Monday, November 07, 2016

A toe in the water - wherein I learn to swim (again)

Four weeks ago I literally took the plunge and took up an adult swimming class after quite some period of hmm'ing and haw'ing. Now at this early point my vanity feels the need to point out that I can swim, I was blessed to have had the opportunity to learn in school and even spent what felt like an age treading water in a pair of pyjamas as a test of the ability to 'survive' falling in water fully clothed! My swimming, then and since, consists of breast-stroke and not a great deal else. Front-crawl, or freestyle swimming, was always a mystery to me and I never completed any more than 25m without having to stop have a coughing fit, put large volumes of the pool back in its proper place, and catch my breath.

So my reasons for joining a class were more about improvement, and essentially so that I could keep up with my children and wife who are all 'regulars'. My notion was that if I learned to know what I was talking about with the different strokes then I would be able to engage with and encourage the kids even more than I already do. My wife is not perhaps entirely keen as it might look like I am trying to cross into something that is very much her thing, but I have promised that once I deem myself proficient I will stop classes and use it only as an aid to my running training (my friendly neighbourhood physiotherapist keeps insisting swimming will do me the power of good - and to be fair so far it looks like he knows his stuff).

So I have been going along on Thursday evenings to the Cardiff International Pool adult swimming lessons and experiencing into a whole new exercise world. It has been hard from a point of view of base fitness particularly was in the first week I swam easily more front crawl than I have in the whole rest of my life previously. The atmosphere is great, we are all newbies together, and the coaching team are super experienced and moreover good fun. After four weeks I can't say that I love front crawl yet, but I am getting there. My biggest challenge has been explaining why I am pretty proficient at all the other strokes, though this now is a source of humour as I get gently teased about it each week.

As a new challenge it is fantastic, and I certainly see the sport from a whole new angle. Even though I have sat on the side watching my kids classes for the past three years or so it isn't the same as getting in the water and experiencing the process. Six more weeks to go in this block of lessons, and I think I will need perhaps one more block to get to where I want to be... but I guess we'll just see.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The marathon that is coming back, though not just yet...

So there was a lot of noise around the return of the Cardiff marathon next spring with an announcement by Run 4 Wales on the day of the recent Cardiff Half marathon. Over the days after there was a call for a register of interested runner which I duly signed up to, and anticipation built. Groups of runners were getting their teeth into the idea, parkrunners feverishly chatting about the route on facebook, and charity runners getting excited about a marathon on their doorstep after London marathon rejection letters began hitting postboxes.

Image result for cardiff half
2015 Cardiff half - Gareth James
For me it sounded brilliant as I was one of those turned down by the London marathon ballot (I am losing count of my 10+ rejections), and hoped it would be a 'no-brainer' replacement as a spring marathon... and then the news broke... not the new route, not date of the race... an announcement that unfortunately they couldn't square away the organisation of the event for 2017, but hoped to get the permissions in place for 2018. 2018 sounded all the sweeter for the suggestion that the great run series team may be involved in creating a Cardiff and Vale marathon.

I ripped up my rapidly forming plans, and I am now looking for that spring 2017 target. Beyond 13.1 miles would be great, but at the moment it is looking like more of the 'short' stuff going into 2017.

2016 despite its rollercoaster of fitness and emotional lows has been the year when I managed to complete the most half marathons in a calendar year, so perhaps I shall just stick with those and build another year around them adding in some other events. Thus, my 2017 plan is still incubating and when it is hatched I shall share it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Post-cardiff10k blues + my biggest post-race positive

I suppose it was inevitable after enjoying a race and setting aside the poor (for me*) time that I would get around to thinking about the time. So it was that a bout of the post-race "I could do better" blues set in. It could not have gone a lot better on the day of the cardiff10k but somehow I started with the "what if"s and it was all downhill from there really.

Yes I is my second slowest recorded time for 10k but given the year I have had and the weight that I am now carrying after so many comfort eating snacks could I really beat myself up about it? Well, yes, because my body and my brain knows how it feels to go quicker (for me*).

It took a couple of days for the blues to strike so I had a goodly while to enjoy the glow of enjoying the event. What I am left with is a fresh resolve, and the very real feeling that I should not expect miracle returns to old event times.

The truth of it is that I have tried to change my running form and the I am still in the transition period (or so I tell myself). That I completed the whole 10k in mass participation crowds of enforced pace changes and avoided the inevitable possible collisions of big group running without breaking form was perhaps the biggest single take away from the run.

I have now the half marathon in two weeks two to try and build into. The main aim there will be to come away with the same big achievement - will I be able to run 22+k without falling back into heal striking?

* I know all times are relative and that speedier and slower runners alike will be cross with me unless I try to set things as far as I can in proper context.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Time, meh! Complete, yeah!

