Waiting…………..and why I am bad at it

As I sit in my house writing this, there are numerous things that I am waiting for.  What I have realised (which is what I have probably always known) is that I hate waiting for things.

Firstly I have busted my ankle and I am waiting for it to heal.  Just a sprain, but bad enough to stop me from running.  I can still cycle (all be it very gently), but running is absolutely out of the question.  As every good triathlete knows, when you get injured you have to rest.  Sadly, every good triathlete (and also the bad ones) are terrible at resting.

Resting is just dead time.  Every moment you are not following your training plan is a moment wasted.  “Rest day” seems a nonsense.  There is no time to rest in triathlon!  The truth is that resting is important.  Whilst our bodies are excellent at adapting to whatever we throw at them, we need time for those adaptations to take place.  This is how a totally unfit lump of lard like me managed to complete an Ironman. As it says in the picture, lots of small efforts repeated day in day out equals success.

This why having to rest is so tough.  The whole time you are resting you cannot help but feel you are going backwards.  Getting “less fit”.  Of course this is true if you do nothing for large periods of time; however occasionally having some time off and letting your body recover is not a bad thing.  My busted ankle has forced me to do this, so I am channelling my efforts elsewhere.

I have been doing some weight training, which I love.  In fact I was at the gym at 4.45am this morning.  Don’t worry, I have not turned over a new leaf.  I don’t suddenly love getting up early.  My littlest little one is running a high temperature and couldn’t sleep.  After my wife trying for ages to settle her it was my turn.  I managed to get her off to sleep but then was awake myself, so off to the gym I went.  

To be fair the weight training is just what my ankle needs to recover.  It needs to get stronger and putting your body under load with weight training makes you stronger, so it seemed a logical thing to do.  I am following a Stronglifts 5×5 weight training regime which I have used before (a long time ago) and is great for adding strength without too much “bulk”. Will keep it going through the summer as weight training has numerous other benefits, especially as you get older.

Also tomorrow night Bush and I are back off to Trevor’s Wednesday night Triathlon club.  This consists of a spinning session, followed by a stretching session (think pilates on steroids) and then a swim.  I am going to duck the swim, but will go for the spinning and stretching.  I haven’t seen Trevor since I completed the Ironman, but owe a huge amount to his coaching hints and tips and generosity.  Bushy and I both agree we would not have completed the Ironman without his help, so it will be great to see him again and say hello to some of the old gang from his sessions.  As a totally shameless plug, if you are a Triathlon buddy of mine and are looking for some simply superb coaching then you cannot get better than Trevor.  Check out his website for more info.  http://www.zone6coaching.com/

I am also going to go back to swimming, though I am yet to work out when.  Probably do a couple of early morning sessions, although my local 50metre pool doesn’t open until 7am weekdays and that would only really leave me about 30mins to swim before I had to head into work.  Luckily the open water swimming with the Pompey Triathletes starts this weekend, with the Wednesday evening sessions to start soon after to perhaps I can just concentrate on going to that.  Will have to work out what is best.  Bit more research needed I feel.

Anyway that’s about that for this blog update.  Probably not the most exciting thing you will ever read, but it is too late now, you cannot “un-read” it.



PS – The other thing I should mention we are waiting for is to move house.  Almost up to 11 weeks since offers were accepted the entire way up and down our chain (which is only 3 houses anyway).  A cynical person would say that conveyancing solicitors slow things down on purpose to make their ridiculous fees seem more reasonable.  And a cynical person would be quite right.

And now for something completely different

Tonight I am doing something I have never done before.  I am representing my company at the Chichester Corporate Challenge.  Tonight is the final race of 3 and despite my failure to turn up at the first two due to family commitments, my place is still secure for race 3.

The route is 4.5km round Chichester, consisting of a 4 lap loop.  There are two waves of runners.  Race A is for those amongst us who are capable of running 4.5km in 18 minutes or less.  Race B is for everybody else.  I am in Race B.

Competing when I am representing somebody other than just myself is an interesting experience.  I am very used to playing team sports (well football at least) and so you would think that this would translate into a team running event, but it appears not to.  As such, I am way more nervous about running 4.5km than I should be.  For a man who ran 30km on Sunday, it would seem logical that 4.5km would be a walk in the park.  The problem with this is as distances get shorter race expectations seem to get bigger.

