Saturday, 17 March 2012

I just purchased the Suunto Food Pod Mini so I can know how far I have run during the MDS

Hello again everyone.  I just went out to purchase the Suunto Foot Pod Mini to go along with my Suunto heart rate monitor.  I have been a bit worried about how I was going to pace myself without knowing the distance covered and the distance left each day in the MDS.

The problem with most GPS devices is that they drain the batteries really quickly, so there is no way they would last the duration of the MDS without taking tons of spare batteries or a solar charger (which some people mentioned didn't work that well), and of course that adds extra weight to the pack.

The Suunto Foot Pod Mini on the other hand uses an accelerometer to measure the speed/ distance and hence the batteries last much longer.  The packaging states that they last for 400 hours when the Foot Pod Mini is in use.  I was wondering about the accuracy of such a device, but I read several reviews where people said that the distances are fairly accurate when they compared them with the distances shown on their GPS devices.

Again, the packaging claims that without calibration the device is 95% accurate and with calibration it is 98% accurate.  98% is good enough for me.  It doesn't have to be exact after all, but it would be helpful to know for instance that the finish line is still 10km away when it appears like it is only 2km away.  I know from the Salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia that distances can sometimes be very deceptive.  Despite the island in the middle of the flats looking like it was only a few kilometres away it was actual over 30km away.  Imagine thinking the finish line is only 2km away and really going for it, only to discover that it is 10km away and you have no energy left and end up walking the last 8km.

I can't really think of any outstanding points that are worrying me now.  In terms of equipment I have managed to:
1) get my pack weight down to something reasonable (around 8.5kg)
2) carry extra calories than the minimum requirement in case I feel I need them for recovery
3) carry sufficient warm clothes in case I get cold at night
4) have a means to measure my heart rate and speed/ distance
5) test out the food and gels during my training

In terms of training I have managed to:
1) consistently run around 100km per week since the beginning of January, and this week I will have covered 160km
2) gain the necessary core strength for carrying the pack through a combination of Pilates and yoga
3) run both on and off road
4) run on snow (to simulate running on sand) and have 2 weeks in Morocco to run on actual sand
5) run a marathon in under 3:30 to prove to myself I can run fairly fast for long distances when need be
6) run 71km continuously without stopping
7) start the process of heat acclimatisation and have 2 weeks in Morocco before the race starts to continue the process
8) run long distances multiple days in a row
9) run with a pack containing the actual gear I will be using in the race for the last month

The remainder now is probably going to come down to mental strength and my ability to push through the pain when I have blisters and my whole body is aching and crying out for me to stop.  This is one aspect that is hard to train in advance without actually experiencing the race conditions.  I am glad at least that I have had some chance to know what it is like to have to fight not to give up, in the Marmotte cyclosportive and during my cycle trip in South America.

Last Marmotte for instance my knee was really sore (and I mean REALLY sore) early on in the race and then my cleats came lose and I didn't have the tools to put them back on.  It would have been so easy to stop right there and then, but I struggled on to the end (10 hours in total) with my feet constantly slipping around on the pedals and aggravating my knee even more.

There was also one day during the Vuelta Sudamerica bike tour when there was a ridiculously strong head wind (so much so in fact that a tent was blown right away with a sleeping bag inside it, and never seen again) and I was out front on my own with no-one to spur me on and no pack to draft from.  That day we climbed to over 4,000m high and the road was often broken and jarring my body and making my butt hurt like hell (to the point where I could barely put my weight on the saddle).  The distance was over one hundred kilometres and there were also sandy sections where it was a struggle to keep moving and where sand was being blow constantly into my face.  Less than half the group finished that stage and it would have been really easy to give up, especially when the truck came alongside me with others in it and they were trying to tempt me to give up and join them (how mean).  But I didn't give up - I was determined to complete that stage, and I did.  I hope I find this same strength of mind when I need it in the MDS in a few weeks time.

