Saturday, April 30, 2016

Almost Felt The Power...

That was by far my best training run to date. I was expecting close to 4 hours. What I got was 3 hours 32 minutes for the 27.5km Black Mountains race route with 1700m of ascent. I will admit that I decided to run it in reverse because I'm not sure I ever have - and I felt the run in, on tired legs would be easier. I think it's probably a slightly easier run anti-clockwise but still, 3 hours 30 in a training run.

Anyway, I headed over mid morning - nothings gets in the way of a lie in - except Squeaker jumping on the bed right in front of your face and, well, squeaking at 6am. One was not amused.

The weather looked fab but in the far distance I could espy some darker, ominous looking cloud. The kind of cloud that releases the wet stuff. The forecast said it would be rolling in from the west so I was prepared.

I set off steadily with the aim of getting around just on the right side of 4 hours. My plan was to work hard but not kill myself. To push myself to run as much of the sections the old me would have run - that's not old as in age now, old as in a long time ago in a galax... er, back when I was 'good' at running.

I ran most of the way to Crug Mawr apart the steeper climbs and felt pretty good. I didn't really go for it on the descent as I wanted to be able to work the harder sections. The climb to Bal Mawr went slightly awry directionally but not overly so and then I had a really good ridge run to Chwarel y Fan.

I wasn't looking forward to the ascent of Pen y Gadir Fawr. It's a long old slog and as I headed up the dark clouds finally caught up to me and it started to snow so I stopped to put on my jacket as it was getting cold. I finally got over the top and then from there, with more than half the distance covered and the longer climbs out the way I started to relax a little and enjoy it.

As I dropped down into the valley, the snow stopped and I started to overheat so I had to stop to take the jacket off. Down and back up the other side of the valley in short order I suddenly realised I was going to round in well under 4 hours. Then as I headed to across to Pen Allt-mawr the dark clouds swelled again, releasing hail stones this time so - you guessed it- I had to stop again to the put the jacket back on.

From Pen Allt-mawr I pootled across to Pen Cerrig-calch. After a few minutes the hail died off and I started to get hot again but this time I couldn't be arsed to stop. By the time I got over PCC I was starting to cramp up a little and feel slightly thirsty - having left my prepared bottle of water back in my kitchen - doh. I finally made it back to the car and felt like I'd been boiled in the bag.

Really pleased with how I ran. Longest run with most ascent so far. I'm coming back....

Friday, April 29, 2016

Route Planned...

Saturday looks like being the best day of the weekend so it'll be off to the Mountains I go. It's turned into a bit of a rest week so far. I did 45 minutes on the bike yesterday but took it easy. I've been feeling a little jaded but I feel fresher now. Hopefully that will convert to a good run tomorrow. I've chosen the Black Mountains race route. It's not quite the full eighteen but it isn't far off. Should be good.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Pegs Are Still Feeling Heavy...

So I'm pulling another rest day, with just thirty minutes on the bike. And I think I might need the recovery as the weekend is looking like being pants. With an eighteen miler in the schedule I think I'm going to need all the strength I can muster. Just need to work out where to run...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Feeling Tired...

I took a rest yesterday. My legs were - and still are - feeling tired. My session tonight wasn't exactly full on but I couldn't do nothing two days in a row. I pulled a steady 2000m row but my legs didn't have any power, 7:51. I then finished with 30 minutes on the bike and some core work. Hopefully I will be feeling more rested and energised tomorrow...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Marking Our Territory...

Or in this case the course for this morning's Offa's Orra multi-terrain race. It was an early start for a Sunday. Not sure the last time I was up at 6am on a Sunday.

Anyway, we set out from the race HQ at just gone seven and headed out to mark the course. I donned my cape and became Flour Man with my super power of drawing arrows on the ground out of - yes you guessed it - flour. Other members of the team for this important mission where Signage Girl with the power to carry lots and lots of signs and her trusty sidekick Signage Boy with the power to stick aforementioned signs in and onto almost anything; shrubbery, posts, gates, fences. You name it, he stuck a sign on it. The final member of the squad - it's changed from a team to squad because it sounds cooler - was Bamboo Cane Man with the power to transform garden canes into narrow red and white flags and stick 'em in the ground. I don't think they'll be making it into a film...

