Monday 24 May 2021

50 days to go..

With 50 days to go until the start of Stage X I think the Athlytic app says it all today. The result of a Versaclimber class at David Fairlamb Fitness at 0715 followed by a slow 24 mile run and a double PT session back at Dave’s gym is “overtrained”. That’s exactly what I wanted and tomorrow’s effort is going to take some digging in to get through (more on that later).

The Versaclimber session gets the week off to a great start. Support Man Carlton tried one last week and it took him 3 days to recover. Speaking of which, I stopped off at Carlton’s house at today’s half way point for one of his famous omelettes. Delicious. 

Then Carlton and another of my old running mates, Carl Hudson, joined me for a few miles. Carl turned up in his Run Geordie Run t-shirt which I thought was a nice touch.

I left Carl and Carlton and headed east at Newcastle Race Course aiming to get back to Dave’s gym at half 4 for a double PT session. I arrived with plenty of time to spare but was in no fit state to change into fresh training gear. I did however, managed to get some time on the Vibroplate machine which helped loosen me up.

The PT sessions involved a lot of strength and cardio work and it turned out to be another great workout. Admittedly, I didn't reach the heights of recent weeks but I couldn't fault the effort. 

With just over 5000 active calories burned today, I continue to be surprised at how little fuel I’m needing. Porridge, 3 bananas and the aforementioned omelette was all I needed today. Gone are the days of using sugary so called energy bars. I should report, however, that I couldn’t face having any food tonight so I’m already looking forward to my porridge for breakfast tomorrow. 

Tomorrow’s task is very straightforward but challenging. It's not something I've ever attempted before. I'm after a long workout that won't put a great deal of pressure on my joints. With that in mind,  I’ll be trying my best to climb the equivalent height of Mount Everest on my Versaclimber in the Run Geordie Run gym. That’s 29,032 ft (8,850m) or the same kind of effort as 15 of Dave’s Versaclimber classes. It could turn out to be a long day!

Speaking of which, here is a short video which really captures the spirit of what a Versaclimber class looks like. I'd recommend anyone give it a try. If Carlton can manage it......

Thursday 20 May 2021

A turning point

I’ve had some tough sessions in my time but tonight’s 3 hour triple header at David Fairlamb Fitness was up there with the best of them. Very pleasingly, focus on effort and technique was in abundance throughout. I’ve been saying recently that there’s no point in turning up to these sessions, coasting through the first one and then finishing strong. I’m after a consistent level of effort throughout. In fact, I try and treat each part of the circuit as if it’s the last of the day. That said, I hit some personal best levels of wattage during the final hour tonight. I’ve never seen 500 on the rower before for example. 

I was absolutely in the zone during that final session. I simply had to be, in order to get through it. With great direction and encouragement from Dave I actually felt that Run Geordie Run was back in the room tonight. 

The MyZone stats (pictured below) show a good level of consistency and a very strong finish. The sessions were a mixture of cardio and weights which explains the up and down nature of my heart rate.

Digging deep during the final half an hour saw me get quite emotional. Thankfully the tears were disguised by a bucket load of sweat pouring down my face. 

Yes, tonight was a very vigorous workout. What I will mostly take from it though is confidence. Tonight felt like a real significant session. The timing is perfect as my preparation for Stage X steps up a notch next week. I’m also very mindful (and grateful) of the great work done by physio Mark at Taylored-fit Physio to get me training pain free. 

I was straight on the Cherry Active (thanks Active Edge) when I got home. I’m back in the gym tomorrow at 0715 followed by a crack at Mont Ventoux on Zwift. 

So that’s 7 sessions in the gym this week so far. Beach Bootcamp will round the week off on Saturday and I’ve got a rest day on Sunday. 

I’ve got a huge workload to get through next week. The daily routine aims to get close to a typical day during the run across the USA. So with that in mind, expect plenty of miles together with tactical snoozes. I also hear that one of support man Carlton’s omelettes might be back on the menu! Confidence is high. Support and encouragement is excellent. I’m injury free. A good foundation has been built. I’ve got everything going for me. Just as well, as the next big run starts in a little over 50 days time.

