Friday, December 20, 2013

Q. "How was your year of running?", A. see below...

Taking a cue from a running blog legend, Miss Zippy, I am going to briefly review my running year and join the meme...

What was your...

  • Best race experience? Running a superbly consistently paced race in the Berlin Marathon, the whole event was amazing and to cap it all with a near 25minute PB made it near perfect.
  • Best run? Oddly I feel compelled to say the Berlin Marathon, because as I hinted above the run gods smiled on me that day (it still makes me smile weeks later). 
  • Best new piece of gear?   hat - yup, that's right I bought a hat. It is an amazing piece of modern equipment designed to keep the sun off your head and shade your eyes. Here in the UK I haven't needed a 'running hat' until this summer - I bought a branded run specific one and it was a revelation at keeping me cool and wicking away sweat.
  • Best piece of running advice you received? I can't put my finger on one piece as I have been trying to educate myself in the ways of marathon'ing and have listened to and read so much in 2013. Pushed I would say "enjoy a World Marathon major, you won't run many in your life and the experience will be something else".
  • Most inspirational runner?  Tony Audenshaw (he does a regular spot on podcast I listen to, and his report on the Bullock Smithy Ultra was simply brilliant).
  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? My year in running - Varied, challenging, and fun.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The end of the year is nigh... already?

So another year is rapidly come to a close, and I have not been blogging or running much since the Berlin Marathon. With the festive break very nearly almost here I hope to pick things up a bit (and finish my Berlin race summary). As it happens I haven't had a great deal of 'on the move' news to report since Berlin as I have sort of been "on a break"... which sounds lovely, but actually means I've gained a few pounds and not exercised nearly enough!

With all that said I have a new plan for my 2014 challenges which kicks off next Monday on the eve before Christmas eve. Having spent too long fostering bad habits I am all set to make some new better ones. Although as I read that on average it takes 66 days to embed a new habit, I have decided to get a two week head-start on all those making resolutions (new habits) on New Years day. Should be fun and should make for blogging fodder... did I mention I'd signed up for a spring running challenge - no - ah, well maybe next post will reveal more.

Yours slightly cryptical, A :-)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Berlin Marathon 2013 - my second marathon - done! pt1 (to the start pen)

It took me a few days to digest the whole experience and frankly to find a moment to sit down to type it up... and then even longer to get my images together and then sit and post this thing. So anyway here is my Berlin marathon 2013 -

The Berlin marathon was my first experience of a major city marathon, and while I have nothing to compare it to I found it an incredible event all round. So here is how it all went...

The weekend started with traveling over to Germany, via Amsterdam on KLM which I had initialled thought would be a draining journey (with the transfer, lots of sitting on awkward seats, and general worry about flying without the kids). Happily the journey went very well with flights on time, good leg room on the aircraft, reasonable food in the transit lounge and so on.
Possibly the most glamorous view of Schiphol airport you'll ever see ;-) 

When we got into Berlin we managed to find the hotel pretty easily, although we realised afterwards we could have taken one bus rather than a bus and a U-bahn. The hotel was brilliant in as far as they were super welcoming of marathoners, had good standard rooms, and a great restaurant. We took a quick walk then settled for a meal in the hotel, which was yummy - I indulged in Currywurst and a small beer calculating it was two days from the race and I knew the dish well enough to know it wouldn't upset my system - oh wow, it tasted amazing!!
Hmm, naughty food and a very naughty (small) beer - what was a boy to do?

The day before the race our sole mission was to go get my race number at the expo, but I also wanted to have a look around the start / finish zone so we would know the best spots to meet up post race and so on. We didn't have an early start to the day, it was still pretty chilly when we headed out which made me think the weather on race day might be fairly good for marathoning. The Brandenburg Tor was bathed in sunshine when we got there (via a coffee shop for a cuppa to revive my wife - I do enjoy that I don't rely on caffeiene to get me going of a morning - sorry, I digress) under clear blue skies, we took a couple of tourist 'selfies' just cause you kind of have to really.
We woz... oh, yeah we woz at the Brandenburg Tor (squinting aside not a bad 'selfie')

From the Tor we headed off to the Expo, wherein I made a navigational error that cost us an hour and a half and a little too much walking. It was just one of those silly things and all I hoped at the time was that it wasn't taking too much out of my legs. The Expo itself was absolutely huge (!) spread across six or seven hangers of Templehof Airport. My feelings of the event were coloured by the amount of walking we'd accidently done - having to walk the length of the place to get the race pack and then back again made commercial sense in that it made all enterants walk past the stands and displays, but rubbed with me as I'd rather have grabbed my number and chilled out. The pick up went pretty smoothly and the lady who gave me my number was super smiley despite the fact that she'd undoubtedly served countless people all day, in fact she was a pretty good example of what I found throughout the event from the organisers and support team - super friendly, super helpful, and super understanding!
The biggest expo I have ever been to, though happily not the biggest queue I have ever been in (different story)
Still tickled that both me and the race were in our 40th years and I get to be 39 because I started a zero not one (ah-ha!!)

The plan then was to head back to the hotel via the route we would take to the race in the morning with a stop for a good dinner (pasta) along the way. Unfortunately with some works to the U-bahn we ended up on our feet a bit too long again but eventually we settled on a pizza restaraurant near a main station. The least said about the service in the place the better (it was diabolical, the first time ever in my life I refused to leave a tip), but the food was good at least (despite starters and main arriving at the same time, yes, it was like that!).

The night before the race and I set about putting everything out for the morning - writing on the back of and then pinning on my race number, installing energy gels in my running belt, putting post run kit in a bag, and working out just what I might need to wear down to the start pen. Within myself I had a plan for the actual race, it was the getting it done that was troubling me a little - running amongst 40,000 other runners was to be a new experience after all. As my head hit the pillow I could feel the nerves were going to rob me of sleep, but in the end I managed always 5 hours of decent shut eye.

Breakfast was awesome, sitting eating a tried and trusted meal (I hadn't noticed my tastes had vered quite so close to a continental breakfast until the trip). We enjoyed a good people watching session noting all the runners in their various old and new kit, and spotted a couple of the pace runners had been staying in our hotel too. My nerves again weren't too bad though the coffee I had with breakfast turned me into a bit of a chatterbox - yes, thats right, coffee (!) which I had planned into my race strategy, I only consume caffeine for racing given the body of literature about its effect on performance and given the positive impact it has had on the few races I have used it for - why not for the big one?
A posse had formed outside our hotel as the sun came up - as we left a group (including pace runners) gathered to set out  across town to the start zone

Setting out down to the U-bahn for our trip to the start compound it was heartening to see that near enough every runners we saw was going the same way. The trip across town was silky smooth, and despite a short queue I availed myself of toilets in the station (ceramic better than portaloo any time). The weather was cool, clear and crisp and I was happy that I brought a plastic poncho to keep warm under.

In the next long overdue post I'll get to the story of my race (from start area to finish to journey home)...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lazy, or not so lazy post - onwards towards Berlin

8 days to go then the 415+km run, the 10 lbs of weight lost, the 2 pairs of trainers, the £100+ spent on energy gels & drinks, the kids bedtimes missed, the countless extra showers, the training plan, the costly travel, and the organising will have been worth it... Running for a reason... DiabetesUK @ Berlin Marathon
www.justgiving.com/Andrew-BerlinMarathon

Monday, September 16, 2013

It seems I might be tapering

From yesterday's run completion [16.7miles of mixed pace that went very well] it seems that I am now in a what is commonly known to runners as a taper (a period of relative rest just prior to a big event / race), this doesn't mean I stop training from here on it means that I do shorter less intense sessions from here until race day. Why am I so taken aback to be here now? Well my first marathon training was so bit by injury that I didn't manage a premeditated training plan, only a controlled set of injury dictated cross training sessions over the weeks leading to the race. The second marathon I had planned and did not start was hit by illness and an injury the week before race day (which was supposed to be a taper week).

