Sunday, 20 November 2011

How to lose four weeks of your life in one easy step

How to lose four weeks of your life in one easy step and my first conference presentation

I won’t make you hold on to the end, the answer is very simply, to drop your month old laptop from about two and a half feet onto a wooden floor.  Strangely it carried on working for a day after that, but then when I tried to restart it, no go, dead as a dodo, or a Norwegian Blue.  It was an ex-laptop. 

Luckily it wasn’t mine, it was my work laptop, and luckily I had a backup of data from just before I got it.  What I didn’t have though was the work and data generated of the four intervening weeks which in work terms were probably four of the busier weeks I’ve had recently, so I lost a lot of stuff.  One of the more critical things I lost on Monday morning was the finished draft of a presentation I was supposed to be giving on Thursday to a conference being held by Oil and Gas UK, an industry body for the UK upstream oil and gas industry. 

Luckily I had a few critical documents and e-mails still in the system and on thumb drives, and even luckier, that included the first draft of my presentation.  I managed to resurrect that relatively quickly and get that to the conference people in time.   

Until it happens to you, you really cannot have any concept of the impact of killing a laptop.  I was lucky in the relatively short space of time since my last backup, but there are still some critical documents I cannot recover.  The thing you really cannot account for though is the time impact.  I’d planned a full weeks work including the conference, but as it was ended up losing probably a day and a half to sorting out getting a temporary replacement laptop, getting mine couriered to London and then getting it couriered back on Friday with a new hard drive installed, and then there was the e-mailing clients to ask for them to send things to me again.  Add in about half a dozen conference calls, trying to deal with a visa problem and there goes the week. And in my time, I’ve also had the last four weeks worth of exercise data to type back into my spreadsheet log.

I think, from now on, my back-up regime will be a little more rigorous, allied to my policy of keeping stuff in at least three different places.

So, this week’s training?  Pretty mixed really I’ve managed three runs, one yoga class, a turbo trainer session and some rowing, all going pretty well except one of the runs where I really didn’t manage to stick to the HR cap very well at all.  With the rowing I had no intention of sticking to the HR cap as I was doing this with this months challenge being 4x200m sprints with 1 min rest between each.  It’s all a bit of fun, just a virtual team challenge.  I’m currently in our fourth boat (The Ref), but not expecting to be there at the end of the month as we have some very good lightweight rowers in the team.

This was my second attempt, the first being on a nasty scruffy hotel rower, this one being on my nice, well maintained machine at home in my garage.  That doesn’t make erg sprinting hurt any less though.

It went a bit like this
Warm up 2500 / 10:23.4 / 2:04.7 pace per 500m / 24 strokes per minute
1) 37.2s / 1:33.0 / 40 / AHR 145 / MHR 165
2) 37.7s / 1:34.2 / 40 / AHR 160 / MHR 169
3) 38.2s / 1:35.5 / 41 / AHR 164 / MHR 171
4) 38.5s / 1:36.2 / 41 / AHR 165 / MHR 171 
cd 2000 / 9:13.2 / 2:18.3 / 22

That was a total of 2:35.9 for the fast stuff, at an average pace of 1:34.7 and average power of 412W, beating my previous attempt by 4.4 secs.  Not a bad improvement, but you can see the lack of coherence in the attempt.  I was tying up badly with lactic legs in the last one.

Runs have all been with the intent of sticking to the Maffetone HR cap of 148, but succeeding better in some than others.  One of the things that I find difficult with this is running into the wind, where the perceived increase in effort obviously lags the biofeedback from the HR.  It’s also difficult in some cases to respond quickly enough to the HR hitting the alarm limit as sometimes it keeps going up with a bit of a lag. I guess that just means I need to set the alarm a few BPM lower.

Sunday (13th)  6.62 miles / 57:31 / 8:42 pace / AHR 145 / MHR 153

Thursday 4.78 miles / 39:08 / 8:11 pace/ AHR 145 / MHR 160 (@0.56mi/ strap adjust)
In reality the MHR was about 155, which was still too high.  I was running late that morning and may have been subconsciously hurrying.

Friday 6.38 miles / 54:45 / 8:35 pace / AHR 145 / MHR 154 – that max was into the wind, I need to learn to slow down a bit quicker.

Yesterday – Turbo trainer, 1hr, average 206W / Max 236 / AHR 145 / MHR 153

And the presentation I made on Thursday?   That went very well indeed with some great feedback from the organiser, from the UK’s offshore regulator for the environment and from a couple of my existing clients who were in the audience.  Hopefully I’ve made an impact with a few potential new clients as well.  It’s the first time I’ve spoken in front of an audience that big, but I had a surprisingly low level of nervousness.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Equipment Failure and First Run Since Shredding the Feet

I say equipment failure, but in all honesty, it's much more likely to have been user error.  I recharged my Garmin 310XT before leaving home for the week on Sunday evening, which would normally be absolutely fine for a full week of travel with a 20 hour claimed battery life. 

