Saturday, November 24, 2012


As its only 2 weeks to my 32 k Trail des Caps, I thought it might be a good idea to give a flavour of what I've been doing. As you know I have incorporated a lot of Crossfit type workouts and a lot less running over the past few months. I felt this would be a good opportunity to experiment with Crossfit Endurance. My normal training would be 60+ plus kilometres per week with 10 minutes calisthenics 3 days per week and a hill repeat sprint session once per week (this would include a long run of 4-5 hours). My schedule for this race has been very different......The first 6 weeks were 4 days per week of HIIT (High intensity workouts for 20 mins max) with  3 runs including interval and sprints totalling only 25-30k per week.....and the last 6 weeks were as follows......(please note that all Crossfit workouts have names).

Monday     AM 10k Tempo or Interval Run (60 sec sprints/60 sec rest)
                  PM Crossfit- 3x8 Clean and jerk, 5x5 Weighted barbell squats & (GRACE- 30 reps Clean
                  and jerk).

Tuesday   AM Crossfit - 4x8 Snatch, 5x5 Bench press & (BARBARA - 4 rounds as fast as possible of
                   20 x Pull ups, 30 x Chest release push ups, 40 x Sit ups, 50 x Bodyweight squats).

Renegade of my favourites.
                   PM 1500 metre timed sprint.

Wednesday REST

Thursday    AM Crossfit- (PATTY - 5 Rounds of HIIT 40 secs of each exercise, 20 secs rest,
                    Kettlebell swings, Let me inns, Barbell push press, Running mountain climbers)
                    PM 800 metre x 4 sprints with 90 second rest.

Friday        Long 20-24k trail run with 2/3000 feet of elevation gain (2-3 hours).
                  * (Paddy and Crossfit Endurance don't agree with this Long run, 90 mins would be the max that they would recommend....but I believe its neccessary from a psychological perspective)

Saturday    AM Rest
                  PM Crossfit. Either 4x10 Overhead squats, 3x AMRAP Toe bars and    
                  (LINDA, 2,1, reps of Deadlift, Bench press, Cleans)..............OR...........
                   Crossfit 3x 6 Handstand pushups, 3x5 Box jumps and (MARY - one round as many reps
                  as possible of 5 x Push press, 10x One-legged pistol squats, 15x Hang cleans.)

Sunday       REST

..........and thats it. Total time in gym per week.....  2 hours.
                              Total time running per week ....3-4 hours
                               Total exercise time...................5-6 hours

Sidenote  This includes 2 full rest days per week. Paddy, my coach, would have preferred it if I'd done even less running. In my first 6 weeks I only did 72 mins of High Intensity exercise per week, ie averaging 12 mins per day and in that time I  decreased my body fat to under 10%.....
  *Also, I realise that 3 hours is not a very long, 'Long run' as regards ultra training but as Crossfit advise against any runs of this length at all, then in this program it is.
       I have tried to be specific here to show more clearly that its what you do and how you do it, not how much. Nutrition of course is even more important. Sue and I have worked out that I eat probably twice as much as I used to but the balance of carbs to protein to fat has changed fact our diet now is probably about 75% Paleo.
       I'm sure Paddy and I could work out a more effective routine than the one above but everyone is different so this is a learning curve to see what will work best for me at this stage. A female friend of ours, married with 4 kids, does 20 hours training per week to run marathons, so you can see my type of training is nothing in comparison, but if this is effective which would you choose? My training is more varied, stimulating and carries less injury risk than only running up and down mountains for 20 hours per week but we all have a choice and if thats what you want to do.. ...and have the time....then good luck to you.
     After this week I will taper the mileage further with just Tabata's and intervals and ease back completely on any strength work. Apart from a brisk walk I'll do nothing the last 3 days before the race. I will increase my carbs in the last week but I won't go crazy because otherwise I'll feel too heavy as I'm just not used to it....and besides I don't believe in changing your natural diet too much the week before a race. I normally run and train on my existing diet so if I double my carb intake then that should be enough to build up my glycogen stores.( However, I reserve the right to screw up completely.........just in case any of this goes wrong.)
      I admit I am concerned about the lack of mileage and to be honest I should have done more sprint/interval work but this is partially an experiment to see what happens with this type of program. Also one can feel good or bad on any given day and the weather too can play a part plus the terrain is quite different to previous races so its bound to be 'interesting'.There are always suprises in trail running and that's part of the fun so you have to be prepared to adapt.... ..and speaking of suprises, today I was doing a 10 k interval run, feeling good and suddenly I pulled my calf muscle. I have had no injuries for 9 months and 10 days before my race, Bang!  So annoying, and worrying as I thought I was over the calf issue. So it was the normal R.I.C.E. protocol and then back to the TENS machine. I can still do most of the Crossfit stuff but I'll have to think long and hard about any running this week. This will of course be a worry during the race but what can you do? My physio Helen is coming over tommorrow and she will no doubt administer some horrendous torture in order to get me fit.This is going to be a very strange 'taper' week, hopefully my fitness will be okay and the rest period should help muscle recovery.......we shall see, I'll just have to roll with it.
    Funnily enough this summer I  was doing a quick 10 k with a friend of ours, Jules, who is no stranger to road marathons, and he was quite suprised at how much you had to concentrate on where you are putting your feet and how mentally tiring it must be in an ultra........which is very true because I can guarantee that in an ultra the moment you look up and admire the view you'll be flat on your back and looking up at the sky!
    On a completely unrelated note I was in chilly London last week and went training in a small park at dusk. I was doing sprint repeats for about an hour and suddenly a voice from the darkness, an American voice, shouts out;-
    'Hey man those negative splits are a bitch aren't they?'
     I had to laugh.... Yanks, you gotta love them......for a moment there I was back in sunny Southern California.


