Thursday, December 15, 2011

are you kidding me?

Give me a break - 24th November i ran to work, as i squatted to get my gear from locker something in my knee changed. A period of pain and swelling followed, turns out i have probably compressed my cartlidge. This means i cannot run and means that my ambition of doing the Gloucester 50km is over, for this year at least. 

It's a bit like one step forward and three steps back. In the week before i did my highest mileage week of the year and then getting a towel from a locker and bam.

Give me a break! (please)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Friday night nightmare

Saturday night I had a flash back to my Friday night dream.

Friday night I had woken in a real panic convinced I had ruptured my
knee. Again. It was one of those flinch yourself awake moments that
we've all had except in my dream my knee wrenched and the ligament

It was horrible.

Of course it was only a dream but weirdly it was on the anniversary of
my knee operation, something that I had not thought about at all. But
something that was obviously in my subconscious.

Friday, November 18, 2011

true north...

This last fortnight has been a challenging one from a training perspective. Mileage was increasing nicely until another breakdown. This time my glute, my left one which is the leg that was operated on a year ago, almost to today. I had a replacement ACL operation where they took a segment of my left hamstring to make the ligament. I still have a groove down the back of my left hamstring and i guess that my left leg is still weaker than the right. If a leg will break down then its going to be that one. 

When it went i was about 3 miles from home on a 6'ish mile run. I hobbled home on a run walk strategy cursing my bad luck and hoping for good. A bit of Internet research and turns out that glute pain is something that you can train through and is most likely due to a weak core and hips.

I dug out the Swiss ball and re instigated my 100 push-up and 200 sit-ups apps. A few days of that with short runs and while there was initial discomfort i was back up to 8 mile runs pretty soon. 

During this time i reconsidered what i am doing and more importantly the pressure i put myself under. I want to run Ultras. Actually let me rephrase that i am desperate to run an ultra. I want to be part of that gang, i want to test myself and push myself. Yet while i keep breaking down that ambition seems so far away.  I started to consider that maybe i should just become a guy that runs 5-6 miles 3 maybe 4 times a week and is happy with that. I can keep fit without pressure and just enjoy it for what it is. 

I think that the reality is that i won't be happy with that. I'll probably be more miserable than when i am properly injured and cannot do anything. That's where the true north bit comes in. 

I was discussing this with John on our commute earlier this week and he used the term to define what you are truly like. What is your true north? What are you and what makes you happy? What makes you, you?

In my case it's having a target, something to aim for. Something to push myself towards. i may not get there immediately or anytime really soon but i will get there. I admire the people that run recreationally and maybe i wish i could be like them a little bit more. 

But I'm not and that my friends is my true north.

Friday, October 7, 2011

all the gear and no idea

Went for a run this morning, from the ground up I was wearing:
When did it all get so complicated?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Brooks pureproject

I'm a one shoe guy. I buy a pair of running shoes use them for training and races, then after around 425-450 miles retire them to gardening shoes and buy a new pair. I don't even do that much gardening! 
October 1st saw the release of the Brooks pureproject (is it "Pure Project", "pureproject" or "PureProject"?) range of shoes. A range of minimalist footwear that satisfies the current trend. The pureproject (sic) shoes do appear to do it differently though. Compare the pureproject with, say the Hattori by Saucony, and there's no comparison. The whole pureproject shoe looks designed, refined and then stripped down. I bought a pair of the pureconnect shoes yesterday.
The first thing you notice is the colour. They are green and not just green but electric green, with bold flashes of reflective material that seem to reflect in all light. The Brooks logo is also now a proud, reflective, logo and on the pureproject shoes is oversized compared to normal. They must be pretty eye catching because my daughter cringed when she saw them and when I wore them on the school run this morning she said she would rather I wore my vibrams (which she also dislikes).
The second thing is the weight or rather lack of weight. This is a stripped down and lightweight shoe. The sole has cutaways, the upper is a thin mesh over a thin layer of 'hole-punched' material light and flexible over the nav-band and it is comparatively low profile around the sides of the ankle. With the lightweight build, low drop and split toe-box it actually felt to me like a cushioned and more sturdy vibram fivefingers shoe. 
The pureconnect is a neutral shoe, I use neutral shoes with my orthotics. I swapped insoles and slid them on. the fit is like a glove. I know that most new running shoes or indeed any trainers have that box-fresh stiffness and feel but this was something a little different. Like pulling on a slipper. Pulling the laces tight the nav band tightened the shoe making it feel totally secure on the foot without being tight. Jumping on the treadmill I tried them out. They felt great but the real test is when you get out on the road. Luckily I checked the recommended use of the shoe before leaving Up and Running, it's not a high mileage shoe but more for short runs and speed work.  
The same evening I went for a run. It was a horrible night, dark wet and windy. The rain was pretty much horizontal and had I not had new shoes I may not have bothered.
I set out and truly they felt remarkable. Discounting the placebo effect (they may have felt great because I was desperate for them to) that may have had a part to play the shoe felt almost like it wasn't there. It's so light and snug yet does not constrict the foot at all. I am a forefoot striker and pretty soon I felt like I was gliding down the road my heels barely skimming the tarmac. The other thing was, they felt fast. I've never used a lightweight shoe (other than the vibrams which I don't run fast in at all) and now I really wish I had done, particularly when doing triathlon. I don't know if it was real or perceived but my foot turnover felt faster and my stride more fluid. They made me want to run fast. They felt fun to be running in. In reality the run actually wasn't that fast or as fast as I could have done (5miles in just under 35mins) however taking into account the conditions and the wind that seemed to be head on the whole way around there was a definite positive impact on performance.
The shoes performed well on the tarmac and normal pavement surfaces. I did get some slippage as I ran past Cheltenham Town Hall that has some shiny flag stones. In the wet these were a bit 'icy' but in reality I think in most shoes I would have probably experienced that.
Ultimately in terms of comfort, stability and performance there is no issue with this shoe. In fact for a shoe that has little to it it offered an almost disproportionate amount of each. It is not a cheap shoe but there is a lot in it and I think that as a runner you can see and feel that once you use it. I am a sucker for shiny new tech so this, with the marketing machine that it clearly had, twitter hashtag #pureproject anyone?, was always going to hook me. The difference is that, here, the product is better than the marketing.
What will now be interesting is if Brooks take this tech and apply it (either literally or in principle) to their high mileage shoes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Running a Marathon - What's harder?

