Swimming

I am really bad at swimming.

What’s more, I really meant that sentence. It wasn’t just the set-up to a humble brag where I reveal that I’m actually quite decent at swimming.

No, I really suck.

I’ve only recently stopped getting out of breath after one length due to poor technique.

But I really want to persevere with this activity as it’s the perfect cross training to offset a lot of running: it uses different muscle groups and gives the joints a break from pavement pounding.

My gym buddy has been helping me to develop my breast stroke. The first thing he told me was to close my fingers so that the the water isn’t getting through them. That should have been obvious, but somehow it wasn’t.

I have also been watching YouTube tutorials. The trouble is that I sort out my breathing, and my legs go to crap; I sort out my legs, and my arms stop doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

I have noticed some improvement to my breast stroke though. I did five lengths the other day and wasn’t out of breath. I think this is an activity that all runners should try to do if they have any kind of access to a pool.

(For obvious reasons, like not getting arrested for being the “creepy man at the poolside taking photos”, I haven’t got a picture of my pool, so I opted for one taken on a coastal run instead.)

The Unofficial Reading Half Marathon

This is the last post I will do about the cancelled Reading Half Marathon this year.

One of the stories that came out about it was that 100 or so runners decided to do it anyway, icy conditions and all.

I didn’t do that but when I was chatting about the cancellation with some work colleagues this week, it was proposed that we run the route ourselves.

And so on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday evening, I found myself running 13.1 miles.

The Official Reading Half had fifteen thousand entries. Our event was admittedly a bit smaller with only three participants.

We followed roughly the route of the Half but couldn’t run across Reading University or through Madjeski stadium. We also didn’t benefit from road closures so we had to run alongside all the traffic on the dual carriageway.

The guy in the orange top is a lot faster than me and I will admit that I struggled. I said in my last post that I’ve been having trouble with my knees but I decided that after seven full days of rest, I was good to go again. Nevertheless it wasn’t too long before both my knees and hamstrings started causing me considerable pain. I’m afraid that I had to ask the guys to slow down a couple of times and I needed three walking breaks, especially on the big hill in Whitley. (I impacted their times considerably but they are both stand-up guys and very supportive.)

This was also hopefully my last run in my old running shoes, which I replaced last week with new ones that need breaking in over shorter distances. (The prompt was when Zombies, Run emailed to say I had completed 500k with the app. I realised that I must have done a lot of mileage in my shoes overall, and that may have been contributing to all the little pains and niggles I’ve been experiencing this year. I over-pronate and my shoes supposedly correct that. Project minimalist shoes has been shelved for now; I don’t have time to re-learn my gait before Race to the King.)

On the way over to meet them, I dropped by Sweatshop in Reading and asked if I could collect my medal for the cancelled race. I said I didn’t want a medal unless I earnt it but today I feel that I did.

The featured photo for the post shows the sun setting as we were running.

Silver Linings

Some people may have read my post yesterday and thought I was defending the race organisers of the cancelled Reading Half Marathon. To some extent, I was doing that –  because I do not think it is their fault that we were hit so badly with the snow.

However, as time goes on and they still haven’t put any new information up on their website, I am feeling less and less sympathy for them. People were able to collect race packs from the venue yesterday but again, this was only for a limited time and wasn’t communicated out very well. (I could have driven over but decided it wasn’t worth my time to collect a medal and finishers T-shirt for a race I didn’t finish. The medal needs to represent an achievement, really; otherwise it just becomes a piece of kitsch.)

It doesn’t look likely that there will be any refunds or that the race will be reorganised. I sincerely doubt that there will be free entries offered for next year either. Another, smaller, event was cancelled on the same day and it was said that it would bankrupt the organisers to issue refunds after all the money spent. (Which does make you wonder whether these events get insurance.)

However, I suspect that none of the above considerations are going to stop the participation numbers from dropping next year. It seems that most people aren’t angry at the cancellation but at the lacklustre response. The weather forecast was in place from Monday last week and there should have been time to plan out a goodwill gesture or something, rather than the sponsors having to step in (Sports Direct are offering £40 vouchers to all would-be participants).

This is a shame, because it will damage an event that I really like, on top of the disappointment of not being able to run in it yesterday.

And so on to the silver lining bit mentioned in the title…

My brother came from London to support myself and my running buddy so we played Mario Kart yesterday instead. Whilst I was talking with Running Buddy, I mentioned a specific pain I had been feeling below my left knee and he said that was a classic warning sign of runner’s knee. I said I had been resting up for my taper since last week’s ten miler on Sunday but he said I should rest some more.

So, who knows? Given that I would have been swept up in the atmosphere yesterday, I would have run hard, and maybe damaged it further. Maybe I’ve sidestepped an injury!

I am not detracting from anyone else’s disappointment or feeling that they were ripped off yesterday. I am just trying to keep myself positive by believing that some good may have come out of it for me personally.

In the meantime, this is me in my 2017 finisher’s T-shirt (notice how the sun is shining brightly now that we’re back into the working week!)

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All Revved Up With No Place To Go

I was due to leave my house forty five minutes ago. I was going to go and pick up my running buddy and drive down to the start line of the Reading Half Marathon. But as I was eating my pre-race porridge, he called me to tell me that the race was cancelled due to the snow.

No big shocker there as rumours have been circulating all week that this might happen, and this was the view from my bedroom window this morning…

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It was a bit of a late announcement though as I checked my phone first thing at 06:45 and there was nothing on the website to indicate cancellation at that stage.

