Post-Swimrun downtime.

I’ve been enjoying a bit of downtime since Breca Swimrun – Buttermere. I’ve dropped my mileage right off, I’ve only been in the water once, and I’ve been binge-watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.

Steyning Roundhill Romp 2016

This 6 mile trail race came just 4 days after Breca, but recovery was remarkably quick and I promised myself I’d ease my way into it, get a feel for how my body was going to cope and take it from there.
Its billed as having a bit of a hill in the middle, but after experiencing the fells around Buttermere, I knew that I had nothing to fear going into this one.
In fact it turned out I was quite familiar to the hill in question as I used to run it quite a lot a few years ago. Its long, and it keeps on kicking so I knew you just had to be patient with it, don’t try and gun it too soon, and leave enough left to kick on after the crest.
The downhill section after that was amazing, mostly along a winding single track, dancing over the tree roots. I pushed hard along this section, following the 2nd place lady who appeared to float over the tricky bits. Every time she flew round an overgrown blind bend, I would be hot on her heels praying that she hadn’t come to a stop or fallen! This section suddenly opened out into a field and a 26% descent.
This really sorted out those who could run hills, and those who couldn’t. Several people ahead of me put the brakes on and I nearly crashed heavily into the back of them.

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I finished in 42:44 (43rd place), a minute or 2 back from where I might have finished if I’d pushed from the start but I thoroughly enjoyed this race. The start is great, there’s a guy on a loudspeaker shouting into the abyss and no-one can hear him, then they stop the traffic for a couple of minutes whilst 500 odd runners line up and tear off down the high street. A proper country village race feel to it.
And then at the end, a medal, an electronic timer and a BBQ. All for the bargain price of £5! Thanks and well done to Steyning AC for putting on this brilliant race.

Tuff Fitty 25th Anniversary Aquathlon

This was a Saturday evening race in the shadows of Arundel castle, 400m swim followed by a 5k run along quiet lanes followed by a BBQ and good times!
I spent the day preparing for it by eating Burgers and Hot Dogs and drinking Corona at a BBQ, got to make the most of this British Summertime, its all too often over too soon!
This scuppered my ability to get up to a good race speed on the run but I think my splits were something like

  • Swim: 6:30
  • Transition: 57s
  • Run: 19:40
  • Total: 27:07

The swim was the first one I’ve done without shoes on for a while, and the first 4 lengths felt amazing, I thought “this must be how fast swimmers feel!”

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Once again, no elastic laces and I didn’t race in a tri suit either so had to waste time putting a T shirt on. I think I could do quite well in one of these races with better preparation and nutrition!

A fantastic evening all in all, brilliant turnout from the club, 80 people including those not racing. Well done Tuff Fitty Triathlon Club, and here’s to the next 25 years!

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Finally – The next challenge

Well, they promised it was going to come back in 2016 but it wasn’t looking likely until a couple of weeks ago, when suddenly out of nowhere I got an email about The Red Bull Steeplechase.

This event was so good in 2014 that I simply couldn’t resist entering as soon as registration went live. This time around its in Exmoor, exactly the same setup as before. 500 runners, reduced steeple by steeple until there’s only 40 left at the finish line.

The first steeple comes at about 8 miles, and the finsh line at 23. I made it to the 2nd steeple 2 years ago when it was in the Peak District so my aim is to go one better than that. The quality of the field will rule me out of the top 20 who get to finish in glory at Lynmouth but I’m going to try and reach the steeple at Lynton at mile 17.

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I’ve got about 11 weeks to go so last night I started my training plan with an easy 10 miles. I’m going to try and maintain consistent 50+ mile weeks building up to this one, gradually increasing the intensity week by week until the taper.

I’ll be including 2 quality sessions per week, track intervals and hills, and 3 Strength and Conditioning workouts to supplement my mileage. Hopefully this will make me more robust and better able to hold my form come the latter stages of the race.

 

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Breca Swimrun 2016 – Race Report

This is a long post….I’ll try and keep it fun. If you purely want to know about the race, scroll down and look for the header. If you’re interested in the whole experience, start here….

In case this is the first time you’ve read about a Swimrun, here’s the brief.
Swimrun is a race run in pairs across consecutive running and swimming legs, usually held over rugged terrain and in stunning locations. This is a relatively new sport, especially in the UK, but we now have a handful of races to choose from which all pose their own very different challenges.
The race we were doing was Breca Buttermere in the surroundings of the UK’s Lake District, this would be lake swims, trail runs and a hell of a lot of vertical ascent.