At the weekend in Berlin the mens marathon world record was broken and now stands at 02:03:38 set by Patrick Mackau, a 26 year old Kenyan. A remarkable achievement and surely a sub-2hr marathon will be achieved in my lifetime?
It begs a question though - is it harder on the body to run a marathon in a little over 2hrs or is it harder for the non-elite runners who are out there for 5+ hours? The elites will be full time athletes, training, eating, sleeping, recovering and little else. All with the objective of getting as close to 2hrs as possible. Contrast with the non-elite who works a full time job, has a family, has social commitments, kids to get to clubs. A house to maintain. Maybe a commute. Then fits in training. Somewhere probably at the start of the day, in a lunch break or maybe the end of the day when all is done.
To run at close to 2hrs is a huge physical undertaking that will take a lot from the body and clearly needs a lot of effort to be able to execute. Running for 5+hrs at a much slower pace though will take a massive toll on the body too. While the pace is not as demanding the time on feet is. The mental pressure will be immense too. Keeping yourself going for that long will not be easy.
What do you think? Remember there are no stupid questions only stupid answers!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

easy, light and smooth - an evening with Caballo Blanco

Caballo Blanco came on stage, he must be around 6'2". He's very lean with a clean bald head. I'm not sure how old he is but I would guess he's in his early 50's. Dressed in a pair of Saucony Hattori's, well used tracksuit bottoms and a race t-shirt he looked uneasy in the spotlight and, in fact, after a couple of minutes stepped back, not quite in the shadows but nearly. His real name is Micah True almost as unreal as the moniker he now uses having been bestowed it by Mayan Indians who used to see him run through their village.
He has become famous (in certain circles) as a result of being a lead character in a book by Christopher McDougall 'Born to Run'. When a member of the audience asked him about the book and the impact it has had on his life he was very upbeat and made more than one reference to "...playing the cards you are dealt...". Another member of the audience made a comment that it was nice to meet him as the character in the book appeared fictional such was the way he was portrayed.
This was an evening with Caballo Blanco in Bristol. He's doing some talking dates around the UK to raise awareness and funds for his organisation Norawas de Raramuri that is in place to support the Tarahumara or, as they refer to themselves, the Raramuri.
He started out his talk with a statement about shoes. That he wasn't here to promote or sell shoes or to promote or sell not wearing shoes. At one point he said that people actually apologise to him for wearing shoes! Something he forgives readily. Interestingly he really wasn't promoting any shoes, when he was asked what he wears he said he has a couple of pairs of shoes depending on how he's feeling but never mentioned any brands or shoe models. This was towards the end of the talk and reinforced that this really was a guy not interested or aware of the commercial impact h could have. He did mention that he is working with a shoe manufacturer to develop a minimalist shoe something that I imagine will be like a huarache that the Raramuri wear.
There was then a video of the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon from 2009 which was excellent. 
Then he started talking,
.....his back story about being a kick boxer and making a living that way. This explained his "...gnarly toes...", that "..make babies cry, women faint and men cringe..." He later explained that he "...may have broken his toes against someone's face a couple of times...". Throughout he was reservedly animated, he didn't move much and sipped on his water throughout but his face was continually breaking out in smiles as he recalled his stories.
The story of the Leadville 100 where he met the Raramuri was brilliant and the Anna T (check) race where they called her the Bruha brought smiles all round. The audience knew the stories from the book but to hear them from Caballo Blanco really did feel like a treat. A quick glance around the theatre and everyone in the audience was attentive and smiling, transfixed by the Caballo. 
He relaxed quickly and got into his flow. The only thing that seemed to raise his temperature a little was when he was referring to the Discovery Channel and the way that they portray the Raramuri as super-human because they don't really have cancer or heart disease which is due to their lifestyle. That may be the case but they do have high infant mortality with figures of 1/5 babies die-ing in birth being mentioned. How Caballo described them really struck a chord, he said that "...we should respect them but not idolise them...". They aren't super human they are just living how they always have done, we should respect that and learn from it but not patronise or interfere with them by idolising them.
He talked about doing the Leadville 100 and how running 100miles is like " a life in a day..." from birth all the way through to death although hopefully not literally.
He set up the Copper Canyon Ultra marathon so that the Raramuri could come and run in their own environment, to do what they have always done. Each year the number of Raramuri increases and there are more and more women also participating. Running in the huaraches that they make and long skirts and dresses. One year the ladies race was won by a 15year old Raramuri girl. The race is sponsored by Korima the Raramuri word for sharing that is at the heart of their culture. They share without the need or expectation f thanks, Caballo did say that you may have a hard time down in the Copper Canyon if you are "...attached to thank you.." they are grateful, sure, but sharing is what they do. They don't share to bang their chest and tell you what they did, they just do it.
With the talk over he started taking questions from the audience, he eats a predominantly vegetarian diet with lots of Pinole and whole grains although occasionally does eat barbeque chicken and fish. He likes beer, when asked how he recovers after a race he said "...put your feet up and drink a beer...". His favourite distance is 50miles. When a young man he used to clock up 170mile weeks.
When asked about gait he made a point that everyone is different and that even the Raramuri run different to each other. He did describe his gait as running tall, like there's a puppet string pulling your head to the sky, use a forefoot strike and a little forward so that gravity works with you. His running mantra, "...easy, light and smooth...". The way he described this this is how he achieves flow in his running or sometimes not. He starts easy, then light (Raramuri means light footed ones) and hopes to attain smooth. sometimes he gets there in minutes, sometime hours and sometimes not at all. I think all runners can understand that. We all seek flow when running, the realisation that you have covered a distance (whatever it may be) without really noticing.
There was plenty of inspiring stuff too - about how anyone can run 100miles if they train and put their mind to it. How if you do run 100miles that you know you can pretty much do anything. How we have all had some adversity to deal with and that he's no different to anyone else. If you have faith (in whatever it may be) you can pull through. When he talked about faith I got the impression he was talking about confidence. When you're out on a trail you have faith that you are trained enough to go where you want and get back. You are confident enough in your abilities.

