Thursday, 17 January 2013

"From Border To Border" ski tour information

Tonight I was excited to receive the information pack about the "From Border To Border" ski tour, or "Rajalta rajalle -hiihto" as it is called in Finnish.  I will be in group RR1 starting from Kuusamo on the 7th March 2013.

In my group RR1, 68 skiers have signed up.  There are 4 groups in total RR1, RR2, RR3 and RR4.  Overall, there will be 115 skiers from Finland taking part and 73 skiers from Germany.  Also represented are Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Belgium, Spain, UK, France, Denmark, Brazil, USA, Slovenia, Czech Republic and for the first time this year Estonia.

The event is a classic style cross country ski tour from Kuusamo near the Finnish border with Russia to Tornio on the Finnish Swedish border.  Daily distances vary from between 44km and 88km.  The daily program will look like the following

Day 1: Get-together

Day 2: Distance 61km

Day 3: Distance 60km

Day 4: Distance 60km

Day 5: Distance 88km

Day 6: Distance 44km

Day 7: Distance 56km

Day 8: Distance 65km

Day 9: Departure from Tornio

I am sure it will be a really fun event, but when I saw the daily distances I was a little worried that I have not even been cross country skiing once this year so far.  I think some action is therefore required.  The first thing I will do is go and buy some cross country skis this Saturday in Konstanz, Germany.  They need to be good ones, as they are the ones that I will use in the tour itself.

Then next weekend when the Mrs goes to Spain I will go for a weekend of cross country skiing.  I will try and fit in one more full weekend before the tour starts.  Two weekends of cross country skiing is not the best preparation ever, but I have a really good base fitness level and good upper body and lower body strength, so I am hoping that will carry me through.  If worst comes to worst, skiers can always take the bus at any point along the route.

One thing you can be sure of, is that in one form or another I will be super active in the coming weeks. Most likely a mix of strength training using kettle bells and Pilates, along with some swimming and running.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

If I were wearing goggles and a nose clip, where might I be?

As some of you may have guessed from the title, I am talking about the swimming pool.  With calf sprain preventing me from running for at least for the remainder of this week, I have switched to swimming in order to keep my aerobic conditioning.

On Tuesday morning I went to the pool before work, and swam a nice, gentle kilometre.  Hallenbad Oerlikon is a 50m swimming pool so that is only 20 lengths.  I did 10 lengths of breaststroke and 10 lengths of front crawl.

Today after work I went again, and this time I did 1.25km at a gentle pace.  15 laps of breaststroke and 10 lengths of front crawl.  I also went to meet some of the members of the Free Radicals triathlon club, as I am considering to join them for swim training in future.  Before that though I would like to build a decent swimming-specific fitness base.  That's one of the reasons that I am also going to go tomorrow again, and this time I will swim 1.5km if time permits.

Anyway, that's enough of my plans, as what I really wanted to tell you in this post is just how much nicer I find it to swim with a nose clip than without one.  Until today I have never used a nose clip, but when I did the Zurich lake crossing, and also on Tuesday when I was in the pool, I noticed that a fair bit of water goes up my nose.  Especially when I attempt to do flip turns, or tumble turns as they also known.  Not only does it not feel that nice, it also leaves me feeling congested and sneezing for several hours afterwards.  I am not sure quite sure why that is, but I guess it is some kind of allergic reaction to the chlorine.  Regardless, today I decided to buy a nose clip and try swimming with that.

The Beco Competition nose clip that I bought
Nose clips are pretty cheap by anyone's standards, and the one I bought works really well and is not at all uncomfortable.  It did leave a small red imprint on my nose for several hours afterwards, but whilst I was swimming I hardly noticed it was there, except for the fact that no water entered my nose like it does usually.  If water up your nose is one of the main reasons you don't like swimming, then I strongly recommend you to invest a couple of bucks in a nose clip.

The other thing that is important for swimming in chlorinated pools is a good pair of swimming goggles.  I have had a pair for years now, but some water always manages to get in, and I keep having to clear them.  I figured it was because they were old and the seals were damaged, but when I inspected them I found nothing.  Based on this, I figured it must be that they do not fit me very well, so I decided to try and find some goggles that fit me better and so don't let in any water.  At the swimming pool shop, they had around 20 different types of goggles to try on.  The women instructed me on how to find out if they are a good fit or not.  Basically, when you press them to your face, you should then be able to remove your hands, and without using the straps they should remain stuck to your face by suction power alone.  If they fall off then they are not a good fit.  Also they should not hurt your nose or cheeks or any other parts of your face.

After trying on all the goggles, there was only one pair that fit me properly, the AquaSphere Vista goggles.  They were very large goggles so I guess that means I must have a big head.  Anyway, I bought them and after swimming in them tonight I have to say that so far they are fantastic.  Not a single drop of water entered the goggles during the time that I was swimming, they felt comfortable, they didn't stream up, they give you a good wide vision and they are very easy to adjust.  The only downside is that they did not come cheap.  I also saw someone mentioning in a review that they scratch easily, but that I have yet to find out.  So far so good.  A thumbs up from me!

The AquaSphere Vista goggles that I bought
So no more excuses about water in your eyes or up your nose please people.  Get a decent pair of goggles and a nose clip and come join me in the pool.

Goodnight folks!!!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Injury can be a right pain in the .....

Ignore those niggling pains at your peril I tell you as someone who failed to adhere to that very simple advice.  For a couple of weeks now my left calf muscle has felt very tight.  A lack of stretching probably contributed to this.  I have been trying to stretch it out ever since, by pulling my toes back with my leg extended whenever I get a few moments in the day, but it will take some time for the weeks of neglect to be reversed.

Yesterday I went to the track to do one of the half marathon specific workouts I found on the internet.  A 2 mile warm up followed by 7 x 1 mile at 10 seconds slower than 10k pace with a 1 minute rest in between each set, and finally a 1 mile cool down.

I completed 2 sets without any problem, then part way into the 3rd set my left calf muscle started to tighten up.  It was kind of a niggle rather than a pain so I chose to ignore it, thinking that it would loosen up during the subsequent sets.  It was not as if I was sprinting after all.

What a fool I was, as in the final metres of the 4th set, just as I was rounding the corner onto the home straight, I felt a sudden sharp pain and I ground to a halt, clutching at my left calf.  It was clear that I would not be able to continue the session, but I couldn't even walk properly.  I limped off the track in pain.

I have been following RICE treatment, which is recommended for sprains.  R for rest, I for ice, C for compression and E for elevation.  Today the pain is slightly reduced, but I am certainly not going to be able to run today or for the next few days.

Why didn't I listen to my body when I got that niggle in the 3rd set?  If only I had stopped then, then I wouldn't be in this situation I am in now.  Luckily there is no major swelling or bruising at the site of the injury, suggesting that it is a grade two strain.  It is still going to take a couple of weeks to heal fully though.

With the Barcelona marathon only 5 weeks ago, this is seriously going to impact my chances of getting a new PB.  The only way I can think to keep things on track is to substitute running with swimming for the next week or so, so that I do not lose any cardiovascular fitness.  From everything I have read, swimming is fine after a day or two of complete rest when you have calf strain, as long as it does not hurt whilst you are swimming, and as long as you do not overdo it.