So here I am wondering how this build up will go, pondering the quality (or otherwise) of my training, and curious as to what race morning will bring. I am hoping that I won't go stir crazy during the taper (apparently it is common to get twitchy to squeeze in more training), as I have plenty of organising to do ahead of travelling to Berlin. Less than two weeks to go and I am very nervous in general about the race - though if nothing else it sounds like being a brilliant occasion to be part of (there is apparently a different musical act performing every kilometre or so!).

My next scheduled run isn't until Wednesday so I'll let you know if I get the twitches. How do you do the taper thing?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Worries around my race pace choice

I completed a great out and back run last night at a decent pace over 80mins, now the only thing that troubles me is where I wear my running belt (pouch at the front or back?) - okay no, the thing worrying me still is my choice of marathon pace! At this point I have a feel for what I think I can safely run for 3hrs, but what pace I can achieve over 4hrs+ still worries me. I am looking for a constant pace, and hoping to avoid a massive fade or pace crash. It is the fine line between so slow that I have too much left at the end and so fast that I have nothing left after 20 miles.

I am going to go with a conservative pace window, hope that I am not wildly unrealistic, and hope that there is something left in the tank come the final 5k to 10k. The worst that can happen is that I cross the line regretting not going harder, but that is hardly likely given that this is my second ever marathon - the most likely outcome remains that I an overly optimistic in choosing my pace window and end up suffering in the final third of the race.

Still at least I am at the point of being 2 weeks and 3 days away from the race and not worrying about illness or injury niggles. You think I am nervous now, wait until I get into the taper and add some nervous pent up energy into the mix... oh dear! For the moment it is time for me to put my head down into the weeks training sessions and move these thoughts to one side.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Odd - 18 miles that didn't hurt too much

Yesterday I set out with no small amount of nerves for my longest run of the marathon training plan that I have (for the most part) been following. It called for 3hrs, with 2hr 15min at long run pace and 45mins at regular pace - which I adapted because of routes, etc. to roughly 20km long run (just below marathon pace) and the rest at whatever pace I would feel right very slightly faster than marathon pace. Trying to block the run out into two clear sections.

In the end I managed most of my plan, with the first 10km feeling weird, too easy and very nervous at around 6:29min/km. The second 10km loop (I ran around Cardiff Bay twice in full loops) I began to realise was on a good schedule, I had reserves, and once I had bought a bottle of water (my hidden one was discovered and taken, whoops) things were looking on track at around 6:28min/km.

I'd noticed that I had the itch to run faster but was relieved to look back at the GPS track afterwards and find I didn't succumb in that second loop. The final section the run home started out - well how can I put this? - too hard! I turned for home thought about the pace change and seemed to try and do that in the first kilometer or two, which left the rest of the run (just over 6km) feeling that bit tougher than it should have. I managed something like 6:10min/km for the third block.

Today I feel great, no niggles, no aches (out of the ordinary), and just the appropriate amount of tiredness. I am left a little worried about how an inadvertent pace burst made the last 2km harder than it might have been, and need to make sure that if I try any pace change at all in the race it is far better measured out. It brought home to me that one kilometre kicked out too hard can have serious repercussions down the line. Overall though I am finding it odd that it didn't hurt as much as I'd feared... maybe there is something to this training plan thing?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Run, Run, Run, Physio, Run

I have been really busy running of late (yippee) and so haven't had time to get here to write about it. I've powered around a fartlek, grunted around a 14.2 mile long run, stressed around a regular run, had some physio (more on that is a tick), and then blasted around a shorter route with my training buddy... phew!

In the middle of this run of runs (pun sort of intended, sorry) there is a trip to the physio, which was weird mostly for the fact that I wasn't actually broken in anyway. I went for an assessment and moreover a sports massage for my increasingly tired legs. The assessment went really well with a couple of usual suspects showing up as tight (damn my lumpy running style), as soon as those were loosened along with the rest of my legs it felt great. I am planning on a trip there again just before the marathon to get all loosened up, and then a couple of days after the big run to fix me again.

It is fabulous not to be carrying around an obvious injury and to be feeling okay all round - though it is a little disconcerting given I've had such a poor couple of years of injuries and so on. A lot of the time I find myself ruminating quite where my running might be with an injury free years training behind me... still at least I should arrive at the next start line, and be stood there with a solid (conservative) race plan to mostly just get out there and enjoy it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Why I haven't signed up for an autumn 10k yet

It would seem slightly odd on the face of it that I haven't signed up for one of the local 10k races this year, and there are a couple of crackers on the doorstep (Cardiff 10k and Swansea 10k). My reason is simple - I don't trust myself! I don't trust myself to run a contained sensible 10k race in the build up to the marathon at the end of September. In the past I ran a 10k a week before a half marathon and got the pacing so wrong for the 10k (I ran a PB) that it contributed to a DNF in the following half. I got carried away with the feeling of strength training for the longer distance had given me.

Once bitten twice shy, or something, I suppose but after missing my last marathon attempt through picking up a last minute injury I am kind of wrapping myself in cotton-wool before the next one. I suppose it is a side-effect of investing so much time and a considerable amount of cash in attending a major city marathon that I am feeling a little cautious. Any event after the race (Sept 29th)? Bring them on, of course I have been too distracted to look yet ;-)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yummy breakfast - a mini-revolution

Over recent weeks I have morphed my breakfast routine into something with a bit more variety and dare I suggest a bit more balance than my carb heavy breakfast of choice for the last many years (toast and big box cereal).
Yummy!!
So, three small eggs (from our kind hens), small piece of sourdough bread (I didn't say it was a carb free breakfast - also homemade), organic Greek yoghurt, six dried apricots (hiding under the yoghurt), glucosamine tablets, cod liver oil capsule (the last two to help my knees - ahem, joints), and finally a glass of High5 Zero electrolyte drink.

It is not that I am on any kind of nutrition crusade, but I am certainly feeling many benefits of a varied breakfast. It fills me up for longer, doesn't sit on my stomach as heavily, and seems to fuel training that much better.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My French adventures with training

On holiday last week I went running, in fact I went running three times in a week whilst on a family holiday in France. Why am I telling you this? Well, I don't do running on holidays normally, and this year has seen a change. Running on holiday on home soil seemed to be running in a relatively controlled environment, whilst running in France felt altogether edgier - and mostly because if I got into any difficulty I can't speak enough French to explain to anyone what I might need. Plus, I was running in a fairly rural area where near enough every gateway seems to be holding back a canine based alarm and defence system.

I completed three runs and learned a lot in a short holiday about the sense of adventure these challenges can bring while at the same time giving a sense of freedom to the process of running. Once I had stopped worrying about dogs, getting lost, and not being able to ask for help in the local language, I really enjoyed myself. There is something oddly liberating about running down a hill and not knowing either how long you'll enjoy the benefits of gravity or just how steep the inevitable next incline might be around the next corner. The scenery of course contributed to the sense of enjoyment, the countryside of Normandy is such a lush, verdant, rolling, and variable landscape. The most fun I had was on the middle run where I ran a course based around a crossroads at the centre of the hamlet we were staying in - basically I ran a ten minute out and back on each arm of the crossroads. Quite apart from the challenge of maintaining my desired training pace over each of the four stages I really got a quite fabulous sense of how this hamlet sat with the countryside and a sense of what made it what it was.
My lovely GPS pattern in the French countryside - not a bad set of out-&-backs
Yes, I know I am getting a little lyrical about running abroad, when the driver for doing so was so blunt - I have four and a half weeks now until the challenge of the Berlin Marathon - so you see I could hardly have had a week off the training schedule (which is in the full roar of the bigger run sessions before the downhill of the taper). I take it as the best of all signs that quite apart from all the lyrical stuff the process of running while we were away 'on holiday' brought home to me how much I am enjoying the process of running right now. Perhaps I should write in smaller print as I write this, but my body is beginning to feel the benefits of a block of training injury and illness free and thus my passion for running just now seems to grow with each completed run. Putting this in some context, since I've been home (3days) I have been out and turned out a half-marathon distance run (not a race) that was controlled, measured, successful, informative, and not unduly stressful on my system. I completed the distance at target marathon pace and could see where I hope to be in four weeks time pace wise. Most happily I was no more than appropriately tired after the session.