As I close tonight, my thoughts are with Lisa Shaw who is currently very poorly and her family. Lisa is one of life's special people who I've been very lucky to have had huge support from over the years. 

Friday 7 May 2021

Fixing ankles

I had another scheduled visit to Taylored-fit Physio yesterday. Physio Mark Smith (pictured below) has previously been working on my tight back, painful right ankle and sore right shoulder. I'm pleased to report that since last week's treatment, my ankle has caused me very little pain or discomfort. If I was to put a figure on it, I'd say that it's 95% fixed. After putting up with it for the last 14 months or so I can't tell you how relieved I am to have such a good outcome on it. I have trained through the pain and was quite prepared to do so going forwards. There is a lesson too be learned here! If it's broken, see an expert to fix it. 

During yesterday's session a lot of time was spent on my right shoulder. It can bare weight but I get a shocking pain when it moves in certain directions. There is a lot of tightness there and work will continue next week in this area. I think, again, this has all come about due to the time I've spent working at my desk over the last 14 months. Lockdown hasn't really come into it. The project I worked on would have required that effort regardless. Again, there is a lesson to be learned here. Prioritising work over personal health and well being has taken its toll. What could I have done differently? Taking more regular breaks for one. It's all easier said than done though when you have constant pressing deadlines. Never mind, I'm back on the right track now. I really can't thank Mark enough for the progress that has been made in such a short space of time.

After the session at Taylored-Fit Physio I had a drive over to Stanhope for a visit to an "old friend". Specifically, the aim was to reacquaint myself with a few climbs that I used to train up during the build up to run across the USA. In fact, this particular road was also part of my John O’Groats to Lands End route. 

Despite the bright but freezing conditions, the run went very well. I just about missed the hailstorm that followed. As I stood at the summit of the run (1700 ft approx), I could see the thick black skies in the distance. That served as quite an incentive to get back to my car in decent time. 

The run also gave me a chance to try out my new Brooks Glycerin 19 GTS shoes. While very comfortable, I feel these are going to take a bit of breaking in compared to previous models. There was loads of bounce and cushioning as I've come to expect with Glycerin shoes. They did feel a little stiff and I'm hoping this eases as the miles tick by.

The training day ended with yet another double session at David Fairlamb Fitness. I didn’t feel particularly great during the first session but tried to dig in as best as I  could. As was the case on Monday, I dug deep and found a little extra something to really attack the second session. I really must get a photo taken of me training there next time. It's purely non stop and getting a quick snap is the last thing on my mind.

The sessions were a mixture of strength and cardio work and, as ever, were like no other session that I've ever done before with David Fairlamb. The fact that there is never any repeat of a previous session really does keep you on your toes. I'm all for "mixing it up" as fas as training is concerned. 

It's during these sessions that I've been able to put my ankle though it's paces in recent weeks. Jumping up and down on things, lunging, squatting and lifting have all helped in my recovery I'm sure.

All in all, it was another enjoyable day. The workload is building very nicely each week and, at this current rate, I expect June into July to see an unprecedented amount of training effort. 

In other news, I started looking into a product called Whoop after seeing a few references to it on social media recently. It seems to fill a long standing requirement that I've had. That is that I’m interested to know how well I’m recovering each day. It's not a cheap bit of kit and I did a search for possible alternatives. That led me on to an app called Athlytic which gets its data from the Apple Watch. 

I've been using that app for a few days now and I'm still trying to get my head around it. As you can see from the past week’s data (image below). I’m not giving myself time to fully recover. How could I?

Interestingly, going into Friday’s 42 mile/4509ft bike ride to Rothbury and back with the previous days exertion at only 22% recovered feels quite realistic to me. That’s how I roughly perceived it at the time. I think sleep and hydration influence the figure also. I've also seen other people's stats following their vaccination which affects that number. 

The jury is still out on the Athlytic, how it compares to the far more expensive Whoop kit and what benefit I can get out of it. I doubt it will influence what I do in training. It’s always been about no rest, no recovery for me. That’s a philosophy that has served me well across various continents and I’m not about to change that. 

