Monday, 29 March 2010

Wrekin Fell Race with Head Cam

Location: The Wrekin, Telford, UK
Date: 29th March

Workout: The Wrekin Fell Race

Post workout nutrition: this, 15 minutes later.

Total Time: 57:11

In the first few seconds of the video just after the starting whistle, I can be heard saying

"I was in no doubt about that."

With this video camera, you can only really hear what I am saying. What Lightning had just said was something to the effect of

"You realise you look a dick with that strapped on your head, right?"

I'm getting a little better with Windows Movie Maker now, so I edited the start to cut out some gibberish I was spouting in the first few minutes and some pointless pre-race footage.

Since this was made, I have also managed to set the clock on the device, so it will no longer seem to suggest that these videos are archived footage from 2008.

Nevertheless, the video still ends before anything interesting has happened - just over 10 minutes into the race. I need to buy an 8 gig SD card, which will quadruple the capacity and allow me to film more than just the most boring part of the race.

At 3:10, Lightning hoves into view, sporting his own mini-cam mounted on the back of his waist bag. This sparks a conversation about the fact that I'm filming him, filming me - which, retrospectively, is ironic because he'd mistakenly failed to turn his on. At 5:00 I overtake him and that's the last we see of him in the video. However, about 5 minutes later, on the first, steep downhill section he did come hurtling past.

Later, I doggedly trudged past him on an equally steep uphill section and managed to hold the lead of a minute or two for the rest of the race.

Lightning's a pretty good downhiller, mainly because he knows no fear, and I am vulnerable on very steep, loose ground because my Vibrams are no match for his studded fell shoes. Thus, the discrepancy between our respective times to the Wrekin summit, which we tend to use as the benchmark of our relative fitness, are not necessarily the best comparison of overall fell running prowess.

Here's the satellite map of the route - it was up, down, up - then back the way we had come:

You can see the altitude profile here:

The long, flat part at the start is actually standing around waiting to start, not a long flat section. Considering the right hand side should be a mirror image of the left (ignoring the flat section), this does give you an idea of how accurate the GPS is on altitude.

One useful aspect to this outing was some experience of The Ercall, another hill North East of The Wrekin that Lightning and I might now more often incorporate into our training runs.

Finally - a photo of me towards the end, camera askew, for some reason saluting the photographer!

... Read more

Saturday, 27 March 2010

100 Push Up Challenge

Location: My House
Date: 27th March

100 Push Up Challenge - I did 88: 40, 8, 10, 10, 8, 6

Total workout time: 5 minutes

Post-workout nutrition: none - fasting until lunch today.

I read the blog post and fancied it. Running tomorrow and no weights planned until Tues so it seemed like a good idea. ... Read more

Thursday, 25 March 2010

3 x 200 Metre Uphill Sprints

Location:Birmingham City, UK
Date: 23rd March

35 second sprint (up a shallow hill)
2:15 rest (as I walked back)
34 second sprint
2:15 walk
36 seconds sprint

Total Time: 10 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition: breakfast of champs, 2 hours minutes later.

I had planned to do 4 sprints, but by the end of the third, my legs were running out of gas and I felt sufficiently toasted to be happy to leave it. I have a fell race on Sunday so I think it was prudent to do less rather than more. ... Read more

All Body Compressed Volume Circuit

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 23rd March

Workout: All body compressed volume circuit

Total Time: 20 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition: breakfast of champs, 50 minutes later.

I did 3 rounds of 10 reps.
  • Chin ups - body weight (had to rest before last 3 reps of last set)
  • Romanian deadlift - 70kg (too easy)
  • Dumbbells chest - 24kg (had to rest before last 3 reps of last set)
  • Pistols - body weight - only 3 reps each though - still getting back into these. Not quite parallel to floor either.
  • Clean and press - 16kg (dropped to 14kg in last set for last few reps)
For details on these exercises, go to the All body compressed volume circuit page, where I describe this routine in more detail.

As ever, this routine was a painful but invigorating - anything with no defined rest tends to have that effect. It give the same kind of punch as the 300 workout without punishing you quite as much. It made sense to opt for this in the wake of a couple of weekends of bad food... ... Read more

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Trail Run Captured on Head-Cam

Location: Lickey Hills, South Birmingham (map)
Date: 21st March

Workout: Trail Run

Total Time: 50 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition: none - fasted until dinner, as was still running on this garbage from the night before (see end of post for photos!)

