Sunday, 28 April 2013

New Sauconys and an old run

Opening my new Sauconys - just like Christmas all over again!

Run in numbers:

Miles: 15 (or thereabouts; no faith in Mr Endomondo)
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes (ditto)
Calories: 2002
Snooty cyclists: 1
Friendly cyclists: about 10
Pee / poo stops: 2 / 1 (more about this another time)

I wish I'd had bought my new shoes a little sooner as I realise now how worn out my old ones were.  These are simply a means to an end, just don't go thinking I like the look of these.  They look a bit too brash for my liking and naturally a bit too new.  I'm sure they'll be looking better once I've had a muddy run.

Before venturing out in these, I was apparently seen running up and down our hallway at home just to make sure they were right.   Don't go thinking we have a long hallway - just a few strides and I was almost out of the front door or crashing into the kitchen sink!  I'll tell you more in detail about these shoes another time.

The run....

Nice pleasant run, heading out before breakfast.  Glad I wore some gloves as it was flippin' cold at one point.  It often happens these days that I find the first 2 or 3 miles quite hard and find myself thinking "how on Earth am I going to manage 15+ let alone a marathon?".  Somehow it gets easier and I remember at mile 9 looking down at my feet and felt I was running well.

My pace was meant to be a 'long run' pace but to be honest I thought I would have done that distance faster especially as it wasn't too hilly.  Never mind.  I enjoyed it nevertheless and looking forward to the MK Marathon - 6th May - not long now!  As before my strategy is now to get around rather than beating last year's time (that will be for next year but I haven't confessed that to Rachel as yet).

After the run....

Calf muscles a bit achey through the day.  Might need to do some gentle stretches, providing I can remember.  Nice quiet Runner's High buzz throughout the day

Those cyclists....

Imagine me running along a quiet country lane.  Hadn't seen a car for ages and it was quiet and still.  Then suddenly out of nowhere there was a billowing yell "RUNNER!"coming from behind me.  Made me jump out of my skin, to say the least.

This was the leader of a pack of roadies, about 10 meters ahead and warning the pack following on from behind.

I said "hello" to the first which was responded to by each as the pack shot past "hello,  hello,  hello,  hello,  hello,  hello,  hello,  hello".  They were all dressed in a business like way, in the cycling sense that is.  All had black tights, heads down with helmets and shades and brightly coloured tops and jackets.

The were like an express train steaming passed in an unstoppable way.  No sooner as they appeared, they were gone and I was left ambling along at my 9 minute / mile pace.  I was impressed by that group; they knew what they were doing and were riding well.  Obviously they've been riding my blog, so thanks guys!

And then there was another cyclist, a few miles on.  Clearly he had not heeded the pleas from any of my blog offerings.  I know he's just made it up a fairly steep hill and, shall we say, looked like he needed some exercise but that's still not an excuse for ignoring a friendly runner in his new Sauconys.  He was coming towards me, I smiled and said "morning".  He stared at me and then just carried on looking ahead.  Some people!

Quick comment about the new shoes....

These are Saucony Omni Progrid 11's.  Designed as stability shoes for moderate pronators like me.  A nice easy soft run with a good secure feeling.  Good fit.

However (and this applies to the outgoing shoes) I find myself running more by landing on my mid-foot rather than a heel-to-toe action.  These shoes are, strictly speaking, designed for the heel-to-toe action but they still seem to do the job well.  They seem good at correcting the inward roll which I think would trouble me otherwise.

So far so good.                                          

Friday, 26 April 2013

Cheap healthy diet on £15 a week?

Starchy foodFruit & vegetablesDairyHigh-protein foodSugary/fatty food
33% of intake
Five portions a day
15% of intake
12% of intake
8% of intake
250g rice
93p for 3 tins
7 bananas
68p for 1kg
75p for 100g**
Six eggs
15p for half jar**
800g bread
98p for 1kg (frozen)
4 apples
250g butter
33p **
Tin sardines
Vegetable oil
10p for 75ml**
330g oats
1kg carrots
Fruit juice
68p for litre
4 pints milk
Kidney beans
21p for tin
250g pasta
4 tins beans
£1 for 600g
Chicken liver
45p for 227g
1kg potatoes
3 onions
36p for 100g** (dried)
* Based on weekly diet for a woman of 14,000kcal - men need 25% more ** part-pack
I spotted the table above on the Beeb's new website and it caught my eye.  To be honest, previously I would have thought it was difficult to eat well on £15 a week - or just £2.14 a day in the UK.  And yet if the above table is to be believed, well it's possible.   Nevertheless, I have a few observations:

