Friday, 17 October 2014

Ridgeway Run 2014 - heavy breathers and fast women

The Ridgeway Run for 2014 was again a good experience although the heavy breathers and fast women were an unexpected feature.  My last participation in this lovely race was 2011 and I remember it as a nice, smallish, local race which was free from the commercialisation and fuss over bigger events.  While the runner numbers have clearly grown over the years, it still has the same feel about it.

The route is the same as far as I can remember apart from one small tweak.  The route goes from the edge of Tring in Hertfordshire, up to the Ashridge monument, then heading northeast through the woods and down onto the Ridgeway footpath.  Virtually all traffic free on tracks, paths and along the side of a golf course all makes it scenic and very pleasant.

The start!

There were apparently 500+ runners all lined up in the ordinarily and  quiet cul-de-sac on the edge of Tring, a well-to-do little town.  I think I was in the middle of the field when we started to shuffle forward as none of us actually heard the starting gun.  The first mile or so is on a straight lane, wide enough for 2 or 3 runners to run side-by-side and it was then I realised I was surrounded by the heavy breathers.  They really were heavy breathers, some gasping and struggling a bit as we all got warmed up.  Gradually the field thinned a little and dog walkers stood patiently as we all went by, occasionally someone would say something by way of a "thank you".

Single file

It was on this straight lane that the fast runners will have got away and made the most of a potential PB segment but alas I was still in the main pack.  Once on the other side of a main road the climbing started and this is where things ground to a halt somewhat.  There was a single-file stretch and naturally that slowed things down before an uphill climb.  At one point we were at a stand-still and I impatiently thought "man this is a race, the clock is ticking.... stop dawdling and get going!".  Again heavy breathers were making themselves heard and they were all men as far as I could tell.  As we gradient started to climb I easily overtook a few where I could.  Likewise I got overtaken by a couple of women who were seriously faster than me!

Ashridge and the Bridgewater monument

At the top of the climb came the first water station and then a fast woodland track heading away from the Bridgewater Monument, a place I know well.   At that point we thinned out even more but I was never far from any of the other runners.

I remember there was one runner giving us all a motivational and well meaning commentary... "Wow we're doing a such-and-such pace now, not bad, keep this up and we'll get a X finish time..... I'm gonna put the hammer down in the last few miles.... thank you marshall.... you're awesome..... we doing great, this is a great run....."

The half way point came, I looked at my watch and realised I was running a slow time.  I also realised how wonderful the scenery was and it was looking wonderful with autumn colours coming on nicely through the woodland areas.  There was then a downhill stretch where I picked up the speed a bit but real care is needed not to trip and go flying.  I latched onto one of the women that had previously overtaken me as she was clearly a good pace maker with a good running form.  I was able to keep her in sight for quite a long time until she overtook a slower runner and I was effectively blocked behind for about 5 minutes, waiting to overtake through another woodland part where it cold only be single file.

The final stretch!

Back onto the straight lane, heading south east and back to Tring.  This was the place to pick up some speed.  I remembered the first time I ran this race and foolishly thought the end was in the same place as the start.  On that occasion I put "my all" into sprinting to the finish, only to realise it was a further half mile!  I can tell you that was embarrassing as everyone I'd over taken, then overtook me.

So I didn't make the same mistake again.  I came in 5 minutes slower than I did in 2011 when I last ran this race.  I was just in the top half and felt frustrated because I know I could do much better (and already looking forward to next year!).

I think I am paying the price for not running much earlier on this year (because of cycling).  While I was running this race my legs felt very tired every now and again but I was never out of breath.  This tells me my cardiovascular performance is pretty good but my "running legs" need some more training - some interval / Fartlek training wouldn't do me any harm.  Plus my weight is creeping up towards 11 stone and this is freaky stuff!  I feel heavy and I don't like it.


