Total Warrior: Clare Smith’s endurance battle week 8

Clare Smith training for Total Warrior
Clare Smith training for Total Warrior
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Clare Smith is venturing where other 40-somethings fear to head – the Total Warrior endurance race in North Berwick where the obstacles include fire, ice and mud. Could you accept the challenge?

Science and technology saves and improves lives. Labour-saving devices to clean our homes quicker, better, more thoroughly; cars that can park themselves; the MRI scanner, organ transplants.

And now gadgets to help improve our health and fitness. Tiny computers on our wrists to tell us to stand a minute every hour, take more steps and fulfil daily movement goals. They can tell us our heart rate and miles travelled. Or not – and so with a discreet beep, nudge us to get going.

Normally I’m not interested in technology. I rely on my Nike+ app to tell me I’ve run 5k in 31 minutes and I’m happy. But my curiosity is aroused because I’m told by Kieron Ross, my trainer from Race Fitness, that I need to get a few long, slow runs in whilst in my “fat burning zone”. I agree and say I will. Then go home and immediately Google what “fat burning zone” means.

Essentially it’s about getting your heart rate to a level for a prolonged period of time which means you’ll burn a greater percentage of fat than exercising as higher intensity. You’d still burn more calories at higher intensity but not just from fat. I think.

To work out my fat burning zone heart rate I Google again. It’s widely agreed that to work out your maximum heart rate (MHR) you subtract your age from 220. And your fat burning zone is 55-70 per cent of that. So, 220 minus 41 equals 179. And between 55 per cent and 70 per cent of that is between 98 and 125 heart rate.

Kieron reckons that’s a running pace where I can talk but I’m breathless for at least an hour. I reckon if I had a fancy watch or Fitbit thingamajig I’d know for sure if I were in the zone.

I enlist husband. He’s the Minister for Technology in our house. According to his research iWatch will tell me all my fitness stats, including heart rate, as well as make calls and feed my Twitter addiction. Fitbit is another good option but won’t be a phone or news service.

With my new heart rate monitor watch, the aim is to run for an hour-and-a-half or so, about eight miles. Husband says he’ll come too. I’m glad because I’m worried I won’t manage it and have to send him off to get the car . . . We chose the old railway line from Penicuik to Dalkeith. I grew up in Penicuik and we now live in Dalkeith so it connects my past to my present. It’s flat, car free and for the most part trail – which is better on the joints and various aches and pains I’ve developed through this training regime.

And we run. And run. And a wee bit walk. And run. And it’s far. And tough. And gets sore. My hip/leg starts to ache. I poke it and stretch it and it abates, but returns 100 yards later. But I run through the pain, thinking the sooner this is over, the better. I wonder if I will ever enjoy this. I just don’t get how people get addicted to this. I do revel in the glory that I burned 861 calories though, and even though we were going slowly according to my Nike Plus stats I run my fastest 10k since records began in 2010.

We make it home. I plunge my legs into an ice bucket as instructed by Dan the man at FASAC to reduce inflammation in my sore Achilles. And I Google the pain in my leg/hip.

Turns out it’s my IT Band. This is a common running injury. I am a bona fide runner with actual running-related injuries! And massage can relieve the pain and generally help support healing. I don’t need to be told twice to get a massage.

I go and see Matt at BodyWorks in Melville Street. A sports science graduate, I not only get a great sports massage, I get all sorts of insight into training, fatigue, rest days and how lactic acid happens. And no matter what, the best cure is good old-fashioned hydration.

So is all this technology and science advice just a distraction from simply getting off my bum and getting out there? A little. But it’s satisfying to complete the recommended 10,000 steps for the day and motivating to take the stairs not the lift to achieve the goal. It’s encouraging to compare your running stats with years before and it’s addictive trying to get all those colourful circles on the watch to complete at the end of each day.

As for the physio and sports massage – it’s not cheap but my Achilles is definitely getting stronger and post-massage I felt like I had new legs, five years younger.

Total Warrior is only seven weeks away. I need all the help I can get.