Saturday, November 10, 2012


On reflecting about the recent US election and the polarising effect of politics it made me ponder on that other great division, not only in the US, but throughout the world. It is of course between the have's and the have nots........those who have a lot of fat and those who don't.
      'Oh I can hear you saying, he's off again, having a go at us unfit fatties'....well yes, repent, repent the time is nigh......the day of reckoning is approaching......ha ha, I sound like Elmer Gantry. Who? don't worry about it, (there was a time when I would have to explain this reference but I guess anyone interested will Google him in 5 seconds). I digress. Why is it that 'obsession' is a word that is always applied to the fit and healthy whereas if someone eats crap, drinks too much and watches TV all night then they are considered 'normal'. I think its a con and a great many people have fallen for it, I meet them all the time.....'I eat very well'........'Nothing wrong with having a few drinks'.....'People who excersise are always dying of heart attacks'.........'I'm happy with my weight'........'My grandma lived to 98 and she smoked all her life'.......I could go on and on but you get the picture. So many people live a life of denial......and as my friend Crazy John used to  say.....'Yeh they think de nial is a river in Egypt'.
        We all succumb to easy ways and lazy thinking, its a natural human trait but when it comes to being healthy you have to fight the easy option......'Shall I go for a run or have a pizza and watch X factor?' The facts are that the majority will do the latter but the fit minority will not only choose to run, they prefer it and herein lies the problem. The 'fits' believe in the idea and the reality of being healthy and any action associated with it whereas the 'fat's' believe, or want to believe, that the pizza/X factor option will do them little or no harm.......and while that thought predominates they will always be fat.
       Belief is everything. I don't think the 'fats' neccessarily believe that over eating is healthy but neither do they believe that eating well and exercising leads to Nirvana. So what is going on in the old cerebal cortex and how do we flick the 'fit' switch and get everyone off their backsides ?

   Its a big question as many people have good intentions and 'want' to do something but 'want' is no good, it has to be a 'must'.The other challenge is that a great many 'fat's' actually think they are a 'thin'........or atleast not as fat as they truly are. Before I get accused of being fattest we have to understand that everyone has and needs fat, if you didn't you'd be dead. Top male athletes are well under 10% but the average American male is between 18-24% and over 25% is considered to be obese. In Women its 22-25% with over 30% being obese. Female athletes are below 18%.

      Fat percentages don't lie which is probably why most people stay away from them. I see women, especially, buying more and more varied outfits designed to hide the obvious. A friend of ours owns a very successful ladies store in England and she told me that atleast 4 or 5 times a day a customer would say 'Does my bum look big in this?' The sad thing was that she would be polite in her reply and avoid the question but the reality was, 'Yes, it does!'......'Hello!'

