Over the course of the year to date, running has taken a backseat to swimming and although I’ve run 2 – 3 times a week, my focus has been on getting to the pool.
The impetus has really been the STC swim sessions and I’ve tried to get to 2 of these a week. In fact, this week, I’m planning in going to 3 of the sessions.
I’ve started to see improvements and SWILF scores are generally heading in the right direction and have gone from 50% ish to sub-45. I’ve even hit scores of 41-42% which I’m really pleased about. I do have to remind myself at times that the lower SWOLF scores may be due to wearing fins or using a pull-buoy but the scores above are genuine non-assisted efforts.
There’s little chance that I’d have improved my swimming efficiency by just going swimming. The technique drills and other sets of the STC sessions really work.
A week or so ago, I was promoted to lane 2 and felt like a, er, fish out of water. At this Monday’s session, I was the slowest in the lane but not by a big margin.
My two issues have been EVF (early vertical forearm) and bilateral breathing. I’m working on both and hope to see some positive improvements in the coming weeks.
With regards bilateral breathing, I’m trying to incorporate it in slower lengths or when using fins or a pull buoy. Although this accounts for only about 15-20% of a session, it’s progress. I’ll continue to do the same until it’s a completely natural part of my stroke.
To try and improve my technique, I’ve been incorporating strength and conditioning sessions at home based on exercises outlined in the book ‘Swimming Anatomy’. I’m really making a concerted effort to build some upper-body strength to help my swimming. I have most of the equipment that’s recommended in the book including dumbbells, resistance bands, gym ball, weighted bar and pull up bar plus I supplement the workouts with some kettlebell exercises.
Working from home gives me a few opportunities during the day to throw in some exercise.
It’s not been in vain as, although I’ve never had much in the way of upper-body muscle and am quite pigeon-chested, I’ve noticed a few muscles sprouting in recent weeks. My shoulders and arms are looking a little less weedy than normal. The spare tyre is still very much in existence but I’m hoping that might slowly disappear over the coming weeks and months.
One of the negative aspects of swimming more is that I’m suffering more from a related allergy. Following a swim session, my nose can alternate from being blocked up to running like a tap. Although many experience this is ‘chlorinated’ pools, I also suffer from it after a lake swim so it can’t be chemicals. The fact that I suffer for the entire period between swim sessions with cold-like symptoms is far from great. Having googled the issue, the overwhelmingly-suggested solution is a nose clip. Although I do tend to breath out through my nose when doing front crawl, I’m going to have to adapt this as a clear nose is far more important. Will be trying the nose clip today. Fingers crossed.
Over the last couple of days, I’ve tried to burn off a few excess grams by getting on the treadmill for about 30-45 minutes. Last night I did a pyramid session consisting of 1km intervals with 3 minutes rest with the intervals being at 10kmph, 10.5kmph, 11kmph. 10.5kmph and 10kmph. I plan to do a double pyramid session next week and will play around with shorter rest intervals.
Over the last couple of months, injury, holiday and workload has meant that I’ve not had the opportunity to train as much as I’d like or as much as is needed for what was going to be my first marathon – Brighton Marathon on 6th April and I’ve struggled to run anything more than 6 miles without the niggles in my left hip area. Given several more weeks of high workloads on the run up to Mothers Day, I can see little opportunity to get out and run long (up to 20 miles) and therefore I have, very reluctantly, deferred my entry to Brighton. I plan to try a 10-12 mile run tomorrow to assess whether to run the Reading Half next weekend
Deferring Brighton certainly eases some pressure and means that I can focus on completing the Eastleigh 10K before aiming for a decent race at Blenheim Tri at the start of June and then the big one; Challenge Weymouth Half Distance Triathlon.
This is my first post since returning from the Alps and from a training perspective, things haven’t been ideal.
Working for a florist takes its toll at this time of year with 3 peak events within 3 months (Christmas, Valentines Day and Mothers Day). The extra hours needed to ensure that these events go smoothly means that something has to give and that tends to be training. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well with the spring events I’ve got lined up.
