Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A weekend of fun

Some friends came up for the weekend, which is always good. Its wonderful to see the London scales fall from the eyes of people as they wander off the train... well, to be honest, its normally too dark for them to see much when they get off the train, its the morning after, getting up and looking out onto the hills (through the mist) and going... does it ALWAYS rain like this?
The result of a weekend in our house.

The original plan was to head up to the Roaches on Saturday for a bit of climbing. Our guests had never climbed there before and it is certainly a fantastic place to go, both in terms of the climbing, and also in terms of the atmosphere. Up early and out, thats the way forward. None of this slacking around in bed for hours. We drove out of Glossop and up over past the Grouse, and the whole place was blanketed in mist and rain. Not entirely boding well for conditions at the Roaches.
We carried on, and saw glimpses of the sun, but really nothing to make us feel overly excited about the prospect of finding dry rock. After 30 mins we got to the parking under the Roaches, and true to expectations, it was a total washout. The rock wasn't so much wet as seeping. However, if you haven't been to the Roaches before, its still worth a wander around with the guide book, see whats what, look at some famous places in climbing history. As we were there at 930 we decided to have a wander around (also with the faint hope that during our time there it might just brighten up).

Wandering around, the atmosphere was brilliant. Mist tendrils brushing the trees, water dripping off rock, photographers standing in odd places trying to get "the" shot.
We walked past the lower tier, marking climbs that we would like to do, to the upper tier, again, earmarking areas, and imagining the weather to be crisp, cold and bright, perfect for a decent bit of friction, and then coming back to the fact it was damp, chilly and getting wetter.

After a while, looking about at places in the Roaches, and gazing across to Hen Cloud, which was in much the same condition, we trudged off, and decided rather than bail, - storm over to Yarncliffe and have an afternoon of amusement there instead. I know its not the most picturesque of places, and I know its not the most classic area of climbing in the Peak, but it was dry, it was sheltered, and we got an entire afternoon of climbing there.
Only slightly marred by having to rescue someone off a climb because they had a self-defribulator that was shocking them, a belayer who had never belayed before, 2 screaming kids and on his first lead for 12 years. That was fairly amusing and test of quick thinking and improvisation. It worked though, and we got him down without any dramas.

Second day was not much better in terms of weather, though the sun was occassionally shining through. The call of the day was to the hills, a bit of a run, and then, if we feel up to it and the weather allows, a bit of local climbing as well. The girls drove off up the pass to get more of a flat run in, while we boys went from the house to see how much height gain we could get. Well, not really, I don't think they realised what kind of hill they'd be going up, but it was fun to do anyway.
Over Shire hill and up Doctors Gate, on up to the cloughs, and hang a right up the Shelf Moor race route to James Thorn. That was a killer of a hill, and there was a lot of walking going on there. Still, a decent pace was kept up, and we eventually got to the top. The weather was helping a little with quite a tailwind battering us from down the valley. It was also bringing a fair amount of rain as well, but that was a mere footnote.

Up to the Lancaster wreck and the decision whether to contour around the top, or dip down and then up through the peat and heather. The latter was of course the decision of the day. Half way through the muscle sapping craziness I saw 2 waving characters at the crest of the hill, the girls. Amending my course I carried on up the hill to them, sweating away like a proper runner.
By now the sun had come out- but it was still windy, so the windproof had come off, and the weather was feeling prettu nice on the back. After a short pause for the others to catch up, we trotted across the heather and bog to "overexposed" to mull over the B-29 wreck for a short while, then another bash across the bog to Herne Stones where the Kendal mint cake was broken out and we had a short break.
Herne stones sugar stop

At Herne we said farewell to the girls and went Northish up to Wainstones- taking pretty much a bee-line. The great thing was that pretty much wherever I was going, the other two were following no matter what. So I have to admit I didn't really take much of an intelligent path, but just ran through whatever appeared in front of me, no energy saving, no dodging through groughs, bang up and over. I have to admit I fell over a couple of times, and shoes were nearly lost, but it was fairly amusing.
At Wainstones, a left, and head down toward Glossop, in order to hit the edge of Shelf moor just at the right place to dive down into Yellowslacks brook and straight up the other side to Dog Rock. We startled a couple of Hares and had a brilliant time coming over the moor. Not all out running, it just wasn't the terrain for that, but still at a decent speed.
As we hit the edge there was a comment "oh, I see what you're doing". Yup.
Straight down. As Rob commented, "nice route finding".
Good route finding

Getting up to the top of Dog rock I noticed that my garmin was off. Ah. Must have knocked it when I fell over in a bog at some point. Ah well. Switch it back on again, and carry on going. Over the moor, up to the top, down to Cock hill and back down to town. A lovely run, with some great company.

Note- Baregrips all the way, felt fantastic, no issues downhill on peat etc. and they really made me forefoot strike on the way up on the track. Wouldnt want to run down the track in them though. Montane H20 top was excellent, its beginning to delam quite spectacularly though.

The late afternoon was taken up by a brief visit to Hobson moor where it rained, so we set up a couple of Top ropes on an E3 and an E1. I was pleasantly surprised that I could actually do the moves, and the E1 felt really quite good. Not sure I would want to place protection on lead though, but the footwork was really good, it just flowed really well.
All psyched up and ready to climb
Maybe I'm leading just a little too conservatively for my actual ability...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Shoe Choice

Always a fun one.
Inov8 alone now has somewhere around 38.. no, sorry, now 39 different shoes to choose from in terms of grip, shape, weight, look and price. Its almost a good thing that I only have 2 pairs of fellrunning shoes to choose from when it comes to races or else I might end up just sitting there contemplating which shoes to wear long after everyone else has run off into the distance.

The Chunal race was a case in point. It had been dry for the most part leading up to the day, and the ground was rock solid. No amount of big lugged grip was going to help dig into the soil in this race. It was going to be more about cushioning the feet and making sure that I didn't bruise the bottom of my heel on hard surfaces by wearing something with a crazy amount of grippiness on hard unforgiving dirtpack and track (like in Bamford).

Therefore the only choice was to go for the Roclite. Grippy and robust, with enough of a heel counter to enable me to fling myself down hills regardless of whether they are ankle deep in bog, or tarmac hard dirtpack. I found with the Baregrips, that no matter how much I try, when heading downhill, I heel strike no matter what. The rest of the run I have no issue with them at all, but downhill I find myself holding back because of the inevitable pain that I'll feel through the heel.
I'm evidently either not running downhill properly in Barefoot shoes, too scared to lean foward, or don't move my feet fast enough. Whichever one it is, I know that unless the ground is squidgy or bouncy, I'm going to run slower downhill in the Baregrips.

Interestingly, the vast majority of people at recent races that I have run at are wearing Inov8 x-talons 212s. It would seem that they have the requisite grip and enough differential for painfree downhill running. They have a pretty thin sole unit, so like the Baregrip they may well be quite painful on sharp rocky sections, but they do have a large following. I have the f-lite 220s which are much the same shoe, but with a road sole- I use them for work, and I can feel pretty much everything that is underfoot. Yes, it gives me good proprioception, but I get the feeling that it might take a bit of getting used to and a few bruised feet to get used to them in an offroad situation.
I have seen a few more people wearing the red x-talon 190s recently as well- they have less cushioning than the 212's and I suspect are a little more like the Baregrips- though they retain 3mm differential from heel to toe as opposed to 0mm in the Baregrips case. (I think I'm right in saying this, please correct me if I'm not)

There was a racer out there who was running in the 190s who had one shoe slightly different to the other, it seems like there may be a new type of 190 or a new design of sole unit being tested out there. No idea whether it is more grippy/ more durable/ less differential, but there is something (ahem) afoot.