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So at 9:30am on Friday morning, I’d done the school run, kissed my wife goodbye and climbed into my teammate Toms car for our romantic weekend break. It took us over 9 hours to drive up to the Lakes, and somehow we hadn’t fallen out with each other yet. We discussed the subtle differences between Bracken, Heather and Ferns. The main difference being we’ve never met anyone called Bracken.
We came off the motorway at Penrith (which I thought was in Scotland) and when we reached Keswick we hit the single track roads for the last 7 or so miles to Buttermere.

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The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, waterfalls, lakes, streams, fells and valleys. Everywhere you looked there was water, you could hear water running at all times, the rocks had water coming out of them, even the grass was crying. Neither of us had brought a coat.

We arrived at the Youth Hostel (YHA Buttermere) and were welcomed by Ben, the race organiser. We checked in to our room and to kill a bit of time had a stroll down to the first Swim transition point. We immediately realised that there were several bottlenecks on the way to the lake, 2 kissing gates and a steep bank to negotiate before entering the water. I dipped my toes in and Tom took the opportunity to work on his stone skimming (lame) – it was chilly to say the least, we re-assured ourselves by imagining how warm it would be the next day.

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We strolled back to the YHA and chatted with some of the other teams, Mike and Niels from the Danish Koge Tri Team 2000 and Richard from Athlone Otters shared our table as we filled up on Pasta, Rice & Chilli. They’d done a Swimrun in Denmark and one in Llanberis respectively. We joked about how flat Denmark was and how big Mikes hands were. The hostel was filled with outdoorsy looking types with down-stuffed jackets, trail shoes and pre-race compression wear. I had skinny jeans on and no coat.

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Next stop was the bio-security checks and registration, this went smoothly, we had all the kit, our shoes were clean, and we were given our race vests and red swimcaps. Very efficient guys – good job.

There was a nervous energy in the hostel already so we decided to stroll down to the pub to watch Wales v Belgium in the Euros and stay relaxed. There were 2 pubs in the village, The Fish Inn and The Bridge. Neither of them were showing the football. In fact, neither of them had a TV. We were told the nearest one would be in Keswick……7 miles away, even if we ran there we’d probably only catch the last 10 minutes, and it was raining, and neither of us had a coat.
So we stayed at The Bridge and sampled the local Beers, Buttermere Blonde, Whistling Pig Pilsner and Mowdy Pale Ale being our favourites.

Here we met Josh and his partner Lottie. Josh would be racing in a mixed team on Saturday and Lottie was there to cheer them on. Me and Josh bonded over our matching Red Bull Steeplechase hoodies whilst Tom looked on enviously despite calling us “Steeplechase Wankers” in his head.

This was a perfect way to keep the pre-race excitement at a manageable level. Its always good to remind yourself that we do this for fun. We’re not professionals, we take well earned holiday from our jobs, never take yourself too seriously.

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With this in mind, we headed back to the hostel and sat outside with a can of beer each. It was 11pm and the fells were still silhouetted against the sky. We could hear the waterfalls and streams and as the temperature started to drop we remembered we didn’t have coats and we should probably head inside and get some sleep.

After a terrible night’s sleep due to the creaking bunk beds that Tom was too tall for, we were greeted in the morning by our room-mates Haemish and Fredrik. Turns out they raced the event last year so we were keen to get some tips. Unfortunately, it also turned out they came last so we decided to ignore all their advice anyway. The fact they’d decided to return to face their demons was a sign that this was going to be a good day.

8:00am: we went downstairs for breakfast, nothing new on raceday is the usual approach isn’t it? Not today, hash browns, sausage, egg and toast please. With a nice steaming hot mug of coffee to wash it down. We still had plenty of time before the 10am race-start and we were going to be out there for a long time, so we thought it best to eat well.

Tom declared “Why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lie down?” and with that, we went back to our room for a lie down. People were already milling around in wetsuits with 2 hours to go. Maybe it was like heat acclimatisation?

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9:30am: Time to get our kit on, I stuffed my wetsuit pockets with 6 GU Peanut Butter gels, shoved my sealed bandage up my right sleeve, and pulled my socks up over the cut-off bits of wetsuit legs that I’d saved. Then we sat back on our beds and drank some more electrolyte drinks.

