Saturday, December 31, 2011

Real training has begun again

Over the last couple of days I have taken time to get back into the frame of mind that paid off very handsomely this year when I was preparing for the Cardiff half-marathon. I have started tracking my calories again using the myfitnesspal app, I have spent time musing a running plan courtesy of Marathon Coach by Running Method app, I have returned to leaping about my lounge with the 30-day Shred Jillian Michael's DVD (Mrs. Taffi is both tickled and baffled by this), and moreover I have even been out on a run.

It is a shock to the system to have jumped back into all the things I was doing a few months ago, and it is true to say my body is complaining quite a bit. Happily I remember that the first few days were a challenge when I got going back in the summer before it began to feel more comfortable. My goal this time is larger not only in distance (to run a marathon) but also in terms of weight loss, I feel I need to reach somewhere comfortably below 13st (182lb or 82.5kg) to make the run that bit easier on me). It has become clear that one of my bigger challenges in the next few months (however I do over 26.2 miles) is to find another challenge for immediately afterwards. The last couple of months without an immediate goal deadline have seen a blip in weight and fitness, which while not terrible were very noticeable [see my Weight page - which I have just updated]. All I need to be careful of is picking the right size of challenge next time, I will certainly not run any further than 26.2 miles for example.

The excitement of reaching my goal later in the spring is certainly driving me at the moment, and pushing me back into the regime that worked for the half-marathon without too much resistance. I suppose it might be the newness of the challenge, or the thought of a marathon completion, whatever it is I am hoping to ride its wave for a good few weeks into the longer mileage runs ;-)

PS. happy New Year! I hope 2012 is full of good things for everyone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

End of 2011... running start to 2012...

Been a little while since I posted, I have had the pleasure of putting in an application for Fellowship funding in work and running (exercising) took a back seat for a couple of weeks. Seems my blog decided to follow as all my words were being used in writing about a possible career direction for the next 3 years.

I have to be brutally honest and report that I have not been kind to myself eating wise during those computer desk bound days (gained half a stone!). I am 10 weeks from a half marathon and 18 from the full marathon, and so I need no more motivation than that to get out on the trail on again. All being well I will be reporting my training here, and perhaps begging for input if (when) things get tough. In the meanwhile, I hope everyone had a good Christmas and will have an even better New Year.

Some numbers for the end of 2011...
  • 318.38 miles total run this year (well that I logged in one running app).
  • 13st 6lb (188lb or 85kg) the lightest I weighed all year and in the last 10+ years.
  • 400+ visits to my blog.
  • 67 blog posts.
  • 15 blogs on my Blog list.
  • 122 days until my first marathon (from today).
  • 1-year caffeine clean almost to the day and doing great ;-)
  • 6 years 1 month 24 days since I started my blog.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wow that is strange... urge to exercise out of the blue

I am having to stay at home and wait for a plumber (ah, the joys of the seasonal heating). Now that isn't strange that is simply a statement, the strange bit is that I am considering doing an exercise DVD in a coffee break from working at the PC (happily I can do some work from home). I know roughly when the plumber will arrive so I don't have to worry about being in my sweats when he arrives. Strange that I'd even consider doing it? I really must have suffered a mental 'flip' in recent years, a younger me in the past won't have considered such nonsense. Interesting what you catch yourself doing when the fitness bug is in you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Time out

Seems like I took a time out, and perhaps I have. The training has dipped, and work has taken over for a while even causing a stall in my weight loss. It is not that I consciously tried to avoid training and eat a bit more it just happened. Happily things haven't turned completely sour on the fitness front but its time to get back on track. Wednesday is as good a day as any to start a fresh! I have a new potential training partner for my New Years marathon training and my long time training / rowing buddy has returned to training after his knee injury so I really have no excuses for not training.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Busy, busy

Phew, what a week! I know that I have been over-compensating to a degree after the health scare that proved so very distracting... but I am now running out of steam a little. Happily a new routine is coming along, one where I am in the room more of the time rather than having my head in the doctors office. At the moment I have been busy busy in work rather than in terms of training. A few runs should set things back into a real balance.

Image: 10incheslab /
In the meanwhile I did manage to update my 'Weight page' and include this month's weigh in. The trend still looks great though things clearly have slowed... once things have settled down I'm going to set about losing a few more pounds ahead of the serious business of the marathon training plan in the New Year.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

That feels better

The evening after my first long run since the half marathon and I feel much better for it. I was not intending to have such a long hiatus after the race but among other things a major health scare proved too much of a braking force on my training. It is some weeks before I have to kick the training into high gear for the marathon attempt so at least I have time to get back into the swing of things.

I watched some of the New York marathon on TV this afternoon while my kids rushed about around me. It was amazing to watch the shear speed of the elite runners, sadly I didn't get to see the mass run. Motivation is flowing freely having watched inspirational runners, had a good run, and most of all having received the good news this week that my worries were not (as I had feared) cancer. More running, more work, and more of many many things now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Minor twitter balls-up perhaps?

I realised last night that perhaps I made a minor twitter balls up... I shared via twitter my view of the half marathon I ran in a post below "Race report - Cardiff Half-marathon" which appeared then on the official race website twitter feed box. The title of my post might lead a reader into thinking it was so form of newspaper or official 'report' / 'critique', and I apologise if anyone thought that or were expecting something other than my thoughts (and how I got round).

Lesson learnt, so if I do something similar again I will endeavour to choose a less declarative title. Of course I could have simply written my of a formal 'critique' in the first place, but I opted to save my thoughts for the official feedback form where it will (I hope) be more useful :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back on the move: days off were a bad idea

It was a bad idea at the start, but I kidded myself into having a couple of days 'off' the myfitnesspal calorie / activity tracker after completing the half marathon over the weekend. As it happened the end of the stomach bug saw my appetite surge so there wasn't a great deal of mental resistance to the idea. Oh boy, do I now remember why I have enjoyed the food to fuel process over the last three months... I felt so ill and bloated after a couple of days of 'old me' style eating!
Image: Grant Cochrane /
It was not as if I went out to a restaurant and ordered the works. I simply picked a bit more for lunch, an extra snack here and there, and didn't apply my calorie in / out thinking. The simply truth I discovered (accidentally) is that it doesn't take very long at all to truly re-educate your system to new eating habits. Okay, so the brain can be conned here and there, but my body really let me know fast that this last couple of days was different, that it felt heavy, and that it felt too much. If only I had known to listen to this kind of thing over a decade ago when I was climbing to my heaviest and physically lowest ebb.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wow, what a belt indeed

In browsing the blogosphere some while back I spotted product review page by a blogger with a section of reviews of things they had tried / bought and found that worked (blog - 'I'd Rather Be Eating'; page "what am i a camel ifitness review". I read with interest their review of a running belt that they had worn for the first time in a marathon and had absolutely no issues with. As someone who suffers chaffing really badly (I wear a compression vest or t-shirt to avoid horrible joggers nipple!), I had always been shy of wearing any kind of belt or bag whilst running.