For the longer race events, simply finishing is usually my aim.  I didn’t give two hoots how long it took me to run 30km, I was just pleased to manage the distance.  For the shorter races I now have pre-conceived ideas of how long they should take me.  For 4.5km, I should be able to maintain a fairly quick pace.  I don’t have to worry at all about endurance and really I should be able to attack the race at full pelt.

Bearing in mind that I ran a 25 minute 5km at the Portsmouth Duathlon (where I had to follow this with a 15km bike ride and then another 5km run and was subsequently pacing myself), there should be no reason I cannot run a solo 4.5km faster than 5min/km pace.  I have never really attempted to run this fast before.  This presents me with two options.

1) I run at 5min/km pace which I know I am more than capable of and finish in around 22-23 minutes.  A perfectly respectable time.

2) I go for it.  Head out at 4:30/km pace and see if I can hold it.  This would give me a finishing time of around 20 minutes if I can hold on.  A much better result that 22-23 minutes, giving me a better showing for my team and company.

It seems a no-brainer that I would go for option 2.  The problem with this is the risk of getting injured.  As you run quicker, the chance of picking up a injury increases.  It is obvious that I need to do everything that I can to avoid injury; therefore option 1 becomes the clear favourite.

In truth, I don’t know which I am going to go for.  My competitive streak is very strong and the desire to do well for my company will push me even further.  Can I ignore this and run sensibly to make sure I don’t get injured?  

We will have to wait and see.

Update:  I managed the 4.5km in 21 minutes according to my watch.  Not bad at all.  Very pleased.



Just when I think it is all going so well.

So I am feeling a lot fitter, managed a 10K PB and am feeling good.  

I decided to go out for a slow 10K on Tuesday night this week to stretch the legs and keep up the marathon training.  I ran the first 6km with no trouble, then I started to feel a acute pain above my ankle bone on the inside of my left leg.   

I have felt this pain before, but never as acutely as I did on this occasion.  I was 6km from home with only one real way to get back so I decided to push on and run with the pain.  My logic here was that at some point in both the upcoming marathon and the Ironman race I am going to have to run through some pain so this was a good opportunity to practice.

My pace slowed from 6min/km to over 7min/km and I laboured on, trying to keep my run form good through the windy, rainy conditions.  My ankle didn’t get any more painful; however it was already a solid 7 out of 10 on the pain meter.  The kilometers slowly and painfully rolled on and eventually I got home.

Having had a bit of time to think about why this injury might have occurred and what to do about it I have come up with the following self diagnosis.

My Lunas

  1. I pressed hard at Stubbington 10K and may have aggravated something.  This was then made worse when I went out running again only 2 days after the race.
  2. Running in minimalist shoes (in my case Luna Sandals) can hammer your Achilles and other tendons in that region if your calves / tendons are not used to the strain or strong enough.
  3. When other muscles in my body tire out (hamstrings, glutes, quads etc) my form suffers and this could compound any lower leg injuries.
How scientific this diagnosis is I cannot say; however the more I train and read up about training / injury prevention the more I am understanding my body and how it works.  Based on the above I have decided on the below as a solution.

  1. No running at all for a minimum of 10 days (give myself a good chance to heal up)
  2. When I do run again, start with only a couple of miles maximum and build back up slowly.
  3. Plenty of stretching / calf strengthening exercises to supplement the running.
  4. Go back to running in shoes.
Now of all the points above number 4 is by far the most controversial.  Most people think I am mad for running either barefoot or in the Luna Sandals; however when I took up barefoot running I could not even run to the end of the road without getting shin splints.  

The barefooting seemed to stop the shin splints from occurring and only now my distances have increased barefooting has started to cause alternative problems (eg this achilles/ankle tendon injury).  The only reason for this is that I have had to increase my distances too fast; however this was necessary in order to get up to marathon running distances in time for the Brighton marathon in April.

Running barefoot means you to land with a “forefoot strike”, which many running coaches promote as the best form for running. If you imagine jumping up and down on the spot barefooted you will be landing on your forefoot.  Running is essentially landing on one foot over and over again.  Modern running shoes make it possible to land on your heel when running as they are highly padded.  This is known as heel striking. It would be hugely painful to jump up and down barefooted whilst landing on your heels (try it if you don’t believe me).  The shock of this though your legs can cause all sorts of pain just doing it once, let alone again and again when running.The padding on modern running shoes allows you to run landing on your heels, and 90% of all recreational runners will be running using a heel strike.  