9:50am: Pre-race Gel time. The best gels I’ve ever tasted. If ever there’s a disaster where there’s a food shortage, I’ll happily live on these! We head down the stairs and outside to join the neoprene charged atmosphere outside.

9:55am: Nervous faces all around. Everyone’s cracking jokes. Tom’s psyching the opposition out by doing swim-warm-ups. There’s music playing. Swim hats are making everyone look surprised.

9:59am: We didn’t want to get stuck in the bottlenecks in the first 600m run so we’d lined up at the front. People were eyeing us up. We probably looked serious. Guns’n’Roses came on over the loudspeakers.

10:00am

THE RACE

As Axl Rose’s voice screamed out “Welcome To the Jungle…” Ben opened the gate and we were off, athletes at the back were all a bit bemused as they were busy dancing but the sentiment wasn’t lost on us at the front.

START

We kept up with the other teams along the metalled road before a sharp turn took us through a series of gates and towards the first lake. We jumped a fence next to one gate, adrenaline surging and impatience getting the better of us.
600m down to the first shoreline swim along Buttermere and we were well placed going into the water. Unfortunately, the water was bloody freezing and it completely took my breath away. I splashed water over my face but as I submerged myself I could feel my body going into panic mode. I kept my head up for a few strokes whilst the water got inside my wetsuit and helped to insulate me and I finally got into an uncomfortable rhythm. The field wasn’t well balanced at this point and there were some strong swimmers surging through the water with hand paddles. Tom kept catching the wake of other swimmers and would fly off leaving me in no-mans land, I was having to work really hard to try and get close. We quickly learned that the swim sections were going to be more about keeping me on Toms toes, rather than trying to latch onto teams with hand-paddles.
The water was crystal clear, it was like an underwater scene from a film.

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We climbed out after 600m and started running, I think we picked up a couple of places but we kept ourselves in check, reminding ourselves that this was going to be a long day. The 2nd swim was on us, this time across Crummock Water, the wind had picked up quite strongly and the water was actually quite choppy. Tom sighted us upwind slightly so we could get an easier swim in to the shore. I took a few mouthfuls of water when I got hit by the swells but it was so clean you could swallow it without adverse effects. Halfway across the lake, we found ourselves scrabbling over some rocks with some bemusement, it must have looked like we were walking on water from the waters edge!
This was another 600m swim and by the end of it I was starting to worry that I wasn’t strong enough in the water to complete the course. Enough with the negative thoughts though, they would return later but this was too early in the day. We hauled ourselves up the shore, swimming right up until we were less than knee deep, no point dragging legs through deep water.

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Next stage was a 5.7k run with just shy of 200m climb. We were reduced to walking quite quickly, hands pushing off knees, calf muscles on fire. The hill turned into a rocky staircase hewn out of the mountain itself and we dragged ourselves up, pausing only to see the lake we’d just swam in far below us and a steady stream of swimmers still making their way across.
We reached the summit and took a slight wrong turn which meant scrambling over some rocks to get back on track, sheer drops down to our right kept us focussed as we got ourselves back on safer ground. Tom saw someone go head-first over a ridge further ahead, scrabbling on the rocks with terror in her eyes as her hand-paddles slid over the surface. Someone grabbed her by the legs and pulled her back up. A quick lesson there in concentration and course respect, we need to be careful.

With each run section, any climbing would mean an equal descent to get back to the water. I overcooked it twice on this descent much to Tom’s amusement.  The first time in slow motion, clipping an earth mound with my foot and then my ankle before crashing down into the Bracken. The second time, the trail took a turn and I didn’t, within an instant I was on the floor. Tom was in bits.

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Without further incidents we made it down to the first checkpoint and we entered the 3rd swim. This was one of the two longest 1k efforts. Tom made a terrible entry into the water and ended up falling backwards over a submerged rock. This played into our hands though as it meant we latched onto a group. We stayed with them making great progress through the water until the guy Tom was drafting got dropped. In an effort to pull us back to the group I couldn’t handle the pace so we resigned ourselves to finishing this swim on our own. This was my favourite swim section, crystal clear again, several degrees warmer than Lake Buttermere and one of the big ones over before I’d even got chance to think about it too much. We got quite confused at one point as a torrential downpour came out of nowhere. Breathe to the left and it was fine, 3 strokes later, breathe to the right and it was Armageddon. Fortunately, it was over almost as quickly as it had started.