In total it took just under 4 hours to complete the course and we covered 22km with 600m of ascent. Although not exactly a full on run I feel surprisingly tired now but then I have clocked up 60km this week which far exceeds previous weekly totals. And that ends week 18 of The Comeback.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Leaden Legs..

I set out with the intention of running about 15km but the reality didn't quite work out that way. My legs just felt so unbelievable heavy. Anyway, I continued on and headed up to May Hill. I really struggled on the climb - and that was after the impromptu 20s pit stop to check that the old lady who got pulled over by her dog as I plodded past was okay. I felt bad but it wasn't really my fault her dog lunged towards me.

When I reached the top I was feeling so sluggish that I decided to switch from the intended route and followed my normal 9km training loop to see just how slow I was going. I don't want to get myself injured running tired and there are plenty more training days left.

Surprisingly, I was a minute inside my previous best and I got a CR on the final, short climb. Feel knackered now but at least it's another run done.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Taking It Easy

I felt wiped out last night after yesterday's battle on the mountain. Feeling more with it today but still took a rest day so it was just an hour on the bike. The plan for tomorrow is reasonably flat 15 or 16 km local or in the Forest - which isn't exactly un-local. Sunday I'll be helping marking the course of Offa's Orra if required, the detail of which I will sort out tomorrow.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Out Across The Expanse

I headed over to the mountains after the morning rush hour and arrived at the Cray Reservoir by about 10:45. The weather looked okay. It didn't feel too cold. There was quite a lot of cloud but it was well above the tops. All in all not too bad - I thought at first.

So I set off, retracing the route of many a South Wales Traverse recce. My legs felt pretty good and it felt like I was going okay. As I hit the Fan Hir ridge I realised how much the wind had picked up - but it was on my back so didn't trouble me - at least not at that point.

The run across The Expanse - as I like to call it - on a fairly direct line towards Garreg Las was harder going than I remember. Some sod has been out there planting extra tussocks and I seemed to have the uncanny knack of finding every boggy bit going.

By the time I reached the slopes of Garreg Las I decided I was going to have to retreat from my original plan of looping around it and just headed for the summit. I was feeling knackered and I wasn't even half way!

As I hit the summit I suddenly realised I'd made a good choice on the course shortening front. As I turned into the wind to start the return leg it was like running into a wall of force. I reckon the gusts were more than the forecast 40mph - but then I guess 40mph is pretty fast anyway.

From there it became another Traverse recce as I hit Waun Lefrith and Picws Du but boy was I suffering. On the very tops I was hardly moving forward the wind was so strong but it's not about how hard you can run, it's about hard the wind can hit you and you keep on moving forward - and I was still moving forward - slowly.

One big gust did manage to take me down though! Admittedly I got slightly off balance running in a rutted track but the gust meant I had no chance of recovery. It was soft grass so no damage done but I had to admit a second defeat. I was mindful of making it back to the car so decided to cut down off the ridge and followed the trod under the summit of Fan Brycheiniog around to Llyn y Fan Fawr. From there I retraced my steps back to the car.

In total I covered 24.5km with 1480m ascent in 3:22. Not a spectacular time but by god am I ever knackered now. The boggy bits and tussocks of the expanse and the very strong winds took their toll and let's not forget the almost 5,000ft of ascent in old money. That's my longest run with the most climb so it's not all bad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

And The Weekend Begins...

I've decided to stay around here the next couple of days. I was initially planning to head to Snowdonia but I just haven't got myself organised. So local-ish it is and I've decided to head to the far west of the Black Mountains and my first run of the year 'over that way'... That area is definitely my favourite part of the mountains. I just love the wildness and the Fan Brycheiniog ridge offers brilliant views.