In the end I completed my seventh Cardiff 10k in good shape, and even with a reasonable negative split. The time was not special and I am really not that bothered as it was just a huge buzz to get out there running in a crowd. A time of 01:00:59 represents my second slowest recorded 10k, but I simply am not bothered. I find myself wishing that I could bottle the post-race buzz and save it for the likely dark phases of the half-marathon in under three weeks time.
Post-race 'glow'

Friday, September 09, 2016

Five runs in a week while on holiday - well not quite!

I am well versed now in the ways of holiday running, packing the kit, making sure my running shoes are included along with run watch, hat (!!), bright clothes, and snood (mostly for carrying and wiping sweat away with rather than wearing as a warming device). So this holiday I was absolutely ready, and then it seemed so was the rest of the family which was an interesting twist. Our two kids wanted to join in and come for runs too.

Although I hadn't managed to Google Earth the place out fully to find routes, the area looked like it might produce some good loop runs and when we were driving in it certainly looked better than I'd hoped... so did I run five times in a week? Well yes, and no... I did three of my own (one longer, two shorter) and then there were two extra ones each with a different offspring along for the journey. The two accompanied runs were frankly just brilliant fun, non-stop chatterboxes all the way around a simple yet varied 2k loop. So varied was the loop it included pumpkins, sheep, goats, friendly sheep dogs, lovely ponds, and rather fabulously no cars.

Run on holiday - a change is as good as a rest!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

That wasn't meant to be a fartlek - and other worries about changes

I went out on Tuesday night for a run that was supposed to be another heart rate running experiment. 7.3km later and I completed what could best be called a fartlek run, with some hefty pace variations and not a stick of heart rate running (except for looking at it occasionally on my watch and cringing). Actually I enjoyed myself, and finished the session with a smile on my face. During the past run sit down and run watch upload I reflected that I have some hard thinking to do before the Cardiff half marathon.

Basically having made a foot placement switch off of my heels, and changing shoes for once and for all, I am firmly in an in-between state where I could happily run a 5k or 10k this way but have no idea how a 21k would look. I would like to run the distance and find out but I know that that way madness lies. Whereas I was not patient with the heart rate running this week I am going to have to be with my half marathon progress - only finding out if I can do it in low profile shoes, on my midfoot, running with a different running form on the actual day. I am more than a little bit scared of the challenge, as realistically I need at least another 12 months or more to work through the changes and make them a comfortable 'default' setting.

The event in 6 weeks or so is rapidly looking like an day out running rather than an attempt at any sort of time.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Watch out - he's got all the gear!

I liked the way the salesperson in the shop said "this GPS watch is for runners who want to take their training to the next level" in a way that at the same time seemed to imply "ha ha ha, all the gear no idea, eh?". The comment followed on from "have you had a look and compared this to other GPS watches"... really I do walk into shops and on a whim buy an expensive GPS device for the sake of it?!?!

Truth be told my current watch is old now, the strap is coming adrift, the battery is going, the charging / computer connecting rig was always a pain, it doesn't seem to want to find a satellite unless it is charged to the brim (and even then only managing a signal about half the time), and I have been thinking about a replacement for at least the last 18 months.

It be fair the salesperson was probably just going through a thorough sales room checklist so that sometime later I don't come back to the shop or write a review to the effect "bought this watch, it's over priced, and I don't know what half of it does!", in other words risking me saying that I wasted my money in their shop. Happily in the end all the salesperson really succeeded in doing was make me more keen to get it out of the box and try it on a run.

I'm only sensitive because once in a race start pen another runner turned and said "blimey, you sure you've got enough stuff!". They probably had a point but I am hardly a speedy runner I am normally out there a long time so being prepared for eating nutrition I know won't make me throw up, prepared to phone my family to let them know I've stopped or am walking, or simply needing something to wipe the copious quantity of salt build up from my face, are all things that either actually or psychological help me. Over recent times I have rationalised my kit a bit as I learn more and more about what gets me around a course the best but having a watch that works, that I'm happier won't switch off around a long run, that gives me tonnes of useful feedback - that will do for me thanks.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

One down, around 28 to go

Run one of the plan was logged on Tuesday, it was a slow walk / run affair underscoring my current lack of fitness. I enjoyed it, I tried to focus on relaxed flow, and finishing in a state that would not generate a huge recovery burden. All in all I was quite pleased with my 5km, and I am now a little more up beat about the roughly 28 or so workouts / runs to come in the 10 week plan.

Monday, July 25, 2016

10 weeks to go

So I got an email in my inbox this morning that is essentially from myself - it is from a training plan I started with Strava weeks ago for the Cardiff Half marathon this autumn. The email tells me that I have 10 weeks until the race and that I have a 10 week training block to follow... given I have been running so sporadically and have been laid up with a viral throat infection for the best part of 2 weeks my initial thought was "Ah!!?!?". On second thought I mused "Well maybe this will get me back on track?". I have ditched my initial reaction, although they are often accurate, and gone with the more optimistic one.