He answered questions with the same enthusiasm that he had talked, thanking people for the questions and checking that he had answered it satisfactorily. You got the feeling that he would have continued for hours were it not for the promoter asking him to wind it up.
There was time for some photographs and autographs with nearly everyone having a copy of Born to Run for him to sign.

When I left I felt quite uplifted, inspired and motivated. Here was a guy who appeared to have found an idyllic simple life where he had very little and wanted for nothing.

A meeting with a New York Times reporter changed all that forever but rather than sell out or profit from it directly (there's no such shoe as a 'Nike Blanco') he's using it to support the people that he feels a connection to. To support them and help maintain their way of life ( To ensure that they have food enough to be able to run. That he referred to non-Raramuri as 'Gringo's' but not himself tells you where he and his heart are.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Age Vs Performance

This weekend was the Cheltenham Triathlon at the Sandford Park Lido, a fantastic open-air 50m pool in the heart of Cheltenham. It's a super-sprint event that appears to be growing year-on-year with around 700 entrants this year. My finishing time (for the 500m swim, 15km bike and 2.8km run) this year was 53:15. An improvement from 2008 where my time was just over 55minutes. @stoddy38 also improved on his 2008 time finishing in 52 minutes and change.
This then sparked a conversation that I have had with Stoddy a number of times. Namely at what age do you stop improving on your times and they start to deteriorate? This is as, almost without exception, whenever we have done an event the next time we do it we have improved our times and last I checked we're both ageing at the same rate! There are a number of factors that contribute to this not least of all the starting position!
1. You can only beat what's in front of you
When I started training I was in my late 20's although I would say only seriously when I was around 30/32. I didn't really do sport as a kid and only got going in my 20's playing football socially with work colleagues and the like. Occasional games of squash. This at the same time as being out a lot drinking and eating rubbish! It was during this period that I did my first marathon. London in 1997 finishing in a grand time of 4hr 20mins. Hardly tearing up trees but I did it. I then got married and had a son and so things went on hold until I started running again in my early 30's with work colleagues. I was out of shape and struggled to keep pace with guys that were up to 20years older than me. This is where I got hooked and started running properly. This then evolved to triathlon. When I trained for my first tri (Tewkesbury Sprint) I wasn't very scientific about training. I ran, biked and swam a bit. That was it. Fit enough to get around I did just that. Later that year I did Windsor Olympic distance and was in better shape but hardly brilliant.
What I learned though was what I needed to do. So more structure, smarter training and better eating etc to get a better performance. Over three years competing at Windsor I took nearly 15minutes off my first time despite being 3 years older. This trajectory sounds impressive (and I am proud of it) but is essentially down to the fact that my starting out times and performances were very average. My marathon time and PB illustrates this perfectly - aged 27 I completed London in 4:20; aged 38 I completed Gloucester marathon in 3:15.
2. Smarter
As you train, particularly in triathlon, you get into the lifestyle. Magazines, books, novels, websites - total immersion if you will. Everything is full of advice, the best kit, the best food the best races. How to swim properly drills. Brick sessions. As a newbie it's all a little daunting but over time I believe that you assimilate this knowledge to the point where you can even diagnose injuries. As knowledge improves so does performance (if you actually follow it I guess). Becoming a smarter athlete will improve your performance.
3. Experience
The first time you do it you don't know what to expect so maybe perform within yourself to ensure that you do not DNF. Once you have experience of a number of races and hours of training then you can push on in races with greater confidence.
4. Diet and Lifestyle
As I have matured (coughs) I drink much less alcohol, eat much less junk and get more sleep. That's bound to help?
So what's the answer? I think that there is little limit on performance that we do not control ourselves. I know what I need to do to be race fit, its up to me to do that or not. I think my performances will continue to improve as my knowledge continues to do so and each year I think I am probably a little bit more healthier holistically. One thing for certain is that whenever my times start to deteriorate I will continue to train and take part in events as ultimately that's a small part of the reason for doing it. The benefits of fitness, health and vitality are much stronger reasons for continuing in this direction than watching the clock.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Youth Football

I manage an U12's team and was recently at a meeting for the football club. It was a standard meeting with discussion around kit, pitches and the like. When we got to AOB the vice chairman raised a point regarding referees. The point was basically that we are responsible for our parents and ensuring that referee's do not get abused and hassled from the touchline. This, in particular, relevant to mini-soccer where young referee's are started in their careers and are normally young lads themselves.
Mini-soccer is 7-a-side played by U9's and U10's. So there are parents that are so fired up watching their 9 year old play football that they are abusing a referee that is maybe 15 or 16 years old. Say that out loud and doesn't that sound horrendous? Football inspires passion, sure, but the perspective is completely gone. What is happening is that young referees are leaving the game as there's too much hassle. It's just not worth it.
Take this forward in another direction and there's the dream team mentality. Again I am talking about youth football here, U11's, U12's, U13's etc. It's great to be competitive and in some respects this opinion is easy to have as I am fortunate that the team I manage is competitive. In three seasons we have finished 3rd in the league twice and 4th on the other occasion (Champions League places!!), been cup runners up and cup winners. Not too bad.
We've done that in a framework of inclusivity. I have some terrific players in my squad, players that would get into any other team in the league. I also have some players who are not as strong. What they do have though, across the board, is friendship. The core of the group has been together since they were 5 or 6 years old. They have evolved from being a collection of kids running about chasing a football to a team that are contenders in the division. 
They have done this as a group, they have grown as players together for a number of years and hopefully will continue to do so. The players now have a loyalty to the team and to each other. The lessons being learned are as much about friendship, camaraderie, loyalty and fun as they are the technical and tactical aspects of the game itself. I am not suggesting that we are the only team like this, far from it and I would hope that there were more. What I am doing is drawing a distinction between teams across the divisions that poach players from other teams, take better players with a view to creating a dream team. It must happen everywhere. I've heard stories about managers falling out with players. Again, say that out loud, a 40 year old man falling out with a 10year old that plays in his team. Horrendous. Players being approached by other teams with promises of what? Come to us and you will win?
It's the win at all costs that is the harmful factor, if young players are being encouraged to switch teams to win what are they learning? What happens if they then don't win? Parents and coaches on their backs? Or do they blame the ref? You get an increase in pressure and as the team has been assembled there may be little by way of solid relationships for the players to support each other. Do you win and lose as a team or did the defender make a mistake that cost us the game?
Youth football should be as much about learning the values of teamwork, friendship and loyalty as it should be about the game and winning. No-one likes to lose but how you lose is important, probably more so than how you win.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I forgot my insulin and it didn't matter