How else do I know I am feeling better about all things run? Well just don't make the mistake of asking how my marathon training is going... two friends enquired yesterday and by the time I finished and took a breath I could see the look of 'oh, good grief, wish I hadn't asked' on their faces. Still, whatever they might have really thought, I am happy that right now things are moving along nicely.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Next years plans (?) and the VMLM

VMLM? Ah, yes the new acronym for the catchily titled 'Virgin Money London Marathon'. I am strongly considering throwing my hat into the charity ring in order to get a place in next years London marathon. Why? Well because I have been ridiculously unlucky on ALL of the occasions I have applied before and because I ran into a charity close to home that may actually have spots available. Also, having paid out quite a bit of money to go to Berlin I figure I could have paid for my entire charity spot with an equivalent amount (!!) - although NO I absolutely wouldn't do that as it would run contrary to the spirit of charity berths. Plus, anyway I am the kid of fool who sort of likes chasing people for sponsor money.

In the time it took me to commit this post to the blog I had word back from the local charity that they don't have any places for 2014, but I can express interest for 2015. And so I will pursue that and see where it leads. Although with all of the above said I did manage to get into the draw this year by staying up past midnight to be one of the first in the queue once they opened the online entry system. In the end I was kind of glad I did stay up late as the public ballot closed in record time [follow the link to read about the speedy fill-up http://lrn.london-marathon.com/2014-virgin-money-london-marathon-ballot-closes-re/ ].

So really it looks like I don't actually have any major plans for the start of 2014 event wise, and it does look in all likelihood like I will be casting around for other runs next spring. It is funny that I have such a strong urge to run London, it must be a very British thing to want to run the "big British marathon".

Talking of big British marathon things (in a fame sense of course as she is actually extremely trim and not at all big in a size sense) I saw this on the web from the Express Newspaper yesterday (14-8-2013)...
Athletics: Paula Radcliffe vows for one last shot at London Marathon glory
PAULA RADCLIFFE has vowed she wants to end her career with one last shot at the London Marathon.
http://www.express.co.uk/sport/othersport/421789/Athletics-Paula-Radcliffe-vows-for-one-last-shot-at-London-Marathon-glory
I was amused by peoples reaction to the news that she might run London again, most were waving the London Olympic spirit and wishing her well, whilst others were carping about her strolling in and getting a spot in the race that is so hard to get into. Hmm, now people, she is still an elite athlete and holds a pretty decent good for age qualifying time (or as its also known - the current women's marathon world record time). Some were groaning that she would only be doing it for the money, hmm yes she probably is in some small way as a professional athlete whose profession is sport. I myself regularly head to a large busy building and pass through security checks, health checks and the like to do something I love doing and get paid for it - as a 'professional' scientist. People really do love nothing more the a good whinge somethings... speaking of which if you're the people spamming my blogger tracker / stats please give it a rest... ##climbs down from soapbox and heads for the "Publish" button before he goes on## ;-)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Just a third

I finished my run last night and then pondered that I had just run one third of the marathon distance at my intended target marathon pace. The burning thought of course being "could I do that twice more?", and the answer was fairly loose and uncertain "I might if the rest of my training goes well!". Which sounds all a bit noncommittal of my chances on one level, but also is a fair reflection of the experience I have gained over time. I don't do standing on the start line with one plan any more I set out with a loose set of guidelines that I'd like to run within (best case through to worst case scenarios).

The run was a really good 14.4km over a route that I used to run regularly one winter and winds through and around the city centre in a figure of 8. The centre of the run is a foot-bridge which isn't ideal but works as a good mental break and chance to reset my rhythm if its going off a bit. As a run it is pretty up and down over small hills and undulations which is good and the variation in effort helps me gauge my progress. I remember it as a tough run, and whilst it wasn't super easy I managed a really sweet speed up in the last 1.5km - which reminds me I must upload my run profile, see just how good that real was and make sure I didn't imagine it.
I have even been looking after the basics of nutrition and tracking some weights and measures of late.
Image courtesy of 
Grant Cochrane, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Training in the round is looking promising, I have found that I am feeling the benefits of following (ahem, almost) a good progressive training plan. I am now around half way through the 12 week schedule, in the middle of week 6, and my thoughts are beginning to swing towards race day and just how broad (or narrow) my best and worst case plans might be on the start line.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Training, training, training (wherein I couldn't think of a clever title)

So things have been going okay with my marathon training, my biggest single issue (aside from time) has been my knee and it seems as if that is easing finally. Of course I blame the shoes and not in any way a likely muscle imbalance that might be resolving. Seriously, I have stopped wearing running shoes all day and have a pair of decent walking shoes for everyday use, it seems like the change of shoe geometry might be helping. The only lingering issue in my mind with my knee is long runs, I haven't been over 2hrs on the road for a few weeks now and I do worry that it will be with long run fatigue that my knee injury might make an unwelcome return. I will be testing it soon.

The runs I have been doing have been above marathon target pace and have been that bit shorter than the training plan asks for but I am feeling good progress so I am not too troubled just at the moment. I have gotten on the calorie tracking band-wagon again and have been attending to some of the stuff around running that should all help (cycling, walking, diet, hydration, kit, etc.). A busy week lies ahead with much to do... if I can though I need to squeeze in that 2hr+ run to really determine that state of my progress.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sticking to the plan

So now I am going into week four of the training plan and I can happily report I am sticking to it. This is all due in no small part to the simplicity of plan, but all down to my desire to do things thoroughly and progressively with the training block. On the downside of things I am eating too much and my nutrition is not matching my workout efforts just at the moment. With that said, there is no time like to present to get back on track so I am going to sit down and prescribe myself a plan as simple as running training one and see if I can turn that around.

The brief update is because I am very busy with all things non-computer based and haven't had time to write in recent days. After this particular silent pause it is nice to report progress rather than an injury at least :-)

Friday, July 19, 2013

The who, the where, the oh what now!

Wrestling with planning, and even perhaps sense of self, need time and space and that is perhaps the hardest part creating the opportunity. Getting some distance from the issues to get real perspective on everything, a really good run (or workout) can help that degree of separation from the 'oh what now!'s of daily life.

Perhaps not enough to create or re-create your life's grand plan but enough to chip away at the issues and rationalise some ways forward.

 - it's true that the world follows us around these days, the phone (coms hub) in your pocket the biggest culprit, though even the GPS on your wrist can tie you to planned targets and draw you out of 'free' running putting your brain into ranking your effort instead of open minded thought.

- how much do I use this time on the run for such simple pleasures? Not often enough, I give myself training plans that are too prescriptive all to often, I slave to GPS pace, and perhaps most of all run in a dissociative state of mind with my mind the wrong kind of blank.

I am not saying every run should be a zen feast of the mind but perhaps I / we should use our 'escapes' little more wisely.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

11km in un-British heat

The training plan is in full swing, and so far I have managed to stick to the prescription set in the schedule. Last night saw an industrious 11km+ at the end of a long hot summers day, I set out after 8pm and worked my way around 75 minutes worth of walking (warm-up and down), long running and 3 spr'intervals (3x100m roll-ups - at least thats what I think they are called).