After the race I found myself talking to a fellow runner, Roger (pictured below).  I think I remember Roger from a previous race when he was my pace setter and we over took each other a few times, a kind of cat-and-mouse affair before he finally beat me.  This time I beat Roger, but only just.  He was such an easy man to talk to, natural in his conversation, well spoken, unassuming but remarkable as a 70 year old.

I recall saying that I'd be pretty pleased if I had his fitness when I'm 70 years old.  That will be cool.  Being that fit then depends on a number of things, mostly in my control and this is of course about maintaining that level of fitness now.  Avoiding illness and injury is important too.  For any of us, what we do in our younger years will have a bearing on our health later on: some things are "repairable" but other things aren't fixed so easily.  Either way I am planning to be as healthy as I can now I am in the second half of my life.

And thanks to....

Tring Running Club - I enjoyed this race once again.  I like the organisation which is great, the route through beautiful scenery, the atmosphere, because it is good value and because  it is not a huge scale commercially orientated race.

My thanks go to all of the volunteers carrying out all kinds of different roles (marshals, first aiders etc).

Here's the website for Tring Running Club - click here

And here are a few other random shots at the start and finish:

Ridgeway Run 2010
Ridgeway Run 2011
Healthy living and old age
Running in old age

Friday, 10 October 2014

How's the training going?

I can say that I'm feeling nervously excited about the forthcoming Ridgeway Run on Sunday 12th October.  Excited because I'm enjoying running again and also because this is a really nice "little" race to do.  Nervous because I'm not sure I am as fit as I could be.

The race itself is just under 10 miles and I've had a couple of runs around that distance, plus a number of other runs covering 5 or 6 miles.  That's all very well and yet it occurred to me that I have not been doing anything with speed in mind.  In fact all my runs are around the 8:30 - 9:00 minute / mile speed.  Also I'm a few years older from when I last ran this race and reluctantly I am starting to admit to "feeling my age" a little bit.  We'll see.  Come back for my account of the race....

Night time running?

For anyone living in the UK or on our latitude will be aware of the days drawing in quite quickly now and this will, once again be limiting opportunities for running.  It doesn't have to stop running completely as I have run at weekends in previous winters and had a couple of shorter runs around Stevenage after work.  Stevenage, by the way, might well have its share of naff 1960s architecture and social problems, but it is quite a good place for running on all those traffic free paths.  In daylight there's Fairlands Valley Park which is quite pleasant.

I have toyed with the idea of joining a gym for the winter.  I might follow this through.

Alternatively I have got it into my head about giving night time running a proper go - with a head torch.  Yep I do have a reasonable head torch and it seems quite tempting.  However, I don't really fancy the idea of having some kind of mishap in the middle of nowhere and in pitch black.  So, what do I do?  Run in urban areas?  Take a chance?  Join a club?

I do need to make up my mind as I can feel myself getting drawn back int running more than ever!

Monday, 6 October 2014

A rainy run after work

I wanted to record some of the highlights from a run after work today, partly as an encouraging reminder for myself in the future and simply because it is part of this blog.

Today the weather was rainy, first for several weeks.  It seems the weather has suddenly changed from a lovely Indian summer to Autumn in the space of 24 hours.  I had been in my office all day, slaving over a hot keyboard and managed to get loads done - I can assure you (the tax payer) that you had good value for money out of me today.  I had my running kit in the back of my car as I do more often these days, so at 5.15pm I logged out of my computer, tidied my desk, washed my coffee mug, watered my desk plant and got changed.

I could see in the fading light there was a little rain in the air so I popped my yellow jacket on too.  As one of my affectionate once colleagues pointed out, I looked like a running highlighter pen.  Hmmmm....  In no time at all I was out running through the rain drops.  I could feel them against my face and legs; it actually felt quite refreshing and pleasant.  I ran for 5.2 miles in 45 minutes, a moderate speed for me on my own.  Throughout the run I must say it felt so good and these are the points that made it a great run:

Listening to my iPod Shuffle, the two memorable tracks were: "When I survey the wondrous cross" which I found uplifting.  Next, by complete contrast was Tom Waits "Invitation to the Blues" which is one of my all-time favourites.  I remembered the time when I first heard it - in Cheltenham, probably 1980 or 81 or maybe 82 at a friend's house.  I could never have imagined I'd be listening to it over 30 years later running around Stevenage in the rain.