I wanted to try out a head-mounted camera I bought recently. Lightning and I saw someone at a mountain race wearing one and later saw the video he had taken of the race on YouTube. We decided to buy one ourselves.

Unfortunately, on this occasion, the battery ran out after 10 minutes - I don't think I had fully charged it.

Here's the video:

The experience of recording the run raised these questions:
  • I was worried about spitting, burping, or doing anything else I can normally do in the solitude of a run!
  • I was conscious that I normally watch the ground in front of me when running... better for choosing the right spot to place the next footfall (especially important in barefoot shoes)... but not better for the viewer.
  • When running with Lightning, the normal inane banter would either have to be curbed (which would be a shame) or included (which would be embarrassing.) YouTube custom seems to be to replace of the sound with death metal music - an even worse option.
The resulting video raises these points:
  • The camera is shaking as I run, which makes for uneasy viewing.
  • It's a boring. Howerver: it's possible in YouTube comments to add references to specific points in the video. You can see I have created such a link in a comment under the video. . You need to click on the embedded video to open the YouTube page - then look at the first comment - clicking on the link takes you straight to that point in the video where I saw a grazed grey dog run past.
If I had recorded the full run, then a more entertaining moment I could have shown you was when I accidentally ran into the path of some golfers teeing off, and ended up climbing over a fence into a courtyard full of horse manure to 'correct' my course.

The Route From GPS
The red ellipse shows the first part of the run that was captured on the video.

Altitude From GPS
This seems a little more faithful than previous uses of this software, although I still think it is overstating the absolute numbers. The first 'peak' on the graph is certainly higher than the reality.

... Read more

Friday, 19 March 2010

Mixed Tabata Intervals

Location: My House
Date: 19th March

Mixed Tabata Circuit Intervals x 2 (1 minute rest between)

Total workout time: 9 minutes

Post-workout nutrition: none - fasted until dinner.

This was a carbon copy of the session I did last month, so not much to add. Paradoxically, considering the garbage I ate and drank last weekend, I felt, if anything, marginally fitter this time. Perhaps before the garbage I was even fitter... ... Read more

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tabata Burpees and Some Press Ups

Location: My House
Date: 16th Marcy

Part 1 at 8am: Tabata burpees - 4 minutes

Part 2 at 11am: 30 push ups - 45 seconds

Post Workout 'Nutrition': this load of junk, at 1pm.

It's been a weekend of drinking and eating junk, which spilled over into the start of the week because I had time off work and met up with some of my co-conspirators today for lunch.

Today's exercise was largely medicinal. I am looking forward to getting back into the groove with the workouts and the food. For now I must accept I will not feel great for a couple more days and resist the temptation to do counterproductive amounts of exercise.

Better to avoid illness and carry a little extra fat for a few weeks that to be lean but ill.... ... Read more

Friday, 12 March 2010

Chin Ups and a Sprint

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 12th March

- Chin ups - 3 x 10 (2 - 3 minutes rest between sets - during which I did bits of this video.)
- Single sprint: 10 lengths of the studio - 45 seconds.

Total Time: 17 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition: this, 50 minutes later.

Continuing the theme of leaving the gym fresh, I did not go to failure on the chin-ups. The final rep was an effort, but there were perhaps a couple more there if I'd wanted.

Likewise the sprint - the last two lengths hurt and I could have done more sets, but I was happy with what I had done.

I also have another agenda this time: I am drinking this weekend and find that post workout muscular stiffness does mix well with hangovers. ... Read more

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Bench Press with Unidentified Inflatable Object + O'Neill Rowing Test

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 10th March

Warm up:15 x barbell bench press with just the bar

1. Barbell bench press: 5 x 5 @ 55kg, with strange inflatable device on my chest...
2. O'Neill Test (4 minutes on rowing machine) - 1085 metres (22 more than last time)

Total Time: 15 minutes

Post-Workout Nutrition: this, 3 hours later.

This was the strange inflatable thing I had on my chest during bench press:

I'm not sure what this piece of kit is normally used for, but my purpose was to ensure I only went down as far as my arms being parallel to the floor - which this inflatable disc happened to be the right size for. I prefer having something to stop the bar on. I guess if my pecs were big enough, then my arms would be no lower than parallel when I did a normal bench press anyway :-)

I did the bench press reps relatively slowly, without locking out at the top, and with very little rest between sets (just long enough for my partner to do his reps.) I was not really close to failure on the last set or rep. The idea was to get used to holding a barbell again so that during my 300 workouts I can do the 50 floor wipers without my ability to hold the bar letting me down.

