More Things I Like

Continuing in the same vein as my other “things I like” posts, here are some things that I have liked recently…

The Joe Rogan Experience #1027

Joe Rogan interviews Courtney Dauwalter, who won a 238 mile race by a considerable distance, and what’s more, she seems to have done it with more than a bit of the half arsed spirit about her, shunning diet plans and not really being able to give much explanation of how she managed it. Joe jokes throughout that her diet plan appears to be beer and nachos.

But the flip side is that she has some serious, serious grit. Think of the baddest bad-arse you know and then add some extra bad-arse on top of that. I won’t go into detail as it would ruin some of the surprises in the podcast but Joe pretty much nails it in his description of her as “savage”.

 

Breaking2

This is a National Geographic documentary that has made it onto YouTube. It covers the attempt made by Nike last year to see whether it was humanly possible to run in a marathon in less than two hours.

Taking the concept of marginal gains to a whole other level, we see the efforts of three of the greatest marathon runners in the world. Especially impressive is Kenyan runner, Eliud Kipchoge, who did manage a time of two hours and twenty five seconds. He trains well, he eats well, and he has good form. But the thing that got me was his complete air of stoicism as he runs. This was a timely reminder to someone like myself (who isn’t always as positive as I could be on the longer runs) that mindset is incredibly important in big events.

 

Worst Training Run Ever

We knew and accepted that we had to prepare for a marathon. We knew we had to get a long distance run in, and we have enjoyed the canal path that runs from Newbury to Reading before.

On this occasion, it was just unfortunate that it happened to rain on us THE ENTIRE TIME.

 

Here’s what it looked like:

If this looks grim to you, it’s because it was.

It was absolutely horrible.

We were even given every chance to bail as Lil’ Sis’ dropped us off at Newbury station and, seeing the downpour that was going on, offered to pick us up at any point along the route.

But we carried on…

…and on…

…and on…

…for the entire twenty one miles. The paths were so muddy we were forced to walk several sections, simply for our own safety. It was sometimes a case of putting your foot down and watching it slide away from under you.

It ended up taking us four hours and twenty minutes. We were also soaked to the skin and pretty cold by the time we finished.

Was all this just to get extra man points, extra grit, extra hardcore runner credentials?

Here’s the point where the post is supposed to take a turn and I tell you about some profound realisation that came to me whilst I was out in the elements. I then end on an inspirational quotation. But unfortunately that didn’t happen. We got the mileage done and considered ourselves lucky not to have come down with colds afterwards.

Don’t get me wrong, a run like this does help your training and does show you, once again, that you can always do more than you think you can. It builds character, but sometimes character building is a slow burn; it happens without any fireworks, and in a very low key way. It plays itself out against the grey, rain-drenched backdrop of the Newbury canal path.

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The Magna Carta Marathon

This was the first Magna Carta Marathon and we knew from early on that this was going to be a small scale event as we collected our race numbers, which were in the single digits.

By “we”, I mean me and my Running Buddy, to whom I was a bit of a let-down by wanting to walk parts of the course, having only prepared with a single twenty one mile run, and prior to that not running any distance farther than a half marathon this year.

This was taking half-arsing it to another level!

To be fair, this wasn’t a deliberate refusal to train, but I keep getting issues with my knees, hamstrings, ankles – basically every part of my legs – whenever I try to increase my mileage. This is something that has been gradually getting better since replacing my trainers, which I’m guessing were long overdue to be changed.

On top of my poor preparation for the race, I had a mini-meltdown before the event, because I forgot my music player. 26.2 miles seemed to become instantly longer without any tunes, and to make matters worse, this was a race that allowed – even encouraged – headphones. The director even told us during his health and safety talk, if you want to listen to music on this course, there’s no road running, so fill your boots.

Those were his exact words: fill your boots. I was not impressed with myself.

But there was semi-good news – my Lil’ Sis’ would be coming to support and she said she would bring her mp3 for me to listen to during the last loop. I say “semi-good” because our musical tastes aren’t exactly what you would call aligned but you take what you can get when you’re a muppet and FORGET YOUR MUSIC PLAYER!