  • It is not vegetarian but it's not far off.  Meat is an expensive food and this has little meat included.  The meat that is there is not processed i.e. pasties, ham, meatballs and so on.  Interestingly it has little meat anyway and I think that could be replaced by a handful of nuts or bean sprouts for some good protein (see below).
  • There is no tea or coffee included.
  • To keep things more palatable I would try and include some kind of sauce or gravy but that has to be paid for somehow.
  • It does depend on being able to do some basic cooking and having the facilities - a gas or electric ring, perhaps an oven and/or a microwave.
  • This gives sufficient calories for normal living.
  • Taking care to look for bargains in supermarkets or towards the end of the day in open-air markets can be worthwhile.  I even remember when I used to do Court Duty, I would walk back past the market as it was packing up.  In spite of wearing my suit I would sometimes still look through the rubbish - I had some amazing finds!  Having a freezer helps when you get a glut of something.
  • There is no alcohol or cigarettes - and quite right too!
  • Care would be needed to vary the diet as much as possible by eating different foods.   Do this  week to week and ensure there is an intake of a wide variety of foods, if at all possible
  • If possible buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • I heard there are a Billion people in the World living off under a US$ a day anyway.  Two or three Billion living on under $2US a day puts this in perspective
I mentioned replacing the meat for bean sprouts and I was going to blog about this anyway.  Growing sprouts is like growing protein which doesn't have to be cooked and is extremely nutritious, plus it's cheaper than meat.

You can see in the above jars how easy it is to grow sprouts.  The first jar on the left has just started - we soak the beans overnight and then as they start to swell in the morning, we drain off the water, rinse once or twice and leave them with a little moisture around the.  Rinse twice a day thereafter in order to avoid any mould growing.  

After 4 or 5 days they are generally ready but it does depend on temperature, as you would expect.  Refrigerate one they're ready and they'll keep fresh for several more days.

The trouble is, we have a bit of a glut of sprouted Mung seeds right now so I am having them for breakfast, lunch and in the evening.  I can tell you, they add to the interest at breakfast time with my gravel muesli!

Related posts:

Running naked (i.e. without music)

This post is about the pros and cons of running with music playing in your ears.  It's not about taking your clothes off and running around nude!
My brilliant little iPod shuffle
WIth the big city marathons taking place around this time, the sight of runners outside is common nowadays.  Not just marathon runners, many noobies are out and frequently I have noticed them running and being plugged into to some kind of MP3 player or smart phone.  Here's a few things to consider in deciding whether you run naked (without any music) or fully clothed (with music).

Benefits of running with music

  • blocks out the sound of traffic
  • replaces horrible music being played in your gym or fitness club
  • a good beat can help you achieve a great pace
  • it can be very motivational
  • you can listen to podcasts such as Laura from Couch to 5k
  • might be the only opportunity you have to listen to the music you love
  • you can be alone for your run, not having to talk to anyone
  • the right music at the right time, place or run can be a magical and unforgettable combination

Benefits of running without music

  • you notice your surroundings more and this could be a safety issue - being more aware of other people, traffic etc
  • you are more likely to enjoy your surroundings - the sights and sounds of the countryside
  • less likely to be the victim of crime (robbery etc)
  • you won't damage your ears through playing music too loud
  • you don't have to figure out how to carry the device
  • running is a simple and pure sport - so why complicate it?
  • you might be more aware of your body - listening to your breathing, your footsteps, your heartbeat, how you move your arms etc.  and this adds to the beauty of running

And me?

I can see the benefits of both sides.  Originally I got my wonderful little Apple iPod Shuffle as a birthday present and I used it mostly when I went to the gym because of the horrible music that was constantly played.  

I have used it for running outdoors and it's okay sometimes.  A small number of times there has been the right combination of surroundings, the run itself, my mood and a choice piece of music which all comes together to turn an ordinary run into a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

On balance I prefer to "run naked" - i.e. without any music etc for all of the reasons above.  But there's no hard and fast rule: no doubt I will spontaenously pick up my iPod Shuffle for another run and probably wax lyrical about how wonderful it was! 

What about you?

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Benefits of pressure cooking

A steel John Lewis pressure cooker, suitable for using on an induction hob 

Even when I was completely undomesticated, young, free and single I had a pressure cooker.  It was quite small and got used several times a week, mostly for cooking vegetables.  Some thought I was very brave - especially my parents who feared it would explode and turn by apartment into a disaster area with food splattered all over the kitchen cupboards, ceilings, walls and me.

Happily I can tell you none of that happened.  Roll forward to married life and we have a family sized pressure cooker, as you can see.  This one is a John Lewis pressure cooker - not bad but not perfect - more about that later.

