Monday, January 30, 2012


                'So what have you done now?'.....'Well I was running along the beach and'.......'Why were you doing that,.......probably posing in Malibu I bet' .......'Well,yeh.'.......'And in new shoes I suppose and with a two week old calf strain'......'Well,yeh'...........'Idiot'.
             And so my physio session with the infamous Helen McLeod begins. After some intrusive probing the torture commences with a; 'This may hurt a bit'.
          'Ahh!'. I nearly hit the ceiling. ' Thought it was there', says a grinning Helen who now assures me that she wont hurt me again whilst still accusing me of being a wimp.  The next hour consists of massage with a strange herbal cream. When I ask what's in it, her reply is 'Herbs, just imagine you're rolling around in the shrubbery'. Fair enough, then its ultrasound and some thing called an interferential therapy machine. As she carefully placed electrodes on my leg she asked, 'Let me know if your leg begins to spasm?'.......'It will feel a bit like being attacked by an octopus'; which was exactly what it did feel like. At one point Helen informs me that the language mode had switched into 'Russian' but no worries she says, 'I speak machine Russian!'. She continued in the next session to 'iron out my lumpy bits' whilst fiddling expertly with my Gastroc and Soleus. (look it up).
        For anyone who knows Helen, the Super Physio with the magic hands, then none of this is a suprise as she has the unique knack of being incredibly proffessional whilst talking unintelligble gobbledygook. The hour just flies by as you get the full treatment plus entertainment, all in one session.
       Next stop my coach, Paddy Warwick. After going through my copious notes on all my training activity that he had designed we then get into some serious analysis of the results. Despite the break in training caused by my calf strain I had kept up all of my strength work and most of the high intensity running drills, tempo, sprints and Block specificity runs,(pre-injury). Paddy too has a rather special computer thingy which is called Biosignature Modulation and a very impressive tool it is. It goes beyond simple fat testing and analyses in detail the areas where body fat is stored therefore creating a unique hormonal profile. Simply put he can then work out by nutrition and exercise what needs to be done to improve your overall weight and health by reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass. I have been on this program for two months exactly, so what are the results?
     After losing a few kilograms initially I then regained it BUT my body shape has changed dramatically. This is what Paddy expected as I had lost  over 2 kilos in fat and replaced it with over 2 kilos of lean muscle mass. My body fat  has dropped incredibly from 14.7 %  to 12.3 %, which is an overall 16% reduction. This is in itself is impressive but considering I was in pretty good shape anyway the specific areas of fat loss are amazing. For example I have lost 20% of my hips, 20% of my abs and 27% of my hamstrings!
    We then did a test on my quad strength and balance by counting how many specific leg raises I could do in a minute from a one foot platform. Two months ago I averaged 18, today I did 42, (over 100% increase), I think even Paddy was impressed.
     After looking at my regime he felt that my calf strains could have been caused by the huge increase in eccentric and concentric exercises. Previously I had done mostly long slow distance running and  stretching and therefore the switch to high intensity speed work as well as all the strength training may have put too much pressure on these weaker areas.( I understand at this point that at least half my audience has no idea what I'm talking about so lets just say I overdid it a bit.)
     I shall continue with Helen until I am cured and meanwhile Paddy is working on a new regime to get me to the 'Way to Cool' in top shape. What with these two on the case and Sue organising my nutrition all I need to do in March is run 50 kilometres through the beautiful forests and canyons of  northern California...........should be dead easy!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


