Here's me

My name is Matt I'm a freelance music teacher. I teach whole classes, voice, and guitar both privately and in local schools.

I've been running since February 2010. I originally set this up to promote fund raising for Edale Mountain Rescue Team when I did the Nottingham Ultra in 2011. I raised over £500 but the race was so uneventful (in a good way) that I couldn't be bothered to do a write up.

Now I'm intending to use it to document the running stuff that I want to be able to remember.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Some short sessions I'll be trying

I'm now starting work a bit earlier on Monday so I don't have time to do anything of decent distance before work any more but I'm going to try to get something in. I won't have time to do more than about half an hour plus a shower in between dropping my son at the child minders and setting off for work.

I want to out line some of the sessions I'll be trying to put in. Hopefully this will keep me in mind of what I have to do but I hope it will be interesting reading because some of them will be quite unusual sessions. There'll be the usual interval sessions but there'll be some all over conditioning too.

Here goes starting with the more usual stuff and including explanations where I think they may be needed

4 x 4 mins hard with 2 mins rest.

2 x 1 mile

2 x 100 meters

Tabata circuit. This involves taking an aerobic activity (so running, cross-trainer, stationary bike, jumping jacks, burpees etc.) to the point where its no longer an aerobic exercise. It takes 8 minutes in total here's how you break it down; 3 mins easy easy jog warm up, then 8 lots of 20 seconds on 10 seconds off, then 1 minute easy easy jog cool down. When you do the 20 seconds on its full max effort. Don't try and do a pace that you can do for each round just hammer it as hard as you can. No matter what your level this should be hard. The first time I did this session I felt really sick. In test it has been observed that subjects heart rates go beyond their theoretical maximum limit and this session has big claims for being one of the best weight loss sessions you can do because of the amount of calories you'll burn off in the 48 hours after the work out.

All over circuit. 5 x chin ups, dips, press ups, crunches, 400 meter sprint, rest. For the exercises choose sensible numbers and bear in mind that from the second exercise to the end you'll find them harder than normal because all the exercises share muscles. So I'm at around 40 mark for press ups in a single set but the last time I did this session I did 5 x 10 press ups within the session and I was finding them hard by the end

Stair training. For this you want around 40 steps in a flight. I do it on the Forest Recreation ground in Nottingham which has a set of 36 steps in 3 sets which is ideal. Here's what you do; every time you go up you go hard and when you come down you go easy you do 3 rounds each of; running touching every step, every other step, every third step, every fourth step; 2 rounds each, on each leg, of hopping touching every step, every other step, every third step; 1 round each of two footed jumps touching every step, every other, every third, every fourth, every fifth (if its possible on the steps you're on); last crawling – start at the bottom with your back to the steps go onto all fours (hands and feet not hands and knees (very important)) crawl backwards to the top when you get to the top crawl forwards back to the start. Carry on with the crawling if you can or if your like me you're now feeling wasted so go and cry.

Half an hour balancing. Get yourself a level hand rail (round if your balance is good square if not) get on it and practice balance; walking forwards and backwards stand facing the direction of the rail and do some squats, practice standing sideways on the rail, try some squats there too, also crawling (hands and feet not hands and knees) along the rail.

Those should keep me busy I'll add more as and when I think of them. If you find you've got bored with gyms or with normal intervals why not get yourself down to some stairs.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The challenge I face

The Challenge

What exactly am I facing with this challenge? Well there's the 31.16 mile race in October which will be hard on its own; I've walked that distance in a day before and it was a very painful experience, the furthest I've ever run is 26.2 miles in a marathon, I've run 20 miles or more only three times so far.

The race is really only the culmination of the challenge though. I don't want to just get through it; I could probably do that tomorrow because there's no cut off for the race.

For me the real challenge will be in the lead up to the race. I have in mind that I'd like to run it at the same average pace as I ran the marathon a month ago which means just over 9 minutes per mile (4 hours 47 minutes target time). When I did the marathon I got severe cramps at around mile twenty and if that happens in this race then I'd be looking at a very slow last 10 miles.

The training will be hard because I need to try to find out what causes my cramps and what I can do about it. That means I'm going to have to do a lot of runs at the kind of distance and intensity that will cause the cramps in order to try different remedies.

Along with this training goes the risk of the various over use injuries which all runners face. I think as long as I start the race I will finish even if it means a very slow time and walking a lot. What's going to be harder is getting to the start line having got a good balance in training; too little and I won't reach my time target, too much and I'll risk not making the start line at all. I really need to up the intensity of the training runs, honestly I didn't train that much for the marathon; I ran a maximum of three times a week but usually twice and there were weeks in the build up when I ran once or not at all. More importantly though I didn't really ever push myself in training. The long runs were done slowly and the shorter runs (10 miles or so) I did at probably 9 minute miles. In the marathon we set of at 8:40 per mile and up to the cramps didn't find that hard, I was breathing in for 2 steps out for 4. So the marathon was a real learning experience for me, I learned that I can run a lot faster than I thought.