Inspired by the review and then by the ifitness website I purchased one and tried it out on a long weekend run. Wow, no rub even having loaded my iPhone, keys and a gel pack onto it.

That was a couple of months ago now and I have enjoyed using it on near enough every run. It is great to have a phone with me, and I have been trying out the gel packs in earnest now (with a possible future marathon in mind). It is completely comfortable, I forget that I am running with it and has thus far stood the test of British weather / profuse sweat. If you want to try a belt I can recommend you have a look around their website.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Race report - Cardiff Half-marathon

Well we did it, I got round despite a cold all week prior (and a stomach bug brewing) and my wife completed her first ever half. The day couldn't have been better weather wise, clear, bright, not overly warm, light cool breezes here and there. Our preparation on the morning went very well. We got the kids organised, got out of the house only a few minutes late, headed into the city centre dropped off our stuff and then walked down to the start in Cardiff Bay.

We arrived in the start area 'just in time', I made a rushed decision about which pace area to wait in and ended up in the wrong one (the band ahead of my planned pace!). I had no time to work out if the new start area truly worked, but my impression was it was a little claustrophobic. Certainly the athlete's village looked the part as we rushed through looking for the start areas.

After the start I went out to fast (I know, I know, school-boy error!) and so rewrote my race plan in the first mile and a half. I opted to hold the pace and then try to manage the degradation in pace using my GPS watch as a gauge. I did just fine at maintaining the initial over the top momentum through the first 45mins up to my planned isogel and drink zone (the second drink station on the course - the drink stations were excellent all around the course). It was not until past a quick 10km (45secs outside my 10k PB) that I began to have to graft hard. Working to maintain pace and over the next 4 miles manage the beginnings of the pace fade. I went from 8min 45sec/mile over the first 6 miles out to 8min 52sec/mile by the 10th mile.

At that point I was still confident I could maintain and keep the average pace for the whole race to a value that would bring me in well inside 2hrs. However I made a major miscalculation... yes, my watch measures my running, but over a set course with wide roads and bends it is possible to run more than the set (measured) race distance / race line. So while my pace was looking good I hadn't noted that my watch was increasingly disagreeing with the mile markers. Somehow I ignored them and believe I would complete in under 2hrs regardless.

I got to mile 11 in 1hr 40min flat, leaving me 20mins to complete.... but my knee began to ache and my befuddlement with the watch pace continued. Then around 12miles the race pace guy for sub-2hr went by me, I hadn't seen him the entire race so was fearful. Only for another half mile later another sub-2hr pace group to come by. I was physically and mentally GONE, there was little left and fight as I might I couldn't pull a sub-ten minute mile out of myself. I tried to sprint at the line but my legs were spent and at this point my stomach was in painful spasm (the stomach bug had made itself known). I crossed the line angry and infuriated with myself. Sure I ran 13.1 miles in under 2hrs (GPS to be believed), but I began to realise that my staying out of the way of faster runners because of my poor start slot judgement I ran the long way around so many bends (including one very long 1.5 mile section). I learned any number of lessons the hard way, even though I had read about them all and probably even advised other to beware.

The race was great, the day was great, and in the fullness of hindsight I was unlucky with illness. The race organisation is improving, it after all only it's second year as a 'large' 15,000 competitor city half. There was little wrong that another year or two of running the event from the same base won't fix. Let's just conclude from the fact that I just finished registering for next year that I'm hooked on the race :-)

PS. no pictures of our own sorry. We were busy and the family were looking after the kids back at home. I'll paste a link to the official pics at some point soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My biggest sporting challenge yet - 26.2miles

After some thought (okay, borderline procrastination) I looked at marathons around the time of the London race and made my choice to actually run one. I have selected the Milton Keynes marathon 2012. It is the inaugural Milton Keynes marathon, the course promises to be flat appears and based around stadiummk facilities.
Milton Keynes Marathon

Anyway I have decided it is time to have a go despite having once saying I would only ever run a marathon once if I want now to run a major city marathon (London, Berlin, Paris) I will have to run two!  I have started to plan training and approach, but any advice is more than welcome. So far I have gotten as far as...

  1. Fundraising - Since it was a charity page that helped me find the event I have been giving a lot of thought to a choice of charity and now have a shortlist in mind.
  2. Training - At the moment I plan to start a 16week program in early January giving me November and December to get back to some sculling and rowing training (or as I am now thinking of it 'strength training').
26.2 miles of running seems like an awfully long way right now and no doubt come January (training run one) it will seem that bit further. Any which way I will very definitely be "on the move" this Winter.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Winter wondering

I am still trying to figure out how to spend my Winter training after failing to get into the London Marathon via the ballot. It is true that there are charity places still available, but I don't feel that I can commit to both the training and raising a couple of thousand in sponsorship.

The wondering about the Winter has further been mixed by the arrival of my rowing club membership renewal form. I have unfinished business with rowing (especially having lost weight recently), namely getting my sculling novices and a really 'good' PR for the 2k ergo test. Run or row? Or both? That is the biggest puzzle at the moment, with the background givens that I have much work to do in work and at home too.

Going to have to keep working on the answers, I really don't know which direction to head in just now.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Weight update

This morning I finally got around to updating the weight chart on my "Weight page". It was quite satisfying because I hadn't done it for a while and the recent changes are significant. The update has taken me a little while as I had to redraw the graph a little to include a new minimum of 13st instead of the old 14st. Another small sign of changing times I suppose that I needed to broaden out the graph to include a new lower target. There was a time that I remember so very well that 13st felt so very far away. It's nice to be here and it's nice to be heading into the Cardiff Half marathon next week with these recent advances on my side.

All time trend line as it looks today

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Much ado about clothing

I find myself in a happy muddle over clothes (no, it's okay I have some on), having shrunk 20lbs or more in the last 10 weeks I have to consider my wardrobe. It isn't that I am a 'fashonista' or even particularly self conscious about style, it is simply that my stuff is all... a bit... big. There are a few options that sprung to mind: (1) get rid and start over, (2) adapt and make do, (3) do nothing in case this is all an anomaly. The middle option seems the most prudent and sensible. I can't help but feel there will be a steady flow of my clothes heading to the charity shops over coming weeks / months.

Perhaps my biggest concern is buying for now and then having to buy again. Case in point, I brought new jeans a little over two weeks ago and I am already finding that they might be getting loose. This is I suppose where a number 3 type option could be useful in an adapted form... do nothing until I am sure I have found my natural plateau and THEN buy new stuff. I am not used to this level of thought about clothes (call it a 'man' thing if you wish) and I am finding it all oddly stressful. Yes, I have lost weight before, but no not in such a concerted way as to have created this dilemma (previously I've lost this kind of weight over 10 months plus not 10 weeks plus!).

