Back in training (and racing)

Following the forearm excision (see previous Blog) I was keen to be as careful with the arm as possible while still keeping the legs turning.  I couldn’t do anything for a few days, but from 3-9 days I managed to first of all get a few short turbo sessions in, and then finally a couple of 20min runs before the Caesars Camp 50mile Ultra on Sat 20 Oct.  I knew this was a little too early to be racing.  The surgeons had told me to wait 2 weeks until I exercise.  The nurses who checked the stitches 7 days after the Op agreed that I could start the race and see how it developed.  Caesars Camp is probably THE most technical Ultra I have raced, and with two weeks of rain I not only had to watch my footing on the stones but also mind I didn’t slip on the mud.  I could swing the arm, and I could put pressure on it, but I didn’t like the thought of having to put my arm down to steady my balance or from a slip.  But as the race was over 10mile laps I thought I’d at least turn up and do one lap, and pull out if needs be.

The race started fast.  A lot faster than the previous year, and a fair bit faster than I was comfortable with.  I joined the eventual winner as we tracked the leader, who was running at a 6hr pace.  Fast for a 50mile road, let alone a technical and muddy xc course.  He kept this up for one and a half laps, when I passed him walking.  This was also the point I started to feel a pain in my wound/stitches and had to let the arm hang limp while I eased back to the finish and retired from the race.  Paul (the winner) had continued to a course record time.

Of course, we were expecting the DNF.  I was actually quite pleased that I could hold such a fast pace over 15miles despite the pain in arm.  I wasn’t however in a good place mentally.  The worries and lack of training of the previous two months were manifesting with at first a stressful, and then lazy race.  The latter may have been because I knew deep down I’d have to pull-out.

After recovering from the race, I started to increase my running and introduce a little more resistance and core work.  I have only done one swim to date which was a little painful.  I struggle to extend the arm fully under tension.  I also sometimes get pains during sleep when the scar rubs.   This will all heal in time.

Because of the earlier excision I was able to take part in the Civil service XC Champs at Hampstead Heath on Wed 31 Oct.  I’ve taken part in this event several times over the years, including the last three times at Hampstead Heath (the home of XC running).  So it was a good indicator of my current fitness.  Having turned up to a 5km ParkRun the previous week during a long training run, and a lack of ‘race motivation’ I wasn’t expecting much.

The race covers three loops around Parliament Hill, roughly 10km in total.  I know from previous years that the short sharp hills over xc can sap your legs if you run too fast, and this year we had plenty of  mud which meant a few problems with grip.  The standard in Civil Service events is always very high, if I could match my 10th position last year I would have been delighted.

I backed-off on the first climb and held around 20th.  My descending is much better than my climbing so for the first lap I’d find that any places lost on the uphills would be gained back on the downhills.  I came through lap1 in around 12th place.  I’d managed my pace quite well and the plan was to keep the pressure on those around me and keep picking places off as others tired.  This worked well as I came through lap2 in around 8-9th and out-sprinted a couple of other runners at the finish to claim 6th.  The time was 30secs faster than last year despite muddier conditions, so I was pleased.  The team came 2nd.

I now have two weeks until the Brecon Beacons 46M Ultra on Sat 17 Nov.  This will be my third year and I’m keen to take more time of my previous best (6hr29).  There will once again be some fast runners turning up (a popular event that fills in 48hrs!) so I can’t wait to get stuck in now I’ve got my confidence and some form back.  We will also be entering four teams into the event.  We are four teams (of three) all sponsored by Elagen, a sports supplements company.   We did well last year, so I can’t wait to see how we get on this year too.


Feeding for Ultra

Now the base training period has started I’m going to be working a little more on trying to encourage my body to burn more fats over the longer distances.  I have really struggled in my two 100 mile events (Caesars Camp and Cotswold Way) to get the energy on board and keep the engine ticking over.  If I’m ever going to move on from 100 miles then I need to be more sustainable with my nutritional intake.  I can only do that if I can encourage the body to burn more fats from the off.

First of all I will start running longer distances from a fat and protein only breakfast (with 0 cal electrolyte drinks) up to 2-3hrs.  I’ve already done this once and it was fine.  I will cut high GI snacks from the diet and eat more protein and fats generally throughout the day.  The only times I will eat carb-rich meals will be after long training sessions/races and during the carbo-loading phase.  Race breakfasts will be limited carbs, but I will still have a small amount ,as well as towards the end of the first hour of racing.  It certainly won’t be as pleasant and I won’t deprive myself.  If I’m struggling then I will revert back to my previous diet, then back again.  Now is the best time to experiment.



I posted a photo of my spare bike on Facebook recently with the aim of selling it.  Unfortunately the damage to the carbon/alu seat post of my Argon racing bike is a little deeper than I thought and although it doesn’t pose an immediate risk and does not affect the integrity of the frame, it has the potential to splinter into the wheel tire further down the line.  I’m planning on getting a Boardman TT frame, but in the meantime I will set up the Orbea bike for any (faster) training blow-outs around Richmond Park.

Orbea Ora Carbon TT Bike
PX Wheels (50/101), Shimano Ultegra, £1.2k ono

What I will have now is a pair of carbon Planet X carbon tubular wheels (50/101) to sell, as well as a few other bits and bobs from the Argon bike.  If anyone is interested in either then let me know as I have yet to make my mind up.

I did a sprint triathlon for  fun this year, and I haven’t yet ruled out a triathlon or two next season.  I still have a voucher for Forestman, but I wouldn’t want to take part in an Ironman without a decent level of swimming and cycling fitness that would see me around the course.  I will delay Ironman proper until at least 2014 or 2015 now.  I have no more ambitions for triathlon, but plenty in Ultra running.


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