Thursday, 26 January 2012

One hour of Pilates followed by 32km of running. Today was tough!

The long miles may be starting to tire me out.  Either that or it was the 1 hour of Pilates beforehand, combined with my run, that tired me out.  Whichever way it was, I didn't find today's run as easy as the others.  On top of that the tongue on my left shoe has started poking in my shin as I run, so the front of my left shin is now rather bruised and sore.

I was pleasantly surprised how the Pilates went though, as I haven't done it since August last year.  It was clear to me that I have lost some strength in my powerhouse, but I did much better than I had imagined I would.  From now until the Marathon des Sables I am going to do Pilates twice a week.  Once a week is good but twice a week will give me that extra core strength that I am looking for.

My run took me from the Pilates studio up the Uetliberg and along to Felsenegg.  From there I continued to Buchenegg and then down the hill to the Sihl.  I followed the Sihl until I reached Adliswil and then I headed up and over the hill to Kilchberg.  From Kilchberg I ran along the lake until I reached Bellevue and then I headed along the Bellevue side of the lake to just past Tiefenbrunnen station.  From there it was back through Seefeld and then home.  Distance wise I timed it perfectly and my 32km target was reached a few hundred metres before the apartment, giving me a couple of minutes to walk and cool down.

Up on top of the Uetliberg there is a light dusting of snow and you have to be a little careful with your footing on the paths.  It is quite pretty, but it was melting fast so I expect it will be gone by tomorrow.  There is a sledging route on the Uetliberg, but there is nowhere near enough snow for that to be open.  Compared to last year this seems to be quite a mild winter so far, not that I am complaining.

It will be interesting to see how Saturday's final 32km run goes, but I have tomorrow to rest before I attempt that.  It will also give the bruising on my shin a chance to go a bit.  The total weekly mileage to date is 80 miles or 128km.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Weekly mileage - 60 miles (96km) and counting...

The third part of my 100 mile (160km) one week challenge that I set myself is now completed.  There are only 2 more 32km runs left to do - one tomorrow and one on Saturday.  Still so far so good I can report injury wise.

My route today took me up to the zoo and then into the woods, where I found a fitness trail.  Throughout Switzerland there are hundreds of fitness trails, where you find pieces of equipment every few hundred metres along with an information board telling you what you are meant to do there.  For instance I saw the following one and decided to stop and do a few triceps dips.

A common sight in the Swiss woods - fitness trails

I managed around 8 dips and then I walked hand by hand the distance of the bars before continuing my run.

In the Zurichberg woods I was lucky enough to stumble upon three deer that were grazing near to the path.  They were literally ten metres away, but when I stopped in order to get my camera out they ran off into the undergrowth.  I was quite surprised they let me get that close in the first place anyway.

After leaving the Zurichberg woods I headed towards Oerlikon and then Glattbrugg, where I stopped briefly at Anny's workplace to say hi to her.  Then I headed into the woods of Opfikon, where I used to run during my lunchtimes whilst I was working at UBS.  The accrued distance was still nowhere near my target distance so I headed out to Bassersdorf and beyond, before finally looping back towards Opfikon and then towards home via Oerlikon.

I checked my GPS as I was passing Irchel park and I was still going to come up slightly short of 32km so I opted for one quick lap of the Finnenbahn.  This is a running path that is made from dirt and wood chippings and it is pretty soft, especially at this time of year when it becomes very muddy.  It allows you to push hard at the end of a long run without too much jarring of your tired muscles.  By the end of the lap I was breathing pretty hard, but it was good fun.  After that it was time to warm down and jog slowly back down the hill to the apartment.

Arriving back at the apartment I thought I would have another go at seeing how many press ups I can do in one go.  With a little grunting and groaning I was able to do 54 reps today, so a new record once again.  At this rate maybe I will be able to do 100 reps in a couple of months time.

The last thing to report today is that I have booked another lactate and body fat test for the 19th March.  This will be at the point where I am just starting to taper down and should be pretty much at my peak fitness ready for the MDS, so it will be good to see how the results compare with my previous two tests. In terms of quantity of training there is no doubt I have done more this time than the last two times, but it is not only quantity that counts.  Quality of training is also important.  We shall see is all I can say.  Lots of training still to be done before then though.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Part 2 of 5 completed - another 32km run

Howdy everyone

Firstly before too much blurb I wanted to include a couple of photos, because I haven't been adding that many to my posts recently.  These photos are ones that I took today during my 32km run, and show the cool trail running terrain almost on my doorstep.  They are from the first part of my run, in the Zurichberg woods.