In the last month, I’ve done little real running to speak of and any chance of long runs has been squished. I really need to get out and do some long runs if I’ve a hope of completing or even getting to the start line of the Brighton Marathon on the 6th April. Before then, I’ve got two other races to focus on too (Reading Half Marathon and Eastleigh 10K) although by virtue of the fact that they are shorter races, there’s more chance of completing enough runs to get to the start line in reasonable shape.
In order to put some miles under my belt for Brighton, I’ve set myself the following long run goals for the next 7 weeks:
- Week 1: 15km (20km)
- Week 2: 20km (25km)
- Week 3: 15km (30km)
- Week 4: 35km
- Week 5: 25km
- Week 6: 15
- Week 7: race
Week 4 looks very challenging and I may have to make week 3 more of an intermediate distance between 20km and 35km as shown in backets. That’s if I get the time to do those long runs.
I’ve not set foot on my bike (or should I say bum on saddle) on the road since the Wiggle Sportive last year! I simply haven’t found the time. Must, must, must find the time!
However, things are going better with my swimming and that’s entirely down to the great Southampton Tri Club sessions. Due to other commitments, I’ve not been to as many as I’d like but did manage to make two of the sessions last week; the Wednesday morning session and the Saturday morning session which I’ve not done before. The later was really good and I felt as if I was making good progress.
That feeling was short lived though after attending Monday evening’s session at the Quays. Due to a small number of swimmers in lanes 1 and 2 (slow and intermediate respectively), I was moved up to lane 2 to join Donna and another lady. Our instructor was Steve Cooke who was the instructor for my first STC swim session.
We started off with 2 x 100m front crawl warmup and then did various with paddles, fins and catchup before doing 2 x 200m front crawl. I’m not sure why but I felt like I’d lost all my technique. Steve picked up on two aspects of my technique that were in need of work. These were bilateral breathing and early vertical forearm. Neither of these issues came as any surprise as I’ve known I struggle to breath bilaterally (e.g. to each side) since I returned to the pool about 18 months ago. I’m not entirely sure what the issue is but it could be a combination of the following:
- too little rotation on my left hand side
- not creating a bow wave and trough in which to breath on my left hand side
- feeling the need to breath every second stroke
However, I’m going to work at this so that I feel confident breathing bilaterally as I know it’ll make my stroke more balanced and help in open water swimming too.
As for early vertical forearm, I’ve been working on this over the last few weeks but it’s clear there’s still more work to do. It’s something I do when concentrating and not tired but tend to lose it towards the end of a session. Again, it’s a weakness and one I will work on.
Having said all of the above and although I was disappointed in my ability at the session, I was swimming faster than ever before and hit SWOLF scores of 42-43 for the front crawl sets (without paddles or fins) which is a big improvement. This appears to be due to getting quicker (between 5 and 15 seconds per 100m) and needing fewer strokes. With improved technique, more strength and with more weight loss, a sub-40 SWOLF seems achievable and that’s definitely my next goal.
With STC help (hopefully I won’t be relegated to lane 1 next week) and more practice, I can hopefully work on the technique. I’ve also bought ‘Swimming Anatomy‘ which is a great book of lots of exercises to improve strength for swimming. I’m incorporating these into daily or bi-daily strength and conditioning sessions at home which will hopefully help turn my weedy looking body that’s plagued me all my life into something looking slightly more athletic. If I can regain control of my ‘comfort’ and boredom eating, I may be able to lose some weight too and thereby lose the flubber that I carry around my waist! In fact, I’ve just done a waist measurement.. 39 inches! Scary. Want that to be 4-5 inches less and that’ll mean focusing on eating properly and cutting out the Fruit Corner yoghurts! ARGH!!!
To save me losing it, here’s a half distance triathlon plan.
Thought that I’d write the post about today’s skiing before bed in the hope that it would mean I don’t feel the need for a 2am wake up.
Today (Tuesday) was day 3 on the slopes in La Plagne. As usual, that meant a 7am alarm, breakfast and heading down to the kids ski-school meeting place for the bus to their lesson for 9am.
We’d chosen to let the boys wear their walking books rather than ski boots. That made the journey much more enjoyable for all concerned.
