Saturday, 13 August 2011

Most active week yet running wise

I cannot remember a single day this last week where I did not run.  On one day I did not run to work, but I had my fitness test on that day, and that involves running in itself.  Almost all of those runs were with a backpack, so running with a pack no longer seems to present any problem - it seems perfectly comfortable.

Today I ran up to the top of the Uetliberg where I met Anny and her dad, who is staying with us at the moment.  I took Negrita along with me, as this will probably be the last chance for her to run with me this year.  It was very hot but I felt good.  The pace was not that fast but given the heat and the uphill nature of the run it was perfectly acceptable.

Tomorrow we will probably go to near Appenzell where there is a barefoot path.  If we do wake up and decide to go there, I am going to make good use of my time and cycle there.  There is no point in me taking a train when I can go by bike instead.  All I need to do is make sure that I leave a couple of hours earlier than Anny and her dad leave.  It is certainly easily reachable by bike from Zurich.  Looking at the map all you need to do is cycle down to Rapperswil and then take a couple of smaller roads.  Distance wise it looks a little less than going to Chur.  I have never cycled in the Appenzeller region and it will be good fun.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Second lactate test and the results show significant improvement

The first time I did the lactate test I didn't get a body fat % measurement, but I thought it would be appropriate to get one this time.  I have a body fat % scales at home, but it always tells me my reading is 22%, which seems hard to believe because it gave this same reading before I embarked on my fat to fit programme.  I was guessing that the true reading was somewhere around 15% and it turns out I was very accurate in my guess.  The true reading is 14.8%.  This is a perfectly healthy % for a male of my age, but I would like to try to reduce it to around 10%.  With a current weight of 79-80kg that means I will try to reduce my weight to 75kg.  At that weight I would be very lean, and provided I don't lose any muscle it would most likely enhance my performance.  With the 5,000km cycle ride looming on the horizon I don't think I will have to do much, other than to eat sensibly, to reach that target.  Then it will just be a matter of maintaining that weight between the end of the cycle tour and the start of the Marathon des Sables.

Below I have summarised the main results of the lactate test, and where appropriate I have included the results from the first test that I did on the 16th of March.

Speed (km/h)   Heart rate (bpm)    Lactate (mmol/L)   Perceived effort (scale of 6 to 20)
Rest                 60                          0.86                        -
7                      89                          1.20                        7
9                      114                        1.21                        9

11                    125                        1.28                       12
13                    140                        1.71                       14
15                    154                        3.34                       17
17                    162                        4.66                       18


Based on these results the anaerobic threshold occurs at a speed of 14.25km/h (compared to 13.69km/h last time), corresponding to a heart rate of 149bpm (compared to 150bpm last time).  This gives a relative VO2 max of 53.8ml/min/kg (identical with last time).

In terms of comparisons with other males of my age this puts me at the 95th percentile (compared to the 92nd percentile last time).  In other words I am better than 92% of people in this group.

In terms of comparisons with all middle and long distance runners of my age group (this includes pro athletes) this puts me at the 42nd percentile (compared with the 31st percentile last time).  In other words I am better than 42% of people in this group.

In terms of current predictions for race times the results indicate the following:

Marathon (42.195km)              3:16:39h compared to 3:21:22h last time
Half marathon (21.1km)          1:29:36h compared to 1:32:43h last time  (my current PB is 1 hour 35)
10km                                        38:39min compared to 40:07min last time
5km                                          18:12min compared to 18:49min last time
1.5km                                       4:46min compared to 4:53min last time

I am very happy with these results considering the total amount of time I spend training now compared to last time is not significantly different.  When I up my training hours to double of what I am doing now in January, February and March next year I can expect huge improvements.  At a rough guess I spend 8 hours a week doing exercise at the moment (this includes yoga, pilates, running and cycling), and next year I plan to spend 20+ hours a week (mostly running).  When I did the last test I was also spending around 8 hours a week training (at that time indoor rowing, running, yoga and pilates included).

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Today is the day - second fitness test

Top of the morning to you all,

Today I am taking another lactate test, to see at what point I am compared to the last time I took one (a few weeks before the Zurich marathon).  I cannot predict whether it will be better, the same or worse at this stage.  In terms of frequency of training, I am definitely training more often now.  I am not doing such a structured routine as I was during the marathon preparation however, and am also not doing the same distance now as I was doing then.

