Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Carb Loading for a half marathon

CARB Loading for a half marathon?? (Put in the most simple words possible)

Truth is, it isn’t absolutely necessary to carb load for an event this long BUT from my experience I’ve always run and felt better when I have. Most importantly EVERY ONE IS DIFFERENT so the more experienced you are the more likely you are to know what suits you etc.

First thing you have to do is forget about that devil in your head that’s telling you ‘I’m going to get fat by doing this!’ – You’re NOT!! Instead what you will get is a feeling that your muscles are full of glycogen, fatigued muscles WILL feel better (Injuries won’t ;) and come the day you should be feeling great and with all the training (or lack of J ) done and dusted you will be fully recovered to run for longer before the body want’s refuelling.

The Best approach?

The answer is there isn’t a one size fits all policy with Carb Loading. In fact some people swear its unnecessary and you could argue it is (for a half marathon), especially if you’ve tapered (rested up in the build-up). Though, most of us haven’t got the luxury of being able to do nothing at all in the week building up – We have, jobs, a life and things that just have to be done so from my own experience and trial and errors truly believe carb loading to be a big help on the day.

The method many beginners use is just to eat a hell of a lot the day before. Whereas it will work I’ve found there is a finer margin for error. If you get it wrong, eat too much, eat something that hasn’t agreed with you and you can wake up on the half marathon day feeling sluggish, have gastric problems and all in all just mess up the day. It’s risky, you can get away with it and feel great but if it goes wrong then you feel awful. However, I say ‘awful’, you’ll still get around the course and complete the challenge if your stomach is a little uncomfortable it just won’t be as fast as you wished or as comfortable! If you don’t care about this then by all means just try a big days eating the day before. It might work but don’t say I didn’t give you the heads up.

A more sensible approach is to just eat a steady increase of carbohydrates in the 3-4 days  building up – This is a more sensible approach but again I found it didn’t give me the energy boost I needed. Mainly because some days even without training would become very active just from living your life so all of a sudden a couple days later you’re still tired so haven’t had the benefits of loading up on the carbohydrates.

Though, with this you can adjust by eating according to how active you are so still eating a little more each day, maybe a 100g-150g  extra a day only but for 3-4 days.

Finally, what I’ve learned works best for me (Not everyone) is to cut training out completely after Monday (Providing the run is Sunday) then Tuesday and Wednesday usually involves a serious amount of Carbohydrates – Counting carbs/calories isn’t necessary at all. I simply eat until I can no longer eat anything else for two days. You DO feel bloated and it’s not comfortable on the stomach which is why I do it Tuesday and Wednesday then Thursday becomes a ‘normal’ day eating, just like you would on any other day (No cutting carbs or eating next to nothing just a steady intake, carbohydrates with every meal). 

By Friday you are full of energy, totally recovered from all the training and pretty much just waiting for the day to arrive.  I’d do a run this day maybe 2-3miles with some 30 second intervals at half marathon pace just to wake the legs up after the inactivity. This day would again involve a steady intake of carbs with a tough more than you normally would like an extra couple sandwiches or something.

Saturday then would involve a 2mile run just to stretch out then another day eating like Friday, a good dinner Saturday night but nothing bonkers! Have faith, your body is ready from the huge intake Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sunday – Normal Breakfast!!! Then that’s it we run!!

·         Please note this is just advice/methods I’ve tested and ways I’ve found best suits me it’s not a one way fits all policy.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Ironman Wales 2012

Where to begin, without doubt the hardest but most rewarding and memorable day of my life. It all started last year after watching Ironman Wales 2011. Though I did a lot of running and done some decent marathons (2.58 best) I didn't do much cycling other than commuting and swimming, well, that didn't exist. I could swim but only a few lengths then a rest and never had lessons.

However I was inspired after 2011's Ironman and running had to be honest got boring. So I changed things, got out of the comfort zone and decided to see what if I could do it in 2012. I entered on behalf of the R.N.L.I and aimed to raise as much money as possible. That's when it started, an epic year in my life!

10 months after I entered I was loading the car, racking the bike, checking the list I had and Tenby bound. It was Friday the 14th, two days before Ironman Wales 2012. Where had the year gone?

Driving down I couldn't stop thinking about the swim, my S.I Joint (which has held me back and stopped me running a lot this year) but didn't even consider the bikes challenge. Had I done enough training? 'I've run 6 miles in 3 weeks, oh shit!', What if I don't make the swim cut off? 'All my friends and family would be down for nothing' - turned out I was getting a bit stressed so just tried to switch off as it was too late now!

