Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Latest long run

I had been really looking forward to my long run on Sunday morning, before breakfast as always.  The MK Marathon training schedule suggested a 105 minute run at a relaxed 10 minute per mile pace.  In my mind I had mapped out a route several days before and as a sign of being positive about it, I got my running gear out the night before.

I left the house at 7.10am - still dark, cold and foggy.  I was running in tracksters, a base layer and my Montane featherlite marathon jacket, woolly hat and gloves.  Just as well because it was flippin' cold.

I miscalculated the distance and ended up running for well over 2 hours; easily a half marathon plus a bit. It was brilliant but a tad hard going in the last couple of miles.  I find that when I'm getting tired, my steps are shorter and that leads to blisters.  Mercifully I have escaped blisters but the early signs were there.

As I ran much further than I am accustomed to rightnow, it has taken a couple of days to rest and recover.

That 2 hours represented good training, helping to accustom my legs to running longer distances.  Naturally the 2 hours were a brilliant time and space for me to be alone with my thoughts and mull things over, daydream, rehearse some up and coming conversations and so on.  It set me up for the rest of the day.  Having run a few half marathons the pace seemed a little slower but nevertheless good to be building the distances up once again.

Looking forward to interval training tomorrow and before the longer run at the weekend!

Happy birthday Hannah

Our little girl wants the whole world to know that she is 12 today!

Happy birthday Hannah!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Francis Albaugh - 90 year old runner

I came across an article on Francis Albaugh as he was approaching his 90th birthday in February 2012 and couldn't help but think how amazing this kind of story is.  

Click here for the full article  by The Meadville Tribune on 23rd January 2012.

One of the remarkable things is that he didn't start running until he was 57 and I can't help but wonder if that is part of his youthful success in later life i.e. not wearing himself out too soon.  No matter, it's an inspiring account.  He's competed in numerous marathons and ultramarathons which is a credit for anyone, let alone as an elderly gentleman.  

He commented that "during my 70s, there was no stopping me.  I was racing and having just over six minute miles".  That's cool.  In my late forties I could do a mile dash in 6 minutes and 20 seconds.  The article goes on to share that he's needed a couple of operations which has slowed him down but certainly haven't stopped him.

I can very much identify with the quote that stands out the most: "When I run, I feel good" says Albaugh "if I would stop running, I would just slow down physically and mentally.  When I run, I'm awake and alive".

How true.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Review - The Food Doctor Savoury Roasted Soya

Savoury roasted soya, as scoffed by Rachel

Following on from The Food Doctor's raw seeds and nuts I thought I'd try out these savoury roasted soya beans.  Little did I know I would be thwarted as they were scoffed by Rachel, who is often dubious of some of these healthy foods I bring home from time to time.  Rachel was with me in the kitchen as I opened the tub, we each tried about a spoonful.

"Mmmmmm surprisingly Moorish" she said.  

Little did I know that would be the last I saw of them but at least the pack was left for the purpose of blogging.

From memory of the few I had, they were fine.  Not a strong flavour, quite subtle really with a soya sauce flavour.  Quite hard and just right for snacks, maybe in a lunch box or perhaps  when you're in the kitchen feeling peckish.  

So, are they healthy?  Are The Food Doctor savoury roasted soya beans over priced?

I think so, on both counts.

Health wise, they're fine:

105 calories per 25g serving
High fibre - 19.5g per 100g
Low in saturated fat - 2.4g per 100g

Soya beans generally are good for you by containing: Vitamins E, B1, B3, B6 and various other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron, zinc and carbohydrates.  All this is useful in terms of containing antioxidants and cholesterol lowering properties.  The text on the packaging refers to the beans as being a rich source of protein and breakdown slowly to provide a steady flow of energy through the day.  Fibre is fairly high at 19.5% which of course is great for keeping the digestive tract moving.

At £2.99 they're expensive for a mere 150g.  Balanced against that we have to consider most food is artificially cheap in the UK and often at the expense of those who produce it or are in the early stages of the supply chain.  So if this food comes to me with some kind of Fair Trade-type ethic, then I don't mind.  There's also a lot of GM soya around: while I don't approve of GM, we have little choice as consumers.

I know nothing about The Food Doctor other than taking a brief look around their website (click here) but I think I'll come back to that more thoroughly on another occasion.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Less erratic running

Trying to get back on track with the MK Marathon training programme.  The schedule said to run for 70 minutes and that's what I did....


