Monday, December 22, 2014

Cardiff Half marathon 2014 - my race review

A much overdue race report that I found in my drafts folder during some pre-end of year housekeeping....

 Cardiff Half marathon 2014 
Cardiff city centre - October 5th 2014 - website

My impressions from the day -
Course: 10/10 - simple, flat, quick, well set out.
Marshalling: 6/10 - quality great, quantity not enough - particularly around the start area (more on that in my report below).
Facilities: N/A - as I work near the start / finish I used those facilities for baggage, toilets, and so forth.
Organisation: 10/10 - The start / finish area was fabulously laid out, and the facilities great.
Fellow runners: 6/10 - not a lot of care for fellow runners shown at times, otherwise a great atmosphere.
Crowd: 9/10 - brilliant and vocal support almost all the way round, obviously the barrage was a quiet spot but the city centre was packed.
My performance: 10/10 - given my lack of consistent training I couldn't not have asked much more of myself realistically.
My time: 2:05:41
Pic from the Cardiff Half facebook feed - I can find myself, I don't expect anyone else to ;-)
My race :
I got to the start right on time having cycled to work changed and walked down the the well organised start area. There were lots of signs in evidence and good numbers of marshals shepherding us towards our appropriate time bins in the start chute. The start in fact being right in front of Cardiff Castle was good and spacious, though it was very quiet when I arrived it filled up quickly. I hung out right at the back of the bin knowing that my injury hit preparation had not left me in the shape I had predicted way back when I entered.

Just before the start of the race as we moved toward the front of zone a woman came walking back and collapsed in front of us. I was saddened that so many simply turned their gaze away and carried on towards the start - everyone is chip timed a few moments to help would do nothing to their eventually run times. In the end a small group did congregate around to help her, I was stood nearer the barriers and so yelled will my not inconsiderably loud voice to the marshals who were a very long way in either direction. She was helped to the side as more and more people pushed passed desperately ignoring the situation in their lemming-like desire to get to the start line. In the end a marshal attended and I hope told her not to run. I set off feeling a bit dis-chuffed with my fellow runners.

First three miles - I spent my time trying to work out what pace my body might reasonably be able to hold for the distance and plumped initially for a just sub-2hr pace. As you can see from my GPS graph that ended up being a lofty goal. In mile 3 there is the only long hill of note, and it was there that I realised I needed to cool my pace a bit.

Mile 3 to 6 - keeping up the effort level became my goal, as I knew by then that sub-2hr was not on. From here I relaxed a bit more having had the distractions of the start area on my mind, and through half way a major pinch point on the course (as it enters the barrage) was negotiated with no mishaps.

I think my overall pace trend is fairly self evident
Miles 6 through to 9 - were where I started indulging in a fuel gel and the water stops, neither of which proved successful as I had not practiced either enough and I ended up with a bloated sore tummy for a couple of miles. It was around here that I began digging in to make sure of being around the 2:05 mark. The crowds really did begin to build through this section. It seems that I missed waving at my wife and kids because they were weigh-laid for a newspaper interview (about why daddy was running today) just as I went by. I didn't make it into the newspaper, but I did chuckle at the expert timing and was super pleased that they had made the effort to get out to the halfway mark to try and catch me.

Mile 9 until the end - this is where I had the most familiarity with the course as it was where I started running 'properly' many years ago. Especially the course went around the park that I had struggled to run/walk as a much lardier novice runner trying to get 10K fit. Knowing that the finish was coming and be able to picture every lump and bump in the road to get there helped no end. Feeling that my pace was really suffering through the 11th mile I focused on just letting my legs roll and being not too far from 2:05.

The finish line was right outside the Royal College of Welsh Music and Drama (which is a fantastically striking piece of architecture), and as usual I pulled out a last minute dash for the line. Happily this time being more careful and not clattering into anybody else. The area afterwards was brilliant, the best laid out of any welsh race I've attended and very much on keeping with Cardiff's ambitions to be a major UK half-marathon.

Overall I was very happy with my levels of efforts if not my base fitness, and aside from the start area misfortune was massively impressed with the race organisation. My cycle home with my medal was a good one, with the entire day topped by the delight on my kids faces when the saw my new metalwork - I still haven't the heart to really explain that everyone gets one not just the top three like in the Olympics!! ;-)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Trying to avoid the Christmas feast

Over the next few weeks I will mostly be trying to avoid the temptation to over indulge in Christmas feasting which is essentially an annual pitfall of mine. To achieve my food goals I am hoping the calorie counting approach combined with some regular turbo trainer sessions will see me through to January without extra poundage. Last week I suffered one of those Winter stomach bugs and found I over compensated when my stomach let me eat properly again.

The weekends parkrun went really well, I took it on feeling that a PB is in me waiting to get out. Unfortunately the stomach bug fatigue robbed me of the umph to go and get that quicker time, really happily though I did manage a consistent time that matched my last two parkruns. Perhaps Santa can drop a PB down the chimney for me over the Christmas and New Years period.

Over the next week I have to get myself into gear and get my Bath Half training on the road, so I am on the hunt for a good 11-12 week program. I'll thinking of a 'beginner' one so that I don't throw myself into it too hard as my main goal is Berlin and I am going to do all I can to avoid injury niggles.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wittering on Wednesday - How to stick to a resolution

How? Well, it is simple really "Don't make a resolution at New Year's, make it when you want to".

There it is 'easy'.  To explain... well even the explanation is pretty straightforward, it seems to me that those resolutions that stick are invariably those made when it was "the right moment".

Sure a New Years resolution can work (don't let me put anyone off), but the 'stickability' comes down to factors like:-

  • mental preparedness - i.e. does it simply feel like the right time for action?
  • collection or body of information that will act as leverage
  • belief - do you really believe in the need for the change or does the fact everyone is doing it make it 'the thing to do'? Do you have as they say in some circles 'Buy-in'
  • life situation
  • other external stimuli (imminent event, new job, family changes, illness, etc.)

Whenever you make a change - "Make it for yourself and make it stick. Good luck!".

Monday, December 08, 2014

Things are taking shape

Things with my running are beginning to crystallise for 2015, I have signed up for three races (two halves and a full marathon) and I have a several plans in full swing. At the moment I have shifted 10 pounds (4+kg) in the last couple of months, I have brought my 5k parkrun PB down (I'm knocking on the door of sub-25mins now), and I have a roadmap set out to try and achieve a good PB in Berlin next autumn.

For the moment my biggest concern is getting in and out of Christmas with diet intact and waistline smaller than it is now. Due to having lost well recently I am hoping that the New Year can bring a new trousers mini-spending spree that will really be a marker of good progress.

I hope with the holidays coming I will have a little more time to write about progress. I am not making any New Years resolutions, I am only determined to meet my Berlin PB goal - have you set yourself any 2015 challenges?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Very cool news - Berlin marathon said "yes"

I couldn't be more pleased, two years after my first experience of a World marathon major I should be toeing the start line of my second having won a place through the Berlin marathon 2015 ballot.

Training started three weeks ago, after a long planning phase where I considered the length of time I would give myself before another marathon. Moreover I considered the targets and logistics involved in achieving my very best in the next marathon effort. Now I have the offer I can cement those plans and build through to next September in earnest.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Runaround! Now!

