Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Milano Marathon

After all the mistakes I made leading up to and during Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes (my first marathon), I brought Run Less. Run Faster and followed their training program. Although the program was designed to last 16 weeks, I only had 7 weeks until the Milano Marathon. Again, my preparation wasn’t ideal, but I figured that I completed Marathon des Alpes- Maritimes after just 4 training runs, so I should be in a much better condition after 7 weeks of training.  

I really enjoyed the book and agreed with a lot of the points it made. Each week I completed 3 runs and 2 cross training workouts. The runs are designed to work together to improve endurance, lactate-threshold, running pace and leg speed. The cross training sessions are non weight bearing activities (rowing, cycling, swimming) that increased cardiovascular strength, while allowing the muscles used in running time to repair for the next run.

I found the first weeks training easy to complete, but my legs felt fatigued after, especially when lying in bed. I really enjoyed this feeling, as to me, it means the training is doing something. I found the book really inspiring and believed in the program. As I was short on time and felt I had a massive point to prove after the disappointment of my first marathon, I wanted to run Milano as quick as possible.  To do this I skipped several pace increases each week. I was able to complete all three runs, but my body felt the increase and ached more than usual. I also went on an epic cycle with Rob. I used the cycle as a cross training session, but I don’t think the program designers thought anyone would be stupid enough to go on a 60k cycle, that climbed over a 1000m, after already completing 4 hours of running that week!

3 weeks before the marathon my knee tweaked. I think the combination of increasing the pace of my runs too quickly and the cycle, put too much stress on my body and I broke! It was a weird sensation. I can only describe it as a short sharp pain that stopped me dead in my tracks. The pain didn’t hurt as such, but made running impossible. That evening, I was devastated and thought I wouldn’t be able to run the marathon. I wanted to txt a chiropractor that I had been seeing in England to see if he thought I should put the marathon on hold. Rob tried to reason with me and told me that I’ve come to far to quit. He advised not to txt the chiropractor as his response would be professional and probably scare me into not running. He said that I should rest for a few days, then try and run again and see what happened. I liked Rob’s solution as it meant the marathon was still a possibility.

Before my knee tweaked I was training for a 3hr 42 min finish. I decided to lower the pace of my runs
to a 3:45 finish and cut the cross training from the program. My knees didn’t feel right, but survived the first two runs. The final run of the week was 21k at marathon pace.  I completed the run, but it was a challenge and I doubted whether I could continue at that pace for another 21k. After trying to run my first marathon too fast, I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. I took the time from my 21k run, and using the marathon time predictor, found my target finish time of 3:52:19.

I don’t know how to describe how I felt in the days leading to the marathon. I was confident in my strategy and believed I could manage my revised time, but was worried that my knee wouldn’t last the distance. Putting the problems with my knee aside, I felt strong, fit and believed that in the time I had to train, I couldn’t have prepared much better.

I really enjoyed the Milano Marathon and thought it was a much better run than Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes. It seemed like more people came to support the runners and I enjoyed the banter between the runners and the crowd. I didn’t understand what they were saying, but it created a good atmosphere and was good to be part of. From the start of the marathon my body ached from all the training, and I couldn’t help but focus on my knees. After about 10k the pain in my knees was more intermittent than constant, which seemed promising. Around 18k, my left hip started to feel tight and sore and as the run went on, the pain got worse. I didn’t mind this, as it took my focus away from my knees. Apart from my body aching, I felt strong and fit. So strong that instead of sticking to my 5:30 /km marathon pace, I ran the first 10 to 15k at approximately 5:25 /km. I knew I should have stuck to my plan, but I felt good and thought I could keep it up.

Around 27k, I could feel most of the muscles in my thigh getting heavy and tight. The ones that flex the knee and hip felt particularly heavy, whist the outer muscles felt as if they were imploding. The last 15k were hard, but nothing compared to the struggle of Marathon des Alpes. As my pace gradually declined, I thought of how confident I had felt after a good weeks training and how I believed I could run a faster pace. I laughed at the difference between looking at finish times in a book and actually running them. For the final kilometer, I gave it everything I had. I lifted my chest, moved my arms with purpose and could feel myself grimacing. The final 250m was probably the best I’ve experienced running. You’ve done it, I thought. Well done. The emotions I experienced were immense. I was able to soak up the atmosphere, take a good look around and cross the finish line in 3:57:31, with my arms in the air and feeling very proud of myself.