The best part is the email told me that day one of training is a... rest day! So I am throwing myself absolutely whole heartedly into day one, and not training... that is one day ticked off as 'complete' 70-odd days to go :-)

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

3 runs in 5 days!

You might well wonder what is going on when I report that I have run 3 times in the last five days given my recent terrible posts of fitness woes. Well firstly it wasn't planned, secondly they weren't very long, and thirdly they hardly mark a complete 'return to form'. Of course I am very happy to reflect on three runs and look to build from here. In fact there are now 13 weeks until my autumn 'target' race and so I have 3 weeks until I have a crack at a 10 week Strava training plan. I have my fingers crossed as the last three runs have demonstrated some areas of weakness...

  • lack of strength - stride length / running action is awful - my calves have been complaining a lot
  • I am way way way too heavy - well, yes, we knew this a few weeks back
  • I can't run in my 'old' shoes (they cause almost instance knee pain) and I can't complete the distance in my 'new' lighter shoes (they don't support me as fatigue sets in) - gait analysis and another set of shoes is required
  • there will be a need to actually follow advice and follow the plan properly for a change and not think I know better
  • realistic goal setting will be critical to my enjoyment not only of the training but of the event itself
  • regular parkrun events with my kids will be useful in making sure I don't do too much tempo work (I have a habit of attacking parkrun like a race and wrecking myself for the rest of the training week)
... I will do my best to let you know how this all goes!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Another round the park run

I got myself out for a run last night even though it felt like I had so many other things to do that I shouldn't. It was a very necessary run as I have spent the entire week reflecting on the fact that I the most out of 'shape' I have been in years*. If I had not run the pattern of avoiding the problem might just have carried on festering. Much though I wanted to go out and run fast, hard and angry to tackle the stress with a physical blow out I managed to reign myself in and run with slow measured control - so I wouldn't spend the next few days a broken mess unable to train again (suffering heavy DOMS, sore feet, sore tendons and so on).

The run itself was short, 4.6 km, and in the end pretty sweet. My head was all over the place attention wise but weirdly my body found a good groove in spite of myself. The weather was cooler, as we've been having some over due rain (yep, even in Wales rain can be overdue!), so it was really comfortable to run in. Running was kept to the path, and not the grass, thanks to the fact the uppers on my trainers are a loose weave teabag fabric that says "hey water come on in lets party!!". Fears that my feet would not thank me for running on the hard stuff were unfounded (or at least have been so far - I can walk this morning).

Sticking to MAF-like (see my post from earlier in the week) pace is definitely the way forwards until I can crack my recent unfit habits. It is ultimately fabulous to finish a run session and feel like your body could easily go again - even if time pressures might not let you. This morning, for example, there is a small chance I might even get out for a run again :-)

Ps. seems I am once again chasing the title of "best blogpost title of the year" - I will let you know how I get on in the voting!?!?

* my trousers are too tight, my t-shirts and shirts are 'fitting' in ways that leave me very self-conscious, my waist is doing its very very best impression of middle-aged spread, the stairs in work are not a comfortable climb, my body fat percentage is a number heading in the wrong direction - reasons to find the time to run I think most would agree.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Base! How slow can you go?

Right I am having to build this thing from the ground upwards, I am getting injured to often (I'm probably still carrying one with my last knee issue), I am way too heavy (for me), and training for events has just become a lottery (will I 'lose' my entry fee or not, will I be able to complete the training or not).

I ran for the first time in five and a half weeks the other day, I ran on grass, and I ran very slowly. Basically I opted to base train and thus keep my heart rate somewhere near what would appear to be my MAF (I have just started reading all things - maximum aerobic function). Afterwards my knee was not happy, so it will have to a slow phasing in of the slow running, and likely a trip to the physiotherapists office if I see no 'strengthening' or absence of niggles going forwards.

The joy of my second slow run (also on grass) was that it was a much better story for my legs, with no lingering twinges or aches afterwards. However, the actual heart rate part was a mess, I couldn't find a rhythm and so it was run / walk all the way with no sustaining of the run phases for very long at all. It was a sunnier day so may be that didn't help, perhaps I was stressing more about finding the sweet spot of running a good while at MAF, what it was I was frustrated. That said I am more determined to explore this stuff and carefully build a progressive aerobic base... I have a lot of reading to do.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Struggling to turn around

After turning a few too many degrees in the wrong direction I am trying to get back into the 180degree turn groove. I am literally starting out at first principles, by doing what my blog title tells me and getting Andy on the move. Keeping things outside of training plans, eating plans, and just sticking to simply doing more in my day. So far in the last few days according to my fitness tracker I have covered (mostly walking) 16.8km, 18.67km, 13.5km, and 17.1km.