A friend has started a new blog about his experiences with running, training, racing, and all the things he gets up to in the world of fitness. I have been enjoying a read, and if you find this you might like to go look too...

I have to say that I love the title to the blog - Runaround! - a simple statemnet which sums up so nicely what a lot of us spend our spare time doing :-)

One post titled "Running Form" really has made me think, in it Karl outlines his adventures with a Kinetic Revolution run clinic. His experience was extremely positive and has even seemingly produced a half-marathon PB at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival recently. The journey through changes in running form and technique is one that I hope to emulate this winter, as a result I am checking when there is a clinic session running nearby so I too can avail myself of some useful insights.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Kinetic Revolution - 30-day challenge

So now the half marathon is out of the way I am really getting on with shaking up my running before the winter so that I can get a really good training block under my belt. If you have read this blog (and to be fair why would you have) you will note the number and frequency of injuries and niggles ruining this run or that, so I have taken up the Kinetic Revolution 30-day challenge as an injury preventing, form adapting, run improving strategy.

Who? - basically in my wanderings around the interweb I came across the Kinetic Revolution site (headed up by James Dunne, a sports rehab therapist) and their run training video offerings.

What? - I'm only on day 2 so I don't know exactly what it will all be about, but it is clearly designed to strengthen runners around common areas of weakness / injury. It claims to be 10-15minutes a day following a guided set of drills, exercises and stretches. Given my inability to single leg balance for 20 seconds last night, I'm taking it that I need this more than I thought.

Where? - wherever I can fit in the sessions, probably at home on the yoga mat I pinched from my wife.

When? - probably each evening, though to be fair 10-15minutes shouldn't be too hard to fit in earlier in the day.

Why- having dabbled and never really followed up on the videos and well written short articles I thought it would be sensible to see where more structure to my run training would take me. After all I have never really (ever) done enough stretching, core or mobility work around training sessions.

I will try to report back with how I get on.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Very brief musing of the freedom of mass running

Yesterday was the Cardiff Half marathon and during my pre-race dog walk I found myself facebooking the below post. It was not so much inspired by it being race day moreover the international news that had been breaking over recent weeks and a deep appreciation of the quality of my own little bit of the world. All things have their own contexts.

"Beautiful morning in Cardiff, and I find myself recognising the privilege I have in being able to run freely around a free city as part of an open tolerant society. Not everyone on this tiny planet has had or will have these very particular freedoms. Which makes me humble though hopeful that some day anyone anywhere can just pop out of their home and run around their hometown on any given day."

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

London says "no" again

So today London Marathon ballot drew another blank for me, I have a "no" magazine waiting for me at home apparently. Still at least now I can get on with formulating my Winter / Spring running plan, I can never work out quite why they take months to draw the lots in the ballot leaving us all in limbo so long.

Right! Halves or Full marathon next spring that is the big decision...

By the way I hope you got in :-)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Swansea Bay 10k 2014 - my race review

Swansea Bay 10k 2014 
Swansea coast road - September 21st 2014 - website

My impressions from the day:Course: 9/10 - simple, flat, quick, well set out, great start area.
Marshalling: 8/10 - I didn't see many, which isn't to say there weren't any it just says they were doing an absolutely great job :-)
Facilities: 8/10 - after years (43 in fact) of organising and running the race the facilities are really good.
Organisation: 10/10 - Couldn't fault the overall organisation, like I said above they have good event pedigree.
Fellow runners: 8/10 - great atmosphere, people listened to the time binning in the start area,
Crowd: 8/10 - not the biggest crowds all round the route but they were very vocal and encouraging.
My performance: 8/10 (& 0/10) - pleased with my time and application. The second score was due to my apparent error of judgement in the last 200m (more of that below)
My time: 54:48
The start line - borrowed from the Swansea 10k facebook page
"Dude, can't you see me?? I am like right in the middle!" - borrowed from the Swansea 10k facebook page
My Race:
It started with a quick 2km - and so goes many a race failure... happily this one didn't end in a complete pacing mess. The start area was great, I managed the usual pre-race nerves induced loo break without much fuss (I was amazed the queues weren't too bad when I got to the toilet blocks), and got to the right start zone with no problems.

So I was ambitious, I figured go out at a target pace and then see if I can hold it. That was simply not going to happen, and so as the sunshine beat down on a huge field of runners my targets were beaten down too. The first two kilometres are nice and wide so there were no bunching issues meaning that I could try my plan without fear of blocking anyone off if the wheels fell off. Into the 3rd kilometre the bite began and it was obvious I had to reign in my pace and finishing target time, by the end of the 4th going into the Mumbles I knew the second half of the race would require a pretty big effort.

The turn around and drinks station come at or around the halfway mark, and so does the disappearance of the shade. The race starts at 1pm, so if there is sun then it is pretty fierce (for the UK at least). Going into the return leg along the prom the heat and the feeling of having put in too much effort in the first third of the race got into my head and started a bit of negative dialogue. Happily my pace didn't fall off horribly and I began ticking off the kilometres to the finish.

Telling yourself you can hit the final 2k and actually hitting the final 2k hard are two different things, the effort I was hoping to rediscover in the closing stages didn't appear and I simply held the pacing where it was. I managed to speed up a little, and going into the last 500m I thought I was on for a reasonable time after all. In the last 200m there is a rise and the path narrows slightly and as I gathered pace towards the line I suffered my lowest ever racing moment. I looked at the course, saw no space and opted to move onto the grass verge. This was fine, what wasn't fine was that the verge was of a sharper gradient than I realised and as I rejoined the tarmac I tangled with another runner.

Avoiding the near face plant to the gasps of the crowds, and seeing that I hadn't floored the other runner I carried on utterly red faced. I crossed the line in a good time, but felt completely hollow - had I ruined someones day? Waiting a short while in the finish funnel I saw them limping through with a friend, my heart sank even further through the ground beneath me even though the limp didn't look especially horrible. I apologised with a simple "sorry", there seemed nothing else that I could really say and from the look on their face nothing else that they would really want to hear. I can only hope that in the end their day wasn't as bad as I felt, I did not enjoy the aftermath of the race at all even though it was fabulously arranged. My wife and I went for a Joe's Ice Cream afterwards (kind of a Swansea race ritual), but even that didn't take away the feeling of a spoiled race.
I think the look on my face at the finish line said it all really - not my greatest day!
In the days after the race I began to unpack my thoughts around the race and the event in my finishing dash. Friends comforted me with sentiments along the lines of "these things happen sometimes", which I know is true but it only helped a little. I learned a valuable lesson in my 11th 10k race, and it is not something that will happen again in any race I enter. It was striking how one brief moment changed an entire day, especially when I was happy with every other aspect.

