I was passed here by numerous runners, I muttered a “well-done” and felt like an extra weight had been added to my legs with each one that went by. The last climb up Cissbury ring reduced me to walking, although it was probably more efficient than my running at that point.

The bit that I had been dreading the most was the final downhill section. Its a single track chalk trail that I always avoid in training. Its rutted with a deep uneven groove where the rain drains away and you have to zigzag down it, leaping over the chasm, praying that you don’t turn an ankle. A chap in a yellow vest flew past me with the ease of a mountain goat, I honestly don’t know how he could be so sure-footed here, fair play.

I finally emerged onto the playing field where it all began, ankles intact, and mustered up the strongest finish I could manage. I heard my name being called by the commentator. I could see literally 10’s of people clapping and cheering. I crossed the line in 1:42:24. Not bad. (The winners time was 1:27:xx for an indication of how tough the course is – his marathon PB is 2:46)

image1

Post Race

The mayor put a medal around my neck and I promptly fell over. The medal wasn’t heavy, it wasn’t like an anvil, I just couldn’t stand up anymore.
I looked over at the massage tent and decided to crawl over and get a post-event rub down whilst there was no queue.
My wife and son came and found me on the table, and then we all went and cheered on some of the finishers until the boy got restless.

Reflections

I wanted to see what my limitations were with this race and to try and get in amongst the leaders. I very quickly found out that I need to do more hill-work, and perhaps some more core-work if I want to put myself near the front here.
I’ll definitely be back to race this one next year and aiming to better my 18th position.
Out of my pre-race goals (see here) I missed both A (Top 3) and B (Top 10), but pleased to not come away injured which was my C goal, should probably make this a general life goal.
I had slight tingling in my feet at the end which I’m attributing to my shoe choice, simply not enough cushioning for hard packed descents. Grip wasn’t an issue though and it was nice to give them a farewell race.

Final word

A great race over a beautiful challenging course, with cheerful marshals, well stocked aid stations and excellent post-race facilities. With under 1000 runners across the 2 events, the organisers still lay on free (charitable donation) massage and all the cakes/pastries you can eat as well as a finishers medal. We were blessed with fine weather this year which made it all the more enjoyable.

Highly Recommended!

medal

#Swimrun Training – Week 5

Total Miles: 28 Miles 
Average Pace:
 9:04 min/mile
Longest Run: 14 miles  – 50% of total
Speedwork: 2.8 miles – 10% of total

This week was spent waiting for my legs to recover properly from the Three Forts Half Marathon.
I’m surprised that race took as much out of me as it did, I kind of thought I’d be able to resume training as normal immediately afterwards, that’s why I opted for the half over the full distance. Boy was I wrong! My legs still feel like jelly now.

I skipped my run/swim/run session this week as I felt too tired. My legs felt like I’d probably trip over if I tried to run, let alone throw a swim in there as well. Aside from my Saturday afternoon splash about with my son in the small pool at Splash Point, that meant no swimming at all this week.

Workout of the Week

600 Breakdowns
(600/400/300/200) x 3 – 300m jog recoveries

Out of the sessions that I did manage to hit, Wednesday night track was probably my favourite.
As we’re now into triathlon racing season, our emphasis at the track is moving more towards fast reps to push VO2 max and improve running form. There’s nothing quite like running fast to focus on every aspect of your body position. Drills are good for concentrating on links in the chain, but actually pushing the pace makes you think about what your hips are doing, and whether you’re really pushing that ground away behind you.

The 600’s were really tough, and I think I still had too much of the HM in my legs to be able to maintain the pace I wanted in these. I dropped a few seconds on each set on these longer reps. But I felt great for anything 400m and under, hitting all my splits and putting in a good hard effort.

One of the session aims was “Exhilaration Not Exhaustion,” to enjoy the sensation of running fast. I reckon I was 50/50 by the end of the evening, great fun.

I popped out on Friday to do 10 miles which would have been fine had I not chosen a route that was 14 miles long. I accidentally ran up the Ferring Rife too which was midge central. Trying to run with your mouth closed after 11 miles is impossible and looking in the mirror when I got home, my face looked like a car numberplate after a 200mile motorway journey, covered in dead flies! (I promise you, I was not running that fast!)

Next week I’m hoping to get back to some sort of consistency, the balance of  speed/long/easy running is all wrong at the moment and I definitely need to get back in the pool.
I guess overall though, not a bad recovery week.

Over and Out.

The Long Run – Are we getting it wrong?

I wanted to post a few thoughts I’ve been having recently on Long Runs.