As I see it, here are the advantages:

Food tastes better

Some foods that are pressure cooked seem to retain their flavour and taste much nicer.  The most obvious one is carrots but pressure cooking enhances the flavour of many different foods.  I have even had requests from my daughters for "pressure cooked carrots by Daddy" because they're so nice.

It seems the normal method of boiling vegetables in a normal saucepan washes the flavour out, making them taste bland and flavourless.


As foods cook in a fraction of the time, it follows the energy consumption will be much less.  Simple as that.

Besides, we remember being in Kenya and staying in an upcountry village without running water or electricity.  Our hosts used a pressure cooker over charcoal to cook for us.  This was a strange sight - the scene must have been almost unchanged for several generations apart from, you guessed it, a pressure cooker there in the middle.  It was useful for our hosts in preparing meals efficiently and in using less charcoal which was a fairly expensive resource for them.


We reckon root vegetables cook in half the time. Potatoes, carrots etc take about 10 minutes, depending on their size etc.   Other foods such as dried beans, lentils etc will also have drastically reduced cooking times.

Don't fill your kitchen with steam!

Modern pressure cookers don't hiss and blast steam into the kitchen like they used to.  When our John Lewis pressure cooker is at full pressure, the amount of escaping steam is insignificant.  Of course, when it's time to release the pressure at the end of the cooking, simply turn on your extractor fan (I turn ours onto full blast) for a minute and the steam is whisked away and we don't end up with a steamy, jungle-like kitchen.


With reduced cooking time, it is likely that fewer nutrients will be destroyed through the cooking process but do remember cooking will reduce the goodness generally.  The plus side is that it's worth using the small amount of water in the pressure cooker for gravy or other sources as it's inevitably had some of the juices from the fruit or vegetables drip down thus adding to what is already there. It's an opportunity to make the most of every drop!

Buying a pressure cooker

Here's a few hints:
  1. Buy a steel pressure cooker and you can use it on all heat sources.  Aluminium does not work with Induction hobs.
  2. Can you buy spares easily?  Might be worth buying some spares early on, especially rubber seals.  Is it manufactured by a "known" name with a good reputation?
  3. Make sure it's big enough, remembering that shouldn't be more than 75% full
  4. Get a decent quality pressure cooker and it will last a lifetime of use. So if you're young and getting engaged, why not include one on your Wedding list?  Does that sound quaint and old fashioned?  Who cares!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Review - Trek flapjacks

One of the nice things about blogging is occasionally having the opportunity to review some samples.  Even nicer were those very helpful people at New Balance Foods sending me this lovely box.  Talk about "Hello Gorgeous"!

New Balance Foods - which covers Trek and nakd whole-foods - are not new on the scene but these Trek bars are new additions to their range.  I was particularly interested in these new Trek bars but I wanted to get some feedback from some of my unsuspecting friends; it's always nice to get a second opinion.  So I put a message out amongst my Facebook friends locally, asking if anyone wants to try these out.  Straight away I had a message flash back from Christine and Ademola - and the deal was done.  They liked them in saying....

"I was worried about the sugar content: 14g per 100g chocolate and 18.8g for the morning berry bar! Saying that, the sugars probably derive from the cane sugar and apple juice as well as natural flavourings. Surprisingly though, it didn’t taste gooey sweet as I had expected. The sweetness is mild and the bars very filling and satisfying for a while. Very nice."

I take that as a seal of approval.  For myself I know these bars are very filling having scoffed them at work, while slaving over a hot keyboard all morning churning out my cool reports.  I don't feel at all guilty having this kind of snack and besides, they're really filling and healthy so I don't feel hungry for long.  If there was an "area for improvement" I would be trying to make them look a little nicer but that's a tricky thing to do without changing the successful blend of ingredients: I should say this is me being very picky!

Trek flapjacks have always been good and they're vegan friendly too.  I've blogged about their impressive Ethiscore which to me makes a difference in knowing their isn't a trail of horrible practices that have been followed in bringing me a simple snack.

New flavours

Very recently Trek have introduced six new flavours and I'm looking forward to working my way through each of these - they're available from Holland & Barrett and other health food stores.  These new flavours are Oat Raisin, Banana Bread, Original Oat, Cocoa Oat and Morning Berry.

These all contain gluten free oats, less fat and sugar and a very significant 20% more protein in each bar - this works out at around 9-10g per bar.

Are they any good for Runners and Cyclists?

Yes they are!  These are compact foods that are easy to carry and can be easily eaten and give a good energy boost which seems to last.  Best of all, in my view, is they have such a good mixture of ingredients in them - we all know that good diets contain a wide variety of wholesome foods and this is mirrored in each flapjack.  

