Sunday, December 16, 2012


The normally dry trails
My two favourite places in the world to live are Southern California and the South of France, both have up to 300 days of sunshine per year which is one of the main reasons for living there but they also share another similarity in that when it does rain, it rains with a vengence. Southern California's PCH has mudslides and floods whereas the Riviera has torrential rain with just about everything getting flooded, roads, rivers, houses, etc. The reaction in the US is to clean it up fast; I was once told that with 3 continous days of rain, the first day is, its good for the gardens......the second, it won't last much longer....and on the third day, everyone visits a therapist. In France, the first day they shrug and do nothing......and on the second and third day........they continue to shrug and do nothing.

      Today was the first sunny day in 3 days and after a brutal workout week with Paddy I thought it time to hit the trails for an easy 10k jog, just to chill out. It was a lovely day but within minutes I was met with trails that though normally dry, were now rivers! The hills were literally 'full' of water. It was a bit tricky running up and down streams and brooks but highly exhilerating.....and refreshing. These pictures are the actual trails which are normally bone dry! On the hilltops,the trails were much drier and the smell from the wet pine trees was intoxicating. What a great way to celebrate your birthday, yes folks I'm 58 today!
     Its been quite a year. Three big races including 2 ultra's as well as many 40k training runs. It was nice just to jog along like a normal person without caring how far or what time or speed. My body composition has changed dramatically ( now 9.9% body fat), as has my overall nutrition. My muscle mass has also increased to the point that my quads and general strength has enabled me to go further, faster. It still hurts but I can go longer before it starts to hurt and the improvement in my sodium/potassium pump gives a much faster recovery time between events.
    I'm still working on my Paddy/Crossfit regime's by incorporating more strength work with high intensity training and no doubt next year I will look at race distances to establish the most effective distance for me i.e. not neccessarily the most challenging but also the most fun....because if it's just a constant slog for 10-15 hours....what's the point? I love running through the mountains and forests and I don't mind suffering to reach my goal....but not for the whole *^/#"* day !
    On a more personal note I lost one of my best friends this year, Steve was 51 and an alchoholic.....but that's not how I remember him. He loved having fun and he loved to laugh.....and he was even happier if everyone around him was having a good time. I often wonder where all that positive energy went. Today I was running through the hills where I scattered his ashes and sometimes I find myself just laughing at his craziness.......he definitely is somehere, laughing at mine.  
      I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas....thanks for all your support and encouragement......I hope you too can find some stimulating fitness goals for the New Year, it's amazing what you can do if you commit yourself to something. Find a goal, make a plan and do it.....and when it comes to a sports event I'll let you into a little secret of how to succeed, which was shared confidentially to me, many years ago.................are you ready?............'It's all in the training.'....and it is. 'Bonne Sante' :)
The birthday boy


Wednesday, December 5, 2012


 So a few days have gone by and my recovery has been excellent, 2 days after my run I went for a 10k easy jog in the hills and felt great. Crossfit Endurance do say that recovery times are much quicker as a result of their training......its all to do with an efficient sodium potassium pump. I could explain this further but suffice to say that an efficient pump regulates the balance of sodium and potassium in the cells thereby aiding recovery......and it works.
     Helen thinks that my calf injuries were more of an over elongated stretch in training rather than a pull or a tear, (a grade 1) and this would be the reason why they held up okay despite the dull pain. 'Obviously' she said, 'they didn't like running that far and definitely didn't like the beach.....but they just had to put up with it.....and you......just like we all do'. So there you go.
      I reckon on consuming 85 grams of carbs per hour from gels and other food, plus I have my natural glycogen stores (about 450 grams) and then fat stores after that, but on 5 hours + running I probably didn't burn that much fat and two days later, voila my weight was exactly the same as before the race. I have written many times that you don't lose weight by going on lots of runs, it keeps you fit and healthy but that's not how you lose weight, if that's your goal.
     I did get a bit of cramp later on so I popped two S-Caps and was fine in minutes. ( For those of you who have never used S-Caps salt tablets, I recommend them highly). In a normal ultra I'll take one every hour and they work brilliantly.
    My Brooks Cascadia 7's running shoes managed to dispel all the water from the sea, streams and rivers very well, they call it, 'In/Out technology', or something like that. However, I do have one criticism, the laces keep coming undone and I have heard other runners mention this before, it seems bizarre that they can make such a good running shoe but can't supply laces that tie up properly! Go figure.
      So what's the suprise?