I’m not saying these are right, or indeed wrong. But they’ve been making more and more sense to me and I wanted to write them down so I don’t forget them. Also I hope I can get a few people’s thoughts on them, let me know if you think I’m onto something, or if I’m missing something completely.

In particular I’m addressing the Long Run which is usually a staple part of a Marathon training plan. Most plans will have you go up to 20 miles, or further, at least once. Its become a magic number, one that must be reached in training regardless of how many times you might run in a week, or your overall mileage.
I’ve been there myself, the 20 milers loom large on that plan stuck to the fridge. They fill you with dread at the start of the cycle, but they’re set in stone. You have to do them if you want to be able to run 26.2 on the day.

And actually, these thoughts apply if you’re not running a marathon too.

My experience with 20+ mile training runs is that they knock me for six. I run them at the right pace, I fuel them right, but they still bugger up my training for the week ahead. And that goes for 18 milers too.

In fact, I’ve found my limit where I can consistently maintain training week in/week out, and its 2 hours. I did a 2 hour Time Trial last week and at current fitness levels thats just over 16 miles for me. As soon as my sessions start going over this threshold, fatigue creeps in to the point where I have to start missing training.

Funnily enough, that coincides with what I’ve been reading in Hansons Marathon Method. The long run in their plans goes up to 16miles, but the whole plan is consistent high mileage. They do suggest taking the long run longer if your overall weekly mileage is up around 80+, but I would guess this correlates roughly with a 2 hour session anyway.

I wonder what the elites do? They’ll be planning to be out on the course for just over 2 hours so why would they want to run training sessions that go way over that, its just not specific to their goals. Its not beyond the realms that they might do a 20 mile run in 2 hours several times in preparation is it?

It strikes me that this golden figure has rolled down from the top performers, back in the 80’s running boom when there were loads of runners out there running 2:40 and quicker, and become a target for everyone.

Interestingly, without me mentioning any of these thoughts, a club-mate approached me with a research paper he’d read that said no positive adaptations occur in the Mitochondria after 2 hours. In fact, the muscles begin to break down at this point, actually causing damage, essentially causing more harm than good. (wish I had a link for this, it sounded really interesting)
He said that the biggest adaptations to the Mitochondria occur when running for shorter periods at higher intensity. For example 15mins at 5k pace will bring about more increased Mitochondria function than a 90 minute run. Of course, this doesn’t solve the issue of specificity if you’re training for a marathon.

The key points for me at the moment:

  • Long Run should equal 20-30% of weekly total
  • Long Run should not exceed 2 hours
  • Long Run should be a staple workout, regardless of distance training for
  • Long Run pace shouldn’t be set in stone: If it feels too fast for a given day, It probably is, dial it back a bit.

We’re all different and what works for me might not work for you, but one thing is certain, consistent, injury free running yields results. And this is my preferred approach at the moment.

In my own context, I’ve managed to maintain high mileage (50-70miles per week), and set a 5k PB within days of a 2hr TT so its working for me.

I haven’t yet gone into a marathon with this method, but I’m planning on it at some point and I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on.

Please remember, these are just my current thoughts on it, pick it apart if you like, tell me why I’m wrong (or tell me why I’m right!) – I’d appreciate any input.

 

Here’s a link to some further reading if you’re interested
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0129.htm

 

 

 

March Training

I didn’t really have any goals as I kicked off March which was probably a mistake.
I’d set myself an arbitrary figure of 200 miles for the month on Smashrun – a great tool with some really useful insights into your running stats. I’m currently using this alongside Strava to satisfy the inner geek. But this magic figure of 200 was pretty much plucked out of the air, it wasn’t based on a plan, it didn’t take into account my February training. It was just a round number.

I got off to a good start though, and hit almost 4 weeks of good solid running. I’m still pushed for time at the moment so I only managed to get into double figures on a run twice.
Unfortunately, I lost momentum and in the final week, the wheels came off. I dropped down to a ridiculously low 5 mile total for the week. I put this down to not having clearly defined goals for the month.

The Numbers:

Mileage for the month – 150 miles
Biggest week – 41.6 miles
Longest run12 Miles (plus 5 miles – Double run day)

smashrun march

Positives:
My mileage did increase. Up by 21.5% on Feb.
I’m finding Double run days manageable.
My longest run was most of the 3 Forts HM route – in the dark, by headtorch and it was amazing. On reflection, the distance is probably appropriate for my weekly mileage.

