Farnham Runners 5k and 10k

Saturday 23rd September:

My life lately has been both busy and stressful, with most of my stress coming from being on the wrong end of the UK housing rental market (the tenant’s end). But the less said about that, the better.

The point is that I haven’t been very well organised and have been putting off signing up for today’s Farnham Runner’s 10k all week.

So when a slightly pissed-up me still thought it would be okay to enter online at 23:30 last night (well, it was before midnight) I was shocked to see that entries had closed.

And so it was that I came to be sat here eating a slightly over-priced Cornish pasty and listening to a toddler screaming “I want cake” at her remarkably patient mother whilst the first 5k finishers just came in, all with times of less than twenty minutes.

Not that it’s an unpleasant place to be sipping a coffee. The races are held in the Alice Holt forest, three miles outside of Farnham. The course is all undulating trail ground.

There’s a 5k, 10k and a 1.5k fun run for kids. (If you do bring kids, depending on their ages, there’s a Go Ape facility at the same location.)

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I’m here to support my Running Buddy in the 10k and my lil’ sis’, who is running the 5k. (Oh yeah, and I should probably mention that she’s also 29 weeks pregnant.)

In fact, she should be coming in now so I’ll go and cheer her on.

Lil’ Sis’ came in last on the 5k event, with a marshal pacing her and offering encouragement.

Half: How was the race?

Lil’ Sis’: I beat my expected time from training runs. I ran the first kilometre but the marshal said that even my walking speed was fast. She kept telling me to take it easy and was surprised when I said I’m signed up to at least one more race before my due date in early December.

To be honest, I’m just glad that RB didn’t beat my time, since he was running twice as far as me!

Half: Did you consult with your GP, or do any research online, before deciding to enter races during your pregnancy? I know how seriously you take it as you have quit alcohol until the baby is born.

Lil’ Sis’: Yeah, I spoke to my midwife early on, once my morning sickness had stopped, and she said that since I had been a regular runner before, it should be okay if I take it easy. I then signed up to a 5k in Clapham Common, which was part of the Chase the Sun series.

I would also say to anyone who is considering this, it’s sometimes okay to walk part of the race, and the marshal today was really encouraging.

Half: Have you considered getting a running buggy?

Lil’ Sis’: Yes, that would be awesome and would help me to lose weight again quickly after labour, but they seem to start at £250!

Half: Fair point, I just think it’s cool when a parent is managing to supervise their child and get a run in at the same time. I think we can both agree that they’re over-priced.

(We then proceeded to search this on our phones and make fun of an advert in which a guy is stood on top of some mountain with a buggy, as if he would have taken his kid on the three peaks challenge or something. Advertising can really be absurd at times – oh shit, I’ve done it again – there goes another future affiliated marketing opportunity for the blog!)

As for my Running Buddy, he said early on that if I’m posting about the day, I should make a recommendation that the organisers have some scissors around to cut the ends off the tie-cables that go with the timing chips…

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Fortunately no-one tripped over, and Running Buddy has said that, other than that, this race was another win for the Farnham Runners!

(In case you haven’t worked this out, all names given have been cleverly devised pseudonyms, not real names. Lil’ Sis’ really is my lil’ sis’ though.)

 

 

The Farnham Pilgrim

Whilst I was thinking about possibly signing up for a 10k, maybe when the wind blows in the right direction, my Running Buddy has completed another marathon.

Despite my lack of support on the day, he has kindly agreed to answer my questions about the event:

 

I know you have fond memories of this event. Can you tell me a bit about why that is and whether it lived up to your expectations second time around?

I have fond memories of the event as it was my first marathon, and it certainly lived up to my expectations this time around. One of the reasons I love this event (apart from the fact that it is well run – thanks organisers and volunteers) is that the course is difficult, and not suited to PBs. This means that the people running it are more relaxed and they’re running for fun, which makes it a great atmosphere. The take-themselves-too-seriously crowd (who are, of course, more important than anyone else there) don’t show up¹.

What was your time, and were you happy with it?