On a more up beat note, I suspect I will be signing up again next year as the event and its organisation is just awesome.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The mojo is back

It can only be that my running mojo is back...
- I am looking forward to my next run
- I am planning a training block for the spring season
- I am imagining running better
- I am pondering the best strategies to keep the 'ball rolling'
- I am not feeling negative about all things exercise
- I am not eating rubbish, or finding myself seeking rubbish food in shops
- I am positive about progress
- I am half a stone (7lbs / 3kg) lighter
- I am setting PBs and looking for more
... most of all I am not spending time wondering where my mojo has gone!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cardiff 10k 2014 - my race review

September 7th 2014 - race website

The basics:
Course: 7/10 - while still around Cardiff city centre it was a 'hilly' course compared to the usual Cardiff 10k route. Not their fault - the NATO summit induced the change.
Marshalling: 9/10 - friendly, warm, helpful but no marked time zones in the start area.
Facilities: 6/10 - deduction for having to have the port-a-loo blocks lining both sides of the start area.
Organisation: 9/10 - Cardiff 10k do run a good simple no fuss event, for a change at an event the PA was even pretty good. Point deducted for the disposable timing chips.
Fellow runners: 9/10 - almost a full score as the Welsh running community is super smiley and friendly, I am knocking the one point off for poor pack communication (the odd "watch out", "keep right" and so forth is needed when a runner has tripped, or a bollard is in the way,
Crowd: 8/10 - support in the start / finish was awesome, but it was a bit patchy in the middle of the race.
My performance: 5/10 - literally, it was my 10th 10k and this turned out my 5th fastest time. Given injury hit year I was very happy, so this score is a little tongue in cheek ;-)
My time: 56:09

Taken by Chris Cornell and posted on the Cardiff 10k facebook pages
- sadly there are no photos of me running as attending alone this year

My Race
Setting out with no goals was the mission statement I had given myself which was complete nonsense of course. I had a Garmin, I know what I've run before, therefore I had some time slots somewhere in mind. The main idea was to go out steady and see if I could find some progression through the run. Happily the post-run feedback showed I achieved something of this aim, shown below.

I enjoyed the atmosphere greatly and the roads weren't too crowded at any point to hinder my progress. Where there were patches of supporters it was nice, noisy and very enthusiastic. The first 2k was for me about controlling my own enthusiasm and holding pace during the gradual incline of the first part of the race. Going into the second 2k I began to feel the effort of the incline and found I was very keen on seeing the half way mark. Part of knowing the course well meant that I was projecting too far ahead at times and getting too far out of the moment.

The middle 2k around halfway was solid and at this point that course knowledge meant I knew that the climbing was in the main behind us (I say climbing, but this was not exactly a hilly course in the true sense). Before halfway was the one water station that I saw, though a lack of signing meant I more or less didn't see it was coming. My plan was to not take a drink so it didn't phase me, had I wanted some it would have meant a bit of a fight to get across the course. Shortly after the warm sunshine made me wondered if I had been wise missing the drink but ultimately my plan was just fine.

Through the fourth 2k block I found I was mentally working really hard, and that while the feedback from my legs was fine my engine room was complaining of a lack of base fitness. I concentrated on holding onto form, trying to stay smooth (these things are relative of course), and felt that I was succeeding in holding pace. Into the final 2k I enjoyed a good finish line fever boost and sustained an effort for the final 1.5k, which is net downhill and also had space to open the legs a bit. Managing a 'sprint' finish in the final funnel was gratifying, if not a little annoying to people I passed, I was pushing to nip under 56 minutes but fell a little short (!).

All round I was very pleased with my race. After the issues of injury early in the year and a lack of motivation over the summer I was pleased that this race made me feel I was turning a corner. Next year is the races 30th anniversary and I hope to be there chasing a PB while enjoying the brilliant atmosphere.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Post-race lull

So I am in the post race lull after the 10k race on Sunday (I am still writing my review). The race didn't have the most massive impact on my body as I was nicely mobile the next day, but given that my next race was two weeks away I didn't dive into anything too active. So in the end I cycled to and from work a couple of times to spin my legs, and then went running last night. Last nights run was an eye opener, I am clearly more tired than I figured so from here I only plan to run anything like hard at the parkrun on Saturday, and then keep things easy pre-race (happily my Garmin ran out of battery so I have no idea how fast or slow last night was). I am using the races as intense training blocks to take me from one to the next.

I have not approached a half-marathon without a full plan and no injury, often plans have been broken by injury before now. I intend to run the half in a months time using every bit of my running experience to guide me round... no targets, no goals, just running. In all of this my motivation does at least appear to be returning, I really have had the urge to train since the 10k, which I have been ironically trying to contain so that I don't do too much too soon. As a reminder of this my plantar fascia decided to say "hullo!" this morning so I do need to curb my enthusiasm to avoid another of those set back injuries (!).

Happy running :-)

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Cardiff 10k cometh

The weekend is nearly here and so is the first race since the marathon that was more of a long walk home. I am not putting anything on the race in terms of pressure for times and so forth, but I am really really hoping it will fuel my recent running rejuvenation. On the start line I will be relieved that the aches in my chest this week turned out to be slight muscle strains rather than a feared early sign of respiratory infection.

The Cardiff 10k will be my fifth, and it will take in a new route that includes areas that I ran around often during the genesis of my running 'career'. Seeing areas that I ran / walked around trying to work out how to do things like 10k races will be very interesting, and I hope it will mean the course won't have any hidden surprises.

The 10k route, like the parkrun route, has been moved to accommodate NATO and I hope all those World leaders appreciate our troubles. Happily there haven't been any local disturbances associated with the summit so the doom sayers who hinted the race might be affected further were wrong. Incidentally, they say the meeting has helped to put Wales on the World map - kind of thought we were already there (?), it is a bit rubbish of those cartographers and Google maps people to have missed a whole section of the UK mainland ;-)

My plan for my race is... "run", no more and no less. My goal is to enjoy it, enjoy the simplicities that come with racing in my home town, and simply run the thing.

Hope you have a good run, race, or whatever this weekend. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Midfoot for 9km - revelations for the plodder

Monday night I ran, which in of itself is a very good thing, and I ended up running the whole 9.3km with new form. The changes away from heel striking makes logical sense to me and to be fair it has done for quite some time now. Foremost in changing is the how, and so I have just started doing it as best I can over sensible distances / times whilst reminding myself to run the 'old' way whenever is prudent. In practice this has come down to which shoes I wear on any given session.

Don't get me wrong I am not wearing zero drops one day and super-stacked motion controllers the next, no I am wearing a less stacked shoe on days when I try to run fore- to mid-foot (almost entirely mid-foot in reality). Rotating two pairs is by conventional wisdom prudent so the shoes 'recover' their shape - though a lot of people might note this may have more benefit for manufacturers than runners. My experiment is a simple one at this point but does seem to be making some differences.

Difference one is that I don't feel the crash of my heel / leg into the ground, and for a plodding jogger / runner that is a revelation. Two, I have the sense of doing something new which has reinvigorated my motivation to go running. Thirdly, I hurt in all new places, which might seem odd but for me shows I am using more of my legs.

Really what I am noticing the most is the switch from fast walking, i.e. jogging over to running. When I run I essentially speed up my walking gait to a point where my speed over the ground counts as 'running', I am still heel landing and rocking over my feet in the same style as my walk. Looking back at marathons where I have had to take walk breaks (ahem, two out of my three thus far) my run gait simply decelerates into a fast walk and then walk with very little change in foot positioning. From the little running I've done on my mid-foot it feels more like a running action, positive, with momentum, lift (my shoes scuff usually the ground a lot), and the feeling the brakes are off.

Basically I want to move like my three year old, walk = heel / flat foot, run = toes / mid-foot... and blimey can he shift gears between walking and running! I want to re-find my childhood gears and move between walk and run in a similar fashion, so that I can discover what speed over the ground I really have and fully 'run' a 10k, half-marathon, or even the full marathon??