The forecast looks good - read, there's only a small chance of rain. I have a route in mind, see below (if viewing the blog). It's slightly ambitious at this stage of The Comeback, weighing in at around the 17 mile mark and 4,500ft of ascent but you don't make cheese without mashing some curd - unless it's vegan cheese, of course, in which case you do.

As the route is a bit ambitious I decided a rest day was in order today. If I do run out of steam it won't be like haven't got all day to make it home. I'll see what it's store Friday once I get tomorrow out of the way...

Tomorrow's Fan Brycheiniog loop; 17 miles and 4,500ft ascent

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Thought My Legs Had Recovered...

They hadn't. It was a slightly disappointing speed session tonight. I started off with an easy ten minute warm up before cracking on with the session. It was meant to be 2 minute reps at 3:45 pace but my left calf was on the cusp of cramp during every rep within 30s so it ended up being 8 x 1min reps off 1min recovery but at least I maintained the 3:45 pace. I finished off with the bike and core.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It Burns...

My legs didn't have it today. I got the burn before my heart rate maxed. I wasn't expecting my legs to feel tired so that was surprise but I'm just glad my back was better and I was able to get out there. I pushed things as hard as I could and even when I was reduced to a walk on the steeper sections I still pushed hard and maintained the burn. By the end my calf muscles were just beginning to feel like they might cramp up but they didn't. I think I might be aching tomorrow...

So to the run itself. I headed over to Hollybush for about 10am and got straight on it. It was popular today - probably something to do with the fact that the sun was out. It was chillier than it looked though but still nice and I'm not complaining. In fact it was so popular the little car park was full. Luckily there's a lay-by 100m down the road that people seem to ignore so I parked there instead.

The views from the top were great. I could see across to the west Black Mountains. The distinctive Sugarloaf clearly visible as was Lord Hereford's Knob - no, not saying anything. As planned, I traversed - I'd say 'ran' but that would be a lying - all the way to the Worcestershire Beacon and beyond. I decided to 'run' up North and Table hills rather than loop round them to boost the ascent figures. Then it was back up to the Worcestershire Beacon and the return. I completed the 22.9km with 1180m ascent (14.3mi / 3875ft) in 2hr 25mins. I'm pleased with that.

Anyway, after yesterday's misfire, it was good to bring down the curtain on week 17 of The Comeback with the hilly 14 miler. Up next weekend is a 16 miler...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Back Ache

I didn't run. My back was playing up. I was hunched uncomfortably for hours at work on Friday out on site. Didn't think too much about it other than having a bit of an ache between the shoulders. I thought about it this morning. Really stiff and aching - the back, the back was stiff and aching. Feels much better this evening so going to set the alarm clock and try take two tomorrow - ooh, nice, an alliteration. Managed a pretty rubbish bike session earlier but I was able sit with my back straight and I think that helped ease away the tension.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Slight Change Of Plans

I've decided, in light of the iffy looking forecast, to head to the Malverns tomorrow instead of the Black Mountains. I'm going to run the full out and back, including the loop of North and Table hills.

It will be about fifteen miles and 4000ft of ascent - or, since I've mostly been quoting things in metric - 24km/1200m. They key difference to heading west, is that it'll all be at a lower altitude and so not quite so exposed to the potential bad weather.

Sunday looks to be better but I'd rather get the long run done Saturday and then do a local loop in the sunshine... [that's sarcasm not optimism - I don't do optimism as you all know, bah humbug, grrrrh]

My legs are feeling it a little from yesterday, and wanting a good run tomorrow, I put in 45 minutes on the bike - five of it off the clock since I forgot to start said clock. Finished off with a core workout.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Nailed The Flaxley Run

I went for another time trial in Flaxley Wood this morning - and absolutely nailed it. Clocked up two Strava CRs and a PB for the entire run. Pleased with that. I completed the 8.9km route (anti-clockwise version) with 240m ascent in 42:44. That's 73s quicker than last time and the fastest I've ever run it.

I pushed hard throughout but perhaps eased off a little on the main climb to conserve a bit for a strong, fast finish - suffice to say the CRs weren't on that section... I'm also closing in on the other two registered segments in the route. Soon I shall own Flaxley wood...