I finished feeling I had worked very hard in the unusually hot British summer we are enjoying at the moment. It is consistently10 degrees Celsius over the seasonal average which after a couple of days makes the average Brit more than a little grumpy (we love complaining about it whatever the weather!). Today I can feel the impact in my legs of the step up in training though happily my brain is enjoying working out the various 'new to me' sessions in the training plan.

The received wisdom is that by training in the heat runners get quicker when it is cooler in the autumn, but no one says by how much benefit on average this effect might provide. I only know that I am already hoping for a cool calm weather day for Berlin this autumn.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The other route

Over the past few weeks (okay, months) I have 'suffered' a string of injuries and issues that I had to miss runs and miss a marathon for, but yesterday I decided enough was enough (!) - I am taking the other route. I am going to focus of the running and training and not on where my next injury might come from. No longer am I going to run pondering my knee, my calve, my hip, my shoulder, my whatever... from here I am going to enjoy the runs I am doing and deal with issues IF they arise.

No, I am not going to run through pain or lingering aches and risk injury, I have simply decided to stop letting the recent catalog of setbacks shape my mental landscape while running. My hope is that by running free and relaxed I'll actually avoid many of the niggles or issues that in fact running tense and worried might induce.

I'll be certain to let you know how this goes in the next couple of weeks.

Ps. We are enjoying a near heatwave, clear blue skies, unseasonably hot temperatures, light breeze - not at all a British summer ;-)

Friday, July 12, 2013

One down thirty-nine to go - who is counting?

Not that I am counting but last night I managed to complete the first of around 40 planned run sessions in the training plan that I am following for my next marathon. I think I might have to get a nice big calendar and start putting great big crosses on run days completed.

This post was brought to you by tired Andy - short post, due to long day.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Berlin's 12-week plan - here we go!

Right, here goes, with the 12 week to go threshold crossed I am building my training around the plan sent to me by the organisers with a reminder that there are not many weeks before the event (!). It is a pretty progressive plan and so I will base my next 12 weeks activity solidly around it, the link to the page is below...

http://www.bmw-berlin-marathon.com/en/training-and-sports-medicine/the-marathon-training/training-plan.html

So that is it - a plan - now it is time for the action!

Ps. I've just made the above link 'clickable'.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Family holiday over but I have been running

This evening is the end of a busy and fun family get away which was a very different one in many ways. The most notable for me with respect to being 'on the move' was that I ran twice whilst we were away, and I really enjoyed random running around somewhere I had never seen before. Each run was around the same loop in the woods near our campsite, and on each occasion I was only interrupted from total solitude by two dog walkers so it was great.

On getting home I have even been for a run tonight after unpacking, thus racking up 18.76km for a week when I was 'on holiday'. I did it primarily because I have to get on track for my next marathon attempt, but I will definitely pack my running shoes for our next holiday too.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Okay - begin the panic - 12 week marathon training plans?

So yesterday I had an email - I know, I know, stand back - an email (new things those, I think they might catch on!). In the email was a reminder, a polite, warm, kind, note to say "there are 12 weeks until the Berlin Marathon"... at which point I frankly started worrying hugely.

I have not seen the last of the injury that kept me out of running the Milton Keynes marathon and training has been about as consistent as the injury - sometimes fine, but mostly just weak and wobbly.

Happily in the reminder was a link to a 12-week program so perhaps I'll be okay after having had to set aside the 20-week and 16-week plans already.

Anyone used a 12-week plan with a decent marathon run on the end of it?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lightening did strike twice in a week

I actually ran twice this week, and although my knee is not totally at peace with my activities I am hopeful that perhaps I can get some running done in the coming weeks. Now that I have allowed myself that thought I have to focus on not getting carried away with myself given that I will all to happily ramp up a training block so that I am ahead of any actual plan. It comes down to a wrestling match with my running ego, that little voice saying "oh, come on you've run further than this!", or "wow, you can run that loop faster than that man!", I really have to hold on to the reigns and stop myself from jumping back into old distances and times because experience has taught me all too well that that way another injury lies.

Running today with my partner in training crime was I feel just what the doctor ordered :- conversational pace at all times, good friendly distracting chat before, during and after the run, and a reminder to stretch afterwards (because he is good that way). I needed the distracting chat the most to stop my brain wandering into over-analysis mode "what is my injury doing?", "does that feel right?", "am I running the with the proper form?", "shouldn't I place my foot differently?".... and so on. After a chat about GPS he even managed to strengthen and back up my idea not to look at my watch for the next few weeks of runs - the idea being to wear it to log distance and routes but not for in run real time data about pace and so forth. This GPS thing again designed in my mind to free myself from trying to run like I was a few months back and make sure I step back to basics.

Part of the 'new' strategy is to step back (no pun intended) and use big Brooks Beast running shoes again. I had begun to convince myself that I didn't need the heavy, cushioned, anti-roll shoes and was allowing sales people to sell me lighter less cushioned shoes, but given that they served me so well and kept me from injury when I weighed as much as I used to made me put my faith back with them. So far they have felt like old slippers (even though I did have to fork out for a new pair) and have been hugely reassuring to run on these last two outings (which truth be told weren't super slow as my friend has really improved his run fitness in recent months while I've been in and out of injury, etc.). All being well my knee will grant me permission to carry on this back to basics / back to running strategy and let me get back to what I get a huge buzz out of doing - running.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

And tonight I ran

And so tonight I ran for the first time in what seems like an eternity, and happily so far so good with the knee. 8.5 km in 44 mins was a pretty good canter and was good fun on a warm evening. Fingers are now though firmly crossed that I don't get a reaction in the injury by the morning.

Sorry I've not blogged much recently, frankly I am a little annoyed by the amount of spam appearing in my blog stats. I look because it is nice to see the odd reader stop by but it has been hard to see any real visitors in my stats page of late thanks to these prats. I am not clicking their links, I am not quoting their URLs, I am simply not giving them any more oxygen than to generically say 'they' are driving me round the twist.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Wednesday Witter

At the start of a very busy day I grabbed my stuff and headed off across the car park towards my workplace musing "we'll see what today will bring", with it has to be said a slight tinge of resignation to rolling with the daily punches of endeavour. Then it occurred to me that in management or positive mental attitude speak I had that little phrase all wrong - and so with as big an ironic smile as I dare muster wandering across a busy city centre I pondered "what will I bring to today".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jun/30/self-help-positive-thinking
From an article by Richard Wiseman in The Observer, Saturday 30 June 2012 22.40 BST http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jun/30/self-help-positive-thinking  
See the difference? Hmm, I'll let you know how it shakes out.... short witterings today (follow the link in the image above for a good coffee break read) because I have projects to organise, interviews to sit in on, relatives to organise for the weekend, oh, and a Bon Jovi concert to go to tonight with my sister :-D  Whatever I bring to today for tomorrow I will be bringing a head full ringing (from the amps set to 11), a tired body (from jumping about), and no voice (from singing my lungs out)!

Hope you enjoy your Wednesday whether it brings things to you or indeed you bring things to it.

Warm, overcast, unsettled weather - good job the Millennium Stadium has a roof for tonights gig.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Type II diabetes - reduce your risk

I am planning to run the Berlin marathon in aid of Diabetes UK and a few weeks ago I picked up one of their information sheets in a local supermarket. So I thought I would pass on what I read, and it is in the most part copied from the flier - but I am thinking they really wouldn't mind a little blatant palagrism in a the name of a good cause.

Apparently in the U.K. there are 7 million people at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Which equates to approximately 11% of the population*.

Those at most risk:-
Anyone overweight especially anyone with a large tummy.

Those who may have a higher than average risk:-
People of Black African, Caribbean and South Asian origin. As well as those over 40 (or over 25 if you are South Asian).

Other risk indicators are:-
Having a parent, brother or sister with diabetes.
Having ever had high blood pressure, a heart attack, or a stroke.
Having a mental illness for which you have taken medication.
Women, having had polycystic ovaries, gestational diabetes, or a baby weighing over 10 pounds.