Monday, September 01, 2014


So I have another new 5K parkrun PB, whoop whoop!

I don't take it as a huge sign of fitness progress though, I am taking it as a sign of tactical awareness. I went out at a speed I felt I could hold for the 5K, and tried to work a tiny bit harder as I went on. So there was not only a hefty negative split, but in fact a Royal flush** with each kilometre being faster than the previous one. The new course helped, not that it was any flatter or any less bendy, it was simply wider over the first 1-1.5K so it was easier to find my rhythm and hold on to it. Which means I have to say thanks to the summit being arranged in the city for the change of route.
There is so much wrong with my running in this picture (borrowed from the Cardiff Parkrun flickr feed - credits to _NiallS). Apart from the fact I was chasing red t-shirts and two decided to overtake me at this point (knew I should have chased purple shirts, there were less of them! Better odds!), I look leadened legged, flat footed, overweight... need I go on?
From there I set about recovering and will get a couple of runs in this week ahead of the Cardiff 10K this coming Sunday. For the race I will again try and deploy the same plan - find a comfortable pace, hold it, and then see if I can squeeze a small progression of pace (with a negative split overall). To be honest I will be chuffed with any time under the hour at this point, and look for it to be another stepping stone to more (and better) running.

** - listen to a number of recent episodes of MarathonTalk and you'll hear all about Royal flush runs - happily they have absolutely nothing to do with Royal toilets or anything else of that nature.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Change all around

This weekend I get my running shoes on again after our holiday and a week back in work, happily I am looking forward to getting out there again. This week has seen me finally change my eating habits, gone is the snacking, gone are the random lunchtime menus (I am packing my bag each morning with a lunch), gone is the huge breakfast, gone is the quick lunch. All of this is of course sensible, by the way my breakfast is not microscopic just not so large, and so I am feeling the benefits already. I have been using the myfitnesspal app for a few weeks again now, and I am using it to generally follow my habits this time using it to make sure I don't have massive high and low days.

Other change sees me tackling a new parkrun course, but at the same location (?). Thanks to the NATO summit coming to Newport (and Cardiff) this year the local parkrun has had to move its route to a neighbouring bit of parkland. Its all to do with rather imposing (and expensive) fences, and turning a whole city upside down so that two lunches can be held. Be amazing if there were ever a lunch that caused so much upheaval - I am sure someone with a better knowledge of History would come up with some clever examples of ones that have. Anyhoo, I digress, this weekend should be a solid run with no PB attempt as I have the 10k race next week (also disrupted and on a changed route) and really need to build into the three races I have steadily.

In other change, I start a new contract in a few days time that means little on the face of it but quite a bit in terms of progression of the project (in fact it means that I stay with the project for a while longer). Changing across contracts is something I have had to do a few times, but every time I seem to forget that feeling that comes with the process, renewal, excitement, nerves, paperwork (!). Very happily I get to keep the same desk so my new lunch routines should be easier to keep rolling.

And the last change is I haven't referred to the term 'mojo' out loud (or in my head) for a few days which I also hope is a sign that things are back on track... I'll let you know on Monday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Up - Down - Up - Down... repeat

So just what on earth does that post title mean?

Well it refers to my recent exercise habits, one week upbeat (good habits), one week down (bad habits), I think you get the gist. To be fair I was in France last week for a fabulous family holiday... ah, but if you've ever read one those magazine articles titled "How to keep your exercise going on holiday" then I did just about the opposite - mmm, and the French food is sooooo good.

I am left wondering whether the next month (40 days actually) will be 'kill or cure' as regards my running woes, as in that time I have three races signed up and paid for. It will be the best possible outcome if I manage to find some sort of routine during that period and head into the Winter in a good running mojo 'place'... now where's my phone I need to try and book a run with my training buddy...

Hope your running is going strong and you are heading into the autumn season with good races ahead :-)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Fun - "It Doesn't Matter" - Wyclef Jean, The Rock, Melky & Sedek

Today I just thought I'd share the song that is guaranteed to make me smile... the title says it all... enjoy :-D

Wyclef Jean, The Rock, Melky & Sedek - "It Doesn't Matter"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not exactly rocket science - Wittering on Wednesday

Eureka, I think I have hit upon a complete new and novel approach to getting this fitness thing done - eat better X move better = feel better - a simple and powerful equation to sit with the collection of other important equations from across the ages...
Image"Hand Drawing Scientist Portrait" by MR LIGHTMAN courtesy of
...aaaah wait no!!! I have of course 'rediscovered' the mantra that near enough all health and fitness professionals will quote in one form or another. Did this revelation come from listening to these good good people? Well no, it came from me being constantly broken, feeling crap, generally getting no where, and then having one of those light bulb moments after finding myself in my fitness slump - I was not moving as much as I used to in as many ways as I used to, plus I was not eating not so well on top of that - in the end wasn't difficult maths at all... after all I am not a Rocket Scientist :-)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Last weeks surprises

Last week all in all was a good running week, including three sessions (the experimental short run, the medium length (8.3km) running buddy run, and the 5km parkrun on Saturday). I could have done more runs, but I am trying to avoid going crazy and diving into big distance increases. Taking into account my recent mojo issues none of them were awful although none set my World alight.

The highlight in the end was simple - the parkrun on Saturday turned out to be a PB. Why say it like that? Well because when I crossed the line it didn’t feel like a PB, in so far as it didn’t feel smooth, relaxed, or moreover quick! I went out from the ‘gun’ with the intention to get a PB and so stood further up the starting funnel. Over the first km I felt I hadn’t moved far enough up the funnel because I couldn’t get a rhythm going and was swerving off the path here and there to get around groups of runners. Kilometer number two was where I started wrestling with whether I should be forefoot landing or heel striking as I discovered I have already developed two distinct styles (how in a short time I did not know, I am old I am not meant to learn new tricks) and could feel real differences between them. I opted to heel strike, as I knew I was asking for calf trouble if I got carried away ‘forefooting’ or ‘midfooting’ (I am not 100% sure where the new strike is).

So I wobbled through the middle km musing ‘those’ changes and trying to run relaxed with whatever my feet were, or weren’t, doing. At this point I was musing chasing red shirts or blue shirts for the second half of my negative split effort. The fourth km got very difficult, I was sure I wasn’t on a PB by this point and wasn’t seeing the other runners coming back to me as fast as previously (“because you should further up the funnel dummy” – I realised later). I was puffing and blowing at this point wondering why it was so sunny after cooling rain had been threatening and falling for most of the rest of the morning. It was hot!

The final km of the parkrun in through the trees began to feel a little better, mostly because fatigued had wiped earlier musing from my overactive monkey brain. I was chasing blue tops by this point, which was great as there were quite a few of them. I held my final burst for the last 100m rather than 200m - unlike every week, and finished absolutely shattered – like every week. I headed off home confident that a PB had eluded me telling myself that the GPS told me the same as it had the previous time... happily I was wrong I had bagged a PB by fully 30sec! (big enough for me and my fragile mojo to celebrate).

Otherwise there is slow progress as my weight has probably stabilised but is showing no signs of dropping. I have though been getting a bit more sleep and if I can do that more consistently I think I really will see a difference. A bit like seeing the model car you just bought on absolutely every street corner, I have been seeing and hearing references to quality sleep and training all week – as if to bash me over the head with just how bad at resting I had gotten during my summer slump.

