Saturday, 30 November 2013

New Shoes, Old Shoes and Better Legs

In keeping with my usual theme of three things, this week I’ve gone for the sad news that my cherished Altra Samsons are soon to be no more, they’ve finally got to the stage where any minute now my toes will be going through them and the tape is now stronger than the fabric.
On the plus side I have my lovely nre Inov-8 F-Lite 195s to rave about.  The other thing worth raving about is my new feel legs – one trip to GarySoftTissueTherapist Benson and they feel almost new again.

So let’s start with the Altra’s, I’ve had them for the best part of 18 months now and put a good number of miles on them in that time as they were my go-to road shoes for a long, long while.  In between I got myself a pair of my other favourite shoe maker’s products, the Inov-8 Bare X 180, which didn’t match up to them in that: 

  • They were slippier in the wet – good in some things, but not in shoes
  • They were softer in the sole – I’ve almost gone through them in my main contact spot

The Altras by contrast still show barely any wear on the soles despite well over 1000km on them, maybe approaching 1000 miles, but the uppers appear not so robust.  I have a suspicion that it’s the running on dry trails with grass stems and weeds abrading them that has done the damage as you can see.  I’ll continue to run with bits of strategically placed duck tape on them to keep them together. 
But what about the new shoes I hear you clamour? 

Well, you may recall, back in June this year before my pain in the neck diagnosis, I was waxing lyrical about the wonders of the X-Talon 180.  Now I’m running on the roads in its younger brother the F-Lite 195, almost the same weight, the same form but with a few differences.

To all intents and purposes, the feel of the shoe on the foot is almost identical mainly because they are built on the same last as far as the marketing goes.  The main reason I bought the F-Lites is 1) they were on offer and 2) they had a 3mm heel to toe drop 3) they weren’t a lurid colour. At the time I was having a lot of trouble with tight calves, possibly due to the diabetes, but also possibly due to the forefoot running (neither of those turned out true, but please read on to find the truth), and I thought they would take the pressure off the calves to an extent.

Well, needless to say I’m very impressed with them, they run almost the same as the X-Talons and have a medium ground feel I’d say – less than the Bare-X or the Altras, but more than your average moon boots.  They’ve also got the same characteristics of a great feel around the foot, feeling a snug as a slipper and as light as a feather. As with most ultra-light shoes, they make no pretence of being waterproof but what goes in easily, goes out just as easily.

What they do have though is phenomenal grip levels.  On wet roads, dry grass or trails and on wet hard-packed dirt/grit they have performed superbly so far.  My only trepidation is that the grip levels may be at the cost of a soft sole with poor wear characteristics, but on examination so far, no indication either way. So that’s the shoes, so far, maybe a couple of hundred km into them.

Otherwise, I’ve finally got myself to a sports therapist to get my legs dealt with.  Back in August my left knee imploded on me in the Grim Reaper, only to be as right as rain ever since, but the calves and hips have remained tight, my left ankle was shot and I was getting such pain in my left big toe that I thought I had either gout or arthritis. Turns out all my problems have been coming from my lower limbs and ankles and not my hips after all. 

  •  Poor range of motion in the ankles
  •  Referred pain in the toe from various trigger points causing muscles to pull things in odd ways
  • Fuzzy fascia in my calves – essentially “sticky” connective tissue between the soleus and gastrocnemious
  • Tight fascial line along the back from my Achilles all the way up.
  • Diminished proproiception
  • Hard skin symptomatic of running oddly, due to all of the above


  • Lots of ankle mobility wor
  • SOLEC (Standing on One Leg Eyes Closed)
  • Wobble board stuff
  • Lower limb fascial release work
  • Trigger point therapy and self massage
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Get rid of the hard skin; and a whole load of other stuff.

That was about a week or ten days ago now and since then I’ve done yoga twice, cycled twice and run three times.  One of those runs was a pretty decent interval session using a bridge in Hull, 8 repeat 500s at sub-race pace.  But the only one that caused any trouble was a steady run that left my ankle in pain, but everything else feeling good.  Since then, the toe is much better as is the ankle, and the tightness in the calves is much less.  Something tells me I’ll need to keep this up for some time if I’m to have a decent 2014 ahead of me.

And the training? Still going.  Didn’t get a hard session in during the week, but did get two runs down the Thames path through Reading, nice and spooky in the dark.  Did the weeks hard session tonight instead.  1.5k warm up, then alternate 2km hard. 1km recovery for the rest of a 10.x k session, so overall 6km at whatever pace was dictated by a HR band in this case.
Ended up like this, and it hurt.
Avg Pace
Avg HR
Max HR

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Training, other training and a race plan

So, a few weeks ago, I set out some rough guidelines for a training plan, something like 1 x weights or yoga per week, 1 x speed work, 1 x long steady and two other floating sessions (not literally), and by and large I’ve stuck to it.  The major change I’ve made is to include a cut back week every fourth week, shortening the weekend long session back to an hour or so. 