It is essentially the thing that you will always read in the fitness magazines, tweets, etc. - "move more", "get off the bus one stop early", "take the stairs", or some similar sentiment. I won't be able to get back to my running without first getting on with the simple simple process of sorting out these small things. Through this simplest of first steps I hope to get the snowball rolling down the hillside to generate the unstoppable giant snow boulder that I hope my next phase of my running / fitness journey will be.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It is not going well

I would like to report great feats of fitness endeavour, and of striding towards my target180 challenge... ah, no. Knee injury post-half marathon is lingering, back issue grumbling, and I seem incapable of sensible eating at the moment. There is not a lot else to add, except I am trying to work out how to break the funk and get the ever expanding wagon back on the road.

At this point I am just looking to keep things simple, win a few small fights and then get back into running and target180. I made a good start a few weeks back I need now to reboot and get back at it.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Last week - 'recovery' after a half marathon

I can't say that I have worked out the best way to get over running a half marathon, and last week I tried something different. After running hard on Monday at the Milton Keynes half marathon, and beating my time from a month ago by almost 4 minutes, I opted to keep moving. Not running, but by walking rather than simply putting my feet up. At first it seemed to be working, but then my body let me know what it thought of the plan.

Through last week I began experiencing what I hope is runners knee and nothing more serious. Certainly my symptoms fit and my activities, before the pain and weakness in the joint definitely look like prime causes. After weeks of no running with my back problem I ran the Cardiff half because of an emotional need, and then found I could do some training afterwards, and then I ran another half... too much load to quickly on a body that during my back injury went about expanding in all the wrong ways.

Too much, too soon, well I have never done that before! Generally last week went well, knee aside, and this week whilst trying to curb my enthusiasm I'll be mixing good rest with a couple of sessions (though perhaps cross training and not running).

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Target180 weekly sum-up: a week of good progress

So I went and declared much of my intention in my last post around turning my fitness around in roughly six months, and now I am going about working on some of the key elements.

So this week just gone I have been busy racking up as much walking as I could without taking time out of other things. Walking into work one day, taking my lunch out to the park and walking a couple of laps, not taking the lift using the stairs, walking to a meeting across town rather than ordering a taxi - all of which have felt great and haven't left me overly tired.

The bullet-point for the week summary runs something like :-

  • everyday this week I crashed through the 10,000 steps mark, topping out at 20,868 one day.
  • ran on Tuesday (5km) and Thursday (8.3km)
  • ran at a better pace than I have in months in both run sessions
  • dropped another 1.5lb of body mass
  • my trousers are definitively looser and my back is feeling much better
  • generally noting that my face looks less puffy and bloated - even got a complement from Mrs.H. that I was looking better (!! heheh)
  • made some great choices around food without feeling that I was depriving myself
So basically without following any of the many many regimes listed on (really there is such a page and such a list), I have eaten sensibly without changing the nature of the food, and moved more. Holy-moly I think I may have hit upon a genius new diet fad system... ah no, wait... "eat less, move more" I've definitely heard that somewhere before.
Fabulous dinner earlier this week - Honey mustard chicken thighs with spinach and peas (something from a BBC Good Food recipe I think)
The next measure of 'progress', or moreover my current fitness, is the Milton Keynes half marathon on Monday. I am really looking forward to it even though my race pack was lost in the post and I have to go to the trouble of queueing for a replacement on the morning of the race (the race pack and number arrived at the eleventh hour, so I'm all kitted up and ready to go). I have a huge soft spot for the town, and the event as it where I ran my first ever marathon four years ago (time flies). We are travelling as a posse and if the weather plays ball a good time will be had by all - I don't mind rain while I run, the family stood watching tend to have a much clearer preference for the dry.
Blue Concrete Pavement With 100m Sprint Paint
Just have to remember Monday is a half-marathon and not one of these :-)
Pacing wise I have to be careful not to let my head lead the way, and listen to my body instead. The 'plan' is to go out close to my average pace for the Cardiff Half, where I blew up in the last quarter of the course, and take this run more conservatively. The people around the course in Milton Keynes are usually fantastic so I hope to enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the process of running a half marathon with no pressure or anxiety.

Have a good running weekend and I hope your projects and targets are going well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Target180 - my new personal challenge

Having turned over most of the bad habits of the last few months and reset myself pretty well I started to look at goals / challenges. I wanted something to hang my efforts, on a little phrase (a mantra if you like those sorts of things), a short memory aid, something to keep in mind during a long run or tough session. I mulled over all sorts of stuff numbers came up quite a lot, goal times, numbers of events run, that sort of thing.