I felt a weird mixture of relief (following on from the Farnborough Winter Half I knew that my feet would get soaked through in the first ten minutes and that’s how it would be for the rest of the run) and feeling a bit deflated: I had actually been getting psyched for this race, watching documentaries like the one about the sub-two marathon attempt all week.

So, like any good millennial, I took to social media to see what others were saying: it was the usual mix of unnecessary abuse, whingeing and general hilarity. There were also some genuine and heartfelt comments.

Corey0695 deserves to go viral for his video showing his reaction to the race cancellation. He’s in the hotel room by the dressing table, and he basically does a backwards flip back into the bed!

I was also amused by all the people talking about having a non-alocoholic St Patrick’s day for nothing.

As for the rest, it’s a sad state of affairs when you have two strangers arguing about the cancellation decision and descending into hurling abuse at each other – not the best use of this miraculous technological network we have invented to bring humanity together and share knowledge is it?

(“You’re a dickhead” “No, you’re a dickhead.” “NO, YOU’RE A DICKHEAD” etc. etc. etc. – yawn!)

A lot of people also want to blame the organisers for the late decision. Yes, I was just about to head out of the door when my Running Buddy rang me to tell me about the cancellation but I can understand that this is a drastic action to take (they have closed half of Reading’s roads and have set up a mini “race village” – a lot goes into this event.) It is therefore also understandable that they wanted to be sure.

I would be gutted if I was already on a train from another city or had paid to stay in a hotel, but why are people so eager to assign blame? Ultimately, it was the weather which has let us down, and until the New World Order develops a machine that can manipulate the weather, that’s not really anyone’s fault is it? (Hopefully I don’t need to clarify the less-than-serious tone of that last sentence.)

 

 

Three more things I like

Marathon Talk

This is a podcast that I sometimes listen to on Spotify. It has a very laid-back feel, and there is a gentle banter between the two main presenters.

They have had some really intelligent interviews recently, especially the one with Murray, talking about nutrition misconceptions. It is really refreshing to hear a view like his which promotes normal, natural eating rather than crazy crash diets.

They have also gone on some epic rants in recent episodes. There was one about the media coverage of women in sport (or the lack thereof) last week.

The format of the podcast is really long, and it is possible to dip in and out, which makes it ideal to have on in the background whilst cooking.

Toe Socks

A recent addition to my running gear, these are socks that separate out each toe, the idea being to stop them from rubbing together on long distances, and therefore to reduce blisters.

I though they would feel weird but I quickly stopped noticing and they genuinely do help.

Touch-screen gloves

I bought some running gloves lately because my hands get very dry in the winter; it’s so bad that the skin cracks open and I get lots of tiny cuts on my knuckles, and I almost never remember to apply hand cream.

So I bought this pair of gloves but didn’t really know what the little gel bits on them were for, until someone at work pointed out that they enable you to still use a smart phone with them on.

And they actually work – no more glove-goes-on, glove-goes-off when unlocking my phone. (Sometimes it’s the small things that make me happy!)

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Ultra Training

I have been trying to follow the official training plan for Race to the King, but as always with training plans, I haven’t followed it as assiduously as I could have done. This is for a mixture of different reasons: fear of injury in the early weeks, as I was really struggling with tight calves, dodgy knees and ankles; trying to factor in training for the Three Peaks Challenge as well; the roads being far too slippery over the Arctic blast that we’ve been experiencing in the UK for the last five days or so; and laziness. (That last one is always there to some degree, and can strike at any time!)

This week called for two three milers and one six miler – quite a light week as the plan goes, but even so, I have failed to include that second three miler.

Things started well, with me determined not to let the snow get in my way, and I put in a run on Tuesday evening, braving the cold and taking care not to fall on the icy fields.

I was feeling pleased with myself – despite the weather, I was on fire!

Then I was allowed to work from home for two days as it snowed even more. Trains became delayed for hours on end and there were hardly any cars on the road. British people get very excited with the kind of weather that is commonplace in other parts of the world, and it was the main item heading up the news everyday. We even invented a dramatic name for it: The Beast from the East

Even though Berkshire was by no means the worst hit, we still saw our own little piece of the action. And I got into the general holiday spirit a lot of people seem to have been embracing this week. The word I’ve heard most from people recently is “hibernation”.

Basically, I got lazy. Yes, it had become unsafe to run outside, but if I really wanted to put the session in, I could have walked slowly to the gym and ran on the treadmill in the warmth.

So all in all, a mediocre start for Block One of the training plan, with three sessions missed and some mileages shortened. Two runs have also been replaced with walks. Does anyone know if it’s more beneficial to do a ten or fourteen mile walk than it is to do a seven mile run?

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I let my fiance’s niece draw a heart and write “love” in the space at the bottom – that wasn’t me!

 

 

Minimalist Shoes – short update

Another day in the gym with my minimalist shoes forced me to take it easy on the treadmill. For a minute or two, I almost forgot I was wearing them and started running as normal.

That’s not good – I’ve been advised time and time again not to do that, but to build it up slowly.

I felt rushed, due to the schedules of other people but as I plan to come here more often, I suppose I should let this one go.

I just don’t like that dissatisfied feeling you get when you leave feeling as if you could have done more.

Apart from some easy treadmill power walking/jogging, I went through some floor work and then told my fiance I would race her to 1k on the stationary bike, as when I saw her she couldn’t have been pushing the pedals round more slowly!

Next day update: I’m glad I stopped when I did. My legs were strangely aching today. I’ve been warned that this happens when getting used to minimalist shoes as well.

I went for an evening run in my “normal” shoes today.