Four weeks of baseline training

So, this one time at run-camp, I got this injury and…wait, no wait! Where are you going? What do you mean you’ve heard this one a thousand times, ad-lib to fade?

Alrighty, let’s not dwell on the how, for now. Let’s launch right back into the what have I been up to the last few weeks. Well, I’m still not logging my miles or anything as I was before, so I’ve not cool diagrams or analysis to show you. Most of my time futering about with the phone Apps is divided between Instagram (my new pet and I love it so much, oh come here for a hug ye wee lovely thing ūüôā ) and the MyFitnessPal App, which is under-written by Under Armour I think. It is helping me to kick my own fat ass into some semblance of a body that can do runnering without wobbling more than a weeble mating with Mr. Blobby. It’s working, I tell you. And then I post a picture of my lovelier self (sometimes even without the FaceBeauty filter) on to said¬†Instagram. And the fairground ride goes round and round…….

[Coughs. Regroups]

I committed to completing four weeks of basic training before doing anything else. Except, OK, I have entered some races but that’s by-the-by and totally necessary for motivation. Yes, I am still lying to myself. Ok……

I have started a training programme and committed to repeating th20160105_110325e first two weeks twice, to make sure my injuries do not flare up. There! That’s truthful. I don’t even know where I found the plan – it’s a page torn from a magazine from aaaages ago and it appears to be a 13 week programme for an off-road marathon. The good thing is, the sessions are mostly in time not distance and this works well for training in the heat where you just can’t expect to run at anything like the same speed as in¬†the average UK ambient. Ok I’m sort of laughing at this statement as it is still snowing in places back home and everyone is moaning about weather and using the dread-mill. But at least this will improve. The¬†heat¬†here never ever goes away, so my usual training temperature is 24-30 degC and yes, that includes the lowest¬†level I can get the gym to, even if I put the air-con on for hours beforehand. As far as excuses for training slow go, this is possibly a very good one. But I’m still working hard. My heart-rate is pretty high (160 BPM upwards), even at conversational type pace, since the bodies main job during any exertion is to try and cool itself.

This training cycle is roughly this:

Monday – 30 minutes easy [treadmill, practising getting my cadence up OR chatty beach run 5K with the girls]

Tuesday Р20 mins easy (run or turbo) plus strength routine and core exercises [hard day, lots of exercise ball, weighted twists focussing on back, hips, core. Always happy to finish]

Wednesday – 10 mins warm-up, 10-20 mins tempo OR 1 minute hard, two mins easy x 6, 15 mins warm-down [dreadmill, reaching the dizzying heights of 10 kph for the tempo or 12 kph for the hard bit]

Thursday Р15 mins W/U, 4-6 x 400m fast reps with 4 minute walked recovery intervals [dreadmill, more dizzying heights of 11.2 kph for the reps]

FridayREST

Saturday – 10 mins W/U, 1 minute fast, 2 minutes steady x 5 reps, 10 mins W/D

Sunday – 30 building to 50 mins easy. Just whatever I can manage, usually on the beach.

So I’m really doing no more than 5 or 6 K at a time. This is week four and at the end of the week I’ll do a little review before starting the next four weeks. I’m drinking my protein shakes like a good girl and staying hydrated. In fact I’m better hydrated when I get off the treadmill than before I go on. I probably need to look at that as I still can’t get above 47% hydrated according to the Tanita scales. An that is all. Check out my Instagram feed if you want more pictures ūüėČ Aye. Don’t all rush at once ūüėÄ ūüėÄ

 

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Neural pathways: running without thinking

As I review my first week of non-running re-hab, I realise that today marks 76 days until TMBT. Eleven weeks, which includes at least another week of full-on physiotherapy related¬†exercise involving Not Running. Then the ever familiar road to recovery, hopefully culminating in a pain free ultra at the end of August and a good solid attempt at the arduous climb that is the ‘short route’ of¬†The Most Beautiful Thing distances.

kinabaluBeing told not to run, even if it’s for the long-term good, is the last thing a runner wants to hear. I had been explaining to my Pilates instructor Jayne that I was sick of the Hamster-wheel of injury, followed by time out for recovery and the¬†never really being able to test myself for fear of re-injury. My current/ ongoing issues are the result of over-training and racing, but the underlying reasons are poor biomechanics and hip stiffness which I’ve traced back to childhood. Jayne suggested an assessment with a physiotherapist who specialises in podiatry and also Paralympic rehabilitation. OK then!

After a video assessment (walking, running, with and without shoes) and various strength and alignment exercises, some interesting issues came out which I’d never heard from previous sports injury professionals:-

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My right leg (which currently carries the afflicted Achilles tendon) is my ‘good’ leg and tracks straight with good pronation, neutral gait and no podiatry issues

My so-called ‘good leg’ on the left is rotated inwarded severely enough that I supinate and run without the use of my big toe! What?!!!!!

If I continue to run longer distances¬†using only¬†the smaller toes of the left foot, it’s likely I will¬†cause stress fractures¬†in these toes, as they¬†are not strong enough for the duty I am giving them, which should really be harboured by the big toe and the second toe. My right leg can only do so much to compensate!

The tightness in my soleus and Piriformis started in childhood and is likely not easily or quickly correctable without suffering injuries down the leg-chain. Orthotics (practically a dirty word in my vocabulary) were suggested to correct the gait.