The race was five loops along the side of the river in Egham, taking it’s name because it was the site where the Magna Carta was signed. The first two loops were only a couple of miles each and then there were three or four six mile loops, which obviously became increasingly more difficult.

Not everyone likes loops, as it can be quite depressing to be covering the same piece of ground for a third or fourth time, except being more exhausted each time you get there. However, for me, I find that they help me to calibrate my run, and pace myself.

At the aid stations, I discovered a thing called Tailwind, which the race director apparently swears by. I thought it tasted disgusting to be honest. It’s hard to say whether it helped me, but taking that, combined with generally hydrating at every aid station, meant I managed to avoid the headache I sometimes get after running really long distances.

We met a lady who was wearing a one hundred club T-shirt. (The one hundred club members have run at least one hundred official marathons.) She said that she had actually run 281 marathons, but unfortunately they only give you a T shirt after the first 100. She also told us that she would be running another marathon the very next day. (Yes, these people really do exist! She makes my Running Buddy look sane, and he can’t wait to enter a one hundred mile race next year – he has already asked me to be his pacer for the last thirty miles.)

Strangely, the lack of music didn’t affect me as badly as I thought it would and I returned a marathon PB of 5h17m50s, which is still really slow – a fact that can be easily explained away by the consideration that I was never really that good in the first place! On top of that, this was only my second actual marathon (third if you consider the one I dropped out of). I crossed the finish line in quite an upbeat mood and then it was off to the nearby Harvester for a pulled pork BBQ burger.

 

 

 

Bolt Round The Holt

A week ago, I woke up early on a Saturday morning and drove a considerable distance to support my lil’ sis’ in her first post-pregnancy race event.

What follows are her thoughts on the race…

Half-arsed runner: How did you feel about doing your first post-pregnancy event?

Lil’ Sis’: I felt anxious about whether I was really fit and ready to compete but also excited and eager to get back into races.

HAR: How did you train?

LS: I started training a few months ago after my six week post-natal check with the doctor. First of all, I just went out and ran to see what I could achieve. I managed a slightly slower pace than I did before Lucy was born and ran a mile. I started upping the runs to two a week and increased the distance by half a mile each week until I was running 5k. I managed three 5ks before the race started with some hill work.

HAR: It was a long way to go for a 5k. Why did you choose this particular event?

LS: I love this forest and have raced here on other occasions. One of them was a 5k whilst I was about five months pregnant and they were very supportive. The other was the same event last year. This was the last official race I did before finding out I was pregnant, and it seemed fitting to start my races again with it this year.

It was a challenging and rewarding course that I would recommend to others. AAT events are well organised too.

HAR: Were you happy with your time?

LS: At first, no. Upon reflection, yes.

I was two minutes slower than last year but this year had to walk/fight woodlands through the path for a good quarter of a mile because the track was so muddy that I was afraid of falling over! I know this cost me those valuable minutes that I would have needed to beat or equal my previous time. Having said that, I feel I am already back to my previous fitness levels and that feels amazing so soon after giving birth!

 

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.)

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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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!

 

A different kind of training – part two

Wow, mountains are really steep! 

I mean, there are steep hills and then there are…mountains! 

I know you are probably now thinking “No shit, genius!” but I haven’t done this for years and I forgot what it was like. I think I got complacent because it’s “only walking”.

But I was as out of breath as anyone climbing Sugar Loaf in Wales this Sunday. 

It was so tall; we were in the middle of a cloud… 

The view from the peak

…an actual cloud, for goodness sake! 

It was cold up there too so thankfully stopping for lunch didn’t last long (thankfully because I left my sandwich in the car). At least I had proper boots this time, North Face and heavily reduced in the January sale. 

I tested their waterproof aspect by trying them on at home and running them under a tap to see whether my socks stayed dry. (Some people seem to think this is odd behaviour but some of the best product reviews I have seen put the manufacturer’s claims under vigorous testing.) 

As a group we did the mountain in four hours. We then got a reality check that one of the peaks with 300m more elevation than that one has to be done in the same timeframe. 

Better keep training! 

Today’s lesson: mountains are really tall. Next time: lakes are really wet and marathons are really far. 

ps. Doesn’t this just look like something out of Game of Thrones? Really cool!