It is my opinion that regular heel striking in running shoes was sending shocks through my lower legs causing my previous shin splints.

Since taking up barefooting, I now land on my forefoot with a much softer landing.  This instantly reduced the load on my shins and the shin splints have not occurred.

The drawback from forefoot striking either barefoot or in minimalist shoes is that you put a lot of stretch through your achilles tendons and other tendons in your ankles.

If your calves are tight (which mine definitely are) this stops the tendons from being able to stretch and therefore they take a bit of a bashing and respond by getting inflamed and causing pain.

During short runs (10K or less in my case) this does not seem to happen to me unless I really push the pace.  Longer runs seem to cause these issues.  Building calf flexibility takes a long time; therefore I have decided to revert back to running in shoes to protect my tendons whilst at the same time making my calves stronger and more flexible.

The good running form that barefooting has taught me can also be applied to running in shoes; however there should be a bit less overall strain and I should be able to run for longer.

This is the plan and I am sticking with it.  It leaves me woefully short on time for getting up to speed for the marathon; however it does mean that I should be in fine form come the Ironman.

Fingers crossed this plan works.


Can I take the pace………..so far so good

All of a sudden I am starting to feel a lot fitter.  I am not entirely sure why but there is no doubt that I just generally feel fitter.

I mentioned this to my Tri coach tonight and he claims it is all down to him.  Perhaps he is right (though I would never admit that with him around). Trevor’s coaching that I attend on Mondays and Wednesdays is excellent and I love the sessions.  Bushy and I have started to do a bit extra too, going to the gym before and swimming after the Monday mobility sessions.  The Wednesday sessions are bike then mobility then swim and are 2.5 hours long so in total we are hitting about 5 hours training on Mondays and Wednesdays alone.

The view from my turbo trainer

What is most alarming is how much I am starting to enjoy my training.  When I am not attending the organised Monday and Wednesday sessions I find myself working out what I can fit on on that day. Be it a run, a swim or a turbo trainer session on my bike I am finding my drive to get on with training is very high.  

I managed just under 7 hours training last week (not including 2 hours of mobility work) which is getting towards my target of 10 hours per week.  If you are interested in more details about my training, I log everything on Strava and you can follow me here. https://www.strava.com/athletes/3133662?utm_source=top-nav

You could put it down to the fact that I have increased my training workload to my sudden feeling of increased fitness, but sadly I have only really done 1 week of increased workload and was incredibly lazy over the Christmas period so it can’t be down to this.  

Fortunately there is an acid test for all of this increased feeling of fitness.  On Sunday 18th Jan I am running the Stubbington Green 10K.  This is a local 10K race which I am competing in with a couple of mates and is my first event of 2015.  

As regular blog readers will know, running is by far my weakest triathlon discipline.  Over Christmas and through New Year I made a conscious effort to increase my running workload as I have now got only 12 weeks to the Brighton Marathon.  The unfortunate effect of this increased running is that I have picked up a niggling injury.  Is only a minor tendon strain and will go away with rest but it is slowing down my run training (in fact this week I have done no running at all).

So back to Stubbington on Sunday.  If my niggling injury holds itself at bay then it is the real test of whether I really have really got fitter or I just “feel” fitter.  My fastest ever 10K is 1hr 3mins, which was recorded at the end of a triathlon.  A stand alone 10K should be quicker than this as I have not had to swim and cycle first. IT is also worth considering that I have never run a stand alone 10K in a race before.

My fastest ever 5K is 26 minutes dead.  Logically a 10K should be double this plus add a bit on as it is obviously further so maintaining 5K pace for 10K would be challenging.  Using the Runners World Race Time Predictor, it tells me my 10K time should be 54 mins and 12 seconds.  I would be absolutely over the moon with any time under 55 minutes.  We will have to wait and see.

This is a bit of a rambling blog post with no real point so as I have jumped around all over the place it is worth mentioning one more thing.  I have launched my fundraising this week and now have a Just Giving page set up.  Please take a moment to have a look at the fantastic charity that I have chosen to compete for and the reasons why.  It would mean the world to me to hit my fundraising target and help a lot of unwell children and their families.

I think that about sums it up for this update.  My next update will be on Sunday after the race.  Fingers crossed that I am reporting a superb race and a quick time.

Take care all.