  • 70 minutes, plus cool down
  • 7mph (8min 30 sec/mile)
  • 900 calories
  • Stead heart rate of 175bpm
  • Best track: Dancing in the Street
  • 5 - 10 minute post-run stretch


  • Started easily
  • The 20 to 30 minute element was hard; overheating, felt sick but both passed
  • Ended up being an easy run and a very comfortable pace
  • I knew the purpose was getting my legs used to the pace as I build up the distance.
  • Enjoyed a queit gym - the staff said the last Friday in the month is always quiet as people go out drinking their salary.  Must be where Slobusfacticus had gone.
  • Finished having really enjoyed the run,  Somehow the tough part in the middle just melted away as I enjoyed the satisfying feeling of the Runner's High.  It was a gentle dose, just a satisfying feeling of euphoria.
  • Reflected on work: pleased we have a great EFQM result but where next?  Organisationally and for me personally.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Easy run, interval run

This has been quite a week at work and it's not over yet!  This week we've been under the spotlight with our EFQM assessment going on, which I have had a major part in.  I have been, shall we say, like a cat on a hot tin roof.  The assessors are annoyingly professional in not giving any obvious clues about our score and thankfully we won't need to wait too long for the result - they'll be calling the CEO tomorrow afternoon.

So enough of all that stress inducing stuff, what about running and so on?

Tuesday - got home, totally drained, a little later having chaperoned EFQM assessor around all day (borrowed wife's comfy car).  Almost fell asleep.  Duly despatched for a run around the streets.  Did me the world of good.

Wednesday - cycled to the gym.  40 minutes of interval training comprising of 2 minutes hard running followed by 1 minute jog.  Hard running got faster towards the end at 9.5mph.  Really good stretch afterwards.  Most men mesmerised by incredibly fit looking woman doing yoga.

Today - woke up with calf muscles aching.  Lactic acid or stretching too far?  Don't know, disappeared once up and about so probably lactic acid.

Really looking forward to:

Friday - EFQM result, easy day at my desk

Saturday - long run of 2 hours (route planned in my head already).

Monday, 23 January 2012

My erratic training

Remember I'm following a training programme for the MK Marathon?  Well things went a bit awry last week but not disastrously.

On Thursday I was meant to do 70 minutes at marathon pace (they suggest a 9 minute per mile pace) but I got to the gym so late there wasn't enough time.  Besides that pace seems awfully boring on a treadmill so, I thought I'd do something different.  This was to be a 10k / 6.2 miles which I've done umpteen times on one of those treadmills.  I ran it in 46 minutes, just a little slower than my PB for this distance.  As I got towards the end I thought I might be able to break 45 minutes by going as fast as I could for the last half mile but alas no.  In fact the "as fast as I could go" was a sprint where I hit 10mph and felt my stomach and diaphragm heaving up and down (note to self - avoid a heavy meal before running) plus my legs burning like anything.  Burning like anything means Lactic acid accumulating and a good enough reason for a decent cool-down afterwards.  Okay, this was not the run on the programme but it was enjoyable!

On Saturday there was meant to be a 40 minute easy "park run" but I completely forgot and did my long relaxed instead.  It was almost dark when I set out and 15 minutes later when I'd reached the edge of an escarpment where I normally run for 1 or 2 miles, there was the full force of the wind and drizzle to contend with.  Now with the high wind and drizzle combined, it was like being sandblasted on one side.

I continued and completed my 90 minute run.  Very satisfying, enjoyable but frustrating as I can never remember the things I want to.  All those inspired ideas, just don't get remembered.  It's a bit like waking up in the morning, knowing you've been dreaming but you cannot remember anything about it.  Someone said I should take a Dictaphone - maybe they're right!  Running for over an hour can bring out lurking injuries and best allowed to rest afterwards if injuries start to emerge.

At least I had a bike ride on Sunday but only 18 miles.  Having done so little cycling over the last month, I'm amazed at how my cycling muscles have lost some of their strength but then, it was very windy (and that's my excuse!).

So what's in store for this week?

Monday (today) - rest
Tuesday - alternate 2 minute brisk run with a jog for 45 minutes
Wednesday - rest
Thursday - 70 minutes at marathon pace
Friday - rest
Saturday - Easy run for 40 minutes
Sunday - long run for 1 hr 45 minutes

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Why should anyone enter a race?