The biggest positive for me though is my ability to maintain effort and focus during track sessions. This time last year I’d hit the halfway point during a workout and my thoughts would all be negative

I can’t do this, Its too windy, I’ll sit the next rep out, I’ll call it a day…

But I’m finishing track sessions strongly now, and I’m feeling hyped throughout, no demons on my shoulder whispering at me to stop. And these have been HARD track sessions, 1200’s and mile repeats, you soon know about it if you pace it wrong in one of these sessions.

Unfortunately, swimming hasn’t happened this month. Not even once.

I’m going to chalk the final week of March off and call it a training break as April is where my 3 month block starts for Breca Swimrun.

April goals:
Mileage: 175 miles
Long Run: 16 miles
Swim: Once a week
Race: 5k  – (‘A’ = 18:30, ‘B’ = Sub19, ‘C’ = 5kPB)

I’ve got the 3 Forts Marathon at the start of May and I’m still undecided on what to do. I can run it very easy and enjoy the scenery, the company, and get some miles in my legs. Or drop to the HM and race it. I’ll make a decision closer to the date, and base it on how well my long runs are progressing.

In other running related stuff – the beginners group I coach with ShoreFit Run Club finished their 0-5k course. And my wife and 4 year old son ran the Sport Relief Mile, raising £270 for charity in the process! This was a great opportunity for him to experience running on a running track, and now every time we drive past it he points it out to me as where he did his race.

I also passed my ITEC Level 3 Sports Massage Therapist exams and I’ll be posting more on that soon. I’ve moved on to Level 4 now which I’ll be tested on in April. Lots to learn, but have already picked up so much that I can use to help other runners, especially with regards to maintenance and injury prevention.

 

February training

So how did February look for you? For me it went quite well. Despite not racing at all I’ve managed to get in some quality training.

Mileage for the month – 123.5 miles
Biggest week – 48 miles
Longest run14 miles

That’s starting to pick up nicely, with my biggest week coming in the final week of Feb. And in fact, that’s my biggest week since the same time last year.

biggestweek

My little boy is also training for his first race, the Sport Relief Mile and its been great fun encouraging him to start running. He’s managed a 16:13 mile so far which involved a lot of jumping over drains, walking to cross roads and stopping to point at his school.

me&sonny

I’m hoping to carry through some consistency into March, keeping my mileage at a minimum of 40 per week and adding a 90-120min long run in each week. My track sessions are strong at the moment, sub-6:00min/mile pace in big sessions. We’ve just moved into 1200 reps (5 of them this week) and I’d like to see my splits closer to 5:45min/mile if I can manage it. Although I’m not going to break myself trying.

My limiting training factor is time.  My other half works several evenings a week, often not getting home until 9:30 and that’s not a good time to go out running. So I’m trying to squeeze runs in where I can. For instance, my trip to the launderette gave me £2’s worth of time – which I’ve now learnt translates to a fast 4 miles. I’m running on my lunchbreaks too. In fact, my biggest training week in 12  months came without running further than 8.5 miles in a single session.

My swimming is improving, I’ve managed to get to one session a week which at the moment is focussed on strength. That means lots of climbing in and out the pool to do press-ups, squats, tricep dips and planks, and swimming in T-shirts with pull-buoy and paddles. This is a great session for me as it really addresses my weaknesses. I’m hoping to start doing a weekly distance/endurance session soon, to really work on my pull. I want to be able to use paddles comfortably by the time Breca Swimrun comes around in July as it will make a huge difference in the swim times.

Other training,  I’ve been doing a press-up challenge since the beginning of Feb, starting at one and adding one each day. So today it will be 30 press-ups. A month ago I couldn’t have done 10 without stopping so I’m pleased with my progress here. I don’t think its been an increase in strength, but more a neurological thing. Engaging the right muscles to achieve the goal. Whichever it is, it should help my swimming, and I might even develop a chest that comes out further than my abs.

I think the biggest plus I can take from February is that I’ve come out of it without any niggles. I’ve increased my mileage and I’m injury free. I have to thank Gococo Sportswear for helping me out here, my compression socks are awesome.

 

Review – SOLE Softec Response Footbeds

At the moment, I’ve got 7 pairs of running trainers. Yep…..7. They’ve all got different profiles, some of them I like more than others and some of them serve completely different purposes.
The only thing they have in common is that none of them give me any injury worries.

With this knowledge, I came to the conclusion that my legs and feet are pretty robust and so when I was offered the chance to try out these SOLE Footbeds, I said yes. I did have concerns at first that I was tempting fate by changing something in my shoes, but the fact that I seem fairly comfortable moving between different stack heights/heel-toe drops/different levels of support etc was enough to satisfy me that a moulded insole would be fine.
SOLE produce orthotic inserts, sandals & socks all designed to improve weight distribution across the foot by providing support where its needed.