Eventually, I settled on 180 - the 'logic' being I should be able to turn around my running form in about 6 months (a sensibly long time I reasoned), and at the end get a personal best in some event or distance or another. Probably targeting the autumn Cardiff Half marathon, though not definitively as I'm leaving it open so that the chosen event doesn't consume all of my thinking - I want this to be about process and all around signs of improvement. So, 6 months is sort of 180 days taking 30 days in a month... then the number resonated and caught my imagination - 180 degrees, an about turn, a complete change of direction. An about face on the slide in fitness, activity, and body weight since the New Year.

So to set some benchmarks and give a feeling of the scale of this process and progress towards my Target180...

  • I just ran my slowest half-marathon, 2:13:44 (Cardiff World Championships half-marathon, 26th March)
  • This weekend just gone I ran my third slowest timed 5K, 28.08 (Cardiff parkrun, 23rd April)
  • I was at my heaviest in over 5 years, at 15st 9lbs (99.3kg), on the 13th of April
The early signs are good, I've dropped 8lbs, my trousers which were getting uncomfortably tight are fitting better, my running feels less of an effort than it has for weeks, and I am generally finding lots of small ways to increase my movement. Motivation at the moment is very high and a little like the early progress needs some careful looking after. In fact the biggest challenge in any journey like this is to manage your expectations and cultivate your patience. It is far to easy to rush at the target and forget that there is a timeframe. Despite immediate look of all those before and after pictures that flood the health and wellness social media (and mainstream media) there are always large gaps in time hidden between the two photo - unless they are faked of course, as many reportedly are.

My Target180 is a journey and it has started, it didn't have a hard start date and won't have a hard finish date, after roughly 6 months the aim is to have made that turnaround and be travelling towards better fitness.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I wish I was running the London Marathon

I have tried for years, for longer than I have been blogging, to get into the London marathon via the public ballot, and for years I have failed. Of course I could have asked for any number of charity berths, raised the required amount of money, and run in any of those years, but something of that extra undertaking with the pressure of a financial target on top of training, home- and work- life stopped me. Then again I could have gone and trained and gained a good for age pace, but all signs point to me only ever being an average runner of average talent (take a look at my 'event history' page for proof), and moreover an average training budget* [* time I have 'spare' to train].

Does it look like I am bitter? I have after all run the Berlin marathon twice and a proportionally smaller number of people from the UK will have done that. I am not sure if I am bitter or not, but each passing year I get a little more jealous of those that have done it, a little more keen, and a whole lot more convinced that if I ever do it it will be a massive highlight of my running 'career'. I ask myself after I ponder each passing London "How would I feel if I never do it?" and feel a more than a little sad at the prospect. Next year I am finally contemplating biting down on the wooden stick and asking for a charity place. My big fear is that by that time I will have nibbled away at my family, friends and colleagues for charity offerings once too often in recent times and that it will be an uphill struggle for a race that I would really want to enjoy to its fullest.

It isn't long until the next ballot opens and I will earnestly begin my annual calculation of what I might do for next year if a "No" comes of it again (go around the ballot route the following year, or chase that charity spot). In the meanwhile I will watch the coverage, with many smiles of joy at the stories and incredible tales of triumph over adversity that always come out of every London marathon, and all the while quietly hope that next year might just be my year.

Good luck on Sunday if you are running London, go out enjoy it, and run a blinder for me. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Time moving, time not moving - the return of wittering on Wednesday?

Time moving yesterday was 20 minutes running with Dr.C. last night, it was excellent and a fair bit quicker than any of my other recent sessions. It was good banter that always distracts from the distance travelled. Perhaps the most stunning part of the run was that my Garmin found a satellite in reasonable time and moreover the sun was out.
The park in the sunshine yesterday
The time I spent not moving was sitting in the park at lunchtime enjoying the spring sunshine and eating a bar of chocolate very slowly. It took me over five minutes of mindful eating to savour the treat, which is greater than 10x more time than it would have taken me to eat it a month ago. While it is not a job completed over the last week I have been reacquainting myself with good food habits and feeling much better for it. Too early to report my slump is over but the signs are looking hopeful.

On another day I would demolish these in one sitting
I hope your Wednesday is full of good news and not to much chocolate.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Our adventures at junior parkrun

Volunteering at junior parkrun* is just the best thing I have done in running (well not actually physically running, but you know what I mean) this year. Each Sunday morning the family get ourselves over to the second nearest junior parkrun to us because the start time means we simply have enough time to get there and because it is in the grounds of a National Trust property (Tredegar House, Newport). The location is great, the team are super friendly, the course is nicely contained, the Brewhouse tearoom (and shop) is fabulous after each event - the kids have a minor hot chocolate addiction growing because of it, and the adults likewise a cake addiction.