I can re-train my foot not to dorsi-flex when I run and to correct the S-shape I form during the foot strike (it should really be a outer heel-strike, rolling forward to toeing off diagonally, with the big toe- minimalist shoe and barefoot running fans, please look away now!). This can be done by Not Running and performing repetitive movements to create new neural pathways which the brain and thereafter the muscles, will recognise. In time, I should be able to run more efficiently, without thinking about it.

So in summary, my right side is compensating for the left and the outside of my legs are very strong compared to the inside sets of muscles which are very weak.

Things I already knew were:

  1. higharchMy Achilles is thickened and nodularised, possibly with neovascularity, that is, an increase in the number of blood-vessels in the tendon area; as my bodies attempt to get more healing blood into the area
  2. The tightness of the Achilles is what’s causing me pain and this is primarily caused by very tight calves (years of wearing very high heels won’t have helped). I need deep stretching and lots of rollering
  3. I have high arches, which are fairly rigid and don’t really want to help me out by pronating nicely through the heel-toe pattern, which allows for shock-absorption through the running gait.

Every day I must perform

3 x 15 sets of eccentric calf raises: up and down on the steps, gradually adding more weight. I do this¬†FIVE times a day, every day. I’m currently loading with 2.5 Kg.

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2 x 100 ankle flexes with toes scrunched up. This is to train the ankle NOT to use the toes to lead the movement and to stop me dorsi-flexing thus helping me pronate, not supinate, on my left foot. I do this twice a day; which doesn’t sound like much but it takes a lot of concentration not to use the toes, keep the foot in plantar flexion¬†and I can’t stop my mouth from pursing into a tight frown at the same time! Come ON Neural pathways – form already!

A variety of piriformis stretches including the more traditional post-run stretches as well as some moves borrowed from pilates/yoga.

After all this, there’s barely enough time for Life and Actual race training!

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So, I am breaking in my orthotics, which have been custom built to help me pronate more (!) on my left foot and help my very high foot arches to collapse in the proper way. Increasing the hours every day, I am walking in them and if there is no pain, I can attempt a run on Day 13. I’ve promised myself I will start with a 20 min jog ūüôā After that, I have to schedule an ultrasound to check on the status of the Achilles, which may or may not result in an injection to get rid of the extra blood vessels and yet another two weeks off from running, whilst the swelling recedes. I may have to have this done when I’m in the UK as the procedure is a little specialised and I’m not sure if the local hospitals have the know-how. But I will check. Another two weeks off from running……..(sigh).

Until then, building back up from a 20 minute jog into the realms of what will likely be at least 5 hours of climbing through trails and forest in Sabah, will be a challenge but I hope that my previous mileage PLUS all the swimming, cycling and other cross-training I’ve been doing- coupled with better biomechanics (not to mention my highly renowned¬†mental determination) will allow me to have any amazing experience at TMBT in September. I hope everyone else’s training is a bit more traditional than mine.

TMBT – the unpaved road unravels

The road to the jungle is by definition, unpaved and so my efforts to gain some more off-road training has had to be upped. After studying my training record, I am still very thin on terrain training and I think this is a great shame, given that I am mere miles away from forest, streams, steep jungle inclines and many other aspects which will be encountered during The Most Beautiful Thing.

In the UK, I could drive for 30 minutes in-land and hit all manners of running surface from muddy grassy slopes, to gravelly trails, to heather clad mountainous fell. Miles and miles of compacted earth along disused railways and many more of asphalt pavements gave me no excuse not to get as many miles of running as I wished.

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Here in Brunei, there are a couple of set-backs which I am trying to compel myself to overcome:

Temperature/timing: the coolest hours are before sunrise and after sunset. However, it’s not very safe or pleasant¬†to run in¬†at dawn/dusk¬†due to

  1. biting insects,
  2. humidity,
  3. drivers using the cycle lanes,
  4. cyclists without lights using the pavements,
  5. men-at-work using the pavements,
  6. huge deep leg-breaking pot-holes on both pavement and road.

The beach gets rids of items 3-6 but has it’s own drawbacks

  1. pitch-black after 6.45 p.m.
  2. trip-hazards from beach debris
  3. camber of the sand sloping¬†up from the waters’ edge
  4. limited exits onto main road
  5. nefarious activities after dark (!!!)

Never-the-less, I am getting out onto hillier routes, namely the Labi Road, which runs from the Seria by-pass turning South, towards the small village of Teraja. This tiny outpost has traditional long-houses, situated very close to the geographical border with Sarawak, somewhere in the jungle beyond the end of the road.

DSC_0632My first venture ended abruptly after less than 4 hilly miles.¬†Following some great long-run planning, involving proper fuel, drink, change of clothes, SPF and other considerations, I ended up ‘sprinting’ towards my car after being pursued by several feral dogs! These mongrel hounds are quite a common sight around Brunei, with families adopting upwards of 5 dogs, perhaps as pets but more likely as protectors! The Labi Road does not receive mobile phone coverage and a bite of any kind would leave me with at least a 30 min drive before we hit the main road and further to go to reach the nearest medical centre. Not something worth risking….but this is really the only hilly area I have found that doesn’t involve full submersion in the jungle!