Got to Tenby, it was full of slim people walking around eating carbs, standard! Registered, walked around the expo and just chilled. I was worried about my S.I Joint, it was not amazing.

Friday went, hardly slept. Saturday morning came and it was time to rack the bikes. Went through all the security checks - Job done. Decided to swim 15mins, S.I joint felt good so I was bouncing, I was ready to give it a go!

Sunday 16th September - Ironman Wales 2012

Got up with the rest of the B+B at 4:30am, I'd been awake since 3.40am. I was eating my porridge at 4:30am thinking I should be eating a Kebab at this time on Sunday morning ha ha. The was a tense atmosphere at breakfast, we just did are own thing. Time to get to transition, pump the tires up and just check final things. It was 5am, Tenby was very very busy but the atmosphere was so eerie. A few thousand people about but hardly a word spoken, it was tense! Whilst preparing the bike some guy next to him had left both his bottles in the hotel and his pump. He was stressed!!

All things done, we were all ready where by the organisers were going to march us through the town and down to the beach to start the swim. It was a strange feeling, like we were being marched to war or something. As we walked through the town we turned the corner to a sea of people chanting and shouting, amazing! We got to the beach, I looked up and the amount of people at such an early hour was one of the most amazing things I'd seen.

10mins to go, put myself in the sea. This was it, all the training and sacrifices for this day. Others were praying some being as laid back as you can imagine whilst others just hid there faces and went into there own world. Crazy experience already.

2mins to go a lady sung the Welsh national anthem, some mumbled the words but a guy next to was singing his heart out and it made us all laugh because he actually had a cracking voice. Brilliant, I was pumped to the max after this.....BOOM, it started!!

I got kicked in the face and eye but just stayed relaxed and remembered the technique best I could. One lap done, back in for the second lap and on this lap I spotted some of my mates that were lifeguarding the swim. Spurred me on and I finished the swim in 1.22, not fast but well ahead of schedule so happy days! Upper body was tired, already. Ran the 1km to get my bike, saw some more friends cheering, loved the support! Suit off, bike gear on etc and off I went. 112miles on the Pembrokeshire roads, the brutal Pembrokeshire roads! I was going good but then , a puncture and to make it worse I dismantled all my parts into an ants nest (Fuck Sake). What a pantomime! 20mins later, I was back on the road. I was pushing it now to catch up which probably wasn't the best idea, I got tired fast, then a second puncture! I just wanted to throw the bike but kept saying to myself 'cool head Rhys' it's ok. Got it sorted but I was well behind my plan of a 6hr 30 for the bike but soon realised time was not important, lets just make it.

Crowds cheered us on through Narberth, Saundersfoot etc and by now the weather and wind was not great at all, people were falling off and having worse issues than my punctures so I decided lets ease back and make the bike. 90miles in I was struggling, I was cramping on the bike and going up the two last climbs was an experience in itself. People were so tired that it was probably easier to walk but the ego wouldn't allow that. The only problem was that being locked in to the pedals if someone failed on a hill they just fell over, in a normal situation that would be funny but there was this amazing atmosphere around which seemed to bring everyone including spectators together to encourage and really try help people who were struggling. Lost for words with it.

Bike transition and just the run to go! Yes I thought, I got it wrong was I!

Started the run feeling decent and after seeing friends and family and so much support I was ready to go for it. Considering I'd done a 2.59 marathon in normal circumstances I thought maybe 3.45 for this. Ran the first 2 laps (13miles) in 1.45ish then I hit numerous walls, started vomiting and my vision was blurry. woops! It took me 2hrs 30ish to do the last 13miles of the day. The most painful 13miles of my life but It was literally a case of making it or leaving on a stretcher. Stopping was not an option! A friend of mine said to me 'On that 3rd lap you looked in a very dark palce' haha. It's funny now!!!! I couldn't get over the support on the run, It kept me going but I couldn't believe how encouraging all the locals were. People of all ages and all interests were almost as if they were in awe of the whole event. Something that stuck in my head was when a lady crossed in front of struggling runners to support someone but accidentally blocked a runner. People were fuming on the side of the road but what hit me was that the people that were telling the lady to move were young 18 year olds who usually think there too cool for school but during this event were as encouraging and helpful as anybody else. Amazing, that stuck in my head whilst I shuffled and ran/shuffled with 'head down attitude'.