Whatever I do about it, the best thing about this period has been that as I get on with training or catch myself in the mirror I could swear I feel / look younger.

PS. I will try to remember to update my weight graph this weekend to give a 'scale' to the cause of the above ado.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Swansea Bay 10k - family day out

Sunday saw the family travel across to Swansea to watch Mrs. Taffi run the 10k race. It was a lovely day weather wise, and the organisation of the event was second to none. Sadly Mrs. Taffi was suffering a full on and stinking cold. She set out feeling very unsure of her run strategy and then during the run suffered a couple of further set backs (most notably her ipod shuffle dying somewhere the half way mark). In the end she came in in a time just around 1hr 3min, bettering her PR by 4mins (that seems to be catching in our house) and doing brilliantly considering the gods of luck were working against her somewhat.

It is the first 10k race that I remember watching and it was really quite an experience. Watching the leaders coming in was a sight to behold for a confirmed plodder, they move so freely and with such speed. The event was won by a Kenyan, Edwin Kipkorir (who I think was a previous winner). The stream of runner that built up behind was amazing to watch. Everyone with there own style, facial expression, apparent motivation. I was taken by the gradual change in the runners as the finish time ticked onwards towards the hour and beyond. It was clear that although you might look at someone and guess their time, it is no real indicator of their potential time. I know have great hopes of improving my PR next year having seen guys of my frame blitzing to good times.

Mrs. Taffi is now recovering from both run and cold, and I think also looking forward to next year. She really wants to find out how she can do when everything goes 'right'... yes, that is right... she is addicted ;-)

Not long to the Cardiff Half-marathon now, and the two of us are getting excited in our own different ways. I am off for an hours easy run later, trying to convince myself that I can truly make 9min/mile the new 10min/mile and perhaps begin to move slowly towards the speeds needed to run like the 10k in 45min runners?!?!

PS. I hope to hear about the London Marathon Ballot in just over a week, having never been this run fit and not having been lighter in the last ten years... I am even more excited than I have been in past ballots. Lets hope this one does not turn out like the others... #desperatetogetinthisyear

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Win win!!

Okay so I haven't blogged a lot lately, but happily I have been working on good news. - my progress chart.
After finishing the Cardiff 10k having smashed my PR.
The evidence is in the two pictures above. I think from my captions you can already see why I am currently a happy bunny. My progress with weight has lead me to an all time low for this century (ahem!), which meant I met my goal of 14 stone (196lbs). Happily I am feeling so good on losing the weight that I have revised my target and am hoping to park myself in the middle of my BMI (body mass index) range... eventually.

The second picture is from after my half-marathon warm up event, the Cardiff 10K. I set out with the knowledge that I had beaten my competition PR in training, and hoped to see if I could add to that benchmark. Happily I beat my old competition PR by over 4minutes and came in at 53min 4sec. I am quietly hopefully of a PR in the half-marathon next month. These two pictures are I believe totally linked, it is not simply that I have gotten stronger following the half-marathon training plan, it must be because I am so much lighter that contributed hugely. At the end of the 10K race I found I had a Usian Bolt-like sprint finish in me that I hope implies I had stamina in reserve for the longer distance (though perhaps I was kicking myself that I could have paced myself to a faster 10K PR).

Off the back of the 10K I signed up for the 2012 Bath Half-marathon next March. It seems I am developing a habit of entering new races the day after completing another! My thinking was that if (and it is a huge 'if') I make it through the London Marathon ballot this time around then I would need a half race around then to progress training for the big one. If I don't get through to London then it is a fabulous run to do anyway from what people tell me?

All is well, and I am off to get my kit on for what looks like being a very wet training run - overcast, steady rain, moderate to gusty wind.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Fantastic, absolutely brilliant weigh in - under 200lbs (90kg)

I am totally over the moon with recent weight progress, fuelled by running training and also the calorie counting I have managed a great personal landmark. For the first time in this century, in well over ten years, I weigh less than 200lbs (90kg). It has been a long time coming a goal that often looked in reach only to slip away (usually around a Christmas period). The very real challenge now is to keep the good work up so that I get a little below 14stone and then keep it there!

Next week I'll be tackling the Cardiff 10k race. It will be very interesting to see if I can improve on my personal best. I have a plan for how to run it, but having just come back from holiday I am not sure I've done enough recent running training (apologies for the break in blogging).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Yippee! A 10 year low!

Image: foto76 /

Yippee, indeed this morning I weighed in at the lightest I have done at any point in the last ten years! A 10 year low of 14st 6.5lb (202.5lb or just under 92kg).

It has all been due to keeping a thorough diary / check on what I am eating. Not eating anything strange or new, not taking any supplements or pills. Just using the calorie counter to make sure I know what I am eating, and in what balance my meals are through the day (trying to avoid small breakfast versus say a large dinner and keeping everything relatively even).

The next stop, my target of 14 stone (just under 90kg).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good run, good weight - signed up for a 10k race

Well, well, well I had a pretty good run last night. It was a 5.6 mile circuit which I completed in 51min 43sec. I set out to run it nice and relaxed. The average split was what I wish all my easy runs would be roughly, 9min 15sec per mile. I would like to make 9 the new 10, so that instead of cruising at 10min/mile in light training I would cruise at 9min/mile instead. Have to see if my change in running style facilitates this or not.

Then the morning after the night (run) before I have a pleasant surprise, I have equalled the lightest weight that I have measured in the last ten years!! This may also be contributing to an increased running pace it has to be said. I am very happy, though very aware that unlike previous bests over the last ten years I want to make this weight change stick!

In amongst all this, in fact before all this, I signed up for the Cardiff 10k race next month. It is really part of my half marathon preparation, but I am also quietly hoping for an official 10k personal best (sorry, personal record). More details on the race to follow.

Overcast, light showers, light to moderate winds, looks like heavier rain due later in the day (haven't done a weather check in a while, and it felt like a good day to bring it back).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Graph, activity and tiredness

The graph from Saturdays run was really very pleasing. The overall pace was pretty good for 'easy' running, and the half hour burst stands out nice and clearly. The more I think about the tinkering with my stride the more I think it was beneficial. The other factor that may have helped was I nice sticky energy gel thingy at around half way.
The recovery day, Sunday, was in the end very active. Started off peacefully with me watching cBeebies with my daughter while my wife went out for her long weekend run. Then I went up to the allotment did a lot of digging and picking, got home and mowed the lawn, then spent a large part of late afternoon and early evening stood at the sink prepping harvested beans for the freezer.
So it shouldn't have really come as a surprise that this morning I was dog tired? Never mind, I feel really good for all the activity and ready to keep on keeping on the move.