The fear of getting hurt

So the 2015 training is well under way.  With almost 4 hours of training already logged this week and a further swim and bike and long run to go onto the list I am going to be somewhere near my target of 10 hours of training.  The big question is, can I sustain this level?

The simple answer is, I have no idea.  It would appear logical that the more you train the more likely you are to get injured; however this is not necessarily the case.  Injuries are most likely to occur when you either increase your intensity too fast, or increase your distances too quickly.

Also it is logical that if I am going to get injured it will be whilst running.  When you consider run training, swim training and bike training the running definitely places the largest strain on my body.  Because of this it is clear that the run training is the one thing that I have to be the most careful with when it comes to doing more of it.

QE Parkrun on New Years Day

As part of my marathon training (Brighton Marathon is on April 12th) I am slowly increasing the distance of my”long runs”.  My last one was 10 miles, so this Sunday I have to do 11 miles etc etc.  As long as I keep the pace slow I should be able to complete the mileage without picking up any major injuries.  That’s the plan anyway 🙂

It is unlikely I will pick up any serious injuries cycling.  Cycling is low impact and as long as I listen to my body and keep a very close eye on any potential niggles I should be OK with increasing the weekly bike mileage.

Swimming is a bit of an unknown quantity to me.  It tires me out like nothing else and I do tend to feel it in my upper back and triceps when I have done a hard training session.  Whether I am likely to pick up an injury I just don’t know.  Guess I will just have to be careful.

The long and short of this post is that I live in almost permanent fear that I will get injured and be unable to train enough.  I spent most of last year with one sort of injury or another (especially the ongoing shin splints issues which have finally gone away) and am desperate for 2015 to not be plagued by injury so I can get in some quality training and a few good competitions, culminating in the Ironman in September.

That’s really it for this post, other than this very cool video from Strava showing my stats for 2014.  Is very quick and worth a look.  



Everything is in place………I might just pull this off

For the first time since I undertook the challenge to complete an Ironman I am starting to feel that it might just be possible.

When I first told my loved ones of my intention to compete in an Ironman Triathlon I received the following comments:

My Mum         – “Are you sure James.  It sounds like a lot to take on”
My Friends     – A mixture of utter astonishment and general sniggering
My Nan          – “Well my dentist does Triathlons dear and he is much fitter than you”
Cat (my wife) – “You’re going to die”

Now of course all of these comments were completely fair.  I was out of shape.  Very out of shape.  I weighed over 16 stone, couldn’t run to the end of the road without stopping, hadn’t ridden a bike since I was about 10 and the last time I swam anywhere was when I swam from the side of the pool to the pool bar on honeymoon.

Over a year later and things are rather different.  For the first time in forever (to quote from Frozen) I am starting to feel fit.  Weight is slowly dropping off, despite my tendencies to eat entire bags of Doritos and quite a bit of chocolate.  Also I have recently had a great success………..

I CAN RUN !!!!!!!!

All be it not very far (haven’t done more than 6k for a while) but I have no shin pain, the post run calf pain is starting to disappear and I am really starting to feel very positive about this whole endeavour.

Good thing too, as I have a charity place for the Brighton Marathon.  Bushy and I are running for Chestnut Tree House, which is the hospice that cared for Amber and her family, towards the end of her fight with Neuroblastoma.  The marathon is in April and is a great target to aim for.  I can’t wait to strap on my Luna Sandals on the start line, raising some money for this incredible charity and ticking off an important milestone on my way to the Ironman in September.

Some of my regular readers may wonder how I have suddenly managed to start running injury free and why I am starting to feel a lot more fit all of a sudden.  I can put this down to a few factors.  The first one is my discovery of barefoot/minimalist running.  To do this topic justice would require an entirely separate blog post and it is my intention to post this soon.  The second reason is down to one man, Mr Trevor “Tufty” Payne.

Trevor runs two Triathlon training sessions at a gym here in Portsmouth.  The first one is a mobility class, perfect for improving my flexibility and mobility (which is something I sorely need).  The second session is a Bike/Mobility/Swim or a Bike/Run/Swim session.  Lasting 2.5 hours, this is an intense workout and is absolutely superb.

Bushy and I have been attending these sessions for over a month, with Curry joining us recently.  Trevor is an ex professional Triathlete, specialising in Iron distance races during his career.  He is a superb coach (even if he does take the piss out of Bushy and I rather a lot) and I find his sessions hugely inspirational.  He has given me exercises to do at home which I do every day, agreed to write me a training plan specific to Challenge Weymouth and is generally a huge asset to my training.  

