Friday, 10 February 2012

Another 2 Pilates lessons and an 18km run up the snow covered Uetliberg

After hot yoga on Wednesday I had my Pilates lesson.  I wasn't aching at the time I did it, but the next day there were aches all over the place.  It was probably the combination of the hot yoga and the Pilates that did it, but all I know is that my neck, shoulders, back, inner thighs and butt were all aching.  It was that nice burn effect that athletes come to love.  That sign that we have done a good workout the day before.

On Thursday my Pilates lessons was mostly mat based, but it was actually tougher than usual I found.  There was one point where my stomach just gave up and I couldn't hold my weight up any longer.  Imagine doing several hundred sit-ups in a row, as the exercises we did targeted the abs each and every time.  When I left the lesson I decided I would skip hot yoga as otherwise I would be barely able to move today.

Instead I decided to go for a run up the Uetliberg.  The Uetliberg is fully covered in snow at the moment, and I knew Negrita would love it, so I took her with me.  We did 18km overall, and in retrospect that was a little far for Negrita as she was lagging in the final 3km and I had to slow up.  She was off lead in the forest and running around like a mad hatter, so that probably tired her out more than anything else.  I wish she would stop barking at everyone she passes though, as that is quite annoying both for me and them.  Most of them laugh but the odd one looks quite annoyed.

A happy doggy in her element - snow

Negrita posing next to a frozen stream

Top of the Uetliberg in sight

Beautiful snowy views over Zurich

The soreness in my right foot that I have been experiencing the last few weeks during my runs didn't occur yesterday.  That meant that on the steep sections I was able to get up on my toes for a nice calf burn.  If you run up hills on your tiptoes a lot, you get calf muscles like a beast based on what I have seen from other runners who I see running up mountains.  The last few weeks I wasn't able to do that because when I did that my foot became sorer.

The other thing I noticed yesterday is that the lower back ache I used to get when running up the Uetliberg has almost completely vanished now.  A few more weeks of Pilates and yoga and I probably wont feel a thing.

My main plan for today is to go for a nice long run.  That could be anything from a half marathon (not so long) to a full marathon (pretty long).  I will just go the distance that feels comfortable, as I do have quite a few aches this morning.  Rest assured I wont be taking Negrita that kind of distance in case you were wondering.  She may come with me for the first 10km or so, and then I would drop her off at home and continue on my way.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hot sweaty yoga with bikinis and bare chests

I finally got round to trying out hot yoga at the Zurich Bikram yoga studio.  I have signed up for a 10 day trial, which costs 70CHF, and you can go as many times in those 10 days as you like.  After my first lesson my impression so far is positive.

I thought the session was going to be 60 minutes long but it was actually 90 minutes.  I am not sure how working people manage to fit that into their busy schedules, but for me it is fine.  Maybe not all lessons are 90 minutes - I am not sure.

I was introduced to the teacher beforehand, and she told me that I might well feel dizzy and like I need to leave the room, and that the main aim of my first session should be just to stay in the room, even if I couldn't manage all the postures.

A lot of the students went in the room early, but I thought being my first session and all I should only go in the room just before the lesson starts.  The room is heated to over 40 degrees Celsius and the longer you spend in there the more you sweat.

Walking into the room I was surprised how manageable the temperature felt.  Don't get me wrong 40 degrees is hot, and exercising in this temperature is tough, but I had expected much worse.  I sat down on my mat and waited for the teacher to arrive.  There were quite a lot of other students in the class.  Most were female but there were 2 other males.  The girls tended to wear bikinis and the men shorts and bare chests.  I was wearing shorts and a vest, but after an hour or so that came off as I was just too damn hot.  There was only one other newbie in the class, and most looked like they had been doing it some time.

How can you pick out a newbie in a hot yoga class?  Well if I am any example to go by, look for the person gasping for breath and reaching for the water bottle every 10 minutes.  The odd spell of swaying from side to side hinting at a slight spot of dizziness is also a dead giveaway.