DSC_0643My second venture went slightly better. No dogs, just the relentless sunshine, 33 degrees Centigrade and high humidity coupled with the threat of sand-flies for any walking sections! My routine for the longer runs was to have my “support vehicle” driven by my husband,¬†park up every mile or so along the road and for me to run to it, rehydrate and get any food or equipment needed before continuing. Although this doesn’t replicate race conditions, it does allow me to concentrate on good quality running without the extra weight of carrying a rucksack or duress from being dehydrated. I feel at this stage of training, I really need to tax my legs with 3-4 hours of running. I will definitely get this during the Mauritius Marathon next month, a key part of my long run and heat training.

And…..STOP PRESS. Before I have time to publish the above, I spend an afternoon having my (on-going) Achilles weak-spot assessed by a very experienced physio and am now resigned to two weeks of NO RUNNING. The assessment (of which I will undoubtedly write more later) uncovered some very interesting facts about my biomechanics and fills in a lot of the unexplained history about why I seem injury prone. This has come at a very pivotal time in my training regime and I am again faced with a choice:

Carrying on running for long durations and ‘maintaining’ my current conditions with rest, massage, acupuncture, bandaging and various liniments including Tiger Balm, Nature’s Kiss Herbal Rub and Chinese sprays OR

address the biomechanical reasons why I keep ending up injured. [Aside: I have been injured for 2-4 months for every 12 months of running, which isn’t a great rate of return for my efforts. I get to a certain level and then have to take time off only to rebuild to a similar level of fitness before I am reinjured…….repeat, repeat].

I really want to be in good shape for TMBT and some of the other endurance events which Malaysia has to offer BUT I have also signed up for (a) a marathon in only 3 weeks time and (b) an ultra-marathon in 9 weeks time. The physio seems OK with me trying to get back on track for (b) but I haven’t exactly told her about (a). I know she would discourage it profusely!

The problem with having to plan events far in advance is that you tend to have the hotels, flights and race entries paid up as you begin training with only the hope that you will complete adequate preparation. I have certainly had to miss a lot of events due to injury over the years¬†but I think I have always been sensible about entering just to enjoy the journey and complete¬†or with the aim of a Personal Best.¬†I have, as yet, never DNF’d (Did Not Finish).

However, as I enter my 3rd day of re-hab and no running, I am pushing the boundariesdont give up of reality if I think I can complete a marathon in under 5 hours, with 2 full weeks off in the 3 week lead-up to race-day. Even taking into consideration that I can and am still ‘training’ with cycling (outdoors and gym turbo-trainer), pool-running and swimming as well as core, pilates, weights and the physios stretches, it’d be a lot to ask to just get through the full 42.2K without detriment. Or is it? I’ve decided to make the full decision after I get re-assessed at the end of this week. For now, my targets are:

  • Do fortnight of running-rest, under physio’s guidance & see what happens
  • Re-assess goals after that

I don’t think this is the end of the road for doing TMBT justice, but I think targets prior to that are definitely¬†in jeopardy ūüė¶ But if it addresses the source of my poor biomechanics it will be worth it in the long(er) run.

Mizuno Wave Run – 16K of concrete

My step-back week is currently every fourth week and involves less running,¬†more cross-training and a long-run of 10 miles maximum. So I thought I would take the opportunity to check-out the Kuala Lumpur running scene and signed up for the Mizuno Wave 16K in Putrajaya¬†ūüôā There’s easy access to KL (via Air Asia flights) from Miri, just over the Brunei border and Purtajaya is a separate town to the South of KL.¬†The weekend¬†also happened to be my 5th wedding anniversary, so¬†my hubby and I¬†combined a long weekend away, some nice meals, catching up with friends, sight-seeing and shopping, with the running race on Sunday.

The previous week had not gone well. During the Wednesday cross-training session, I had completed my 30 minute core/glute work-out and was merrily cycling away on the turbo trainer, when I experienced a sickening ‘pop’ in my right ankle like my Achilles had been hit with a hammer. You would have thought I’d stop immediately, right? Nope! I slowed my RPM, waited for further signs of pain but as there were none, I carried on and completed my 45 min session. It wasn’t until I dismounted that my right leg seemed locked and I couldn’t put my weight on it. After some bum-shuffling downstairs, raised leg, ice and herbal remedies plus a day in heels (I couldn’t walk in barefeet without a dull bruised feeling) followed by a day in MBT trainers where my foot felt fine but tired, I was back to normal. How? I don’t know how. But I decided to collect my tee-shirt and race-number anyway, seeing as I’d paid the entry fee. Note the personalisation of my running forum name “Nywanda”. Sure beats them trying to squeeze my very long real name on the tiny wee bib ūüôāP1000661

I spent Friday traipsing about in airports and the local shopping mall – Alamanta followed by an amazing Italian dinner with champagne and a singing group performing at the table. Then on Saturday I had a massage, courtesy of the Marriott IOI resort and felt¬†great. We walked around all day Saturday in the main shopping area, had tea round at a friends and then¬†more shopping into the evening where we met friends for dinner. The foot didn’t feel any the worse for wear, so I decided I would try and run and if there was any pain, well, I could always walk or stop….no big deal. The main goal remains as The Most Beautiful Thing 25K (or ~30K if you believe the route map) in September, although I do have some distance races between now and then, foot health withstanding.