Me - just completed the 2010 St Albans Half
Why should I enter a race?  To those who  have known me for a long time might think that is an unlikely question for me to ask.

I used to hate sport at school and have memories of being sent out in the pouring rain to run twice around the rugby field in shorts and a tee shirt in order to "warm up".  The reality was we'd go from cold to freezing and soaked through.  The PE teacher (in his nice snug tracksuit complete with a bobble hat and gloves) would then instruct us to form two teams for a game of rugby.  If we were really in his bad books we would send us off on a cross country run.  Most of us hated it, all but the classroom bully who saw it as an opportunity to mete out a little rough and tumble to remind us who was Top Dog.  I left school hating all kinds of winter sport.  On a good day, athletics in the summer could be fun as was cricket.  Being colour blind, of the red-green variety, put me at a disadvantage but still there was fun to be had.

Fast forward to recent years.The Blair Government brought targets to the public sector which we all cringed at as we played the usual games to hit targets at the expense of quality and common sense at times.  That brought about league tables where there would be someone at the top and likewise, someone at the bottom.  This reinforced the part of me that shuns competition.

So, you might ask, why do I like entering running races?  Why should you consider entering a race?

A little bit of pressure, whether it is a Blair Government target, a deadline or a finish line, can bring out the best in people.  Of course there's a fine line between a healthy bit of pressure and then when it becomes too much.

2011 St Albans Half - faster time too!
On a positive side for me, a race represents:

1. Something to aim for.  Having a date in my diary and that's something to train for
2. The satisfaction of doing as well as I can
3. The fun of the race - the atmosphere, the banter, the marshals and spectators cheering you on
4. I run faster in a race than I would on my own
5. A chance to see how I'm doing compared with others
6. To be inspired by others - I often spot someone with really good running form and they just look great to follow and try and keep up with.   Also to see someone 10 years older than me doing better than me - that is something to aim for and admire
7. The reward of having done my best; squeezing every last ounce of energy out in the last mile
8. To run somewhere new and on a route that's all worked out before
9. The Runner's High (without fail on a race!)
10. Believing in oneself.  What next?

What next?  Well, I'm training for the MK Marathon in April and seriously looking forward to that.  How about some kind of cycle race or Sportive or Audax sometime?  I've got an ideal bike but not so sure about the time for training.  Food for thought but for now I'm focussing on the MK Marathon.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Longing for those longer days

Early morning bike ride in Cumbria
At breakfast time we were talking about the winter and how we had noticed the days were now starting to get a little bit longer.  That is really encouraging and it won't be long before I can head out for an early morning run or bike ride in daylight.  In the meantime the gloomy winter involves heading to the gym on a couple of weekday evenings each week and an early morning run outside at the weekends - that's the best of all!

Knowing the days are getting longer is just right for a half-full approach, looking on the positive side of life. Even as we often get the coldest of weather in January and February, I don't really mind because it won't last too long.  That's another reason for being optimistic - if it's bad, it won't be for long.

I know a few of my colleagues are struggling right now, many under pressure and stressed and not feeling great.  One colleague has recently returned from a period of mental-health related sick leave and another now has a super-bright daylight simulation lamp on a shelf, just above his desk.  Neither are runners or sporty in anyway.  Running adds courage and confidence, brings about that feeling of "all is well", invigorates, inspires and energises.

Knowing only too well my shortcomings and weaknesses, I can say what a real difference running and, to a certain extent, cycling makes to me at this time of year.  In the darkness, gloom and drudgery of commuting in darkness, having a structured run is something to look forward to; a lift and boost towards the end of the day.  I'm off to the gym soon for my 80 minute run; I'll be sleeping well tonight in spite of having a lot on my mind around work.  Next week we're being externally assessed as an organisation and I'm feeling "on show" as I have written 95% of our application.  Part of me is feeling "I don't care what the result is now, I just want it dealt with" and yet the over riding belief is now "we've come this far, let's finish this well".  So tomorrow I'm going around with our external consultant to brief staff - and I'm really looking forward to doing that - we've a lot to be proud about.  And that's even before I've been for my run!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A little bit of interval training

Just so you know, I'm following the intermediate training programme for the 2012 MK Marathon which is helpfully on their website.  Although I've only been doing it for a week or so, I'm enjoying it as it brings variety to my running and I know I'll progress.