Keen runners at the startline
Volunteering was a revelation for me, not because I haven't volunteered for things in the past but because of the huge buzz I get seeing the kids run with such freedom and joy shining out of their faces (most of the time) . The weather plays a role each week, and quite apart from the ever changing cast of characters, sets up each run in a slightly different tone. Be that the joy the children get jumping in muddy puddles, the smiles of parents when the sun is out, the stoicism of the volunteers when its windy. There is always something that reminds you of the best sort of human kindnesses and joys in the simply free fun 2k run.

Finish tokens ready to hand out
Junior parkrun has athletic royalty as a figure head, Chrissie Wellington (multiple Ironman distance World champ) who has as her twitter handle @ChrissieSmiles - something apparently she was famed for during her competitions. That is actually, for me, junior parkrun in a nutshell, the secret to the whole thing, smiles - most of the time everyone just smiles.

Our kids have a ball, chase friends, ask for their times, enjoy the hot chocolate (!), and hopefully most of all are learning that sports, sports event and sports participation are something for life and something for smiling about. I certainly feel awful on weeks we can't make it as I miss the buzz, but moreover those weeks we can't go the kids get upset too :-)

The family all in after a rainy Winter run
In a week where events in the UK parkrun world have been shaped by people who perhaps don't fully appreciate all that parkrun is, or all the it gives to a community and try to draw money out of it, I thank my lucky stars that we have something as elegantly brilliant and accessible on our door step. I could write simply pages about my thoughts on the Little Stoke parkrun situation, but instead I will simply enjoy the buzz from yesterdays junior parkrun in Newport and hope that a happy settlement will allow others to continue to enjoy the same free from imposed costs parkrun joy.

* junior parkrun events are run over a 2 km course for juniors only between the ages of 4 to 14 years old.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Starting with the inside work - Headspace

A footnote was added on the 17-04-2016.

I have a future event that I mentioned in my last post, the autumn 2016 Cardiff University Cardiff Half marathon, is now definitely my fitness 'target'. Over the last days my thoughts and feelings around getting back to where I was (lighter, stronger, faster around 13.1miles of running), have really crystallised bringing with it a sense of growing purpose. It is easy to suggest that I might be putting all my eggs in the one basket ,but a clear the distant enough goal works for me and I will be aware not to over endow the half marathon as the 'be all, end all' of my focus.

So I have a point on the horizon, and again there was somewhere else to start from my last post - the realisation of nutrition issues. Here is where the core of the work has to begin, my body will absolutely tell me what it thinks of running this heavy (with body fat) with likely feedback in the form of injury. To tackle the issue I tried the old approaches only to come to realise that I had to smarten them up. How? Well with some specific inside work on my brain itself - I had a lobotomy - I got some Headspace.

What is that?
Headspace is a system / app / technique for mindful mediation in a busy life{1}. It sits on my phone and I tap the app once a day to follow a series of 20 minute meditations{2} led by one of the founders of the company, a former Buddhist monk and circus arts graduate, Andy Puddicombe. Web search either the app or Andy and you will easily find / read a quite unique origin story to Headspace from multiple sources and outlets.
This time I am using mindfulness to recognise and be comfortable with my thoughts around eating. Looking to be more aware of what and when I put things in my mouth. No, it is not a diet app and I am not aware of any packs (series of sessions) on nutrition / eating specifically, I am simply using it to remind myself to be present in the moment and monitor my reactions to my habits. In fact I have had the app for a long time on my phone and revisited it periodically to try and form a habit of doing it (I had a PB of around 7-8 consecutive sessions), always seeing benefits but not managing for a string of 'reasons' to stick with it.

Thus far I have set a PB for sessions days completed (not that it is ever about notches on a post) and found that being generally more mindful has indeed benefited my eating... it has been several days since a chocolate binge (or similar). It isn't fitness work in the mechanics of running sense but in every other sense it is absolutely about fitness - fitness of my grey matter, fitness of my habits, fitness of my nutrition. Long may it continue, as 'doing the inside work' really should be at the foundation of most endeavours. Getting out of your own way is often the key to getting started. The balance that I am beginning to pull together (I have much still to do), is the base upon which I look to build good things.

{1} nothing in this aside about the Headspace app was inspired by anything other than my own meandering experiences, trust me a search for info on them will quickly show you that they don't particularly need my endorsement.
{2} the entry to Headspace is via 10 free 10 minute sessions, so don't let the sound of 20 minutes put you off trying it.

Somewhat coincidently Andy tweeted this on his twitter account a few hours after my post, and got me thinking about the tone of my original post. I was not in any way implying that I was using the app to become something I wish to be. The purpose of the meditations I tried to explain here are to simply be more aware of my thoughts through any given day and observe how they are impacting my choices and decisions around food. Basically noting the noisy habitual clutter of busy thinking that I am in the habit of using to shroud and ignore in the moment day-to-day choices. I am clearly not quite skilled enough to describe quite what I am getting out of mindfulness practice, but please don't let me put you off of your own discovery experience...