I was aiming for 04:45 but came in at 04:52, which I was happy with. I had the pace perfect for 04:45 but ran out of steam at 22 miles. So I’m happy with the performance but there’s room for improvement.

What is it about marathons that appeals to you so much? Are you still thinking to join the 100 club?

The marathon distance appeals to me because it is difficult. If it goes badly on the day, or you don’t prep correctly, you won’t get around the course. Even when a marathon is going well, it is difficult.

I do hope to join the marathon 100 club but I still have a long way to go. I think it’s a lifetime goal, and could be a great achievement.

How was your recovery? Do you have any advice to anyone new to long distances?

The recovery was good. I haven’t run for a week. My standard recovery process is two pints in a hot bath watching Netflix. (I’m not sure that this would be recommended by the pros.) The more events you enter, the quicker the recovery becomes. But from what I have read, the most important thing is take in calories within twenty minutes of finishing, and then to eat a full meal within two hours.

 

¹I don’t think my Running Buddy is getting at first finishers here, or anyone who races for a time. We are astonished by the times some runners are able to achieve, and we know that there’s incredible dedication and discipline involved!

It’s just that at this point we’ve both seen an awful lot of arrogant arse-hats, who look down on anyone attempting the event on an amateur level, as if they don’t deserve to be there.

The thing is, that without all the middle-of-the-pack and back-of-the-pack runners paying their race fees, there wouldn’t be an event at all – Half

 

Race Day Motivation

Recently I said in a post that I needed to sign up to an event in order to re-focus my training. It makes you feel that you are working towards something, and a little bit of competition goes a long way, even if it’s only competition against yourself.

Finally, weeks later, I have taken my own advice. I have signed up for the Rutherford Appleton 10k. This is a race that I have done before; in fact, it was last year, and it holds a special place in my memory because it was one of the first results I felt genuinely proud of. I came in at 57 minutes, which remains my 10k PB. It was whilst I was still on a high after this race that I signed up for the Reading Half Marathon, and that led me on to spend most of 2017 training for long distance runs.

This will also be the first time that I have re-visited a race, so the pressure will be on to do it quicker than last year. What follows is my race report from last year’s event.

Rutherford Appleton 5k and 10k

This race started really badly for me when I realised that the organisers were actually serious about enforcing the no headphones rule. Normally, they all say “no headphones” but everyone wears them anyway and the marshals don’t bat an eyelid. But this time around there was a pre-race announcement specifically to tell competitors that anyone wearing headphones will be disqualified.

At the time I was a much less confident runner and I didn’t know if I would be able to cope for such a long distance without music.

So I sulked for the twenty or so minutes before the race started, moaning to anyone that would listen:

“We’re not even crossing many roads. It’s a science park on the weekend. It’s not even busy. What a stupid rule!”

Then eventually the race started, and I shuffled off, somewhere at the back of the pack, still sulking.

The course for this event meanders through several different buildings that all look cool and science-y.

According to the website:

this unique race follows a route through Harwell Oxford Science and Innovation Campus on roads usually out of bounds to the public and offers a close-up view of well-known landmarks such as the Diamond sychrotron radiation facility.

It was this course that started to win me around. I have always been drawn to places that have unusual architecture, or stark industrial beauty. And, possibly because these are normally off-limits roads, it was so quiet. Towards the end of the first loop (it’s one loop for the 5k, two for the 10k, although they give you the same medal for both), I started to fall into this rhythm that was steady and almost meditative, following the sound of my own breathing, and finding it somehow comforting. I’m sure that it was maintaining a steady pace all the way around that carried me to my PB that day as well, as previously my style had been to get over-excited, sprint off like a lunatic, and then burn-out and be forced to slow it down for a bit. And then repeat.

I don’t think it’s a style that many running coaches recommend. And it was probably the result of an erratic playlist, with lots of different tempo songs jammed together.

I even ended up feeling thankful for having been forced to experience running a different way, without music being such a heavy distraction.