   So, step one....Get real
         step two....Get disturbed
        step three...Decide to do something about it.
and step four.....DO IT.
   and I don't mean join a gym or pass on that extra slice of pie...I mean do something structured with a plan and a time horizon and a goal. To say I'm going to exercise more and/or cut down on cakes and biscuits is not a plan that's just a floaty thought.
       Educate yourself on what you are eating and on what exercise is the best for losing fat whilst improving your fitness and health. As you can tell I'm pretty passionate about all this. I think its great to see people improving their health in which ever way works for them....and I also think its terribly sad to see unfit, overweight people indulge in some kind of false happiness that they clearly don't feel. Just for the record if you are fat and happy then good luck to you.......
     As all health proffessionals I know will tell you, its not easy, it takes commitment and effort, sometimes its fun, sometimes its boring.....and sometimes you just don't want to do it and thats's why you must have a plan and a goal and stick to matter what, no excuses, period.
I like the quote 'Nothing tastes as good as fitness feels'........that biscuit is a 2 second and health is a life time experience.
  Many people email me about my blogs but if you want advice on nutrition, fitness.....or God forbid, ultra running, then email me at  and just ask.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Following on from my stats in my last blog of my improved speed it occurred to me that the best way to check my race time over 18k was to do the exact same race, in the same conditions and at the same time of day....the only difference being it would just be me and there would be no aid stations. The fact that I would racing alone could make me slower so I would just have to push myself harder.....and the aid station thing is pretty irrelevant over such a short distance.
   It is 18 months since I'd run this route, so it was going to be interesting, now I know its not ultra distance but still, it would be a valuable experiment. Last time I did this I was full of gels, water, sports drinks, banana's etc.......and its only 18k! glycogen stores would hardly have been used up at all....what an idiot.
    This time I set off much better prepared, lighter, leaner, fitter and in better shape altogether, the only nagging concern was that I'd been doing  a lot of crossfit lately and I had read that in the first few weeks your times can drop before they get better. Not quite sure what the reason is but I suspect its due to fatigue in the muscles that have not yet rebuilt themselves.
       Undaunted I set my watch and off I went instantly feeling under pressure which was ridiculous because nobody knew or cared what I was doing.......but of course I did.....and I'm pretty good at beating myself up if I have too. In my mind this was a pretty serious time trial and, as in any competition, if you are racing against others you automatically go faster so I had to race against someone.......and today the someone was myself. The elevation gain is about 3000 feet and although the course is tough in places, with one long hard climb and three really steep rocky descents, its mostly okay with single track trails. The time to beat was 2 hours-23 minutes.
        The watch hit 9:00 am and we were off!.......well....I was off, what a strange experience this was. I took only 1.5 litres of water and a couple of gels (just in case). I decided early on not to check my watch, as I didn't do it in the race, the only bench mark I would have would be how I felt.
        Two things became apparent in the first 5 minutes. Firstly it was hot and secondly we'd had a lot of rain over the past two days and the normal flat soft single tracks were now either very muddy or mini rivers!
    Whatever, after 30 mins and in a dense forest I nearly crashed into a Chinese guy (who spoke a bit of French), who was lost. I suggested he follow me until I could show him the way to go. There then followed a rather bizarre conversation about Ultra running in French/Chinese/English.....very surreal. He seemed most impressed with my 55k run this year, he'd done the 32k and had stopped due to cramp......interesting stuff isn't it? Well I was hardly going to discuss the effects of Deng Xiaoping's reforms on modern day China, not with my dodgy French....Anyway he went east and I went west...... I found the next 6k really hard, its a big climb and the ground was heavily rutted, rocky and wet and once at the top then its a precipitous rocky descent down. In the race this was a lot easier but today I nearly twisted an ankle several times. One good thing about the wet was the smell of the pine trees, just intoxicating and the air was clear and the mountains stunningly beautiful. I pressed on trying to keep up a decent pace, I realised that in a race the other runners really do push you inadvertently.
     After a few hours I neared the ocean and the final few kilometres were along the beach. I arrived back at the start/finish and checked my watch..... 2 hours- 23 minutes. Bizarre! The exact same time as nearly 2 years ago, what's all that about ?
    Initially I was very disappointed, all that training, 1000's of miles and hundreds of hours and I do the same time. Last month I covered a similar distance a lot faster so why was this? Firstly  my leg muscles felt very heavy on the climbs, there were no quad aches, they just felt heavy. I had just done my first intense week of crossfit conditioning and so I guess that had to be it. According to the Crossfit Endurance guys after a few weeks I'd really see the difference. I certainly hope so.
Secondly although it was warm, the wet  surface conditions were much worse than than last years race. Thirdly I was running against myself and fourth, I'am older, 58 next month, maybe at this age there is a law of diminishing returns. To be honest I don't know but over the coming weeks I intend to find out.....and improve. My 33k race is in 4 weeks time so I better get myself sorted out and fast.
       My plan is crossfit conditioning 4 days per week, 800/1500 metre and tabata sprints, a couple of 10k interval runs and one long  20k plus run per week. I probably will have to do some of this on the beach for specificity. Paddy thinks I should run a little less than this and just do intervals....he's probably right but I find it hard not too, I suppose its a mental thing due to my lack of prep (because of injury) for the Way to Cool 50k earlier this year.....but I feel I just can't take the chance of not doing enough miles, still.....any advice will be gratefully received.