We had met with a very fast looking gent from Greece the day before and shared a cab back from the race-pack collection. We managed to meet up with him again prior to the start at 06:30 in Presint 2. With only 2 out of 3 toilets working near the start, I only just made it to the loo with a slightly queasy tummy before the race started. I obviously started way too far back as we all walked in formation over the start-line and the chip timing shows I have a 3.5 min deficit between gun-time and chip-time. I MUST remember this for future races and avoid weaving through the Screen%20Shot%202013-05-29%20at%204_25_58%20PMcrowd (especially as the change in direction does nothing to help my unstable ankle). The route was through a concrete jungle of government buildings including the Palace of Justice and although there were some nice views over the river and towards the bridge, I kept my eyes focussed on the camber of the road and stayed tuned in to almost every footfall. The water stations were completely overwhelmed with runners when I arrived and I ended up scrabbling for water from the wrong side of the table; there were way too many runners for that one little fold-out picnic bench and the volunteers were frantic. It was every man and women for themselves as I had to almost elbow my way back onto the course! I was a bit hacked off at the amount of “cutters” but by the second water station I had chilled out enough to concentrate on doing my own race, over the full distance and not worry about anyone taking short-cuts. (It IS one of my bug-bears though).

Due to my own sweatiness at the start, I had accidentally pressed YES when the Garmin asked me if I was indoors, so I had no GPS tracking to help with pacing. I was however wearing my heart-rate monitor so I just used that to try and keep steady- let a little rise happen on the uphills and had the following distance splits:

5K= 28.16 / 10K= 58.43 / 16K = 1.38.45 (Official results pending). I struggled a bit near the end as we came over the last bridge, I was feeling drained from having no breakfast and only 1/2 bottle of Gatorade out on the course. With heavy legs I managed a 200m surge at the end and must have passed at least 8 people including two ladies! I have noticed that not many people around my current pace bother with a sprint finish, so I was doubled up at the end whereas everyone around me looked really fresh.

I didn’t get a powerade bar which I was really in need of, just a bottle of water, a box of cereal (random!), a sachet of local brand deep-heat and a very nice shiny medal. I was careful to do some stretches and soak up some of the race atmosphere. I was especially happy to find out that our new friend had indeed been fast and come second overall! I would have congratulated him but he went off for a 12K run before prize-giving. Some folk! Well done MichaelIMG-20130612-03387

For now, I can only focus on keeping the ankle stretched and protected, as I come into the longest distance training segment leading up to the marathon in July and ultra-marathon in August. Next week all being well¬†– 18 mile long-run, hill-work on the roads and…..a physio session.

Extra Zeds – back to back long runs

I really need more sleep. This week I’ve been forced to remember how difficult it is to do back to back runs and exist in the land of the living. A couple of days¬†I have¬†found beforeHarrisHalfmyself¬†sitting in front of the laptop with my eye-balls rolling back in my head, fighting to stay awake. If I loiter anywhere for too long, I find my body starts to shutdown and urges me to catch a few zeds! Pass the Yerba Mat√© …….Zzzzzzz

All quite normal as I am asking my body to run between 3 and 4 hours, followed by 2 hours with only 10 hours sleep in-between. When I write it like that, it seems ludicrous! But this is what week 3, 4 & 5¬†has entailed, so¬†just as well I’m facing a step-back week where my longest run will barely be in double figure mileage.

As a reward for the longer runs, I treated myself to an aromatherapy 90 minute massage to pummel out those weary muscles. And some new ‘incentives’ from Sportpursuit. I’m so good to myself, you’d think I’d try harder.

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So this is what I’ve been up to over the¬†last¬†few¬†weeks,¬†working towards¬†The Mauritius Marathon, which will be my longest training run for the¬†Speyside way ultramarathon¬†in August¬†and¬†The Most Beautiful Thing in September.

Week 3: Long run 27K, 2 x 5Ks, jungle hash, HIIT and reformer Pilates

P1000465Week 4: back to back runs of 5 miles, 9 miles,10 miles (38K) plus HIIT and Pilates.

One of these runs was run along the beach wearing full length Salomon EXO compression tights. Although I’m sure my legs liked the additional support it was WAY too hot and the extra burden of running in sand and having to navigate beach debris and river inlets meant it felt a lot longer than it was. My Achilles was really stiff afterwards but following the piriformis exercises, I had absolutely no repercussions for my 10 miler the next day ūüôā

Week 5: back to back runs of 5 miles, 18 miles, 5 miles (45K) plus HIIT and Pilates

and then this coming week is a step-back or drop-down week,¬†with a cheeky wee 10 mile race called the¬†Mizuno Wave Run¬†near Kuala Lumpur. I have so far been really impressed by the organisation, local hospitality and excellent quality of race goodies provided by the Far East’s Road racing circuit. Let’s hope this one maintains the standard.¬†I need to get back to the jungle hash though, as the terrain training will really benefit the hillier part of SSW as well as the overall conditions of TMBT.

Week 6 – 3 miles /10 mile race/3 miles (26K) and the shorter runs will be more or lessi_love_plodding_along_mug-rfbae3764c5024b4eb8602fbdb84a62b3_x7jgr_8byvr_152 ‘speed work’ involving 400m reps with short intervals. I can’t really expect my legs to like upping the pace even for these short runs but it’ll be good for them to have a change from all the plodding. If I don’t watch out I’ll be growing donkey-ears ūüôā

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Recruitment into the Gurkhas

ghurka pipersI attended the Brunei Military Open Day for the Gurkhas and I had great fun despite the tropical rainstorm in the final hours! A write-up in the local news paper can be found HERE¬†and a report with ‘professional’ photos can be found HERE (copyright Gavin Goh). The photos in this blog are kindly provided by GEORGE.