All the ruminating and stride analysis did lead to one same lightbulb moment, which is this – I march! When I walk I over stride and smack me feet into the ground as if I was on the parade square. I have been tempted to blame being an army brat (child of a forces family), or the fact that I am tall and maybe carried on showing off my huge stride as a kid into later life. But whatever the reason I have been tried to consciously walk ‘light’, not exactly forefoot walking (not sure that does or should exist) just walking without the almighty thumps I normally do. I think it was this that has engrained the running stride changes in my muscle memory and that complained as I started banging my legs against the ground in kilometre two of the parkrun.

Whatever last week was or was not I am happy that I am trying changes, and that some unexpected outcomes, if not the expected outcomes, are reminding me that it is all worthwhile.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Breaking out of a running rut

30 days to go until my first autumn test – that’s right I have a 10k race in a months time even with my mojo still lost in the woods somewhere! Better than that from there I have a 'race' every other weekend until the end of September... it will be either boom or bust with my running mojo by the end of that period.

I am pinning a few hopes on the theory that immersing myself in things will help shake the junk out of my system and bring about a good autumn / winter of running and training in general. At the moment I am doing just about everything that any reasonable running magazine article might suggest to break out a rut...

  1. Running for fun not goals.
  2. Eating better.
  3. Trying new things in running training.
  4. Running with a friend.
  5. Joined a club (I am stretching the definition to include the parkrun experience).
  6. Building / changing routine (specifically by trying to get into a better sleep pattern).
  7. Incorporating targets, such as races to shape and direct training.

Did I leave anything out that would also help?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Mojo? Mojo? Anyone seen my mojo?

And so I went for my comeback run yesterday inspired by my recent reading and musings, and in fact it turned out to be a complete mixed bag of a run...

  1. I did it.
  2. Managed to complete the run with what felt like a new non-heel striking action.
  3. I used the pair of less cushioned shoes I've had for ages.
  4. It was raining.
  5. I ran with a quicker cadence the whole way powered by a Metronome app.
  6. I forgot my GPS watch (I didn't want to know my pace during the run).
  1. It was very very humid.
  2. I realised just how completely and utterly unfit I am at the moment .
  3. My calves started to complain with 500m to home.
  4. I had to put up with the Metronome app the whole way (my brain started to ache, tick-2-3!)
  5. I forgot my GPS watch (I wanted to know my pacing after I'd finished).
All in I suppose I was pleased, but felt very far away even from tentative plans I was making back in May for better running ("Variety I hope will be spice of running"). I am back around the loop of 'lack of fitness' to 'some form of fitness' again, and I am not at all happy about it. Finding my running mojo will, I hope, sort this out though its obvious you can't shake a slump in a day (d'uh!).

I dared stepping on the weighing apparatus for the first time in a long time and it really slammed home how crap things had gotten in the slump. I am at the high part of an oscillation I have been in for the last three years of wandering up to nearly 15st and then down to 14st and back again. Thus, I am back using the MyFitnessPal app again albeit it with the heavy heart of someone who recognises as a yo yo diet pattern when he sees one. Perhaps this time, eh? Again I am hoping that moving / running will fix things here, as long as I can be smart enough to avoid injury.

Tonight I ran 8.5km of a standard loop with my running buddy, wherein we chatted the whole way and I found I was working much harder than my compatriot. This is all good though because when we get our act together the pair of us make a good motivational pair. I ran the whole way 'normally', in that I didn't accentuate any change of style (i.e. I landed most of the time heel first). To begin with I am aiming for one session a week of forefoot, hoping to bed it in slow and increase things gently. Almost certain I will run all my autumn events with no particular style in mind and see what feels comfort at different points in the races.

The biggest realisation that I have had is that I am going to navigating a difficult balancing act of fitness vs. form, it will indeed to tricky to do much quality running while I am so unfit and yet I don't want to run those 'get fit' runs in with a poor running form that might bring on old injuries... chicken -> egg, egg -> chicken??

Monday, August 04, 2014

Getting my mojo back

The last few weeks post-slump haven't really been too much different from the slump itself in that I haven't done anywhere near as much as I want to and I have eaten poorly. With that said I have signed up for 'new' challenges (two 10k races as well as the half marathon), I have been reading for inspiration, and I have been formulating (at least in my head) an 18 month plan to really tackle my running issues. Yup, as a runner I just said "I have running issues", a little strange perhaps but true - more something you might hear a non-runner say. I know a lot of runners want to change this and that, go faster and so forth, but I am trying to rebuild the love that I realise I lost a little whilst walking the second half of my last marathon carrying injury niggles and poor preparation around 26.2miles.

So from here I am running for fun again, aiming to enjoy race events, and taking any kind of pressure I can away from any run. I am going to get to the local Parkrun when I can and enjoy the event, I am going to work on my running systematically without a big stick with "go faster!" written in large letters on it. Somewhere I forgot to enjoy the fact that I used to be unable to do this running stuff without major issues, and forgot to just enjoy the fact that my body moving through space is so much more fulfilling than my body resenting movement and craving lazy time.

Part of my reconnection with running and hopefully my running mojo has been through reading and by reading I don't mean those 'how to' manuals I mean reading the life affirming types of running books. I just finished "Born to Run", having had so many people look at me a bit weird for not having picked it up... it was / is a great book and I think will aid my revival.

The copy I borrowed from a friend and read in a hurry - a book review post may well follow

Until I lace my shoes up next (as soon as I can, within the next 24 hours) I will really find out if my running soul searching has shifted the slump and delivered a hefty dollop of mojo.

I hope your running mojo is alive, kicking, and bringing fun to your runs.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


The last three weeks through a combination of things I have found myself in a fitness slump, and good grief do I feel rubbish for it. A few pounds on, naff food eaten, too much sleep missed, not enough exercise - has all added up. I am trying to turn things around and get out of it by looking to new goals and challenges, but I haven't found one yet that really has grabbed my imagination. I hadn't realised how much goals have taken over the lead in my on the move activities.

Happily my wife has more than made up for my malaise and has completed her first triathlon. She is busy consolidating on that achievement, and I am more than a little envious right now of her drive. I will be watching how she takes on the next challenge and trying to take a leaf out of her book

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Caffeine-free?? Well no actually.

I had a recent bad experience with electrolyte drinks tablets. I use them to flavour water with out all the baddies of those tasty but sugary sports drinks or bottled fruit juices, and with a little more variety than plain water. It was a case of not putting the 2 and the other 2 together and coming up with the right answer.

After a long period of using them I noticed that they were affecting my mood, and that I was looking for them through the day if I wasn't able to have regular drinks for some reason feeling my attention flagging. Then the penny dropped, I looked again at the ingredients list and pondered over the mysterious bag of tricks that was listed as 'green tea extract'. Fabulous stuff for weight loss I gathered... and so is caffeine I mused. I checked the manufacturers website, looking long and hard for mentions of caffeine (or caffeine quantities moreover) and found no mention whatsoever.

Now you could at this point be thinking me naive, and I suppose yes I was crediting the makers with perhaps too much in thinking that they would use an extract derivative that was caffeine-free believing that otherwise they would think to state it was a caffeine drink. Long story a little shorter, I eventually looked up a few manufacturers and only found one that made it abundantly clear up front which of their tablets were caffeine containing and which weren't... which leaves me drinking Nuun electrolyte drink. No bad thing given they have more flavours than the first company I tried and are equally widely stocked.