There aren't any dodgy ingredients (fats, syrups etc) holding it all together.  Instead the ingredients in the range are wholesome and honest, not excessively processed.  Some of their competitors who might be cheaper, have all kinds of strange ingredients holding things together and end up tasting just like sticky cardboard.  Even then I was falling into the trap of thinking of Trek bars as being expensive - they may cost more than some of the very inferior supermarket brands but quite simply you get what you pay for.  Perhaps I'm being too polite when I refer to some "inferior" supermarket versions: maybe I should be talking about the utter garbage and junk around that pretends to be wholesome food.  I have no worries about Trek and can eat these with confidence.

Insofar as marathon running and other endurance events, you cannot under estimate the benefits of good quality foods.  Sure you can get Calories from eating junk but having good quality proteins, carbs and antioxidants make a difference in keeping you healthy.  Endurance events aren't just about carb loading; staying healthy can sometimes be a challenge through training as our immunity can weaken when we push ourselves to the limit.

Price, availability

The Trek bars are available from Holland & Barrett, health food shops and Asda (Hmmmm) for £0.89 each.

The Nakd cost £0.75 each but you can get multipacks as well.  Buy carefully and you can save some money on these top quality snacks.

Alternatively you can buy these direct from Natural Balance Foods or my Amazon link (top, right hand column).  Why not give these a go?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Yesterday's run in numbers

Distance: 15 miles
Time: 2 hours 10 mins
Total ascent: 945 feet
Snooty cyclists: 0
Friendly cyclists: Lost count at 6
Other runners: 1
Poo stops: 1
Pee stops: 1
Time to marathon: 2 weeks and 2 days

Yesterday's run was fantastic and probably the most critical run in my disjointed training.  In trying to bounce back from two weeks rest from running, I am having to get the balance right between pushing myself a little and at the same time avoiding an injury through over-doing it.  So far so good.

After my unplanned rest, my strategy has had to change from beating last year's time to one of getting around the 26.2 miles - and it's looking better all the time.  So, short of any unforeseen banana skins I'm feeling very optimistic.  As blog reader H puts it, mental stamina is important alongside physical stamina in these situations and I think he's right.

Okay, so to yesterdays run

I thoroughly enjoyed it.  As so often happens these days, I seem to take longer to warm up and the first 2 or 3 miles were the hardest.  I felt stiff and ran awkwardly.  So after a few miles I was aware my 'form' was improving and my stride was becoming more natural - that's the thing about running - because it's a simple thing it is easy to become 'in tune' with your body and appreciate how it's working.  I kept to a fairly flat-ish course and probably 98% was on roads.  I did this because I was wanting to cover a good distance and not do any hill training as my cardiovascular capacity is good but my legs need to get used to the longer distances.

My legs and ankles felt just a little achey yesterday after the run.  That's the whole point of training - push yourself and allow your body time to heal and rebuild itself a little stronger each time.

Things that caught my eye

It was an early morning run - bloomin' cold when I set out.  Looking down in a valley I could see clouds gradually clearing, just like the above photograph.  It was nice, wish I'd had a camera as there were some stunning views with the sun's rays shining through the trees.

All the cyclists I saw were road types on decent looking bikes and dressed for a serious ride.  Perhaps it was the lovely weather as each of them greeted me in a friendly way!  I did feel for the one other runner I saw.  I spotted him walking up a hill and he started to run a little when he saw me coming down towards him.  He was a bit red faced, tired looking and over dressed.  We said "hi" as we passed.  I could see myself being like that just a few years ago.

Seeing the countryside coming into life is lovely.  Trees and hedgerows are now showing signs of springing into life, farmers are clearly busy, birds are nesting and it feels so great.  We have had another horrible winter (which I have moaned about many times recently) and slowly things are looking brighter.  That fills me with real positive optimism which much to look forward to.


I think I ended up running at my normal pace, although I was intending to go long-and-slow.  Some of you might be saying it was a short-and-very-slow run!  I suspect I'll need to concentrate and maintain a slightly slower pace to have an enjoyable consistent run in the marathon but it's hard when you're being swept along by the atmosphere and on a fast, flat course.  

I was thinking about a marathon runner I heard being interviewed on the radio recently - she is 85 and has run over 20 marathons, having started at the age of 54.  That was struck me as being impressive.  Listening to her on the radio was inspirational as she didn't sound anywhere near 85 and so I hope I'll be in a similar situation when I'm 85!

Amazing how quickly the 2 hours 11 minutes went!


My favourite running shoes are feeling a bit flat and past their best.  I had lost track of how old they are and worked out they're over a year and will have pounded well over 500 miles.  I need some more and will get something sorted soon.  Just in case you're puzzled, 500 miles is the norm for a pair of running shoes even though they will look as if there's plenty of miles left in them.