Five of us ran that day, and of the five, I think myself and two others enjoyed the course, one was indifferent, and one really hated it. So I know it’s not for everybody, and it is pavement pounding all the way around – definitely not for you if your thing is trail running. I also know that not everyone will share my enthusiasm for the mostly concrete surroundings.

I just liked the retro-futuristic aesthetic, a setting that (ironically) would have been perfectly complemented by a Zombies, Run! narrative playing in my ears.

 

It’s time to stop procrastinating 

 

Dear Reader

Today’s post is a guest one from a blogger called Sage, who writes her posts in the form of a letter to herself.

It a style that works so well that I shamelessly sought permission to steal it! You can read my efforts on her site, along with a lot of other great posts from Sage herself.

“Good artists copy; great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso 

Yours faithfully

Half 

Hello!

My name is Sage and I’m a procrastinator. And if you are reading this post, the chances are you are one too.

When I was in college, I used to procrastinate about studying. Nowadays, I procrastinate about tidying and exercising.

The question is why. Why do we put off things that are important until the last possible moment?

Why, instead of taking the bull by the horns and just doing it, do we postpone it for as long as possible, knowing that all this time we will be stressed and worrying about it?

Why not just do it? Why not just get it over with?

One of my best friends, who is much more active than me, came up with the idea of exercising together and we agreed to go jogging. We were very enthusiastic about it and I bought some summer gear.

Summer has come and gone and we went running twice. Why just twice? Because according to us, some days were too hot, some too cold. Some days we were out of town and some days we couldn’t be bothered.

These are just excuses. What I’m getting at is when we don’t want to do something, we will find every excuse not to do it. But why don’t we do it? Because it’s hard. Because it requires effort. Because it takes us out of our comfort zone. Sure, we have a goal in mind. We want good grades or to get into shape. But we will start tomorrow. Today we are just too tired, and the TV series we started watching is just too good.

The truth is we run from the things we don’t like. We run from the things we consider hard to do.

So what happens to our goals, to our dreams, if we are too unmotivated to work for them?

This is what worries me.

This last week I was away on vacation and as I lay by the poolside, half asleep and reflecting on the meaning of life, I made myself a promise: no more procrastination. In order for my dreams to be accomplished, I just need to get on with things. In Nelson Mandela’s words, “It always seems impossible, until it is done.”

My batteries are charged.

Wish me luck!

Treadmill Running

Today’s gym session can be summarised in the picture above: I just stayed on the treadmill the whole time.

I warmed up first, walking at speed for one kilometre, and then I restarted the machine so that I could get an accurate time for a 10k distance.

I have said it before: I don’t like running on treadmills. Outside running is my preferred activity. For some reason, I also have this notion in my head that I’m more injury prone on a treadmill – I don’t know why. But it also just feels like I’m not getting the value out of my gym membership if I just do something I could have done more enjoyably outside. (All this is just so I can be a reliable gym buddy without giving up on my running.)

This isn’t the first time I’ve considered this, and I actually read an article from Runner’s World before that states the following:

Watch your step. While the cushioned surface helps prevent injuries, some people report aches and pains after putting extra time on the ’mill. Be sure to run at a pace you can comfortably sustain. As you tire, lower your speed or the incline.¹

That bit about aches and pains pretty much sums me up today. Admittedly they are only niggles, but I am very, very paranoid about injuries after hearing a horror story an ex-runner from work told me about screwing up their knees.

The one thing that I did enjoy though, was using the display to regulate my run. For instance, that part to the right that tells you your speed in km per hour is ideal for trying to time a 10k or 5k. As I don’t own a Garmin or a Fitbit, this helps me get a feel for the kind of pace I need to maintain to achieve my goals in events.

However, it took me way too long to work out what speed I needed to go at to run 10k in an hour. I was doing all these calculations in my head before I realised that I just needed to go at…

…10km/hour!!

(Oh well, I’ve never professed to be intelligent in any of my posts. If you assumed that, then you have assumed wrong!)

 

¹ https://www.runnersworld.com/start-running/running-and-walking-on-the-treadmill

 

 

Monday Workout Tip

Everything was going so well.