As we arrived, the bus went past us up the hill. Had they not stopped and reversed back to pick up Daniel, Connor and Harrison, we’d have had to resort to ts making them up on the chair lift.
We were lucky though and got them on the bus and we then headed up on the chair lift to Plagne Centre.
Unfortunately, when we got to the bottom of boulevard, the next chairlift wasn’t working which could have meant a walk up a long green slope to our ski school meeting place. Fortunately, we met one of the other ElPro instructors at the lift who contacted our instructor who then came down to meet us.
We mainly skied blues but Denise was struggling a little even though her hired boots were much better and her feet weren’t cramping. She decided to leave the lesson and head back to Plagne 1800. Meanwhile, we carried on our lesson.
Overall, a great morning.
In the afternoon, Steve, Chris and I went out for a burn. It was a great afternoon and I got some video footage which I’ll add to this post when I have a decent wifi connection.
I’m awake at 2am again so have decided to blog about day 2 on the slopes.
Although on day 1 we decided to take the resort bus into Plagne Centre, we decided to shake it up on day 2 and ski there. With the boys! Given that they had been on a chairlift once, this was an ambitious plan as they’d need to go on 2 chair lifts to get to ‘Centre’.
Having consumed another tasty breakfast and donned our skiwear, it was time to head down to the boot room and then down to the bottom of the 4-man chair. Unfortunately, one we got there, Connor decided he had other plans and needed the toilet so we went back up 4 flights of stairs and got him out of his ‘all-in-one’ ski suit.
We got back down to the boot room, picked up boots, skis and poles and then headed down the road to the chairlift where we met our instructor. We didn’t expect to so that was a nice surprise. The mini bus for the children’s ski school was waiting and although we hadn’t planned to, we decided to let the boys take that to their lessons. As Connor has struggled to get down the road in his ski boots, this turned out to be an excellent idea and all 3 boys happily got on the bus and we waves them off having made it clear to 7 year old Daniel that he was to look after his brother and Harrison. I think we were all a little wary of letting them go off by themselves in the bus but it really worked out well as they smiled as they left.
Meanwhile, Denise and I headed up the chairlift to Plagne Centre. Denise’s boots were tight due to wearing thicker ski socks and she was getting cramp in her feet and especially toes.
We got off at the top of the lift and then skied across to another lift which took us to the top of the nursery slope which then lead us down to the ski school meeting point.
Our group had grown from 4 to 7 with the addition of Paul, Jean and Rob and we headed up the mountain to then ski down to Bellecote.
Denise was struggling as the cramp in her feet meant that she couldn’t concentrate so she left the lesson at Bellecote before heading back to watch the boys at Centre.
The weather really want great with fog all over the mountains. Visibility was really poor and that meant that seeing the pistes was, at times, pretty difficult and seeing the terrain and profile of the slopes impossible. That meant that you really had to ‘feel’ the slopes as you skied, keeping weight on your downhill ski and make sure that the weight was forward to avoid lifting the ski tips.
Although we mainly skied blue slopes, we skied down a red slope, Sources, which was a lovely slope particularly given that we couldn’t see how steep it was. Our instructor, Dee-Dee (misspelt) gave us some useful information about the poles on the right hand side of the slopes having orange at the top. That is how you can ensure that you’re not skiing off-piste in poor conditions.
I was very happy with my skiing and was getting a fair amount of positive feedback from the instructor whose tracks I was following well. Given the 9-11 years off the slopes, it was great how quickly is regained my technique and confidence on skis particularly in difficult conditions.
At the end of the lesson we skied back to the meeting point where I was met by Adrian from the ski school who told me that Daniel was going to be moved up a group and hit the slopes for his 3rd day. Great news.
We met Denise, Paul and Chris at the Ski Piou Piou where the kids had their lessons and hit the slope-side bar to spend a small fortune on beer and consume our lunch.
Denise had done a couple of slopes with Chris and Paul and regained her confidence but was still struggling with her boots and had decided to hire some boots for the rest of the holiday.