Whatever it is, I probably need to get my hands on a pair of X-talons at some point to try them out and see how they compare in terms of grip and comfort to what I already have. I've thought about looking at the La Sportiva range, but from what I've heard from speaking with other runners is that they just don't grip well at all in any conditions. I certainly can't justify forking out £70 for a pair of shoes that don't grip just so that I can say yup- they don't work as well as you would want them to.

There is of course the new Salomon Fellcross coming out, at £120 its quite a mark up. Yes, there has been a lot of research into this shoe, and yes I'm sure that it is amazing and whoever uses it will rave about it. But thats 2 pairs of other shoes. It will be the sponsered athletes that wear them, and those that can afford them. I'd just be afraid of destroying them in a single race... I'll keep a close eye out for them at races, and do my damndest to beat them in order to prove to myself that its not to do with what you wear on your feet, but how you run in them.

That being said, if Salomon want to send me a pair to try, I'll gladly let them know if they help me run faster...!
Please note that this is very much focussed on the Peak district racing scene... I know that the Lakes, and indeed Wales are much rockier and can be much harder on the feet and shoes. Next year, I hope to have enought petrol money to be breaking my shoes out there as well.

OMM jirishanca 35RL

Being used scrambing
A couple of years ago I was looking to replace my Lowe Alpine Contour Runner which had served me well for about 9 years. It was a good day pack size, it held the contents of the bag against my back and stopped things moving around, and had been dragged around the world in various guises. It was, and is (it still battles on) a fantastic bag.
However it was beginning to get a little raggedy (and will be the subject of another blog), and to replace it I had a couple of extra needs.
As well as being light, sturdy and able to compress gear onto my back for running, it needed to have hipbelt pockets, like the Contour runner, have ice axe straps, a removable back liner and, if possible, attachments for skis. (you never know).

The obvious choice, but for a couple of minor points was the hyperlightweight and always very useful Osprey Talon 33. I love it as a rucksack, but I really wanted something that was modular, and could be either stripped down, or geeked up. I looked at the Crux AK37, another great bag, but it was a little too Alpine for what I needed. Not quite perfect for running, and not enough stow places for easy access when on the move.
I knew of the OMM running bags and was intrigued, but I also knew they didn’t have ice axe loops, but on closer inspection of the website, I came across the mountain bag section and the Jirishanca 35. A perfect compromise?
Jirishenca in its component parts

Light enough to run with, a multitude of storage bits and pieces, a removable compression “spider” ice axe loops, AND ski attachments. Wow. Made for me?
I wouldn’t say I rushed out to buy one, the price being quite steep, but it stuck in the back of my mind for a fair old while, and eventually, after nagging at myself for a long time… and seeing the old Lowe Alpine fall apart even more, I bit the bullet and bought one.

The first thing I saw as it came through the post from the retailer was that it had no (detachable) ice axe loops. They had been detached. Great.
So I emailed OMM saying this, and they had some sent to my home address within 48 hours. Cheers guys. What a service. Very happy so far!

Now I have had the bag for about a year and have used it in a number of places and for a number of uses I feel its about time to pass judgement on it. 

At just under a kilo (920g or thereabouts) with all the bells and whistles attached and 620g stripped as far as it will go, its not too bad a weight for a 35 litre bag (the osprey talon 33 is approx 900g and cannot be stripped)

It is marked out at a mountain pack on the OMM site, but light enough to be a running pack as well. A very versatile bag, but, as a bit of a jack of all trades bag, you might think that there are compromises to be made, perhaps in terms of material, perhaps in terms of comfort. 

First off, the fit. It’s designed with the OMM lean chassis fit, which basically hugs around the body. Its very comfortable indeed, if it fits you. The harness itself is quite thick foam, non-stretchy stuff, and a little old school in terms of feel of materials. On hot days, it can feel a tad bulky and warm, but it stays comfortable for the most part. The jischirenca doesn’t have a handy resizing back like the Osprey Talon series, but the single length back, just like in the old Lowe Alpine appears to fit me very well. The Hip belt is comfortable, and provides excellent support while running for long distances with heavy things in it.

On the go food and drink storage.
Some may say that the hip belt is a little TOO padded, looking at more minimalistic designs of other rucksacks, especially Alpine ones, however, the padding, coupled with the pockets which I use ALL the time for compass, food, emergency gloves/hat/rubber gloves etc are so useful that whenever I look for a new rucksack, it will have to have them again.
The side pockets are pullcord elasticated and are placed in exactly the right place to be able to access them while at speed. Anything that is needed on the run and hasn’t been stowed in the hip belt pockets is easily accessible from these. When I’m not moving with a hydration bladder, (the bag is hydration compatible) drink bottles go in there. No problems with them at all. They are deep enough and stretchy enough to accommodate sigg bottles and normal waterbottles, and are not inhibited by the compression system as other rucksacks I have seen are. (which is a real annoyance)

The main pack itself is, well, a bag. Nothing much to report on there. It has a top pocket with semi-dry zip, an extra Velcro pocket inside with a key clip.
The compression systems (there are 2) are very well thought out and designed, and one of the main reasons I bought the bag. The main one which I tend to refer to as a spider system is attached at the bottom with Velcro, and has 4 clips, 2 on either side of the bag, which it attaches to. And then it compresses the contents. Brilliant.
You can loosen it off massively and put a helmet, waterproof, map, whatever, in there, and compress it onto the back of the rucksack, and it is held on with no worry at all. Brilliant. In the winter, its a perfect place to stash a shovel, and an avalanche probe will sit happily down the outside of the bag held in with the compression straps. I love that bit of compression kit. Just love it. It also has a stretchy pocket integrated into it, so you have even more external space to stash gear in.
Compression spider clip points.
If you want to save weight, the whole thing then comes off very easily indeed.

The second compression strap is more of a cord, and it goes across the top, and can be “plugged in” to 2 points on either side of the rucksack giving horizontal or vertical compression. Again, it can be taken off if you like a bag with less faff and bits and bobs holding you back. In the horizontal "mode", it can be used as an extra side compression for ice wands, or tent poles, and in ther vertical "mode" is more akin to a rope holder. I understand that on the latest version of this pack, the cord compression strap is now shock cord, but I haven't seen it yet, so I'm not sure.

It does indeed have the removable back mat as well. Its thin, not particularly comfortable to lie on, but it is there if you need it. I've used it as a sit on mat, prefering a little more comfort when sleeping. However, if you're going really light and really fast. The option is there.

The Ice Axe loops are, as I mentioned removable, which is nice if you don’t want them to caught on things as you fling the bag around the car/ train, and for most of the year, you probably won’t need them anyway. (I have to say that I did use mine in the height of summer, along with the compression system for cycling home through London traffic with 2 ice axes and a bike wheel strapped to my back, but that’s another story- suffice to say, the ice axe straps work)

With Helmet and Axes attached and compressed
The Ski straps, I have no idea, I just haven’t had the time or opportunity to try, and would welcome the opinion of anyone that has had the chance.

So, a lovely sack with lots of features that (for me) are a real boon, though perhaps for others who prefer a sleek sack with nothing more than a clip on the back, might be a bit of a faff.
But is there anything really wrong with it?

I’ve used this in long adventure races (up to 24hour), for climbing walk ins, general cragging, moving house, commuting (running and on a bike), long scrambling days, long walking days, and generally speaking I’m pretty damn happy with it.
I think though, this is much less of a cragging sack than I originally thought it might be. A load of heavy climbing gear with sharp bits of metal inside haven’t done it a wonderous amount of good, it has to be said, and there is a hole in the bottom which I am a little concerned about. So the fabric, as one would expect for a lightweight bag, is indeed, lightweight, and not necessarily bomb proof. Again, in terms of a cragging sack, it lacks an external rope clip, which is a little annoying, though you can quite happily compress a rope over the top of the bag under the lid by using the compression straps- that is the way that OMM recommend you do it anyway, and having done that, it works just as well as having a rope retainer.