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SOLE Softec Response Footbed
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Research showing pressure points whilst wearing orthotic

I understand that some running shops (Sweatshop for one) offer a service in-store where they do a 3D scan of your foot and heat-mould insoles for you if you want them. However, as they are a retail store, like any other, I’d always bear in mind that they are probably set targets on how many of these they need to sell every day and that you, the lucky customer, may not actually need them. Its also useful to know that you can simply buy the insoles yourself and mould them to fit using your oven at home.

So….lets say you’ve been to your running store, and you know you need some support in your shoe. And for whatever reason, there’s not a shoe that will provide it on its own, so you have a pair of insoles to help provide the support you need. Insoles can open up a whole range of neutral shoes to you which may provide better fit overall depending on the brand/style. Insoles could also supply the support in lightweight racing shoes, I can see why there’s a market for these things.

But what happens when you’re buying your shoes online? It can be a bit of a minefield… neutral/cushioned/support/control/racing blah blah blah. If you know your feet require a certain type of support then insoles could well be the way forward for you, giving you a bit more freedom to choose the shoe you like, rather than the shoe they say you need. Safe in the knowledge that when your shoes arrive, you can slip your insoles in and your arches will instantly love them.

And so we come to the product I have in my hand. The SOLE Softec Response Footbed (£38 straight from the manufacturers website). I’ve chosen my shoe, the Inov-8 X-Talons (chosen because on harder terrain, the studs tend to make them quite uncomfortable, I’m hoping that these footbeds might provide a little more protection)

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First things first – I need to mould them to my foot shape. I’m going for the heat method because I like warm feet.

Step 1: Remove the standard insoles from the shoes and cut the SOLE ones to match so they’ll fit inside your shoe. Pretty easy so far.

Step 2: Place SOLE footbeds in the oven at 200 degrees for 3 mins.

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Step 3: Insert into each shoe taking care that they don’t scrunch up.

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Step 4: put feet in shoes and stand in them allowing the footbeds to mould around the foot where it needs support. This takes about 3 minutes and don’t worry, they don’t burn your feet!

And thats it. Ready to go.

Which is exactly what I did next, I took them out for a 14 mile spin on the south downs. The route was made up of thick mud, puddles, hard packed limestone, tarmac, gravel and grass. A thoroughly enjoyable run on almost every terrain possible.

And how do I rate them?

Well, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know they were there. My shoes felt snug around the ankle and midfoot but with enough space for my toes to move around still. I can only see this as a good sign. I don’t think they altered my foot position at all, I certainly didn’t have any trouble during the run, and no aches, pains or tenderness afterwards.
I’ll be keeping these in my shoes as that little extra arch support could be beneficial during a longer run, and they did indeed help with the feeling of the lugs coming through the underside of the shoe.
I think the fact that these are heat moulded to your feet whilst you stand in the shoes you’ll be wearing them in, means that its hard to go wrong, they’ll only provide as much support as your foot requires.

I don’t know how long these things last, I imagine they have a limited lifespan though, just like the cushioning inside your shoes so you’d probably need to replace them each time you change your trainers.

All of the above is my opinion. Take it with a pinch of salt. I’m the sort of person that finds reading peoples experiences and opinions helpful, even persuasive when it comes to making purchases and I hope that one way or another, these words might help you if you’re weighing it up.

To keep you fully informed, and in case I missed anything this bit comes straight from the manufacturers website:

BENEFITS

  • Custom orthopedic support
  • Equalized pressure distribution
  • Reduced plantar fascia strain
  • Increased balance and feel
  • Improved natural heel cushioning

“Through an ongoing partnership with Dr. Reed Ferber and the Running Injury Clinic, we’ve been able to help fund studies of the effectiveness of insoles on injury prevention and performance.

We found that SOLE Custom Footbeds reduce plantar fascia strain by up to 34% — a one third reduction! Reduced strain not only alleviates current pain but is also effective at preventing future pain.”

WEIGHT(half pair)

  • Men’s 10 – 69.5g (approx.)
  • Women’s 7 – 51.6g (approx.)

DIMENSIONS
Width – Forefoot (approx.)

  • Men’s 10 – 98mm
  • Women’s 7 – 87mm

Length – Heel to toe (approx.)

  • Men’s 10 – 290mm
  • Women’s 7 – 245mm

 

Update: I’ve worn these on several runs now and I’m still comfortable & injury free. Thumbs Up!