New training table started today, and happily as of this morning I have lost 7lb in the last 20 days.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Long, long run

I didn't set out to do a really long run, it just sort of happened. I was supposed to run for an hour and fifty minutes, but along the way a diversion inspired an idea to run around the bay. Half of the way back up the river I realised that I might he heading for a longer run that turned out to be half-marathon distance. So in the end I ran 13.24 miles in 2hrs 9mins, and was really happily surprised.

All the way around I was trying to work on my posture and running stride. I have been reading in a running magazine about economical running and how over striding can be bad for your knees. Seeing as I have had a few knee niggles I thought it would be good to try out. It turns out that modifying my stride felt far more efficient and comfortable. For 30mins of the run according to the plan I have been following was supposed to be at race pace, even that felt much more comfortable using the shorter stride length. It was quite a shock when I kept looking at the GPS watch and seeing such a healthy pace. In the end I felt some aches in my knees, but I am hoping that that is adjusting to the new stride and nothing more. Only time will tell... I am off to read some more running technique articles to see what else I have been doing wrong?!?!

Friday, August 12, 2011

PBs vs. PRs, who knew? - In which the blogger perhaps gets a little PC

I hadn't realised until recently that a PB (personal best) is not a universal term. Near enough every blog I browse notes PR (which I assume to mean 'personal record'), when did this happen? Is it an American / British alternate? Or, and I hope I am wrong, a move towards another PC (politically correct) phrase? My assumption there being that somewhere someone perhaps thought 'best' was too strong a word and opted for 'record' instead.

I simply don't know the answer, and would love to know.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Itching to run, but lacking the energy

I haven't quite gotten to the bottom of the reason, but at the moment I am itching to go running. This would / should be a great thing however I am lacking energy. There are several possible reasons and I can't decide which is most to blame (or if it is a conspiracy of all of them). Firstly, there is the diet plan / calorie counting which I think is the lead candidate given that I have lost 6lb in two weeks. Secondly, there is the possibility that one of my lovely offspring has passed on a bug, also quite likely as the youngest is teething just now. Thirdly, there is lack of sleep, which is always a strong contender in these matters (multiple reasons for sleep debt, not least watching late night news about the recent English riots). Fourth, work, but that is an ever present and can't really be put in the frame. 

Whatever it is I will try to run this evening it see how I feel, and try to blow a few cobwebs away. Perhaps while I'm zoned out during the run I'll figure it out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New 'circuits'

From here on I am going to be putting any use of the Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred DVD in the 'circuits' box of my training table. I gave it a go last night and discovered that the first workout (and I assume all three on the disc) is very much a short sharp circuit workout. It was good and certainly had me breathing hard at times, the mix of exercises was very good and logical to follow. In many ways it suffers from many of the usual exercise video drawbacks, but there are plenty of positives to help look beyond those. It seems simple and has an obvious progression, so I hope to stick with it for a fair while.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New record, new week

Something of to celebrate after my weekend run, a new personal best! The training plan suggested either an hour and forty pace run or a 10k race. In the interests of time I went with the shorter option, running a 10k. Only I hadn't entered a race so I choose a 10k course and went out as if I were in a race. So I set off with purpose and tried to maintain that intensity (pace) through the run. It was a lovely morning and it was really quiet on the trail. Half way around the 'course' I knew I would do well if only I could hold things together over the second half.

It was mentally a very different exercise from running from A to B in such and such a time. I really did manage to get myself into the right kind of competitive frame of mind. My 10k time in the end was 54min 47sec, a best by some margin although not of course an officially timed event. As soon as I slowed up for the short walk home the heavens opened and I received an early cold shower. I arrived on the doorstep looking like someone had thrown several buckets of water over my head!

In hindsight it was probably going to be a good run, because I had been really chuffed at losing 4lbs since my previously first Sunday of the month weigh-in. I weigh in every week for my graph (graph geek!) but I have recently plotted the monthly figure to give an easier to read all time trend. It was great to see a nice steep drop on the monthly plotted graph - which I will post up later.

Thanks to some moment of insanity I went onto a well known internet store and purchased a copy of Jillian Michaels "30-day Shred". It was a moment of 'oh, perhaps I could cross train a bit', coupled with 'those people on the calorie counting site rave about that DVD'. If it ever makes it into the DVD player I'll let you know what happens, that is the things aside from my wife crying with laughter!

In other news over the weekend was that the Cardiff Half Marathon is now full! They apparently have all of their 15,000 runners signed up and accounted for. My wife and I happily signed up some while back, and aside from getting on with the training have the grand parents booked to look after the kids. They will no doubt grab a nice coffee somewhere, whilst we both run around the fair city of Cardiff of a Sunday morning in mid-October.

Friday, August 05, 2011

TFI Friday

Been an up and down week - mileage up and weight down. Between the two I think I have run out of steam, I'm happy with training but very tired. Hopefully over the weekend things will rebalance a little, though I am unlikely to do very well with getting extra sleep in our house just now (our house seems to be set to sunrise time just now).

Looking forward to weighing in on Sunday morning, I am hoping the swank app will carry on doing its magic...
Image 'ripped' from the iPhone app myfitnesspal, showing my 'progress'.
Over the week I have been merrily blog tweaking, creating a new training tables page (see the tabs below my blog banner) to store my weekly activity logs, and generally trying to clean up the look of things. Any advice always welcome :-) 

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Lighter and briefer post

As I was updating my training table I noticed this week has been something of a 'serious' week of post content. So a quick simple one is probably in order.

Last nights run was the second in two days, it was warm and sunny out and the park was busy. I ran for 1hr 15min at 'easy' pace, and got to 7.2 miles. It was nice to run consecutive days to see how I'd go. Today I don't ache much, and though I'm very tired I am happy with my running. So far in around 5 weeks my log tells me I've covered 99 miles, which is pretty cool. I am impressing myself with the adaptation to higher miles a week, gonna try and keep it rolling.

Calorie counting, no really!