All in all, yes, I am very happy that I bought this bag, and not a running specific one, and a cragging specific one. It was a perfect replacement for the Contour runner, and the fact there are so few of them that I see on the hill means that I am very happy that I’m not one of hundreds of people walking around with the same pack. I don’t know why, that would just annoy me and would make me feel a bit “sheep” like.
Would I buy one again?

Concerns over durability, a hole in the base.
As a running/ Mountain Marathon bag, yes. As a day pack, yes. As a climbing or scrambling bag? Not sure. Maybe if the bottom of the bag was made of slightly more robust material, yes, I would, I’m just a slight be concerned about the durability of the material when it has climbing gear inside, and also for its abrasion resistance when you aren’t being nice to it over gnarly rock.
As a mountain bag it doesn't fail, it does very well, but you have to be more careful with it that I tend to be with my gear around rock. Its lightweight, and that means it doesn't hold well when subjected to daily abuse of being thrown around a crag. If you want a crag bag, buy something that is made of tough cordura. 
If you need a bag which you can use on the hill/mountain with a lot of bits and pieces within easy reach so that you quite literally never actually have to stop until the end of the day, this is the bag for you. 
A day out boarding opposite MontBlanc with the Jirishenca
Having said that, I am now in the market for a 50 litre bag, and the OMM Villain is looking like a very strong contender. I need to have a look at it in more detail, and it has some very stiff competition from the AK-47X, the Osprey Variant52 and funnily enough, the Deuter Guide 45+. If anyone has ideas for nigh-on indestructible 50litre or so rucksacks- its basically going to be a day to day abuse bag for on the hill as an ML/SPA/aspirant MRT I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Strength and Performance, Part 2

I think I may be at risk of turning this into a specific training blog about my day to day moving weights around a gym. On reflection, I shall write updates as and when, if something significant happens, when I change types of training and other such pertinent things.

At the end of last week, the end of a 4 week introduction session I felt very tired indeed. I had also been racing on the Wednesday and that had contributed to the knackeredness. As of Thursday I indended to have a very good rest over the weekend, to be ready for a new session on Monday.
I did pretty well in terms of managing to actually have a rest, but I did succumb to the temptation of going climbing on Saturday. Nothing too strenuous, just a few route in a quarry for some friends to second up, getting some precious time in my SPA logbook.

So monday came along and I was feeling pretty good actually. Rested, relaxed and ready. I spent the first couple of hours at S&P treating Sean and Z. Tending their various ailments, and while that was happening, Lynne was out in the Gym going through her new session. It looked brutal. I was not looking forward to my go, but it had to be done.

However, it would appear that there is a fair amount of difference between our new programmes. Lynne, afterall is still more concerned with the losing weight and metabolic work, where as I'm not all that concerned about it. (Sean in fact asked me if I was ok with my weight and if I wanted to put it ON?!- not a chance matey, its all about speed, not looks).
My programme is based around a series of adequacies that I set out 4 weeks ago, leading up to now has been balancing out imbalances in my body and getting me ready to actually be able to work properly. Interestingly enough, my lower body is apparently much more developed than my upper body, and so we are going to work on that.

However, first up was the Deadlift. I thought I had this pretty much nailed after a session with Chet Morita down in London a good 8 months ago. It seems that if I did have the makings of a good DL, its all gone now, and I am back to square one. Not a bad thing, to be fair. Each lift makes me think about something new, and each time I do it, it ingrains the engram just a little bit more. We are starting very light indeed, and I suspect we will be staying that way for a while. Not a problem. I'd rather be doing this properly and progressing slowly, than going in all guns blazing and then screwing my back up after 5 months. Intelligence is the way forward.
DLs are interspersed with Hip stretching, and today was not about weight. It was about technique.

The superset also involves push ups on a swiss ball, which is quite amusing. Up until I started with S&P I hadn't really been able to do anything with a pressing action because of my shoulder and imbalances there. It tended to ride up and impinge itself- the biceps brachii long tendon being inflammed and trapping under the acromion process. Well. The rehab/prehab that we have been doing for the past 4 weeks appears to be doing the job. When asked "does it hurt"? I replied, yes.... everywhere but the shoulder.
3 Chains, Top of the sternum to the bar.
The stabilisation is pretty hard, but possible. I look forward to getting better at it.

The second superset included more weighted Pull ups. Only 3 in a set this time. I got to 3 chains on the last set, so I think 5, maybe 6 chains will be possible. Maybe 7? we'll see.
There are also a couple of Tricep press exercises which are horrible. I'm very weak in that area, and I can barely even lift the "minimum standard" weight for the requisite amount of reps. So, thats somewhere to improve upon then.

The third superset also includes biceps rows, which aren't too bad.

The final one is Turkish Get ups, which I do enjoy. Just 3 sets of 3. I opted to go with 12kg KB, and it seems that was the right decision. By the end I was nigh on all over the place. We also started the Get Up from standing, which is something I've never done before, and threw me for a short while as well. However, I just got on with it.

This is very much where Lynne and I deviate. I think she has a much shorter "technical" session, and then spends the rest of the time on a "metabolic blaster" which looks horrendous. I have a lot more to do with technique and specific strength, and as a finisher, more leg work.
This time it was 100kg on a sled, pull 30 metres on the minute 4 times, then 120kg twice.
As a final one, I started at 100kg, front pulled down, and back pulled up, had 20kg taken off, (no rest) down and back, and then 20kg off again and down and back. That was pretty tough, and the lactic effort of going straight from a back pull to a front pull is really quite harsh.
It would be good to do that all the way down to 20kg and then back up to 100. Though not on the same week as a race.

We'll see how the next couple of weeks go and I'll post again. (actually, I'll write a quick something on Thurs to talk about the 2nd of the 2 sessions, but after that, we'll just see).

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Inov8 Race Elite 2 (bumbag)

I've never been a fan of bumbags for running with. It just always seemed so... I don't know, 80's. To be fair, whenever I was running, I was either close enough to home not to need anything, or far enough away to warrant an 8-10 litre bag with hydration bladder and all that kind of stuff in it..

Early on in the Kinder Trog, not suffering yet
Since moving to the Peak district, things have changed a little and my little runs are a bit further afield from the house, but not so far that I need to be weighed down with a rucksac. Also, there are a number of races which have a minimum gear requirement, and being able to do that with only 2 litres of storage space is really quite useful.

stuffed bumbag, you can just see the mesh pocket on top
So I looked at the 2 litre and the 3 litre bags, and eventually settled on the 2. Reason being, the 3 litre one carries a bottle of water, and I thought that if I'm going to be out long enough to need water, I'd probably be taking a camelbak or associated bladder thing. This bumbag was going to need to carry the bare essentials. A mini waterproof top, maybe trousers, a cut down map, compass, headtorch, whistle and some emergency food, maybe a space blanket. (and of course the obligatory business cards which I'm not allowed to leave the house without).
We figured that the 3 litre would fit all that stuff, and more in- but the idea was to keep it minimal. The more space I have, the more likely I am to cram more stuff into it, and it will become heavier and I'll be slower. So the 2 litre was bought as a trial.
stuff, de-stuffed. As it were.

Its first outing was on an evening run with the Harriers. Just a waterproof, a map, a head torch and a pair of gloves.
I won't say it wasn't noticable around my waist. If you have never run with a bag around your waist, you're always going to notice it the first few times you carry it, especially if its heavy. To be honest though, it wasn't constricting to breathing, and it carried everything I needed. By the end of the evening I had used everything except the map and the head torch, so I was very happy to have it. A rucksack would have been massive overkill. It was a slightly fast 2 hour run, and although I was a bit thirsty when we got back, I wasn't dying from dehydration.
That seems to have been the case for all the club runs that I have done with it. I was so happy with it, and so was Lynne that we ended up getting another one exactly the same.