I had recovered a really bad day, feeling ridiculously tired at work but trying to concentrate anyway, trying to make sense out of all the usual corporate nonsense, trying to nail down some nebulous middle-management concept and turn it into a “process map”.

A bad day.

But I went to the gym and put in a decent workout – lots of sweat, lots of effort, lots of good tunes!

Awesome.

Everything was going so well.

And then I went to take a shower…. 😣

Cue creepy old man, stark bollock naked, blocking the way, and vigorously drying off his crown jewels.

There’s just no need for that.

I thought when I stepped forward, he would have the courtesy to move his naked form to one side, but apparently I thought wrong. So I moved a bit closer. Still nothing.

Closer.

Grudgingly, he gave me just enough room to get by.

Why does every gym have one, some strange old guy who likes to strip down and parade himself about? Do women’s changing rooms have this problem? Is it a universal old thing or just an old man thing? Do you get to a certain age and decide: “All these years I’ve wasted learning etiquette and social norms, what was I thinking? I’ve wasted my life; I should have been devising situations that allow me to get my ding-dong out and swing it around in front of as many people as possible.”

Is it a game of charades where the answer is “Free Willy”?

Is it some sort of strange territorial thing?

I don’t understand. I really don’t.

So here’s the Half-Arsed Runner’s #1 Monday workout tip: PUT IT AWAY.

 
(Now, how should I illustrate this post? What kind of picture would be relevant here?

Oh.

On second thoughts, I think I’ll just go with a nice picture of a boat on the riverside that I took on a happier day.)

The week in review

So, it looks as if I’m getting back on my exercise at a leisurely pace, with two shorter runs last week and two gym sessions this week.

I’m not crazy about gyms in general to be honest.

They always seem to be a massive faff! Even the nice ones have over-crowded changing rooms where I am inevitably trying to maneuver my little pile of stuff around someone else’s little pile of stuff.

Apparently gyms are really unhygienic places too; although I diligently wipe down my cardio machines after I SWEAT LIKE A ______ (insert your favourite simile here) all over them, I have no doubt that others do not!

The membership is expensive and feels like a waste of money every time I elect to do an outside run instead. It’s sickening to think of how much cool running gear I could have bought with the total money I have spent on gym membership this year.

Then there’s the posers, the weirdos, the grunters and the machine hoggers!

So it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship.

My gym buddy is one of the main reasons I have not quit. He’s not into running so will always be on my case to get down to the gym, and he’s in the same team as me at work so there’s no getting away from him.

Also, he’s into weights, which in turn persuades me to do a moderate amount of lifting. (I have alluded to some of the increased benefit to be had from adding resistance training to a routine here, and may post more on this topic in the future.)

He’s also into swimming, something I am terrible at, and helps me correct my form. (Swimming provides excellent cross-training for running.)

On top of that, as the winter draws in, it will be increasingly nice to do work-outs under a roof, even though OUTSIDE RUNNING BEATS TREADMILL RUNNING HANDS DOWN EVERY TIME. (I hope you’re reading this Mr Gym Buddy – get yourself some running shoes and we’ll go on a training run in the real world!)

So, what is my conclusion to this incoherent rant disguised as a legitimate post?

Well, I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed my work-outs this week, enjoyed using equipment I don’t have at home (not enough money, not enough space), and enjoyed mixing it up.

But I may well go for a cheeky 10k in the park today.

 

(On the same topic as this post, I came across one of the best gym vs non-gym articles I have seen right here on WordPress yesterday. You can view it here. The site is called Dirty Wet Dog, boats and sailing.)

Two more things I like

Addicted to Protein

(BBC iPlayer, Youtube)

Protein is an essential part of any diet, and is especially helpful in building and repairing muscles.

But how much should we be taking?

This half hour documentary takes a closer look at whether the current emphasis (or overemphasis) on protein is such a good idea.

One of the scare stories I have heard before is the increased risk of kidney stones, and that is examined in more detail in the programme.