You are meant to take it quite easy the day before the test, and I did just that.  I went gokarting in the evening and that is not really classed as a sport.  It was certainly good fun though.  I will let you know the results of the test later tonight.

On a slightly sad note my little running partner is going to Madrid on Tuesday and staying there for over a month.  Indeed I am talking about Negrita, my running partner of the 4 legged kind.  As Anny and I are going on holiday soon, her papi is coming to pick up Negrita, to take care of her in Madrid while we are away.  The next time I see her again after Tuesday will be when I get back from having climbed Kilimanjaro.

That's me over and out, crackle crackle, signing off!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A massive boost to my fundraising campaign - Holmes Place membership sold

Well tonight is very good news for my fundraising campaign.  I managed to sell the 6 months Holmes Place Zurich gym and spa membership for 600 CHF on  The buyer has got a bargain but it is also a great help to my campaign, especially with the CHF to GBP exchange rate being as it is at the moment (1.19 CHF to 1 GBP at the time of writing).  I hope he makes the payment while the exchange rate stays like this.  Remember there is still another 6 months gym and spa membership available for the prize draw for those that haven't entered yet.

Other developments today include an additional donation from a colleague who had already sponsored me on a previous occasion, but wanted to make this donation in the name of his soon son to be (in other words his wife is having a baby).  Then last but not least a donation from a friend of a friend in Paris whom we met when we were there the other weekend, and who was only to keen to donate.  So keen in fact that once she heard I was raising money for charity by running the Marathon des Sables she asked me for the fundraising url, rather than me asking her to donate.

After a long stagnant period it is great to have a kick start like this to get my campaign going again.  It gives a real boost of morale to see the ££££££ come rolling in.  I only hope it continues.  And if anyone in Switzerland has been considering to make a donation but has been holding off till now, I urge you to do it soon while the exchange rate is seriously in our favour.  It will be more moolah for the charity.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Differences running with a backpack

Again this morning I ran to work with a rucksack containing my work clothes, shoes, wallet, key, phone etc.  It is becoming quite a commonplace practise now.  The pack does not bother me too much, but there are a few differences in my running technique when I run with a pack compared to when I run "au naturel" (without a pack).

What I noticed is that I tend to bend my knees more when running with a pack, and to take smaller quicker steps.  This helps to reduce the shock on my knees from landing with a little additional weight.  I don't even have to try to alter the way I run though, it just happens naturally.  The pack does have a tendency to bounce a little bit, and usually it bounces in the opposite direction to which I am moving, but by tightening the straps I can keep the amount of bounce to a minimum.  The most annoying thing is when the weight in the pack is not distributed evenly and the pack keeps falling to one side.  I make a conscious effort nowadays before setting off to make sure that everything is packed well inside.

If I feel that my knees are becoming sore then I will try to cut it down, and to run without a pack.  For instance I can leave a pair of shoes and a spare change of clothes at work.  For the time being however it is great training for the MDS and my body seems to be coping fine with it.

In my mind I have broken the MDS training down into the following areas, which I want to make sure I cover in the months ahead of the race:

1) Running with a pack - already in progress
2) Heat acclimatisation - I plan to go out to Morocco early to get acclimatised
3) Running long distances on consecutive days - once I get back from South America I will start increasing the weekly mileage and time on my feet - I will do some back to back long runs.  Although the Vuelta Sudamerica is a bike ride not a run, it will get me used to exercising for 5 or 6 hours a day
4) Running on sand and uneven ground - I generally run on the road at the moment, but once a week I do go running in the forest - as time goes on I will increase the amount of trail running I do - running in the sand will be hard to do in Switzerland but running in the snow will be easy to do and is fairly similar in terms of the extra effort required.  I can make lots of trips to Einsideln and run in safety next to the cross country tracks without the danger of falling on hard ice - last christmas I really enjoyed running in the snow back home in Wales

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Escaped the rain showers by the skin of my teeth

After we got back from our Rigi trip, I wanted to go out for a bike ride.  The skies were full of rainclouds but it wasn't actually raining, so I thought I would try my luck.  The distance I had in mind was 50 miles.  This is more or less the minimum daily distance I will be doing each day of the Vuelta Sudamericana.  It is much easier cycling on a racing bike on paved roads than it is to cycle on a mountain bike on unpaved roads, but at the same time I wont be planning on going so fast as I was today.  In the Vuelta Sudamerica I will have all day to do the distance, and the only issue will be keeping it up day after day.  For this, having a solid fitness base is the most important factor.  If your muscles and ligaments and tendons are all strong then the rest of you can cope.