Jumping a stile at Crowden. Sunglasses safely stowed.
The times when it has come up short has been on races. I tend to go faster, and harder when racing, (as you do), and there is precious little time to faff around trying to get into a bag thats anywhere about your person. I found that on Crowden horseshoe I was very glad to have it as my sunnies were getting in the way. It was great to have a place to stash them- the stretch fabric pocket on the top is brilliant, however I had to slow down significantly to get into the bag for other bits.
On the Kinder Trog I had a small bottle of water in there as well- as in tiny- but the bag was stuffed full of various bits and pieces that I needed for the race. Because of this, I wasn't able to dig around in the bag for the water when I really needed it for fear of throwing all my gear on the floor and losing precious seconds having to turn around and pick it all back up again. So I ran the whole race with no water and in the final quarter really paid the price.

Having looked at that, and some of the longer races, I think that the elite 3 is a better choice for racing, partially because it enables you to carry a waterbottle, but also because it allows a little more space for your gear. You are less likely to spill everything you have brought onto the hill, over the hill as you rifle through to get some essential bit of kit. (to be fair, all you should need on a race is water and food, and maybe a waterproof and a hat unless something goes wrong), but with the Elite 2, there is no option but to store water in with the rest of the stuff. Not a problem if you are out for a jaunt over the moors, or rock jumping with nothing on your mind but having fun, but in a racing situation where every second counts, and if you have to stop it means an extra burn to catch the guys you were already chasing, maybe the 3 would be a better choice.
I need to try one out to be sure....

But for the time being, my thoughts are these...
Elite 2, with a big pocket, an internal mesh pocket with key clip and a mesh pocket on top- fantastic for short days out, carrying minimum of gear. Emergency bits only on a longer run, (or a bag full of sweets for the kids). (Its also barely noticable if you just stick your mobile and keys in the internal pocket and wear it under your t-shirt- it would have been perfect for running in London)

Calmer times at Hope, walking with the family
For longer races where you need a bit of water and ease of access on the move, maybe an Elite 3 would be a better choice.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A race post mortem

Eccles Pike on Wednesday, (report here) was the first race I have done where I really wasn't happy with the result.
Any number of excuses can be made, it was too hot, the route was too short, there wasn't enough up hill, downhill, or enough off road, there was too much tarmac, the field was particularly strong, I wasn't feeling up to it, I was wearing the wrong underpants, it was on the wrong date of the month, I wasn't wearing the right number, the list can (and does, for some runners) go on and on.

In the end I was running and racing in for somewhere around 20th place, and ended up being 26th. Its not quite the same ring as racing for 1st and ending up 6th, and should I be entirely bothered about getting 26th as its not really any better than 20th in the grand scheme of things?
Well, yes, I think so. It doesn't matter where you are in the pack, be it at the front or at the back. Running with emotional content is a whole different ball game to just going through the motions and finishing without really trying. That all out effort which gets you in at a certain time, thats the key. Its not really you against other people in the race. Yes, they may be there to spur you on, to get you in faster, to give you something to race against, but at the end of the day, its you against the clock.

Is it just silly though? To run with such emotional content that you end up chewing it over in your mind for days after. Its not that you want to, but there are so many things that go right and wrong in a short space of time that your brain just keeps thinking about it. Would it not be better just to run for the love of it? The feeling of the dirt beneath your feet, the wind in the hair and midges in the teeth (kidding).
Yes. But again, I would say to a point.
Running for the love of it is great, and it takes great willpower to keep going and get better at it without plateauing. Even if you do plateau, there is the delight in running in different places, doing different things that keeps the enjoyment value of it high. If I was told that I could never race again, but could quite happily go off into the hills just to run, I would be quite happy doing just that.

Racing just has that little edge. The chance to shine or the chance to burn out in a bright ball of flame as you get overtaken in the last 400 metres. You push yourself just that little bit harder in a race than you do on your own, and in my case, there is ALWAYS someone to chase, ALWAYS someone to measure yourself against.

But what went wrong? Why did I lose those places in the last little bit? It wasn't a long race, and I certainly can't look at race nutrition as a factor.
My HR was crazy right through the race, and it got up to 99% of max at one point. Thats quite a lot. Looking at it though, my max is about 183-4. I wonder if I'm just not trying hard enough and there are another few beats in there that I can squeeze out. Or maybe I just don't have that high a max HR.
My flat out speed on the flat and on tarmac isn't as good as other runners. That is certainly something that needs to be worked on. I'd love to ignore that part of the training as running on flat, hard surfaces really doesn't interest me that much. Maybe that is the reason for being slower, it just doesn't register with me emotionally. But to get better, thats something that needs to be improved.

My descending, normally quite a strength, certainly wasn't one on this race. My co-ordination was off and my legs were jelly like as I descended. This was through massive overloading on the uphill phase of the run. I didn't hang back, I just stuck in like a trooper. All the waste products and acid and nasty stuff was churning around the system and my legs had no time to recover at all before plunging downhill. I think a series of uphill overloads followed by downhill plunges on good terrain are what might help out here. The uphills seem to be getting better, but at the detriment to any kind of downhill acceleration or maintenence of speed.
That needs to be fixed.
I think in the past I saved myself a little on the climbs, or at least there was 100 metres of flat or slight downhill for me to recover before a downhill plunge, but not this time. It was straight down.
By the end I was wasted. I don't think I've ever run any distance at that kind of HR or effort, especially right from the off. A bit of practice with sprint starts and then trying to relax back into a decent pace might be an idea.
I wonder if road biking will increase my pain tolerance, or ability to keep going at the end of a final run? That is something that needs to be looked at, but not obsessed over, I'm more of a runner than a cyclist at the moment.

The thing is, although I'm a bit disappointed with the result, I can look back on it now, and see things that need to be improved. Weaknesses that can be worked on. Continually being satisfied with your performance is a chance for complacency to sneak in, to not want to get better, or to believe that there isn't really any way in which you can become better.
I'm at the bottom of the curve right now, and this is the foundation of a better and faster racing me. I just need to remember to keep it real, and occasionally, like at Eccles Pike, step outside of the comfort zone, see just how far I can push myself in order to work out what needs to be changed, what needs to be looked at, and how I can improve.

Strength and Performance 9

Final session of the 4 week pre-load as it were.
After the race yesterday I am properly knackered. I didn't sleep well, things were going around my head, whether I could have done better, how I could have run differently, should I have run my own race, etc. (but I'll write about them in a race post mortem later on.
All I knew when I got up this morning was that I felt knackered. I probably looked it as well, but that didn't matter. I have work today. S&P from 7am, training, massage, then over to Rockover in the afternoon and then massage clients until 7pm, then a drive home. No time to be tired.

After a coffee and the drive to S&P I'm feeling a little revived, but I know that todays session, even though its the same as the previous weeks is not going to be a fun one. Rolling out and doing stretches and mobilisations I'm feeling weak, but I shall still do the training.
Reverse lunges I do with the 10kg, like last week, and then for the final set ramp it up to 12.5 kg. Wide grip pull ups I manage 2 sets of 5 and then a final pull of another 2, and then 1 at the end.
By the end of the pronated rows, the plank and glute lifts I am fit to drop, and I must look it as Sean comes over and tells me there is no "finisher" today as I look "finished". He mentions that I looked pretty tired on Monday as well... I didn't realise that, I thought I was doing ok... maybe the weekend of climbing had taken more out of me than I thought.
I'm partially happy about that, and partially annoyed that there won't be a finisher- I should be able to carry on. Mentally, and physically though, I'm ready to fall over and sleep.