All I can say as any kind of summary is "thank you Nuun!", as someone who finds caffeine throws their sleep patterns, and to a mild but measurable extent affects their mood it is good to find a company that simply puts relevant information there for all to see.

I never did get anything back from one company I emailed with the simple question "can you tell me if there is caffeine in your product?", customer service is a whole other realm of gripes.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

WoW: Racing nervous? I can recommend a blog post for that

Rather than wittering on Wednesday I have swapped in a recommendation Wednesday (which isn't as catchy, but might be more informative).

I saw this post by Amanda on her blog / website RunToTheFinish this week....
9 Best Ways to Manage Race Day Nerves 
My most noticeable race day nervous sign is yawning! I start to yawn to get more oxygen probably as a result of not being very relaxed in the start pen. Those around me must think I've either just popped out of bed or actually find the whole race thing quite dull.

While I'm at this recommending thing an older post that caught my eye a while back that encompasses a lot of what Amanda's blog is about...
61 Lessons from 2000 Blog Posts 
Some blogs are just a mine of information, advice, good vibes, and so are worth recommending.

I am finding my way back into my blog after quiet a while away, and trying to find a bit of computer / life balance. So my next mission is to track down some images to brighten the place up again.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Keeping things simpler

What my 'new' plan boils down to is mostly just keeping things simple. The five point plan from my last post kind of sums it up, in essence I am getting back on the move in as many ways as I can without focusing wholly and solely on running. The main reason being that I had noticed an all around loss of strength and flexibility in doing other things, even to the point that the more linear process of running was suffering, evidenced by my string of injury niggles.

All this is great, and "d'uh!" common sense. It was all too easy with the time pressures of life to think "if I keep the running going that's fine. Running is all I really need to be able to run anyway.". Seductive as that type of thinking was I now realise I had utterly conned myself, three weeks of swimming has reminded me just what I'd done to those other important muscles (I really was troubled by how bad my swim strength was that first time I got back in the pool).

So from here I am going with the K.I.S.S. strategy - "Keep It Simple Stupid!"

Progress on those five things:
1) Parkrun - done.

2) Swimming - actually been doing twice a week :-)

3) Gym going - not yet, I am giving the pool another week at least before swopping in the gym session.

4) Eating well - Most of the time (better than none of the time).

5) Running consistency - I have been in touch with my training buddy and we've even gotten back out on the road.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Variety I hope will be the spice of running

So here I go with another plan, this time to build a base for the Autumn 10k and half-marathon races with the very solid ambition to carry everything through the Winter into an awesome spring marathon next year. Sounds straight-forward... ...well yes, and well no... in any case I have a plan and that is where to begin.

The 5 central headlines to the plan are:-

1)  5K Parkrun every other weekend to work on basic speed and improving 5k - 10k aggression.

2)  Swim once a week before work - to build on aerobic fitness but more over to recover muscle and mobilise all those muscles I forget about while run training.

3)  Get to the gym once a week - kinda simple no brainer to work on all round fitness / strength.

4)  Eat sensibly (the not so easy one)

5)  Run with some degree of consistency - focusing on technique and trying to crack the jog to run barrier (being as I have been stuck at fast jog speed for a very long time).

...simple? Well I hope so, I will let you know how it goes. I have my ever first Parkrun tomorrow morning so best foot forwards.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The lost blog post - "So what happened to January?"

Just found this lurking in my drafts, can't work out why it didn't publish. So anyway, seems like a good chance to reflect a third of the way into 2014...

Indeed January was something of a blur, an awful lot happened and I tried out a bunch of different things - some worked and some didn't. I suppose January is supposed to be that sort of month with New Years resolutions and so forth. So what did I try?
Firstly, I tried Plankaday (#plankaday)- a meme within the Twitterverse primarily - wherein you do a plank everyday and log your time held in plank on twitter (they even have a tracker that reminds you if you miss a couple of days - the plank police). I found it good fun and it was a humorous way of tackling a lack of core work in my routine. Moreover it was quite addictive and my times did actually improve over the four weeks of January.
Secondly, I tried to run... to a plan... FAIL - I was broken, a knee issue plagued me all month that was fine in almost all things but running!?! The plan was to get into great shape for the Bath Half-marathon (that plan lies in a quite corner of my laptop weeping), so in light of muscle weaknesses diagnosed by the physio I am going with a short build up to Bath that will then roll into my marathon training for May.
Thirdly, I tried the fat burn revolution (#TFBR) - I got off to an excellent start then the knee impacted training here a bit, and then my birthday came along - ahem, I fell off that wagon, so now I start again over the weekend. I will explain more about the program / scheme in another post where I can do the whole thing justice. I wouldn't call it a fail, but then I won't call it a success either. 
So February I hope will bring more consistencies and a whole lot more running!

And how did that all work out? Well I've been pretty good with #1 and planked heaps, my twitter feed is pretty choca-block with reports. #2 ah well, #2 has been an on going saga though I got round both the Bath Half and Milton Keynes marathon off of cross training but I was not happy or injury free for either of them. I have work to do to be injury free for the rest of the year. #3 still deserves visiting in a whole other blog post, but suffice to say once I am injury free I will be taking the challenge on afresh.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Milton Keynes marathon 2014 - my race review

My third marathon - the Milton Keynes marathon 2014 was probably my most interesting yet, it was full of the most diverse light and shade of any race of any distance that I have taken part in. Before going any further into the details I have to say that the organisation and the race team were absolutely, completely and utterly brilliant. They were fun, helpful, and just plain thoughtful... as I hope will become a little clearer through my ramblings.

So after weeks of wondering if my troublesome heel would be okay to run I toed the start line a few metres behind the 4:15 pacer with a pretty loose plan in mind, and no idea how the day would pan out. Over the preceeding weeks I had run a total of three times (two 5k runs and a 10k fitness test), I spent most of my time sat of a turbo trainer peddling for what seemed like days (utter hyperbole on my part, the longest I rode was approaching 3 hours). I essentially switched all the run training times from my training plan into bike sessions and pushed as high a gear as I felt I could for each session.

The race...
The pack started to move forward and my only semblance real plan was to follow the pacer and see how I got on. Plan B was to trickle back to the next pace group if I couldn't live with the first pacers rhythm. I imagine many people assume similar strategies. As we moved through the wide start area I saw my wife and son waving and gave them a handsome wave back, then looked around for the pacer. In the first 1km or so I already had the sense that pursuing a 'prey' was going to consume a lot of mental energy, I sat back from his pace at the start with the goal of feeling my way into it and slowly pulling up to his pace group over the first half of the race.

At 5k it was becoming abundantly clear that I was over cooking it, my Garmin was telling me pace numbers that didn't seem to fit with a 4:15 pace and so I was wondering what was going on - if anything the gap to the pacer was even bigger at this point. I decided to give it until 10k to settle down, thinking perhaps my watch was telling fibs. 10k came and I was no closer to the pacer despite having upped my pace to its race peak (!), at this stage rationalising that something was amiss I tried to settle back into a slower pace (forgetting the pacer). I tried to find a new pace that I could hold for the rest of the race.