Monday night I was in Camberley at a B&B. It was a normal night, work late then head to the B&B. Quick snack and out for a run. I wasn't sure when I set out how far I wanted to run but with my legs a little heavy from the weekend I was thinking 7-8miles at an easy pace of around 8mins per mile. Also I wanted to head into Bracknell Forrest to get some trails under my feet, again with the aim of preserving my legs a bit.
As I headed out my legs felt great, after around 1.5 miles on the road I was in the forrest, following the trails.
Bracknell Forrest is an amazing place, trails run off in all directions and there looks to be some great mountain biking in there. First thing that struck me was the recovery of the place. At the beginning of the summer the forrest was more or less closed as there were bush fires running wild and destroying huge areas. I ran through there shortly after this and the air was heavy with the smell of burnt and burning bush. Now there is lavender everywhere. What was once black and dead is now alive with purple.
I did a couple of miles on the trails my legs recovered and finding the pace easily. As it got duskier there were deer that I could see, one of which jumped right out in front of me. He stopped on the path about 10ft from me. Looked at me and then skipped off back into the forrest. A stunning encounter and what struck me was how silent and graceful they are. This large animal jumped into the undergrowth, barely made a sound and was out of view in a matter of seconds. OK so it was getting darker, the trees were thick, he was camouflaged and I am (amongst others) red/green/brown colour blind!

Emerging from the forrest and, like i said with my legs feeling great, I decided to add a bit extra to the run. 7-8 miles became just short of 11 at the 8min mile pace I wanted. 

I got back to the B&B had a drink and a shower then ate my food. I finished eating and then could not find my novorapid insulin pen. I checked, double and triple checked my bag - not there. Mentally retracing my steps I could picture it safely on my desk in work. I had my glargine (slow acting) but no fast acting. I calculated the carb content of my dinner and estimated about 40-50g of carbs. Thinking that I would have only given myself 1-2 units of novorapid as I had done a long run I decided not to panic and not use any. I gave myself the normal dose of glargine insulin and settled down to watch the match.
Next morning I woke up early and did a blood test. I was little nervous as whilst I wasn't expecting the reading to be that high I really wasnt sure what ot would be.
The reading was 7.2mmol.
I was really pleased with myself for that! Then thinking back realised that had I given myself insulin I may have actually caused myself some problems with a hypo. Once agan the impact of exercise on diabetes astounds me and proves its worth beyond doubt. My insulin control is largely very good and I put it down to this fact beyond anything else. That and a balanced diet with lots of whole foods.
For a flash it was like not having diabetes anymore!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Between a fence and a hard face...

I was in Camberley earlier this week staying at a local B&B. I do this normally once a week to alleviate the travel effort. When I stay over I keep it simple, I have either my bike or my running shoes (or both) in the boot and that's how I use the time. A session and then food, TV, book and sleep.
Last night I stayed in a different B&B to normal and while not that far from the normal place it gave me an opportunity to run somewhere different. So at about 7pm I headed out on a different route. Within a couple of miles I found some nice off road stuff by a river, it was a lovely evening and there were a lot of dog walkers on the trail. I followed the trail and had to do a couple of switch backs as there were dead ends or in a couple of cases roads that just led into housing estates.
 Following the river path I eventually popped out onto a main road with signs welcoming me to Hampshire. This was a first as I don't think I have ever run across a county border before. Heading up the road I started to head in the vague direction of Camberley. I ran past Sandhurst Park which was full of activity, there was a running club/group that looked like they had just finished their run and four or five football teams doing their training. Around the park and onto the road I could see Camberley closer than I was hoping. so I took a detour through an estate, having asked a dog walker for directions. At the end of the estate was a makeshift path into the woods.
I have run the woods in Camberley before with Bracknell Forest an excellent place to run off road. I thought that this was where I was.
 I followed a path through the woods, there was thick scrub to my right and then the backs of houses. On my left a 6ft fence topped with razor wire. This was the perimeter of Sandhurst. Following the trail down through the woods it started to narrow. I thought this would be ok as it was a trail. An actual trail not just me hacking through. As I progressed the path narrowed in from the right with the trees getting denser. I was being pushed closer and closer to the Sandhurst perimeter fence.
Then I stopped. In front of me solid trees with thick branches spread out. I wasn't going to turn back so now squashed up against the fence I pushed my way through the trees to find some more trail.  I made may way at walking pace half expecting someone from Sandhurst to approach me at any moment asking me what I was doing. Eventually I ran out of trail, there was nowhere else to go. I had fence on one side and thick trees on the other. Looking through the trees there were the backs of houses. I pushed through and could see back gardens. I thought about hopping through but quickly ruled this out as did not think it right to intrude to that extent. Looking further down there was a gap that I could see a drive way through. That was it!
I pushed through the trees, a quick look and yes it was a drive way, a couple of parked cars and then open road! I forced my way through as discreetly as possible and as I emerged a car pulled onto the driveway. I held up my hands and smiled wandering over to the lady driver I explained quickly that I had gotten lost and that this was my only way out. The driver then said to me, "oh, that's OK, it's not my house. I've come to collect my friend."

