Friday, 27 April 2012

Indonesia, Gym, Altra

I think I last posted before Easter, and as usual I’ve been a busy boy since then.  As well as working on the new gym in the house, I’ve had a ten day trip to Indonesia including a visit to a brand new gas production platform.  The contrast between that and the same client’s 25 year old platform is striking. 
I’ve also had a birthday, and tried to keep up with some semblance of a decent training plan whilst I can.

So, to start with the gym first, we used to have a 1.5 car garage attached to the house, in which I had a turbo trainer, indoor rower, weights bench, large workbench, tool storage, wine storage, spare bike storage etc and all the other general crap that tends to go with a garage.  My wife decided that she wanted to turn this into a new room for the house.  She also decided that my gym should move outside to the single detached garage that we have.  The only problem with that is that i) it’s not heated and has poor lighting ii) it’s not a tardis and is already full of garden tools, lawnmowers, pots, compost, chemicals etc.
A veto was duly exercised and I got a part of the garage walled off as a gym, greatly reduced, but enough to have turbo trainer, rower, bike storage, wine storage and, finally give me enough room to fit a pull-up bar on the wall (a focus on running and cycling over the last few years has left my upper body horribly feeble compared with my rugby playing days).  Since I’ve got back from Indonesia I’ve used it once, and that was a pretty favourable impression.  I certainly don’t think that I’ll need to bother with much in the way of heating, even in the coldest parts of the winter as the underfloor insulation combined with the latest double glazing technology seems to be working pretty well.  If anything I’m going to be needing to leave doors and windows open most of the time.

I took a sequence of photos from old exercise space in the full garage through to dedicated gym, but I’ve mislaid some of them, mainly the before’s so here’s just a few.

In progress, before the wall in the foreground came down and the wall was painted white, it was a very dark space, even with the window

Starting to fit out, the shelves at the end got moved as I’d planned to use the white block-wall for bike storage, but decided that the blocks were too soft to anchor the brackets.

Final gym with wallbar area, and looking the other way, the all-important bike and wine storage.  Rower and turbo trainer in the foreground.  The wall bar is slightly too low and may end up getting moved higher by about 6-8 inches
 So, after having a good long run on Easter Sunday, I had the Monday off, and then on the Tuesday flew to Indonesia via Singapore.  As usual the flight took it out of me heading eastwards, and there’s really no way of getting around that .  I tried to manage it this time by taking an earlier flight to arrive in Jakarta around lunchtime.  That then gave me time to have a nap before heading to the gym for a treadmill run and then dinner before an early night.  

The problem with this trip is that we arrive in Jakarta one day, jetlagged and then have to get up at 04:30 the next morning to take a 3-hour turboprop flight to a place called Matak, on the Anambas Islands and then wait around there again before taking another chopper flight out to the platform.  Overall that first day is brutal.  This time we had the added logistical requirement to visit three installations, and FPSO and its older linked platform, and then the newly installed platform about 6 months old.
Over the ten days I was there I managed to get in six treadmill runs and a yoga session, not bad really considering I also had a job to do. Unfortunately the garmin threw a bit of a wobbly and failed to record two of the sessions, but I managed to log the details anyway from memory. 

The exciting thing from these is that of the six treadmill runs, three of them showed some real progress in pace vs HR level. Given the environmental conditions of humidity and higher temp than I’m used to I’m very pleased with that.  Now you can argue that this is due to the ease of running on the treadmill, or due to a screwy foot pod (I never rely on a treadmill for speed/distance) but I would counter with
1) I set a slope on the treadmill to make it more realistic
2) A previous calibration of the footpod suggested that it was accurate to about 1 or 2% (needs rechecking)
3) I’ve run a similar distance (using gps for distance) since getting back, in windy conditions and seen a similar improvement

Since I got back I’ve also had a great long run of 38km in 3:39, very calm and relaxed. Still trying to work out the best hydration and nutrition strategy, and on this occasion I probably got the hydration part of it a bit wrong, thinking that as it was a cool day I could get away with less.  That was probably true, but not to the extent that I did, and it showed in dark urine for the rest of the day even though I was drinking well after I got back.
I almost forgot, it was my birthday while I was away. On the day itself I was busy working away with my colleague in the hotel bar over dinner and a martini and went back up to my room around 10:30, wandered around my room for a bit, went back into the sitting room (very plush hotel, with very nice rooms) and found a cake sat on the desk that they’d left while I was at dinner.  It was very nice as well, but far too large for me, so I had a slice and had the rest boxed up to take into the clients offices the next day to share with their HSE team.

The other cool thing that happened this month was a free pair of shoes!
While I was looking for what was eventually purchased as the New Balance Trail zero drop, I also came across Altra on the web and really liked the look of them.  Only one drawback, I couldn’t find them anywhere in the UK, and e-mails to the company went unanswered.  I was happily surprised therefore when a fellow forumite from New York sent me a message saying he would try and get me a pair through his contacts as a buyer for a sports store.  I was on tenterhooks hoping they’d get to me before I went away, but no luck.  So my new pair of Altra Samsons finally arrived on Tuesday of this week and my first impressions are very favourable.