It's also an old favourite of my gym partner's and mine, albeit that both of us suffer from problems when we do it regularly (in my case the left shoulder - hence avoiding going lower than parallel.)

This time I paced myself better on the O'Neill Test. I must admit, I am still a little disappointed with my distance, given that it scarcely puts me above average on their scale. Nevertheless, it is nice to have another workout to return to now and again to gauge progress on fitness.
... Read more

Monday, 8 March 2010

Coldest Swim Ever & Long, Slow Barefoot Road Run

Location: Lake Vyrnwy
Date: 6th & 7th March

Workout 1
Wild swim in the lake - 30 seconds!

Post Workout Nutrition: none - fasted that day.


Workout 2
Run around the lake, partly on hills and ridges, mostly on the road - 2 hours and 53 minutes, 13.3 miles

Pre-Workout Nutrition - dinner the night before - salmon & venison sausage starter, lamb (I left that potato!) & veg; nuts to finish.

Post-Workout Nutrition
- anti-inflammatory bonanza: breakfast - scrambled eggs, one of Mrs M's poached eggs, grapes and nuts; lunch: salmon, sardines, avocado, celery, spinach; dinner: mackerel, celeriac & carrot mash, cabbage, onion, coconut butter.

Mrs M and I spent the weekend at a hotel by a lake in North Wales, a fantastic location for wild swimming and hill running. Here is what I got up to, along with some photos.

Day 1: The Swim

With a lake like that on my doorstep I couldn't possibly resist a wild swim on the first morning. I was out for about 7 am, by which time the sun was already loitering behind the hills and creating some wonderful skies:

After a little walking, daylight arrived, and I noticed there was the remnants of ice on the surface of a river that fed the lake. You can just make it out on the left.

When I found a perfect spot for swimming, there was a sign which said "No Swimming." Being the naughty kind, I decided to ignore it.

With hindsight, I am glad, because when I ran round the entire lake the next day I discovered that these signs are posted anywhere where swimming is viable. It is not clear whether this is because it is dangerous, or for some other reason. If there were danger, you would think this would be mentioned, given the additional deterrent it would create.

No swimming?


This was the coldest wild swim I have ever done. I managed 30 seconds. When I emerged, I had already started to feel a kind of dull ache to my bones. It took 10 seconds before I was able to enjoy the 'warmth' of being out of the water - until then I was in pain.

I took this photo on the way back to the hotel:

Later, I took advantage of the facilities for yet more self-punishment, spending 15 minutes in this dry sauna at 94 degrees. I really didn't want to be there for the last 5 minutes, but I figured that in the same way as the extreme cold earlier would help me tolerate mild cold, the same would be true for hot.

Sauna: 95 degrees hot

Then I had a cold shower. Only afterwards did I notice the ice machine on the left. I am not sure what I would have done with the ice - presumably just rubbed it on my body. Seems like a clumsy way to get cold compared to my earlier activities.

Before you ask - there was a separate supply of ice by the water jugs, so I don't think it was for that!

Ice - for rubbing on the body?

Finally, the obligatory jacuzzi, with view of the lake....

Day 2: The Run
The plan was to do one of those long, slow, easy runs that builds up stamina but doesn't unduly stress the body. I had done a 3-hour run
on hilly terrain a couple of weeks back, emerging relatively unscathed - so this seemed like a slam dunk.

I took this panoramic shot of the valley around which I would be running - starting from the left, going down to the end, and back towards the camera. Mostly, I planned to stay on the hills and ridges. The map indicated limited paths, but the hills looked grassy so I would go 'off piste'. Click for the large version.

The planned route - left to right

I got up at 5.30am and tooled up - it was a freezing morning, so it was the full burglar outfit: black hat, gloves, leggings, top, Vibrams and even the leg warmers for my ankles. Other essentials were map, compass, money, mobile phone (with GPS tracker) hotel key and waist bag to carry it all.

The full burglar outfit...

...and survival kit

6am, at the start...

15 minutes later, the sun threatens to emerge

Initially, I ascended into the forest and onto the ridge on the South side of the lake. You can see the clockwise route on the GPS tracking screenshot further down the post. Once I was on the ridge, the sun started to blaze, making it hard to capture pictures:

At some point on the South side, I remembered why I normally only attempt paths marked on the map. It always seems like a good idea when you are studying the map at home - those contours seem so easy to stride across in your mind's eye.