SWIM

Great support getting out of the swim section again, in fact, all around the course there were walkers, hikers, helpers, locals and they all gave encouragement. We must have surprised a few of them running round in wetsuits though! Proper food at the checkpoints too, cake, maltloaf, crisps. I stuck to a routine of water, coke, banana, then leave with a few jelly babies.

The longest run of the course (12.8k) was fairly easy, a bit of up, a bit of down and a couple of tricky navigational patches but we kept it ticking over nicely. We both run lots of trails so it was perfect for us.

By the time we got back down to the next swim, it was pretty rough weather again. There was a bit of chop on Crummock Water and the swim exit 800m away looked a long way off.
This was a tough swim, in my head I thought it was one of the 1k swims which didn’t help. One of the kayakers asked if we were OK at one point, probably because Tom had to keep stopping to let me get back on his feet. I was starting to wonder how bad the weather would have to get before they started thinking about cutting the course short.

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Once we got out here we were into a series of short runs and short swims which everyone had been looking forward to.  2.1 run, 0.4 swim, 1.2 run and as we came off the path to enter the 6th swim (0.5k) Tom got trapped hip deep in a bog. This time it was my turn to laugh as a marshall came over to help us get him out with his shoes still on his feet. At least we were still in good spirits!

Out of this swim and it was on to the last big one. The series of short swims/runs had brought my core temp right down. I hit a low point and I mentioned to Tom that I was really starting to feel the cold. He told me I wasn’t, that it was probably just my body crossing over to fat burning after using all its carb stores. He tried to cheer me up by singing “A message to you, Rudy” but changing Rudy to Marchy. It nearly worked. This was almost fun.

As we were about to enter the last big swim the marshalls were asking me if I was OK, they said I looked cold. Tom meanwhile was playing with a dog. We were told to sight off the big white building above the shore. The Daelgarth hotel. This seemed fine to me, it was big so it looked close. Tom realised that I was being tricked by the whole perspective/far away thing but thought it best to let me believe it was quite a short swim.

As we entered the water, one of the dogs came with us, I was tempted to give it my race vest and run round to meet them on the other side. I asked Tom to keep it as slow as he could and that if I wasn’t tapping his feet he was going too quick.

During this swim, I took a breath to the left and I’m convinced that I saw an Osprey swoop down to catch a fish about 50m away from us. It was a fleeting glance, and I was concentrating on staying as close to Tom as possible so I might have imagined it.

We made it to the other side, Toms swimming had been straight as an arrow again, as it had been all day and we walked up the shore. I felt bad for holding us up in the swims. Every time Tom took a stroke, he moved 2 meters ahead, it was unreal.

There was a check point here, the final one before the climb up Dale Head to the infamous Honister Pass. I tried to drink some coke, I tried to eat some cake, I tried to eat some jelly babies and I tried to eat a piece of Kendal mint cake. I say tried a lot here as my body wasn’t working. I was Hypothermic. I started violently shaking and I couldn’t move my jaw properly. Tom saw how bad I was and admits he was pretty concerned at this point. We started walking towards the Dale Head climb and took on another GU gel. Someone passed us at this point and said to their team-mate “‘kin hell, that guy’s blue!!”

The sun came out a little bit which I was hugely grateful for, and the trail was getting steeper by the second. My core temperature started coming up and I was feeling much better, we gel’d up again and used the fence posts to pull ourselves up the climb.

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The view back down to Lake Buttermere was stunning, and as the climb started to level out a bit we could see that we were only half way up. The winds started picking up as we got closer to the ridge, it was a struggle to stay on your feet at times and as we got closer to the top the sky started to fall on us.

We’d formed a little group with some teams from in front and behind us at this point and it was reassuring to know there were other people around. Visibility had dropped to less than 10m and we were being whipped with hailstones. It must have been at least 10° colder up here. We’d already put our swim hats back on for warmth and we were really concentrating on locating the arrow markers. The briefing had said that if we were likely to get lost on course, it would be here.

After a couple of false summits, we reached the Cairn that had been mentioned in the safety briefing and we knew we had to head south from there down to the quarry. A steep descent followed, sometimes runnable, sometimes not. Technical in places and at other times, just easier to rest your quads and walk.