There were times when I felt pretty woozy, but I managed the whole session without having to take a break.  Probably within 5 sessions your body starts to get used to the temperature.  That is what I am hoping anyway, because I am using hot yoga to help try to prepare my body for exercising in a hot environment.  If I go to hot yoga 3-5 times a week and then spend a few weeks in Morocco prior to the race I should be fairly well adapted.  I pity any souls who have done absolutely zero heat acclimatisation before the MDS, as doing yoga at 40 degrees was tough but running at that temperature would be much tougher again.

I have a few hours now to relax, eat some food, and then I have my Pilates lesson.  I will take my running kit with me and do a 10km run on the way back from Pilates.  That would make a good training day - hot yoga, Pilates and a 10km run.  Is that too much - hell no!

Monday, 6 February 2012

My 70km walk/run

I don't always stick to my plans, but yesterday I did.  I started off around 10.30am and jogged down to the lake and then did one complete lap of the lake.  To make it more MDS like I ran/walked with a rucksack on my back.  The rucksack weighed 5.5kg, lighter than it will be in the race itself, but less risk of injury.

One lap of the lake is just over 65km, but with the additional jog down to the lake to begin my lap the total distance was close to 70km.  My GPS ran out of battery around the 60km mark, but the roadsigns indicated it was another 10km to Zurich, and this fits with the GPS readings I got from a previous cycle ride round the lake.

I decided I would jog the first 21km and then do a large section of walking, followed by another 11km jog and then walk the final section.  I was quite happy to see that I was going to complete the first section, a half marathon, in under 2 hours.  Not that impressive by itself, but considering I was carrying a weighted pack and was conserving my energy for the additional 49km I knew lay ahead, it seems a rather satisfactory result.  After that initial run I walked until kilometre 40, when once again I started jogging until I reached kilometre 51.

The temperature was hovering around minus 8 and each time I stopped jogging I had to delve in my rucksack and get out my ski jacket and ski gloves.  I am glad I packed them, and if I hadn't I wouldn't have been able to complete the full route.  Even with the ski jacket and ski gloves I was shivering a bit during the walking stages, because my inner layers were wet from sweat.

As the day went on the fronts of both of my shins became sore.  The PT03 winter shoes are pretty rigid and despite feeling I had the energy to run even at the end of my route, there was no way that I could bear the pain of doing that, and having the rigid tongues poking in my sore shins every step.  On top of that my right foot seemed to swell a bit, and it felt like my foot was a little squashed into the shoe in the latter stages.  I will definitely go with one European size bigger for the MDS to allow for swelling.

Despite my sore feet and shins, I was mentally strong throughout the route.  I knew what I had to do and I was focussed on doing it.  The only way I was going to quit early was if I thought I was risking hypothermia or if I thought continuing would do me some serious damage.  Neither of these were the case so it was clear I just needed to keep going.

Something that surprised me during the walking stages was the distance that could be covered.  I had imagined that whilst walking I would be able to average no more than 5km/h, but actually sometimes I was able to average 6 or 7km/h.  Walking part of the route on a very long race seems like not such a bad strategy as I had imagined it would be.  At least it gives you some time to recover before running again.

As I saw Zurich coming into view I was elated.  Ten hours or more had passed, but I had accomplished my goal for the day and proved to myself that when I set my mind to something I can follow it through.  It also gives me comfort to know that however tough the long stage on the MDS feels, it will be doable if I just manage to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other and not giving up.  The factor that I can't allow for however is heat. I have no idea how it feels to run in that kind of heat, and I shall not underestimate that unknown.

Last night walking around in the house was not that comfortable, and I have picked up several blisters on my feet, but already by this morning I was starting to feel a little bit better.  I feel pretty sleepy and it will probably take my body a couple of days to recover, but I don't think I have injured myself touch wood.  My legs and knees are not aching at all, but the bottom of my right foot is a little bruised.