Thursday, July 22, 2021

Hosting a UKRunChat Hour

I tweeted recently that watching people do epic things was awesome but also brought me down because I want to be doing that stuff and through injury just cannot. That may appear a very selfish view, but it really isn’t. I will always support and congratulate someone’s achievement without any other motive than genuinely being happy for them. A reply to my tweet from @tyrelady* said “How about being epic by hosting a session of @UKRunChat”. That set about the events that saw me host last nights hour from 8-9pm..

The communications from UKRunChat were excellent – clear instructions on what to do and how to approach it and timings. I had 6 questions pre-canned and was good to go. There was time for a panic though as I figured out how to schedule tweets. I loaded up the schedule with my intro and then the questions all at 10min intervals.. I also, luckily, had a tweet loaded that said it’s 1hr to go.. I checked my phone, and that tweet hadn’t been sent. I ran up to the laptop to check and realised that whilst the times were all ok the date was inexplicably the 26/07! I hadn’t paid much attention as figured that the default was the current date. It isn’t.

I corrected all the dates and that was it good to go!!

My first question went out at 8:01pm… there was silence and a few replies. I did panic a little thinking that the first question had ruined it. I had killed UKRunchat! That was my ego talking because clearly, I was not bringing anything down!! There was a reassuring message from the UKRunchat contact and advice to release the second question. Then conversation then started, and I was running multiple conversation threads. The scheduling released the other questions at the right time and it kept flowing.

I was really having a good time responding to people from all over and with all sorts of backgrounds. The running community really is a diverse and engaging one.

There were so many highlights but as someone with type 1 diabetes the people talking about their conditions and desire to keep running struck the most resounding chord. There were a number of folks with Ulcerative Colitis and heart conditions too… what I really liked was that many of them said that they told their doctors that they were going to do x when they got out and that they did exactly that!! I know it’s not always easy for everyone on the back of a condition to do these types of things and we shouldn’t expect that just because we can with whatever condition we have others will be able to. It does serve as a massive inspiration though and I would urge anyone interested to, with proper consultation with their medical teams, to explore the options to start or increase their exercise regimen.. the message coming through loud and clear was how empowering it is and just how life affirming it is to be out in nature doing something..

This was part of my reasoning around the ‘what are your proud of’ question too – I wanted it to be anything and that’s exactly what it was. For everyone talking about half and full marathons to ultra’s and beyond there were people proud of being able to run 25mins without stopping, or for having completed C25K or , and this was a personal favourite, for getting kudos from their nephew for running a 10km!

Epic is truly in the eye of the beholder and to reinforce that, the running community supports everyone that takes part in this wonderful sport. Those with judgement need not apply.

The hour was flying now and I even got a bunch of likes from Dean Karnazes – I had mentioned him in one of the questions about meeting a running hero and he must have been tagged in getting on for 20 tweets!

As it drew to a close there were responses piling in across all the questions. It was great. I really enjoyed being at the heart of something that was so positive. It really was an epic hour and one that I would recommend anyone to do and one that I will do again for sure!!


The questions I asked were

Q1. I have had type 1 #diabetes for nearly 20years but still train and run as much as ever just with a little more planning and prep. Do you have a condition that you manage? What would your advice be to someone newly diagnosed who wants to run?

Q2. Getting more into running now what are you proudest of? For me it’s my 3:15 marathon pb.

Q3. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Dean Karnazes and the late great Caballo Blanco - have you ever met a running hero and what was that like?

Q4. Have you bought any gym kit or gym machines through lockdown and do you actually use them?

Q5. I know us runners like to take our kit with us wherever we go so what experiences have you had running whilst on holiday?

Q6. Let’s finish with some day-dreaming and a question that has almost certainly been asked before - what’s the one event you’d love to take part in? London marathon? New York? Western states? Utmb? The london 10km?


*I have actually meet the Tyre Lady, although I doubt she will remember, at the Cheltenham Challenge ultra a few years ago.. on a boiling hot-day I was walking up Aggs Hill (if you know you know) and caught up to her. I ran alongside for a while before pushing on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Ego, pride and humility

I saw a video the other day. There was a young American basketball player who was asked how he keeps his feet on the ground with the success he has had. His answer was, and I am paraphrasing, that if he looks back at what he’s done that’s his ego. If he dwells on that then he’ll fall going forward as he’s focussed on his ego. If he looks forward that his pride. However, if he stays focussed on the moment and in the present that’s humility. What a great answer!

It got me to thinking a lot about how I have approached my own racing and to be honest my focus has been on pride and in all cases to my detriment. I have described it previously as ‘believing my own hype’ and then realising that it was just that, hype.

The clearest time this happened was at the Cheltenham Challenge Ultra race a few years ago. This was three laps of 13.1 miles starting at Cheltenham Racecourse and heading up and over Cleeve Hill before coming back round. It’s a tough but beautiful course; a mix of tarmac, trail, hill, open scrub and woodland. There’s a moment as you head in through Prestbury where the view is across a field to St Marys Church the view has no modern distractions and must be unchanged since the 13th century when it was built.