My last run was two days ago at the gym and was an interval bit of training:  40 minutes alternating between fast and a slow jog at 2 minute intervals.  When I started there wasn't too much of a gap between the fast and slow but before long I had widened the gap so I was really pushing myself in the fast brisk runs and really grateful for the resting jog interval.  By the time I'd finished my brisk pace was 9.5mph against the 5mph jog.  The average speed was, I think, 7.5mph.

Mind you, I was getting some funny looks from my treadmill neighbours who were slogging it out at a steady pace, which seemed slow for most of the time.  On one side was the Slobusfaticus who was huffing and puffing, splattering everywhere but at least he had all the gear - ipad, drinks bottle, mitts, sweatband, fancy watch and while he wasn't impressed with me, I lasted longer than he did.  On the otherside was a youngish woman who was having to endure a treadmill that was incredibly wobbly (which I remember reporting last week).

So, a shortish run but really good.  I knew I'd pushed myself hard towards the end but it was a great feeling being there dripping with sweat.  That, by the way, is a really uncool thing to do in the gym, rather frowned upon but frankly I don't care.  I enjoyed a few stretches afterwards (note to self - learn a few more) and I got talking to Sam Wakefield, accomplished semi-pro down hill mountain biker.  We vaguely knew each other through church.

Really enjoying this training already but the best bit is not in the gym, no flippin' way.  It's the long runs at the weekends outside.  Did you clock my Truly Inspirational Run? Can't wait until Saturday or Sunday for the next opportunity.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Two pairs of running shoes?

Is having more than one pair of running shoes extravagant?  Do you only need one pair?  Why have more than one pair of running shoes?

All good questions and here's an answer.  I have two pairs which I use for running.  The first pair (top in the photo are my favourite Saucony ProGrid Omni 9's) which are well used to running outside right now.  The third down are my Brooks running shoes which I keep for the treadmill at the gym.  Afterall it's just not right to go walking around in the changing room with dried mud falling off or to mess up the treadmill.  The other shoes are just old worn out running shoes I can't bear to get rid of, for now.

The advantage of having two pairs is that it gives them a chance to dry out and rest in between runs which if you run every day is an issue.  This is especially relevant if they get really wet but nevertheless it is good practice to allow running shoes to dry out to avoid too many bugs / bacteria to be lurking there.  Sometimes I will take out the inner sole and leave that on a radiator while the shoes dry out naturally.

The trick is to buy one pair, run a few hundred miles and then buy another pair.  Some people like to find a shoe they like and then stick with it (maybe mark them in some way so you know which is which - different coloured laces?).  I prefer to try different kinds but I always have a proper gait analysis done to make sure they are right.

Is it extravagant to have more than one pair?  No, not at all.  Given that they last for 500-600 miles, having a second pair simply extends their life.  You are also more likely to notice when the older pair are worn and need replacing.  I'm not talking about them being visually worn out (though this is important) but also in ways you can't see.  As shoes become worn, the cushioning, shock absorption deteriorates and having a lower-mileage pair will help you realise this.  Plus, you may injure yourself from running in worn out shoes all the time.

Monday, 16 January 2012

This weeks' running schedule

Helpfully those supportive people organising the MK Marathon have published some training schedules on their website - I'm following the intermediate one.

With 15 weeks to go and feeling "on track" this is the schedule for the week ahead:

Monday - alternate 1 minute brisk run with 1 minute jog, for 40 minutes
Tuesday - rest
Wednesday - I hour 10 minutes at marathon pace  (9 minutes per mile)
Thursday - rest
Friday - 40 minutes at an easy pace
Saturday - 105 minutes at a relaxed pace (10 minutes per mile)

It goes without saying I am impatient with myself and always feel tempted to do more because I know I can do more and go a little faster than this.  That is just me, being a Type A kind of runner.  I must be patient, follow the schedule.  Well, more or less.  If I need a good fast blast of a run, I'm gonna do that regardless of the schedule.  I do, however, recognise the benefits of following a logical schedule to bring myself gradually up to the right distance and pace without injury or being prone to catching a cold, bug etc.

See also:

Type A runner / personality

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Yesterday's Truly Inspirational Run!

I must tell you about the run I had yesterday morning although I'm sorry I don't have any photographs.

