Saturday, 16 July 2011

11.5km run was not enough so I followed it with a 64km bike ride

The main aim of the run this morning was to tire out Negrita a bit so that she would be happy to stay in the apartment and rest afterwards, allowing me to do a bike ride.  I haven't been on my bike since La Marmotte on the 2nd July, so it was nice to get back on it again.

I don't normally do both running and cycling on the same day so I was interested to see if I would notice the effect of the run on my legs when cycling.  Actually I didn't really notice any difference other than by the end of the bike ride I felt very dehydrated.  I consumed 2 bottles of water but it was pretty hot and I guess it can't have been enough, despite not actually feeling thirsty.

I have GPS data from both my run and my bike ride, and I have been trying to compare them to get an idea if I am better adapted to cycling or running at present.  The only way I could think to do this was to compare my heartrate.  On my run my average heart rate was 132bpm and my maximum heartrate was 159bpm.  On my bike ride my average heart rate was 131bpm and my maximum heartrate was 157bpm.  The results at least cardio wise are very similar.

My first running accident for as long as I can remember

Running is not a sport that you associate with accidents and danger.  However, factor in a small dog and a lead attached to your waist and now maybe you can see how things can go wrong. Negrita and I just came back from an 11.5 km jog up around the Zurichberg area.  When we were not far from the house Negrita suddenly crossed in front of me because she was scared by a lady cleaning a shopfront with a long handled mop.  Before I had any time to react I was rolling head over heels and finally stopped by rolling into the wheel of a parked car.

I was absolutely fine except for a few scrapes, but poor little Negrita looked very scared with her tail down between her legs.  I don't think she got hurt but I think she was expecting some kind of telling off for crossing my path.  I checked each of her legs and they seemed fine so I dusted myself off and continued to finish off the run.  Negrita seemed to run fine for the last part, so no damage done it seems.

She normally always runs on my right hand side.  This is because over the months of her running with me, whenever she crossed to the left side I would pull her back to my right side.  The problem is when she gets startled, which tends to happen when she doesn't notice someone at the side of the path until the last moment.  That is what happened today.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Does anyone have a spare gorilla suit lying around?

I always get these wacky ideas that suddenly just spring into my mind out of nowhere.  I was sitting here chilling in front of the television when I suddenly thought to myself, "I know how I could draw attention to my fundraising campaign for Mencap and the Marathon des Sables.  I could run around Zurich in a gorilla suit with the URL of my fundraising page displayed on my back and front."

Then I thought about it some more, and instead of doing what most people might do and dismissing it, the idea suddenly seemed better and better.  The first reason is the extra attention that it would draw to my fundraising.  In the UK people might not be too surprised to see someone in a gorilla suit running down the street (especially on a Friday or Saturday night), but here in Zurich I am sure they would.  The second reason is that it would give a great opportunity to get used to running in extreme heat.  I read the account of someone who regularly dons a gorilla suit, and he says that the heat inside is unbearable.  So basically it would kill 2 birds with one stone.

If anyone has a spare gorilla suit lying around I am happy to give it a go, and buy it off you if the price is reasonable, or treat you to a few beers if you just want to lend it to me.  If I don't get any offers I will have to go and see if I can order one from Amazon.  I would like to give it a trial first though before I dive in and buy one.  It would be good to see if it does get the kind of attention I am imagining it would get.  So maybe I could go to one of the fancy dress shops and hire one for a few days.  Don't get any crazy ideas though - I will not run the Marathon des Sables in a gorilla suit - that would be a death wish.

Airlines and bikes

This weekend I really need to get on and book my flight to Buenos Aires as it is only 2 and a bit months to go now till I start the Vuelta Sudamericana ride.  The part I am not looking forward to though is trying to work out how much the airlines will charge for taking a bicycle onboard, as I need to factor this into my price comparisons.  Pick the wrong airline and you can end up paying 200CHF or thereabouts, and pick the right one and you can even take it for free.

The problem seems to be that it is not always that clear what the airlines will charge exactly.  And some people have travelled with the same airlines from the same starting point to the same destination and been charged different amounts, depending on the person that checked them in, and how that person interpreted the airline's policy.

What is clear though is that I will have to leave my bike in Peru at the end of the tour.  The reason being that Anny and I are travelling around Peru for one month, and going all over the place by buses and planes and I can't really take my bike easily on each leg of the journey.  Probably what I will do is to choose a basic but reliable bike and try to pay around 500EUR, but no more.  Then when I leave the Vuelta Sudamerica in Cusco I can give the bike to one of Anny's cousins or if they don't want it maybe some lucky stranger.  This will make the logistics of travelling around Peru much easier.