Summing up....

....feeling good!

Friday, 19 April 2013

MK Marathon countdown

Marathon poster outside the lovely
Baron's Court tube station
No, not The London Marathon for me; instead the MK Marathon.  That's the Milton Keynes marathon, alledgedly home to concrete cows and the Milton Hilton (HMP Woodhill).   Not on 21st April either - more like 6th May.  I couldn't resist taking this photo though, it just has a nice "feel" to it, hope you like it too.

My running seems quite good now but there is no way I am exactly tapering - still doing the building up and the tapering will just have to come after the race itself.  My strategy has had to change from beating last year's time by getting under 4 hours. This was going to be achieved by skimming 30 seconds off each mile.  The strategy instead is to simply get around in whatever time I can.

You might think this is something to dread but actually I am looking forward to it immensely.  I am also really looking forward to some decent weather replacing the grim horizontal rain from last year.  Also looking forward to treating myself to something like a new pair of running shoes or a new bit of clothing.  Either way I am not sure yet what to get.

I had planned to take the day off from work on the following day as an opportunity for recovery.  Alas something has cropped up at work preventing this so the day after instead.

Every time I see a runner I feel uplifted, especially if it is an accomplished runner and there are more and more around - perhaps all heading for some marathons soon!   Onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

When the CEO hands round a sponsorship form....

There seems to be a few more people who have been bitten by the running bug in the office.  That's great and most unexpected was a sponsorship form landing on my desk from the Chief.  It's a Race for Life form, so I think this is a women's race (or run, jog etc) and probably about 5km.

Getting this sponsorship form put me in a quandary.  I was not the first in line, some of my colleagues had already committed themselves, some quite generously.  And so this left me with a few options:

Option 1
Follow the example set by more senior colleagues and be gushingly generous.  Could this help me climb the greasy pole?  Do I want to even try the greasy pole?  Could this be a career move?  Could I end up becoming the office creep?  Could I be someone who supports the Chief in her running and helping to set an example for others in supporting a good cause; in doing so might encourage others to run also?  Let's face it, there's a few who could truly benefit, if you get my drift.

Option 2
Pass it on without doing anything, hoping nobody will notice.  The Chief has spotted that flaw in advance by including a circulation list which you tick your name once you've had it.   Will undoubtedly be spotted by colleagues who will point out that "Doug is the only person to let this go by, coooooo".

On the other hand it could signal that I'm totally impoverished and need a pay rise.  Now that would be nice but for those of us in the public sector (loyal servants as we are) there's not much chance of that although it should be said we have become very efficient with increased performance.  Besides, there are very few opportunities for those swish lunches, hotels etc nowadays.  Anyone buying this?

Option 3
Go ahead and sign the sponsor form but for a measley or more modest amount - maybe £1 or £2.  Could be a good compromise but also a bit of a cowardly cop-out.  

My decision: I took the middle ground with a modest sponsor amount - neither mean nor outrageously generous.  Phew.  I think that's probably about right and I'm keen to learn more about what's going on.

What would you do?  These office situations can be tricky, can't they?

Friday, 12 April 2013

Mid week running update

Even a small lunge helps stretch muscles
Last weekend was about getting the running shoes back on and proving to myself I could still run.  This week has been about getting back into the habit, as well as being able to handle being back at work (quite a shock to the system).

I still have a bit of a cough and a reminder that I've had a nasty virus / flu which has knocked the stuffing out of me well and truly.  If I needed any consolation, I've been aware I am not the only one who has succombed to this and also it's been quite heartening how concerned some of my colleagues have been as I hardly ever have any time off for illness.

So after last weekend's 6.99 mile run, I needed to get back into the swing of things if I am to stand any chance of getting around the forthcoming marathon.  I have had three runs after work and each was exactly the same course of about 5 miles, which takes about 40 minutes (give or take a little).  Here's how it went:


Most of the day was spent at my desk catching up on the usual avalanche of emails and as always I succeeded in having a meeting to go to at some point in the day.  I don't like too many meetings and I used to covet the time when I could just sit at my desk, surrounded by my stuff and get on with what I needed to do.  And then there's the opposite extreme when I spend a few days sitting at my desk which I hate even more.  So I always like to have something to attend, some kind of interaction with people other than those from my immediate team.  All day long I was looking forward to my run.