The next 3 days are going to be made up mostly of relaxing, massage (as a client and as a therapist), a bit of light walking, and nothing more than recovery.
Next week is the start of something new. I'm very much looking forward to it, but with not a little trepidation. Should be good. I just have to concentrate on some proper rest now. Harder than it sounds!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Quick run

On Tuesday I decided that I needed to go for a quick run to make sure that my legs still worked. Having not run since a couple of weeks ago, and having last week off because of the osteo (I asked if I could run that evening or that week and he replied I could if I was an idiot).
So I refrained.

Lynne went off around Shire Hill and I thought I'd have a quick run up to Shelf Benches and back, nothing strenuous, just a bit of a run really.
We started off together and ran up through the trees on the road side of Shirehill, then over into Mossy Lea where we split and I went up while she went down. I kept a decent speed on up the hill. Having watched the BBC programme on the Jura Fell Race, and a seeing a clip of one of the current Ultra Champions from the US, it struck me just how easy they make going uphill appear. None of this struggling stuff, just good, economic motion and power in spades.
So I thought I'd try to emulate it a bit, and got up to Shelf Benches relatively well, enjoying the weather and the location.
I was wearing a helly top and some CW-X tights... the helly came off pretty quickly after the ascent began, and stayed off for the remainder of the run. The tights are quite old and have a couple of holes in them, so it wasn't too bad wearing them, but it did get a little warm, it has to be said.

I felt good on Shelf Benches, so decided to carry on going up and over onto Shelf moor, but not straning myself, walking where necessary, and not running the whole way up. I didn't want to wear myself out for the race tomorrow. Going up the hill onto the moor I stopped to look at the view going back down the hill, across to Kinder, and down into Glossop several times.
I'm SO glad that I no longer live in London. It was one of those moments where you are just happy with your lot in life.
I wandered my way up, and then turned North West(ish) across the moor/bog to the top of Yellowslacks in order to get round to Dog Rock (the down-up approach was not a consideration today, but will be used as a training route in the not so distant future!) It was going across the moor that I found out that not everything that looks like a trod is in fact a trod. Some of them are lines in the soil where streams have eroded through the peat and are slightly covered over knee deep linear traps for the unwary. I only went over once, but that was enough to make me pretty careful about where I was putting my feet.
Across the trackless moor, down and across the stream, up the other side and a hard left down the track to Dog Rock. Bouncy peat now the order of the day, the terrain would have suited the Baregrips much more than the Roclites that I was wearing, but not to worry.

I took the descent fairly conservatively, letting my feet do the route taking, not wanting to twist an ankle (well, not that that I want to twist an ankle anyway...) I felt my ankles giving way a couple of times on dodgy ground, but my body, under self-control always seems to self right itself and I just carry on running with no issue. Its odd when I think about the amount of people that seem to twist their ankles on almost a daily basis on a seemingly innocuous flat piece of ground, and here I am running across what could only be described as very patchy and broken ground with added heather, and I can feel the ankle beginning to turn, there is enough time to get some power out of the stride before the foot is taken out of the equation and the chance of injury seems to go. Maybe its down to speed of reation of the peroneal muscles to potential twisting territory, I'll read up on that.

Down Yellowslacks, down lightside, and I see the first people since I split off from Lynne. Down the hill, and onto the path. A quiet jog to the bridge and I walk up the hill to Shire hill, and run down the other side.
I don't THINK I've overdone it, my legs are feeling pretty good, but I have been out for an hour, and I did q bit of a significant hill.
Ah well, we'll see what happens tomorrow.
The route and stats can be seen here

Monday, 15 August 2011

Strength and Performance 8

Last week of the Foundation stage.
Not much to tell on this one to be honest.

I continued on with 2 sets of 2chain pull ups, and again just missed out on the final pull up. So after the final set I went back and got 2 more out of my arms, a little bit of progress, which is good.
Romanian Dead Lifts I am FINALLY getting the gist of. I ramped up to the next KB up for these this week, and certainly felt it on my hamstrings. Although they still feel a little awkward, the actual exercise no longer feels totally alien to me.

I think I'm beginning to build/re-educate the lower traps, as I'm no longer getting debilitating muscle pain there after each session as I was in the first 2 weeks. Body adaptation has certain begun, though I haven't upped the weights on the more "rehabilitative" aspects of the programme- keeping it more about making sure that I don't break something- and ensure that all aspects of the body are becoming stronger, not weaker through stupid and un-necessary injury.
As a finisher I did lengths of the Prowler on the minute every minute for 6, and I think Lynne took some photos. No idea where they are though, so I'll have a look through and see if I can upload them later.
found one

Felt pretty ok after todays session. Looking forward to next week and a new challenge.
Its true that after 4 weeks of doing the same thing you do look for a bit of variety, which is why setting out on a training regime and not changing anything is just going to get stale and boring, but changing things too much and too often mean that you don't actually get the benefit of continuous practice.

The weekend

Me and Lynne at Hobson Moor on Saturday. All quiet, I guess everyone else was either looking at other more popular weekend crags, out on the grit, or they were at home moaning that it was too wet to climb.
Managed Gideon, my first HVS 5a as well. Not the easiest climb I've ever done, but I was quite happy I had a cam on the rack...!

Osteo follow up blog

The title of this blog is slightly confusing, now I realise that I have just typed it- its not about a follow up appointment, its simply about how things have progressed in the past few days.

After the session I felt fantastic, and things had been clicked, and all was good. I decided not to go for a run that evening, despite the fact I hadn't really been out for anything in the past few days and I was gagging for a bit of exercise. I actually had a long run planned for later in the week, something in the region of lots of miles, around the Peak district, but not solidly planned. I decided as my legs had been played around with a little, it was best to let them settle down, and not to go plodding away on them for miles and miles.

So I've pretty much had 2 weeks off running. (in the past couple of days I have been out walking with climbing gear on my back, and done a bit of climbing, including my first HVS, which was a bit of a bonus!

However, in the past couple of days, my right leg, the one that was slightly Varus, and was clicked back into place has been aching. Just down on the fibula- the site of Peroneus Longus and inbetween that and Peroneus Brevis.
Now, Im wondering if that has something to do with one of 2 things.
1 the leg is getting used to being back in its biomechanically efficient position and all the tissues and muscles and bits and pieces are getting used to being back in the correct place. As they are used to supporting it in one position, is this new position, although biomechanically correct, causing a bit of fatigue because the muscles need to get used to the position


2 the leg was clicked back into position, all the muscles worked out the best place to be pretty much straight away, and now all the biomechanical inefficiencies of my gait are beginning to work the bones back into the inefficient position, and the muscles are trying to stop that from happening.

So I don't know, but I have a race this Wednesday, and we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. That and training this afternoon... last week of the introductory phase of S&P.
All good fun.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Strength and Performance 7

Back to the gym for more of the same. This is the end of the 3rd week of the "foundation/preparation" stage of the game. Im continuing to increase weight on most of the things I'm repping, but there are a couple which I am obviously too weak on to even consider doing that yet- evidence of some interesting imbalances that continue to be in my system.

This week has been a week away from running and general cardio, which has been interesting. There have been times when literally all I have wanted to do was get out there and run in the hills or crank it up a big hill on a bike. However, with the osteo saying that I would have to be crazy to go on long impactful runs or long term rides etc, I thought that staying off them for a week or so would be a good thing. It can't do any harm in the long term anyway. As a fellow health professional I get sick of people not listening to advice, so I figured listening to his advice would be a good thing.

The upshot of it all was that I got to S&P nice and relaxed and ready for some training without the residual effects of a race in my legs from the night before.