Andy Puddicombe (@andypuddicombe)
Headspace: less about projecting who we wish we were, and more about becoming comfortable with who we are. #mindfulness

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tired of starting over - trying to refind the joy

The thought of starting over again is filling me with a sense of foreboding... I am a very long way from where I was and from where I would like to be. Happily I have started planning and have begun making some decisions. There are for example 24 weeks until the autumn (standard) version of the Cardiff Half marathon where I can run the same course that I just set my personal worst on, and see how far I can put that right.

First things first - nutrition! At the moment I am eating extremely badly, worse than I have for a long long time. I have on several occasions found myself (and it does feel like I found myself because it is so 'mindless') binge eating. At the moment I am lacking what some like to call 'balance' in my approach to food. Truth be told I am just not enjoying my food at all at the moment, it feels like a chore or something I should just grab between doing other things. So I tried to restore a bit of mindfulness to proceedings by picking up the food tracker app... that didn't last very long as it seemed to add to the feeling of food as a process not as a joy.

So apart from trying to rekindle some run training over the next couple of weeks I have a bit of a battle on my hands to readdress these bad habits that have grown up like pernicious weeds around my eating. I am going to try and make things as simple as I can and give myself as much opportunity as possible to sit with my food and enjoy it - eating mindfully and not mindlessly - and find some form of balance to stem my insistent and steady weight gain.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Wading through treacle

At the moment I just have the deep seated feeling of being stuck, wading through heavy treacle, this is more than just losing my running mojo. I am at the heavy end of my weight yo-yo and threatening even to top that. When I get into exercise I am fine but I am struggling with eating it is just too convenient and to quick to shove in my mouth. I am comfort eating at the moment, with all that has gone on this year I seem to have lost my resistance and sense of food proportion. It is not as if I haven't tried to get things back on track I have but no old tactic seems to work for more than a day or two. At the moment I am drowning in the 'shoulds', and can't seem to shake even one of them.

Targets? I have them in abundance just don't ask me to do anything about them at the moment - I'd just as soon carry on soaking in the self-pity. What is so bad that I am enjoying a pity party? That is just it I can't say for sure as it is a mix of small and big stuff that seems to have formed a formidably large dam. Probably the biggest thing is the lack of any routine as just at the moment I seem to be in permanent response mode.

Worst of it all is that I know that I have all the answers and know where I can find all the tools I need. I just can't quite reach out grab them and get on with this. We have a long weekend coming up so all I can do is try and gather some energy during that to get to fixing some of the small stuff to get my feet out of the treacle.

Hope things are going well where you are.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

First bike ride in ages with a long way to go

This morning I actually got around to getting my stuff together and getting on my bike for the commute to work. It was so overdue, and in fact so revealing... it was not comfortable! I have always been someone who enjoyed just jumping on a bike, but this morning I found that the combination of my grumbling back, my utter lack of base fitness, and a overly heavy back pack just didn't make for much fun at all.
By Alex E. Proimos -, CC BY 2.0,

Rome allegedly wasn't built in a day, which I am glad about because whilst I may not quite be the size of an nascent ancient city I clearly have a lot of ground work to do. The size of my current task is dawning on me in the form of a huge smack around the face this week.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Bloggers no more - retiring some blogs from my blog roll :-(

Photo Stuart Miles.
Stock photo - Image ID: 100258862
Looking at my blog I realised that there are links to some blogs that look quite dated and haven't been updated in a long while. I go long periods between posts but this handful look to have properly come to natural ends.

So these are blogs I used to read but that have sadly stopped posting for over 2 years :

2 Slow 4 Boston - used to be an active and creative blog that I found a little late in its run. Jon even went to the trouble of producing a database for run bloggers that aimed to connect the community in the USA (and elsewhere). The blog though no longer updated after 3 years remains a fun read, with plenty of pitcures, charts, and chat.

La corredora - Clara, a self confessed lazy ultrarunner was never lazy about the detail in her posts. Engaging reads and a flavour of the longer run life, stopped posting 2 years ago (having blogged for 5 years).

beyond DESTINATION 26.2 - a fun and often high energy blog that came to a halt for incredibly sad and thus entirely understandable reasons. I do hope that Linz's world is now more settled and that her family are all well - her last post was titled "Life..."  Have a look back through at some fun stuff, including some interesting smoothie recipes.

Fit Goddess - adept at race reports with pictures (something I have failed at many times in the past), and with a lovely sense of fun I found this blog a bit late too. Always an uncluttered and easy read, a shame Theia didn't keep things going.

Morning Runner - looking at the four blogs above, this follows a similar pattern - started in 2008, enjoyed a posting boom, and then sadly petered out (final post). This blog followed Jen, a former college athlete, in her running adventures and the challenges / fun of balancing life - work - training - races. Like any of the previous four it is well worth poking around the blog archive for some gems of wisdom (and recipes - not that thats all I look out for).