Honestly I probably won't be able to up the consistency; the situation with work and family means there will still be weeks in the build up to the ultra that I won't be able to run all that much. I'm going to alter the training by upping the speed in training. I'm going to be including sections of faster running in the long runs and in the mid distance I'm going to really up the intensity. I'll write in another post about exactly what types of runs I'll aim for and about my slightly unusual method of judging effort.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Edale Mountain Rescue Team - What they do and why I'm running for them

Edale MR Team is made up entirely of volunteers and funded entirely through donations; they receive no funding from government.  They operate in the North of the Peak District but frequently work alongside other teams in the Peak and in Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Their core duty is to help climbers, walkers, and anyone else who has come a cropper in the sometimes difficult terrain of the Dark Peak area although they are often called to assist other emergency services in the area too.

The service is free to anyone that needs it but the annual cost of running the team is around £50,000.  This money is needed for such things as team training exercises, response vehicles and other equipment like defibrillator and stretchers.

The team traces their history back to the early fifties, got their first vehicle in 1992.  By 2006 the roster was three vehicles and apart from the first have all been donated - in turn the team pass on their old vehicles to other teams around the country.

By October 2010 the team had already had more call outs than in any other year making it the busiest ever year.  Here's a round-up of the type of incidents they deal with (I've taken the info from looking at their facebook page): boulders spraining ankles; 64 year old man got into difficulty, needed air ambulance; D of E group didn't make cut-off before dark, found by team using rescue dog; general injuries to walkers on well known, well trodden paths - could happen to anyone; mountain biker coming off and fracturing ribs.

What strikes me about all of these incidents is that they're all activities which I take part in; in fact one was a boulder on the trackside boulder at Curbar, I was there bouldering about a month ago.  And the other thing is that the incidents aren't caused by stupidity, they're just incidents; I've fallen off bouldering routes before, I've come off my bike before, I've accidentally stepped in a rabbit hole before. Anyone of these accidents could have been that bit worse and if they had have been I may well have called Mountain rescue.

For anyone that enjoys being out in the countryside don't think it will never happen, it could, please support my fund-raising efforts.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

What brought me to running... part 2

It is parkour that gave me the tools for running in terms of fitness but also in another way.

A couple of years ago I had a problem with landings.  I'd watched a video in which someone said "how far do you need to bend your legs really" the idea was that you don't need to bend your legs much on smaller drops.  I thought about this rather too much and got to a stage where I was almost locking my legs out and putting a lot of pressure on my legs.  At the time I often got to the child minders to pick up James a little before she got back from the school run and I used to practice balance on a rail behind her house.  One day I had no trainers in the car so I just did it barefoot.  I noticed that as I was jumping off the rail (about waist height) I wasn't experiencing the pressure that I had been.  The drop would hurt because of the roughness on the soles of my feet but there was no tension in my legs and everything felt good.
My 2nd pair which I used for the marathon

I wanted to include some barefoot work in my training.  From reading the Parkour Generations forums I knew about Vibram Five Finger shoes.  They're a very minimal shoe; a 2-3mm thick rubber sole to protect from stones, thornes, broken glass etc. but that's it - no ankle support, no arch support, no heal - its as close to being barefoot without actually being so.  I ordered a pair.

The first time I ran in my new Vibrams (VFFs) was a game changer.  I'd always gone for little jogs but never really enjoyed it, I just did out of a sense that I should.  The first run was difficult and after a couple of miles my feet were shot, the arches had completely collapsed, and I had to walk.  I loved it though.  Running in this way was so much fun.

There are lots of arguments about barefooting and I don't want to get into that but I would recommend barefooting or minimal footwear because its so enjoyable.

I got into running a bit more and started regularly going out for an hour or so.  I go out the door not really knowing what I'd do but just to enjoy going for a run.  Sometimes I'd go for something short, sometimes I'd mix in some parkour, on one occasion I went out thinking I'd go for about 6 miles and ended up doing at least 12.

Entering a marathon was the next step and that brings us up to date.  I still really enjoy the running I'm still basically doing the same thing - going out to enjoy the run.  I didn't really train for the marathon in the sense of having a programme, I did up my mileage but I just did what I wanted really.

The next step is the ultra.  I haven't started running again properly after the marathon but I think my first run back will be on Tuesday (6 more days) and I think it'll be around 15 miles.

What brought me to running

I've been more or less involved in physical activities all my life and they've always been connected with the outdoors and with movement.  My comprehensive school had a yearly activities day and for my first one (age 11) I chose to go on the Christmas walk.  It was a circuit starting and ending in Castleton and taking in Mam Tor.  The weather was awful and there was a genuine danger of being blown off the side of Mam Tor and at the top all I could do was cling onto the trig point and wait for the teacher to come and drag me off.  I really enjoyed it though and it was something I really wanted to keep doing.