However, the firm, flat terrain I had imagined turned out to be all kinds of dense heather, boggy marsh and sundry other un-runnable ground. So after 30 minutes of struggling through them I lost patience and headed due North...

...through the forest...

...and back out into the open.

I then took the nearest path directly down to the road - I figured it would be a great opportunity to test out my barefoot running style in a more controlled environment.

Following the path down to the road.

Going downhill was quite steep but but a good downhill practice - I have been learning to take short, quick strides in the Vibrams to limit the risk of catastrophe at high speeds on slippy ground.

Earlier, the first 10 minutes of the run had been on the road, and felt incredibly natural and easy - so I was looking forward to more. At this point I had been running for about 70 minutes.

Back on the road - glorious sun and steady running....

Did I mention how quiet it was? Two hours later, this sheep was the first living creature I had seen:

By now I was pretty thirsty, so I drank from this stream:

At about 2:15, my feet started to hurt and my legs became tired. My energy system was humming away beautifully and I felt I could have run for hours... but the legs and feet had simply not been exposed to the sustained road running they were now dealing with.

By now the sun was higher and I was able to get some great shots of the lake as I headed back to the hotel along the North shore.

During the final 20 minutes I had to resort to a slightly heel-first gait to give my feet and calves a rest. My legs were much more tired than I had expected, so back at the hotel I plunged them into a cold bath to help recovery. I followed this with an 'oily fish' day in the hope all that omega 3 would do likewise.

Finally, I enjoyed breakfast with a view of the lake I had just run around....

Below is the GPS output from my phone. Not exactly accurate to the nearest 10 metres, as you can see - I did not do a long swim in the last half hour!

Even less accurate was the speed and altitute graph. Click on the picture for a bigger version. Considering the last half of the run was done on a flat road 300 metres above sea level, the claimed altitude of nearly 1000 metres at the 2 hour mark makes no sense at all. There isn't a mountain that high for miles around!

... Read more

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Faster Cheat 300 Workout

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 5th March

Workout: Cheat '300' Workout

25 Chin Ups - 17, 6, 2
50 Deadlifts (Romanian) - 50
50 Push Ups - 36, 9, 5
50 Box Jumps - 50
50 Floor Wipers - 15, 12, 10, 8, 5
25 x 2 Clean and Press with Dumbbell - right arm - 15, 10; left arm - 15, 10
25 Chin Ups - 5, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1

Total Time: 32:51

Post Workout Nutrition: paleo breakfast of champions with apple & cinnamon, 15 minutes later.

I have stopped using the emoticons to indicate where I have needed fewer or more sets for a particular exercise, and concentrate on the primary objective - to get all the work done as quickly as possible. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to do each exercise in a single set - but sometimes tactically it can pay to take two smaller rests instead of one long one.

Additionally, the rest between exercises, which I am striving to reduce to a minimum, can affect the number of sets needed for the next one. On this occasion I took very little rest between the chin ups, deadlift and push ups, which led to my needing 3 sets for push ups.

Nevertheless, I was pleased to be able to complete all 50 deadlifts in a single set, which was helped by paying special attention to the right hand wrist strap.

Although my overall time was 32:51 and the previous time was "about 33 minutes", this felt quicker, so I am sure the previous estimate (due to a malfunctioning stopwatch) was generous.

Final thought - this workout is no longer hurting as much. Next time I think I will change it up and do some mixed Tabata circuit intervals. Perhaps 3 rounds, which I know will hurt.
... Read more

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

New Warm Up, Pistols and Dreaded Rowing Tabata

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 2nd February

Warm up: selected movements from this video.


- 5 x pistols on each leg, alternately.
- Tabata Intervals on the Rowing Machine - at about 95% effort.

Total Time: 15 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition: Paleo breakfast of champions with blueberries (recipe), 1 hour later.

I am fast becoming a big fan of the movements in the warm up video. It combines stretching with warming up - which is clearly a time saver; it also feels like a more natural approach. Thanks to Chris from Conditioning Research for this.

The pistols are the first proper pistols I have done since the knee op. I was surprised to be able to get down almost to horizontal even on the remedial knee. This marks a turning point and I am looking forward to progressing pistols again.

The Tabata rowing was, as ever, savage. 95% effort, on the wild animal scale is fleeing a tiger that's 30 yards behind, as opposed to 100% where it's got hold of your underwear in its teeth. It's the difference between being just about able to speak to you training partner at the end versus holding one finger in the air for 30 seconds to indicate he must wait.
... Read more