Due to the feet shredding episode of last Saturday and arriving at about 9:30pm, I didn't do any exercise Sunday evening, and was surprised when I turned the Garmin on on Monday evening to be presented with a Low Battery warning.  My only conclusion is that either I'd had it switched on whilst charging and not turned it off for travel or I'd accidentally knocked it in transit.  Anyway, I put it back in the bag and went to manual.

All in all, it's been another busy week, with about 9 hours of windshield time as my American colleagues say.  I drove four hours from home up to Middlesbrough in the North East UK to spend two days on an onshore gas treatment plant there, then drove another two hours down to Hull to take a flight offshore for two days on Wednesday morning. Once I got there I had to change a tyre on the hire car due a slow puncture (nail in the tyre), which meant that I could only drive at 55mph due to a restricted speed spare.  That made the journey home on Wednesday 3 hours, but I did average about 53 mpg.  So with all that away time and driving I'd planned a nice relaxing day today. 

Fat chance.

I spent the morning dropping the kids at school and then catching up on admin and planning.  I did treat myself to a lunchtime run though, my first since last week's barefoot feet shredding experience.    This afternoon I've been reading and editing reports and printing out a new European Regulation that I need to give a presentation on next week.

I did manage to get a few sessions in though during the week.  Remember no Garmin, so no HR data, which meant Maffetone went out of the window again for the second week.

Monday was a speed day anyway.  I row for the Forum Flyers in an indoor rowing league competition, and this month's challenge is a sprinty one, 4 x 200m sprints, 1 min rest in between, total active time to be entered.  The thing with sprinting on the rowing machine is that it takes a bit of preparation to transition from the aerobic to the explosive.  The sharper eyed amongst you will have noticed that the Maffetone Method is all about low heart rate, aerobic base building at the moment.  This was going to be fun!

Right, sit down, assess the quality of the gym rower, furry fan casing and grotty chain says it all.  Unloved erg with a drag factor on the highest damper setting of about 100.  My clean machine at home gets about 200.  No point complaining, warm up, 2000m should do it.

Very crude plan, pull as hard as I can on the first one.  Do the same three more times.
1) 38.9s / 40 spm/ 1:37.2 pace per 500m  
2) 38.8s / 42 spm/ 1:37.0  pace per 500m  
3) 38.9s / 43 spm/ 1:37.2  pace per 500m  
4) 39.3s / 43 spm/ 1:38.2  pace per 500m  
Total) 2:35.9 / 42 / 1:37.4 pace per 500m  

On the last one my legs started tying up in a bath of lactic pain at about 125m and no matter how much I tried I couldn't get any more out of them and the rating wouldn't go any higher.  Overall happy enough with that as I'm way out of sprinting shape.  I may have another bash at that on my own erg which I know is clean.

Tuesday, another hotel, another (slightly better condition) erg.  This time back to the steady work.  I decided to see exactly what the Garmin meant by low battery.  About 30 mins on the HR strap it turns out, so I chopped off the end of the workout.  Maffetone gives me a 148 limit for aerobic, for running, but I've always found my HR drifting higher on the erg, adn lower on the bike for steady state output of a similar power.  That meant that at a comfortable pace, my HR kept nudging low 150s.
Meters / split pace / split spm
1) 2348 / 2:07.7 / 22 
2) 2304 / 2:10.2 / 23 
3) 2275 / 2:11.8 / 23 
4) 2237 / 2:14.1 / 22
Total 9167 / 2:10.9 / 22 / 40 min 

Wednesday was a very busy day with a flight offshore, platform induction, review of environmental conditions, controls, talking to people etc, so I didn't get to the gym until about 8:30 pm, but I was delighted to find a brand new rowing machine there, absolutely clean and spotless.  Lucky old me.

So, no HR strap again, stick to a pace at which I can have an easy conversation with the one other occupant of the gym, a thai boxing rigger/crane driver about 3 inches shorter than me and about 10 lb heavier.  A chunky little fella, working hard to put weight on.  We had an intermittent chat about the values of good overall fitness with the right mix of strength and cardio training to help make sure he doesn't blow up mid fight.

1) 2309 / 2:09.9 / 22 
2) 2302 / 2:10.3 / 22
3) 2293 / 2:10.8 / 22 
4) 2295 / 2:10.7 / 22
Total) 9198m / 2:10.4 / 22

Not much different to Tuesday, just a flatter profile.

Got home early evening Thursday, and did a bit of yoga with Serena, my seven year old daughter, great fun trying to teach her Warrior's triangle and the Sun Salute.

So, to today.  First run since the feet shredding barefoot episode of last Saturday.  It hasn't been until now that I've been confident enough to try them out again.  So, decision made, no more barefooting, minimalist only. It's getting cooler here now, so huaraches on the feet, long sleeve top with a short sleeve over the top of that and thin running gloves.

Seven miles in total, trying to keep to the HR cap.  Hampered in the first three miles by a wonky HR belt giving spuriously high readings until I adjusted its fit. The effect was spikes up to HR values that I knew were just wrong for that pace, but nothing I can do about it.  After that it was reading true, but telling me that I was at about 147 plus and up to about 152 when I turned the corner into a headwind. 