I headed out towards Steinmaur and the surroundings.  This is the route that I always used to do with the informal UBS cycling club a few years back.  I decided to do it in reverse this time though, as that meant I was heading towards the rainclouds at the start of the ride and would be coming back under clearer skies.  My hope was that the rain would wait till I had passed under the clouds before unleashing itself.  The rain gods got their laughs yesterday after all, soaking Anny, Negrita and I from head to toe on the Rigi.  I was indeed lucky as the only rain drops I felt were on the last couple of kilometres, coming back into Zurich.  The route that we used to do with the cycling club was only 40 miles long, so I added an extra section out towards Niderhasli and back at the end of the ride.

All in all it was a very pleasant ride, and I did it at a decent pace.  My plan for tomorrow is to run to work, and depending on the weather forecast either to go for a bike ride or to go to the gym and use the stationary bike.  It might be a good idea for me to start doing a few weight bearing exercises like squats, as the extra strength would sure come in handy over the coming months on my various escapades.  I used to be a gym freak, but I have gone off that now, as I prefer to be outdoors taking in the sunshine and views.

An organisational error can be a nice evening out

The inseparable trio at the top of Rigi
Yesterday Anny, Negrita and I hiked from Goldau up to the top of Rigi.  We set off quite late in the day as I had a bit of a hangover, so by the time we set off from Goldau it was some time around 3pm.  The sun was baking down on our heads and we were all feeling the effects of the heat on the first section which passes along a small road through farmland, as there was very little shade on offer.

The next section passes through forest and the temperature in the forest was much more bearable.  Not long after hiking through the forested section we stopped for a drink and a snack.  Then it was time to hike onwards towards the top.  At one point there were several signposts pointing to Rigi Kulm, so we chose the Bergweg (mountain path) option.  A kilometre or so after taking the Bergweg there was an option of taking one of two Bergwegs to continue.  The one was much more well used than the other.  I thought it would be more interesting to take the lesser used one, but after following that for a bit Anny wanted to go back to the more well trodden one, as the lesser used one was more "interesting" i.e. small obstacles and nearer to some drops and more likely to trip over.  So we went back and continued on the well trodden route.

As we approached nearer the top a thunderstorm started coming in fast.  I am not really that comfortable heading towards the exposed top of a mountain when a thunderstorm is heading your way.  There wasn't that much option though as we wanted to get to the top to catch the train down, and it was quicker to go up from where we were than to do down.  About 1 kilometre from the summit the skies unleashed a veritable torrent of rain and we decided to take shelter under the roof of a small farm building attached to a farmhouse.

After waiting out the worst of the shower we decided we better get to the top before it started getting dark. There were a couple of options.  One was to continue up towards Rigi Kulm via the more exposed route and another was to head on a shallower route away from Rigi Kulm but then later to turn back towards it.  Due to the presence of the thunderstorm we decided the best way was to take the more sheltered route away from Rigi Kulm and then climb towards it later.

Actually after walking for a bit on the less steep path the rain stopped and the skies cleared.  This afforded us a magnificent view of all the surrounding mountains and the lake below.  Anny was very happy as she has never climbed this much vertical distance in one day before.  By the time we got to Rigi Kulm it was 8.15pm or so.  Much to our dismay we found that the last train would be in over 2 hours time, at 10.40pm.  Not only that but we would miss the direct connection to Zurich from Goldau and end up having to change 3 or 4 times and get to Zurich at 3 or 4 in the morning, which was just crazy.

We decided that we would take advantage of being in this beautiful scenery and stay overnight in the Rigi Kulm hotel.  Plus Negrita was shaking like a leaf because she was sopping wet and her tail was down firmly between her legs (a sure sign that she was not happy).  Luckily they had a room left, although it was 240CHF, which is rather pricey.  The kitchen was going to close soon so we went to the room to dump our stuff, to dry Negrita with a hairdryer, and then we went straight to the restaurant.  The food in the restaurant was scrumptious so it made for a lovely romantic atmosphere.  After satisfying our hunger pains we were ready for a good sound nights sleep in our room.

We woke up full of energy at 9am, took a nice breakfast and then headed back to Zurich where we now are.  I will now put on my cycling kit and go out for a bike ride while the sun is still shining and before it decides to rain.  In the meantime I think Anny is going to the gym.  Maybe my influence is rubbing off on her as she seems more committed to getting fitter in the last few weeks.