The event was set-up deep in the Garrison/Gurka territory in Seria down in sector H, South of the Tuker Lines. The programme promised a fighting demonstration, mock-up hostage rescue, gun-run competition, food n drink stalls, tug O’war and an opportunity to speak with members of the garrison and Nepalese gurkhas.

I first watched the knife-fighting display which featured the Khukuri, a Nepalese inward curving knife which is used in day to day tasks as well as more violent means. I then checked out the helicopters and the river-boat used for training ops. I bombarded the pilot with loads of questions based on observations from my several hundred flights offshore in a variety of choppers. This dissolved into a discussion about alternate uses for the contents on the mini-emergency kit, the size of a tobacco tin, which infamously includes a condom and a tampon.

At this point LIZ¬†had to go home to give a language lesson so I returned with George, armed with camera and knowledge of previous years’ events¬†and we took the tour from the other side, starting with the reimagined Nepalese village, with examples of traditional day-to-day life. Here I am trying out the rice grinder a dhiki [Dee-kee], operated by foot, which in turn pummels a long wooden lever into a kernel sump containing the rice grains. The milled product is then scooped out by hand. gurkha diki

Here I am trying my hand, erm, abs¬†in the Gurkha recruitment tent. I chucked in a couple with bent legs but was informed the moves must be performed with straight legs. After successfully crunching out five inverted straight-leg sit-ups (and feeling quite pleased with myself), I was told that the entry level is 35 in under 1 minute! The solider laughed when I said “Maybe next year”. I proved to be substandard at the hit-the-stone-as-it-flies-out-of-a-tube demo. Small children seemed to prevail at this, presumably due to their ability to see the stone coming down the shoot. I did not get a sweetie for my efforts; Gurkhas do NOT reward perseverance if it results in crap-ness!

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I seemed a bit more adept with the stationary equipment, including night vision tracking camera and various rifles. I can aim on target,¬†no bother but then when the safety is clicked off, I have to refocus all over. I probably shouldn’t attempt an alternate a career as (the worlds slowest) sniper.

I honestly didn’t really bat an eye-lid when they loaded me up with the double back-pack – a sort of vest with a low lying bulky hip package, topped off with a stocky waistcoat cum rucksack. It just goes to show me how much I am probably over-packing my running gear! The weight is mostly water which I usually process as sweat so the pack weight decreases over time, but I usually have allsorts¬†of other goodies in there including first aid kit, phone, head-torch and food. You can see me here ‘cheekily’ slinging my handbag on over the army ensemble: give me MORE!gurkhas bag However, I did not try to run in the get up which definitely explains my nonchalance. Talking of food, there was a temporary mess¬†set up just passed the surveillance room and I got stuck in to mashed tatties, beans and pasta. As I tried to pay I was told there was no charge and that it was part of the opportunity to sample the emergency rations (often provided in freeze-dry form). I thought it was very palatable and I quite fancied some of it for my ultra-kit-bag!! I suppose that details like having a small sachet of mayo makes all the difference when you’ve been hauling ass through jungle for hours and your chow is one of the greatest incentives to keep going. The luxury of a spoon! I have been known to scoop up pasta salad using the lens of my sunglasses……..

gurkha rations

My favourite tent had to be the map reading and tracking hut with loads of surveillance equipment. Think GPS Disney and then some. The lack of satellite coverage over Brunei (and available to us mere mortals via mapmyrun, google Earth or runfinder)¬†has proven frustrating when trying to plan run routes or places to explore. The Gurkhas were intrigued with my fascination with maps (maybe they thought I was a spy ūüôā ) until I explained it was for running and then we talked about¬†the hash and their jungle exploits. Maybe they thought it was daft to WANT to go in there if you didn’t have to go, for say, military training! I got a few tips and possibly the best running compliment I have received since (a) 2010: wee girl at Nairn shouts “Mummy She’s made it” as I bimbled in, in last place at the Highland games half marathon (b) 2011: During the Fetch Mile event an unknown spectator was overheard to say “She’s a lot faster than she looks” :-P.

So…drumroll….the compliment was when the Gurkha¬†telling me about a map app for the iPhone¬†said (whilst looking me straight in the eye)

“Running, hmmm, that’s why you look so fit”.

That one will stay with me for a long time. A loooooong time. Legendary!

A bit more about Gurkhas from the MOD website:

The First Battalion is currently based in Brunei, a small kingdom in the north west of the island of Borneo. The battalion forms the largest part of a British Garrison near the town of Seria. The majority of the battalion’s time in Brunei is devoted to jungle training. Most officers and senior NCOs will attend the Jungle Warfare course at some stage in their careers. The Bruneian jungle is a fantastic training ground. The terrain ranges from close thick set swampy jungle, to virgin primary rainforest, intersected by steep mountain ridges. It is the perfect environment to hone skills such as tracking, ambush, patrolling, survival, navigation and many more.

And some army kit ‘humour’ at ARRSEpedia

Week 2 ultra-training: farther down the hot tarmac road

With three weeks until my next road race-training session, I was checking¬†on my distance versus pace training. Basically I am doing no faster paced¬†sessions due to running in the heat. I’ll have to do a couple of tune ups before the 10 Mile¬†Mizuno Wave Run¬†in Kuala Lumpur,¬†otherwise I’ll not get back before the proper heat comes on at maximum¬†(about¬†7.30 a.m.)