I am off to look for new running / run fitness blogs to read and include... I am hoping the trend of dead blogs on my blog roll isn't indicative of a complete move away from long form blogging to the 'microblog' worlds of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, et al.??

If "FollowFriday / #FF" was still a thing, and these blogs were active, I would have had these as mine today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ten year anniversary - on the move, or not?

Looking back at my blog it would be very easy to be confused as it pro-ports to be about movement and being on the move and so progress, whilst it is clear I haven't really made so very much. I am not, for example, now running sub-4hr marathons, or buzzing a near London marathon good for age PB.  There are cataloged here a number of failed rounds of trying to get 'fit' and pretty much failing at every attempt.

Reflecting on this apparent lack of progress there would appear to be a number of psychological conclusions that could be drawn - for example, sharing a goal taking the place of achieving it, as mentally I have perhaps felt rewarded simply for the process of typing a few posts and putting them 'out there'. Whatever truly is behind it is of course more tricky to define, as most often halts to progress stem from life, or work, or luck, or some such. What is true to say looking at this series of boom and bust endeavours is that the cycles are too short and too sharp, moreover they have settled into swinging around a constant average. Not an average happily that is moving in the wrong direction of unhealthy weight gain (or any other negative indicator), but it certainly isn't moving in the 'right' direction either.

It is fair enough that at the moment most of my times over most distances are still what they were 10 years ago in the face of an ageing chassis (in of itself I suppose a decent outcome of sorts). There is that feeling in me that somewhere the opportunity to run better times was wasted by bad habits and / or poor goal choice.

Am I lamenting and wallowing in self-pity? Well absolutely "yes", but in that lament some truths have become very very clear. The chief amongst these laments being the lack of consistency - the constant cycle swings of flirting with improvement and flirting with my old grossly overweight self. It is perhaps consistency that most people struggle with, we would surely all love to make progress in smooth linear progressions towards fitness goals.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

P.S. 12 days of chrsitmas - summary

Whilst writing my last post I found this unpublished...
...this was the streak I had put together before 2016 really got going and put me in a dark place personally and also with my fitness.

Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 has not been kind so far...

2016 has not been kind so far, I completed my 12 days challenge around New Year and then tried to get going on half-marathon training. I found initially that my motivation was lacking and then in early February I did something to my back - I don't know exactly what. In the end I struggled on for a couple of weeks and then went to the doctor for an opinion, he ruled out anything other than a back problem and gave me some pain relief and advice to go away with (and the advice to return if there was no change). The result was virtually 8 weeks of nothing, no running, feeling sorry for myself, and getting heavy (not in a good way).

Along the way I had to miss my first go at the Admiral City of Newport half-marathon (Sunday 6th March) which didn't help my mood much. Eventually enough was enough and I just had to get out there and do something as I was desperate to run the Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships mass event this weekend just gone. All I had the opportunity to do was a fitness test to see whether it was even feasible to run, and then give it a go being as cautious as I could talk myself into being.

I was so desperate to run the WHMC event because of the untimely loss of two colleagues since the middle of December. Neither of them were close enough to be friends and I hadn't spoken to one for a couple of years, but the combined effect that they had on my career and the combined effect of their sudden demises left me wanting to do something.... run... run remembering them. I ran for charity in their memory but the money raising wasn't really the driver it was a more raw emotional thing (that I still haven't properly figured out).

After the event, my slowest ever, I feel a bit of the rawness has gone and more happily personally my body hasn't reacted as badly to running on no training as I'd feared. Indeed there have only been a few niggles in my back and 'just' the usual leg soreness. I might have gotten away with my stupid bullish emotional decision to run the thing.

I will try and get back on here some more as I do have other goals to chase this year, I just can't promise when. Hope your running has gone well.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The ninth day of Christmas - 12 days mini-challenge

The mini-challenge that I set myself of running on each of the 12 days of Christmas is going pretty well... observe, for I have charted it in Excel...

...yes, the total distances will not be making the likes of Mo Farah or Wilson Kipsang weep but the challenge was not distance (or speed for that matter) it is all about a consistency of getting my kit together and getting out of the door in the Winter.

12 days of Christmas is working a treat I am enjoying getting out and enjoying be forced to find different things - the same route everyday would be boring, the same shoes everyday would not be possible thanks to the rain, the same kit everyday would have been just plain stinky (!). That the distances haven't been huge have of course helped, I am simply not fit enough to have knocked out a string of 10 km plus days without injury risk. Although that said I am feeling the fitter for getting my trainers on everyday.

My New Year of running is going well and I hope will launch 2016 off of the right foot. I hope your New Year is going excellently too.

PS. today was a short one as it is junior parkrun day, so I ran with the lad and enjoyed jumping in lots of muddy puddles for 2 km.