As I turned towards the house the owner was in the doorway. Arms crossed she had a face like thunder. I went through the same routine, hands up, broad smile and apologetic. I got nothing. She was clearly unhappy and couldn't see the funny side of the story. I said my piece and then just ran off.

I hope that she relaxed about it as she now has a story about a really sweaty man popping out of her hedge onto her driveway story that she can use. Either that or she fences her side of the pathway so it cannot happen again.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cyprus almost Barefoot

This evening (Saturday 6th August) I went for a run, I've been here a
week and run 6 times. Tonight was different as I ran in my vibram
fivefingers. I did a route that I ran yesterday and thought it would
be good as there was a lot of trail which would be softer underfoot.

I've read a lot about barefoot running, the benefits the negatives the
folklore. Those that love it live it and those that don't just don't

My experience tonight is one that is far from unique in barefoot
circles but was new to me.

I set out and frankly was mincing. I was struggling for a rhythm. As I
relaxed my stride settled and I felt light and supple. Although on
trails there was a lot of shingle. After a couple of sweary moments
where I landed plum on a piece I noticed that my feet relaxed and that
my forefoot was landing more supple. By that I mean I was using my
whole forefoot not just the ball of my foot.

On the softer trails I felt great. Feet were skimming the surface and
I was barely making a sound. On Tarmac it was a little different.

The temperature outside today was in the region of 38c. The road was
hot and as I ran on the Tarmac I could feel my feet getting hotter.
This resulted in a blister in the middle of the ball of my left foot.
Nothing too major but certainly something that will see me back in
conventional running shoes for tomorrow.

What was good though was that I found a comfortable pace in the heat.
I cannot run as fast in vibrams as I can in shoes so I didn't. Running
slower felt comfortable, relaxed feet and breathing. It's still hot as
hell but not once was i struggling.

I love my vibrams, I've worn them to walk the dog, on hikes in woods
with family and on the school run. Today wearing them on a run I
finally got them, they make sense and feel good. The sensations you
get in your feet feel brand new yet they shouldn't.

A responsive ride, excellent shock absorption and cushioning that
changes with every step. No arch support required, no torsion control
necessary, no air bubbles, no waffles, no zig-zag.

Ladies and gentlemen you just met your feet. The best running shoe ever made.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Meeting Dean Karnazes (07/07/2011)

It’s a funny thing when you meet someone that you are in awe of. A hero.

I met Dean Karnazes yesterday at the North Face store in Covent Garden, London. He was there on promotional tour for his new book RUN. When I say I met him I mean I went to the store, bought a copy of his book and spent a couple minutes chatting with him.

I heard that he was going to be there via twitter, checked it out and so made arrangements to go. I work in Surrey so it was a case of finishing work and then driving to London and not home. Easier said than done, more than an hour sat in traffic including the horrendous M25 (is it called that as that is the maximum speed you can hope to achieve on it?) a tube journey then a stroll. From leaving the office to arriving at the store took just over 2hrs.

I walked into the North Face shop and it was very quiet. As I approached it I thought I must have the wrong day or have missed it. There was a sign outside but nobody around. I went in, nervously asked the shop assistants and was told that the great man was around the corner.

I went around and was really quite nervous. I had no idea what to expect. He was there with a young lad signing books and talking about Wimbledon (Dean had tweeted that he had been to the men’s final the previous Sunday).

The first thing that struck me was how little he was. I said as much to the representatives from the publishers who made a joke that they had made him look much bigger on the cover of the book. I was expecting that he would be closer to 6ft and lean, he was actually shorter than me and incredibly lean.  

The younger lad finished and I stepped up with my book ready for signing. I shook his hand and told him what an honor it was to meet him, which it genuinely was. His book, Ultramarathon Man, has probably had more of an effect on me and my thinking around sport than anything else I have read, watched or heard. Until then I had no idea of the whole world of ultra running that existed. More importantly I had no concept that a human being could do that. I have since recommended that book to a load of people all of whom have been equally blown away by it!

He seemed genuinely humbled which makes me think I may have gone overboard a little. He then asked me about being a runner and what I was doing. There was then an exchange of banter around me being able to take him because he was small if only I could catch him! I then asked him about his running in London which he said he loved but struggled with the cars on the wrong side of the road. I told him I was planning to do an ultra next year and that was it. A couple of photo’s and another handshake and I was out of there.

Was it worth making the trip into London? Absolutely! I haven’t done anything like that ever before and although brief it was enjoyable. Dean was great, considering he had met so many people through the day he was smiling and talkative. Although 40 (me not him) I felt like a kid.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Active Kids Bleinhem Duathlon - 5th June 2011

Amelie completed the Active Kids duathlon today finishing 4th overall and was the 2nd girl in her age group. 

It was a great morning's  work by her in a fantastic settings with the finish of the women's elite race in the background. The really interesting thing is that the Active Kids at Blenheim has really grown in the three years that we have been involved as participants. The organisation, race brifeing and support for the kids from the Active Kids team was, as ever, first class. The smiles of all the kids testament to the fact that kids love to compete, they love to race and they love to emulate what their parents do.

Every kid gets a t-shirt, every kid gets a medal and every kid gets to run under the tape at the end. That doesn't diminish the effort that they put in it just encourages them in the right way.

This has to be a significant step in the right direction for all the kids that take part...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blenheim Active Kids Duathlon 2011

This weekend is the Blenheim Triathlon, a brilliant event in beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace that takes place over the whole weekend.

As part of the weekend there is an opportunity for kids to race a duathlon as part of the Active Kids organisation.