Lower your risk:-
The better news is that by eating a healthy balanced diet, keeping active and managing your weight can significantly reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

To find out more about Diabetes UK and how we care for, connect with and campaign on behalf of everyone affected by, and at risk of, diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.uk or call 0845 123 2399.

If you would like to support the work of this fantastic charity visit their site or if you like go to my JustGiving page for my Berlin marathon run at www.justgiving.com/Andrew-BerlinMarathon

* - based upon the UK Office of National Statistics 2011 census estimation that just over 63 million people reside in the U.K.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Wednesday Witter

I have had to change the title of my occasional (sometimes even regular) weekly waffle, it seems that 'Wittering on Wednesday' might be just fine but by shortening that to 'WoW' on a blog which is for the most part about exercise 'WoW' may cause some small confusion with the cross-fitters version of 'WoW' - "Workout of the Week". No confusion was intended, not that anyone finding one of my WoW posts would be in any doubt after reading two lines or so.

With all that said this Wednesday's witter seems like me to be suffering from fatigue, I have been getting on the move of late hoping to sort out an injury, and it seems the extra workload is tiring me out. I will take some time to adjust to the new routine, and this much I have learned during my blogging days - you do adapt to new routines and habits quicker than you think (once you get past the initial resistance). So for me that is the exciting prospect of early nights to help the tiredness while I adjust and settle.

I have been busier with this blog nonsense of late (as my wife pointed out), and whether this is because I'm living out my running vicariously at the moment, or a genuine deep seated need to write stuff down, I am not entirely sure. Anyway it turns out I am usually at my most prolific in August (see my swiftly constructed graphic below), so perhaps this year I am just blooming early - I blame the crazy weather.

Did I really? Well I never! - my average number of blog posts per month over the years 2006-2012
Have to say as a diary type blog the graph does confirm one of my paper diary trends that January always sets out with good intentions (!). Could be cruel and make some comment about consistency, but hey this is a blog about life and few lives are consistent (at least thats my defence) :-)

Sunny, warm, decent breeze, some Simpsons title sequence type clouds moving through - looks like a fine day for gardening and being outdoors.

For a few moments I thought this was the most viewed thing I'd written all month until I spotted two new referrer spams have taken up residence in my google stats. Thanks for your 'interest' spammers now go do something a little more worthwhile!!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Sunshine rolling

Feeling good today, I have ridden the bike (my wife's now old bike) to work and back two days on the trot - I am indeed a fair weather cyclist. I haven't exactly been thumping along, between strange bike, busy cycle ways (all those other fair weather cyclists out too, damn it), and the lack of fitness. It has been great to get back into an old pattern and I am already resolving to keep it going in my quest to regain all around on the move fitness.

Happily my knee hasn't grumbled about the cycling, and although it still isn't better I do hope that it will sort itself out soon. Everywhere I look at the moment there is another article on stretching so I have no excuses not to be doing it and getting things stabilised. Not sure when I'll threaten my knee with another run, but I will be on the move and trying to heal it with plenty of active recovery.

Sunny, warm, gentle breeze - perfect day for commuting on your bike here in Wales ;-)

Monday, June 03, 2013

My Monday motivation - Road-to-Berlin (2)

Charity - which aside for beginning at home - is one of the biggest motivations for many runners in large events. For me the charity doesn't so much begin at home as it is close to home, a member of my close family. I am planning to run the 2013 Berlin marathon for my eldest niece, who last year at the age of nine was diagnosed with type I diabetes.

Over Christmas in the aftermath of the diagnosis I was telling everyone of my plan to run two marathons in 2013 and how I would like to run one of them for a diabetes charity for my niece. My niece was pleased at the thought though was a little unsure of which charity I should run for. In the UK their are two leading diabetes charities that I am aware of - one supporting primary research as a lead focus and the other supporting patients and families with the disease as their lead focus. As a researcher myself I was drawn very heavily towards the former, but in the end my niece chose the latter as in fact a nurse from the charity - DiabetesUK - had visited her in the days immediately after the diagnosis and made a clear and lasting impression on her. So then the deal was struck with my niece - I would run the Berlin marathon (a major city 'World Series' marathon) for DiabetesUK to repay that kindness and to support their ongoing good work.
http://www.diabetes.org.uk/
Click to visit their homepage

http://www.bmw-berlin-marathon.com/en/
Click to visit their homepage
I have, of course, a JustGiving page set up for my efforts http://www.justgiving.com/Andrew-BerlinMarathon and even though I am struggling right now with a knee issue I will try to raise money regardless of whether I toe the start line on race day or not. If you have any coins, notes, credit or whatever to spare my niece, the charity, and I would be so grateful if you can give what you can.

My niece has taken really well to the new regimen of multi per-day tests and injections, happily she was old enough at diagnosis / onset to understand much of what she needs to do and why. Going forward her and her family will undoubtedly face challenges, but for the time being she is super active (swimming as a member of a local swimming club) and is smart enough to tackle any challenges head on. Going forward I rest assured that the healthcare where my sister and family live is meeting their needs and that there are wonderful charities like Diabetes UK there to pick up any gaps whilst providing terrific patient advocacy.

As a small footnote, I am not in any way financially supported by the charity to go to the race, I am not part of any kind of all-in charity travel / race package. My wife and I will (fitness permitting) make our own way to Berlin for the race and so forth. The charity have very kindly provided me a sponsor pack with further information about their work, a sponsor form, and one of their racing vests which I will wear with pride on race day.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Wishing I was lucky

I ran again yesterday for the first time since last Monday, and whereas the Monday run felt mostly fine apart from a single knee twinge and some post race aches yesterday however was different -from the outset I felt my knee with each footfall. It was nothing sharp and not intense but it was there - a dull ache inside my knee cap with each landing. I could not work out what to do, was I being paranoid paying it too much attention then running in an unusually slow awkward way, was it about to break down, was it going to disappear any moment, was I stupid, should I stop and head home. In the end I found it wasn't getting worse and so I kept trying to alter my running form in an ongoing attempt to alleviate the ache.

After about a third of the run I got into a rhythm and things felt better throughout my kinetic chain though I was getting fearful now that my brain had dupped me by kicking in a compensation mechanism that would ultimately lead to a different muscle or joint to joining the party. I went with the joy of comfort and in the end ran a decent time for the loop (10.3km in 63minutes, a loop I normally run a lot), but when I slowed to stop I could feel that my knee was not at all happy. I am still trying to work out what is a joint issue and what is a lack of all around fitness issue, although the fact that it felt like no post run soreness or stiffness I have experienced before leaves me worried.

It looks like I will be keeping up my stretching / strengthening routine and heading to the physio at some point this week for a thorough opinion of how this thing is evolving, and morevoer whether anything warrants closer medical inspection. Until I see him I am going to try my best to keep a lid on my nerves... the more this lingers the more concerned I am that I might end up stratching the next marathon too, and this is an outcome that will tear me up as I have invested huge amounts of emotion in taking it on.

So I find myself wishing I will get lucky and that I can get back to training for the race properly.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Stop reminding me - lost fitness

So today I got on the bike (my wife's bike actually, mine is in need of major repair) and figured it'd be fun. Now it was fun don't get me wrong, the weather is fabulous this morning and the trail was quiet. However, at the nice long stretch where you can see several hundred metres ahead of you I decided to unleash the canons (arms = guns, legs = canons? never mind), and then a minute later rolled along having discovered another muscular change that has occurred since last year... I have lost, for the want of a better phrase, my 'top end grunt'. My quads, which have been extremely tight of late and implicated somewhat heavily in the knee issue story, are certainly also lacking in sprint strength and general power.

