Posted by: Sai | October 4, 2011

Holiday

So a bit of a gap since I posted last! This is mainly due to the fact that I took 2 weeks off work, and spent one of those abroad and the rest with family. As such, I’ve done no racing and very little in the way of any exercise. What I have done is eat (a lot), drink, and lay around in the sun.

Looking back at last month I only counted between the 1st and 19th, with the 20th – 30th written off as ‘holiday’. In those first 19 days I also did quite badly with regards to training, only 2 sessions at the track, though 4 at basketball tranining, another 4 at the gym, and 1 at the pool (start of the basketball season is taking priority at the moment). This still left a massive 42% as rest days, a long way off from my planned 25%!

As of the 1st October I am back at it, with the first basketball game for the first team on that day. We played in Maidstone and lost, but it was a big lesson for us and I only hope that other people recognise it enough to learn from it.

A few things to sort out, and back into shift work, so I haven’t had the time I would have liked to hit the gym. I finally got there today and could really notice the difference a few weeks off makes! I’m going to struggle to get to any of the Wednesday track sessions in the forseeable future due to work, but I’ll try to get to the local track at some point in the next few weeks. I have another weekend of basketball this week, with a game on Saturday, and then a game and a demo on the Sunday, which should shock me back into shape!

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Posted by: Sai | September 14, 2011

Finding Time

Ally used to race in track events and so, when I started at the track a few months ago, there was a general consensus from those that knew him to get his racer back out and join in. He said he didn’t have time for another sport on top of playing and coaching basketball, which I found a bit odd seeing as he was coming along to the track anyway. Now that we’re back training at basketball for the new season I have a better idea of what he means.

I work shifts, which means that I can only make 2 or 3 track sessions a month. There’s another session on a Sunday but there’s also a second basketball training session on most Sundays and basketball still comes first. I have a session that I do at the local track by myself, though that is largely dependant on a) it not raining too much, b) the track being free, and c) it being daytime (I’m often up during the night due to shifts).

So far this month I’ve only been to the track once, and for someone who is still learning the sport it really isn’t enough. I can’t really expect to get involved, get excited, get inspired, get past the 1st mile, if I’m hardly ever in the racer. Yes, the 10k I’m planning on doing first isn’t until May (Silverstone) but I’m bound to push less in the winter – it’s time to commit.

Posted by: Sai | September 4, 2011

Keeping Track

When it comes to training/keeping fit, I’ve generally done whatever I fancy whenever I fancy it. Previously, I’ve played basketball, gone to the gym, and occassionally gone swimming. I had a day off whenever I felt like it (or work prevented me from doing anything), and there was generally no structure to what I did. I’ve been writing my own weights programmes for about a year but that was about as close to organised as I got.

In early July I decided that this method wasn’t particularly great, and started to write down what I did each day on a post-it note. The idea was that I would see just how many days off I was taking and push myself to exercise more. This worked, for a while at least, though I also found myself ensuring that I wasn’t doing the same sort of workout on consecutive days. Somewhat related to that, I noticed that I was spending a large percentage of my days doing weights workouts (possibly linked to the fact we were between basketball seasons) and made a concerted effort to swim and go to the track.

Pie Chart

Because I’m a bit of a geek, below is a chart showing the breakdown of the last 60 days. In case you can’t see it, the biggest blue chunk is my rest days, red is weights, green is track, and purple and light blue are swimming and basketball.

I now intend to create a monthly summary of my workouts to ensure that I’m keeping to what I’ve started – having less rest days, a wider range of workouts, and ensuring that I’m not doing the same workout on consecutive days.

Posted by: Sai | August 25, 2011

British Summer Time

Over the last few weeks I’ve been training at Warwick University’s Mondo track with Job King from England Athletics. There’s a small group of us there now and it’s nice to train with other people and get some guidance on what I’m supposed to be doing. However, training at a set time each week does put us at the mercy of British weather.

When I was running the only thing I needed to keep an eye on was the temperature. I learnt fairly early on that if it was going to be below about 12 degrees I was going to struggle with my asthma. Sun, rain, snow; it didn’t really matter, it was all about the temperature. Being in the chair makes things slightly different. When I left home last night it was 19 degrees and overcast but dry. When I arrived 45 minutes later the temperature was down to 14 degrees and we had torrential rain.

I sat in the car for 15 minutes and eventually the rain stopped. Thankfully I’d grabbed my old windproof running jacket and squeezed into that for the duration of the session. Puddles, spray, slippery pushrims, wet and cold toes, jacket rubbing on the tyres, and getting in and out the chair in different trousers are all things that will need some getting used to – even in the middle of August.

If I intend to tackle some of the longer races I’m going to have to get used to the idea of training in the cold and wet (or investing in some rollers). The last thing I need is some fair weather training and then a downpour on race day.

