Friday, 29 July 2011

Camping out at home

I'm now back home after my month in the Pyrenees, ironically c0ming home to better weather than I left in Font Romeu. The weather for the last few days was not the best, all most constaint rain for the last two days, not what you usually expect for the South of France in July! but training went well so can't complain. The 4 weeks of training was arguably my best period of training at altitude and the last week was particular good with a solid track session and a very good 25km tempo run, the latter so much so that the person who accompanied me on a push bike couldn't keep up :)

Now I am home I feel a little bit more at ease, as Teresa has not given birth yet, so this means I will definately be here for our new arrival. As the doctor has suggested the due be a little sooner than first thought, Teresa only had to be a few days early and I would have still been in France. The due date is basically this weekend and I'm told that they never let it go more than 2 weeks overdue and I am home now for 3 weeks before I leave for the holding camp in Alsan.

As mentioned in a previous post I would normally be at altitude closer to the race but came home sooner to be around for the birth, however in order to maintain the benefits I have gained from my trip at altitude I am sleeping in my altitude tent. Which has cosily fitted into our conservatory at home, much to my wife disappointment :) The only probably with using the altitude system that I have is that because it's an old system the generator needs to be inside the tent, rather than outside, which is the case with the more modern versions. This makes means getting used to the noise and also the temparature (as the generator increases the temparature by 10 degrees C inside). As those of you with conservatories probably know these places tend to warm at the best of times so I'm not going to getting cold at night to say the least! BBC Guernsey came around to my house yesterday for an interview and seemed particularly interested in the tent that's inside the house. They are not the only one amused by the tent, my son Thomas loves come in there too.

Anyway just a brief update for now, next time I post something I should be a dad again so fingers crossed everything goes smoothly with that...I'm not sure who's more terrified about the actual birth, Teresa or myself! Our first, Thomas was delivered by C-section so the thought of a natural birth seems a little bit more scary. Running marathons seem a much easier prospect to get my head round than child birth.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Living and training above the clouds

Fancy A Run On Cloud 9?

Well I’ve been in training in the Pyrenees now for just over 2 weeks and generally speaking things have been going really well. The weather has been a bit changable at times with glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid 20's to electronical storms and heavy rain. Yours truely made the wrong choice the other day, driving up to La Calme, the one of the highest point in the area (also referred to as the plateau) just as an electrical storm was passing overhead, not a cleaver choice in hindsight!

From my first few days here my running and fitness has felt good and my first full week here gave me just over 120miles for the week, my key sessions have been good too. I had a good track session last week with 5k runner Ryan Mcleod, Ryan and I have the same coach (John Nuttall) and so we were able to work it that Ryan had his last big volume track session alongside a typical one for me during marathon training. I have also spent a bit more time in the gym over the last 2 weeks, whilst I have been doing my typical weights and core sessions each week I have also been spending 2 to 3 additional sessions per week doing my calf/achilles exercises and doing the hurdle drills that I must admit I don’t always manage to fit in every week back home. The additional calf/achilles exercises or as it’s been renamed calf club! Is an array of exercises to strengthen my calfs, the soleus muscle and achilles tendon which I have been doing with the physio here and athlete Chris Thompson. I am prone to achilles niggles on my right side due to my running mechanics, nothing that has ever stopped me running but the sort of thing that if not given a bit of attention can lead to secondary injuries if you’re not too careful so it’s been good to make time for this. Although I have broken the first rule about calf club, that nobody talks and about calf club :)

Recovering after a run at Lac de Matemale, near Les Angles.

The great thing about being on a training camp of this nature is that you not only have more time to recovery from a sometimes hectic home life but the environment in general is ideal. There are many other athletes here all equally focused, with athletes from both the UK and also from USA this time and UK Athletics have some of their best staff out here too who are second to none, certainly from the perspective of being a non-lottery funded athlete like myself this is as good it gets.

The only minor interruption I have had these past couple of days has been a toe infection of all things! I picked this up on Monday, after training as normal I didn’t sleep a wink that night due to the infection being so uncomfortable. Fortunately the UKA doctor John Rogers had arrived that same day and I am now on a course of antibiotics to sort it out. It only meant two days of not running, two I would have preferred not to miss but on the second day I was able to put my energies into some cross training. Motivated by the Tour de France I took to the bike for a spot of hill work. I used the road that leads to the plateau, the road is just short of 5km of continuous climbing with a different of around 1000feet from the bottom to top. The road is ideal for hills sessions by bike or by foot as is fairly quite road. It took me 15mins to reach the top on a near all out effort, my quads are not designed for cycle that’s for sure! and following some further shorter 3mins reptitions I have to admit that my enthusiasm for cycling was somewhat lessened that but it served it's purpose of getting my heart rate up. I am pleased to say that after that little interruption though I’m now back running as normal and ready to crack on with training.