The reflection / introspection of this last week and a bit about the loss of stretching routine and bringing that back with rigour has now extended itself to other forms of exercise. I used to post blog entries about weeks where I had cycled daily, swum, run and rowed in a busy mix. Quite where all that went I'm not 100% sure, though much of it is work and the kids it can't be all of the reasons why I don't do the variety these days. This weekends quest is now to work out where these things can be improved - if only because I love dropping the hammer on the bike and roaring along sometimes.

Sunny, warm, light breeze and the promise from the weather guesser forecaster that it is set fair for the next few days. Right off for another stretch then loads of that afore mentioned work to do.

Footnote - May = a whopping 17.1 km run (!), an injury, a marathon race DNS (did not start), several trips to the physiotherapist, lots of planning for when I am fit again (and plans to get fit in the first place), and so I don't have to do much in June to top its proceeding month exercise wise.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I want to workout, workout, workout

I am at that stage where I am need of doing something, the knee injury is subsiding (albeit not without a fight first) and I am getting that urge to go crazy. It is something that I suppose happens to many people in my position and can lead to trouble... 'too much too soon' syndrome. I want to run, I want to jump around, I want to go rowing, but I am reigning myself back as hard as I can to try and prevent recurrence of the injury to my knee or even picking up a new niggle.

It seems I am wrestling with the issues of balance: the conservative approach versus the what the heck approach. I am looking for that just right and finding that it means keeping my powder dry and waiting on the bigger (and perhaps more fun) stuff. Funny though that I've gotten to the state of wanting to exercise all the time from a state several years ago where I wanted to exercise none of the time because I was too busy, too tired or just plain too busy comfort eating.

At times like these I ask myself what would an pro-athlete do? And frankly I have no clue as I don't know anything other than fellow weekend athletes. Hot on the heels of that thought comes the what would a coach tell me to do, but much though I actually know at least three of those I don't employ them and there is only so far a "just out of curiosity" type question would get me. So in the end I will do what I always do, fight that crazy urge and see if I can intuit something that will work. Which reminds me I'd better go stretch again (see yesterdays ramblings)...

Mixed bag weather, mostly overcast with showers - though I have only observed it through the office window and frankly there could have been anything falling from the sky.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday tightness - more power to the stretches

"Right, okay, right that's it!!"... I am going to go stretch crazy and from here on, I could well be found randomly at any time stretching. My knee has not responded at all well to my running on it, and was better for rolling and stretching yesterday before deciding to make it's big protest felt this morning. It used to be the case that I would go through a stretch routine a couple of times a day when I was rowing, then somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit.

Looking back on it the drop in stretching came initially when I managed to exacerbate a calve injury by over doing it, and then was compounded by reading those articles decrying certain forms of stretching before exercise (seems I must have subconsciously read it as "all stretching is bad" - dumbo!).


I will be bendier than a bendy Yoga person - ahem, perhaps not that bendy I am a lanky 6ft2 after all
"Silhouette Girls Doing Yoga" - Image courtesy of sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So I am just going to stretch until I get all bendy again and hope that my knee decides shut up with the pain when it has everything around it super loose. I have to say that the very first time I went through my old routine again this morning I could feel tightness and pulling where I don't ever recall feeling any, which of course tells me something pretty major. My quads were like rocks and took the longest time to ease off under tension and I used to have great mobility through that stretch (it used to be the back of leg stretch that would leave me whimpering). Somewhere along the way an adaptation for the worse has happened and I need to put it right.

In a timely twist of fate an excellent blog that I read "50after40" posted a great video called 'Hip workout details and my first video' - which for a first ever video outing was awesome and contains some great moves that I hope to build into an expanded stretching / strengthening regimen. I reccomend you go take a look and enjoy the rock out to the soundtrack too :-)

Overcast, breezy, persistent rain, and a complete reverse of yesterdays weather. Now where is a quiet spot in the office I can go stretch?

Note - I should of course once again heed my own previous advice - 'Joys of stretch' - if I was so wise back in July 2011 what happened?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Do it all again

8.7km in 56 minutes, sees the beginning (I hope) of a new training block that will lead into the Berlin marathon. It was as much a test of my knee as a training run, so it started and ended with a few hundred metres of walking. Weirdly the only major twinge I suffered in my knee was slowing to walk at the end of my run, so I still have plenty of remedial work to do. In fact even after a good foam rolling and stretch off it is beginning to develop beyond an ache and into something a little painful which is a lingering worry.

It felt great to be running again, and for the most part I was well within myself. I have managed to shift some 6lbs during my enforced lay off and that at least felt particularly good. Over the last few days I've been continuing the aerobics DVD and adding in more stretching and flexibility as I've gone. Fingers-crossed my knee decides to like the new regime.

Sunny and then turning to rain - a busy bank holiday. Pondering when to go sculling again (knee permitting).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Morning walks are back again

Meet the reason why I am getting a huge amount more walking done than I have been for some time...


... yeah, we have a new dog in the household. Another rescued former racing Greyhound, a doggie who through being not faster than her peers was thrown on the canine scrap heap. Her name thanks to our kids is Sali and she is a bundle of youthful energy with a puncheon for 'borrowing' socks and chewing small plastic objects!

It is so nice to have a dog again and not least amongst the many reasons that I'm enjoying it is that I get to talk longish brisk walks most days. I had almost begun to forget how good for me these walks are, but it only took a couple to remind me of what I had been missing. I haven't missed the occasional irresponsible dog owner or crazy cyclist then again maybe in a funny way I have missed that too. Though Sali doesn't know it she is already a part of my exercise landscape each week - I wonder if she's noticed we are going a little faster each day as my knee heals?

Cooler, overcast, moderate breeze - hoping to run again for the first time since the injury in the next couple of days.

Monday, May 20, 2013

My Monday motivation - Road-to-Berlin (1)

I promised a few posts around my motivation to go run a major city marathon in another country this year, and so I start with simple "connection to location". As it is I know Berlin a little having lived there twice in the period before I'd started junior school and visited again several times through my life it is not such the great unknown leap it might on the face of it appear. Of course the city (like all major cities) has evolved immeasurably since my first or even last visits, but it feels emotionally like somewhere part of me belongs.
The Berliner Bear - from www.seeklogo.com

So already you see a chunk of my motivation simply lies in having made it into a kind of hometown run, or at least a coming home run. Simple as it seems a connection to location for an event can make all the difference in the world, imagine running somewhere you'd not heard much about or even heard bad things about wouldn't that then detract / distract from your run? I ran once in a place I only had a vague sense of and found that although the location, course, organisation and people turned out to be amazing I just wasn't 'into' it and it was a horrible run personally (in fact on of my worst). In Berlin there will be familiar landmarks I know, places I was pushed around in my push chair, and street names long since burned into my memory. It truly is somewhere I WANT to run around and there in lies a nice big motivational foundation.

I have begun to recognise I am an emotional runner, running makes me feel great, and running location lifts that to a whole other level. Give me sights to run around and not dull city dual carriage-ways leading to nowhere any day. All being well I'll be on the move past the Brandenburg Gate, the Tiergarten, the Siegessäule column, the Reichstag and Berliner Dom, Kurfürstendamm, Potsdamer Platz, and the Staatsoper this autumn (to list just a few) feeling absolutely connected and super motivated.

What does a good connection to a location mean to your running?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weird Friday

Well yesterday could have gone a great many ways but in the end at least some of it came straight out of left field. It was my wife's PhD viva day so a day out of the ordinary from the outset. I was to be daddy daycare while it was all going off in a meeting room between academic brains. Meanwhile I had instruction not to answer the phone, but of course I did and that was where it got weird.

Phone call one & three - my mother-in-law - "oh, your there, where's my daughter?", first time I fooled her with "she's walking the dog, I'm going into work late" which was simple genius I thought - not a lie just a bending of the timeline a tad. Second time, I had to be a little more 'creative' "oh it's all topsy turvy here this morning, she's had to pop in for a quick meeting and then I'll be in work for the afternoon" (I had booked the whole day off for the event weeks ago in case you're wondering). I wasn't sure the little fib would have washed but it seemed to work and so I could get on with worrying and waiting for the viva outcome.