I ripped through the exercises, though its interesting just how much sweat you can squeeze out of your body just by doing isometric contractions...
4 rounds of
8x reverse lunges ( with 10 and then 12.5kg)
5x wide grip pull ups with 1 chain, then 2 (ouch)
8x lower trap activations

3 rounds of
15x glute raises on a bench
15x pronated rows (5kg)
15x KB swing (20kg)
30s hold side plank (both sides)

The main thing that is annoying is that the pronated rows are still on exactly the same weight as when I started, and I'm still feeling totally done in by about rep 9 of each set. It just goes to show how weak the muscles in my back were in comparison to the rest of my shoulder complex, and the result of that was my shoulder riding up and impinging in various ways in a number of different movements.

As a finisher I did 10m prowler lengths on astro, with 20kg on, low push up and low pull back (which REALLY gets the hamstrings, then 10 sledgehammer reps on either side with a minutes rest between each one.
5 reps, but the 5th one, Z decided to "suicide" me.
3 cones along the way, push to the first, pull back, then the second, pull back, then the third, pull back and finally the last, pull back.
On the final pull back I had to stop twice because of the lactic build up in the legs (particularly the Biceps Femoris and Semi-mem and tend), never had to actually physically stop before, so thats something that I know I can definitely work on.
Still finished it and finished with the sledgehammer as well.
Jogged the length of the mill twice afterward to get metabolic waste out of the legs, and to check I could still actually move and run as well... the worst thing you can do after a workout like that is stop moving straight away- ie. go and sit in your car for 30 mins, like I have seen some people do.
Then foam rollering, and a post workout feed.
Feeling it today though... a bit tired (though that may also be because of the hours of treatment I gave yesterday as well)

Showing a friend the ropes tomorrow, taking him climbing outdoors for the first time. Hope the weather clears/stays dry.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A consumers thoughts on new fabrics

So I have a dilemma.

But a good one.
For the past few years, breathable waterproof fabrics have come in pretty much 2 forms worth talking about. Gore-tex, in its many forms, (proshell, paclite and performance shell), and eVent. Anything else was pretty much a non-starter for serious outdoors business.
The problem has always been that Gore-tex in whatever form, never quite lived up to expectations. No matter what happened, you always ended up sweaty in a matter of minutes after starting any kind of actual effort. Ok, so it breathed, but it need the person on the inside to build up a lot of heat before it started forcing water vapour out... so you got sweaty wet instead of rain wet.
The answer can be seen with venting pockets, pit vents and various bit and pieces with more zips and zippers than you can shake a stick at. Each zip adding another potential weak spot or rain letting in point.

eVent was the alternative- meant to be more breathable because it lacked the PU backing to the membrane. The problem with that was that it had to be kept clean or else the fabric would suffer a radical degradedation in breathability.
This autumn there are 3 new fabrics coming out on the market.
Polartec Neoshell, Mountain Hardwear DryQ and Goretex Active shell.

Each of them is meant to be 5 times more breathable than "traditional" goretex- basically treading the line between waterproofness, breathablity and windchill. This is a rather exciting development, but, like buses, they all seem to have come along at the same time.
(for a discussion on the exact differences between the fabrics have a click here)

Now, my issue is this.

We have 3 brand new fabrics on the market at the same time, all making similar claims. How do I choose which one to go for? Is it actually any better than current membraned or non membraned soft shell? Each type of jacket is going to go for about £250 or so. But really, how do you choose between them?
Yes, its going to be fit specific, but if I know the outdoor industry, there will be few and far between places that will actually stock all the different types of fabric, let alone all the different types of jacket in each fabric for joe punter to make an informed decision.

(reality check here, I'm ranting about not having the ability to try on waterproof jackets- its not the end of the world, I know, but it annoys me)

So, I want to try on a Rab jacket, I go to one retailer who may or may not have it, even more unlikely- in my size. I want to try on a DryQ, but that retailer won't stock it, and the next one probably will have made the decision to order in a jacket that I don't want to try on, but in the right fabric... so I don't know if the actually jacket I want will actually fit me.
What do I do?
I could bury my head in the sand, ignore the fact that all these shiny new toys are coming out and just plug away in proshell and eVent, not worrying that they may actually be the answer to the breathable question.
I could wait a couple of years for market forces to work out which one is best, (but market forces are inordinately stupid, we've only just about got to the stage where soft/hard shell hybrids are around and being bought, I know there were a few some years ago, but market forces meant that they weren't a "hit" and so got relegated to the dustbin of history, mores the pity.
I could go out, get a loan and blow it all on new fabrics, destroy them all and then try to work out how to pay the loan back to the bank- unfortunately not a good option in todays economic turmoil, and I probably couldn't even get a loan even if I wanted one.

Give a British man a choice and he'll moan, give him a foregone conclusion and he'll moan about not having a choice. I've been waiting for years for someone to actually bring out a decent fabric that properly breathes, and now we have them (apparently) there is too much choice.
We shall have to see whether they actually perform as well as they are touted, after all, numbers from labs only go so far in making up peoples minds, its how it actually feels and performs that will be the acid test. So far a few lucky people have been able to get their hands on a garment made of one of the fabrics, and reports have been very promising. However, I have yet to read of anyone that has managed to get hold of items from differing camps. That should be an interesting one.

What I really want to know is that although all these jackets are being made for Alpine wear, just how breathable are they going to be? Will they work just as well hammering across a peat bog in the drizzle or are they going to suffer there? Will they actually breathe in hot humid tropical places where traditional goretex has failed utterly? Will there be any differential between the fabrics in those conditions? If I run cold, will they be as good for me in the Peaks/Lakes as wearing something that I normally sweat like an idiot in? If I run hot, will it actually work? If it is good when I am working hard, will it be great when I work REALLY hard... and what if I stop? Will I immediately get cold? Will it be any good for Search and Rescue?
Agh. Too many unanswered questions.
I suppose thats always going to be the problem with new tech. We just don't know.

I wonder if they will actually perform the same, and literally, it will be a case of, whose logo do you like the best and which cut fits you the best.
Maybe that's what we should be hoping for.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Osteo treatment

Went to see an Osteopath today. Not that there is anything crazily wrong with me. I'm not in constant pain and I'm not a physical wreck. However, there are a couple of things that I wanted to sort out in my body, and I thought I should see someone about it sooner rather than later.

As a massage therapist I constantly see people after they have been battling against niggles for a long long time, compensations have crept in and I think... If only this person had come to see me 6 months ago...

I have noticed when foam rollering my ITBs that the right one is considerably tighter than the left, and that might be because of a slight torsion to the tibia on the right... Im not sure, but its worth checking out. Also, it would be interesting to see what he thinks of my shoulder.

So I decided to take my own advice and went to see someone who has been recommended to me.

After an hours consultation the upshot is this.
Yes, I had a slight Varus on the right tibia/fibula which was causing the ITB to be tight. The head of the fibula was bouncy on the left leg, but "dead" on the right. So that got sorted out. As I look in the mirror now, the leg looks physically straighter, and the knee is obviously pointing in the right direction now. Excellent. This wasnt stopping me from running, but I suspect that had I ignored it, about 8 months down the line I probably wouldn't be able to run because of pain in the right ITB/knee area.

He did also look at my shoulder, but the thing that was more interesting was the hip complex- I suspected something was going on there, but have never really got to the bottom of it. Bascially I had a slightly torsioned sacrum, heading off to the right- which was throwing the rest of the body out of whack. Hips slightly to the right, and shoulders slightly to the left. Paraspinals on the right were weak, and on the left, very well developed.

My sacrum was sorted out, which was excellent, and the back as well. I also had hyper extension in my neck from excessive tension in a couple of the muscles. (one muscle was too tight, the other too loose- or at least thats the very simplified explanation).

So after all that, I'm certainly not going out for a run this evening- that would just tighten up all the muscles around the structures that have been moved around into better places, and would jar things back to where they were- which would be a total waste of my and his time. Tonight is a stretching and rollering night. I have a load of exercises to do, and they will be done at least 3 times a day.
If someone tells you to do something and its given to you in order to make you better, do it.