Posted by: Sai | August 19, 2011

Basketball: Then til Now

I got into playing wheelchair basketball without really thinking about it. I was dating Ally, back when were at university, and volunteered to help him practice some basketball 1 on 1. A little while later I went along to watch him train with the rest of the team and ended up joining in during the second half of the session. I had no idea what the rules were but I really enjoyed it, and they asked if I wanted to join in the following week as well. Back then I was thinking nothing of the pain in my feet, I certainly wasn’t worried that it would affect my running in any way, so basketball was a way of spending time with Ally.

A few months later, at the start of the basketball season, the problem with my feet had become more apparent, though I was still running for the first month or so. I joined the basketball team as an able-bodied player, though there were two other AB players, so time on the court was limited. Training was also difficult due to problems with venues and lack of players turning up. The club was still very small and we trained in less than 50% of the sessions due to cancellation. I still enjoyed the year of playing, had even invested in my own basketball chair, and I brought home the Players Player award at the end of the season.

By half way through the season I knew that the problem in my feet was serious. Doctors hadn’t got anywhere, and basketball slowly took over from running, both physically and psychologically. Stopping running was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it took me long time not to get angry every time I saw someone running in the street. If I hadn’t had another sport to get immersed in, I’m sure it would have been a lot harder.

The season finished, though Ally had been invited to a training session with another club, as they hadn’t stopped for the summer yet. After a couple of weeks I went along as well, and found them to be a brilliantly friendly group of people, and a club large enough to actually have a 5 on 5 training session, something we hadn’t been able to do before. I learnt a lot over the course of just a couple of weeks, and eventually Ally and I were invited to sign up for the following season. This was a big decision for me and certainly not one that was taken lightly, but in the end I had to be a little selfish and do what was best for me. This is how I ended up playing for Coventry.

Over the course of the year I improved massively. I played in both the first team (3rd division) and the second (development division). I applied for classification under ‘minimal disability’ but was it was declined as the permanence of my disability couldn’t be verified. I was told to wait until 3 years after the onset of my symptoms and re-apply.

I joined the West Midlands Allstars Women’s team as well, playing 3 tournament days over the course of the season. There are only 2 divisions for women’s league, and we placed 2nd in the 2nd division.

We finished the season on a high. The first team had won the league in 3rd Division Central and we all went off to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield for the national playoffs. We played against the winners of 3rd North and 3rd South, winning one game and losing another. On the second day we collected our trophies for 2nd place. I also had the chance to watch some high quality basketball, with the division winners of the Women’s League and the Super League.

This year I’m signing up again with Coventry, who will be entering 3 teams in 3 divisions. I’ve been named in the second team, but should still have the odd chance to play in the first team. I’ve also been invited to play for Sussex Tigers, who are entering a women’s team into the league. I won’t have much of a chance to train with them but it should be interesting. More updates to come as they happen.

Posted by: Sai | August 10, 2011

Picking Up Where I Left Off, AKA Arms vs Legs

When I started running I couldn’t keep going for more than a minute. A few years later and I’ve entered a 10 miler while I think about which Half to do. It took a lot of hard work to get where I was, especially considering I had my asthma to beat as well as my lack of fitness.

The racing chair is the obvious alternative to running, and while it has numerous similarities, I keep having to remind myself that it’s a completely different sport. I sometimes find myself thinking, or assuming, that I can just pick up from where I left off – that I can go do an easy 10k without much thought, that I can go back to looking for a suitable Half for the Spring. While I’m not quite back to the beginning, I’m certainly close.

The biggest difference is that when starting to run I was held back by my CV system – initially my asthma, but as I started to get through that, it was purely a fitness test. With pushing, my muscles are getting tired before I’ve barely broken a sweat. I’m used to pushing in the basketball chair but this is a different style, and my posterior delts (backs of the shoulders) are certainly feeling it.

So now I’m remembering that I’m new to all this, that it’s going to take more hard work to get back into long distance, and I should be working towards a respectable 10k in the Spring, not a Half.

Posted by: Sai | August 1, 2011

The Fatboy

Once set in my conviction to get into racing I had to first find myself a racing chair. Ally raced some years ago and his chair is collecting dust in the garage – alas, too narrow for my non-paralysed arse. I therefore went to the only other person I know who might have been able to help, the dad of a girl from my basketball club. He managed to find something pretty quickly and a few weeks later we brought home The Fatboy. Strictly speaking I’m not sure who he actually belongs to, but I’m assured his previous owner doesn’t need him at the moment.

He got named pretty early on, he’s a little bit too wide for me (better than too small!) but otherwise in pretty good nick. The footplate had to come off before I could use it, and a great kneeling cushion was invented by the same guy who found the chair. It’s all held together with velcro straps, though I’ve got it how I want it so tend to leave them all done up and get into the chair (rather ungracefully) without moving them about.