We spotted a tent at the bottom and the marshals were waving madly at us, this was the final checkpoint I think. Tom was ready to power through, he’d had enough calories and just needed some water. I grabbed a banana and we left at a run as a French team arrived.

We had made good ground on this section, it was hard work, and scary in places. The weather had thrown everything at us but we knew that it was all downhill to the end now. The next 4 or 5k were along a Tarmac road,  the Honister Pass. Amazing on a bike I’d imagine, but hard on the quads at this moment in time.

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Cars along here were all waving and cheering, even rattling cowbells for us. We were sure that the French team were going to come past us any minute now but they never did. This was a 10k section and it must have taken us 90 minutes at least. I was actually looking forward to getting back in the water!

We hit the final swim, 400m. Tom sighting it perfectly, me struggling on behind. I wasn’t able to even kick slightly any more. Relying on my feeble arms and shoulders to produce all my power. As I approached the final landing bay my body had nothing left. Tom waded back into the water and we showed the marshals and spectators exactly what the Swimrun team ethic is all about.

1.8km left to run. And that would be it. All over. I felt sad! I can’t remember if it was raining. We didn’t have coats. We were grinning like idiots. The final trail run alongside Buttemere was beautiful. It felt like we were flying, In fact, Tom was. He tried to style it out with a commando roll and he still thinks it looked cool.

The path entered a rocky tunnel, it was pitch black and we were shouting and whooping. There was a troll in there, facing the wall and swaying. I was terrified. It was like that bit in that Will Smith film, I Am Legend. (Turns out it was just an old man with his wife and we must have scared the shit out of him as we steamed through shouting our heads off)

A moment later we were rounding the final corner, the Youth hostel was in sight. The Breca flags that marked the finish line were flapping in the wind and cheers went up as we came into the driveway. We gave each other Bro-hugs and Ben came over with beers for us!

Seven hours and eight minutes it had taken us. And we finished in 15th place.

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Post race

We hung around outside to cheer in the next couple of teams before heading in to get warm and dry. We still didn’t have coats.

I was shaking again and desperately needed some proper clothes on. We hung up our wetsuits and shoes in the drying room and hit the showers and free massage tables.

We swapped stories with other teams as we waited for dinner, still cheering finishers in from the dining room. Everyone was buzzing about how much fun they’d had, no one asked about times, it wasn’t important. We cracked on with the beers and devoured the Sausage and mash when it came out. The crumble and custard for pudding was most welcome too.

The biggest cheer of the day came when the final team crossed the line almost 11 hours after the start. That’s a long time to be out on that course and I know I couldn’t have kept up that effort for that long. Chapeau! The kitchen had kept back some plates of food for them when they arrived too, nice touch and desperately needed, they didn’t even remove their wetsuits!

After dinner we went to the pub again to reflect on an amazing event. Spectacular scenery. Great encouragement and support. Well organised and really looked after in the water. Without a doubt, the best event I’ve ever done.

The thing that really made it special, was that you had a teammate all the way through it. Someone to encourage you when you felt low. Someone to help you up when you fall. An extra pair of eyes to make sure we both took everything in from the experience. And someone to distract the marshals whilst their teammate tries to stop looking so dead.

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I experienced amazing highs during the race, and at other times felt terrible, but never once wanted to pull out. I’ve never run that far before, and never swam that far either. I verged on cramps in every muscle from the hips downwards at some point in the race but somehow pulled through it.

And now, sitting in my living room 3 nights later writing this, my legs still feel battered but I’m still buzzing. In fact, I’m still wearing my Breca finishers T shirt. I’m already hoping we can do it again next year, and that we can take a crew of club mates with us.

Thank you Breca Swimrun for this race, it’s a truly wonderful thing.

if you’ve read this far, thanks, I urge you to sign up next year, it’s incredible. Let me know if you’re tempted.

If you have any questions, fire away and I’ll do my best to help.

Thanks go to:

Ben de Rivaz for setting up this event.

Bens family and friends for their involvement in making it work.

All the marshals, water safety kayaks, aid stations and list-tickers and everyone who kept us safe.

All the supporters, and hikers who gave us encouragement. Special mention to our new friend Lottie from the pub here!

Everyone at YHA Buttermere who made our stay simple and comfortable.