I do actually have a bike in Zurich that I bought for 500EUR in the Netherlands, that is left outside one of the apartments in Zurich where I used to live.  However, it has been there for a year now, and only covered partly by the shelter, so it could be that either it has been stolen or it has rusted to hell.  If I am really lucky though it will still be there and it will be in good shape, in which case I can use that one.  I mean clearly I wont miss it that much if I haven't gone to collect it in the last year, and wont mind leaving it behind in Peru.  The only issue will be is it light enough for doing lots of hills, as there will certainly be a lot of hills on the ride.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Couldn't stop myself getting off the bus a few stops early after Pilates and running home

I truly must be becoming running crazy because this was meant to be my running rest day.  The plan was only to do Pilates today.  It was a really tough session, but rather than leave me feeling tired, that got me all buzzed up.  On the bus on the way home I though what a shame to let the bus take me to my doorstep when I could get off a few stops earlier and run home.

So I did just that.  I had my rucksack with me, so it was a bit of extra training than a bog standard run "au naturel".  There were a few drunks on the route who decided to make fun and say look here comes the iron man.  I just said haha yeah that's right and continued on my way.  It maybe would have been more fun to say something to make them start chasing me and watch them huffing and puffing behind me with ciggies still hanging from their mouths :)

I haven't decided yet whether I will rest tomorrow or do some training.  Actually my run today was so short that it probably doesn't count.

On an aside note I have booked another lactate test for the 8th August to see if I have managed to increase my lactate threshold and VO2 max since the last test I took.  I am not sure how it will go as to compare my result with the one from last time I should do it on the treadmill again.  But actually my body is probably still more adapted to cycling at this point in time.  Also I have been doing a lot more endurance based training as opposed to speedwork like I was back then.  We will see!

Now I better go and calm down, because as you can see by my random jumping from one topic to another I am a little bit high at the moment.  No drugs here though, just endorphins.  Runners high you might say.....

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Forrest gumpifying

I know this is not a real verb but it sounds cool - to forrest gumpify - i.e. the process of running day after day.  And if this were a real verb then I am certainly starting to forrest gumpify.  This is now my fifth consecutive day of running.  I am well aware that I am on the edge of overtraining so tomorrow I will be doing Pilates but no running, to allow my legs a little break.

To be honest though my body is not complaining about the amount of running I am doing.  I am running at a modest pace and doing lots of stretching afterwards, so I am taking a reasonable amount of care.

As Anny is away in Spain this weekend I will probably try to go for a hilly cycle ride.  I will be looking after Negrita, so it will probably have to be based from Zürich rather than taking the train to some far off place like Canton Wallis for instance.  It will be a whopping 2 whole weeks since I last cycled by then.

But at the moment it is rain, rain and more rain.  Since I have already done my run for today, at lunchtime, I don't need to worry and I can just settle down to read my running magazine and chill.  That was a hell of a storm last night by the way.  Anyone who lives in and around Zürich will know what I am talking about.  I thought the whole building was going to blow away at one point.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Running can make your thighs bigger rather than smaller

This is my fourth consecutive day of running now.  I am not going that far each day - 10km max, but it is nice to get myself moving and burning off some calories each day.  Actually in terms of the number of sessions, I am actually doing more now than when I was preparing for my marathon or preparing for La Marmotte.  When I was preparing for my marathon I kept having to rest due to runners knee.  Then when I was training for La Marmotte I tended to only cycle 3 times per week.  I don't think I will get as many problems now with my knee because the muscles around my knee are much stronger now, and also more flexible through regular stretching and massage.

Thunder thighs

What I am surprised about though, is that in the last 4 days I have noticed my thighs are starting to grow.  This may be temporary but I find often that when I do a lot of sport and the distances are not really large, I tend to bulk up.  If I want to stop my thighs from growing even more I will probably have to start running longer distances again.  I think once you get to a certain distance your body realises it is inefficient to have large bulky muscles and starts converting them to lighter wiry ones instead.  It will be good if this happens as there will be a lot of hills to climb in South America, and power to weight ratio rather than raw strength is what counts.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Flights booked ready for Africa trip - a bigger deal than you might imagine

I have just booked a one way flight from Zürich to Kigali, Rwanda on the 27th August and then another one way flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Zürich on the 17th September.  This gives enough time for me to go gorilla trekking and to get to know Kigali, then to go to Lake Victoria followed by the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania for a few days of safari, then to climb Kilimanjaro before heading back.