      I have to be honest, I found this race quite tough even though it wasn't an ultra. It was a fab day and a stunning place and I was very fortunate to be able to do it but the beach running wore me down over time. The comments from other runners on the sand was 'C'est dur'........'Its hard' and it was. It really slows you down and then the climbs in the hills afterwards are just much more tiring due to fatigue, nevertheless it was a great new experience and one that I wanted to try. At the end of Pampelone beach a small river enters the ocean and at one point I was up to my waist wading through it and thinking, 'this is nuts!' I felt quite forlorn when I looked back down the beach and found that I was alone.......I couldn't see anybody, I thought, I must be last, this is terrible! I'd never been in this position before, even though I'm usually the oldest kid on the block. But, I had one thing going for me, as an ultra runner you have to pace yourself and run your race , not anybody else's, and you have to trust in your ability and knowledge and most importantly you have to keep going; its relentless forward progress.
    What happens is over time you start to real people in and the longer the race goes on the more people slow down, so if you can keep up an even pace, then you eventually, over many hours, catch them up. Exactly 88 runners started the race and at the 12k stage I was, if not at the back, then not far off it......but 5 hours-19 minutes later I managed to finish in 48th place! Its a good metaphor for life, over the course of the race I'd improved my position by about 40 places, just by staying constant.
      Its the highest position, pro-rata, that I have ever come in a race, which is great but why was this? As you no, firstly, I hardly did any long runs, it was mostly high intensity crossfit type training and secondly, I saw my coach Paddy today and I have just hit 9.9% body fat, the leanest I have ever been. This  race was partially an experiment to see if this type of training works, well you can't judge things on one race alone but the evidence, if not convincing, is certainly thought provoking.
      My conclusion is that I am definitely staying with this program. Paddy and I have been discussing a new 6 week schedule to further increase my fitness levels by using more weights, high intensity exercise and sprints. However, there is one thing I will always do 3/4 weeks before a big race, I will do at least one long training run.....I still say its important to attune you to the mental fatigue.....and how to deal with it. You have to keep going, no matter how painful or tired or fed up you feel and until you've experienced it and got through it then you can't possibly know what that feels like.
      Anyway those are my thoughts.....I'd be very interested to know how others feel. You can comment here or email me at



Sunday, December 2, 2012


Wow, what a weekend. Last night Sue and I went for a pre race dinner in St Tropez and then back to our fab hotel, the Villa Begude, for an early night. My view is if you're going do these tough challenges then you might as well make it as pleasant as possible........before the drama begins.