As I say, there was no real pain for me, and if I went to a doctor to get referred, I certainly wouldn't have been. I live a functional life, I can run and jump and lift weights etc. However, it was a bit of maintenance on my part, and anything I can to to make this body work more efficiently and last me longer, then I'm going to do it.
First time at an Osteopath. It certainly won't be the last.

Strength and Performance Session 6

Back to the Monday session today. I don't know why, but I wasn't really feeling up for the session. (maybe because I was chilled out after just treating someone...) however, I got down to it and spend a decent amount of timt warming up, making sure that everything was thoroughly working before going into the training session.

Everything went up by a notch, pretty much, and I had a first instance of not finishing a set- pull ups with 2 chains, on the final set I managed 5 and 7/8ths.... which only counts as 5. I just couldnt get the chains to touch the bar... ah well. Failure this time means working harder next time and making it stick.

Romanian Deadlifts still feel mighty wierd, but the more I do them, the more natural they will become. It seems to be easier with a heavier weight. (but that only works to a point)!

The final part of the training was row-pulls with a sled. I managed 5 sets at 70kg, rowing down and running back with the sled, with 1 min rests- during which I jogged to the end of the building and back. I think that 80kg would have been a better weight, but as we are still very much in the beginning phase at the moment, a little less is better than completely and utterly destroying myself.
pulling the sled. it wasn't all that bad actually.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dark Peak Roving Calendar box- August

We've been waiting for this to come out for a while, and as soon as it went live on the DP website, Lynne was there, printing it out and yelling at me.
(Which was quite good as I had just settled down for a quick afternoon nap, for want of anything constructive to do).
Excellent, break out the maps, look for the place which looks like the print out. We scoured Dark Peak and White Peak for about 20 mins, but to no avail- so we stopped, had a cup of tea, and then looked again - but with new eyes, and with a slightly different idea of shapes to look for on the map.

Within 5 minutes I had spied the most likely looking place, and with each check back and forth, yes, I reckon that is definitely the place.
That was last Wednesday.
Thursday was work, Friday was a washout, Saturday was out with the Parents.
Aha, Sunday- perfect.

Ok, so the weather wasn't the greatest, but I figured it would be a chance to try out running in a proshell. (yes, its hot and sweaty, no matter what- I really want a Neoshell to try out!). But thankfully the showers were just that, showers. The sun come out, the sun went in. Rain poured, and then didn't. It ran the whole gamut from delightful day to horrible rainstorm. But we persevered.

Up, over, around and down. The rock was very slippery, but as long as you were fully aware of what you were doing and where you were putting your feet etc. It wasn't bad at all. We kept up a fairly steady pace all the way up, which is testament to the training that Lynne is putting herself through at the moment.

After a fair while searching around the area that we thought it would be, we looked at another really obvious place, and mooched around for a bit. After a good 15, 20 minutes we were giving up hope... it HAS to be here, but where?
So we sat down and broke out some Rocky Road and admired the view.

Looking at where we had come from, we worked out how we would get back, and I decided to have one last look about the vicinity. Within 40 seconds.

We sat down and wrote in the book, it seems we are the 3rd or 4th lot to find it this month. There was a pack of rolos in there, so we had one each, and left a snickers bar for some deserving soul who may trek there from quite a way away.
We bobbed off home, happy that we found it, 3rd month in a row. All good fun, and certainly increasing my local knowledge.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Strength and Performance Gym- Thoughts on training

Sean, or Z, sent out a message today asking this.  

"What do you think of when you think of Strength & Performance? I keep hearing the phrase 'Hardcore' all too often. What people tend to forget is that we probably train equal amounts of fat-loss clients to semi-professional/pro athletes! We are not a place where folks just come to bleed and vomit.. we get results for everyone! Your thoughts?..."

Now, I tried to answer this very briefly as a return post and said 
"Intelligent training. Hardcore when it needs to be." 

Which I think sums it up pretty well. However, it is more than that, but I think the succinctness works for itself. 
I have only been going there for a couple of weeks, and I may have a bit of an "angle" in that I also help out with Soft Tissue Therapy there as well, but this is my take on the "underground gym" in Stockport. 

Hardcore is such an overused word in terms of gyms. If a gym has cardio machines and pretty weights, bouncy balls and personal trainers who look pretty and are employed to polish chrome, its going to be a gym with a certain clientele- generally one that likes to read the paper while working out. If a gym has about 20 tonnes of metalwork inside and huge blokes going through the door, its more likely to be a "lifters" gym, focusing very much on lifting very very heavy stuff. If a gym has sledgehammers, ropes, rings, tyres and stuff that needs to be pushed around the floor it tends to get lumped into a "hardcore" category. Most people would associate this with MMA fighters with no teeth, training with maximum aggression and god help anyone who gets in their way. 

Recently there has been a rise in the Crossfit brand. An excellent concept which appeals to many, and has got a large number of people into functional training. If you haven't done this kind of thing- hitting a tyre with a sledgehammer minute on minute off, then throwing kettlebells around and then something else, chances are, you are going to be puking blood by the end of it. Unless you are used to it, its going to hurt, and this is the only thing that people actually see. 
Its not really the point, and gyms of this ilk should not all be lumped together. 

Yes, there are a few places out there that focus on making people physically ill. But what is the point in that? If you aren't used to an exercise, and you do it hard enough for long enough, of course its going to make you feel like you want to die. Take a long distance runner and make them do tabata, or 30/30 push presses, its not going to be pretty. But on the same level, take a guy that can do all that and make him run 10 miles at a proper decent race pace, and by the end, he'll be in much the same position. 

Just because your trainer is making you feel ill at the end of your workout does not mean he is a good trainer. Chances are, unless he can explain to you WHY he is making you feel like this, he doesn't really know what he is doing. Crossfit doesn't tend to be like this, though there are some that are. As I say, don't lump them all together, there are good trainers and bad trainers, but this blog isn't about that. It's about S&P.
How does this relate to S&P as a gym?

Well, when you look at the gear they have in there, and the people who work out there, you will see all kinds of weird and wonderful bits and bobs being used. All of it in a functional and intelligent way. There are ropes, chains, weights, tyres, rings, hurdles and all that stuff. The people that train there are working hard. They are sweating, they may be shouting with effort, the music is pumping, and overall, good, honest hard work is being done.
Some of them may be feeling ill at the end of the session, some may be ill because they aren't used to that type of work at that high-an-intensity, but the difference is, there is a reason for it. 
Let me show you what I mean. 

A few weeks ago I started at the Gym. I gave Sean a list of adequecies that I want to progress to and beyond in the future. He showed me the place, and gave a general work out for the first session, as much to see what I could do, and what I couldn't do in terms of movement. I have an imbalance in my right shoulder and find it hard to do presses of any kind without eliciting pain. This was tested, noted, and we moved on. By the end of the session I was sore, yes, but I was not throwing up, I was not bleeding through my eyeballs, and I wasn't calling for an ambulance. 
When I came back next time a 4 week introduction programme was given to me with specific exercises to rebuild muscle and firing patterns into my shoulder. Movements I have difficulty with work worked around so that I can still do intensive work while my shoulders rebalance, and extra warm ups and movement patterns were added to re-educate the muscles. 

Going through my warm up and training with Sean I asked why I was doing various exercises and the point of particular things. He had an answer for everything- including the order in which the exercises were put. This is what proper, intelligent training is about. 
It's not a case of "heres a hammer, hit that tyre until you feel like you're going to die". Its knowing your client, knowing what each individual is about, what they need, and how to go about getting it out of them. Its intelligent training. Building each individual up, addressing their weaknesses, pushing their boundaries, and encouraging them to go beyond their comfort zones. 
Yes, it may be uncomfortable. Yes, it may be loud. Yes, there are times when you might feel ill. But the difference is that here, people like me, Joe Public, are training next to professional athletes. Olympians, Fighters and Lifters. Their work ethic rubs off on us, and our hard work and sweat encourages them to reach new heights. 