Thus, the second 10k was slower, and brought me back to an overall pace that I felt was closer to my original plan. By this time though I knew I was COOKED, there was a dwindling sense of energy reserves and my running gait was beginning to falter as my heel began to remind me how little I had run in the last 2 months. I went through halfway in something like 2:11 and the real race started...

When the wheels fell off
At the 10mile mark the half marathoners split off and went their way to back to the stadium whilst the 26.2'ers turned off into the suburbs. The change both in course (wide road to single track cycle ways) and the density of runners at a point where my physical issues where becoming obvious led to the beginning of something of a mini-crisis. By 13.5miles (roughly 22k) I was into damage limitation, my only goal completing in one piece - a run / walk strategy seemed the only sensible thing.

My first walk was slow and laboured as I berated myself for a mix of bad planning, bad luck, and injury, when I picked up for a run (jog) section it was clear my legs weren't going to tolerate it. So back in the walk I found that I could speed walk with minimal aches and moreover minimal pains. At this point I really started to really notice the marshals and was buoyed by their encouragement. I also started to take in the race around me and others that were either struggling or on run /walk strategies for slower paces.

Quickly in the third 10k it was clear that walking fast was the best strategy for getting me back in one piece, and as the next pace group came and went (despite me trying for a couple of hundred metres to go with them) I was resigned to it. Calculations of possible finish times led me to text my wife using our run phone letting her know my likely fate. My walk pace was in fact such that run / walkers were sometimes finding it hard to distance me with me over taking them during their slower walk phases. Lots of times I re-passed people once, others became regulars over the next 15k. Smiles began to cross my face as I resigned, enjoyed the see-saws with the run / walkers, and increasing got into playful banter with marshals, volunteers, spectators and passers by.

Good out of the bad
The last 10k I found I actually enjoyed, I was steaming along at pretty much a swift marching pace (arm swinging, the whole power walk bit). I texted back and forth with my wife about my finish time and to let my family know what was happening. At one point I thought it would be my wife and son at the finish and not the rest of the crew. The heat and sun took its toll, and it was increasingly clear that the marching pace I'd set was too quick to allow me to run very far, and I wasn't about to walk slowly! The last 600-800m I picked up to a very laboured jog much to the joy of the spectators near the stadium, I got so much support towards the finish. As I entered the stadium I heard my two kids yelling and saw my wife looking frankly a little relieved (and concerned). The last 200m are around the pitch inside the MK Dons football stadium and the small crowd still there around the 5:25 mark were lovely.

I crossed the line so relieved to have completed that I could only manage a half Mo-bot gesture for the finish line camera person. As soon as I crossed I went back towards the line to congratulate two women who I had spent most of the last 15k passing and being passed by. When I finally headed for my medal I was greeted by my son and daughter sprinting towards me yelling excitedly, my son with my finishers medal in his hand :-D They had been allowed to cross the control barrier, take my medal and come to present me with my trophy. I was already full of 'love' for the organisation for the last 20k without them topping it all with a simple yet powerful act of kindness.

Post-race diagnosis
My time was my slowest (of course), at 5:25:17 but in many ways it carried more positives than the headline figure might suggest. I had persevered, I had finished, I wasn't complete broken (my heel had not worsen dramatically), I had enjoyed the warmth of the marathon family, I found a sense of fun in the 'failure', I had the most wonderful wife, kids and family supporting my madness... there was nothing bad in any of that.

I saw the physio the day after and I think he was impressed that I hadn't destroyed my legs any more than any other marathon finisher after the issues I had had pre-race. A rub down set me up for recovery, as did a 40minute swim float in the pool. Today I am considering my plans for the autumn season and what my new targets will be... the running bug hasn't gone anywhere in the face of a such poor race :-)

Race review
The organisation was close to flawless, there was plenty of provision for the warm weather. The race team were all superbly helpful, and always encouraging. The course is not the pancake flat stuff of a huge city marathon but was extremely well marked and no one can really complain about the rolling under- and over- passes in the second half (especially if you pace your effort properly). Having a stadium start and finish is just awesome in the facilities / shelter it provides runners (pre- and post- race) and the spectators during the race. The MK dons really do have quite the impressive facility. Would I do it again? Of course, though I may leave it a year in order to try a different spring race next year, I don't run many marathons after-all ;-)

Post race links:-
BBC Three Counties Radio - Milton Keynes Marathon 2014 shorts (there are six)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Like a bull at a gate

And so it seems I charged into things like the proverbial bull, and it hasn't done me any good. I dived back into trained and developed some niggles. Niggles became aches, which then became pain, which then became an inability to run. There is something wrong with my heel that is stopping me running, and worse still slowing me walking. After a whole week of TLC, anti-inflammatories and stretching it is really no better and the next port of call is the doctors or the physiotherapists...

...the saddest part is that I haven't had this much pure unadulterated drive to run in a long time and I can't. In the last few days I've spent over 4 hours on a stationery bike in lieu of running, and it just isn't the same. I can only hope when the professionals take a look at it there are some quick things I can do to get back on the move.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Very quick three things thursday - without pictures or hyperbole

No pictures - sorry, I am out of picture fodder and need to go around capturing some stuff. It probably stems from an overly busy work schedule of late, but I will try harder.

Hyperbole - reading back my through my blog of late I have notice my predilection for hyperbolic post titles (which at times are let down my the ramblings they lead to), and more than occasional over use of exclamation marks!!!!!!! I hereby promise that neither of things are likely to change, oh okay I will be trying.

Marathon talk - more substantial than any of the above and a great source of material to boast your running IQ.

Running - I seem to have found a new groove, Thursday I rest - tomorrow I Friday Fartlek!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Only when I'm planking

The New Year brought many things and one of them was planking, I have even been chased a few times by the plank police. Right around now you might be wondering, "What the heck is this guy on about?" or alternatively you might be feeling the spark of recognition of the social media meme that is #Plankaday

Its a challenge to do a plank at least once a day and tweet about it. Core strength is often overlooked as we go about our daily lives, and a strong core can be aided by using the simple plank exercise (as well as many other exercises). The beauty is that a plank is simple, and that Twitter keeps you accountable (and likely to keep doing it).

Really?..... Who? What? Where? When? Why?... go really see what it is all about go see Sherry Pagoto's page at -

I like my life simple and straight-forward so laying down with a timer is hardly difficult to organise on any given day. It seems to be paying off and my times are improving - follow my Twitter account to see the stream of (almost) daily efforts -  [there's a link over there on the right too].

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Sunday - run day

Okay so my training has been more stop-start than a stop-start thing, but it was good to hit a second Sunday long run in two weeks [ssssh]... with no apparent niggles (!). I wandered out into the sunshine (my eyes burning as we've seen so little of the big yellow globe in the sky in the U.K. of late), and knew nothing else than I planned to return in 100 minutes - the marathon training plan said so.

I kind of made up my route, avoiding this taking in that (the park mostly), and turned around after 50 mins to see what it all looked like in the opposite direction. My pace was very akin to the Bath Half last week, and like last week I managed to keep a lid on the first half of the run meaning I negative split the trip.

Sometime during this meandering run / jog I clocked my 1000th logged mile on my Garmin, shame I didn't realise I'd have thrown it a 1000th mile party or something. It appeared to celebrate all by itself by misting up part way through the run so I could only just see the screen, with hindsight it was probably a little sad that I hadn't done anything for its milestone. It was probably sadder still not to have clocked a thousand miles sooner on the wrist of a faster more consistent runner, hehee.