We picked up the boys and then Tiff and Steve joined us from their boarding lesson where they’d had an instructor give them a private lesson.
Having eaten my baguette, I took Daniel on a couple of slopes so he could practice snowplough. He was quite keen to avoid the button lift where he’d struggled on day 1 but was happy on the chairlift.
Once we got back, Steve and Paul were waiting for me so we could head up in the Gondola to ski a couple of slopes. Visibility had got worse and the snow was getting churned up from the morning’s skiers so it was definitely more challenging.
I’d started the great iPhone app, Ski Tracks, to record my skiing in the afternoon and burned down a few sections of the blue slopes we were skiing reaching about 28 miles per hour. Certainly not my quickest but fast enough given the lack of visibility.
Once we got back, Steve and I looked after the boys whilst Denise, Chris, Tiff and Paul did a few slopes.
Once they got back, it was getting close to 3pm and Steve, Paul, Denise and the boys went back on the resort bus while Tiff, Chris and I did a blue slope (or two) before taking the red back down to ’1800′. Both Tiff and Chris were boarding and skiing respectively with great technique.
We got back to the bottom of the 4-man lift where we’d started the day and then walked back to the chalet block.
Having settled back in, Denise headed off to the ski hire shop to hire a larger pair of ski boots while the boys did their homework.
We eat at 7 (baked Camembert, Moroccan Chicken with Cous Cous and chocolate mouse) and then sent the boys off to bed.
Day 2 over. 4 more days on the slopes. Really glad that it doesn’t feel like the week is flying by. Yet!
I normally only blog about running, swimming or cycling but have decided to write about skiing as we’re in La Plagne enjoying a week on the slopes.
A quick recap of the first couple of weeks of January though.
Having been I’ll over Christmas and with the pools closed and no Tri club swim sessions I had a week out from training. After the long run which incorporated the Lakeside visit for Eastleigh parkrun, I thought I’d got my training on track but then started getting an achy hip which I felt during the following days and I cut back my running accordingly to try not to make things worse.
At last week’s Run Camp session on Tuesday morning, in the intervals I felt every step as we rounded the bends. Each time my hip ached. I’d been foam rollering and that helped a bit so guessed it must be a muscle issue. I didn’t run for the rest of the week as I didn’t want to jeopardise my skiing holiday.
On Thursday evening, I had my first ever sports massage with Tiff. She’s currently studying to be a sports massage therapist and as part of her course in Southampton, Tiff has to provide 100 hours of sports massage. I was very happy to be able to help her with her training and revive a free massage in the process.
Tiff did a great job and found plenty of other achy and tender muscles in my left leg in the hour long session. Her knowledge of the muscles, how they all worked together and connected to the skeleton was very good. Her professional manner, sporty background and enthusiasm were great and I think she’ll excel.
If you’d like a sports massage, please consider asking Tiff. It’ll be free but please consider a little thank you gift or some petrol money. LRR members especially welcome due to location.
Anyway, back to skiing.
On Saturday morning, I woke up at 2am to start the day. Our flight was at 7:30am with a 2 hour check in. That meant arriving at the airport at 5:30am. We left home shortly after 3am. I thought getting up for the Wednesday morning STC swims was a challenge.
The journey up to the airport was uneventful and we got to the parking facility by about 4:40am. The boys were awake for the whole journey and in good spirits particularly given the time.
We got the coach from the car park to the North Terminal and arrived at 5:05am. It didn’t take long to find our travel companions, Tiff, Steve and their 4 year old son Harrison and Tiff’s parents, Paul and Christine.
We’ve been on several holidays with Tiff and Steve including numerous camping weekends, several visits to Centre Parcs in Longleat and a week in Tenerife. We’ve also skied and snowboarded with them and Paul and Chris once when we had a 2 centre holiday in Canada in 2005 when we visited Banff and Lake Louise. In fact, that was our last skiing holiday before starting a family. Prior to that, I’d skied several times with week long holidays in:
- Les Deux Alpes
- La Plagne
- Val Thorens
- Austria (I forget which resort!)
- Banff and Lake Louise
I think I’ve been to La Plagne twice but I am not 100% sure about that.