The day after

If you have gone out on an all night bender the previous night, you might expect to wake up with a cracking hangover and to feel like death warmed up.  Likewise if you went out and ran 71km (44 miles) the previous day like I did, you might expect to wake up with a serious case of DOMS and barely able to walk.  All the signs last night indicated I was in for a serious case of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) today.  When I went to bed my hips were really stiff, my left knee and pad of my right foot under my little toe were a bit tender, and my left calf muscle was quite swollen and tender to the touch just above where my sock came up to.  Actually my left calf muscle was what worried me most as the lump was pretty big and I have never had swelling like that before.  I googled it and found out that the swelling is usually quite harmless, and is gravitational or dependent edema from being on your feet for so long.

I went to sleep with my feet raised on a pillow so that the fluid could drain from my legs and I also rubbed some Voltaren gel on my feet, left calf and left knee.  Voltaren gel belongs to a group of drugs known as NSAIDs (NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), and is used to treat pain and swelling.

It seems that raising my feet and using Voltaren gel did the trick, as this morning I woke up feeling almost like new.  I have ever such slight muscular aches, but nothing to write home about, and if I had the desire I could go out and run again now.  Obviously I wont do that as my body needs to rest, and even in the MDS there is a rest day after the long stage if you manage to complete it in one day.  I will however go out running tomorrow and do the remaining 18km that I need to do in order to complete my 160km (100 miles) week.  Everything I wanted to achieve this week has gone to plan.

Friday, 16 March 2012

8 hours of continuous running and 71.09 kilometres (44.17 miles) covered

The aim of today was to do my longest run so far, and then from now tomorrow on to start tapering towards the race.  The furthest I had run continuously before was 50 kilometres.  The furthest that I had run/ walked was around 70 kilometres and half of that was running and half was walking.

I decided a lap of the Zurichsee was the best route to take as I knew the distance already, so if my GPS ran out of battery it would have been easy enough to calculate the remaining distance.  One lap of the Zurichsee is approximately 65km and add to that the distance from the apartment to the lake and back and you have 71km in total.

I wanted to show myself that I could run 80km (50 miles) in around 10 hours or less i.e. averaging 8km/h.  That meant each 10km needed to take me an hour and a quarter or less in order to stay on track.  I soon realised after 20km that I had set myself a very realistic target.  I didn't stop except for pee stops, to grab some water from the water fountains and once to get a bottle of water out of my backpack.  Yes I forgot to mention that I had my backpack with me.  I looked up the format of the MDS and it seems the long stage is usually on day 4, so I took some food out of my rucksack to simulate being on the fourth day of the MDS and having eaten 3 days supply of food.

In terms of sustenance I used only energy gels to keep me going.  I ate 1 Gu Roctane sachet before leaving and then at 10km, 30km and 50km I ate a normal Gu sachet and at 20km, 40km and 60km I ate 2 sachets of gel (1 Gu Roctane and 1 normal Gu).  My Garmin watch seems to think I burnt over 6,000 calories, but the energy contained in all the gels I consumed is only 1,000 calories.  My body is probably therefore in a serious calorie deficit at the moment and I should eat very soon, as well as take a generous helping of whey protein powder.

I definitely felt the limiting factor for my speed today was my muscles and not my cardiovascular system.  If I had more muscular endurance I could have pushed my heart much harder.  That may be a good thing, as in the heat my heart will be working much harder than usual, so at least I know that I have the extra capacity to handle that.  I was holding myself back a bit too, as I didn't want to get any injuries this late in the game, and I don't want to race in training.  The only niggle was in my left knee and it wasn't anything more than that i.e. a niggle.  Oh yes and in the first 20km my left calf muscle felt very tight but that loosened up later on.

All in all I am very happy with how the run went, and although the long stage in the MDS is never going to be easy at least I know it should be possible.  I could have run further today had I needed to.

Last but not least, in the last 7 days I have covered a total of 147.09km (91.4 miles).

Thursday, 15 March 2012

How to follow my progress during the Marathon des Sables

Some of you have been asking how you can follow my progress throughout the MDS.  Well here goes.

On the Darbaroud website there is a section entitled "LIVE".  Clicking on that will reveal a drop down menu containing the word "POSY".  If you click on that you will be shown the current results.  My race number or "dossard" will be 446.