Amelie is entered in the 8-9 age group race and will be completing her third year at the event. Her race will take place over the following distances: 700m run / 1150m bike / 350m run

Luca will be taking part in his second duathlon in the 10+ age group racing over the following distances: 700m run / 1400m bike / 350m run.

This is a training video...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's happening - Born to Run 37 Mile Ultra

I have blogged a lot about my desire to do an ultra, to see what i can do and start to push myself endurance wise. I realised very quick into my triathlon career that an ironman on top of commuting and family is not going to happen. The training is just to consuming. So i have dabbled and talked a lot about doing an ultra.

It will suit me as i have realised that what i just love is running, the simple act of running.

Clarity of mind, fitness, endorphins the whole 9 yards of what is good and great about a run.

Well tonight i have taken the first step and actually entered one. It's the Born to Run 37mile Ultra in Wales next March. I think that @stoddy38 will be joining me which will be cool.

You can see the route here:
It's a long way off but already i'm excited about the prospect! Bring it on!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Runners World Forest of Dean Trailblazer 10k - 22nd May 2011

I blogged earlier in the week that I wasn't looking forward to the Runners World Forest of Dean Trailblazer 10k. The main problem I had with it being that rather than considering it a decent race I was viewing it as an opportunity for a long run missed. It was after all a Sunday morning and, as I latterly found out, the same day as the Tewkesbury Half Marathon. If it wasn't for the fact that I had paid £29 to enter, which seems pretty steep, I wouldn't have bothered.
So I drove the 20 or so miles down to the race village at Speech House. When I got there I was pleasantly surprised. There was a race village with a running shop, bar,cafe and various massage tents etc. Very professional. I checked in, got my number (54) and then milled about a bit. For me this was a novelty - I had plenty of time - normally I am scrambling to get to the venue and then in a panic to get ready. So far so good.
When I picked up my number I did see there was a baggage drop and a valuables drop point. With about 1minutes to go to the warm up start I went to drop my bag only to find that the baggage claim was unattended. Cue a mad dash to the car to leave my bag there and then check my valuables which were my car keys!
At the start of each wave there was a warm-up period - this was led by a lady on a podium with a microphone who took everyone (reluctantly) through some stretches and limber up exercises. Some easy stuff to get the muscles working and get the heart rate up a little. It was pretty funny watching the other people in the wave do this as no-one looked comfortable doing it. We are so reserved.
It was then a short walk to the start and a break in the weather. Up until this point it had been windy and pretty chilly, just before I sorted my bag there was a splattering of rain that actually made me think about wearing a rain jacket to run. I am glad that I didn't. As we walked to the start there were competitors from later waves arriving and the place was filling up rapidly. There was a woman who was not the smallest in running kit demolishing a hot-dog with onions! I've not seen that in any nutrition manuals;)
At the start there was a briefing about the trail, the markers etc. This was excellent and a show of hands highlighted that there were a lot of trail newbie's in the crowd - me included. Timing was by chip and so at 10:13 we set-off.
The course was excellent, there were some nice long trails, a longish and slow up hill that saw a number of runners lose ground and a long downhill stretch where I lost a lot of ground. Since I went running with @stoddy38 the other week I have noticed how reticent I am running down hill. This is a mental block and is purely because of my knee. Basically I'm nervous of it. SO on the first down hill I lost a bit of ground, I made it up gradually although in a 10km there isn't much time to do this. I used my Garmin (I think everybody in Wave 1-2 was wearing one!) and a glance down showed 2miles in a little over 00:12:30. A that point, feeling pretty strong I thought I was going to crack 40minutes. That wasn't to be and I eventually crossed the line with an official time of 00:41:03 (my Garmin shows 00:41:00 which with my love of symmetry and neatness is much more aesthetically pleasing).
My Garmin stats from Garmin Connect....

The long uphill took a lot of my pace away and I started to blow a little. I recovered sufficiently to be able to go again and increase slightly with the 40min carrot in mind. It was with huge disappointment that I rounded the final bend realising that I wasn't going to break 40 and that my finish would be impeded by a finish straight through a field with long grass. I am sure plenty put the hammer down here but I wasn't prepared to take the risk just to shave a few seconds off.
At the finish I removed the timing-chip was handed a bottle of water and a goody bag. The goody bag was excellent a Trailblazer nylon gym-sack containing a few magazines, some cereal bars, a bottle of for goodness shakes, some freeze patches etc. This together with a race t-shirt that is actually useable made the entry fee seem pretty decent.
I went through and got my keys, out to the car to get changed. I had a quick chat with a guy in a later wave who had travelled from Oxford then headed home.
I am glad that I made myself go and do it, it was brilliant to be competing again, to actually race and get that extra performance boost from racing. It was also nice that it was a 10k as it meant I had to run a lot faster than I would and that I have in training. When I crossed the line I knew I had put everything in to the race. Also the event itself was really brilliantly executed, plenty offriendly marshalls, lots of energy with the warm-ups and a genuine feel of being a proper race.
My targets at the beginning were sub 45min with a stretch target of sub 42mins. On that basis it was a success.
Checking the results website today I was 18th out of 558 finishers (there was one poor soul with a DNF - I wonder if it was the hot-dog lady?). That puts me in the top 3% which is a first!
Bring on the next race!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Forest of Dean Trailblazer - 22nd May 2011

This Sunday (22/05) is the Forest of Dean Trailblazer 10km. I entered it some weeks ago as a target for my running that was ramping up slowly following knee surgery. At the time I was running/walking small distances and struggling. When I entered I wasn't actually sure I'd make the start line that was how my legs felt.

Now that it is just a few days away I am actually disappointed that I have entered it as it seems a small distance. That's not being arrogant it's just a reflection that my progress has been far greater then I was expecting. I am regularly running 10-12 miles at a fair lick. I'm getting faster and stronger for definite. My horizons are further than a 10km and I am actually looking at this Sunday as an opportunity for a long run missed.