Here goes.  I had been looking forward to it because I just needed to get out there in some daylight following a week mostly at my desk at work, having driven there each day.  Mentally I needed to get out there, physically as well and dealing with all those emotional things as well.  I had one of my colleagues on my mind.  You see, within ear shot of my office door there is a photocopier / printer / fax and I could hear a colleague off-loading to another about how worried she was about one of her cases and "I spent all last night worrying about what this guy is doing because I don't know where he is and all of yesterday trying to get him recalled and faxing all the paperwork over, then today they want more and this ****ing machine keeps getting jammed".  I felt for her.

Back to the run.  I knew it would be cold and frosty, so on Friday night I got out my gear:  shorts, base layer, Montane featherlite jacket (ugh) woolly hat and gloves.  I was out of the door at 7.30am just as a glow of light was getting a little brighter on the horizon.  I ran slowly through the streets (wow there were two other runners out besides me, we said "hi") and then up a high to the escarpment, a climb of a couple of hundred feet.  A nice steady climb.  Got to the top and wow, oh my Lord, what an incredible sight.

I could see for miles, looking down on the frosty landscape with muted green fields stretching away into the misty distance.  Here and there were cottages with, what must be coal or log fires, and I could see the plume of smoke rising vertically for about 50 feet, then cooling, sinking and surrounding the near area with a pocket of smoky mist.

Sure it was cold but I loved it.  I could feel the cold air against my legs and face but I was about right inside, not too hot or cold.  For once I had managed to get the right clothes on - so often when it's cold I either have too little or end up roasting myself!

I was running well, dealing with the things of the week, my own short comings, feeling for my colleagues at the front line.  As I ran over frosty grass I could see I was the first along there that day, such a privilege.  I was running well but deliberately not too fast.  I was wanting a steady paced run of about 80-90 minutes and that's what I got.  I also got some hills, including a different one to my usual circuit and some unexpected ice to creep over, fearing another fall and injury.  Did I tell you I had a fall in January last year and it STILL hurts?  The Doctor said it was nerve damage, neuralgia or something.  I'd say it is 95% better but sometimes it really does STILL hurt!

Getting back home I felt so alive, so invigorated, so thankful, so blessed, so undeserving.  That feeling of well being, an inward quiet confidence and reassurance was something I needed and appreciated all day long.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Specialized Sonoma shoes - review

Specialized Sonoma Shoes
I've had these shoes for about 3 or 4 years and probably a good enough time to do a blog review.

What are they?
They are made by Specialized, well know maker of mid priced bikes, bits and clothing - the Panasonic of the cycling world, perhaps.  The shoes are aimed at a general purpose cyclist, combing a reasonable performance on the bike with the ability to be used for walking around.  They don't look too weird, if you're off they bike either in appearance or when walking along in them

The Sonomas seem fairly well made.  The sole is smooth rubber which is reasonably stiff and surprisingly grippy.  The uppers are a combination of suede leather synthetic leather supplemented by a black mesh (which is obviously not rain proof).  The three Velcro straps are great and there is a reflective toe and heel strip.

Cleat installation
This is simple enough.  I use Shimano SPDs and it was easy enough to find the right position for the SPD cleats, held in with Allen key bolts.  Naturally there is a certain amount of trial and error.  The cleat is recessed sp although it won't cause any problems walking along, it does seem to amplify the sound of grinding gravel when walking on rough ground.

Seems fine, probably their greatest strength lies here.  They are reasonably rigid and good on the bike, giving the feeling of not compromising the power transfer from feet to pedal.

Cost, value for money
The current price seems to be around £45 which I think is pretty good value for money.  I have had for several years and they have been ridden for several thousand miles.  Considering they are at the budget end, they're very good, all things considered.

This now is the weakest area in my view.  The fit, is however, okay but for some reason I ended up with a pair that is too large for me (don't ask why, I can't remember).  I find my feel feel a bit "drawn" in them which maybe due to the synthetic nature of the materials used.  The biggest problem is with me getting cramp.  Yes cramp, both feet but never both at the same time, thankfully.

Would I buy them again?
Maybe but although they look very nice and perform well, I think I could do better but not for the money.

Does this help?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

More on being 50 years old

Following on from my positive view of being 50, click here, I have noticed a view drawbacks of being 50.  Admitting to these is hard, let alone the thought of being middle-aged.  Never mind this middle-aged stuff, I'm just getting going!