It is also possible to send messages to me during the race that will be read out to me.  I would really appreciate this and it would really help to boost my morale.  There is information about how to do this on in the section entitled "Telecommunications during MDS".

1 hour of Pilates and a 20km run

I woke up this morning still a bit lightheaded from the hot yoga yesterday.  If you recall it was almost 50C in the room and I probably hadn't drunk enough water beforehand to deal with those kind of temperatures.  Nevertheless I went to my Pilates lesson at noon and after that I was feeling okay again, although my leg muscles were aching from the Pilates itself.

After I got back from my Pilates lesson I loaded up on some wholegrain pasta and took a second sachet of Bios Life Matcha, which I am finding is really good stuff.  I also took a few spoonfuls of whey protein in water.  With all of that my body was primed to run, and all I needed to do was rest long enough for the food to be digested.

During the break I watched the part of Rocky IV where Rocky is training old style and his opponent Ivan Drago is using high tech equipment and cheating by injecting himself with anabolic steroids.  That always inspires me to get out and train, and give me old school versus new school any day I say.  I would much rather be out running in the fresh air than in a gym.

I took Negrita with me on my run, and we went to the woods in Opfikon.  On the path next to the Glatt river some guys dog tried to lunge at Negrita and I went off on one at him because his dog was not on a lead.  It is quite difficult staying calm when you are in the middle of a fair paced run with all the adrenalin pumping through your body.  For that reason I was quick to show him the birdie and to raise my fists in anger.  Sorry to my fellow Brits for giving the British a bad name as being aggressive, but he deserved it, and I didn't lay a finger on him anyway.

I realised that I was easily going to be able to do the 20km in under two hours even though towards the end of the run Negrita was beginning to slow up.  I eased back a bit and let her catch her breath.  Today was the first time I was running whilst listening to music.  I was running with my AEG Aqua MP3 player that Anny bought me for my birthday.  The player is attached to the headphones so there are no wires at all, which is great.  The only reason I haven't been running to music in my training this year is because I won't have any means of listening to music during the MDS, so I wanted to learn to run without it.  Music does tend to make me run faster though, which is probably why today I had to make a conscious effort to slow myself down in order to stay fresh enough to get in more miles tomorrow.  I was listening to Marc Anthony's Mended album.

I deliberately went out today without a pack, because I still have around 90km left to do this week and I don't want to overdo things.  Either tomorrow or Saturday I will do a very long run (greater than 50km) with a pack.  If I can manage to do 160km this week I will be very happy, and go into my tapering period with the confidence of knowing that I have done enough training to do well in the race.  So far this year I have run 862.56 kilometres (approximately 536 miles).

On a closing note it may not seem that significant but the last few runs have included 200 metres of elevation gain.  Here in Switzerland that is nothing, but in the UK that is a pretty big hill.  For those of you who know the Monmouth region, that is equivalent to running from Monmouth up to Trellech.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Hot yoga at a breathtaking 50C

I just finished what is if I am correct my fifth hot yoga session.  I was saying last time that my body is starting to get used to the heat and that I wasn't having any dizzy moments at all.  That changed today, but when I looked at the wall I saw a thermometer that was reading just a shade under 50C.  It definitely felt hotter than the last time.  I thought that hot yoga was done at around 40C, but 50C is very hot indeed, and I am not that likely to face higher temperatures than that in the MDS itself.

I noticed quite a lot of people in the room were finding it tough, and it is no wonder at that temperature.  Next time I am in the class I will take a look again at the thermometer and see if the room is always that hot or if it varies from class to class.  Other than that the class went well though, and now I am back at home ready to get some food and liquid inside me, take a rest and then head out for a run if I still have enough energy left.

Medical certificate signed and sealed and ECG done

At 10.30 this morning I had my medical checkup with the doctor so that she could sign my compulsory medical certificate for the MDS.  She took my blood pressure, pulse, weight, height, questioned me about my training and then took an ECG at rest.  An ECG at rest is mandatory for the MDS and must be presented at the admin checks on the 7th April.