It was cold as I set off in shorts and a single layered top.  The first mile was incredibly tough for me and it involve a gentle slope gradually climbing.  Ordinarily not hard but my legs felt like jelly and I knew I was going sower than normal.  I was also coughing from time to time; clearly still not completely better.  Got to the top of the hill and turned into a park area for over a mile of foot paths and a gentle downhill direction.  Back to the office on the flat and felt really difficult every step.  I was also feeling a bit dry and dehydrated and then remembered I'd had a mug of tea over 3 hours ago and nothing else.  Got back to the office roughly 40 minutes later.  Went in for a pee and jumped in my car to drive home.  Didn't enjoy this run at all.


My colleague Chris came along with me which was good as I could moan about how difficult yesterday's run was.  We talked about work a little and all in all I forgot we were running up hill.  It was a little warmer and there was a pleasant bit of hazy sun which lifted my mood.

We both commentated that we were feeling a bit still and so we promised ourselves we'd stretch once we got back to the office.  It was a great run in comparison and once again I am feeling a convert to the idea of having a running partner.  Stretching was of real benefit, especially doing some lunges, but much further than the above photo.  


Rest day, no running.  Back home earlier which was nice.


Through engineering a daily meeting, I found myself having to go to the County Council offices which are about half a mile away from my office.  Looking out of the window I could see some light drizzle but thought I'd walk anyway.  We all agreed on things and some positive progress being was made which I was pleased about and so I power-walked back to the office.  As I was almost there my phone rang and I had to explain to my colleague why I was huffing and puffing a bit before we could have a meaningful conversation.  He just didn't get it!

All this drizzly walking was strangely lovely; I quite like misty days.   However by the end of the afternoon there was some lovely hazy (but cold) sunshine and I set off again for my 40 minute run.  Pretty good all-in-all even though I was running alone.  I got some encouragement from seeing some other runners and I reckon I was faster and more nimble - I liked that thought as I'm still getting better.

Back to the office - all sticky, stinky and sweaty.  Jumped in my car and drove home grinning like a Cheshire cat.  I turned the cassette on (yes my car is that old it really does have a cassette player) and straight away Louis Armstrong "what a wonderful world" played and how right that was.


No running today but planning to have a good long run tomorrow morning.  We're going into London for the day so I'll need to sneak out super-early to get that done before breakfast etc.  

I just don't know how I'll fare in the marathon but nevertheless I'm not backing out.  I know I'll be slower than last year but I feel really spurred on and keen to get back up to my peak.  Running again feels great and is just about keeping me on top of the usual work-related stress.  As you know I really did miss it while I was poorly.  Off for an early night......

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Recovery run

In numbers:

Distance: 6.99 miles   
Average speed: 9.23 min/mile
Calories: 967
Duration: 1 hr 05 mins
Max speed: 5.01 min/mile
Total ascent: 1004 ft

Above numbers according to that scoundrel Mr Endomondo

Impressed walkers: 1
Deepest snow drift: 6 inches
My performance: 40%
My enjoyment: 100%
Other runners: 0
Snooty cyclists: 2
Complaining muscles: 1

I ought to say I used Rachel's iPhone and the Endomondo App for a bit of fun and besides I wanted to use it to see how I was running today.  This was a mid morning run and one that I'd been looking forward to especially as the weather was looking fairly good with each day now getting a little warmer.  I could tell that I'd had a break from running as I needed that extra bit of effort to get around.  Mind you, I was really chuffed as I got to the top of the steepest (1:5) hill and there was a walker heading in the opposite direction.

"I'm impressed, that's a steep hill" he said obligingly

"Thanks, lovely day isn't it?" I gasped as we passed each other

"Oh so you don't need to stop and rest then....?"

I carried on although he did look a friendly kind of chap who would appreciate a good chat.  Does this make me a snooty runner?

Another unexpected surprise was a new gate fitted to an old Victorian church yard boundary.  Nearly every time I run this way I either used to forget the vicious bit of sharp iron sticking out from the old gate post at hip level and scrape a bit of skin off, or, manage to remember and avoid it.  I guess the old gate had disappeared decades ago leaving this sharp point to jab all kinds of runners, church goers, ramblers, dog walkers etc and eventually the Elf n Safety influence crept in.  So that was welcome.

I think I also welcome some of the footpath maintenance that's been done recently by the National Trust, replacing some of the gravel that's been washed away during the horrible winter.  Also welcome was seeing what must be the last few bits of snow.  Surely there can't be anymore for us after this winter?  Anyway it was nice to run through some crunchy snow while it was there and then suddenly my feet disappeared through the snow and into a muddy puddle underneath - that took me by surprise but it was fun!  And then there's the cyclists, the snooty types who ride along on their MTBs without any kind of acknowledgement or recognition as I move to the side of the track so we can pass each other easily.  Why!  Why are they like that?