         It was a stunningly beautiful day with a chilly Alpine wind blowing on the exposed cliff tops. It was 100 of the usual fit French guys, thin, wiry, short cropped hair.....; its like a uniform, they all look the same but they are very good at this sport so they have my respect. I really thought that my calves were going to 'pull' in the first hour so I was pretty relaxed.....ooops! The pace was really fast over the first kilometre and the reason, I was to discover, was because it was the only flat, level, open piece of trail on the whole course. I would say 90% of this trail was 'technical' which means rocky, roots, slippy surfaces, mud, and constant up and down.....and thats before you hit the beach. The total elevation gain was just under 4000 feet which is okay but the surface was very tricky. Still it was a great temperature and clear blue sky so you have to be grateful, it could have been a full blown storm.
       Anyway 45 minutes in, I'm twisting this way and that, ducking under trees whilst trying to prevent myself from catapulting  over the cliff edge, when Bang!! No, not my calf, I just smacked straight into a low tree branch and keeled over. With blood pouring from my head I am instantly surrounded by a collection of concerned runners. 'Ma tete frappe le branche' I exclaimed. The only reason I knew how to say this was because luckily these are 4 of about 20 french words that I know and I only knew 'branche' was branch because of the comedian Eddie Izzard's French sketch.( You tube). Now trail runners are a hardy bunch and although they were concerned they just expect you just to get up and get on with it......and so that's what I did, although I was now the 'headless' trail runner and my vision a little hazy, to say the least......still it woke me up a bit and I forgot all about my calves.
      The 4 k's of Pampelone beach were basically terrible, I tried running in soft sand, hard sand, by the sea, even in the sea, it made no difference, its just hard. When we finally began a steep climb back up into the hills I was actually relieved. Somehow I got to the 20 k aid station in 3 hours which was okay considering I'd been half decapitated and was half legless.
       The aid station was out of the back of a van with a few bottles of coke and water...and that was it. This is trail running French ain't California, if you don't bring all your own stuff you could have a problem. Later two french guys passed me and attempted to have a chat, which was a complete waste of time but I did manage to say that running in such a beautiful place was a 'privelege'. This brought instant nods of approval and off they went.
        By now my calves were starting to ache quite a bit as if they were saying to me 'Come on, we got you this far but now your really 'pulling my leg'. (By the way for my foreign readers this might not translate but trust me, it was quite funny.)
         To be fair the endless rocks and beaches started to take their toll but I was going to finish no matter what.......and finally over 5 hours later I hit the last beach and arrived at the 'plage du Debarquement' and the finish. The beach is called this because this is where the American troops landed in 1944, which is pretty cool.......and now it was my turn. (Steve would have loved that).
      Sue had enjoyed a lovely day at the hotel whilst I'd been doing my thing so all was well and, lest I forget a big thanks to Helen, my physio, for her 'therapy by phone', it could be an all knew buisness venture and to Pam for the KT calf tape suggestion. I didn't use KT but I did my own DIY version when taping my calves this morning. The moral of this story is that, tape, physio, ice , massage, TENS machines, elevation and rest, actually work.......that and a bit of stubborn belief.


Saturday, December 1, 2012


Well what a weird Taper week which began, as you know, with a calf strain last Friday. Super physio Helen came over on Sunday and got to grips with the problem. Not only did she find some very painful spots she even found some in my other leg.......which was a little strange as I hadn't injured that one! As Helen said "Don't worry I will always find some way of exacting torture."
      Now you may ask yourself why I put up with this hour of agony......well the  reason is; Helen is very good. The next day my legs  were so tired I felt like I'd been on a 3 hour run and this was due to her deep tissue massage....yeh it sounds nice......but it isn't.
        But, on the following day my legs felt fantastic, no pain, swelling nearly gone, etc, etc: so I did a couple of 20 minute high intensity workouts over the following two days with no pressure on the legs and all was well.....And then I did what all idiot athletes do........I went for a little jog.....and again felt fab.....and so I began some tabata sprints......and guess what?...I pulled the lower calf. When I told Helen this I think she wanted to throttle me, "I told you to rest and do nothing till the race!"
  "I know but I felt great and just wanted to stretch my legs".
    "Well that was stupid".
     "Guilty" I meekly replied. Unfortunately Helen was flying out to the UK that morning so it was 'therapy by phone' followed by ice, rest , elevation, compression, self massage, stretching and the ubiquitous TENS machine. This race was starting to look more impossible by the minute and I hadn't even started.
     The last few days I really have rested and done nothing and so feel quite sluggish but there's still a dull pain. 9 months with no injury's and now two strains in 4 days, the week before a someone trying to tell me something?
      Needless to say I have no idea how tomorrow is going to be honest it doesn't look good as calf strains always seem to come one after another. If I get another 'pull', then c'est la vie, there's very little I can do about it. I hate the phrase "I'll do my best", as only losers say that, so all I'll say is, 'I'll give it everything'....Its bloody annoying though. I tried a 2k jog this morning and unfortunately the pain has not gone...and I had to walk the last 500 metres. My leg is now wrapped in ice and as Sue sagely pointed out, 'Aren't you supposed to 'ice' it after a race?.....that's not a good sign is it?'....Well quite. I've decided to split the race into bits, ie mini challenges. Its 8k to Pampelone beach, 4k across the beach, 8k to the aid station and 12k climbing up and down to the finish with more beach. It will all be dependant on the pain. You never no I might wake up tomorrow and feel great....gotta stay positive.
         The last bit of advice Helen gave before she left was, 'Whatever you do, don't run on the beach, its the worst thing for calves"......As 7k of this 32k race is run on beaches I guess I'll just have to walk on water!
        Wish me luck :)