So 16.2km in the sun, and now I cross my fingers it'll be more of the same next week to keep my long run streak going...

Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday Fix... dis-concertedness

I've had this lying around my drafts folder for ages wondering whether or not to click publish and today I just thought 'why not?'....

Why is it that the advice that comes with new diets, new exercise strategies, new life style plans and so on never explains the biggest single likely drawback and probable cause of failure. What is this thing? Dis-concertedness - for which I want a better single word, so I shall do my best to explain a bit better using a few more words. When you have gathered together the motivation, the tools and perhaps even the items of shopping you start the grand scheme only to find that in the space of a few days to perhaps even weeks you will feel weird / dis-concerted within yourself.

Now this for some is fine and it doesn't bother them too greatly, but the issue is that many don't find they understand, so don't persist and then give up. The thing to 'know' is that you will feel 'odd' when you make such changes, and by 'odd' I don't mean ill (go to the doctors if you feel just plain ill). The feeling of oddness can be everything from a swimmy head lacking usual concentration span, to strange feelings in your stomach (bloating, emptiness, sudden looseness of bowel habit), and so forth. When you stop and consider what you are undertaking then of course you won't feel 'normal' during periods of huge change.

Take diet for example, likely your system will need to clear and at the same time adapt to the new food choices you've made. What is more comforting when your stomach is a little upside down than some of your favourite comforting foods? So you 'break' your diet and have one or two things your body 'knows' to settle you, and so begins the erosion of your new plan. Often it is not that the diet change didn't work because you were not mentally tough enough it is that your body nudged you into making that change of mind. I see it as a common sense type issue, change anything wholesale, or even sometimes fractionally, and often things don't work out immediately. 

Knowing that the changes in your diet and exercise plans may make you feel dis-concerted or dis-quieted within yourself better prepares you for when it arrives. Then if you do wind back some of the change (to put calories back in, or to reduce that 'over' long gym session), you are prepared to accept it might simply be slow adaptation that you are accommodating and not a total retrograde step you are taking.

Sleep can be a huge component, especially of exercise but also diet change, your body may rightly tell you "go to bed early please" because the taking in the change may need a parallel change in recovery and rest habits. I dropped caffeine and for a few days I was oddly tired before a few early nights and the finishing of the change in my physiology left me feel massively better (and happy to return to my old sleep pattern).

In essence you can't ask your body to change physiologically (for either better, or indeed worse) without there being a process of adaptation that will likely leave you feeling 'different' or 'dis-concerted' for a short period. Take it in give, yourself a chance and watch those changes stick. Oh, and if you can take things at a more measured pace you might just avoid this in the first place, but then who of us doesn't get very tempted by that massive change touted as "instant weight loss", "short-cut to race fitness", "ripped by summer" or other grand scheme?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Bath half marathon - how it went for me

I haven't been blogging much but I have been trying at least to train - though with limited success thanks to niggling injuries through Christmas and especially the New Year. The training that I had under my belt was so limited that I didn't really manage a consistent week of planned training all year.

And so it was that I found myself in the first start pen of the Bath half ruing my optimism of injury free training from last November, and watching the majority of the second pen trot by towards the start line. As I saw just one or two really keen members of the third 2hr plus pen come into view I stepped into the flow and set off to execute my 'plan'. My plan, though sadly not an especially swift one, was to run conservatively, aim for a negative split, and importantly finish with enough in me to run again as soon as possible getting into a marathon training plan I had had drawn up for months.

The first 5km were spent keeping a firm eye on holding my pace down just below my marathon pace to ensure a solid foundation for the run (and increase my chances of staying injury free). I got to enjoy the fantastic views of the huge and colourful field snaking around what is generally a very pretty course. I was in pace with a joggler (a runner juggling for the whole race) but he wasn't it seemed enjoying the best first phase and I left him behind.

The second 5km was the fastest, following on from the slowest - under-shoot / overshoot / hang on seemed to become the pattern, and one that was reminiscent of my Berlin marathon pace blocks in many ways. I was enjoying the free speed of the down hills and trying to work a bit on the ups, it is classified a flat course but does roll a fair bit to keep your legs interested! I took two gels in this phase but ignored that drinks stops as I knew I was well hydrated and the cool weather with fine rain was helping to keep thirst at bay. Around the 10k mark was where I'd pulled out of my only other previous attempt at the Bath Half and going through there feeling good was a huge mental lift. The noise around the course was amazing, and in spite of the rain the crowds were simply brilliant.

The third 5km was where I began to feel this was looking like a good plan, and where I mentally had to dig in a bit to stay on track (especially round those gentle up hills). I took two more gels towards the middle of this section and found that I'd taken too many in a short space of time as I suffered a few stomach twinges towards the 15km point. Again the crowds were fab, even if I did ignore the one or two that noticed I was in a sub-2hr bid but clearly not on for that type of time. I could project my likely time at this point and though it would be no where close to my bid projection I was chuffed that I was doing so well off of such a shaky start to my 2014 training.

The fourth 5km marked the toughest phase and towards the end the brightest phase. I had to work into the fourth quarter, pushing to maintain my pace and engineer a potential negative split race. Towards the end of it I could feel the finish line pull and was lifted by my eagerness to finish strong. I took a bottle of water through this phase and tried to drink, but didn't get much though being out of practice with bottles and spoilt by the cups provided in Berlin. At this phase I was reeling in quite a lot of runners, and trying to keep pace with a couple that were clearly on a strategy. I see-sawed with another couple running for TIP (Time Is Precious) and hoped that they would finish well as they were clearly working really hard together as a team. I hadn't heard of the charity but was lifted by the sentiment of its name.

The final km was fun, no really (!), I actually felt I could ignite the burners a bit and clawed back runners hand over fist. I know that this is really annoying to fellow runners but I could feel my plan had worked to a tee and was enjoying it. I tried in the last 300m to really open out and run like a 'proper' runner, and frankly yes I am sure I looked a prat, but it was fantastic to feel I was moving and was likely to get a great start on my marathon training from it. I crossed in 2:06:14 which is taking me back to where I was time wise almost ten years ago - not that I care as this run had become part of another marathon race attempt.

My wife met me afterwards with fresh dry clothes and we made really short work of heading off home thanks to the superb race organisation. The t-shirt, medal and bag were really good, and I came away with a huge desire to go back another year and look for a time more reflective of my best in future... one where my training has gone right and put me in the start pen confident of hitting a goal.

...oh, and that negative split? Near enough a full minute - BOOM :-D

As a footnote, this summary about the impact of the race was part of an email newsletter from the organisers:
"The runners who work so hard have once again raised incredible amounts of money for charity are a real inspiration to us. In the last thirteen years the Bath Half has raised over £12million for charity, making it the largest single day fundraising event in the South West and one of the biggest fundraisers of its kind in the UK. We anticipate that over £2million will have been raised for charity at Sunday’s race."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wittering on Wednesday - Micro-blogging is ruling so far this year

So it seems so far this new calendar year I have been tweeting like a thing possessed, it has taken over any time to sit and actually blog. More happily though it is providing fabulous fuel for new posts... just as soon as I can pull away from 140 characters at a time... I have signed up with no less than three fitness programs / schemes / memes so lots to describe and do real soon.

#busytweeting #sorry #i'llbebackshortly :-)