In terms of the actual run, I made it around alright but not as fluidly as I'd like.  Although this was meant to be a gentle "recovery" run, it's not drastically slower than how I normally do this hilly run.  I could feel a muscle in my groin starting to grumble a bit - this has happened before and is a sign of over doing it, so this is something I need to remember.  So next weekend it's a half marathon, followed by 15+ miles the following weekend with quite a few shorter runs mingled into the weekdays.  This is the rescue-the-marathon strategy!

Again quite a few ideas about this and that, mostly forgotten by the time I'd got back home - always the way!  No particular Runner's High either - just not fast enough today!

The best bit was turning the corner into our road and seeing Rachel leaning on the garden wall.  Delighted as I was, I was intrigued as to why she was there to welcome me back.  Rachel explained she could track my position on her iPad and was monitoring my progress.  That's impressive!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Wifely pep talk

I know you will be understanding of me here; if you're a runner you might even go further and be sympathetic.  You see I've had a pep talk from Rachel which might be well deserved, except that I could never possibly admit that.

Just to put this in context, I'm meant to be doing a marathon in 4 weeks time.  I was already behind my training schedule and then I stopped running altogether because of a dose of flu which lasted two weeks.  Today was my first day back at work and fairly easy going (it did include an audience with an MP for a bit of gentle "persuasion") but I feel and look very tired afterwards.  Driving home I had to get some more petrol which seemed a real effort.

Rachel claims I was a bit of a wreck after last year's marathon but I thought it was a great experience.   So that's the background.  Here goes the conversation....

"With the marathon,  I was thinking about just getting around rather than coming in under 4 hours.  What do you think darling?"  I asked, lovingly

"Too right, you mustn't go for a PB, you're not prepared" and continues "besides, if you do too much I'm confiscating your running shoes after the marathon"

"That's okay as I'll need a couple of rest days afterwards"

"No, that's not what I meant....."

Extra - I'm sure my darling wife has forgotten that I have 3 pairs of running shoes, so if I surrender one pair I can still run!  He he he.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Officially better....

Officially better, well nearly, cough.  Feeling pretty good actually.  I look at the photograph below and that pretty much sums me up right now - it's like the dawn of a promising day and, while there is much to be grateful for, there is so much to look forward to!

At 7.30am this morning I sneaked out of the house in my running gear for a gentle run.  I did 4 miles at a fairly easy relaxed pace, no hills, just to see how I felt.  I admit that I have had the stuffing knocked out of me over the last two weeks but this run was okay.  Although I cannot possibly put my Saucony's back on and run well for over two hours without building up again, this is a great start.  Perhaps on Saturday I will run for an hour or so and quickly build up from there onwards.  No Runner's High today but then no real exertion to stimulate all those endorphins.

This little run has reminded me of how much I missed running, even though it is still bitterly cold outside and the ground is still frozen hard.  I miss the mental uplift I get from it, the feeling of a breeze of fresh air on my face and all those other things to make me feel so alive.  I miss not being able to mull over some of the things on my mind in quite the same way; I missed not having those flashes of inspiration.

I missed that feeling of running up a hill as fast as I could and panting at the top, breathing in as deeply as I can while I tingle all over with the sheer joy of it.  I missed the mystery in running on auto pilot mile after mile.  I missed not running with my colleague Chris after work.  I missed seeing the countryside around here that I know so well and where it always seems a little different, day by day moving through the seasons.  I missed returning home, bursting in through the front door having sprinted up the road to our house as fast as I could.  I missed dripping with sweat and having a red hot shower and a good stretch afterwards.  I missed the Runner's High.

I really missed the smile on Rachel's face as she wouldn't have to say anything at all; her smile simply says "don't come anywhere near me until you've had a shower and put those smelly running things into the washing machine".

You can tell, I'm feeling pleased to be better!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A short, mini run this evening

Apologies for this being a short little blog post.  A short run this evening - exactly two weeks since I last put my Sauconys on for a run.   I'm now almost over this 'orrible dose of 'flu.  Yuck, I hated it.

Having had such a nice time yesterday at Wimpole Manor, we went over to the Chilterns and visited Hughenden Manor in making the most of our National Trust tickets.  Just like yesterday it was jolly cold and we still have this bitterly cold wind coming from the north east.  Didn't spend much time outside at all.

Quite an interesting place is Hughenden Manor.  I knew about the Disraeli connection but I had no idea about the WW2 importance.   It was used as a secret map making place for Bomber Command and the RAF people who worked there (and lived 2+ miles away) were given bicycles.  If you were a civilian, well hard luck, Chum.  The photo is Hannah with one of said bicycles - still rideable after all those years.

We got home, had tea.  Then there was nothing else for it but to get my running shoes, woolly hat and gloves for a little run (a runnette?).  We needed a letter posting and so I was off.