There’ve been a few weeks where I’ve struggled to hit the targets just with sheer pressure of work – working till midnight and then waking at 5:30 does not make for a quality training regime. I’ve also been trying to get a bit more time in on the bike where I can, which has been quite difficult with being away a lot over the past few weeks, and won’t be letting up before Christmas, in fact there’s more work than I can shake a stick at, at the moment. 

That said though, I’ve always done the yoga and the speed work, and I think the speed work is paying dividends.  With a target for the new year’s eve 10k of 42mins, I was quite surprised on a tempo training run of 2k-6k at target race pace – 2k, to break my current PB, coming in at [INSERT TIME HERE].  The 6x 800s are going well as well, with the last time I din them, coming in on the last one at 3:53 pace for the 800, with a target of 4:00-4:10 – I always try and do 5 at target pace and then the last one as fast as I can; so far so good.

The long steady stuff is going well as well, with the last Sunday club ride coming in at around 85km, with good control throughout and only one minor mishap when I sprinted ahead to test and lost contact with the pack until the cafĂ© stop. 

The old adage of not having enough time to post is probably going to get even worse from now on.  I’ve been enrolled on a new one-year training pan at work, for those with the potential to eventually go on an make partner level in the business.  When you look at it, we are trying to double the size of the business in 5 years, with our current model of so-many staff per partner, and a limit to what any single individual can do in terms of work, that implies plenty of new partners needed and plenty of opportunities. The only drawback is a three-day introductory training session and at least 2-3 days per month of additional effort for the next year. That might not sound like much, but when I’m lucky to have a week per month at home at the moment, I can foresee a bloody busy period ahead.  Still, if it helps get me where I want to be, it’s all part of the circus balancing act isn’t it?

One thing I have found though, doing this training is that although I knew morning speed sessions are essentially evil, they are truly sent from Satan when combined with a windy, rainy Oxford morning following a night out with a load of colleagues from all over Europe and Africa, but that’s no more than we deserve for that kind of behaviour, and if we can complete the session, then it’s even more useful.

So amongst all of this, how has the diabetes management been going? To be honest I really can’t complain too much at all.  I’ve had far more good days than bad overall, but I have had a few erratic readings and days starting to creep in.  The one thing that continues to help me maintain a degree of predictability and consistent sensitivity to both carbs and isulin is exercise.  I’ve had very few exercise related issues, and really seem to have generally got the hang of that bit.  Where, I’m still struggling though is with a few key foods that I just can’t seem to either assess the carb content of, or assess the effect of those on me.  Number one is boiled white rice, number two is white bread.  They just seem to shoot my blood sugar way up with no predictability and the last three high readings I’ve had have all been due to those two foods.  By contrast, the last few lows I’ve had have all been down to low GI foods like porridge oats or sour dough rye bread, which take a while to digest and spike the blood sugar.

One thing I’ve been genuinely surprised at amongst colleagues and clients is the general lack of squeamishness of my testing and injecting, with most people having very little knowledge of the condition, but interested to learn.

That’s enough of that, now down to the real business, the year’s races.  This year I’m going for quality over quantity, with a purpose.  Next year I’ll be 40, so it seems a good opportunity to do something useful and raise a bit of money for a couple of charities; JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund – type 1 diabetes research) and Highfields Special School fund for a new minibus.  I’ve got a few key races in mind, all of which I could PB at, so the plan is to open a couple of just giving pages, raise a shedload of money and contribute myself to the tune of £100 per PB.

The races are
1) 31/12/13 – New Year’s Eve 10k – last year, 108th overall, 21st MV35 - Entry in
2) Sunday 1st June - The Yomp Mountain Challenge – a 23 mile Fell race – last year I did this in 4 hr 25 three days before my diabetes diagnosis. Run from my parents’ town and hopefully my cousin will come and join me again. Last year’s position, 35th, 32nd male. - Entry in
3) 1st August – 40 mile Ultra at Grimsthorpe – 40 at 40, third time lucky I hope
4) September – Road half Marathon, another local one and flat.  Should be good for a fast time.
5) New Year’s Eve 10k – back to the speedwork again, may be stretching it to get another PB here

With them nicely spread out like that, it should give me enough room to tailor the interim training for each, and hopefully get a good cycling TT season in amongst that.

Watch this space – the page will be announced in all good time.

Watch this space as well, for another shoe review – my new Inov-8 FLite 195s