Now I just need to select the company that I will use for the Kilimanjaro climb.  Not all of them offer the Umbwe route, which is the one I want to take.  This route is very steep and does not give as much opportunity to acclimatise, because you reach high altitudes quite quickly.  For this reason it also has lower chances of success.  At the same time however it is much more remote, and for me this is a huge bonus.  The Umbwe route can be done in 5 days but most companies advise to take 6 days, allowing an extra day of acclimatisation.  I will allow a full 6 days for the route.  Fitness wise I have no worries, but I will need to try and acclimatise a bit before leaving Zürich.  It should be easy enough to get in some 3,000 metres above sea level treks in the Swiss Alps during August.  At 5,895 metres above sea level, Kilimanjaro is still going to take my breath away though (quite literally).

For those who know me well, they will know that I am rather afraid of flying.  For a few years this stopped me going anywhere adventurous, but now thanks to the "gentle" persuasion techniques of Anny I am starting to try and face my fears again.  She first became aware of the scale of my fears when she suggested we take a holiday to South Africa together last November.  I was even trying to find ways to get there without flying - taking cruise ships for instance.  In the end I realised it was completely impractical and took the dive.  In the end we had a fantastic time, and I also stopped over in Kenya for a weeks safari before meeting Anny in Johannesburg, something I have wanted to do for a long time.

It wasn't always like this - I used to fly almost every weekend at one point.  When I was working for the UN I went all over the place, and I would also fly from Geneva to the UK at least a couple of times per month.  Within a period of several years I went to all kinds of interesting places like Venezuela, Moldova, Iran, South Korea, Syria, Jordan and so on.  What started it all off I think was one rainy day when a program called Air Crash Investigation came on, and examined crash after crash in detail.  Then I watched it the next day, and the next day, and the day after that and so on.  Afterwards, every time I flew I would start imaging all the things that could go wrong, and the longer I went without flying the more of a big deal my mind made out of it.  In the end there was a period of almost 2 years where I didn't take a plane.

As you can see it is now getting a little better.  I will be flying to East Africa and then I will be flying to South America, and then next year I will be flying to Morocco.  I do try to minimise the flying but I don't think this is any problem at all - it just means you plan your holidays differently.  For instance since I am in East Africa already, I am visiting all the places there that I have wanted to visit for some time, instead of making one trip now and then another trip later.  When you are an IT contractor like myself you usually have a lot of flexibility work wise.

I am also facing my other fear next March/ April in the Marathon des Sables - spiders.  Those Saharan camel spiders just scare the hell out of me and my worst nightmare is to imagine one crawling over me in the night and settling on my face.  It may seem unlikely but when I was in Belize with Raleigh International and we were sleeping in an open tent, one girl woke up with a tarantula on her mosquito net several inches from her face.  Probably not the nicest way you would wish to wake up.  There is no way a camel spider is going to stop me doing the MDS though.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sometimes after running the vertebrae become stiff

This is a strange one, but a few times the day after running, or even sometimes a few hours after running, one part of my back stiffens up.  It feels like the vertebrae are all bunched up, and if I move in certain directions it pulls on my back, and at the same time feels like it is restricting my breathing.

I have also sprained my intercostal muscles a few times after running.  I don't know what the trick is to eliminate these kind of problems.  Maybe I need to stretch more before exercise.  But the problem is rather small as it usually goes away soon after a massage, or after a couple of days it just gets better by itself.

I have booked a massage for tomorrow so I only have to put up with it for today.  There are a lot worse things that can happen to people than a tight back.

Resting heartbeat must be below 50bpm now

Today we went to Technorama in Wintherthur.  The place is pretty cool if you like hands on science.  The part I liked best was the section where you can test your lung capacity, see how loud you can scream, see how far you can jump from a standing start, see how fast your reaction times are, etc.  In addition to these you can also get an ECG of your heart.

When I did the ECG of my heart the number of beats per minute was in the low 50s.  As I was not at rest I think that probably my resting heart beat is now somewhere in the high 40s.  The other thing I found cool is that I can scream at 123 decibels.  I am not sure how often that comes in useful, but at least I know I can scream loud if I need to.

We got back early evening and since then I have been for a jog from Wipkingen to the bottom of the Uetliberg via Binz, and then worked my way back here via the back streets.  Today again it is pretty hot to be running, but it isn't too much to put me off.  I was more worried about Negrita as she can't really tell me when she is getting too hot.  I just have see how much she is panting to judge how hot she is, and try to stop at as many water fountains as possible so she can get water.  She is a lucky dog because you don't get that many cities in the world where there are so many water fountains with clean drinking water.

I wish you all a good evening and now it is time for me to get a little R and R ready for work tomorrow.