Perfect point to exit the gravel track and enter the woods

A flying Negrita hurdling a fallen tree (front left of photo)

Close up of Negrita

Time to get our feet dirty and have some muddy fun

The route today was pretty similar to the one yesterday, except for the last part.  Instead of heading to Felsenegg from Uto Kulm I didn't go all the way to Uto Kulm but instead climbed the ridge to near the top and then headed in the direction of Uitikon.  I almost got lost after passing through Uitikon as I was heading away from Zurich despite being sure that I was heading towards it.  I thought my sense of direction was like a homing pigeon, but today I must have been a very drunk homing pigeon at the very least.  It was only when I saw the beacon on top of the Uetliberg that I realised my mistake, but at least I noticed before I was too far off course.  If I had continued to run away from Zurich without realising, it could have been a very long run or walk home, as I didn't have any money on me for a bus and I wouldn't want to risk a hefty on the spot fine.

The total elevation gain was a little less than yesterday, but still a respectable 796m.  I am hoping that all these hills with give me the extra strength I will need to take on the sand dunes in the Sahara.  It is not only the uphills that give you a good workout, but also the downhills too.  Downhills are great for building strong quads, although you do have to be careful not to overdo them, as this is how I got injured a couple of years ago (by hammering too much on the downhills).

So with my objective (100 miles/ 160km of running in one week) almost half way completed you may want to know how I am feeling.  So far so good I would say.  The muscular aches are very mild and no pains to report at present.  With tomorrow being a rest day it gives my body a chance to recover before the next two 32km runs on Wednesday and Thursday.  I am however planning to do my first session of Bikram yoga (hot yoga) tomorrow, so it is an active rest day.  My complete rest day will be on Friday, ready for the final 32km run on Saturday.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The press up test - 51 is my new max

Hi folks

Over the last month or so I have been testing myself every couple of days to see how many press ups I can do to failure.  When I started doing that my maximum was 32 reps, but over the weeks it has been slowly increasing as my upper body strength has increased.

You may ask why I want to strengthen my upper body for an endurance run.  Well a strong upper body and core is important for maintaining good running form in the latter stages of a race when you are tired.  It seems that even the top long distance runners believe in going to the gym and doing some weight training according to all the advice on the internet that I have been reading.

Not only that but in the MDS you have to carry your rucksack weighing anything between 6.5 and 14kg.  Now that takes some upper body strength as well as leg strength.  So I think what I have been doing is an important part of my MDS preparation.

My first aim was to get to the point where I can knock out 50 press ups a day.  Well I am happy to say that I am now at that point.  Today I managed to do 51 reps to failure.  As that was after a 32km run I am sure I can repeat that performance on a daily basis.

So what is my next aim now that my first aim has been achieved.  I think I will set that as being able to do 100 press ups in one go.  Aim number 2 here we come!

First of the five 32km runs done - 890m of elevation gain

Today was the first of my five planned 32km runs within the space of one week.  It went well and was mostly trail running in the woods of the Zurichberg and then later in the woods of the Uetliberg.  Owing to the fact that both locations are hilly, the total elevation gain on my run was 890m.

I started off with Negrita on a 9.5km route that went up towards the Zurichberg, then I dropped her off at home and continued my run towards the Uetliberg.  Running on gravel tracks is not really train running, so Negrita and I frequently left the tracks and went off into the woods.  We were running through bracken and small trees and jumping over logs, and Negrita was having a lot of fun.  Not just her, but me too.

As I ran towards the base of the Uetliberg along the streets of Zurich I was trying to head directly towards a meadow that is steep enough to require a bit of scrambling in places.  Despite heading directly for it, once I reached the woods at the base of the Uetliberg I couldn't find the meadow itself, but I did find an interesting mountain path or Bergweg.  The path was steep and involved scrambling over tree roots.  I tried to keep running the whole way, but it was too steep and too slippery and I ended up walking for some parts.  Nevertheless my heart was pounding so it was a great workout.

Higher up, the path merged with larger trails and I was able to start jogging normally again until I reached the Uto Kulm.  After a moments pause to take in the views I followed the path that heads to Felsenegg along the ridge of the mountain.  The wind was strong and extremely cold, and along the ridge there is no respite from it.  Had the wind been behind me I would have been whipping along, but as luck would have it, it was a head wind.  Despite wearing several layers on my top half I was still feeling the cold, so I decided to head down towards the city where it would be warmer.  The last thing I want now is a stinking cold.

The downhill section was pretty steep and I was doing my best to maintain control and avoid running head first into the trees or fences on the switchbacks.  It was tough work on the quads, but luckily my quads are still strong from the recent cycling trip in South America.

At the bottom of the descent I found myself opposite Leimbach station.  My route then followed the Sihl river back into the city and along the exclusive Bahnhofstrasse.  As I reached home I checked my GPS and I was still short of my target distance, so I headed along the road to Wipkingen station and back, to make a nice round 32km.

Today was so much fun that I will have to do the same route again in future.  At the moment there is little reason for me to be running on the roads, as trail running is a lot closer to what I will be doing in the MDS.  Not only is it lower impact but it helps strengthens the ankles.  The constantly changing scenery is also more stimulating for my mind.