I have on the face of it succumbed to calorie counting. "Ssssh!", seems to be the general advice to those thinking of mentioning it in polite company. Calorie counting seems to have a number of negative connotations attached to it, everything from implications of an eating disorder, to obsessive compulsive disorder, or simply that the counter is 'bonkers'.  However, of course it isn't always as a negative as the common social labels, it can be a useful 'tool' for many. Having looked at a few pages it seems there are a number of communities of people trying to lose weight / get fit using this kind of system.
For me it is appeals to my inner (well okay not so 'inner') geek, numbers and graphs can easily get my interest. I plan to follow a counting 'regimin' for a few weeks to remind myself of the energy values of the foods that I tend to eat, use it to refresh habits. General, like many I guess, I over 'fuel' myself especially during periods when perhaps I'm not rowing, cycling or running. Happily the system I chose was a simple free App (yeah, those things really are everywhere for everything just now). I went with myfitnesspal, and it seems to be fabulously simple and straight-forward (in fact I found it being reviewed in a running magazine).

myfitnesspal - iphone app or website
In setting up the app I went with a weight loss strategy as I would really prefer to haul a little less if possible around my runs. So far in a week and a half I have lost 4lbs (I'm currently 14st 10lb - my lightest in a long time), and have already remembered what it is to eat what my body needs not whatever I find through the day. For me the decrease in over 'fuelling' has left me with more energy, so I am happy that a re-balance here is a positive thing.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Two most recent runs - trying to follow a plan

My last two runs have been good ones, especially the one on Saturday morning I ran 12.2 miles and actually thoroughly enjoyed it (I did it in 2hr 3min). The training plan instructed me to run for two hours with the last 30 minutes at half-marathon pace. I am not sure how far I went in 'picking up' the pace, but certainly I managed to go out reasonably steadily. In the process saving enough for the second half of the run, which worked out quicker than the first. The graph is courtesy of Garmin GPS watch and my wife working some magic. Across the graph looks great, though the last bar in only for the 0.19 of a mile and so isn't reflective of true pace. 

Thanks to Mrs. Taffi for graphing my run up and giving a copy to me :-)
Last night saw me off for a 6 mile run, which I was to do at 'easy' pace according to the training plan. I didn't manage easy exactly, it wasn't flat out nor easy pace. The first 1.5miles were too quick and then I thought I'd try and hold onto that pace a little bit. In the end I did it in 1hr 1min, instead of what should have been closer to 1hr 10min. Still it felt good in spite of the heat and humidity we have here just now. Probably will pay for my lack of discipline tonight when I am supposed to be doing a pace / fartlek session.

I am following a half-marathon plan that was 'built' by the "Half Coach" Running Method free iphone app. You input you goal race date some body stats and then it produces a scheme for you to follow. I am enjoying it so far, like a lot of things recently it satisfies my gadget geeky, and it shows a nice tidy progress graph. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Goal choice can give you more than you expect

There are a million and one ways to succeed, there are undoubtedly many more ways to fail. Either way lessons are learned and we move on. The hardest part of success or failure (essentially undertaking a task), is choosing what to do in the first place. Selecting a goal is one of the more difficult things in life for many people. Many set a bunch of goals at New Years Eve, just because that's a habit in some societies. The choices of those goals and goals set throughout the year are often deferred, they are not wholly driven from within.

"I will lose 20lbs", "I will quit smoking", "I will exercise more", "I will join a gym", "I will take up a new hobby"....

These kinds of goals all too often are fed by peer pressure, by perspectives based around the media, and are things our societies say we 'should' do. Real goals, and often ironically those most likely to succeed, are those we derive from within ourselves. The ones that bubble up, that 'come out of no where', the ones we wake up one morning and just do. How often do you hear someone say, "I tried that for many years, then one day I just kind of did it and I've been doing it ever since". The goal may have been attempted many different ways until then until a different angle / impetus materialised from within themselves.

Choosing a goal though however we make it happen is just plain difficult. Lives are built around frameworks that mean we can't all simply decide to get up, train for a period, and then go climb Mount Everest. Negotiation and planning sit behind the choice of most goals, even in choosing to get out and run a 10k road race. Whether we need to fit around work, family, or social commitments we need to choose goals with a degree of balance.

By this point you might believe I am about to imply that these 'pressures' on goal choice are negative, suggest that we'd all feel better if we could do whatever we want whenever we want. Ah no, I am not going that way, I feel that goals built to fit around life commitments are often the most satisfying at completion (whether in fact they fail or succeed). Why? Well, for the reason that the negotiation, the planning and the investigating gives the goal that extra something (that extra cache, relevance, or importance).

When we've chosen our goals wisely we have made that choice taking into account the full meaning of it. Not simply because it's that time of year, because that celebrity does it, or because society impressed it upon us. We had all the facts of our lives around us and set a goal choice that we genuinely own within ourselves. It is this that gives me the most satisfaction at the end of a half-marathon, that I juggled things around training, that I found ways to get fitter, that I found new advice, that I found more things that worked when I ran 2-3-4+ times a week, that I found better kit, that I found better nutrition, that I discovered different preparation... the myriad of choices and negotiations made around that goal of completing a half-marathon that generate that pay-off. Choose a goal wisely, there will be more rewards than you can calculate I promise. Go on!

Monday, August 01, 2011

New week, new month, new week's training table and new helmet

Well, well, new week (Monday already!), new month (August already!), and a new training table to try to fill up (again already!).

Week beginning Mon 1st Aug.

Happily the new helmet that my wife carefully bought for my daughter went down a treat, she was involved in picking it out and loves it. There was little sign of worries as we cycled into daycare today, at least on her part. Daddy is still not quite over the moment of terror he experienced as he looked down at the crumpled girl before he starting checking her and un-clipping her from her bike seat after last weeks accident. I hope that perhaps she'll retain her strength of nerve as she goes through life. I wouldn't say she's totally fearless but she certainly seems to have a healthy inner 'toughness'.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday morning weigh in

A long time ago I got into the habit of weighing myself on a Sunday morning just after getting out of bed. In some way perhaps it isn't the prime time of the week to do it, but it is nice and easy to remember and has proved fairly consistent (even with occasional Saturday meal out, barbecue, food festival or something similar). Even with the Sunday weigh-ins over time I've near enough plotted each time I've gotten on the scales, which lead to a fairly hectic weigh graph. My inner geek wouldn't let me not plot every bit of information. In the last week I adopted a slightly more reductive strategy.

So now I have a graph show my weight on the first Sunday of each month. Less data points, but perhaps a clearer idea of general trends. I've put this chart onto the Weight page (see link above).

The weigh in today? Ah, well it showed a continuation of a fairly settled period, a weight of 15st 1lb (211 lb). It has been hovering around 15st 2lb for the last three weeks. I am happy with the stability of late, though I can't deny I'd prefer a downward trend. I would like to lose some before the half-marathon, not just to improve my time but moreover to go a little easier on my joints!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Please wear your cycling / bike helmet!

My training week has been disrupted somewhat this week... it's a long story (I'll try to abridge a bit). On our way home from nursery on Wednesday evening we had to avoid 'lads' cycling all over the cycle path, one threw something at me, I reacted and in the process of braking violently the bike flipped over. My two year old daughter in her chair landed on her helmet, I crunched my left leg, we were both left stunned.

I was left feeling a pretty stupid daddy for how I reacted (I can never work out the various effects adrenaline has on me), and my daughter was left feeling bemused and in pain. We made it home and reported the 'lads' to the police for what good that will do (I had no description and little detail to offer). After making the call I was left wondering how to perhaps approach the local council about this kind of situation that often arises at that point of the cycle route.