When I started the bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award I began climbing as the physical recreation part I also got really into mountain biking at the time and between the ages of 14 and 17 most weekends would be a long bike ride on Saturday followed by the climbing centre on Sunday.  I kept going on the school walks and met Pete whose family did a lot of climbing and I often went climbing outdoors with them.  I used to love climbing although I was never good at it - especially outdoors because I'm not very good at heights.

I went to university at Aberystwyth and part of the reason for choosing to go there was because I thought that there would be plenty of climbing.  Actually that's not really true; the roads to Snowdon aren't great and its a long journey and at the time the guide book for mid-Wales was out of print.  So the climbing really tailed off.

I took up rowing instead.  I'm not talking about the Ox-bridge style boats though - we used celtic long boats.  They are around 20 ft, hold four rowers plus a cox and have fixed seats.  I had some great times rowing including surfing the boat into the harbour one when we went out in a force 4, rowing along side a pair of dolphins, and the celtic challenge.  The celtic challenge is a relay race from Arklow in Ireland to Aberystwyth in Wales. The year I did it the weather was amazing and the sea was totally flat.  It took our team around 18 hours and I was lucky enough to be in the boat for both sunset and sunrise.

After uni I moved back home to Nottingham with my girlfriend (now wife) and I did try to get back to climbing but money was scarce so I couldn't really afford to go to the climbing centre and time was also scarce so I found it difficult to get enough time together to get into the Peak District.  I still love to get climbing when I can though; I hardly ever go indoors but that's because I can't really be bothered but I get to the Peak District when I can (not often) and just enjoy myself climbing at my standard (low standard).

I am now much more focused on parkour which I found when I watched Jump Britain.  Parkour is running, jumping, and climbing in any situation.  So when you look at it you'll typically see someone making an obstacle course out of whatever environment they're in.  In the background the training is tackled much like a martial art and there is also a strong spiritual and philosophical side.  Its parkour that has given me the tools to take running more seriously...

My First Marathon

The white peak marathon 2011

My goal was to not blow and have a great time and a secondary goal was sub four hours.

I went off with two mates at about 8:40 miling. We were running how we felt and that was the pace so we were well on for sub 4 we went through half in around 1:53 and feeling good.  I had knew that the second half had a nett descent of around 250 meters and so far it had been all uphill, only gentle, but up none-the-less.  After the half point i was really looking forward to a bit of descent but i had to wait a little longer.

At 17 miles we were still going up and at a drinks station one friend stepped on my heal; I wear vibram five fingers and it came right off so I had to stop to put it back on.

The next section was horrible in the toe shoes, hard trail with sharp rocks scattered over the trail: exactly the surface that barefoot ted said is the most painful to run on.  I had to slow due to the surface but kept contact with my mates who pulled ahead when I was putting my shoe back on.  When the became a bit nicer again I quickly made up the ground on my mates and was feeling strong with lots of energy.

However at mile 19 it became obvious that my train would be stopping at cramp central station. At mile 20 I adopted a run walk strategy; well not so much run walk as run stop scream in excruciating pain walk run.  At one point I stopped to stretch out the front of my quads but while I was at it the back of my quad cramped up and all I was left with was the screaming. Just past mile 22 was when the route finally went down hill.  Its the kind of downhill I hate; steep and with the sharp stones back so the vibrams wouldn't let me just let the brakes of.

Anyway I ran down and the cramp had gone.  However when the nasty steep downhill was done it was back to the gentle up and within 400 yards the cramp was back. At the last water stop at 23 miles I actually stopped and just sat for 30 seconds and it was good and the last time I walked.  That may be because after another half mile or so there was a big steep down section; it was two really steep down with a flat section in the middle leading to the Cromford canal path at 25 and a bit miles.  It was then flat to the end and I managed to keep the cramp at bay till the end.

And I actually didn't blow I finished feeling great (except cramp), I ran with a smile all the way I got a row of about thirty hi-5s from a group of scouts at around mile 24, and even in the midst of cramp I was bigging up anyone that passed me and I was giving a thumbs up to anyone I passed.

One massive mistake was that as I crossed the finish line I stopped too abruptly and cramped so badly that it wasn't even funny and I was screaming so loud that a marshall from the drinks station 10 metres away came to check if I was ok.

The cramp meant that I didn't do my best; I've done training runs quicker, and apart from chafing, I cant really tell I've done it; I even carried my son downstairs a while ago.  However I had great fun, I didn't make 4 hours I actually got 3;61.32, my mates didn't get cramp and did 3:54. I was the fastest person wearing vibram five fingers.