I think what purpose it will serve will be me trying to influence that recovery number. I'll be mindful of getting enough sleep and ensuring that I drink enough. Putting a figure on exactly how tired I am is going to be interesting personally. Knowing that I'm going to have to dig in even more because I'm not fully recovered from the previous days exertion will be useful. Likewise, knowing that I've had a good recovery will give me the confidence to attack the session. It may be that I ditch this app and continue to train on instinct. Like I said, the jury is out. 

Finally, for today, I'm pleased to announce that Carlton Fletcher will be part of the Stage X support team this summer. Carlton's previous tours of duty include the runs across the USA, Australia and Europe. Carlton's sharp wit has proven as valuable as the camarardarie, ingenuity and general support he has brought to the run around the world so far.

Carlton, pictured below on last week's horrendously tough bike ride, has every trait of the ultimate support person in my opinion. I know that running the 250 mile Stage X route this summer will be tough. I can't imagine that being on the support team will be any picnic.

A favourite read of mine was an email sent from Carlton to his colleagues while supporting the run across the USA in the closing stages. It tells you all you need to know about Carlton and how the Run Geordie Run journey is never a dull one.

"I don't know how he managed yesterday. It started so well, meeting in McDonalds for WIFI and coffee. I bought a couple of steaks for him. Nice! Then, being without proper communications became an issue, and I ended up tearing around the countryside looking for him, to find he was where I had been waiting for him 20 mins earlier. 

So I put the steaks on (I should have been sacked for it not being ready), but we are out of propane. So I whip out the BBQ. It lights. It goes out. It wont light again.And being in a church car park, in the middle of a forest, I thought it was for the best. Ham sandwich anyone? 

Then hills! From nowhere, windy twisty hills up and down, and you cant help thinking someone could have put a road along the valley in a straight line? Just when all was lost, we find a steak restaurant. From there it was 3 miles and wait, etc. On the third of which, mark was greeted by flashing police lights, and me standing by the roadside having my license checked. I was sort of on a exit road from the long winding hill road with no waiting areas. But he was cool about it, and was very interested in Mark's story. I can dine on his exploits for days ahead! Right on cue Mark arrives for handshakes with the Police. 

The next stop was as scary a place as I have been in my life. Forest road, very few cars, mist, crickets, things moving in bushes. And a pair of headlights in the woods pointing at me. With a slight breeze the lights flickered as if movement. I had my weapon of choice to hand - toilet paper. Thank god when the car (poacher?) drove off. And then Mark arrived to call it a night. 

Turn the engine. Dead. Try again. Dead. Emergency backup starter. Didn't start. Poo the bed. Try again, woohoo, we are cooking on gas. Except we don't have any! Oh, and the spin off is the fridge is powered by propane too, so the ham is now off. Dry bread anyone? 

But wait, we are moving, but the petrol light is on! waaa? When did that happen? We are below empty. Quick make it to Morristown for the night and a 24 hour petrol station (ironically, gas station). Pass one, shut. Another, shut. Supermarket car park. Night night, worry about petrol in the morning. Except I couldn't. Starting at 5 on a Monday morning, nothing will be open. Mark will fail, and it's all my fault. Will he still let me have the hotel room in New York? No sleep. 4:30, he's up, so I start to drive him back. Engine, starts first time. Petrol, quarter full, no light! Woohoo. I can let it run empty again before worrying. Will see if i can get to Coney Island and see if there is petrol there perhaps! 

So he is on his way. Cooked breakfast is 2 bananas that have been cooking in the heat of the RV overnight. I smell like roadkill, even with a cold shower yesterday (I told Mark I used the last of the propane on a hot shower just to see the look on his face). The consolation is Mark smells worse. I saw roadkill skunk turning up what was left of its nose at him just now. 

So we meet in McDonalds at 7 miles for more coffee and planning. Keep following him on Twitter, the number one trended person in UK (I know all the terms) to see him at the finish line 23:59 ETC. Now get back to work everyone. This isn't a sideshow."

And the rest, as they say is history. Welcome back to the support team Carlton.