Brilliantly just after the accident some kind people stopped to help us and offered my daughter some water once we'd eased her out of her seat having first checked her neck. In the end I was very, very grateful my daughter didn't end up hospital after our bike crash. She only suffered grazes and bruises, while her bike helmet was broken in three! All in all just bl**dy glad we had helmets on, ever since I've felt like tapping non wears on the shoulder and telling them our story.

Ironically this all came barely a week after I found this video online and posted it up on facebook for my friends to think about. Please view James' appeal if you have a moment, but most of all "Please wear your cycling / bike helmet!".

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The joys of stretch

You would probably not consider that stretching is all that important or even useful, there is certainly an on ongoing debate in certain quarters about the hows, whys and whens of it. I certainly didn't think of it all that highly, and being tall it always felt like painful origami (that really just looked funny and hurt a lot!). Perhaps it is the creeping passing of age, or just a straight-forward epiphany that has lead me to change my views a smidge...

"Stretching is good", there glad I got that out. Stretching sessions can improve balance, muscle tone, and posture, quite apart from easing aches or simply getting loose before a big effort. The challenge is to keep on remembering the benefits and keeping them going. Here I have struggled in the past, and I would imagine its a common phenomena. How many get injured, go to a physiotherapist, get loads of helpful exercises to do, and then to quit them as soon as the painful phase of the injury passes? Yes, I have been in that cohort. Find some good (hopefully useful) stretches and give them a go over a prolonged period.

I have in fact a set of base stretches that I do that I first started when I lost my big weight back in 2000-2001. They came from an exercise DVD that I used to do several times a week to try and help lose the weight. I remember little of the exercises or routines (and have managed to blank out the horrific Lycra images), but have it seems committed the five minute stretch pattern to a very long term part of my memory. What I am trying to do is build new stretches into this and keep them going over a similar period. So perhaps what I am trying to suggest just here is, if you're stuck for some good ones 'borrow' an aerobics DVD and memorise its stretch / warm-up as a way into a repeatable everyday session. You can give / put the DVD back afterwards and not tell another soul if you like... it has taken me nearly ten years to confess after all!

PS. no, I am not putting an image of me stretching in this post... you'll have to make do with the internet stock photo instead.

Training table - week beginning Mon 25th July

Slow start to the week now my long run has moved to Sundays, should pick up as the week goes on...

Thurs.2.5mi walk.....
Week beginning Mon 25th July.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Non-stop weekend

Between TV sports coverage and actual activity in our house it was a non-stop weekend indeed. Saturday for me was the more peaceful of the two days, though entertaining two youngsters makes the word peaceful not quite the right choice of word perhaps. Our house is in full half-marathon training mode, a long run of almost two hours for my wife on Saturday, and then on Sunday my turn. Interspersed with this endeavour was the German Grand Prix and the final two days of the 2011 edition of the Tour de France (the later admittedly my addiction not really anyone else's).

Sunday's 11mile run took place nice and early in the morning. This was great as I could wear my long sleeve compression vest for a change - it is far, far more comfortable than the cropped version on a long run (though both serve to prevent joggers nipple their main purpose). The run was built of an hour and a half easy, then 20mins at simulated half-marathon pace. The easy pace phase was well, ahem, relatively easy... though the 20mins faster was very hard. Going faster wasn't helped by course selection on my part, it took in a very sharp steep climb! Still the Garmin GPS gave great feedback about the consistency of the easy section so all was good. It took 1hr 54min, though ironically I seem to have avoided the usual post-run pains. 

Avoided the post run pains? Indeed, I have taken to cold showering my legs after a long session which helps a lot with the aches and stiffness. The other reason, two hours of gardening straight afterwards! I think the gardening could here be an example of 'active' recovery, which is suggested to ease the pains that otherwise creep up on you as you lie on the crouch thinking "that was a good run, now for my good rest!". Though I got my rest late in the day watching to see if Mark Cavendish would Manx Missile his way to the green jersey win on the Champs Elysees in the Tour de France climax. Happily he did, though the UK will undoubtedly carry on ignoring one of its most successful athletes of recent times.

All of my on the move activity meant that this weeks training table was pretty healthy. I ran over thirty miles in a week which I have never done before in my life. Albeit I ran further in seven days because I was moving my long run from Monday night to Sunday morning. Altogether a fabulous weekend.

PS. the Greyhound image is really just because I found it at and fancied using it somewhere ;-)  It is a fabulously composed image.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The running week

This week has seen the third week of really good solid running endeavour. It has been great, and I even have a feeling the addiction level is creeping up too. The increase in enjoyment probably because I am following a plan, getting out regularly, feeling benefits, and feeding the whole thing with bits of tech here and there (borrowing my wife's garmin GPS, writing about training on blogger, etc.).

The two runs this week started with a monster, 10.1 miles with a burst of 15 mins at quicker pace inserted part way round. I took the first run as the opportunity to really try out my wife's garmin watch. It was extremely helpful, especially as I find it is quite easy to loose pace and even perspective of time on a long run.

The graph on the left shows my half mile split times, the one on the right some way point markers (the middle bar of the five is my pace burst).

It was fabulous to see that I had succeeded in lifting the pace as the plan had instructed. Although it was very tough when I slowed down, I find big pace changes pretty awkward. I think I change my running form to much at pace changes which leads to some of the discomfort. Happily most of the way I continued to feeling my wind improving, the breathing seemingly better each run at the moment.

The second run was an 'easy' run which is to say I wasn't supposed to tax myself too much. Running at chatting pace, without huge efforts. I did manage to reign myself back for most of the 5.7 miles and finished it in a bit over 58 mins. There were a couple of times where I had to hold onto the plan a bit, the temptation to run on a bit was very strong. I did in fact give in to a pace increase for a short while, but I can blame that on the fact that that stretch was downhill, honest!

Mrs. Taffi has been going great guns with her half-marathon training too, she is progressing really well. Better in fact than she often gives herself credit for, I think she is going to enjoy her first ever half-marathon. She is preparing well, checking out energy gels, planning new routes every week, running with a good friend for some runs, and generally being brilliantly organised. It is her efforts and progress that has in many ways fuelled my renaissance in the last few weeks - "Thank you".
It has been good to keep my training table rolling along, and include some re-measured cycle commuting route distances. Three days a week I do the nursery run, which is proving good resistance training especially as every week the cargo seems heavier! It is good to be 'on the move', even if it is mostly 'on the run' just now.

PS. weight update on Sunday should be interesting this week after three weeks of training.

PS. apparently blogger says this month already there have been blog visitors from Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States - Hope you are all happy and 'on the move', and if you happen to pop back leave me a comment to let me know if you are :-)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"The Little Drummer Girl" - John le Carre

Carrying on my occasional non-sporting thread, here is another book review...