However, I have noticed a few things that might be relevant to being 50 years old.  These are:

  • Very easy to gain weight (but please don't worry, my BMI is 22.2).  Must be my metabolism is slowing down?
  • Becoming longer sighted all the time.  I hope I can become far sighted, in the other sense of the term.
  • My eye brows are growing much more!
  • Things take longer to heal - my injured hand from about a year ago still isn't better.
  • My hair is thinning out more noticeably
  • I need a day in between long runs or cycle rides
  • Recently someone offered to give me their seat on a tube train 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

NHS in Hertfordshire

Hummmmmm I was driving home from work today and heard an interesting, though disturbing, news clip on the radio.  Apparently certain treatments, such as operations, are to be withheld from people who are obese and/or smoke.

What do you make of this?

Having worked alongside a colleague in Public Health last year on a project concerned with offender health, I have always thought it is an interesting subject and profession.  Sure, it's good to slim a few people down and also good to increase the numbers of ex-smokers, but I'm not sure what this will achieve.

Of course, journalism isn't always renowned for giving the whole story so it could be there's a vital bit of information missing......

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Those nice people at the MK Marathon....

Those nice people at the 2012 Milton Keynes marathon now have on their website a training schedule which looks good.  Now Christmas and the New Year excesses is fading, it's now time to start training for the marathon which is on 29th April.  So today it was off to the gym treadmill to pick up the Intermediate training schedule.

By the time I got there I had completely forgotten what I should be doing so decided to take a guess.  I set the treadmill for one hour at a steady pace of 6.5mph (this is about a 9.15/minute mile).  I should say this is incredibly boring in the gym but I decided to stick it out.  The treadmill was a bit wobbly and I was right underneath a speaker which meant I couldn't really listen to my ipod shuffle.  Never mind, I got into the rhythm and the minutes drifted by on auto pilot.  When I had almost reached the hour and I was still going okay, I added an extra 15 minutes and increased the speed to 7.5mph which took my heart rate to around 180-185bpm along with the flashing display of "HIGH HEART RATE".  So, a good run with just over 800 calories burnt and I feel great.

I'm not completely sure why I decided to go for the MK Marathon but a friend did mention it as being a good one to start off with..  Here goes: it's new, all reasonably flat, not too big (maximum 6500 runners) and it is one loop, rather than 3 laps.  Should be a great atmosphere and the website ticks all the right boxes for organising things well - of course, we'll just have to see on the day but for now I think it looks very good in terms of their planning and preparations. It is also at a great time of year - late April.  I'm really looking forward to it and the training beforehand because I know I can do it.  On a personal note, it's a cool thing to do at 50 I reckon.

While I was looking around their website, I noticed some other blogs and also a link to the Runners' Medical Resource website which is definitely worth a look.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A therapeutic run

Muddy legs are a sign of a good run!
Somewhere in our office, making it's way between the two staff rooms and small "tea station" we have a mug which I seek out for when I really need it.  It has a little cartoon and a caption which reads:

Don't let the bastards get you down!

Now I can tell you I'm not normally given to language like that but tea and coffee does seem to taste so much better out of that mug when the pressure is on.  Finding it when it's really needed is a nice feeling and I think of all the times I have resorted to that mug over the years.  I'm sure I'm not alone.  Mind you, this week has been better than expected at work for three reasons.....

Firstly it has been a four day week, so reaching Friday afternoon was much faster.

Secondly there have been no disasters while I've been away.  Whenever I return to work after a break I normally schedule a meeting first thing so I can delay reading emails, knowing that if there was anything horrendous, someone would tell me.  There was nothing at all.  I almost forgot, we got a GREEN rating in an internal audit which only one picky recommendation, so a good result there.

Thirdly I managed to get a 48 page document sent off representing a project I'd been working on for a few months.  Aside from the assessment which will follow in a few weeks, it is done, completed, wrapped up.  My manager did decide to adjust the formatting saying "makes it look a bit more polished" but I was not offering to fix that bit of unnecessary 11th hour meddling.

This all brings me around to yesterday morning's run.  It was a nice way of putting the week into perspective but not depending on it for solutions to problems, dealing with stress or the need for inspired ideas.  Just a nice amble to gently close the page on 2012's first week at work, as a kind of therapeutic run.  A nice quiet dose of the Runner's High.  I mulled over the excellent drama shown over three evenings this week by the BBC - Public Enemies, which is related to my line of work.  Although that was purely a drama, I couldn't help but wonder how many prisoners we have who are actually innocent but pleaded guilty because their defence couldn't match the prosecution evidence and accept a shorter sentence.  Then to see someone who gets totally messed up and twisted by a system that then labels him as high risk is troubling.  If you keep putting a label on someone it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy and the system has then created an angry resentful person who is shunned by everyone, while the real offender continues to enjoy freedom.