Shortly after finishing, I heard Pippa and Rob call. They had come to Milan to support me during the marathon. I really appreciated them making the effort, as I felt a little sad watching other runners celebrating with their family or friends after Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes. This time round I had run a sub 4, and had friends to share the moment with.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Barberyn Ayurveda Resort

I came to Sri Lanka to sit an intensive course in Ayurveda, the main focus for me being Ayurveda Massage. Along with the course Barberyn Resort threw in 900 Euro worth of treatments, which enabled us to experience first hand what we were learning.

Everything about the resort radiated relaxation. The buildings are open plan allowing the breeze to circulate through, they have high ceilings and feel spacious. The decor gives an oriental feel with several fishponds and the sound of falling water. The rooms are located just in front of the beach, some as close as 10m. They are very spacious, again with high ceilings and a balcony or porch. My room was about 50m from the beach with a balcony overlooking the ocean, through palm trees. Every evening I lay in bed listening to the roar of the ocean, the wind through the trees and the sound of falling water from the pools water feature – it was very relaxing.  The service provided by the staff was excellent. They were all very friendly and always on hand to make sure the guests were being looked after. I took note of how the resort operated and found myself thinking of how I could change my approach at work. 

Each meal was served in a restaurant that had rotating French Doors facing the ocean. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style and dinner was from a set menu. I really enjoyed the food, but I can see it causing problems for fussy or unadventurous eaters. If I would have known that the food was mainly vegetarian with the only animal protein being white fish and served at lunch, I would have been worried. As it turned out, I didn’t miss meat until the final week and was more than happy with the selection of food on offer. The majority was served in clay pots, which really defined meal times and the Sri Lankan culture. Each food was labeled complete with a short description of the nutritional value: Mixed Vegetable Curry – Rich in flavonoids, vitamin A, B, C, E, zinc, magnesium, easy to digest, improves liver function, mild laxative.

The way of life in the resort was calm and peaceful; the other guests were friendly and always stopping for a chat, the pace was slow and know one seemed to have any troubles or problems. It was nice to chat with people of different ages and backgrounds – for the first time I really felt more like my old self prior to my accident. I became good friends with a girl called Nina. We were on the same connecting flight from Dubai and ended up neighbours in the resort. I really enjoyed her company and have made a good friend.

The main treatments offered were; massage, steam bath, herb bath, acupuncture, fomentation (heated herb clothes that are patted on the boy), and treatment in the herb garden (warm herb packs or pastes that are applied to aching parts of the body and left in absorb into the skin). When the doctor thinks your body is ready (usually after 7 day of the above treatment) you can opt for more in depth oil treatments (Shirodhara or Sarvangadhara) that focus on the mind/body and, or treatments to eliminate accumulated toxins from the body by induced vomiting or diarrhea, enemas and blood purification.  To compliment treatments and support further relaxation Barberyn offered daily yoga classes, several Tai Chi classes and weekly meditation classes. I took all the classes and have discovered new interests in yoga and Tai Chi.

The way I felt throughout my treatment was a bit of a roller coaster ride and I experienced good and not so good days. By the end of the fourth or fifth day I was feeling really relaxed and at peace with my self. I had a spring in my step and felt like a new man. Then a few days later I started to lack energy, my body ached and I had a dull but continuous headache. I thought this might have been due to my body needing to rest so I stopped exercising but my fatigue didn’t improve. One of the lectures revealed that the symptoms I was experiencing were due to toxins that had been collected from my body (by the treatments and medication) were ready to be removed via a purgation treatment. I opted for an induced diarrhea treatment to cleanse my stomach and colon, as my digestion hasn’t been optimal for some time. It’s not the most glamorous of treatments but I thought it made sense to have it done while I was eating clean food and was feeling relaxed. Prior to the purgation day I had to stop all medicine and not eat breakfast. I was given a decoction to drink at 7:30am then another at 10:30am. My bowels started to move at 12:30pm and finished 11 times later at 19:30pm. I had to rest the whole day and was on a restrictive diet of rice soup and dry toast for the next two days. I’m glad I had the treatment but I didn’t gain any noticeable benefit from it. I think the negative effects that I felt during my time here were due to a more vegetarian based diet. I believe that when I get back into my normal routine they will clear up – I guess time will tell.