Our flight left on time and took less time than expected (less that 90 minutes). We then had the usual wait for baggage. Eventually we got on the transfer coach and hoped for a quick getaway. This wasn’t to be as we waited for over an hour for two passengers who never turned up.
Fortunately, the transfer was only scheduled to be 2 hours. Unfortunately, we broke down after an hour and had to wait for an hour before being put on another coach.
At this point, we were about 45 minutes from our resort and made good time up the mountain to our accommodation at Plagne 1800.
Our chalet caters for 10 so with 9 of us, we had the whole place to ourselves. It was a short walk from where the coach dropped us off to the block the chalet was in.
Having dropped off our cases, said hello to our chalet host, Claire, consumed the delicious cake and changed into skiwear, we walked down to the ski hire shop to pick up skis and other equipment for the boys who were both skiing for the first time.
We had hoped this would be a quick trip and we’d be able to get out on the slopes but the ski hire shop was very busy. Oh well…
After about an hour, we got our equipment and headed back to the chalet our hopes of a cheeky slope or two dashed.
Once we got back and changed out of our skiwear, it was time to crack open some beers and await the evening meal. It was delicious. It was amazing just how full of flavour every course was. The meal was accompanied with several glasses of white wine. Possibly not the best idea the night before the first morning on the slopes.
Although Denise and I have skied several times and are intermediate skiers, with 8 years without skiing and a couple of the years prior to that using snowblades, we had decided to have lessons to help structure each day. Daniel, Connor and Harrison also had lessons as did Tiff and Steve although they were snowboarding.
Having dropped the boys off at their lessons, we headed back to our meeting point to meet our instructor.
We had 5 in the lesson and 2 instructors. After our first slope, one of the group was split out and got some one-to-one instruction from one instructor whilst George and his wife, Denise and I formed the other group.
It took a slope to find my skiing legs and remember all the technique. That was a lot am quicker than I expected and the 8 years soon vanished as the memories of skiing flooded back. It was as if we’d never missed a season.
We skied several blue runs of differing terrains and difficulty and I loved it. The instructor was excellent and didn’t really give me much feedback. Either I was a lost cause or was doing things right. I think it was the latter! Denise did really well too. She has good technique but is a little cautious on narrow and steeper slopes.
It was great to see several familiar slopes and just how big the ski area was. Conditions were very good and the resort was very quiet.
At midday, we returned to pick up the boys who’d enjoyed themselves and found a conveniently placed bar for some lunch. Conveniently placed can be roughly translated as expensive but never mind. 7 euros for a pint of Heineken is all part of the experience.
Once lunch had been consumed, it was time to find a nursery slope for the boys. I looked after Connor and we went up on a button lift before I snowploughed down the slope with Connor between my skis. We did that a couple of times before we went on a green slope to the bottom of a 4-man chairlift back to the top of the nursery slope. By this point , I was skiing with Daniel with him holding my ski poles. We got on and off the chair lift with no issues. The same can’t be said for Connor who was with Denise. For some reason, Denise had thought that holding his hand as he got off his first chairlift would work out well (after pulling down the safety bar onto his leg earlier on the lift). Needless to say, Connor face planted as the chair went over him. The lift operator helped him up, put his skis on and they both skied over to us. I’m not sure that helped Connor’s confidence on the slopes!
I skied down to the bottom of the nursery slope with Daniel holding onto my ski poles again and we met up with the rest of the party. Tiff, Paul and Chris headed back to the chalet via the slopes while we took the bus back to Plagne 1800 (after spending 25€ on some new gloves for Daniel. I had considered getting some gloves but they seemed to be priced upwards of 89€ so gave that idea a miss.
Once we got back to the chalet and changed, there was time to do some homework with the boys before the evening meal which again was delicious. I avoided the wine and beer to ensure a clearer head for my second morning on the slopes.
I plan to
It’s Sunday morning and an opportunity to look back at the week.
The start of the week is normally when I do the Southampton Tri Club swim
session at the Quays. However, a meeting for Lordshill Road Runners was scheduled and I missed out on the swim.
