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.

Running in the Dark

Last night was a proper run in the dark – pitch-black, no streetlights, darkness. I have mentioned my dislike of running with a head torch before as I fear it makes me look like a bit of a fool, but on Wednesday night, along the Thames Path, it was an absolute necessity.

Slowly but surely, as I take on bigger challenges, vanity gives way to practicality.

I went with an ultra-runner from my workplace.

He recently dropped out of a race at mile 27. We had a discussion about it that morning and we agreed that this is an inevitable consequence of setting yourself proper challenges. To take something on that is actually hard, where there’s a very real chance that you might not actually finish, is great and motivational, but the flip side of that is that you sometimes fail.

I would rather push myself and fail several times in a year than stay in my comfort zone for the rest of my life.

Anyway, needless to say, he is much fitter than me, and so he pushed me to actually train properly. I quite often take a cheeky little break on training runs, slowing down to a really slow jog for a bit, or maybe even a walk.

But there was none of that nonsense with RB3 (running buddy number 3!) He had me doing 8.5/9 minute miles for six miles straight, and told me that I really need to pay more attention to my stats. (I still don’t have a Fitbit or equivalent.)

I did manage to keep up though!

So it seems I probably should be training a bit harder anyway. I thought my legs would hurt the next day but they didn’t. After taking it easy from November onwards, I think I am getting back into the swing of things.

Chilled Synth Running List

This is a response to Eve Emilie’s comment on my post Mid-week Run:

“Wishing you all the best in overcoming these challenges! I would love to find out what songs you enjoying running along to- it would be an interesting blog post to write listing your favorite ones!”

But before I begin, I would encourage you to visit her blog where she gives a thoughtful list of songs that have inspired her in 2017.

I posted about my Zombies, Run! inspired playlist before.

This is a very different playlist, designed on a whim for a chilled evening run:

  • Running Up That Hill – I used to think Kate Bush was a bit of a one-hit-wonder who only did Wuthering Heights in the late 70s, but my brother has been telling me that she’s worth listening to for years; it turns out she’s got an incredible back catalogue and a bit of a cult following as an experimental artist. I particularly enjoyed her latest album, Fifty Words for Snow. It has one or two overly pretentious moments in my opinion but it’s worth it for the overall beauty of her jazzy piano and vocals. Running Up That Hill is right up my street because it is a classic laid-back 80s synthesizer track from Kate’s Hounds of Love album, with a great vocal and unusual lyrics.
  • All In One Night – this isn’t really synth heavy or anything but the general mood of this song just seems to fit the playlist. It’s from the latest album by the Stereophonics. (Quick Stereophonics story: I saw them at the Isle of White festival 2004, which was also one of David Bowie’s last ever concerts, and they were fantastic. The only trouble with that festival was that the music stopped after 11pm, so we made a camp fire and I kept getting passed a guitar, so one of the guys we were camping with gave me what he said was Kelly Jones’ plectrum at the end of the weekend for “entertaining us all festival long”.)
  • Push The Sky Away – this is the final track on the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album of the same name. It builds slowly and creates a lot of atmosphere: “And if your friends think that you should do it different, and if they think that you should do it the same, you’ve gotta just keep on pushing, and keep on pushing and push the sky away.” This is definitely not a song that will get your heart rate up, but I like it.
  • The City – just in case that last song put me to sleep, mid-run, this really changes up the pace. My favourite album by Patrick Wolf remains Wind In The Wires, but this song from Lupercalia is just so joyfully exuberant.
  • Heartbeats – this is the original version by The Knife. The Jose Gonzalez cover is truly beautiful but this is a great track in its own right.
  • Only This Moment – quite a cheesy, poppy song in many ways, this is by the band Royksopp and does the rounds on coffee shop sound systems but I like it. (Then again, I am someone who still digs Faithless in 2018!)

That’s it – the playlist is a work in progress. Suggestions to expand the selection are more than welcome!

 

Mid-week run

Today’s session was another chilled out run with RB2 (running buddy number 2) and it was very welcome since I skipped the gym yesterday after a tiring day at work. (RB1 is still around and is doing the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon with me.) 

I say it was chilled because my music, which normally involves an incredibly loud hour-long onslaught on my eardrums, was replaced with an (at times breathless) conversation.

We kept up a moderate pace over 4.6km, and ran up a gentle hill twice, over two loops. 

It was pitch black and we probably needed head torches in places where the street lighting wasn’t quite enough to show up the roots growing through the pavement, but I am very self-conscious about looking like a fool. On the bright side though (pun intended) we got to see a cool skyline at the top of the hill. 

Getting home, I did a few stretches and some foam rolling, something which is thankfully becoming a habit. But I also did some squats and push-ups; I’m trying to do these after every run so that it becomes routine. I need to get more into strength training and it has to start somewhere. 

Hopefully I will get to the gym tomorrow with GB (gym buddy – I think working for a large corporation has twisted my tiny brain and sent me acronym crazy). 

Today’s run/upcoming 2018 events

In order to understand my approach to running, and some of the decisions I make around it, there’s something you need to know about me: I am an idiot.

To make matters worse, I have a running buddy who is also an idiot.

Now we’ve cleared up that little piece of exposition, we can continue with today’s post…

…I haven’t run any distance longer than 6k since the end of October. On top of that, the outings on those 6k days could be better described as more of a gentle walk-jog than a run; there is no doubt that my fitness and endurance have dropped.

Fast forward to Christmas and my running buddy asked for race entry to the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon, which takes place on 21st January. I asked him whether he was ready for a half marathon (because I knew he was in a similar position to me with training), and he replied: “I’ll wing it!”