1) 7:58 / A 134 / M152 
2) 8:02 / A 146 / M164
3) 8:14 / A 147 / M172 
4) 8:32 / A 148 / M152
5) 9:07 / A 147 / M151 
6) 8:18 / A 146 / M152 
7) 8:26 / A 146 / M152
8) 0.15mi / 1:16 / 8:18 / A143 / M145 
Tot) 7.15 / 59:53 / 8:22 / A145

What you see about halfway though is when I came down the back straight of the loop into a headwind.  The extra effort pushed up the HR, forcing me to slow to try and keep in the right area, then at mile 6 I turn again and the pace picks back up.

Feet absolutely fine, glad to get out there.  Same again tomorrow.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Feeling a bit of a fraud

You may have noticed the title change of my blog.  I had a good summer slowly building up the barefoot mileage, then work got busy, the nights started closing in and I was running in the dark, and the weather started getting wetter. Instead of spending maybe 50% of my runs barefoot, it was down to once a week and then once a fortnight, and then yesterday it was my first BF run for a month. 

It was cool and damp from overnight rain, and I went out to run on the 10k course for the new year's eve race I do.  My feet felt tender on the first mile of chip-and-seal tarmac, and the second mile was easier as was the third.  There's a bit more chip and seal after mile three then it settles down to decent tarmac after that.  About there my feet really started to hurt and the pace slowed.  I stopped briefly at about 3.5 miles to check my feet and found nothing obviously wrong so carried on but still slower and with feet getting sorer by the yard.  About 4.5 miles in I noticed that my left foot was bleeding from a burst blister, and that I had more coming.  I kept giving myself targets to get to, promising myself a rest at the top of the 15m high hill on the course.  I didn't get that far though, being forced to a walk before the base of the hill.  At teh top, I trotted again for a bit, but was forced into alternating a slow, painful trot with an even slower painful limping. 

By now I was entirely despondent, and thinking about ways to make the pain end as quickly as possible.  When I got home I found a very good collection of blisters and blood blisters on each foot. 

That really made the decision for me.  As much as I want to be running barefoot, I simply don't have enough time to devote to it over the winter to be able to get the technique good enough to stop this happening each time. My thought process on this is that I can't run truly BF enough to iron out the flaws in my technique, but that they are not severe enough to affect me in huaraches.  The wet ground doesn't help as it magnifies those technique issues and we're now heading into another damp cold northern european winter, so it's only likely to get worse if I keep putting in just one or two BF runs a month.

I want to keep running, but I can't be taking three days off for my feet to heal after every BF run.  I'm also thinking longer term that I'm aiming for my first ultra distance in July next year, which I'm planning to do in huaraches, so I need to be comfortable in those over long distances anyway.  They are slightly more forgiving of form mistakes, but not entirely.

Today (Sunday) I have at least three good sized blisters or blood blisters on each foot, of which I've drained the worst.  If I hdan't I'd only be able to hobble along and I have to drive up to Teeside today for work tomorrow.  There is still enough discomfort to stop me running or riding today but much less than yesterday

I'll pick up BF again when I have more time to spend on it, probably starting back at a couple of miles again until I get the technique issues ironed out.

Well, enough of that, this week has not been too bad otherwise.  I've been recovering from this cold, so not pushing it too hard, but I'd managed a few sessions during the week in amongst the work commitments.

Monday was up to Aberdeen in the evening, ready to take the first flight north to Kirkwall on Orkney and then a car adn ferry ride to the island of Flotta, to carry out a visit to the oil terminal there as part of my emissions verification work for EUETS.  It was a good visit with much better weather than last time I was there, still windy, but nice and sunny for early November.  The place is very beatuiful, but can be very bleak in poor weather.   With just an overnight trip I took the minimum and just did some bodywork exercises in my room in the evening. 

The flight back to Aberdeen on Wednesday was delayed, so I didn't get anything done that evening. 

Thursday and Friday I managed two runs, one in the Merrell Trail Gloves, the other in the home-made huaraches.  Both a shortened version of my usual route, just easing back after the cold.  I'd forgotten my HR strap, a great big Doh! moment for an HR capped training phase, so ran by "feel" instead, keeping it comfortable.

Thursday 4.31 mile / 33:2  1) 7:44  2)7:57  3) 7:55  4) 7:29  5) 2:20 / 0.31 mi / 7:37

Friday 4.48 mi / 33:31 / 7:29 average  1) 6:38 2) 7:48  3) 7:37  4) 7:43 5) 0.48mi / 3:44 / 7:45
 I think the GPS may have shorted the first mile as it was the reverse of Thursday's route and didn't feel that quick

Saturday's debacle
t) 5.68 mi / 52:14 / 9:11 / A142 / M154 (adjusting strap)
1) 9:02 / A138 / M154 
2) 8:23 / A146 / M149 
3) 8:34 / A146 / M150 
4) 0.59 / 5:12 / 8:49 / A 146 / M150 accidentally pressed lap button during a quick stop
5) 8:59 / A134 / M149
6) 11:04 / A139 / M 149 
7) 0.09 / 1:00 / 10:28 / A138 / M141