So on Sunday I will go for it, I have a target of sub-45 minutes with a stretch target of sub-42 minutes. I've done some speed work recently and been doing long runs at decent tempo so between the two should be achievable.

The last 10km I did, actually the last four 10km's I have run have been as part of an Olympic triathlon (three at Windsor and one in London). The best result being London in August 2009 where I did it in 00:38:34 (although I think that the distance was slightly under the 10km).

Quite funny at the weekend when I talked about this with Mrs. B, the conversation went something like this....

me: I have the FoD 10km this Sunday but am disappointed that I am entered into it as it doesn't feel like it's far enough.
Mrs. B: so why do it then?
me: well it was quite expensive to enter...
Mrs. B: so why not try to win it

If only it were as simple as that!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Garmin Connect

I was given a Garmin Forerunner 305 for Christmas, replacing and updating my Garmin 205. I love it. Always have loved my Garmin and have the spreadsheets full of run and cycling data to prove it.
 With the 305 and Garmin Connect stats are now taken to the next level! Not only can i use the TC software i can also upload to the web with Garmin Connect and then embed session onto the web and link them from my twitter feed. Geek heaven!

This is today's run. A 10mile loop that i have done a few times and used to, when running for ultra training, do a couple laps of plus a bit extra. It feels good to be in double figures though and like i tweeted earlier this week i feel fixed. My ACL was in November and i am running 25'ish miles a week without issue. The knee feels solid and my shin issues have gone. 

I watched the London Marathon today with a mix of envy and disappointment that i wasn't there. It was the first race i did 13 years ago in April 1998. I completed it then in a time of 00:04:20. Avg. 10min miles for the distance. 

13years on i'm still a runner.

Monday, April 11, 2011

for the avoidance of doubt.....

Role Models...
Footballers are not role models. They should not be role models. They are skilled young men and can be considered heroes to emulate in playing skill but not to base your life on. The reason for this is actually quite simple. These guys, and I'm referring to the very top of the pile here the stars of the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A etc, are so far removed from the 'man in the street' that how can they be? This is also the counter argument that you hear on talk radio whenever they drag up this dreadful debate. Just because someone earns upwards of £80k a week does not guarantee any behavior standards and really why should it? There are people in all walks of life that earn allsorts of salaries and who should all conduct themselves with control and sensitivity to their surrounds, treating people and those surrounds with respect. Simple? Without making excuses people with certain income move in circles and have issues that most of us cannot understand.
How's this for a scenario - a very young man, say 21, plays Premier League football for a living. He earns phenomenal sums of money for playing sport, is sponsored by a boot manufacturer, a soft drink maker and a razor manufacturer. He's young, gifted, fit and wealthy. He's, seemingly, got it all. Transpose that with 21 year old who works in a garage and earns £14k a year. They both go out on a Saturday night with their mates and get drunk. On the way home they both stop to relieve themselves in a bush. The following morning one is in the NOTW the other just has a hangover. The one that is in the NOTW is then the subject of debate about how footballers earn all this money and have no respect. The reality is that both behaved wrongly but one is invisible and one isn't. The are no better or worse than each other but because one earns a lot of money he's supposed to be better behaved?
That is why footballers should never be role models because ultimately they are no different from young men up and down the country they just earn more. Why should a 21 year old footballer behave better/differently to a 21 year old at University? They should actually behave the same and you would hope that as they grow up and mature they will both show maturity and respect that generally comes with age.
Huge generalisation now but largely footballers are not particularly well educated.
Graeme Le Saux was ridiculed and accused of being gay because he had the temerity to enjoy art galleries and read The Guardian. An educated man in an uneducated profession. It stands to reason really, players have grown up playing football and naturally neglecting their studies (again a generalisation). Steven Gerrard is a fine player and seems a good guy. He had an indiscretion last year that came to nothing. Perhaps more interestingly in this context is that when asked what his favorite cheese was he (according to legend) responded "...melted cheese..." As a hero in football undoubtedly, I have seen probably hundreds of shirts with his name on. He seems a good guy. But would you want him as your kids role model?
John Terry...
Last year JT had the England Captaincy taken away from him because of off the field actions. It centered on an, alleged affair, with a team mates girlfriend. This was plashed across the tabloids after a super injunction had been removed. The super injunction prevented the story being published as it was not felt to be in the common interest. That JT then sold himself and was profiting from portraying himself as a family man meant that the judge overturned this ruling.
Now my position on this has (I believe) always been consistent. Whilst accepting that JT behaved incorrectly the only people that should have been involved are him and his wife and the other parties involved. In daily life people do not lose their positions/jobs for that reason. If you have an affair your career will not be affected. Your home life will but that will probably be the end of it. So why should JT lose the captaincy?
Because he's a role model. Because kids can read papers and see headlines.
My son saw the story and we talked about it. He knows, actually he knew, that what JT had done was wrong because he knows his parents are together and that that is how it should be. Did that stop him thinking that JT is a great player? No. Did that stop him thinking that JT is a great leader? No.
Are those judging really living so morally correct that they can be so outraged that a millionaire footballer behaves like them? (See the reference to money again - apparently if you are a millionaire you are not subject to the same emotions as those without it).
The captaincy was given to Rio Ferdinand. Another decent guy but one with a conviction for drink driving......
Rooney and Drogba...
Wayne Rooney has been banned recently for swearing into a camera. His defence is that players on the pitch swear all the time and if they all get banned then where will the game be. The difference here, and Man Utd are being a little bit ridiculous in peddling that statement, is that Rooney rather than shouting/swearing to the heavens actually sought the camera and full of rage and anger swore into it. This was Saturday afternoon, a home audience of thousands and due to the time a, probable, large audience of kids. He gets banned for 2 games.
Take another scenario - a presented on the One Show does a cracking interview and runs to the camera and swears into it. What happens? Even simpler, if that presenter swears inadvertently, what happens? A two show ban on full pay? Unlikely. Make it more relevant, you walk into your office and swear like Rooney did. What happens?
Apparently what Rooney did is no worse that Drogba in the Champions League a season or so ago when having been sent off he was followed by the camera where he was complaining into it and swore.
Same bottom line, they both swore into the camera taking that into millions of homes. There are differences in the circumstances. Mainly that Rooney sought the camera and demonstrated pure aggression and hate. Drogba was being followed by the camera, he never sought it. Rooney went looking for it. Drogba was in a negative situation having been sent off in a Champions League match, Rooney had just scored a hat-trick. I'm not trying to justify either but there are some subtle differences. That aside they both behaved unprofessionally and both have been punished within the game. As a scenario again if you are in work and swear under your breath or to yourself you will not get too much attention. Stand in the atrium and swear aggressively and it will be different. That's the difference in game and in camera. Players need to accept a responsibility on the pitch and swearing into a camera is really not acceptable however you dress it up, it's also different to being caught swearing on camera.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Photo-A-Day Project