Cool, I thought, I didn’t realise “winging it” was a legitimate half marathon strategy. I’ll do that too! So I promptly signed up as well.

The week before Christmas I decided that if I started picking up the distance gradually, I could maybe pull it off with five weeks of practice runs and a one week taper to ease off. But, as anyone who’s ever tried to sustain any kind of fitness program for any length of time knows, life often gets in the way unexpectedly.

And that’s exactly what happened to me. I promptly got sick with a virus the week before Christmas. It only really lasted a few days (Monday through to Wednesday) but hung around for days afterwards. I braved a run on Sunday (Christmas Eve) and found that I was very out of breath, struggling through a 5k.

I did another small run on Boxing Day but didn’t bother again until New Year’s Eve because I was partaking in seasonal festivities. So essentially, two weeks were lost.

I have been picking up the smaller distances again this last week, and pushed for a 7k yesterday but today I needed to get a long run in.

The goal was 12k.

I set out before breakfast as my motivation was very low and I didn’t want to delay for anything as I was afraid I would give up and not bother at the slightest excuse.

As it’s a Sunday, “before breakfast” meant 9am – let’s not get too over excited!

To my great surprise, considering how reluctant I was to get out the door, it was quite enjoyable! I was slow (1hr20), and felt tired by the end, but I think both of those things are to be expected with no fuel in the tank.

I set out with gentle music, a playlist I started putting together last night called “chilled synth running” (very eighties influenced and very different from my Zombies, Run! playlist).

There was a lot of sun for a winter’s day as well. (The featured image at the top of the post is a photo I took by the river.) The paths were muddy and trying to navigate some of the flooded parts probably slowed my time down even further, but all I was really after today was the distance because I currently have no confidence in my ability to complete 21k in two week’s time.

I also kept stopping to take photos.

Someone fly-tipped a bunch of pallets and a sofa, and I thought that would make a cool shot as well:

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I should have the foundation to run 18k next weekend now. The trouble is, this is where it starts to get complicated: I am due to climb a mountain in Wales next Sunday as part of the training for the Three Peaks Challenge in May, so I will have to get my long run in on Friday somehow; I don’t want to be having two challenging days back to back if I can help it.

But this is how it’s going to be for the next few months – trying to balance two different sets of training, so I may as well get used to it!

 

 

 

 

 

Minimalist Shoes – first outing

Two posts back, I spoke about my new minimalist running shoes. That was in early December.

Then work got busy, Christmas and New Year’s happened, and I sunk back into the ease of existing routines, which means using my old, comfortable, shoes.

My first run of this year caked my normal shoes in mud, however, and I needed to pack something respectable for the gym in a hurry, so I saw it as an opportunity to grab the “barefoot” trainers.

I warmed up on the cross trainer (elliptical machine) where I thought my footwear wouldn’t make a difference because I wasn’t actually striking the ground. (Ten minutes, burning just over a hundred calories, according to the display.)

And then I moved to the treadmill.

Article after article has warned me about the perils of trying to do too much, too soon, so I kept it to strictly ten minutes. But I certainly noticed a difference in that short time. You really do feel every heel strike more keenly, and long dormant muscle groups really do start to wake up as you adjust. I did a few minutes at a fast walking pace, then some more at a gentle jog, then back to power walking.

After ten minutes, I stuck to my commitment to take it easy and switched to the bike.

I think it might be too early to say what effect this will have on my training but so far so good, even if it does feel strange to jog in them.

Successes in 2017

I said I would post more often, and not leave it another several weeks again.  But then it was all work-stress, preparation for Christmas, getting sick, etc. etc.

I haven’t even run in my new minimalist shoes. (I know!) When you’re busy, it’s just easier to stick with what you know, I suppose, and what I know is shuffling along in the same old shoes, with the same old gait.

At least it’s better than not running at all though.

One thing I did do is pick all my medals up from a pile on the floor (where they had been languishing) and start to show them the respect they deserve by displaying them properly. The medals you see in the photo represent competitive races I’ve completed, and in one case, a race I dropped out of.

Training often encourages a tendency to always be looking forward to the next thing, which is good, and at the moment would be the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon for me.

But sometimes it’s  good to take the time to celebrate previous achievements.

This rack of medals represents how far my running has come in 2017, since I began training for the Reading Half Marathon, as most of the medals were acquired this year.

Left to right, we have:

  • Dash in the Dark – this was a really well organised, 10k, around the woods, with a lot of neon bling on display from the competitors and the organisers. (I did sport a few glow sticks myself). I really enjoyed this event and there was something really special about following the trail of glow sticks around a moonlit woods. This medal was particularly cool because it lets you know that you entered the event during its very first year. (Long may it continue…)
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(Yes, that is tinsel around the medal rack.)
  • The Rutherford Appleton 10k (last year’s event)
  • The Hurt (2015 event)
  • The Henley 10k (2015 event – this was held on the same day in October as the Rutherford 10k, which I entered instead in 2016 and 2017)
  • Windsor 15k (the red and white medal) – this was three loops of Dorney Lake, a man-made lake, built for rowing. It wasn’t particularly scenic but I quite like events that do circuits because it helps me to pace myself effectively. It was also an unusual distance and slotted in quite nicely as an intermediate step before the Reading Half. The 15k distance wasn’t the only event being held on the day, although all of the distances focused on doing loops around the lake (you guessed it – each loop itself was roughly 5k)
  • The Brixton 10k – this was a great event – two loops around the park in London. Lil’ sis’ and I signed up at the last minute so that we could visit our brother in Herne Hill for the weekend without sacrificing a weekend training run. I have to admit, it’s one of the most colourful medals I’ve been awarded though.

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