Towards the end of my stay I had a Shirodhara treatment, which is a native treatment to cure diseases connected with the head, neck, eyes, ears, nose, throat and nervous system. The Shirodhara involves a stream of warm medicated oil failing onto the centre of the forehead from a clay pot that hangs above the head. I’d seen other guests after having the treatment with a constant grin and a weightless, floating like expression. Unfortunately I didn’t get to experience this feeling. I enjoyed the sensation of the oil falling onto my head and I did feel relaxed but I didn’t experience the peacefulness that I was hoping for.

All in all I really enjoyed my time at Barberyn, I have learnt Ayurveda Massage but more importantly was able to unwind and get the relaxation that I badly needed. I’ve not been convinced by the whole Ayurveda way of life - I think the main reason people come away feeling so good is because during their stay they can’t drink alcohol, fizzy drinks or coffee or eat processed food. On reflection I feel better now than when I arrived, which says it all. I am able to take away many things from this experience, I have discovered new interests, and learnt more about myself. I would recommend Barberyn Ayurveda Resort to anyone that is in need of a relaxation holiday - you can’t go wrong with the combination of treatments, clean food, sun and the tranquility of the resort.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Marathon Des Alpes-Maritimes, Nice – Cannes

Well, I guess its safe to say that I over estimated my fitness and under estimated the demands of a marathon.

My preparation for the marathon wasn’t the best. I only managed four runs, the longest of which (26k) was, until the marathon, the furthest I’ve ever run before. I had wanted to do a final 32k run, which I thought would be a good indication of how my legs would hold up on the marathon, but my blister got too big and I decided to let it heal.

Although 26k was the furthest I’ve ever run, I felt strong through out and thought I was fit enough to manage another 16k. My captain found this funny and looked at me if I was mad, but I knew best. Well so I thought!

By the time race day rolled around, my blister had shed the old dead skin to reveal a new, soft, pink layer. It really needed more time, but it was good enough. When registering for the marathon, I had a little wander round the expo and fortunately picked up some blister plasters, called Compeed. I’m normally skeptical about products like these, but needs must. The patches stood up to the huge test and passed with flying colours.  After the marathon, I had no discomfort, pain or extra blisters in the area, which was a huge, but pleasant surprise.

I was shocked at how many people ran the marathon and it made me wonder how it would feel to be part of the London Marathon. It was hard to get into any kind of rhythm in the first couple of k, as people were all over the place, weaving in and out. By about 3k it had calmed down a little, but I still had to concentrate on what the other runners around me were doing.

Around the 7k mark I had settled into my groove. I was finding the pace easy to maintain and decided to push a little harder so that I was on the heal of my pacesetter. At about 12k my groin/pelvic area started to feel tight. I hoped that it would just feel uncomfortable for a few k’s and start to ease of. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and it gradually got worse. As a result of the stiffness my legs felt heavy and it was an effort to run. By the 16k mark my pace had slowed to 05:30 /km, which was 00:30 slower than it should have been. Still I continued on and at the half way mark I was clocked at 01:50. I knew now that a 03:30 finish wouldn’t happen but I was still hopeful of a sub 04:00.

My pelvic/groin pain continued to worsen and by 26k I was in agony. I can’t remember exactly when the 04:00 pace setter over took me, but when he did I felt crushed and finally allowed myself to walk and try and ease the pain.  I was so annoyed that my body had finally decided to break when it mattered. I couldn’t understand why it was happening because apart from my blister, I’ve never experienced any running related injuries.  Even now, the only explanation I can think of is that I hadn’t run for two weeks prior to the marathon due to my blister and on my first run back I pushed too hard.

This didn’t occur to me at the time and I struggled to come to term with what was happening. Apart from the stiffness and pain, I felt fine. I was running so slowly that my breathing was nowhere close to a pant and I knew that if my legs would loosen, I could pick up the pace. For a long time now I was being constantly over taken. Mentally, I wasn’t in a good place, and watching people breeze past me mad it worse. I’d be lying if I said the thought of quitting hadn’t crossed my mind (to be fair that’s what I wanted to do when the 04:00 pacesetter went past) but I dug deep and made it to the finish line in 04:31.