I almost wish the rain would have been harder and I was totally drenched, just for the fun of it.  While I felt really alive, I could have felt totally blasted and totally alive!  Somehow a hard run turns out to be more memorable and enjoyable, for some strange reason.

I drove home feeling wet and soggy in my car.  I had the heater on maximum to dry out and warm myself up.  That meant I needed the aircon on too in order to stop the windows misting completely over.  I admit to driving home with a grin on my face.

I loved that rainy run, the highlight of the day.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Are my running shoes worn out?

One things I have noticed since I have started running again, is that my running shoes feel a bit "flat" and my feet are landing a little heavier than I remember.  This has had me puzzled a little as there is definitely something different going on....

I know that I am a whopping 4lbs heavier than normal, so that can possibly explain the different sensation.  Another factor is that I am still getting my running fitness back; I'm not there yet and I have experienced a slight strain in my groin which I have experienced before when I have run too much too quickly.

Perhaps the most likely explanation is that my running shoes are worn out and need replacing.  Now we all know running shoes need replacing after 500 - 600 miles and, yet again, I fear I have exceeded this mileage with my current shoes. So I feel myself starting the process of buying some more!

I don't normally enjoy buying running shoes because there always seems to be an element of risk unless I'm buying an identical pair.  What is making me feel a little cross with myself is that I normally like to have TWO PAIRS of running shoes on the go at any one time.  I have blogged before about the advantages of this together with the other signs of shoes being worn out.  It comes to something when you find yourself referring to your own blog for advice!


Are my running shoes worn out?

Two pairs of running shoes?

Check your running shoes

Running and preventing blisters

Monday, 29 September 2014

Running again!

It is far too long since I last blogged properly, so here goes.  I am back into running after spending more time cycling earlier this year and I can tell you, I am seriously enjoying it.

The latest is that I have entered the Ridgeway Run once again, organised by Tring Running Club.  I have done this three times in the past and the last was in 2011.  I remember it as a nice little local race without the sophistication of these huge mass runs involving thousands of runners.  Instead this is relatively small with a couple of hundred runners, no chip times, not too many of those horrible commercial over tones.  It is a 9.7 mile race which goes from the outskirts of Tring, up around the Ashridge Estate, along some of the Ridgeway long distance footpath before dropping back down into Tring.  It is a nice race in pleasant scenery.

Preparing for that I have had a few mid week runs around Stevenage after work, also serves to de-stress myself at the end of a busy day.  Stevenage maybe architecturally challenged and have it's fair share of social deprivation but it is a great place for running - lots of wide footpaths and Fairlands Valley Park is ideal.

A couple of days ago (Saturday) I did a 10 mile run along the towpath of the Grand Union Canal.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as it is different scenery for me.  This seems to be working out quite well as my youngest daughter, Hannah, has taken up Kayaking and has joined the local club.  This all comes together so nicely with Hannah paddling and for me running for anything up to 90 minutes.

The benefits of the run were, and are, immense.  Not only did I have that lovely Runner's High feeling all day long but I also had a nice energised feeling throughout my body.  As I have been gradually building up my distances, week by week, there was no particular ache or strain.  So the training is going well.

I took a look at the Tring Running Club website and clocked my previous times - around 1hr 17mins each time.  The last time I did this event was in 2011 so I will be pleased if my time is anywhere near the same!