Here’s a graph of my pacing since I’ve been in Brunei which shows that over 50% of my training runs have been in the 10-11 minute mile bracket. This is all I’ve really been able to do, given that temperatures are normally around 30 degC and in excess of 90% humidity.

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According to VDOT¬†calculations, this is actually bang on for the long easy running pace. Unfortunately, not all of these distances have been classically long runs, but it’s still early days yet and I’m happy to take a full 6 months to allow my body to heat adjust, before worrying about getting faster.

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Distances covered vary from 5K through to 15 miles, with a recent maximum of 27 Km. (I’m trying to switch over to metric in my head but I am still¬†dumbfounded by min/Km and Km/hour. I’m OK with converting total distance though: my 1.6 times table is coming along nicely).

Some more stats from the nine weeks of running in a hot climate

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Saturday– REST

Sunday – RUN 27K (pm)

Monday – RUN 5K (am) – at MRP (marathon race-pace)

Tuesday –¬†30 min CIRCUITS¬†(am)¬†/¬† Massage (pm)

Wednesday –¬†Run/BIKE/Run¬†BRICK¬†(pm)

Thursday – REST

Friday РReformer Pilates (am) / Long BIKE (pm)

Every other day I’ve completed¬†one of the following: HIIT / Glutes / 8 min workout (x 3) and practised rollering, including the piriformis stretch which I’ve been advised will help (eventually) to loosen off an area which may be linked to my on-going calf and Achilles strain. I found this guy on youtube and liked his quirky wee demo. Runners will be familiar with the last stretch, usually performed in a standing crouch position after a run.

Also have a quick¬†look at this guy (who kinda reminded me of a Skinny Marc Jacobs¬†in lycra ūüėČ ), I mean, look at his form on the rollering techniques!

http://www.youtube.com/user/WorkTheFunkOut/videos

Next week brings a long run of 30K and hopefully a return to the jungle hash, followed by a step-back week with shorter runs. Happy Days ūüôā

Reformer pilates – an assault on injury

This week saw another first for me, a session of reformer pilates. And it was surprisingly enjoyable. I had always shunned away from both yoga and pilates, despite knowing that both would help me with breathing, posture, flexability, strength and ultimately, the on-going battle against injury. As you do!

women-pilates-reformer-semi-classNow, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know much about yoga or pilates; I have experienced a random drunken Hogmanay reveller perform a seal-pose on the livingroom floor of my very small flat but that didn’t exactly endear me to it.

No, I started as part of the ignorant masses, happy to file yoga practitioners under “hippy bean-eaters” and scoffed at the ohm-ing and meditation. This scoffing gradually gave way to feigned interest as more and more of my friends embraced yoga and laterally pilates and the different ‘brands’ of yoga – Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha,¬†Vinyasa etc. Eventually, as I succumbed to injury and repeated diagnoses along the lines of having a tight this or a shortened or inflexible that, I realised…….I was going to have to check this stuff out.

Yoga – I got as far as googling my nearest class and having a few in-depth talks with Deek (a yogi who had used his knowledge & practises¬†to overcome a broken hip after being told to apply for a wheelchair license)¬†and TARA, herself a competent runner and yoga instructor. It never went any further and I think the terminology along with the mental imagery that “it just wasn’t me” made me body-swerve it.

Pilates – now this seemed a bit more my cup of tea, with the focus on strength and core, or so was my pre-formed opinion. I attended one class. And struggled. And felt the stigma of being in a group where everyone seemed like an expert, whilst I rolled around uncontrollably, with my¬†hands gripped around my ankle.¬†I know everyone has a first time, but I wasn’t feeling the love and so went back to my foam roller, static and dynamic stretches and traditional crunches and planks.

reformerUntil this week ūüôā I was offered a spare place at a one-on-two session with local yogi and Queen of the Flex, New Zealander Jayne who is an ex-runner and has been resident in Brunei for over ten years. [Aside: I met Jayne at a newbies coffee morning and having sworn not to be a complete bore and talk about running, she got me onto subject within 2 minutes of meeting!]. So I was keen to find out more about this pilates business¬†once and for all and take advantage of the kind offer made by EMMA, to buddy up in one of her booked sessions. We met before lunch and drove to Jayne’s home which has a room set-up especially for reformer, with two of the reformer contraptions, including over-head leg/hand pulleys.

2pilatesBefore we started, there was a question and answers session about my exercise background and any injury’s or weak spots: this took some time ūüôā¬†Jayne made some notes and was really nice about leaving the session open as a taster and if it didn’t suit me, fair enough but if I liked it, I could come back for a weekly class. This was good as I felt no pressure either way and entered the reformer room eager to learn more about my weak spots.

Following some clear explanations and extensive demo’s by Emma, we went through a variety of guidelines, breathing and movements. Some went well (although I had very little weight or tension on the machine) and some were a real strain to keep the small ball or ring in place between squeezed knees(!) or to keep my legs under-control. Theresuperfeet_body-alignment were some very bouncy juddering legs, especially when I needed to use my adductors. I was quite wary of using my right (injured) leg on it’s own for weight-bearing exercises but all in, it held out well and I had a very enjoyable session indeed (save for the running capris I’d worn, having a zipped pocket on the back which became increasingly uncomfortable, as we were on our backs on the machines a good part of the lesson).