      Having just returned from California I am feeling a little worried. Quite simply I suffered two further calf strains making a total of 4 in as many weeks. This is not good for someone who rarely gets injured,........(its not good for someone who does either)....but whatever; this is a bit of a concern. 14 days ago I did a 32k run and felt great until the last mile when I received another pull in my calf.....and the last one I got whilst running along the beach one morning in Malibu, which I know sounds very cool,...and it is......but the pain was excruciating and made for a rather unhappy morning. I'm generally very positive but as my big race is only 7 weeks away I'm feeling a little panicky. Why has this suddenly happened? I'm doing nothing differently. I stretch a lot, listen to my body, increase my weekly mileage correctly, have a good diet, do lots of core and leg strength exercises, vary my training, take a plethora of vitamins and other supplements, etc, etc; so what is it??? These muscle tears just come out of nowhere with no warning.....its very frustrating.....and scary. Its been suggested that it could be my new Cascadia trail shoes. Without getting too technical here's the deal. The Cascadia's have an 8 mm heal to toe drop and my old shoes were 12 mm; Could the 4 mm have made a difference? The trend in trail shoes is towards minimalist zero drop shoes and.........(I know, I know, I've lost most of you already and I can hear Ashley yawning so I'll stop there).
          Anyway Helen, my physio, has the unenviable task of fixing the problem but if anyone can work up some magic......then it be her. Next week Paddy, my coach has to come up with a regime that will keep my fitness levels up whilst not aggravating the problem further. This could be a tricky combination but my race is March 10th and so I have to get this right. My goal is to arrive at the start feeling fit and with no injuries.......and its only then that the 50k really hard stuff begins..... I am already feeling a little stressed with it all......and Sue is now on Valium and she's not evn running.
       But, there is a flip side. Firstly I can give my legs a bit of a rest and secondly my strength has improved dramatically from all my body conditioning and new protein/carb balance. If I can cure the calf problem then I have a good chance of making it. I like to be in control but at the moment I'm feeling very much the opposite.
      On a lighter note Sue and I had a fab time in the States. Driving miles through the desert from Palm Springs to Joshua tree listening to Indian pipe music is very wacky and quite brilliant. I love the desert, its the untouched barren vastness of it that appeals to me. I must do a desert ultra run one day as I think it could be fun.....well apart from the rattlesnakes, and the heat, and the lack of water and.....oh well, maybe I should think about it a bit more as getting bitten by a snake may be just slightly more serious than a calf strain!
     I guess I should let all my worries wash over me and speaking of 'washing over', all along the Californian coast now they have Tsunami warning signs, but I'm not sure why. The signs says 'Tsunami Zone', so what exactly are you supposed to do, I mean, if there isn't one then you are okay and if there is one then your screwed anyway, so what's the point of the sign? Its even more bizarre because you are also slap bang on top of the San Andreas fault and 30 odd million people are acutely aware of the possibility of earthquakes and tsunami's so again, what's the point of the sign?? Answers on a postcard please.

Monday, January 16, 2012


              So here we are in the good ol U.S. of A. We always stay in Manhattan Beach in LA, quite simply because its totally cool. Sue and I instantly drop into the 'West Coast' thang; up at 6:00 am and running along the beach as the Sun comes it. The weather is very similar to where we live  but thats where the similarities end..... after all this is California not Cannes.
              I hit the 'Strand' which is a running/ walking/ cycling/skateboarding /you name it/ path, that goes for miles up the coast. Now clearly this is not trail running but its a pleasant change and allows me to do a bit of speedwork.......only problem is, this is L.A......Beach Boys country and I am surrounded by very fit young people going very, very fast. Still I content myself with the knowledge that if we were on the trails high up in the mountains then I'd have em, (Well,....possibly).
           Then disaster!! I get ANOTHER calf strain!!! Now this is getting serious and is very frustrating as now its the other leg in pain. I never get injured, so two strains in a month is a worrying development. I'am doing the usual R.I.C.E treatment but am now 'walking' the California beaches rather than running; not very cool at all. At least I can still do my strength/resistance work in the gym however as this is California, I am looked on as a rare novelty, I mean, I think I am in pretty good shape but next to this lot I look like Popeye without his spinach. I decide on a quick trip to the Wholefoods Health Store to stock up on supplies.
      Wow!....It's huge and is a bit like how Donald Trump would design a health store. BIG. They have 'everything', times a thousand; 50 different types of Green drink, 50 different fish oils, and 100's of different types of nuts and seeds and berries.....some Sue and I have never even heard of. Whatever you want, they have it ..'Do you have any organic hemp protein?'.....'Yes sir but we only have a limited choice of 37  hemp protein products!'....Crikey... Its all green and big and overpowering, no wonder the Californians are so healthy and next a whole aisle of assorted milk........and non of it from a cow!
          Anyway we left the store with a large (green) bag full of organic everything full of pride at how we had just 'saved' the planet........and then got into our large gas guzzling car......oops! Now the big question is; Will all this make me run any a faster??....
         Later we met friends at my 'fav' restaurant; 'The Cheescake Factory'. Now as you can guess from the title cheescakes are their speciality but in 30 years of coming here I've never had one. This is not as a result of my healthy eating regime it is quite simply because by the time you have finished your main course it is impossible to eat anything else, I would have to run 20 miles a day to burn all those calories up; best stick to my green stuff, sit crossed legged and chant a mantra as the sun goes down.
       Later Sue massaged my rather sore legs with some special herbal oil bought at a super trendy, hippy,body and soul shop........hope it works, it cost a fortune!
    The next morning I hit the beach and tried a gentle jog which felt a little better, this was followed by an 'Ice Bath'; now if you've never had one its an interesting experience. I poured several buckets of ice into the bath and basically sat in it for 20 minutes freezing to death. When I got out I couldn't feel any pain in my legs; only problem was I couldn't feel anything at all, took me about 10 minutes to thaw out and regain contact with all my faculties. Green foods, herbal massage, ice baths.....if all this doesn't work I'm going to give up running, start drinking and stuff my face with cheescakes, pizza's and chocolate donuts!! Surfs up....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012....FAT OR FIT?