To The Plateau

Pictures courtsey of

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Getting the balance right

Getting the balance Right.

Even by my standards this blog is a long time in coming, considering my last blog wasn’t since early May. I am finally back on it terms of blogging and I should have a bit more time to post more regularly given that I am now out in Font Romeu for a training camp.

Firstly racing… last Sunday I ran my first race since the London Marathon, which took the form of the half marathon in the Natwest Island Games in the Isle of Wight, competing for Guernsey for the first time since last October. The course used was a fairly challenging one, with a number of decent sized hills in each of the two bigger laps but given that I was aiming to use the race as part of my marathon preparations for the World Champs (later this summer) it workout quite well. I ran 68.36 which considering the challenge circuit this equated to about marathon pace effort for me. As well as individual gold, I also picked up team gold along with my Guernsey team mates Mike Wilesmith and Steve Dawes, who placed 4th and 5th respectively. A great run by Mike who is very new to the running, unfortunately my fellow training partner (in Guernsey) Steve was suffering with a virus and was unable to run to form.

Our achievements and Team Guernsey in general seem to have been received well back at home, It was also nice for us and for athletics to win gold given that they were the first gold medals won by Guernsey at these multi sport games. Also I always say when interviewed by Guernsey media that its nice to pull on a Guernsey vest (given that I rarely get the chance these days) and this was no different. With the course being a multiple lap race (as opposed to one big circuit) we were also able to great support as even from fellow Guernsey athletes and supporters alike.

Unfortunately I wasn’t unable to hang around for too long at the Games due to a planned training camp out in Font Romeu, where I am currently located. I would have loved to have stayed for the full week long event in the Isle of Wight and would have like to have enjoyed the team camaraderie that comes with it, but with so much going on for me this summer it just wasn’t possible.

As some of you maybe aware my wife and I are due to have our second baby soon, with the due date being the 5th Aug, I want to be there for the birth but I am also aware that if I am to achieve my goal of competing at the Olympics in London next year I need to be able to prepare as best as possible. The World Championship Marathon on the 4th September provides me with the first opportunity to qualify, as by finishing inside the top 20 places this will count as achieving the Olympics A Standard Qualification. So this will quite literally be my most important race of my running career. Teresa has been very supportive and understanding these past 12-18months to say the least… infact it’s usually the first thing people say to me… ‘you have a very understanding wife!’, the second thing they usual joke is that how on earth were you home long enough to get her pregnant…but I don’t like to brag :) In terms of training at altitude I usually aim to spend 3 to 4 weeks there to get the desired benefits but then return to sea-level approx 2 to 3 weeks before my race so to maintain the benefits (they usually only last up to around 4-5 weeks but with the peak benefits being around 2-3 weeks after). However in this instance I have gone earlier and will be back at sea-level 5 weeks before the race (one week before the due date, if baby arrives as planned!) so I will then use my altitude tent for additional 2 weeks or so on returning home to maintain the fitness benefits gained from the training camp. My only potential problem of course being that babies don’t always come when you want them too! We said we would cross that bridge if it arises, which well take the form of early return home, but hopefully you can at least see the dilemma I was faced with. I guess my the compromise in this instance (which I would like to point out was more of a compromise between myself as a father to be and one as an elite athlete) was that I have gone to my altitude training camp slightly earlier in the instance keeping my fingers crossed that I will not regret the decision should the baby come early that the due date!

As for Font Romeu the training continues and the first few days have gone really well, I feel at the moment that my previous altitude camps have help me in terms of feeling more comfortable with the altitude from day one. I have still taken things a bit easier in terms of the intensity I have been training at but the pace of my first few runs have been good with my heart rates remaining low (usually the first few days of altitude you can experience elevated heart rates due to your body having to work harder due to less available oxygen). I feel settled as much as I can be away from home and all being well I will have a good few weeks of hard training ahead of me and be home in time to experience the imminent arrival!