I was a mess by the last two laps and struggled. About 3miles from the end was the first time I realised, I'm going to make this, I am an Ironman :)

Turned to the finish music blasting, people cheering I crossed the line in 13hrs 44. Way behind schedule but it was WAY harder than I thought. Insane experience which I vowed never to repeat Sunday but by now I feel a lot better so who knows, maybe!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ironman Taper

Just over three weeks until my first Ironman and it's been a crazy 5-6 months. So much training, maybe too much at times, an ongoing S.I Joint injury, being knocked off my bike 6 weeks out and the numerous other little sacrifices that have come with such an event such as a hit on the social life, the 24/7 thoughts that revolve around all things Ironman/nutrition/training/recovery etc. On top of that I have found as much as I promised myself it wouldn't the whole journey has 'taken over' as such.

Don't get me wrong I love all things fitness, adventure and find the whole nutrition side of it all fascinating but knowing 'I have to train' does get pretty annoying and there have been times when I've just wanted to quit but thats not an option at all!

Ironman has been on my to-do list for the last 5 years, since I first heard about it and like most people thought it isn't humanly possible to do such an event, the competitors must be 'on' something. What a difference 5 years has made, such a journey from a lazy person who let life pass by to someone who has managed to do everything I've aimed for, a sub 3 hr marthon, an ultra now for an Ironman!

Last year Wales hosted the first Ironman and having gone down to watch thought this is a must. Like most I didn't know where to start with the swimming, I didn't do swimming! I remember going to the pool and having to rest after 3 lengths. That only 8 months ago and even though I'm still very slow and the distance does worry me slightly I'm doing 1-1.5mile sea swims regularly. Something I'm as chuffed as anything about. SHould be fine.....Has to be fine!

The run is the run and will be 26.2 miles of pain but as long as I keep going will/have to make it. The cycling I've worked very hard at and managed to reach all my goals so far, just one to go!
I'm also 5kgs lighter than I was post xmas partying and even though I'm not quite as fast on the run as I was it's still probably my strongest section all in all so long as I get this taper correct should be going in to Ironman Wales in the best 'all around' shape I've been.....Who would have thought 5 years after thinking it wasn't possible I'm 3 weeks away from standing on the start line, EPIC!!

How am I going to taper??

I decided on a 5 week taper from the volume with the initial 2 weeks being high intensity but all very short (less than an hour including long rides). Having done so much long stuff felt I wanted that 'sharp' feeling you get with high intensity or a few of us say, 'pushing yourself until you taste blood' haha

The final 3 weeks will be a proper rest cutting volume doen to probably 40% in the 3rd week, 30% second week and 20% at most Ironman week. A bit of a change to the diet, opting for a higher protein diet during the taper before a graduall carb fest Ironman week or a few days before. Not the day before!! It's too close to be too full as such. I find it also a lot better to try and spread the carbs over the day and much easier on the stomach. The higher protein intake 2 weeks before will leave me a bit low on energy but don't worry, the training is done once you start the carb load will be able to get more carbs than usual down which will leave you 'bouncing' come Ironman - perfect!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Ironman Wales - 12 weeks to go!

With 12 weeks ish to go until the big day it's time to start to pick things up and get the body in fine working order!

Up until now I've kept my self with a bit in the tank and leaving the bigger volume for the next 8 weeks.
The thinking is I'm not going to do more than two 100 mile rides, maybe three at most! Up until now I've done a couple 70m rides and an 80m but except for them just done 40-50mile long rides and there hasn't exactly been much consistency. The only consistency is the fact I've been on the bike most days which has cramped up the mileage to around 150mile weeks with one or two 200mile weeks. However I found I was pretty tired after 200miles of cycling in a week so cut it back to about 150m. Whats the point killing myself early and in all honesty whats the point killing myself before the Ironman full stop?

The majority of my training has been on the bike and even though my swimming was non existent before Christmas, I found that 2-3 swims in the week with the od 4 swim week and also the od one swim week, it's come on a lot and even though it will take me a while I pretty sure I can get around the swim. With regards to the running I've had an injury all year so have literally only strated running again in the last week! However I'm from a running background and honestly think even though I've not run all year I can get the running up to scratch, or at least 'good enough' with 12 weeks left. 3 runs a week I'll do probably, one long, and two faster ones. I'll do a hand full of brick type sessions but not going to stress about the 'running after cycling' difficulty too much.