Everything was completely normal and she signed my certificate and ECG.  She recorded my pulse as 52, although that seems higher than normal so I wonder if the strong coffee I had just before the appointment had raised my heart rate slightly.  She also recorded my weight as 76kg, which seems higher than normal, but that was fully clothed and I think that from the angle I was looking at the scales it read 75 rather than 76, not that it makes much difference.

I am happy to have got that out of the way and now there is not much else standing between me and the race other than a few more weeks of training and heat acclimatisation.  I have booked a lactate test on the 19th March just so I can see where I am in terms of my fitness.  I may never be this fit again in my life, although I hope I will.

My muscles are aching pretty badly and I think it is time now to take a hot bath with some Carmol Pro Active in it.  My plan then is to try to fit in a session of hot yoga later today.  I wish you all a great day and that's me over and out for now.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

21km of running today

My plan this week is to knock out some high mileage and then from the weekend onwards to start tapering towards the race.  If I can I would like to run over 100 miles/ 160km this week.  It is not critical that I run this far though, as most of my runs now are done with a backpack weighing 9kg or so, and that in itself is equivalent to running extra miles.  I am also doing Pilates 2 times per week and hot yoga several times per week in addition to the running.  It should be easy enough to accomplish my plan if I run 6 days this week however, as that would be less than 30km per day on average.

Yesterday I ran 30km in total and tonight I ran 21km in total.  So that is already 51km in just 2 days.  I split the 21km that I ran tonight into 2 runs of 10.5km each.  The first part I ran with Negrita and with my backpack and the second part I ran alone and without my backpack, as my legs are getting quite some pounding at the moment.  The first run was towards Hongg and back, and the second was down to Tiefenbrunnen station and back.  Going out towards Hongg there are some nice woods and another Finnenbahn (running path made of wood chips).  It seems one can find these all over the place in Zurich, and it is good to see that runners are so well catered for.

My training at the moment is quite tough and I was glad to be able to drop the pack off at home ready for the second run.  My only aim for the second run was to complete it in under 1 hour, and I did that rather comfortably - in 54 minutes and 6 seconds to be exact.  That isn't very fast, but considering all the exercise I have been doing in the last few weeks I can't be too surprised either.  The thing that seemed to take the most out of me was the speed work last week.  My body is really going to reap the rewards of the tapering that starts next week.  I need to start the MDS full of energy and going hell for leather in the last 2 and a bit weeks is not going to help me at all.  I am off now to grab some food and then to get some well deserved sleep.  Goodnight everyone.

Time to crack open the champagne, dance and sing along to the Kool & The Gang classic Celebration

Celebration by Kool & The Gang

Well folks it has been a long journey but we are finally there now thanks to all of your help.  A few hours ago I hit my fundraising target of £9,500.  Mencap will be very happy with that, as am I, and the money will go a long way to help them with the good work they do.  Charities that help people with cancer and other prominent diseases get a lot of attention, but charities like Mencap that help disadvantaged people such as those with learning disabilities don't get quite so much attention.  It is therefore great to be supporting their cause in this way.

Just because the minimum target has now been met does not mean we need to stop their though.  If you were planning on sponsoring me please go ahead and do so.  There is no harm, only good, in raising more than the minimum target.

Out of interest, the person that made me hit the target was Fabian R.  It is in fact his second donation so I just wanted to say that you are a star Fabian, as are all of you that have put something on my site or contributed to my fundraising campaign in some way, whether that be by direct donations, buying goods that I was auctioning or just spreading the word.

A special thanks must go out to my mum and my fiancee who have been working hard to get me more and more donations on my site for some time now.  My grandmother when she was alive was a star fundraiser, and it shows that my mum is her daughter.  Thanks mum and Anny.  I also want to give a special mention to Jonathan Marocco who was my biggest individual sponsor, in fact the third biggest sponsor after myself and Holmes Place Zurich.  Thanks Jonathan.