So to wrap up this post I would like to say a thank you to Trevor for his help so far and for his excellent training sessions that I love attending.  I was never really a believer in having a “coach”; however I am very glad I met Trevor and can’t wait to see just how fit he can get me ahead of Challenge Weymouth.  I must also mention a special thanks to Josh Smith, who is one of the readers of my blog and was the person who put me onto Trevor in the first place.  Look forward to doing some training with you when you are back in the UK Josh.

Finally to all of the readers of this blog and to those of you who have sent me nice comments about it, a huge thank you to you all.  I’m really starting to love all this training and am pleased that as the winter progresses I will be able to share with you my increasing fitness and join as many of you as I can for a run/swim/bike, or perhaps just a pint!



PS – If any of you are looking for a Triathlon or Fitness coach please check out Trevor’s website.  You won’t regret getting in touch with him. http://www.zone6coaching.com/

Barefeet – the way forward

As some of you who read my blog and others of you who have seen me do it will know, I recently converted to running barefoot.

My reasoning was sound.  I have suffered running injuries for years and was searching to understand why.  I read some books, converted to barefoot running and have been injury free ever since.  Granted I haven’t done mega mileage barefoot, but I have done enough to be confident if I continue this way I will strengthen my feet and be a lot less injury prone.

I am intending on doing a big write up on this with links and information in the next few days.  In the interim (and to whet your appetite) here is an article on how to choose children’s shoes that will get you thinking a bit.




Some people are just not born to run

I went out for a gentle jog last night.  It was my intention to do about 7km at a very gentle pace just to run the legs out.  2km in and the dreaded shin pain that I used to suffer with returned.  I was devastated.  Having been through physio and extensive time off of running, I thought that this pain was a thing of the past and that I would be able to push on with my run training, but clearly I was mistaken.

Running is by far my weakest discipline in Triathlon, and it is hugely demoralising when you compete and all that happens is people stream past you on the final run stage as you shuffle along like some sort of geriatric drunk.  I MUST improve my running.

I guess it is back to the drawing board.  Luckily I am going to visit my physio in about 10 days, and by coincidence I also have booked a run technique training course for that evening, so I will rest up until then, avoid all running, carry on with the exercises/stretches that I have been given previously and hope that this is just a temporary blip.

I am not, and never have been a religious man; however I almost feel that I need a bit of divine intervention to kick this injury into touch, and finally start to move on with my running.



It appears I have a lazy arse…………..

First things first, apologies if I seem to mention my arse in the majority of these blog posts.  It does seem to be a source of constant problems for me.

Initially I had bum pain when riding.  This was skillfully sorted out with the purchase of some good bib shorts and a new saddle, and now can ride for hours pain free.  Sadly my arse has developed another problem.

As you may have read I suffer with shin splints, or at least what I thought were shin splints.  Eventually I decided to go and see a physio, and after the first fella failed to turn up for our appointment I booked in and saw Gary Sadler, a physio based near where I live.  Unfortunately for Gary he worked as head physio at Crystal Palace football club for quite some time, but I have seen past that and decided he is an alright fella after all.

Gary analysed me, and informed me of the following.

  1. My hips are out of line
  2. My gait is uneven
  3. My glutes (arse muscles) do not fire when I walk – let alone run
All of this means that I place huge unnecessary strain onto my lower leg muscles when running, resulting in subsequent shin pain, which I incorrectly interpreted as shin splints.

“So what is the cure” I hear you all ask.  Well dear reader, I shall tell you.

Gary has given me a series of exercises to do to wake up my lazy arse.  These are being completed twice daily, and include a very strange thrusting maneuver which seems to amuse my wife.  Anyway he has said no running for the time being, and I am seeing him every two weeks.  Once he says go, he will work on my biomechanics when I run and hopefully get me running pain free.  The secret is the nice strong glutes, to support my running and stop me from overusing the lower leg muscles.

So at the moment I am a happy little trainee triathlete, as I get to swim (which I love), ride the bike (which I love) and am not allowed to run (which I love a lot less than the other two).  Sadly I know the running will be back, but am looking forward to this being pain free (with a bit of luck).

And Mum (if you are reading this), looks like you were always right, I truly am a lazy arse!