After almost two hours, I emerged as a complete convert! I still don’t know very much about all the moves and sequences and yes, I am quite prone to breathing out on the in, but I’m sure that’ll come in time. The fact that the piriformis stretch I performed so inadequately during pilates, has already shown benefits is very positive.

stretch pilatesJayne has recommended I have an assessment with a local physio, to see where I’m at with the Achilles and everything else. I had been avoiding this (as basically I probably won’t want to hear what they’ve got to say) but I know I should book some sessions, especially now as I have started increasing my mileage towards the 30K mark. I’m working hard to include core, strength and stretching into my¬†routine and I continue to roller even though it can be excruciating. Frequent massages and strapping is maintaining my form, despite my ankle being achy after a long run. Pilates can surely only help and the reformer pilates seems like something beneficial which I will actually enjoy. Time will tell ūüôā

“Love what you do, Do what you love!”

“On-On” – Running the Hash

Well!

hash picture hashers2

I’d been eagerly awaiting the chance to do my first jungle run and rather than thrashing through the nearest mangrove, armed with a machete and leech socks, I coerced a new friend from Seria to bring me to the local ‘hash’. I had been told about the tradition of hashing by DOUG, who was part of the inaugural Hash House harriers (or 3H/HHH) in Kuala Lumpur during an ex-pat posting. On further research, I discovered that Brunei was the very first female-only hash in the world, so all in, it was sounding like a good opportunity (and perhaps the safest option) for exploring the off-road terrain. Read HERE¬†for a bit more info on the Brunei chapter.

With local¬†hash names (given, never designated by the member) like “Yackie fackie”, I didn’t know what to expect from¬†the outing¬†but I made¬†BEN promise not to leave me to be swallowed up by termite mounds, overcome by fire ants, tousled by a bearded pig etc. weehashersThis picture¬†is a bit more akin to the Labi Road hash set-up; you turn onto the 50 Km¬†stretch, which has a cluster of local housing but which gradually gives way to jungle either side. Basically drive until you see a collection of cars randomly parked along the verges and voila! that’s very likely the hash. I had worn head to foot clothing cover. Ben was in shorts n vest! I am far far too tasty to the local fauna to risk that and expecting the odd stumble in highly undulating terrain, I chose baking in the heat over having my blood sucked and believe me, once inside the canopy, the atmosphere was oven-like, as you would expect. We said some hellos and discovered there was another “virgin” there tonight, a first-timer like me.

imagesCAH2H2X9Following roll-call and payment of $5 to cover post-run refreshment ūüėČ Ben explained a few protocols about registering where you are and if you’re following the right trail. No sooner were we off than the hoots of “on-on” and “on-up” (signifying that the route is ascending) started and boy, there were some calf busting near scrambles! arm jungleI’d been warned to look before I grabbed and I followed this advice¬†as trees and shrubs assisted our movement through the forest. I was toasty in my long sleeve neon top and glad of the Camel bak tee-shirt I had worn underneath, allowing me to drink on the run whilst keeping my hands free. I’d also brought a¬†waist-pack containing gloves, a head-torch and a CLIF bar and I’d worn my Suunto watch and tested out the compass and altimeter¬†quite a few times. I was also very glad of my INOV-8 Roclite’s, which aren’t a kick in the pants different from the authentic wellies (same sole) or rubber sticky outer of the professional hashers gym-shoes. See what you think:

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In total I was in the forest for about 75 minutes and as I was setting the pace for myself and Ben, I ended up notably¬†“off-paper” twice, which was more to do with having found a previous trail (white loo-roll with yellow dots in comparison to this hash, using plain white) and not checking….but that’s why it was great to have an experienced hasher alongside and I’d recommend buddying up with someone sympathetic to your pace, ability¬†and novice status. The paper was draped, mostly at eye-level but sometimes on the ground, usually within¬†glancing distance from the previous markings. Occasionally the path would be scattered with shredded paper.¬†Quite amusing having to examine toilet paper to ascertain the direction¬† of the hash ūüôā The going was pretty good underfoot, a mix of deep¬†leafy trail, bush, gnarly root systems, crumbly sandy embankments and equally crumbly verticals, trees and leafy undergrowth at all angles and a couple of (thankfully) dryish waterways,

DSC_0236Interestingly enough, after using hill-walking and running techniques including hands on hips and hands on knees to push up through some very steep little sections, my instinct was to break into a jog as soon as I was able and found this really shook off the ascents before the next one was upon us. And I only got one fly in my gob! I was starting to lose my breathe as the compass began registering East, showing that we were on our way towards the road. Following a couple of boggy crossings over make-shift log bridges (I took a slight detour to use a lower, wider, more girly log) and making a couple of easy leaps, very like jumping from one pile of rushes to another when running through wetlands, the clearing came into view.

I was quite tired from continually scanning the ground for over an hour but as we met a hasher walking back down the route, I urged Ben to ‘pretend to sprint’ into the clearing, as if we had been running the whole time. As if! But it was apparent that many of the local hashers had taken a shortcut (which is entirely allowed) and almost everyone was¬†home and already stripped or changed and quaffing a Tiger beer! To a few cheers of “the virgin is back”, I treated myself to an ice-cold 100Plus as the second virgin and the sweeper emerged from the canopy. It seemed like the night was just getting started – as the darkness closed in, a small fire had been built, there was talk of food¬†and the beer buckets were being re-stocked. But we couldn’t stay.