"The Little Drummer Girl" - John le Carre

"If you ever want to read excellent writing then pick this up.  It is exquisite in its detail, character, plot, understanding, and its subject.  Forget that it is of another time, you will soon be pulled into the old world.
The writing is of a detail that expands your imagination, and introduces you to the characters so that you believe you regard them exactly as the author imagined / designed them.  Smooth seamless prose on another level to most fiction authors I pick up.
I was consumed by the richness of the writing in a way that few books have come close to.  "The Little Drummer Girl" was recommended by my father-in-law as a great read.  Having never considered reading the author before, I will certainly now look out for more of his considerable catalogue of books on the shelves of other relatives."
Basically seeing as I had been waxing lyrical (or not) about the books I'd read on LivingSocial's facebook app I thought may as well re-publish my opinion for anyone who finds my blog.

PS. these reviews aren't posted in the order that I read them chronologically, this is the last of my old reviews - I have new ones to write and more books to read which will be in the 'right' order.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Training table - week beginning Mon 18th July

I want to put this table at the bottom of the blogger page somewhere but still haven't found a format that does screw the whole page layout up completely! Anyway....

Week beginning Mon 18th July.

Post number 350

Well, well, well I have made it all the way to post 350. "Whoop!" and indeed I'd even go with a "Whoop, whoop!". It has been a long and varied road. What to do to celebrate another odd landmark in blogging? Why refer you to apparently my most read / visited post - ironically, also about a random landmark and blogging in general - Post number 260.

Strong winds, showers, heavy clouds,... some chance of training later.

Hope Monday is good where you are.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ooooooooh, new shoe?

There are many that say "look after you teeth and your feet and the rest of your health will look after itself". Sadly, I don't know entirely what this thinking is based upon (logical common sense I assume), but anyway I do take my feet seriously and do try and get the right running shoes. When I first started running I went to a specialist shoe store keen not to destroy my legs running on unsound shoes. They recommended a very strong pair of shoes, I weighed the best part of a stone more than I do now at the time, and they promised that I would need these to keep my knees healthy.

Since that 'diagnosis' I stuck with those large strong trainers, I think I've been through at least five pairs. I hadn't given any consideration to the fact that as I got lighter and fitter the type of suitable shoe might change. Last week Mrs. Taffi and I went to a different specialist store that has video gait analysis in store. The experience was very illuminating, we both came out with new shoes. The biggest single benefit I could instantly see was that my new runners are lighter than my old ones. I had felt that at the end of a long run I was lugging my shoes along on tired legs / ankles. I just weighed the shoes and my old pair weighed 1kg, my new pair 0.88kg... I am suspecting this might make a very real difference at the end of a half marathon.

I have only run on the new pair once so I can't say all that much about the difference in support or comfort between the two. I guess time and aches (or lack of aches) will tell. Hopefully I will continue having happy healthy feet.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Physio magic, and signs of progress

This week I got myself along to see the physio, because I had been feeling 'twisted' while I was running. Over the last couple of weeks while I have been running it has been feeling like I had more power in one leg and more flexibility in the other. It was difficult to describe but after going through a few stretches the genius physio diagnosed a few things, areas of tightness across my back and in my upper thigh / groin on one side. A further set of stretches later everything was feeling much better, I have tried to commit all the stretches to memory (I even wrote as much as could remember down later just in case).

Aside from being pleased that a series of stretches can make such a difference it was very gratifying that I wasn't imagining anything or suffering anything more bizarre. I will try to make the stretches routine, and look again at posture while I'm out running. Apparently I lean forward while I am running, in something he described as common among triathletes (no I am not a closet triathlete) when they run after working hard on a bike for a period. I suppose I'd thought lean was good, but perhaps I was overdoing it as well as being tight in the hip muscles.

Most happily I was given a clean bill of health for my healed toe. Mechanically things were equal across my feet and all was well. Great news seeing as I have a lot of work to do before the half marathon. After some improving runs (see this weeks training table, earlier in my blog roll), a good session with the physio and having gotten a training plan on track I am really really excited about trying to make some good progress.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Give blood

On Monday passing a building on my back to work from an appointment I noticed a give blood session. I dropped in because it had been a little while, and happily they had a slot available towards the end of the afternoon. So happily I tripped back to the session at my now allotted time. I have given blood a number of times now, though I always forget how many. I had a little card sent to me a little while back telling me I had passed the 10 donations mark, so I'm not doing too badly at remembering to find a session.

Oddly, the nurse I had my health check and line inserted by was planning to run the Cardiff half this year too, and was probably off for a run after work. Perhaps having 'connected' with a fellow half marathoner he was feeling especially nice as the needle mark is perhaps the neatest I ever remember having.

Go on give blood if you can, it always gives me a lovely altruistic buzz afterwards, and the thought of contributing to the rescue of a life is a good one too. Go have a look at if you are in the U.K. or use your favourite search engine to find your local equivalent :o)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Slam" - Nick Hornby

Carrying on my occasional non-sporting thread, here is another book review...

Image: Paul /

"Slam" - Nick Hornby
"Very good read, it got to the point where I could not put it down.  The narrative is cleverly put together, although at points I could not help but notice it seemed tailored to a movie.  Perhaps that was the intended style, it certainly worked well for this well crafted and thoughtful story."

Basically seeing as I had been waxing lyrical (or not) about the books I'd read on LivingSocial's facebook app I thought may as well re-publish my opinion for anyone who finds my blog.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tracking and obsessing? - In which the blogger remembers his inner child

I find that now and then, okay with some regularity, I find myself looking at the blogger stats page as I go through log in. Only it sometimes isn't as satisfying as I might hope, like anyone I hope perhaps someone stopped by for a read or a browse. Often times it is a 'bot' that dropped in did its thing for a search engine (be it a mainstream or unheard of one) then leaves ticking a visit on my count that really doesn't count to me. That said there didn't used to be a stat button that showed visits 'real' or otherwise, so in that sense it does satisfy my curiosity at least.

In terms of tracking and quality obsessing the ClustrMap that I added a long time ago delivers (it's over on the right bar near the bottom). Happily like blogger it too has evolved in recent times so the experience is actually very good. I get no real sense whether it counts are  'real' or otherwise, that information isn't shown. The interface still remains simple - pins in a big map of the world (the bigger the pin the more hits in that location). Where ClustrMaps neatly evolved (and bare in mind I subscribe to the free version) was to show a second colour of pin for recent views, and lists of locations with numbers. This it seems is all my inner geek really craves, lists of locations and numbers. It must appeal to the little lad in me that used to collect stamps, and the same boy that once had a rather large collection of car registration plate numbers. It isn't really the when anyone visited, what browser they used, what link or search brought them (all in the blogger stats). No, oh no, it is that they stopped by, and that those little pin points pop up all round the map.