      Julie has just recently brought to my attention that I am no longer a 56 year old endurance I am now 57......and unfortunately still in the veteran's camp; I guess I need to update my blog page. I have just had a 10 day lay off from running, this was not due to the festive period but due to the calf strain I suffered the other week. I continued with my strength exercises and did a lot of power walking, stretching, RICE therapy etc but NO running. I was just starting to get very irritable......(Sue just said what do you mean 'Starting too'?) and then yesterday I thought 'thats it, I'm off'. And so, sporting my new bright green, ecologically designed, Cascadia trail shoes, I gingerly started up the coastal trail. In the first few minutes I was like a tentatative new born Deer but once I got going the confidence returned and I was off like a mountain lion chasing down its prey! ( Okay possibly a little too much hyperbole but you get the picture). I did about 8 k in an hour and though I felt a bit tired and achey afterwards I had no other problems. Hopefully everythings now alright but we shall see. Sirpa told me that the neurological pathways have their own distinct influences on the body and so listening to how you feel as well as your own attitude towards your injuries can have a positive impact on their recovery.......sounds good to me.
      Its 10 weeks to the 'Way to Cool 50 K' so I should finish my strength building regime in the next two weeks and then its maintenance with full on training and preparation. Sue and I are off to California next week for a holiday but I always train more when I'm away so that should fit in well. Also when I go for a run at 6:30 am in Hermosa beach I'm usually surrounded by half of California doing the same thing; its hilarious and quite brilliant.
       At the opposite end of the spectrum I read today that in the UK  nearly half of all clinically obese people actually believe they have a healthy diet !!!!  I guess thats where the problem starts in the first place in that they don't perceive any negative health issues. Being a bit of a health nut I find it very difficult to understand this way of thinking. I believe that I am not healthy enough and that I should eat better even though I have a very strict regime. My sister has worked for Weight Watchers in Canada for many years and she says that this belief system in overweight people is quite prevalent.... She recently had two extremely obese women (who occupied two chairs each !) calmly tell her, and the group, that they couldn't understand the problem because they didn't eat very much at all and what they did eat was a very healthy. Ann's response was a classic....'Well, whatever you are doing it clearly isn't working is it ?'.
     These women were surrounded by mirrors an all sides and appeared oblivious to the problem. The first step to solving any problem is to firstly admit that you have one.........I could go on and on but I'll leave it there........apart from one final observation...
        I too go to Christmas/New Years parties and see cakes, pastries and wine all the other stuff and its all very tempting but if you have a regime plan, stick to it....its that simple (or if neccessary have one small slice: but thats it). If you have an exercise plan....stick to it . Today is the first day in months that the weather has turned wet, cold and nasty BUT todays plan was for a one and half hour strength routine followed three hours later by a two hour run. Did I feel like doing 100's of squats and pulling a heavy wet sled up a hill...NO, did I feel like running through treacherous, muddy ground with a dodgy calf muscle..... NO.
          I am 57 years old and am not training for the Olympics, so why do it?......For me its self respect and the fact that I 'get off' on my own discipline but it doesn't really matter what it is as long as YOU have enough reasons to make YOU get up off the sofa and do it. I remember a quote from Tony Robbins when talking to an 'overweight' woman. She accepted his advice and decided to make a plan to lose weight and get fit.
       'Right, first I will join a gym and then I'll visit the store to buy some new fitness gear...and then I'll hire a personal trainer for two days a week and then....'
       ' Ma am with the greatest respect, all you need is someone behind you to shout.........'RUN!!''
       Anyway here's wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year. I enclose a picture taken by Sue at a New Years eve party of a Chinese lantern taking off into the Star filled Riviera night........ Close your eyes and make a wish.