An early start of a wake up at 5:40am and then a drive to Southampton Sports Centre for week 1 of Run Camp Speed Sessions. Having completed level 1 plus some additional weeks before Christmas, it was great to get back to Run Camp. The participants were a different bunch from the 2013 group and I missed not having Irene, Jules, Charles and Steve there. Jules and Steve will join the course in the next few weeks though. The rest of the group were mostly familiar faces though with LRR and STC members Tamsyn, Katherine and Liz as well as Jules’ son Andy.
The session started with a 2x400m warmup and then the group was split into 2. 4 of us started off doing 4 x 3 minute efforts with 3 minutes recovery. Ant had set a target distance for each interval and my target was about 630m. This is about 4:46 mins per km (12.6 km/h) which would be a. 23:55 5km.
I enjoy running on the track. It’s flat, fast and you don’t have to worry about obstacles, tree roots etc. However, the headwind on the finish straight was challenging.
In my first effort, I got to around 680m in the 3 minutes. That’s about 4:25 mins/km (13.6 kmph). Each subsequent effort was slightly slower covering about 670m so very happy with that.
I started to get a hip ache during the intervals and am unsure what caused it. I suspect that my long run on Saturday and the walk after might have played a part. More about that later.
While the 4 of us (Gareth, Andy, Katherine and myself) were doing intervals, Tamsyn, Max, Jenny and Liz had been doing strength and conditioning exercises. It was now our turn while they did their intervals. The exercises included single leg dead lifts with a weight, reverse lunges with a medicine ball, squats with a resistance band and side squat running (will
double-check each of those against Tamsyn’s blog post and correct later!)
Once complete, it was time for stretches and then home.
Overall I enjoyed the session. The banter wasn’t in the league of the level 1 session and it was a shame that Irene wasn’t there. There was no real instruction during the interval sessions but it was good to be pushed (not physically you understand).
On Tuesday evening I mentioned that I’d be getting up at 4:40am for the Wednesday morning STC swim session at Fleming Park. Having been ill over Christmas and with the local pools closed or on reduced hours plus having missed the Monday session, this was my first return to the pool for a couple of weeks and it felt like it.
The lane was filled with familiar faces (Sonia Rushby, Steve Cooke, Ian Boshier and myself) and it felt like swimming through treacle. Clearly, the festive excesses and lack of any real exercise for over a week hadn’t helped. I got through it though and clicked up over 2.6km in the pool. Fortunately, I didn’t really feel any achiness from my hip.
On Thursday, I hit the treadmill for a tempo session. This was due to be:
1 mile (1.5k) easy
4 miles (6.5k) at MT
1 mile (1.5K) easy
where MT (based on 24:40 5K) is:
8:28 per km
5:16 per mile
I felt my achy hip every step of the way and bailed mid-session. I had 2 reasons:
- I don’t want to jeopardise my training
- I don’t want to jeopardise my skiing holiday.
On Friday, I had planned to go to the pool but the combination of waiting for parcels and the hip meant I didn’t make it. I’d experienced pain when lying on my hip which wasn’t pleasant and could feel the ache when walking. Although swimming would offer good support, I didn’t want to risk anything.
Normally parkrun is the highlight of Saturday morning and my original plan had been to return for some muddy fun at Lakeside. However, Denise had talked me into a family day comprising a trip to the cinema and then 10 pin bowling. It was a fun morning and we all enjoyed it. parkrun attendance records were smashed across the country without my attendance (and will be for the next couple of weeks when I’m not able to parkrun due to travelling to and from La Plagne).
In the evening, the plan had been a long run (11 miles / 17 km) on the treadmill. This ended up being cut short again at about 5.46km.
The foam roller got some action in the hope that it’d help. Achiness again when lying on the hip which wasn’t quite as painful as it had been earlier in the week but definitely uncomfortable.
Today, it’s Junior parkrun so a rest day.
The week ahead is scheduled as follows:
Monday: Tri Club swim
Tuesday: Run Camp Speed session
Wednesday: Tri Club Swim
Thursday: Tempo Run (depending on hip)