Phone call two - the police - when things got bizarre - I had a call from the police in a town I used to live in the best part of a decade ago, and like I suppose most people my heart rate leapt as soon as the phrase "this is the police, no need to worry" was uttered. As I was beginning to calm from the initial stunned moment, I became increasingly baffled, they wanted me to confirm my old address and details... what on earth was coming next... "and you were burgled". In fact we were indeed burgled not long after moving in 15 years ago (!), what on earth was this about? It turns out the have someone in court for the crime this week (!), whereupon I couldn't believe my ears. We were told various things at the time and none of them ever made us believe that the deeply personally disturbing shattering of our new home would see any conclusion. The arm of the law appears very very long indeed, and I assume they matched finger prints or something (or just got someone to say "yeah, I mighta dun that place too"). They gave me details to find out what happens in court and then left me stunned to take in the news.

This second call put the wobbles on me totally, I began to wonder if this was going to turn into one of those really random red letter days, and I got irrationally concerned that other random things might happen in the day. As it was the kids were hardly being angels, I had to get the eldest to school, and I was feeling frustrated.

In the end the random weirdness subsided as quickly as it arose and I got to eat a celebratory ice cream with the new PhD later in the day, after she was released from her gentle grilling. Better still I got to confess to my little white lies to my mother in law who was mighty happy that her daughter had done so well (though apparently not surprised that she kept it all a secret from her mum and dad!).

Not an 'on the move' post I know, but my knee is healing up it seems and will be back to normal nonsense soon. Sunny, clear, and breezy.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Watch out there's a plan brewing

No I haven't bought into some X-Files style of conspiracy theory, I have been busy fashioning my plan for the Berlin marathon - or my training and preparation for that particular event. I have you might note already raised the race into a fairly over prominent position in my mind, and to that end I intend to elaborate my motivations over coming weeks.

The beginning of a plan??  A work in progress...
As with all good plans first thing is always... first, and so I have begun to sort out the knee issue that stopped me running Milton Keynes marathon and started to build a solid (and mixed) fitness base again. I have opted for the start over in part because of the injury of course, but also to make sure that I reign myself in and don't over load intensities and distances too early in the piece.

Early progress has been a return to aerobics sessions, which my knee hasn't complained too much about. So here goes the base building.  It is my mission to run the best marathon I am capable of this autumn, so watch this space.

Cold and rainy, then warm and sunny - the weird British weather continues into May.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Recent finds during the run up to my 'almost' marathon

Although the build up was cut short at the 11th hour I made a few little discoveries in this particular block of preparation...

New shoes - now I know you'll likely groan "duh!" but a few niggling issues appeared in my feet and legs with my old pair before I realised they were too old. It should not have been the blisters (when I haven't had them in the shoes before) or the different aches I was getting in my calves and achilles (again new) that made me realise I needed new ones but, alas, it was. I should have twigged that I had worn them through a marathon training cycle (including the race), two half marathons, and a couple of 10k races... and that time was up on them. Still I did realise and I made a change and all seems fine again. Running shoes so the rule of thumb goes (so I was reminded by the shop assistant!) one full training and race marathon cycle, or roughly 500 miles. Though it also depends somewhat upon how much you bash the cushioning materials with distances and consecutive runs (i.e., running two or more days in a row may not give the shoe time to recover - let alone you perhaps, phew!).

Zero tablets (made by High5) - in the build up I increased my daily water consumption, yes I fell into one of those "you should absolutely do this to keep healthy" articles on-line, and I know there is a how much it enough debate as with most things... sorry about the near change of tack there, the point is I got a bit bored with water and looked for something that wouldn't lead me into expensive sports drinks or worse still fizzy drinks. I 'found' electrolyte tablets that give your water useful salts (potassium and magnesium to name two) and a yummy favour to it as well. Again there is a "how much is too much" and "is it necessary" debate that can break out, but I made sure my intake didn't exceed RDA (recommended daily allowance). They have been great, they are refreshing, tasty, and appear to have added a bit of energy to my day - although likely a hefty placebo effect compared to the "oh, no more water" moments I had before. They aren't cheap to buy, but working through some maths and they come out far far cheaper than the drinks available in my work cafe (though clearly not as cheap as water from the tap!).

Physio - before having to use my favourite physio for helping to sort my current knee problem I had discovered that he was running a two-for-the-price-of-one deal on sports massage. Buy the pre-race massage and get the post race 'fix me' massage free. Genius, just genius! If you are heading into a race be sure to ask your local physio / sports masseur if they would do you such a cool deal.

Running hat - the race organisers let everyone know it was going to be a very hot day by recent standards (we have had the strangest lingering wet / cold winter). So I realised a hat was the order of the day, among other things, and noted that all the hats I have are heavy. I get a real thing going pre-race about how heavy the stuff I'm carrying is, which is bordering on irrational given how much I usually weigh... so I went out to find a light running hat realising also that the ones I have would be very uncomfortable full of perspiration! I duly found one and tried it out - brilliant! I now recommend looking for a good running hat and making friends with it in case you need it - even though granted here in the UK that isn't many days of the year ;-)

Hill repeats - back when running was still happening (not that I am troubled or bitter about this injury you notice) I discovered hill repeats are actually good fun and make excellent GPS timing fodder - I do love a good graph.

So to sum up I discovered nothing much more useful than anything you might find opening any issue of a running magazine, but as a collective they were adding to a reasonable run build up. Oh, and no one offered me anything for these ramblings, they are as ever just my meandering thoughts :-)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Simple as 1, 2, 3...

1) The joys of calorie tracking apps...
Moving in the right direction over recent days :-)
2) Keeping busy whilst injured...

No running for exercise just now, but plenty to keep me busy up on the allotment!
3) Boy oh boy, had I over shopped for marathon. I was getting über prepared before the injury rudely interrupted...

DNS hangover - I have a bundle of stuff I'd gathered for the marathon that never was :-(
...still I'm all set when training starts again.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Re- rehabilitation

So I find myself, after the disappoints of last weeks new injury sinking my Milton Keynes marathon run, at the point of rehabilitating my knee. I have plans in mind regarding the road to my major goal of finishing the Berlin marathon, but in the back of my head are those lingering doubts "will the knee respond to treatment?", "is it a bigger injury than it appears?", "will I have to change my plan to run?".

It is only to be expected and I am delivering the nervous doubts in spades at the moment - I suspect because of the sudden appearance and nature of the problem. Any injury rehabilitation, let alone training cycle, brings those unknowns and so I am now trying to rationally work through them.
Sunday morning - ice-packing my knee and cursing my luck
(taped foot is to support the knee by limiting foot roll somewhat - apparently?!?)

The immediate plan has been walking, resting, popping glucosamine sulphate pills (eases my inner hypochondriac - I have begun worrying about OA in the knee joint), getting out books and looking for a training guide, and most of all sorting out my diet.

My diet is probably key here in my humble opinion as it has not been consistent of late and in hindsight I hit the last training block a stone (6.3 kg) heavier than I did my last (first) marathon block last year. Though pure weight / mass probably isn't correlated directly with the symptoms, it is the composition of the weight that I suspect does... suffice to say that I am not exactly lean just now (but then I haven't been truly lean since the the '90s - the ravages of student life and over indulgence over time).

So at the extremely real risk of repeating myself a little, this time* I am targeting the weight and more over body composition whilst working hard (with a little help from the physiotherapist) on general strength and flexibility, before I tackle the run training block in around a months time. It is a plan, and I am a past master at making the things, but this time around my motivation is total and drive utterly clear - I will run the Berlin marathon and I will run the very best I can!