It’s about a 30 minute drive back to Panaga, so we headed off to shouts of “See you next week”. Too right! Although one gent stated that tonight’s was a relatively easy, short one with no check-points [where the front runners have to hunt around for the trail continuation and then mark back towards the cross, for the subsequent slower “hounds”], this hasn’t put me off one bit. I *did* see some rather large ants on my travels but made it home unscathed by The Biters.

bugs blog

This time ūüôā

Kit List: The North Face merino socks, INOV-8 Roclite GTX 212, Sugoi compression tights, Camelbak hydration vest, Long sleeve Neon Brooks top, Ben Fogle Buff, Suunto vector Altimeter, Pete Bland waist-pack (containing) Blueberry CLIF bar, Ron Hill gloves, Petzl Tikka2 headtorch. Cologne of choice: DEET spray called OFF!

Hot weather training – distance running goals

Last week we moved from the temporary accommodation provided by my husbands company, to our new permanent home – a rented terraced townhouse, not unlike the one we left behind in Scotland! What this means as far as training is concerned, is that I now get to have my very own gym, on the top floor, with balcony. The luxury! Well, it’s far from luxurious and is really just a mish-mosh of gear at the moment but I am hoping to pimp it up a bit with mirrors, storage and maybe a barbell. For now, it is functional and allows me to run, cycle, stretch and cross-train: what more could a girl need?

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The treadmill is an inexpensive lesser-known brand Powertech¬†and suits all my current needs; it is very good at dealing with a vast amount of sweat pouring onto it! The cycling set-up is basically a duff old stainless steel framed mountain bike I won as a safety award from Baker Hughes, a new¬†rear road-tyre from Wiggle¬†and a¬†Riva Tesla Turbo-trainer trainer from Sport Pursuit. No proper computer on it but I am training for X duration at < 130 bpm, so I just wear my Garmin Heart-rate monitor¬†and I’m all good.

IMG-20130513-03254I’ve been trying to do the majority of my running outside; only taking to the gym when I had no available time in the cooler hours between 6-8am or 5-7pm. Now that it’s time to start upping the distance towards the 20+ mile mark, I had hoped to run outside for ~2 hours and then finish off the distance inside on the treadmill, although I worried that these later stage miles would not be as affective if they were run in cooler conditions. Not to worry! The top floor of the house has an ambient of 29-33 degC, so although there is an air-conditioning unit in the room, I have been keeping it switched off, thus getting a full “hot climate” work-out!

The furthest I have run in the home-gym¬†has been 10K straight through and one 10 mile session carried out in 5K/6K/5K¬†chunks with a water re-fill in-between. The black fridge/freezer we brought from the UK is now the designated “beer” fridge, which would be fairly incongruent in the gym, save only for the water dispenser in the front! I also keep my electrolye tabs and TORQ fuel in there too.

Because of the high temperatures, the running is slower and I lower and raise the speed on the treadmill or my own pace when outside, to keep my heart-rate constant. Maximum heart-rate is desired as 165 bpm and an average of 140 bpm ideally. I am noting duration, average speed versus heart-rate in my training diary and will be looking for trends in fitness as my mileage and conditioning progresses.

Meanwhile my remaining running goals for 2013 are:

  1. Acclimatise to running in high humidity heats of 30+degC
  2. Remain injury free
  3. Become au fait with off-road jungle terrain

I have ear-marked a few key races for me, which will be a helluva lot of fun but also strategic to these and longer term goals.

  1. Marathon D’ile Maurice (July, Mauritius, 42 Km) – as a training run for (2) and also to try and run under 5 hours in 25+ degC conditions. Plus of course, Mauritius is a beautiful place and will be another island off the bucket-list. It also happens to fall on the weekend before my birthday.
  2. Speyside Way Ultramarathon¬†(August, UK, 58 Km)¬†– determined to finish an ultra without stomach or derrier issues! I completed this last year after a fairly horrendous but also extremely full-filling experience in just under 7.5 hours; I’d like to think I could do something different/ better in 2013.
  3. The Most Beautiful Thing¬†(September, Malaysia, 25-30 Km) – to experience some local hills, valleys, forest and scenery around Kota Kinabalu and associated forests. Officially called Colourcoil TMBT Ultramarathon, the 100K runners who finish in < 30 hours earn 3 points towards UTMB. That means the course is challenging (hence why I’m starting with the short distance, did I say “starting” there? ūüėČ )

So it’s going to be a fairly intense few months of training, leading up to a few months of eventing (I shake my head when I try and call these “races”). As ever, the planning phase for my training has been intense, profuse, detailed and because I know I am a ‘planner’ by nature, I’ve allowed myself to draw up schedule after schedule, move things around, prescribe every aspect……so now I’m ready to RELAX and commit to my long distance runs as well as a few things which have ‘just happened to come my way’, so I’m not going to knock the Universe on that. So, having said all that, my week looks like this, with a couple of step-back weeks of low intensity for development. I’ve also started incorporating short HIIT and a glutes work-out wherever/whenever I feel like it, which currently, is most days¬†ūüôā

Monday – 10 miles (am)

Tuesday – 30-40 minute sprint session with local ladies running club (pm)

Wednesday –¬†jungle hash ( 1-1.5 hours) (pm)

Thursday – MASSAGE (am)

Friday Рreformer pilates (am) / bike session (pm)

Saturday – REST

Sunday – long run (various distances)