Some friends

Some friends from church have somehow or other found themselves committed to a crazy obstacle course next year and have asked if I can help train them up for it.  They are going for the 5k distance so no huge barriers in that sense.  What I am unsure about are the obstacles.... having seen that kind of thing before it looks great fun albeit potential for falling off muddy wooden structures and broken collar bones.  Call me a coward but I prefer keeping my feet on the ground, or on two wheels!

To complicate it, Hannah has said she's like to do the event, providing I'd do it with her.  That suddenly gives me a dilemma.....


The Runner's High
Ridgeway Run 2010
Ridgeway Run 2011
The joy of the long run

Friday, 26 September 2014

Guest blog: The Super Food Super Guide

Growing older and officially becoming a senior citizen at the age of 65 can bring massive amounts of joy. For this is the time in one’s lifespan to enjoy grandchildren, retirement, senior discounts and increased health insurance benefits.

This time can also bring about a plethora of health maladies as the body ages and contends with increased susceptibility to sickness. While no senior is invincible, the guide below will recommend several sources of essential proteins, vitamins and nutrients needed by the body to build its defenses against sickness and disease. 

Combined with recent advances in senior care technology that make disease detection and prevention easier than ever before, healthy eating is something simple, affordable and even fun that a senior citizen can partake in to preserve his or her lifestyle. From blueberries to chia seeds, avocados to acai juice, they don’t call them superfoods for nothing. Here’s why: 

Monday, 14 July 2014

I'm back and running again!

After a few months break from this blog and running, I'm now back.  All is well and here's a summary of what has been happening:

  1. Since 1st January I have cycled 2,433 miles, this has included 122,000 feet of climbing.  This is more than I would usually do if I'm spending time running.
  2. The reason for concentrating on cycling has been the Coast to Coast in a Day sportive - click here for my account of the 150 mile bike ride.  This has been a wonderful "project" in terms of training, getting my bike right and the company of my friends who I did it with.  
  3. At almost the last minute before the Coast to Coast I invested in a Garmin Edge 800 to help with navigation; I was afraid I'd miss a sign and get lost.  I should say that when I'm tired I know I am less attentive and observant, therefore the chances of missing a sign were probably much higher.  Having this gizmo now opens up further possibilities.... unless anyone makes me an offer I can't refuse (it cost me £218).
  4. During the months where cycling dominated, most weeks I have managed one run.  Normally this has been about 3 miles, just enough to keep my hand in so to speak.  Now is the time to pick that up once again....

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Alive, kicking and still blogging

I cannot believe we're in to February and this is the first blog post of the year - time flies!  Here's a little round up of what's what but first of all I must tell you about the above photograph.

Running with Jon

That's me on the right with my good friend Jon in the white shirt.  This was taken a few weeks back on a Saturday morning run.  First of all, please let that be some reassurance that I am still running.

Jon, well he's a great pal but it has to be said he is not into cycling. In fact, he's made a point of that in his own blog.  While we were out running we spotted a handful of cyclists and Jon plucked up courage to ask me about cycling.... why I like it, what's the buzz and so on.  Naturally I wasted no time in telling him all the many reasons why cycling is such a great thing to do and why it fits alongside running so well.  It makes you wonder whether he might be secretly wanting to take up cycling, or at least to taste some of the many benefits but cannot bring himself to take the plunge.  He doesn't know it but there's a good chance of this happening as they say the best predictor of future behaviour is to look at what has already happened.  Years before he took up running, he was far from that.  Nowadays he's far (outwardly) from being a cyclist, so who knows....?

Anyway.  We went for a really nice run over one of his courses - about 8 miles and out into the countryside around Breachwood Green.  I already know this area, the network of country roads and lanes, through my commuting to Stevenage.  It was a great run, we kept up with each other in pace and conversation.

When we got back to Jon's house that's where things started to get interesting.  Locked out.  Yes, the front door was locked, so too was the back door.  Locked out.  Being a Saturday morning we shouldn't be reading anything into the fact the family cars were there in the drive way, and as Jon explained, they would be taking the dog for a walk.  We waited, got cold and waited a little more with a little shiver thrown in.