I was going to run a treadmill session yesterday but remembering I was off work today I decided to run the time trial instead as nothing gauges how you're running quite like, well, er, running.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Row Reps

Good training tonight. I felt pretty recovered and hit seven strong 1:51s minute reps. Finished with 30 minutes on the bike. All being well it'll be a speed session tomorrow.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Seventeenth Begins...

With a rest day. So just thirty minutes on the bike and a bit of core work tonight. My legs don't actually feel too bad. My quads feel pretty much fully recovered but both my calf muscles are feeling a bit tight. I decided to take it easy and be ready for a proper session.

I've started to give some thought towards next Saturday's run, a 14 miler. If the forecast is poor then I'll probably keep to the east Black Mountains. Maybe starting from Llanthony. If it looks like being decent weather then I may well head to the far West and my favourite part of the mountains. We'll see...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Slow Gallop

My legs felt okay this morning so I decided to go 'run' the Galoppen orienteering over at Cranham. I wasn't expecting much because although my legs didn't ache they felt far from fresh. After the first few controls I was beginning to regret my decision. The terrain was rough in more places than I'd have liked, brashings a plenty and I just didn't have the spring in my stride to cross that at any sort of pace. It felt like I was working hard so it was probably worth doing it on the grounds of getting in another training session.

Anyway, back to the detail. I decided to 'run' the brown course at 8.8km and 27 controls. I set off steady and got the first few controls out of the way pretty accurately. After that it started to go slightly awry. I didn't really make any big mistakes it was just that the fatigue set in and I really struggled to plan the route and move at the same time - a big problem for an intrepid orienteer. My brain just didn't work today. On the way to control 15 I found myself going in one hell of a strange direction and had to stop and work out what the hell was going on. I got myself back on route thankfully.

By control 18 I was beginning to get sense of humour failure. The brashings were becoming overwhelmingly annoying. Thankfully there was a bit of respite for a few controls before finally reaching the finish in a stunning 1 hour and 51 minutes!!!

The stats say I ran 11.4km with 485m of ascent and the results say I wasn't last... I completed today's training with half an hour on the bike before retiring to the sofa...

Saturday, April 09, 2016

12 Today's Number...

I didn't quite make the early start I had planned. I did eventually shed the duvet and get up though - albeit just gone half nine - back of the net. It took me an hour or so to get myself ready aka gather my kit together, print the route map and consume a freshly brewed coffee.

Having dillied and dallied I eventually arrived at the lay-by on A479 by midday. The sky looked brighter than what I'd left. In fact it didn't rain at all while I was out on the mountain - there were a few flakes of snow but no rain. Oh, and there was a biting cold wind but I had enough layers so it wasn't a problem.

I set off up to Pen Cerrig-calch following the South Wales Traverse route. It follows the road and then good paths to begin with before bearing for the summit and heading off the track. I couldn't be arsed with the compass and ended up hitting the ridge 50m east of the trig. I then followed the normal top ridge round to Pen Allt-mawr - stopping to put my waterproof on to keep out the biting cold.

I then completely took my eye off the ball and massively overshot my intended route down into the valley. Having realised I was almost to Pen Twyn Glas, I headed off piste over the rough, marshy, tufty ground and circled back round and down to eventually pick up the path.

Then I followed the track south and east around the bottom of Pen Cerrig-calch before once again heading back to said summit. From there I retraced my footsteps down to the car to clock up 19.5km with 1188m of ascent. My longest run so far with the most ascent. Pleased with that.

I'm thinking, depending on how my legs feel, I might go for a gallop tomorrow at the Galoppen orienteering...

Friday, April 08, 2016

Looks Like It's Going To Be Damp Out There Tomorrow

But I'm still going and I'm going for the route planned earlier in the week. I'm still feeling a bit tired but I only did half an hour on the bike and the core workout so should manage the 12 miler tomorrow. A quick look back the week so far sees it as being a light one but I really have been feeling tired. Not sure why. I don't feel unwell. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm not too concerned.