I’m not, or will ever be proud of the time I completed this marathon in. I know a lot of people don’t agree with this, but I’m a competitive guy and I know I can do better. I know now that I attempted to run 42k at a pace that would have been a push to maintain for 21k. Still, I wouldn’t change what happened. I’d prefer to blow up like I did and come away with a lesson learnt, than to have finished in a quicker time, but be left wondering if I could have done more. I gave it my all on the day and I can be proud of that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Charter

When I hear people talk about my job, I always hear ‘He cleans boats’, or ‘Matt has a really good job, that allows him to travel Europe, and gets paid lots of money’. This is all true, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t attracted to the industry because of the perks of the job, but it comes at a price. I’m writing this blog to give everyone a better idea of what goes on.

The term ‘On Charter’ refers to when guests are onboard the boat. It can be the owner, or guests they have paid to charter the boat. We are all here for one thing, the guests. It is our job to make their holiday as exciting or relaxing as they wish.

On Fathom, the deck crew’s working day is 15/16 hours, with a 3 hour break. Each evening we get 8 hours sleep, with an hour to get ready.  The deck crew is made up of three guys; the First Mate, the Bosun, and the Deckhand. Between us the day is split into three shifts; early, middle, and late.  The times for each shift vary from charter to charter, and really depend on whether the guests are early risers, late risers or everyone’s favourite, the split group (some guests go to bed late, and get up late, and some guests go to bed early, and get up early).  The shifts work out something like this; early, between 6, and 7am until 9, 10pm. middle, will be between 7:30 and 8:30am until 11pm, 12am, and late shift starts 9 hours after you go to bed, which at worst case scenario is 6am.

I will now run you through what we do. It is up to the early, and middle shift guys to set the boat up for the day. When all goes to plan this is what is done. The doors are unlocked, and lights turned off. The seating covers are wiped of all due, and put away. The stainless steel rails are buffed with a damp chamois, soaked in vinegar, and all flat surfaces are wiped clean of due, and or dust. The seating cushions are flumped, and positioned, and any additional stainless like sunbed, and chair frames, or tables legs are wiped. The decks are now set up, and ready for the day. At some point, whether it is while one guy is still setting up, or when both have finished, we need to go and get pastries, and morning papers for breakfast. The tender will also need to be wiped, or cleaned, and all the toys (jet ski’s, and inflatable toys) are launch off the aft of the boat. 

By the time the person on the late shift gets up, the boat will already be set up, the toys will have been launched, and the guests would have read the papers, and eaten the pastries. If the guests are active, this is a tough shift because, as soon as you get up, you hit the floor running. By now the guests are wide awake, and wanting to do things - swimming, riding jet skis, wake boarding, or getting pulled behind the tender on inflatable toys. It is also the deck crews job to take the guests to shore in the tender, for lunch, or dinner, shopping trips, or just a walk around.  At the end of the day, we rinse the toys, and put them away. If the boat has moved, we will rinse the hull free of salt, and if the wind has been blowing, also rinse the superstructure, and windows. This shift can be very easy, or very hard, depending on the weather, and what time the guests go to bed. If it’s windy, and the boat has moved, chances are the majority of the boat will need to be rinsed. If there is no wind, chances are you wont have much rinsing to do. Most of the rinsing work cannot be done in front of guests, so you have to wait until they have gone to bed. I find it quite hard to be sitting around till 3am, waiting for the guests to go to bed, then having to get up, and motivated to rinse the boat for two or three hours. On the other hand, if the guests are in full party mode, you won’t be able to do anything, and have a relaxing evening, well apart from the unsociable hours!

So in a nutshell, that is a day in the life of a deck crew. I love my job, and the lifestyle it allows me to lead. We work hard, but it is totally worth it. Our season started fairly slow and relaxed, then picked up speed, and soon became very full on. The season was 109 days, of which 65 were on charter, 31 were 8am till 5pm work days, and 13 were days off.  I’m now ready for a holiday, and looking forward to working Monday to Friday with weekends off. After being a backpacker for so long, I didn’t think I’d be saying those words so soon!