Linnea at Gococo socks for the best socks in the world

Want to read more reviews from Breca Swimrun?

https://glenntait.co.uk
http://thetriathletesguidetothegalaxy.blogspot.co.uk
http://www.jonathanalbon.com
http://www.greenlightpt.co.uk

 

XZC

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TRE

 

#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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#Swimrun Training – Week 10

Total Miles: 56 Miles 
Average Pace:
 8:35 min/mile
Longest Run: 16 Miles – 29% of total
Speedwork: 8.1 miles – 14%

(Week Ending 12th June)

So this is the last big mileage week before Breca Swimrun. I’d ideally liked to have banked lots of run miles next week too but its almost time for the taper and some much more specific swimrun training to take place.

This is Race week!
Not the big one, but a chance to put the afterburners on in not one, but two races in the space of 3 days.
First up…..

The Littlehampton Beach Run – West Sussex Fun Run League.

This week, the track session was replaced with a 5 mile race just down the road in Littlehampton. A chance to put our track-based intervals to the test in race conditions.

I messed up my button-pressing when the gun went off, only managing to get my watch started about 30 seconds into the race. I put in a good effort for the full 5 miles, and I’d imagine the mixed terrain of sand, shingle and grass as well as leaping over rock pools and seaweed-covered stones added on a couple of minutes to my overall time.
I’d hope for a comfortable sub-30 on a road 5 miler at the moment so in these conditions I was pretty happy with a finishing time of 30:47. Good enough for 31st place and 2nd club member home after my Breca teammate Tom.

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Shortly followed by…

The Tuff Fitty Lido Aqauthlon – 400m/5k

This was an opportunity to put my swimming and running together with good solid efforts in both events.
I had a strong well paced swim and climbed out in 6:20, I then took almost half my life to dry my feet, put on some socks and tie my laces, all the while watching other athletes exit the water, slip straight into elasticated shoes and run off. This didn’t bother me in the slightest, the race was a club event so not overly competitive, and there was no way I was risking damaging my feet by going sockless at this stage of my training. I’ll leave that for the next Aquathlon.
My run was probably the most enjoyable 5k I’ve ever done, I literally felt like I was flying. I don’t know what my actual time was, I was clocked at 20:05 from leaving the water to reaching the finish, but I’m sure at least 2 minutes of that were spent in transition. This could have been a new 5k PB and even the sub18 which I think is on the cards, but we’ll never know.

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I managed to chase down plenty of runners, but not quite the top 2, no prizes in this race for 3rd place, but if I get my act together in transition next time round it could be a close call at the top. I’m coming for you Tom!

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I’d put in some solid miles on the evenings before these races too, 8 hilly ones on Tuesday night, and 18 on Thursday split in the middle with a 1 hour swim, but everything outside the races was done at an easy conversational pace.

On Sunday I managed to get out in the evening and run some steep hills around Cissbury and Chanctonbury Ring, I came pretty close to turning an ankle on one downhill and narrowly avoided breaking a toe when I kicked a rock extremely hard. I think its my body saying its tired and needs training to end soon. There’s a point just before you taper when you should be right on the edge of peak performance and/or injury, I think I’m just about there!

So for the next couple of weeks, I’m planning on getting used to my race kit, the only thing I’ve tested thoroughly so far are the Gococo socks which I wouldn’t run without now!

Running will be almost entirely on hills or in a wetsuit….or both. And I’m going to have to brave the open water in my wetsuit too and get used to the feeling of swimming in my shoes. I’ll also have to make a decision on the paddles and pull buoy, am I going to need them or not? I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m probably not strong enough for 6k of swimming with paddles.

 

 

 

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 9

Total Miles: 20 Miles 
Average Pace:
 7:22 min/mile
Longest Run: 10 Miles – 50% of total
Speedwork: 0 miles
3 Speed Bike with almost 5 year old on the back: 80km
1 x hike up Europe’s biggest Sand Dune

Not much running here but the two 10 milers I got in were fantastic.

The March family took ourselves off to a little village called Claouey near Arcachon on the French Atlantic coast for the second  year in a row.
The whole area is covered in pine trees, sand dunes and cycle paths that look like this…

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I only managed 2 runs on these perfect paths, but I can report that my nutrition over there was fantastic.

#Cheese #Wine #StubbyHeinekens #Croissants #IceCreams #Baguettes #etc

(I can thoroughly recommend our AirBnB appartment which we’ve stayed in both times now)

#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.