In Montpellier Park, Cheltenham, there's a small gallery called The Gardens Gallery - It's a small scale operation that shows local work. They have all sorts displayed in there and if we are ever there we always go and have a look. This Saturday we went in and there was a photography exhibition. The photographer, Zoe Weston, was displaying photographs that she had taken through 2009. Essentially she had taken a photograph every day and was displaying them. It was pretty interesting in patches.
There were some pictures that were very obviously ones where at the end of a day she hadn't photographed anything and so took a picture of her dinner, or the cooker ring. I actually asked her if that was the case and was a little disappointed when she admitted as much really. I guess because if you set out to photograph something every day it will ultimately end up being a lot of the minutiae of life. Simple things that perhaps you see every day. Not everything individually can be a social comment or stunning piece of art. Collectively they are worth more than the sum of their parts.
Personally I was inspired to try it myself so starting on Saturday 19th March I am going to take a picture a day and load it into a picasa album and see what the results look like. I am sure it is harder than it looks to take a picture of something that is useable every day but as a project it's worth a shot (pun intended).
As I am generally always out and about the majority, if not all, of the photo's will be taken using an iPhone 4.
Should be interesting!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Plans and Dreams...

I started to dare to dream yesterday...having been able to run a couple of 3.5 milers without issue i started to consider plans to run longer, not necessarily faster.

There's the Devils Chimney 10k on 16th July, this is run by the club that @stodddy38 runs with, Almost Athletes, so I'll probably do that one. Then on 4th September its the Cheltenham Half Marathon at the Racecourse. Followed a week later by the Cheltenham Triathlon at the Sandford Park Lido. 

So far so good, nice and simple. I won't be competitive and right now i don't want to be. Just getting to the start line will feel great!

2012, however will be different!  
The Gloucester Marathon in January (hopefully with Stoddy), the Mayhill Massacre in February, again with Stoddy who should be completing his 4th Mayhill. The Cotswold Marathon in March, then maybe an ultra. There's a Cardiff 50miler in May, or, drum roll please.......the Cotswold 100miler in June.

I think the 100miles will have to wait for 2013 but next year i definitely want to do a 50miler. I was training for one previously, The Thames Trot, until a change of jobs put the scuppers on that. I know i can do the training mileage and stick to the schedule so i just need to keep fit. Sometimes easier said than done but i am hopeful - i need some good luck right?

So right now it's about continuing the training mileage, watching my form and technique and building slowly. Shorter distances slowly with the end game very much the prize not knocking out a 5k pb in training. 

Tomorrow's "long run" will hopefully be 4 miles in around 35minutes - see what i mean.

Monday, March 7, 2011

....running freely

It's been an up and down couple of weeks for me in my ACL rehab. Three weeks ago I was advised I could start jogging again, I started out with some gentle 1 mile runs building to 2miles pretty quickly but at a very slow pace. I did this a couple of times in the first week and started to get a sharp pain in my left shin. Pain on the inside edge and close to the ankle. I was gutted as this felt like an old injury that I thought the long lay-off would have resolved.
After the Gloucester Marathon in January 2010 I was unable to run as had really bad pain through my shin and ankle, it basically felt like my left ankle was set in concrete - zero flexibility and give. This was incredibly painful for me to run on. 
I started physio which was working but then very quickly ruptured my ACL meaning an enforced lay-off. The silver lining I was expecting was that the 6-9month lay-off would cure me of other issues. Any niggles, my left achilles for example used to get sore would resolve themselves through good old fashioned rest. 
You can therefore imagine how I felt when after 1 week back pavement pounding I was seemingly back where I was 9 months earlier. A fixed ACL but the same old injury. I raised it with my physio's who suggested I get a podiatry referral from my GP to have my gait analysed properly. I did this and have an appointment a week today. I also took the decision to rest from jogging for 2 weeks. 
The results have been startling! I ran a total of 9 miles last week with the longest run being 2.7 miles. I am looking to build to 5km (sorry to mix my units!) at the end of this week. Importantly I have no knee pain and no shin/ankle/achilles pain. What I have also done in this delayed comeback is concentrate on my form. I am focusing on running straight, as opposed to leading with a strong leg, I am also concentrating on a mid/forefoot strike pattern - both are easy to implement when running slow and also when starting almost from scratch.
I have time to start slow and steady with good technique not worrying about pace and performance. There was a quote I read from one of the guys that founded Cervelo that is " enough to get through the forest, slow enough to see the trees..." that quote brilliantly sums up what I, and many many others, love about running. It's great to be back!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who would you be?

Christian Troy in Nip Tuck?
Brad Pitt in Fight Club?
Adam Carter in Spooks?
Bruce Lee in any of his movies?
Homer in the Simpsons?
Mitchell in Being Human
Joey in Friends?
Bruce Willis in Die Hard (only the first one not the other 3)?Dexter in Dexter?
Sylar in Heroes?
Keanu Reeves in The Matrix?

courtesy of Stoddy38 Rocky?