At the moment I’m sitting on a piece of foam and a folded beach towel to give myself a little bit more height, but my biggest problem is that he’s so wide I hit my upper arms on the top of the wheelarch. Not only is this giving me some nice bruises, and probably preventing me from pushing as hard as I could, but it’s also stopping me from coming off the bottom of the pushrim properly.

Though really I’m glad this this is my only problem and just thankful that I managed to find a half decent chair that no-one minded me using. Getting something of my own is financially impossible right now so for the forseeable future I’ll be riding in The Fatboy.

Posted by: Sai | July 14, 2011

Braving Middle Distance

I was always a long distance runner and that’s really what I want to get back in to with the racing chair. I went back to the track yesterday, and after 2 laps warmup and 3 laps of 100m on/100m off, I decided I needed to work out the kinks of pushing over a long distance.

Sitting on a piece of foam and a towel raised me up a little bit but I’m still hitting my arms on the wheelarches and so I’m not able to come off the bottom of the pushrim (and I’m not pushing as hard as I can because of the bruises on my arms). I found that my legs go numb after a few laps – I’m cutting off the blood supply somewhere – not a massive problem but horrible feeling when I get out the chair. I’m also suffering new aches along my lower back from reaching forward, something I hope I’ll adjust to over time.

I did about a 4km push in around 21 minutes. It’s about what I thought I’d do and I think it’s a good place to start. I can only get quicker from here.

In other news, my basketball club had it’s end of year review and awards evening. I managed to bring home the trophies for 2nd Team Most Valuable Player (voted), and 2nd Team Highest Scoring Player. Bit of a suprise so that was nice. Only 3 weeks until pre season training!

Posted by: Sai | July 8, 2011

Learning to Push

Watching the elite athletes makes pushing a racing chair look easy. The first time I got in the chair I kept missing the pushrims (being used to basketball pushrims), sliding off them when I did catch them, catching them with the wrong part of the glove and generally just smashing my upper arms into the top of the wheelarch (the chair is a little too wide and the seat a little too low).

I had to wait a bit while my kneeling staps were sewn into place, but I got hold of the chair again 2 days ago and attempted to get some sort of technique going. This attempt was a fair improvement over last time. 2 warmup laps and 6 x 150m sprints. I hit the pushrims in the right place and with the right part of the glove.

There’s a track only a few miles from my house and I spent all day at work just hoping the rain was going to pass so I could get out for a bit. I’m not going to have a chance to push over the weekend so I was glad, and slightly suprised, when the sun came out just before I left work. I did a couple of warm up laps, then took some times for the 400, 300, 200 and 100m. I’m slipping off the pushrims less often now and my partner, Ally (who has designated himself as coach), thought taking times would be a good idea. After that I did 2 x 3 laps of 100m on/100m off. Tiring stuff, and my upper arms are bruised again!

Posted by: Sai | June 30, 2011

The Road So Far

I wasn’t a particularly sporty kid, I probably did as much or as little as anyone else. Though after developing exericise induced asthma at around age 7, and not really understanding it, I tended to stick to sports that didn’t involve too much in the way of exersion.

I was about 19 or 20 when I decided to run. I’d always liked the idea of it but my asthma held me back. I tried running round the block but I had to stop every hundred yards, and in the end I gave up. A couple of years later I was in the university gym and decided to use the treadmill. I started with intervals, one minute running and one minute walking. I gradually got the hang of it and started to enjoy it as much as I’d hoped I would. 17 months later, in September of 2008, I ran my first 5km road race. I learnt more about my asthma and running supressed my symptoms dramatically. I loved running, it was a constant in my life. It kept me fit, kept me happy, and was great for the stress of final exams at university. I started a blog, which you can see the archives of here.

The following summer I ran 2 10km and 1 5km road races. Looking to increase my distances I signed up for another 10k and a 10 mile race for 2010, and started thinking about marathon training. Unfortunately, I had started to have problems with my feet. Assuming it was related to running I changed my trainers and re-examined my running style, but it didn’t help. My doctor didn’t know what it was and it just got worse. I had to stop running in October of 2009.

I started playing wheelchair basketball and really enjoyed it. When I realised that my feet weren’t going to be getting better any time soon I started to take basketball more seriously – the 2010/2011 season was very successful for us – but as much as I enjoyed it, I’d always preferred doing sport as an individual and team sports just wasn’t the same for me. Watching the 2011 London Marathon kicked me into gear and helped me make the decision to get back into road racing and do the marathon I’d said I’d do before I was 30.

I asked around for a spare or second hand racing chair and was lucky enough to find one in pretty good condition. The problems with my feet meant I couldn’t use a footplate and so a friend helped to create a system of velcro straps that would hold my legs in a half kneeling position. On Sunday 26th June I did my first 5 laps of Warwick University’s track.

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