I've set myself goal of building towards a 20 miler in the mountains by mid-may while keeping on with the speed work. Soon I will have to give real thought to selecting The Comeback race...

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Making It An Easier Week

I want to have a good solid run Saturday so I'm not pushing it too much this week. My legs still don't feel fresh so I stuck with a solid hour on the bike and left it at that.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Not Quite The Plan..

As soon as I started on the treadmill my left calf muscle was tight. I nudged the pace up slowly to see if it would ease but it didn't. I took the speed intervals off the table. Instead I just gradually inched the speed up to 4:00 pace and twenty minutes and called it a day. My right hamstring is feeling a bit sore now as well after the thirty minute session on the bike. I finished with the core workout.

Anyway, I've fleshed out a possible route for Saturday. It's just under twelve miles and about 1100m ascent. Oh, and it's a clockwise route...

Monday, April 04, 2016

Week XVI Begins...

With a 2000m row and bike session. My quads are more achy today than yesterday as oft happens so my time of 7:48.2 wasn't too bad in light of that. My quads were fair burning in the home straight. The bike session to finish was okay too.

I'm starting to cast my mind to the weekend's run. At the moment I'm thinking about a 'run' up to Pen Cerrig-calch from Glen Usk and across the top north-ish before heading down the valley and back over the top for a of target 12 miles.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

And That's Fifteen

Fifteen weeks of training complete. It ended with a rest day and just 45 minutes on the bike as my quads and hams are sore. Only a little sore though so I should be ready for action tomorrow.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

I Really Enjoyed That

As I drove across to Abergavenny, the Blorenge and Sugar Loaf were shrouded in low cloud. Oh well, I thought, I'm still doing it. By the time I got to the leisure centre the cloud had lifted and there was a glimmer of hope that the sun might make an appearance... There was also a glut of bicyclists filling the car park - I surmised that there must have been an event going down - just call me Sherlock.

Anyway, I donned my fell shoes and headed out just gone twelve. The plan - forsooth there was one - was to take it relativity hard all the way to Sugar Loaf which, from the leisure centre, is pretty much a 5k climb with 510m ascent, of varying steepness and only the merest hint of flat. It felt hard work and my heart rate was up at 170+ but it actually felt like I was going quite well - first time in a long while and the sun came out!

The second part of the plan was to keep running the Llanbedr to Blaenavon fell route in reverse until I clocked up enough outbound distance so that by the time I got back to Abergavenny leisure centre I would have covered about the same distance as if I'd run from the race start point - are you with me?

Both the race route as it reaches Abergavenny and my route today had almost identical overall ascent (880m), similar shaped climbs and 15.8km distance. Today's run was designed so as to be able to compare today's run against my times to reach Abergavenny in races past - are you still with me? I should add the plan, on the inbound section, was to try and keep up - or surpass - the racers. Which I did for the most part, catching five or six. Only the half man, half mountain goat that is the Lawsonator significantly whooped me on the climb to Sugar Loaf. The man is an unstoppable beast once he hits the mountain...

My Strava stats for today hold up against those from a bygone age (2012).... I achieved a VAM of 850 on a section of the first ascent - whatever the hell that is, but it's the highest I've recorded during the training so far. My time for the run was 1hr42 (which includes a bit of stopping to chat with a few people) holds up well against 2012s 1hr37 for the similar distance etc..

Finally, I must admit that there would have been no way I could have run the race distance of 25km today as I was tired in the last few kilometres. The comparisons, therefore, aren't entirely fair but they hint at improvement. So there is still work to do but I do feel somewhat buoyed by today's run - and let's not forget I still have two more months of training before The Comeback...

Oh, and I finished with 35 minutes on the exercise bike when I got home.

Friday, April 01, 2016

So I Rested..

No training tonight. I want to be rested for my return to the mountain tomorrow - even if it is just training. I want to see how I fare climbing - that's as in running up hill not climbing as in rock climbing. It'll be good to see where I am with regards to the comeback. I feel quite excited - how weird is that?...