* - seriously I'm beginning to sound like someone waking up with a hangover swearing he'll ever never drink so much again only to be back at the bar the following weekend downing doubles.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Big change of my plan - the hard choice

Well I have had to do it, I have had to pull out of running the Milton Keynes marathon. On a training run last night I 'tweaked' something in my left knee, and managed to turn my intended pre-race sports massage with the physio into a diagnostic session. Good news, nothing huge is torn or broken - bad news small ligaments or some cartilage is likely damaged and will need time to heal (or be investigated further even) over the coming weeks - the bad news making running a marathon in three days time foolish. I can walk slowly just fine, I can run just fine, but the transition causes pain as does particular changes of direction of travel. So with other runs in mind, not wanting to do any major damage, and not wanting to DNF a big organised run I've had to take the hard choice.

I really wanted (somewhere in the quieter recesses of my brain) to make Milton Keynes that thing I do every year having attended their first ever marathon last year, but that ambition didn't get much past the starters pistol. I wanted to run for the enjoyment, the challenge, the fulfilment of crossing that line at 26.2 miles. I feel pretty empty just now and can't quite believe how close I came to getting there after the ups and downs of the last few months. Training hasn't been perfect, that I admit, it has not been consistent enough or in all actuality varied enough (with respect to strength and flexibility - hence perhaps the injury).

After a good long chat with Leon the awesome physio things were in good perspective and I have already armed myself with a plan towards the biggest challenge of my running 'career' Berlin this September. That plan is alive and vital (knee injury permitting of course) but it is the loss of the Milton Keynes plan that makes me feel heavy hearted and down beat. I will now be contacting the kind folk who sponsored me or were going to, and in some cases offering refunds where they have paid already... marathons become much bigger than the long distance and much more part of your thinking than you realise. I will learn more lessons and I will roll forwards it is just that in this particular moment 42.2 km or 26.2 miles seem an awfully long way away.

If you did still want to donate to my chosen charity then please follow the link below...
http://www.justgiving.com/AndrewHollins

I'm going to have to find something else to do with my intended blog post on Tuesday (post-marathon day) and indeed something else to do with the day off I booked for a day of solid recovery (pampering)... I think I'll write that Berlin plan down make it real and bring that 42.2km a little closer.

Happy running and race well if you are going to be  in the next few days / weeks.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Marathon Monday - the run up to my second marathon

Monday looms large, and not only large but also potentially warm, the build up to my second marathon is heading towards completion. I am making lists, buying provisions for the trip, checking that my best kit is ready, and importantly that this time I don't have to go on a mad pin chase the night before the run. It is one sadness that I haven't blogged about my build up this time around in anything like the way that I did my first run, but life threw so many curve-balls over the last 3-4 months that I have simply not been able to. Between personal illness and family illness and working commitments and occasional bursts of decent training I have not had the time in the day to get to the keyboard with organised thoughts to set out.

The Milton Keynes marathon 2013 draws ever nearer and though I am not as physically prepared as I want to be I believe I am mentally much better equipped this time around.  I have decided upon a sensible pace, and opted to track a pace maker to keep any tendency to over cook the first half of the run. All bar the wheels absolutely falling off I hope to negative split and if the weather isn't kind then at the very least even pace the race. I have been listening to the Marathon Talk pod-cast since January, and though my training hasn't matched their schedules and considered advice it is my hope that all the psychology tips will come in handy when the going gets tough. My main goal is to get through 20 miles and towards 22 before really feeling that I am breaking myself.

I will do my best to blog shortly after the event with the ever present GPS data, pictures, and so on... only four more days of thinking / planning before the doing on May Bank Holiday Monday.

I am running for Cancer Research UK, and if you can spare a few moments a small amount of cash please visit my JustGiving page...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Underneath the Lemon Tree: A Memoir of Depression" - Mark Rice-Oxley

Another non-sporting book review, and insight into my eclectic book buying habit...

"Underneath the Lemon Tree: A Memoir of Depression" - Mark Rice-Oxley 
To be sure to give the book its complete title "Underneath the Lemon Tree: A Memoir of Depression", this was one of those books that does spring off the shelves at people it comes with a knowing smile and a "you really should read this it is so, well, just so" kind of comment. Given that I am it seems an utterly suggestible person and at least I gave the description a read on-line and then caved to the mildest peer pressure and gave it a go. In the end I came to understand what it was that those knowing smiles were trying to say.
Customarily I begin to gush about why I thought the book was great and why you might enjoy reading it, well I am going to try to be more measured in my overview. The book is written by a journalist and family man who is laid low with a bout of depression, and seemingly true to his nature journals his experience of the condition and his efforts to understand what it is whilst seeking to come to terms with life after diagnosis. It is brutally honest its chronicling while so well written as to give insight into the processes of descent into and ascent from depression within the context of personal, family and work life.
As someone who through family and personal experience has had some insight into the subject, and moreover the devastating impact of not talking about the subject of depression, it was so beneficial to read such a clear account. I want to at this point say much more but then actually I realise that I can't articulate the subject as well as the author... so in fact in the end I am be joining the ranks of those who give that knowing smile and say quietly "you really should read this it is so, well... just so". Most of all though I will do what I have always tried to do and listen to the person I mention this book to, because listening can do so much in so many ways for people affected directly or in directly by depression. The book doesn't offer a cure all, or a happy clappy way forward, it is genuine real and just firmly and quietly says "there is something more to come... go with the rationalising / healing process and you'll be just fine".
Footnote:  It is true that I most often find more in a biography than almost any other form of literature, the human conditions is true to us all in its many shades and nuances and in general makes for compelling reading. So much so in this instance that the next book I picked up was a sporting challenge biography. If it so happens you have not ever picked one up I challenge you to find one by someone you relate to and open its cover - happy reading.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Kit review - Nike compression T-shirts

What is the second thing that I put on when I get ready to go running? Okay, so no one wants to know what order I get dressed in but a piece of kit I have become reliant upon are Nike compression sleeveless and capped sleeve t-shirts. They act as a terrific light base layer, and if you ensure you have the right size compress with just the right amount of vigour. I have found that wearing them all but eliminates joggers nipple, even over a marathon (though my only 26.2 miler to date was in cold and rain and not fierce hot sweaty weather). Compared to one other base layer brand I have the fabric is very forgiving on the skin, even around the seams.

Frankly I think the manufacturer might prefer that I use one of their images 
- rather than me with my less than six pack six-pack!
I own 7 of these Nike compression t-shirts between the sleeveless and capped sleeve, I bought one and then found that I liked them so much I purchased more. I even have three different colours in my kit box by now (white, black and red

Saturday, March 02, 2013

March?

Set back? Well I am used to those by now... I have been suffering all week long with a cold (which happily came along with a fever courtesy of the kids). So I have not so much as laced my trainers all week, which I was kind of okay with until my diary pointed out that March was arriving. As things go I could be in worse shape, I could have done more mileage in February but for the bug I would have topped January's 75 km handsomely. What can you do? I am super cautious with colds after twice in the last year having severe chest infections.

Spring is showing some signs it is on the way, we have enjoyed a dry spell that left my trainers weeping all the harder when I abandoned them this week. It is from here that juggling the training (and I have to up the distances from here) gets that little bit harder as the spring seems to generate more pulls on time - more work projects, more home projects - the desire to shake things out after what was a dark cold icy Winter puts running time under pressure. Still pinch punch first run of the month and all that... hopefully my symptoms will have eased enough to let me get round a regular medium distance tomorrow and get the month going properly.

Footnote: I left the computer on and when I came back to do something else noticed that someone found my blog using the search term 'Sue Thearle Pregnant' wherein I discovered that back on Monday July 31st... 2006, I mentioned those three words talking about a breakfast television sports presenter - randomness utter randomness. Can't think they went away happy as it was an irreverent list of what my wife made of the then presenting roster, haha... what is the most random search that has found your site? (outside of those spam ones of course)