At the moment I'm probably doing between 12-15 hr weeks but a lot of the sessions are shorter sessions. From know on I'm going to bulk up the volume and gradually build it up to hopefully peak with a 20hr week about 4 weeks out. Then the nightmare of a taper which I always struggle with after been training so long but if you get it correct can be a the difference between a good day and a bad one.

So 12 weeks of graft ahead and 12 weeks of commitment and I hopefully will make it around.

At the moment anything between 12-13 hrs on the day and I'll be happy but if it took 16 I wouldn't really mind so long as I get around!

I could kill myself as such with the training for maybe a 30min improvement but I don't see the point and have no intention of getting too stressed about times. I'm going to do 'enough' to get me around as comfortably as can be with such an event but that's about it.

I'm estimating maybe 1.30 ish for the swim, 6.30-6.45 for the bike and 3.30ish for the run with no panics in transition! However in all honesty, I'm not fussed if it takes longer so long as I get around and can call myself an Ironman! Something I heard about 5 years ago and didn't think people could do such a thin, now I'm 12 weeks away from the start line!

Good luck to all taking on the challenge :)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Carb Loading

It's that time of year again where Endurance events are back in the game. The London Marathon being one of many events coming up in the weeks ahead and with thousands of people participating it would probably be a good time to write about Carb Loading.

Over the last few years I've tried as many different Carb Loading techniques as I can think of. Some have been brilliant, others not so but one thing I'm certain of is that it works and works well! However everybody is different so you can't do something completely different to you training because the chances are your gut wont like it or you just won't feel like you want to. Below are some techniques I've tried and why I think they worked or didn't work:

1) This method is one that gets mixed reviews but I find this one to be the best for me. Every time I do it well I feel like I'm on form come the event. (However you need to have tried this in training, I wouldn't just do it off the cuff!) Basically it's a week long process (the week leading up) - Day one - Day three is a pretty low calorie diet, something like 2,000 calories which seems insane when you consider what your up to over the coming weekend. It's high in protein, high in Veg (Mountains of veg with a chicken breast style), high in fruit and pretty low in CARBS. Personally I start the day off with oats every day so that doesn't chance but the rest of the meals are pretty low carb. WHY?? After 3 days of this your body has completely rid of its glycogen stores meaning its frigging desperate for sugar (Carbs) and personally after 3 days of this having just come off big marathon training I can consume 5-6000 calories a day over the next two days and I'm only weighing about 72-75kgs at this time. Without the cut the first three days you wouldn't be able to eat this much but believe me after two 5000 calorie days you are bouncing and ready to go! The important thing is to follow up the day before the race with much less food, just a 'normal amount like you always eat'. If you get this rite you are bouncing on the start line. Dangers are that it's easy to get wrong and you end up a bit full on the day. Also if were being sensible, I can't imagine it being that healthy but theres no doubting how well it works and for only one time once every blue moon it's not going to harm anyone in my eyes.

Also when your eating 5000 calories in a day it's not all about just eating well. There's only so much veg, wholemeal foods you can eat before the fibre etc makes you way to full. As long as your body is familiar with it eat as much of everything as you can. I've been known to eat 10 jaffa cakes with a cuppa tea on a carb load followed by lunch of massive amounts of veg and a big sweet potato and fish. Before having an afternoon snack of 4 ham rolls followed by a dinner of a 12" pizza with afters of whole tub of Ben and Jerrys! I'm lolling at that as I write it but IT works, and the enxt day I'm still fairly full which is why you need the day before to be a 'normal' day of eating with foods that are as close to what you've been eating in your training as possible.

2) The second method and most sensible is the week before just to eat 'normally' each day but with a bit more carbs each day. E.g. if you eat 3000 then eat 3500 each day. This method means your body doesn't go in to any extremes the week before and for 90% of people this is definitely the best option! Option one is risky and can be horrible if you get it wrong but by far the best if it's done well. This way of doing it where by you just eat a little bit more each day is a safer bet and will still give you a plenty of loaded up glycogen levels to put in the effort you want.
You just need to make sure that your carb levels are high each day, like 400-450grams. You will feel a bit sluggish in the week but this is the case for any carb load method because you eat a lot of food and don't do hardly any training. However Carb loading works - how many of us have had a weekend off mid training, eatan what we think is too much over a weekend, drunk a bit too much but then come Monday we feel like we can keep going all day?? Well this, without thinking is a carb load and why you feel like you can go for longer. So don't feel like you need to do any extra training in the last week, just relax, stretch and eat a fair bit.

The only thing I wouldn't do is eat a ridiculous amount the day before, keep the big eating for in the week.