However, other parts of the documentary got me thinking about the difficulty of navigating the world of good and bad nutrition advice that’s now available.

Mostly aimed at people taking a lot of protein supplements, one of the things that surprised me was the way in which some gym-goers seem to be taking these things willy-nilly, without any plan in mind.

I was also surprised that a guy who wanted to bulk up before his wedding found that he gained more weight with a carefully controlled diet than he did on supplements.  (He did have to eat five meals a day though.) There is a further revelation from this guy later on, and it had me shouting at the telly, but you’ll have to watch it to find out about that one.

The Joe Rogan Experience

Joe Rogan is a stand-up comedian and ex multi-discipline fighter. One of the reasons I like his podcast is that he has interesting guests on and then lets them speak for up to three hours straight. Often the conversational detours are some of the best parts.

He often talks about exercise and nutrition, and has a lot of guests on who are experts on various aspects of these topics. Dr Rhonda Patrick is a notable example.

However, if you don’t have three hours to spare, and need some quick motivation to get active, you may want to type something along the lines of “Joe Rogan workout inspiration” into Youtube and you should be able to find a shorter video of him enthusing about exercise.

(You can find the first two “things I like” posts here, and here.)

Something to consider when it comes to weight loss

I used to think that weight loss/gain was a simple matter of calories in vs calories out, but the more I read, the more I get the impression that it’s not quite as simple as that.

Here is an idea that might throw a spanner in the works…

EPOC

This stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (also known as afterburn or oxygen deficit) and can cause a continued calorie burn even after the exercise session has finished. It is basically continued energy use, needed to restore the body to its normal state.

There is some debate about the effects of this phenomenon but there seems to be a consensus that you get more afterburn from high intensity activities (this is the rowing machine for me) or resistance training (another name for lifting weights, although cranking the actual resistance all the way up on the elliptical machine/cross trainer should do it).

Admittedly, the science behind nutrition and exercise should be taken with a pinch of salt (no pun intended) at all times. We have seen complete u-turns in the wisdom over the years, perhaps most notably on sugar vs fat. But I try to respond to this by pursuing a variety of different approaches, just in case. (I’m pretty much hedging my bets.)

And to use another seasoning metaphor, variety is the spice of life, so if you are the type who likes to maintain steady-state cardio for an hour, why not mix it up with something a bit more intense?

If nothing else, rocking out to your favourite upbeat tune and running, cycling or rowing as fast as you possibly can for a minute or two at a time is a lot of fun, as is the sense of satisfaction and power that comes from lifting heavy objects whilst blasting a good hip-hop track.

More thoughts about motivation

In my last post, I commented on the fickle nature of motivation, and how it’s not a particularly reliable tool for getting things done.

Habit, on the other hand, produces solid results (if you make it a habit to work out every other day and you stick to the habit, you will notice changes – it’s as simple as that). Habit does not care how you are feeling that day, or whether you happened to have seen an inspirational video or meme that morning. Habit just does. This becomes especially true once you can get yourself into the position of operating on autopilot. I don’t really need to motivate myself to go to work anymore; it’s just something I’m in the habit of doing.

But how do you get to that point?

One way is to hold yourself accountable publicly. But I don’t really like to post about each and every run to my friends on Facebook. This stuff is interesting to me, and other friends who run, but too many gym posts or running posts will probably get me promptly deleted from many people’s news feeds. (I feel differently about this blog because it is quite clearly labelled as a running blog.)

So I’m going to borrow the greatest motivator I have at work: a deadline. My to-do list at work is often more than I can handle, and I never really get to the end of the list. The only way something usually gets done is by moving to the top of the list, and the way something moves up the list is by becoming urgent.

(It looks as if I’ve never heard of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, as it seems I’m constantly responding to the urgent instead of the important.)

If only there was a way to apply the deadline principle to running…

…it must be time to sign up for an event.

A 10k should do it for now, but the potential shame of returning a time significantly worse than my PB will tip the balance in my favour: I’ll be less likely to want to skip a workout if I know I have a race coming up.

It will give my running programme a sense of urgency again!