#Swimrun Training – Week 7

Total Miles: 36 Miles 
Average Pace:
 8:11 min/mile
Longest Run: 13 miles  – 36% of total
Speedwork: 0 miles – 0% of total

A bit of a dull week I’m afraid.

Yep, I managed to do some running, but I sat out my Thursday Swimrun session as I had a bit of a niggle in my back. Instead, I opted for a quality recovery session, a nice long soak in an Epsom Salts Bath!

My track session this week was an hour focussed on technique. So that was lots of drills, and a few plyometrics with a few strides thrown in to emphasise the movement patterns.
In fact, I’m pretty sure this was where I put my back out, over-enthusiastically throwing out some reverse leg swings without doing a warm-up mile beforehand. Very bad example to set, Coach!

I did get a very nice 6 miler in, up and over Cissbury Ring at a good pace. This was great fun and this kind of hill work will definitely see my flat speed improve as my legs get stronger and stronger. (I am also fully aware of the elevation profile for Breca Swimrun and how insignificant my 568ft will be compared to race day!)

I managed a 13 miler from Brighton to Worthing which was a fairly easy  effort and under 7:30min/mile pace, but there’s nothing more to say about that really.

This week I also went and did a Vinyasa Yoga session at Revitalise in Brighton/Hove with Alexa. I really enjoyed how invigorating this was, it’s not what I want out of every yoga session but for a Saturday morning I loved it.

The big news of this week is that I’ve ordered my swimrun wetsuit. I’ll hopefully have it by the end of week 8 and be able to start race specific training sessions, in race kit, in June.

I’ve gone for the HEAD Swimrun Rough which is an entry level wetsuit but I’ve seen people raving about the flexibility of it. Particularly for running in.

HEAD Swimrun Rough

#Swimrun Training – Week 6

Total Miles: 50 Miles 
Average Pace:
 8:27 min/mile
Longest Run: 12 miles  – 24% of total
Speedwork: 4 miles – 8% of total

I’m back. My legs have returned. It took until Saturdays run but I’m feeling like I can get back into consistent miles again.

I don’t think I’ve quite got the balance back, the tail end of my week was pretty loaded but that’s just the way it went. I will try and split and scatter some shorter runs in my schedule going forwards.

Workout Of The Week – The Egg Sandwich

10mins Threshold (2mins) + 6×200 (200m)(2mins) + 10mins Threshold
(10miles including warm up and cool down)

“Something that comes in sixes?” – “EGGS!” shouts my wife in a fraction of a second. I tell you what, if Family Fortunes ever come knocking, she’s got it down.
That’s how the name of the workout came about and whilst it kind of makes sense here, written down, I’m pretty sure people at the track were scratching their heads and wondering when they were getting their sandwich rewards.

To make it tougher, I split each Threshold Effort into two 5 minute sections, with the 2nd half being faster.

The idea of the session was to run the final 10 minutes of the session at the same pace as you’d run the first 10 minutes. The 6×200’s in the middle are thrown in the middle to produce a bit of lactic acid making the final threshold a bit tougher. This final effort trains the body to clear the Lactic acid, returning it into the energy system, whilst running at a strong effort.

This is a particularly good training session for triathletes as the last effort mimics the feeling of running straight off the bike.

Run/Swim/Run

Thursday came along and I was in good mental shape to tackle the run/swim/run session again. I find I’ve got to be really psyched up to do this one otherwise none of it happens at all. I also have to really control my pace on the run to the pool knowing that its a good 3 hour training session. I took a slightly shorter route this week which meant 7 miles each way and just under a 1min negative split.
The swim was tough as always, Sprint intervals interspersed with recovery pull. I cramped up in my right foot in the final 25m all-outs and missed the final 100m or so. But overall, another good session.

Favourite Session of the Week

I got out on Saturday evening to do my long run. This week I’d targeted 12 miles @ 7:30min/mile but as it was a really sunny evening I thought I’d take it off road. I ran up and round Cissbury Ring and then off up Titch Hill to the farmers grave. I felt like all the tiredness disappeared from my legs during this run, I was able to let fly on the downhills and to really put some power down going up.
I knew I was on for a decent average pace which turned out to be 7:26min/mile with an elevation of 1366ft. Pleased as punch with that, and really pleased to have got out in the hills.

More of the same next week if all goes well.

 

 

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.