3)Final method and one I'm not doing again is just forgetting about loading but then the day before going nuts because I'm in some sort of panic because I think I need to load up. This left standing on the start line the next day with my stomach just way too full and me feeling like I'm huge and sluggish. I ended up feeling like crap all day and just wasn't up for it ending up doing rubbish.

Each to there own as everybody is different and if I was to recommend anything to the average person I would say option two, a steady increase in carbs all week/5days before, it won't be as much of a shock to the system and a much safer bet to feeling good on the day! When I've done my best I've used the first option and believe it works best but only if you've tried it in your training because I think it's too much of a shock for the average person to do it randomly a week before.

Anyhow, talk over about Carb loading....DON'T WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT IT AT ALL, putting the training in is far more important. Best attitude is to go out and enjoy the whole thing. It's a much better experience and much more worth it I think. At the end of the day were not breaking any records just wanting to achieve something.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Ironman journey begins

This week is the beginning of my Ironman journey and my plan is babysteps, especially for the first 4 weeks as I'm struggling to overcome a sacroiliac injury which has made my training broken and inconsistent and running hasn't even been on the agenda for 2 months. However with over a week spent doing 45mins of mobility work, stretching and general strengthning of the pelvic area I feel ready to try a run today so cross fingers!

I did devise a 20 week programe which I was convinced gave me the correct balance between maintaining some sort of social life aswell as training my ass off but this injury has disrupted things. So my new plan is to use the old plan as a guide but be flexible with when I do certain session. Also at the moment I think anything more than one run a week is too much for me and too much volume is also too much. Running and long rides are going to have to have a few days between and the 'inbetween' session are going to have to be short and high intensity. Strangelly it seems like I can handle HIT cycling fine but volume session make my pelvis a shambles the next day. However hopefully in a few weeks I will improve.

Basically this is my plan -

1) First 4 weeks will be rehab for the injury and an attempt at some easy short training session just to try and get some consistncey back. I'd have a guess at about 4 days training 3 off for now.
2) After 4 weeks I would like approx 12 weeks of base building where I will gradually build up some training and give me some sort of fitness back - May consist of 1 long ride, progressing (ish) as we go on, and the same with a run and swim and if I can I want one conditioning session in.
3) Then 4 weeks where I will try some of my longest rides and runs then the rest being speedwork to get sharp again.
4) Final 4 weeks taper where I shall do as little as possible just to keep me going. I would like to think I'll be down to about 4-5 days here as I know from experiance, less is more in the taper!
5)I'm going to training in 2-3week blocks with mini tapers as such on the 3rd or 4th week. This depends how I feel really and what I will have done in these blocks. Definitelly though I'm adament I don't want to get in to overtraining rut this summer like happened last year. I would rather be a bit under done than over as I'm sure staying motivated carries someone forward that extra few weeks alone.

Starting from this week I will post weekly training updates about what session I've done and how it's going on the journey to becoming an Ironman.

Finally, I have a rough plan of how I will train but as ever things will crop up, I will shuffle and change session if I would rather do one session than the other. So long as I'm heading in the rite direction and enjoying it I'm happy.

Goal - sub 12 hrs BUT mainly to get to the end!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Injury nightmare!

It's been a while since I've blogged, mainly because I've finally met an injury! I say this because since I started my endurance/fitness/competing/health interest or whatever you want to call it four years ago I've been lucky and had to have nothing longer than about a week off due to injury. I've run marathons, a couple of ultras, done 100+ mile run weeks, done a lot of high intensity training be it running/cycling or on the weights but had nothing major until now!

Since the first week in Januray I've not been able to run for more than 10mins and there have only been 3-4 of them, by last week I couldn't even run 200yds. Cycling has kept me sane as well as swimming but recently I've struggled in the pool due to the twisting motion of the pelvis and after 2 months of cross training have finally been told to stop completely and only work on rehab exercises and at best low intensity (disco weights/pointless weights) upper body weights for as long as it takes!

I know there is more important things in life but to me this is a serious downer - In to the 3rd month of injury and when you train day in day out the weeks suddenly become ridiculously boring.

On the plus side my Ironman Wales training doesn't start until April 16th so my best option is to work on rehabilitate my sacroiliac joint (pelvis area) over the next four weeks and slowly start getting stronger again!

On top of this I'm ridiculously motivated and am positive if I can string a good month together come May the I'll be well on my way to getting back to fitness!

One goal - become an Ironman! (even if I have to do it slower than planned)