To keep warm and be distracted from Jon's embarrassment we jogged around the neighbourhood hoping to spot his family.  Not successful at all.  We asked some dog walkers, looked in the usual places where Jon reckoned they might be, all to no avail.  We got back to his house, gravel, stones, bigger stones all hurled at the upstairs windows. "Anyone in?" desperatley went through the letter box.

Yes, someone was in and so we got into his house.  Just as well really as I wasn't going far without getting my car keys back.  Nevertheless a humbled Jon took all the flack on his chin very well and certainly not putting us off having another run some other time.

The thing about running with other people

I'm sure I've blogged about this before, the pros and cons of running on your own or with other people.  Like many other runners I probably lean more to running on my own but when you get to run with someone else, who is like-minded and runs at a similar pace, why not?

I had been thinking I ran slower on my own, perhaps I do sometimes but I also like to run in short blasts to get myself totally out of breath when any kind of conversation is impossible.  When running with Jon it feels like we start off quicker than I would normally on my own.  It always seems to take me 20 minutes or so to get warmed up and running well, Jon, on the other hand springs into life a bit quicker than me.

Overall I think it's great to run alone but then with the right person, why not run with someone else?  All adds depth and variety!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Being a bit "run down"

I'm a bit "run down".  How do I know this?  Four reasons:

  1. I have a cold sore.  I can't remember having one like this before and I'll spare you of the details.  In general cold sores tend to emerge when people's health or resistance has been depleted a little.  Also referred to as "burning the candle at both ends".
  2. I have a painful hand; though this might seem a bit weird.  In January 2011 I managed to injure my left hand - I fell over while I was running.  Click here for a blog post at the time.  No broken bones but more likely nerve damage according to the Doctor.  He said at the time it would take about a year to heal completely which ran true to form.  The crazy thing is that it's flared up now - there's no further injury or anything to aggravate it - it's just flared up and it's never done that before.  So that is another reason for knowing I'm "run down".
  3. Few last minute things just done at work as I finish for the Christmas break.  This time I have annual leave booked until 6th January so a decent break.  Yesterday was my last day and I finished at 2.00pm (please no cheeky comments about public sector workers knocking off early - we work blooming' hard in ways most people will never know about).  I can tell you it felt good as I had my last 1:1 meeting with my manager, gave the Chief my Christmas greetings, watered my desk plant and set my 'out of office' and got out of the building as fast as anything.  This is all a sign that I need to get away from work and forget about it for a couple of weeks.
  4. I am missing seeing daylight.  I drive to work when it's dark or just getting light and drive home in the dark.  I hate this; I need some daylight.  No, before you say it I don't need one of those SAD lights - I just need to be outside and feel the wind on my face and feel ALIVE!
Last year I ran over the Christmas break each day - and absolutely loved it.  This year I shall try and cycle instead, with the odd run thrown in.  I need to do this. Why? Glad you asked:

  1. Dealing with the stress of work.  Having a decent run for an hour is such a wonderful way of dealing with those things.  If you are a runner you'll know this.  Probably the effect of the Runner's High and a chance to get out into some daylight and fresh air.  Plus the challenge of some hills.  Wonderful, simply wonderful.
  2. Yep, cycling.  As much as I love running, I am going to spend more time on the bike for the next six months as I train for the Coast to Coast in a Day event in June 2014.  Heck that's not far away now and there's lots of training to do.  Because of that you might see more of me blogging on The Cycle Hub.   
  3. I can tell you, drifting around at home, moping a bit is not good for me.  I get frustrated and need to get on and do something whether its us as a family or going for a blast on my own.
  4. There are times when doing absolutely nothing is okay - that was the case yesterday evening.  A nice meal and watched two folios on TV.  That was then and now I need to get moving, as physically I don't want to get sucked into all those coughs and colds.  Having a cold sore is bad enough.  I just need to get moving!