S&P is not a place to read a magazine while you "workout". It is not a place where one size fits all. It is not a place to slack, or to say "I've had enough". 
It is a place of energy, hardwork and community, where you can come to train, and feel free to sweat, scream and shout without fear of someone looking at you as if you're a nutter. Its a place of hardwork, suffering and redemption, each person committed to their own performance be it to increase sporting ability, or simply to feel better in their own skin. 

At least, thats what it is to me. 
Intelligent training, and hardcore when it needs to be.

Inov8 268 destroyed

Its been a while since this happened, but as I've run a couple of races in my new ones, I figured I should post a couple of thoughts on the shoes that I have used for the vast majority of my offroad running in the past year or so, Inov8 roclite 268.
Yes, I know its a girls shoe, but they fit me better than the guys ones, and when they're covered in mud, you barely notice the fact they are blue and grey. They are more... bog coloured.

I have no idea how many miles I ran in them, I don't tend to keep count of distance over long periods of time. However, they have definitely done 2 12 hour and a 24 hour adventure race, a good number of "hill" sessions in Greenwich park, 6 actual races, and a decent amount of training runs in the Peak district.

Over the year they have proved to be an excellent choice for the occasional raid onto tarmac, with enough padding that the lugs aren't forced into your feet, very good on shorter, muddier races, comfortable on ridiculously long days out over peat, bog, road and moor and versatile enough to adventure race in without needing to change once. They drain pretty well, lock around my feet well, and the uppers didn't start deteriorating until the last run I did with them, well over a year after buying them. 

They were still fine when I got to Glossop about 4 months ago. Still grippy, I was confident on ascents and descents, off cambers weren't an issue, and I could tear it up on whatever ground I came across.
However, on Kinder Trog I found myself losing grip, falling over (7 times at least) even on fairly tame ground. At that time I thought it was because I was knackered. A long race, ok, not over particularly dodgy terrain, but it felt long, I wasn't hydrated or eating enough- it could well be down to human error. However, I couldn't quite shake that nagging feeling that the shoes I was wearing weren't quite giving me the grip and confidence that I once had.

I ignored it for the time, but next time I went out with the Harriers, Jules, Mark and I went out over to Chew res'r, the terrain was totally different to that on Kinder, boggy moorland, splashing through stuff and generally beautiful.
I was slipping all over the place. This isn't me losing my mojo, its got to be to do with the shoes. A quick conversation with Jules confirmed this. Neither of us is particularly keen on replacing shoes every few months, but when things are going downhill because of the wear on the bottom of the shoe, that can't be a good thing. Imagine getting injured because your kit needs replacing. Bummer.

However, I didn't get around to ordering a new pair before the 15 trigs which is where I ended up properly breaking them.
It was about 18miles into the 55miler, just coming up to Bamford Edge, bashing through heather and bracken. As we got to the top of the climb and onto the Edge to the Trig point, I looked down and noticed that one section where the laces attach to the shoe no longer attached. Damn. Ah well, I've seen worse.
I tightened them up and we carried on.
To be fair, the shoes performed admirably despit being slightly jury rigged and having next to no actual grip on the bottom. Yes, I have seen shoes with less knobbles on the bottom- but the roclites felt particularly slippery.

(as a side note here in terms of grippy and slippy shoes, I adventure raced for about 3 years in a pair of Salomon XA pros, which don't appear to have much grip on the bottom in the first place. They were surprisingly grippy on everything I came across. Even after 3 years, and with basically bare rubber with no knobbly bits on the underside, I was still running around in them quite happily, only really slipping on horrendous muddy, boggy banks. I have to say I was quite impressed)

So anyway, as they say, pictures speak louder than words, so I'll just show you how then ended up. A year or so down the line from being bought. All things considered, thats not too bad for a pair of shoes, especially as my Baregrips appear to be getting holes in them despite being on my feet only about 10 times, but more about that in a later blog.

The offending lace tie that bust on me, going through some heather. The shoe still held onto my foot for the rest of the 55 miles though, and to no ill effect in terms of rubbing or blistering.

The material only JUST going at the toe, despite being worn quite a lot. My Baregrips are going there already and I've barely even worn the things- I think in the future all inov8s I buy will be around the 300gram mark.

The "grip" on the base of the shoes. Yes, there are lugs on there, but have a look at the next couple of photos.

Brand new 268s on the left, Girlfriends in the middle (been used a bit) and the broken ones on the right. You can see the break down of the rubber on the "fascia band" strips on the far right. There are a couple more photos below showing the detail on the grips.

The Broked ones. Rounded lugs, chipped rubber, general ice skates.

Brand new grippy ones. I had no idea I was missing that much grip. Explains quite a lot. Mind you, if you can run well in inov8s that are old and slippy, imagine what you can do in brand new grippy ones.
Again, brand new on the left, broked on the right and mid way through in the middle. The brand new ones have lugs that are a bit deeper, but I think it might be the lack of sharpness around each of the lugs which really cause the massive lack of traction. I might try cutting the lugs of the old ones to make them "sharper" and see if it makes any difference. You never know.
So they served me well. I bought the same shoes to replace them, because they fit well in that size. I can feel my big toe just against the end as I head down hills, but my feet are held in them really quite well- where as the shoes like the Mudrocs and baregrips just seem to be a little too... long really. I can still run in them, but these roclites have just enough padding to make road running bearable, and enough grip to launch me down hill after people who can climb faster than me, with enough confidence to know I won't fall over.
Until a years time when the grip goes again.

A good compromise between crazy light shoes that seem to die fast, and clunky unresponsive shoes that feel like lead weights.

Strength and Performance Session 5

Today is a rest day. Thank goodness for that.
I had S&P on Monday, a race on Tuesday, a race on Wednesday, S&P yesterday, followed by work for the rest of the day. Rest and recovery are on the cards today. All day.

After getting to the gym, Z knew that I'd been racing for the past 2 nights and asked if I wanted to have a reduced session, some kind of body weight circuit in lieu of the workout that had already been written. Had I been really totalled, or had the session been a ridiculously hard Strength session I would have taken him up on the offer. However, This is only the second week of rehab work, and not much of it is going through my legs which were going to be the parts of me that were tired. I thanked him, but said I'd just get on with what was written down. No issues.

The warm up quite rightly took ages. It is a key part of the workout and warms up each part of the body thoroughly. In my case there are a number of extra exercises and stretches to do, each focussing on a particular movement, and bringing it all together at the end of the warm up to make the shoulder girdle work together as a cohesive unit in the correct way as opposed to with muscles pulling in the wrong direction/ being lazy/ not quite doing what they are meant to be doing.
From there it was the same as last Thursday, increasing weight where I felt I could, but making sure all the movements were deliberate, intelligent, focused, and that each rep was a rep and not being cheated on.

4 sets of
8 step backs (7.5kg in each hand)
5 wide grip pullups (1 chain)
8 lower trap extensions (still working on lower trapezius activation, even in the workout)
1 min rest between each superset

3 sets of
15 Glute bridges (feet on bench)
15 prone, pronated rows- (5kg on each)- that was HORRIBLE toward the end.
1min rest between each superset

3 sets of
15 KB swings- (20kg)
30 seconf plank - on each side
1min rest between each set.

No prowler this week, but we did the ropes. 20secs of double arm wave, single arm wave, internal and external rotations and finally starjumps.
even with a minute rest between each one, it was exhausting. Different to the prowler, and more difficult in the last 5 seconds of each exercise.
Feels good though.

And now, back to some serious recovery. Had a new foam roller arrive today, a more solid one than the current model... this could be amusing. Painful, but amusing.