Thanks also to all my corporate sponsors so far.  As a company you get approached by people like myself all the time, so it is great that they were still willing to help.  Holmes Place Zurich donated a 1 year membership to their gym and spa that they allowed me to auction for charity and they also allowed me to train for free at their gym, Elemis donated a skincare set that I used as a raffle prize, Buff donated a box of headscarfs and a T-shirt that I managed to sell for charity, Tour d'Afrique Limited donated £100 on my site, Iglu-Dorf Gmbh donated a fondue for 2 at their Engelberg site that I auctioned and last but certainly not least Bikram Yoga Zurich donated £200 on my site and in addition gave me 2 boxes of Bios Life Matcha to help me during the race itself.

It is time to celebrate now, so that's me done for tonight.  I wish you all a great evening and I will check in again soon.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Summary of Friday to Monday - running, Pilates and Bios Life Matcha energy drink

Hello everyone.  Last Friday I travelled to Madrid for the weekend.  I flew around midday and Anny joined me later in the evening, as it was much cheaper to fly in the middle of the day.  When I arrived her dad was at the airport to pick me up and take me back to their home.  After a bit of food and talking I went for a run in the park near to their home called Dehesa de la Villa.  It is a large park and there are plenty of routes crisscrossing the terrain that you can run on.  The park is located on a hill and it is almost impossible to do a run there without incorporating at least some hills.  One complete lap of the park is in the region of 5km, so I did 2 laps i.e. 10km.  I was fairly achy and I think that the previous days of training fast and with a weighted pack had caught up with me.  In fact I am still achy today.  The park is very nice though, and running there is really a pleasure.  The temperature was much higher than it is here in Zurich at the moment.  In fact it was a balmy 20C and most people were running in shorts and t-shirt.

On Saturday I didn't have much time for running as we were busy doing other things like shopping, so that was my rest day.  In the evening we went out with a group of Anny's friends.  I probably ate more than I should have, but at least I didn't drink that much to compensate.

On Sunday Anny was meant to run 5km according to the training plan she is following.  I decided to go with her and just follow at her pace.  We went to the Dehesa de la Villa park again, and we took all 4 dogs with us (Punkita, Negrita, Gordito and Cookie).  Anny's sister and her boyfriend looked after Punkita and Cookie while Anny took Gordito and I took Negrita.  Punkita is too old to run as she is the mother of the other dogs and Cookie tends to get frightened easily.  Negrita is of course accustomed to running and Gordito was okay at the beginning but was struggling towards the end of the 5km, and Anny had to encourage him along.  The pace was nice and gentle and it was a good way to loosen up stiff muscles.

Today I had a Pilates lesson at 11am to start the day.  We tried some new apparatus I have never used before that kind of resembles a horse.  In fact you sit on it exactly as you would sit on a horse.  After Pilates I headed straight back home as I had a meeting with a new sponsor.  The meeting went well and in addition to agreeing to donate £200 they gave me some Bios Life Matcha powder that you mix with water to make an energy drink.  I have tried Matcha tea before, but this contains lots of additional ingredients too.

Once I got back from the meeting I mixed up one sachet of the Bios Life Matcha powder with water and drank it.  Then I rested for half an hour before getting dressed ready for a run.  I wanted to take Negrita with me, but since my plan was to run 30km I decided that was too far for her.  What I did instead was to split the run in to 2 parts, and I ran the first 15km with Negrita and the second 15km without her.  Between the 2 runs I just took a few minutes rest and mixed up a second Bios Life Matcha energy drink.

So you may wonder what I thought of the Bios Life Matcha.  Well I had a funny feeling throughout my run that was kind of like flying.  I felt light on my feet and warm inside.  My speed however was not that high.  In fact it was rather slow.  That doesn't surprise me though, as like I mentioned at the beginning of my post I am quite achy at the moment.  I think I am suffering the effects of last weeks training.  Speed aside though, the energy drink definitely made me feel good.  It contains amongst other ingredients green coffee bean extract, pomegranate extract, grape seed extract, Matcha green tea powder, green tea extract, blueberry powder, yerba mate and guarana powder.  I will be taking some sachets along with me to Morocco.