Back home, Rachel always knows when I've had a good run as she can spot the mud falling off me and my shoes from behind a closed door.  "Stop right there, you can't come in like that!".  Knowing she means business my running shoes are duly kicked off outside to screams of "Daddy you stink and you're so manky" from Becky and Hannah.  Accordingly I am dispatched to the shower for a good hosing down.

This was my standard 7.5 mile hilly run (great views + woodland trails = fab run) and vaguely had some thoughts about the MK 2012 Marathon which I've entered.  I need to start training for that - crikey!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The benefits of being 50

Yep I'm now the big 50 but I'm in better shape than when I became 40.  That feels good but a bit weird knowing I'll be a super veteran in races from now on.  That sounds old but it isn't in reality.

A couple of other "benefits" have already come to light....

You might already know I'm a middle manager and get an audience at the weekly SMT meeting from time to time (that's the Strategic Management Team).  Whenever I go there's always a box of really nice looking chocolate biscuits on the table which never seems to come my way.  It's a bit of a game really.  It is as if they're saying "we might be agreeing with you but you still can't have a biscuit because we're SMT and you're not" and on the other hand it's there to tantalize me.  Anyway, this was shattered this week with the Chief being passed a note and then saying "I understand you were 50 in the Christmas break, well you'd better have a biscuit then, many happy returns Doug".  I blushed, it took me by suprise.  An SMT biscuit? Had I suddenly made it?   No, I'm just 50.

Another advantage is about insurance.  At home we need to take out a new bit of insurance (of the four legged variety) and Rachel said she was getting onto Saga "well, you're old enough now and they might do you a good deal".

So there I am.  An SMT biscuit and Saga insurance for a super vet.  Already I'm enjoying being 50.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Years' Resolution?

Cycling in the Cotswold Hills - where miles often drift by unnoticed
Are you wanting to start getting fit?  Are you saying "I want to lose weight", "I want to start running or start cycling" or maybe "Shall I join a fitness club or join a gym?".  Traditionally this is the time of year when many people make all kinds of resolutions and for many it is a time of needing to economise. It got me thinking and here's some options.....

A fantastic way of getting into good shape but you might need to be patient.  Besides being good for your fitness, it is said regular cyclists tend to live longer and be more laid back and easy going.  Also a good form of transport  instead of driving everywhere and using petrol at £1.30 a litre.  You could go on a cycle holiday, perhaps with the CTC.It's also about making a statement.

You might already have a bike in your garage but consider something newer.  If your existing bike is a cheap MTB (heap of junk probably), the chances are you find it hard work and heavy going.  It probably doesn't fit you very well which you realise your knees are complaining because you can't stretch your legs out far enough.  Consider something newer and lighter to inspire you to cycle more than you have ever done so as as adult.

There are some clubs out there which I think tend to be a bit male and race orientated but not completely so.

Out of all the activities here, it is the most expensive but a good bike is an investment.  Be aware some people get addicted to the bikes, rather than the joy of cycling.  Be warned, there are so many gadgets, accessories, tools and clothing for all eventualities.  Allow £1200 to get going (estimate) see below.

In my view the purest of sporting activities and one that allows for different disciplines such as long distance, round the block jog, 10k races, fun runs etc.  Probably the most cost effective way of improving fitness and losing weight.  You can run outside or  inside on a treadmill.  Then there's the Runner's High!

Having bought Runner's World magazine a few times, I never cease to be amazed at how involved the sport can be and this makes it all the more fascinating.  Allow £200 to get you running in style

Fitness Clubs
A civilised way of getting into great shape in a social-able manner, no matter what the weather is.  Some may offer classes which could be fun, others might offer personal trainers to give you some targets and expert advice.  Can be expensive but great for posing; convenient for many urban dwellers.  Perhaps around £400 a year, more if buying new clothes and shoes.

Possible costs:

£800 Bike (hybrid or Road)
£80 Lights
£40 pedals
£15 lock
£30 bag
£40 pump, ordinary and track type
£25 mudguards
£60 shoes
£100 other clothing
£10 spares, tools etc.
£1200 Total

£80 running shoes (most importantly have a gait analysis done)
£25 shorts
£20 socks x2 pairs
£15 vest
£50 tops (technical fabric type).
£10 hat/gloves
£200 Total