They look good, even good enough to wear as a casual shoe with a pair of jeans.  They appear to have some very similar construction characteristics to the New Balance Minimus Trail with a very lightweight mesh and minimal stitching with use of some welded construction.  The soles look good, the rubber feels robust enough and while the tread is not going to handle any heavy off-road terrain, they look well suited to the road and light trail use in mainly dry conditions.  They also feel extremely comfortable with the 3mm insole in them, definitely wide enough across the toes.
The only misgiving I have on first trying them on is the laceholes.  They stretched a bit, and I’m wondering whether they could have done with a bit more reinforcement. There is also a little roughness to the finish where the sole is sealed to the upper with a few loose fibres, but I’m not expecting that to be any kind of issue.  First impressions on running are very favourable.  Light and comfy, and very grippy on tarmac even in the wet weather we are having at the moment.  Not waterproof, but then I wouldn’t expect it, and they are no less waterproof than any of my other minimalist shoes.  I think both these and the NB minimus are showing the age of my Trail Gloves at the moment, which is not to say that I have anything against the trail gloves, they are just showing the 500+ miles that I’ve put into them.  I’m also thinking of late that my feet may have changed shape over the last year or so as I’m finding the fit off the trail gloves a bit less comfortable than I used to.

Anyway, I digress, so back to the main theme.  After two runs of 12 and 11km, one very wet, the other damp, the soles are showing absolutely no wear at all and the silver/grey is not yet showing any dirt (though that will come, I’m sure).  In use, the one thing that really stands out other than the comfort is the heel-claw thingy, which really provides a snug but unobtrusive security around the heel.  I’ve only tried them in socks and with the insole so far as that’s how I’ll probably use them in the Grim Reaper, but I’ll also try them out with no socks and no insoles as time goes.
I can definitely see these as being a go-to shoe for road work and light trails.

Why do my photos keep inserting rotated through 90 degrees? They are not that way on my hard drive.  Anyone help?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Work, garden, construction

All three have been keeping me busy lately, plus some time for training a well.

At work, there is one workstream I'm involved in that has a government imposed hard deadline of 31st March for our clients to submit data to the regulator that has been externally verified i.e. by us.  Generally it goes well, but we have one client who never holds up their end of the deal, and another one who had a major emergency on one platform about a week before the deadline, which was more important than them getting one final piece of data to me.

Still, at least it keeps me at home.  With one trip in the last week of March cancelled that means I've been at home for 7 weeks apart from a couple of day-trips to London.

I've also had a couple of days vacation time to use up, so I've had a couple of long weekends with some time in the garden doing annual maintenance tasks, repotting a few bonsai and starting to move planst out of one very narrow, dry and not very useful flower bed ahead of a project to remodel part of the garden later in the year.

We've also had the builders in to do th ework on splitting the garage in two to give a sitting room and a smaller room at the back that I'm fitting out as a gym.  The room will be large enough to fit bike on the turbo trainer, the rowing machine and a pull up bar on the wall.  I'm also shelving the walls out for storage of odds and ends related to cycling, running and other training.  There'll also be a rack on the wall to store at least one other bike.  My part of it is now largely complete structurally, with all painting done, floor down, windows in etc.  Shelving is nearly complete and should be done this weekend all using either reclaimed wood or old shelves I had in the shed, bike rack should be up, but the pull up bar will not, which is not on the critical path anyway.  I'm getting pressure to move stuff in, but there is still some electrcical work to do and I don't want the equipment to get damaged in the process. Photos will follow in sequence when it's all done.

I've managed to get a decent bit of training in over the last 2 weeks or so with over 7 hours per week, despite a bout of tendonitis in my left foot, which is sore, and inconvenient, but not a show-stopper.  That's been in the picture for about three weeks, and now I know what it is, self-treatment over the last week has improved it greatly.

So in the last 18 days I've been sticking to my general pattern of 10-12km runs on Tuesdays Wednesdays and Saturdays , with yoga on Thursdays and a long session on Sunday.

The Sunday long session is building time on feet towards July.  I'll be trying to stick to a pattern of long runs for two weeks, with a third easier week on the bike, still similar duration, but without the impact component.

The mid-week runs are nothing to write home about, either steady state HR capped sessions or speedwork, tempo type runs or long intervals with elevated HR.  The cycling club TT season has also started again, but Tuesday was a wash out with heavy rain all afternoon.  I'm sure the hardcore raced, but on the course in question, there would have been too high a risk of crashing for me.

So the long sessions have been

Sunday 25th March - nice long ride on my carbon-framed road bike, with the aero bars now fitted.  Split the ride in two with a brief 5 min stop for drink and snacks and a stretch mid way. 

1) 1:22:47 / 42.03 / Ave 30.5 / AHR 148 / MHR 159  
2) 1:23:50 / 42.14 / ave 30.2 / AHR 142 / MHR 155
Total) 84.17km / 2:46:38 / 30.3kmh / A145 / M159
For this point in the season, I'm happy with that at around 19mph for three hours.

Sunday 1st April was a long run, the plan for this one was to test out nutrition, hydration and run/walk strategies.  Plan was to run the first 10km then walk 1minute every 2km.  That worked well, but this week I'll do the run/walk from the start and see how that works as I don't think I drank enough or took in enough calories in the first 10km.  I also made a balls-up when I had a call of nature in that I lapped, but did not pause the watch, then paused it when I finished, noticing my mistake about 500m later.

Overall, this told me that I need to increase my calorie intake, but it also broke a psychological barrier of three hours on my feet.  Now that I've done it once it's no longer daunting.  The New Balance 00 trails performed well as well, and the calves and achilles held up very well.

31.03km / 3:08:47 / 6:05 average / AHR 146 / MHR 167

The legs were feeling it at the end, but mentally I was OK, with my low point coming about 20km in.  The DOMS was not bad at all on the Monday, but Tuesday was worse, which is typical for me.  That was the day I didn't TT and probably could not have done well anyway, but had a gentle run instead. 

Ready for another long run tomorrow. Then packing on Monday ready to catch a flight to Indonesia for 10 days.  I'll be in Jakarta for my birthday, but at least I'll be onshore.  Plan while there is to try and get in as many 10km to 1hr runs as I can, plus a bit of yoga, but I think taking three hours out on Sunday is going to be difficult.