Training table for a new week

After a good week of being 'on the move' last week, here goes this weeks training table. Two weeks in a row, almost a habit... I'll be filling it in through my 'Andy on the move' week...

Tues7miwalk 3miY....
Wed5miwalk 2mi.....
Thurs5mi5.6mi Run, 4mi walkx2....
Fri6mi2mi walkY....
Sun.walk 2miY....
Week beginning Mon 11th July :o)

Mondays 9.3 mile run took me 1hr 35min, it was supposed to be an out and back run (45mins each way). I over did the outward leg, and suffered all the way home. The main issue for me was that I realised I wasn't adequately hydrated! I hadn't drunk enough through the afternoon before my evening run, and after a few miles I knew about it. I hope to remember not to do that again any time soon.

Thursdays 5.6 miler took me 55min 32s, and was far more comfortable thanks to the physio straightening me out. Still no breathing rhythm, which made it a bit laboured. Breathing is where I'll look to really focus during upcoming runs.

Saturdays 6 mile run was great (57min 35s), it was raining, but that seemed to help as it was cooler than it has been of late. I started off quite quickly and then decided to try and maintain it. Earlier in the week I had gotten some new running shoes, and I had thought to go easy in them. The new shoes felt great with no rubbing or discomfort, so I felt more than happy to push along. My body tells me that I did push it a bit too much for this stage in the half marathon training program that I am following, but it was good fun.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Cardiff Half-Marathon route - all new for 2011

The Cardiff Half route for 2011 has been released

Quite the route, which gives the gut reaction of being a little tougher than the previous one. Indeed it is quite different from last year, with what look like a lot of major road closures round Cardiff to boot (not that I'll care to much as I'll be running and not in my car). There is a large out and back loop at one point which I assume uses two sides of a dual carriageway with roundabout junctions at each end. It could prove a mental challenge around that section, dual carriageways can be soulless and out and backs on any race course I personally find draining.

Aside from my personal niggles (which are insignificant in the grand scheme of things), the organisers have done very well again in designing a course that shows off the City of Cardiff to runners from near or far. Being wider, with less street furniture, and with still a pretty flat course the race will continue to grow as a 'big' UK half marathon. Perhaps building a further reputation even further from these shores?

By the way, I am running this year in the hope of raising money for two charities,the Huntington's Disease Association, and also Tenovus (the Cancer Charity). See the Upcoming Challenges page (or follow the link in the nav bar above) for details.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

New training table for this week

The new blogger interface and I have had a falling out over my training tables. I used to keep the in progress version at the bottom of my page out of the way and post it when it was complete. I can't now seem to house it in the new template, all sorts of weird things occur, including very, very long gaps before a broken table appears. So I have had to go 'old skool' and using the simplest html I can muster build a table that works (see below). Whenever I try and do fancy things to the table in 'compose' mode it all goes badly wrong again. There must be something I am doing wrong to cause a conflict, but I can't see what.

Anyway, the training table, I find it useful to see how I have done week by week and where I am not getting on the move. The current table (which I will have to edit through the week in this post - see above), features no rowing related activity - simple reason I haven't enough hours in the day at the moment to divide between running training and rowing training. As I have signed up to run a 'competition' with running that is the basket I've popped all my eggs into. Fingers-crossed though I might get out on the water once a week starting sometime soon weekends permitting (ah, and weather permitting - summer has turned very strange here just now).

Sat.Walk 2miY....
Sun.Walk 1mi.....
I am improving the look of this as I figure out what I was doing wrong. Any advice gratefully received :o)

Happy as I am that the activity is again 'on the move', my weight is resolutely sticking where it is (around 15st 5lb currently (215lbs)). This is a little disheartening as I can really feel the baggage when I am running. A loss of half a stone would make my joints a lot happier, this would be roughly where I was last time I tackled the half marathon distance. Like the fitness I know it will come, but it does mean I am going to have to work on staying patient.

As a footnote I find it strange that I have only just 'discovered' the draft function in the posting list, some 300+ posts later (I know, I can be a simpleton). See, apparently even humans learn! This is meaning that I pop a bunch of stuff on in the evenings and that log in and quickly post around mid-day when allegedly people might be looking for various blog musings to entertain them.

Monday, July 04, 2011

'Caffeine-free' – In which the blogger tries to avoid a pious essayist style

I started to draft this post and discovered it was turning into an essay on caffeine and “why I don’t ‘use’ it any more”, then realised it was turning into one of horrible those pious health diatribes that often pop up in the media. So instead of turning myself into one of those pseudo-science bleating diet banner wavers, here are a list of simple things that I found / discovered that may or may not be of use…

Since the end of 2010 I have stopped drinking caffeine containing beverages (coffee, tea, cola, etc.).  It was something I had considered relatively briefly, my decision was only really firmed up after I had already ‘quit’ and I felt the benefit of my choice.

I gave up overnight, ‘cold-turkey’ as it is known, not because I especially intended to I just found it simpler to say “no” and adjust knowing that I might feel weird at times for a few days. Luckily I recognised what was happening when my head went fuzzy or groggy and went easy on myself to compensate.

Positive effects I found of being ‘caffeine-free’
1. Increased quality of sleep – I discovered that without it I could fall asleep far more rapidly, and enjoy a fuller night of rest (I have only suffered a couple of poor nights in over six months).
2. Faster 0-60mph time – I found that I am able to awake up and get going far more rapidly and smoothly (unless I have limited my hours of sleep badly by staying up very late for some reason).
3. Smoother mood throughout the day – there are no peaks or troughs pre- or post- intake. I feel calmer and find focus easier to find (and maintain). Interestingly I've realised in the last few days that it seems feeling calmer and less anxious has ended a long running nail chewing habit (an unexpected bonus).
4. Extremely regular bowel habit – never been a problem, but I noticed things were ‘neater’ and super regular (I am being British here and trying to preserve a little reserve, sorry).
5. I feel richer – no actually richer – I believe I am spending less in a given week. Through not buying takeaway coffees, caffeinated cola cans / bottles, and not having to replace very expensive jars of coffee in the cupboard (or office).

There are two caveats to add –
Firstly, I was a regular consumer, but not in as far as taking a fixed number of cups a day. People who have one cup each morning to get them going often report no issues. On top of a morning cup and regularly further drinks, I was perhaps taking on extra cups at particular phases of the week as I felt I ‘needed’ them.
Secondly, here is the only really science element to this post, we all respond to the actions of caffeine and caffeine containing drinks differently based on a range of physiological factors. So what I find you may or may not also be true for others.

Summary – I feel great for my choice, I was a little surprised at the difference I have to admit, and have to say I won’t be ‘going back’ for a cuppa any time soon.