With a race like this I always think that the first lap is a freebie – that’s not to say it’s not hard but anyone tackling an ultra knows that they can run a half marathon (all things being equal). The second lap of this race is where it gets tough, it’s a steep climb to the top of Cleeve Hill and if you know it the radio masts. There was an aid station at the masts, and I had stopped to top up water and grab something to eat. As I approached the people on the aid station said I was doing really well and was in 4th not far behind the 3rd place. This, on reflection, was the worst thing I could have heard. Rather than keep going as I was, I increased my effort and got excited about podiums and the like. This was not even halfway into an ultra-distance race.

You can probably guess what happened.. I put more effort in to try and reel in the 3rd placed runner. I paid for that increase and started going backwards through the field. The third lap was a real struggle and while I did make it to the finish line I finished in 7th place (there were only something like 15 runners). I should have learned my lesson but I have done that subsequently too. I start to feel good in a race and rather then recognising that and acknowledging that what I am doing is making me feel good I start to think I can push.

The outcome in the Cheltenham Challenge Ultra may have been the same had I kept doing what I was but I would have not felt the same anxiety and disappointment when I was overtaken. I would have been doing my thing and content with that. It’s only pride that made me feel disappointed.

I’ve been in this situation so many times.. the Winchcombe Marathon where after about 10 miles I was in 3rd place (I don’t even know where I finished in that race!), and recently the Cheltenham Half Marathon where I was in the top 10 for a good part of the race but pushing beyond my capability too early and paid for it.

We are bombarded with well-being messages telling us to be present, to do one thing and do it well, to give that one thing our full attention. That young basket player nailed what we need to do in a short video – it’s not easy though and I can only think that’s because it’s a race and you want to do well and so start to visualise an outcome. Training the mind to not get carried away in these moments and to stay humble is the key.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Indoor rowing!

I recently took delivery of a NordicTrack RW600 rowing machine. It sits in my basement alongside the NordicTrack treadmill and exercise bike that I already have. They are all great pieces of equipment that really do help me primarily when I am recovering from injury. At heart I am a runner and yet of late I have spent more time on bikes/rowers and in the pool.

Rowing is something I have dabbled with a bit in gyms over the years. I think my first experience of rowing was probably 18 years ago when in the work gym they ran an event called the Smilebuster triathlon. There was a sprint event which included a 1.5km row, 6km on a bike followed by 2km on a treadmill. There was also a Pro event made up of a 4km row, 15km on the indoor bike and then 5km on the treadmill. I took part in both events and while my times are a dim and distant memory, I remember doing the 1.5km row in around 5:30/40. I also remember how hard they were, and this was 18 years ago!

I then worked in a new office with a gym and there was a challenge to row 5km in under 20 minutes. I remember doing it and how much it hurt, and I know I could do it sub 20 but the details are sketchy. Since then, I have rowed in gyms either doing 2km or 5km and trying to achieve sub 2min per 500m consistently.

All of this has been on Concept 2 rowing machines.

When looking to buy a rowing machine the decision to opt for a NordicTrack was made primarily as it has the large screen with workouts that you can stream to the device. In short, it’s a more family friendly machine than the more industrial looking and maybe scary Concept 2. It’s also more expensive so price wasn’t part of the discussion.

The machine was delivered quickly and needed some assembly. It took my son and I maybe half an hour to get it out of the box, built, connected to the internet and ready to go.

The immediate impression is that this is a lovely machine. It’s very aesthetic with a feel of being a quality build. A nice mix of matt plastic and metal with a nice screen.

The mechanism is very quiet and it’s easy to listen to the music and coaching whilst rowing that comes with the iFit subscription. The handle is comfortable and attached to the machine via a nylon strap – this adds to the quietness of the machine perhaps over the Concept 2 that uses a chain. The foot-straps are easy to adjust and secure. A large Velcro strap that you pull across. Everything has been thought out and this machine shows it.

As I am currently struggling and trying to recover from an injury, Achilles tendonitis, I have been using the machine a lot! Only this morning I did a half marathon on it as part of my training towards rowing a marathon. I hope to do this in maybe a month. This is where I have a question really and it concerns the performance of the machines. If you look at the indoor rowing events and races, look at the records and look at what the elite rowers train on it’s all Concept 2 machines. Is that because it is more realistic or do they just have a head start on marketing? There’s then a further question which is about the performance and are they different? If I am rowing at 2min per 500m on the NordicTrack is that transferable to the Concept 2 or is it harder or even easier?

My effort this morning was 21.012km in 1:14:45 giving an average of 1:46 per 500m. I was working hard and the machine was on the lowest setting but this feels too quick.

You could argue why does it matter – well it doesn’t but if I want to do an indoor rowing event and I think I’m a 1:46 rower but really, I’m a 2:05 rower I’d like to know that before I get on the machine!