These days I run just like Red Rum…

Red-Rum-on-Southport-BeachNo, not gallloping very quickly with a tiny Irishman on my back. Instead, I have decided to take a leaf out of the late, great Ginger McCain’s book by using the golden(ish) sands and azure(ish) shallows  that run alongside my adoptive, one horse home town of Southport to make my long runs a little more effective and enjoyable, while endeavouring to avoid more injuries.

After all, this is the training regime that enabled Red Rum to win a record three Grand Nationals. So if it was good enough for him, I’m bound to say that it’s good enough for me; especially as I generally look like an old nag that’s been ridden hard and put away wet after a training session anyway.

You see, having reached the age where it’s nigh on impossible to train hard and still make it uninjured to the start line of a few races every year, it’s definitely time to start training smarter; especially as this year’s big date with destiny is the Rat Race Scotland Coast to Coast. Naturally, that means spending more time making use of the sand dunes to reduce strike impact. But current thinking is that soft ground can be just as problematic as pavements, as it can allow the heel to fall below the level of the front of the foot, thus overstretching the Achilles, not to mention putting additional stresses on ankle ligaments.

My new and revolutionary (for those of a non-equine persuasion) method enables me to run on hard-packed sand that has a little bit of give, while providing my feet and lower legs with a constant cool dousing of salty water, not to mention some useful additional resistance.

Naturally, it’s too early to say whether this rare splash of horse sense is going to help keep me injury-free in the future, but while I’m obviously not going to be troubling the bookies at Aintree, I can at least report that my new Red Rum Regime (which may well be the title of my best-selling exercise book if this all works out), has at least managed to reverse the terrifying decline in pace that’s been afflicting me for the last 18 months.

If the truth be told, that still means I’m running at more of a trot than a canter, but at least it proves, contrary to popular opinion, that I’m not ready for the knacker’s yard just yet…

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Cycling is like peanut butter. It makes my legs feel like jelly.

DrunkYep, I’m now in full training for the Rat Race Scotland Coast to Coast, which means regular 20-mile bike rides, followed, theoretically anyway, by a slow 10k run.

I say theoretically, because the truth is that after any kind of cycle ride, my running muscles just won’t play ball, leading me to stagger along the sea wall after the fashion of someone who spends his days drinking fortified wine from a brown paper bag. My whippet-like mate who does Ironman Triathlons keeps telling me that it will all come good eventually, but I remain to be convinced.

The bike to run transition – in theory

Naturally, the big problem with switching from cycling to running is that these two disciplines use different leg muscles. Cycling puts huge demands on your Quads, so the body naturally diverts blood flow there, thus starving your Hamstrings and Calves: which is why they don’t really want to get involved when you dump the bike and start trying to run.

In theory, after a mile or so of running like someone switched your Gatorade for Thunderbird, your brain should get the message that it needs to re-divert blood to your hamstrings and calves. In truth though, that just doesn’t seem to be happening for me.

Helping your body to adjust

Talking to a couple of regular triathletes, it seems that you can help your body to get the message before you even drop the bike: firstly by standing up in the saddle to involve your running muscles when you’re about half a mile from the transition, and secondly by dropping down the gears as you enter the last 200m of the bike stage, making your legs spin faster rather than harder.

They also tell me that when you start to run, you need to ‘power through’ the feeling of weakness in order to get your legs back into running mode as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, for all their sage advice and scientific theory, the truth is that if you’re a die-hard runner who is only stepping up to multi-sport events because your old knees won’t take the pounding of marathon training any more, the chances are that you have many months of looking more like an alcoholic than an athlete to contend with…