Having not run for two weeks I had no idea how I'd feel.  To be honest it was a bit weird at first having to consciously think about running, rather than the usual autopilot approach.  I ran just for about half a mile and coughed my way around mostly.  The air temperature was only around 2 or 3C and this was a reminder of not being completely better.

All in all it felt good to be running a little.  Nice feeling a little out of breath and the sensation of a gentle jog / slow run.

Might go further tomorrow but I wish the weather would warm up!  I hate the cold almost as much as having flu but things are now looking up!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Nearly better!

I'm feeling happy and so here's a "happy" kind of cloudy photo to reflect my mood (sort of).  After feeling very ill for almost two weeks, during the afternoon yesterday I suddenly felt much better!  It seemed quite a dramatic change having felt so achey and with all those lingering flu symptoms for far too long.  So much so I was able to join Rachel, Becky and Hannah who were off to see Les Miserables and we were quickly able to get an extra ticket just in time.  Mind you, Les Mis isn't the ideal film or performance to see when you're under the weather but it didn't matter: the important thing was that I was suddenly feeling much better! Yipeeeeee!

So today, the sun has been shining all day and we couldn't stand the thought of us all moping around at home, so we piled into the car and went off to Wimpole Hall, a National Trust place in Cambs.  Jolly cold, just as well I was well wrapped up.  We saw most of what was there to see but not the restaurant as we had sandwiches (still slightly frozen) and some other bits and pieces to eat sitting in the car.

Before we left, Becky and I decided we'd use the loo and so we jogged the 100 yards or so and even that felt good.

Naturally I am going to have to pace myself very well - not too much, not too little, just the right amount to get back into the swing of running as it is just over 4 weeks to the marathon.  To be honest, I'm still having some doubts about it but then there's always H who keeps encouraging me and he always seems to be right!  I have had a little look on Runner's World to see if there's another marathon to tempt me a little later in the summer.

So I'm on leave again tomorrow and Thursday, back to work on Friday.  So I think I might have a little jog sometime tomorrow.  Nothing too adventurous, just to see how it feels and get loosened up a little. A little more the following day, then I've gotta have a decent run at the weekend.  I still can't believe how this virus / flu has knocked the stuffing out of me for this long - can't remember ever having the flu drag on this long.  Mind you, some other people I know have experienced pretty much the same so I am not alone but the shocking thing is that I always think of myself as being ultra-healthy.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Review - X Socks (long term use)

I have blogged before about why it is important to have decent running socks to supplement your running shoes.  For anyone who has ever suffered from blisters, sore feet, sweaty patches etc then you need some proper socks.  Don't get fooled into thinking any old sports socks will do - they won't, simple as that.

I have three pairs of X Socks (two different versions) and they have each been used for thousands of miles of running with relatively little wear.  Even when I have run through mud, water or any combination, they have never been abrasive or failed to remain comfortable.  When they are soaking wet, the socks combined with modern running shoes seem to pump themselves dry after a short distance.  Yes they are expensive but the cost per mile is neglible in reality - in my view these are worth every penny even at approaching £20 a pair.

In general running socks should not be made of cotton as that absorbs sweat instead of transmitting or wicking it away.  If you look carefully at the socks in the photograph and I should say those are not my legs [ :o( ] you can see some orange L shaped parts around the ankle.  These are raised out slightly to allow for extra ventilation.

With the X Socks there are no seams and this reduces the likelihood of any rubbing, which in turn can lead to blisters.  The heel is reinforced and is incredibly strong.  They are made as separate Left and Right socks so you need to keep a lookout for this when you put them on and this helps them fit me really well (I have fairly normal feet) and they stay in place mile after mile.

Having looked at the on-line description there is a mind-boggling list of 12 different technologies used in their construction: air conditioning channel, instep protector, toe protector, toe tip protector and so it goes on and on.  If you want to know a little more about these features, take a look at Wiggle (Running) as they supply these very reliably.

I'm sorry not to go into all the technical details - that might be a bit "anoraky" of me.  The bottom line is that runners need decent socks to avoid blisters etc.  In my experience with these, they are absolutely superb, very robust and worth every penny.

Socks for running
Preventing blisters
How to look after your feet
Guest blog by Tony Gavin, Sports Podiatrist

What is the difference between Oat Bran and Wheat Bran?

Two similar foods with different properties and it's easy to muddle the two.  Remember every grain is made up of the germ, the endosperm and bran.  When manufacturing processes refine grains, the bran and endosperm are removed which really is taking away a lot of the goodness, hence explaining why whole foods are always going to be better than refined foods.

Oat bran

A good source of soluble fibre which is important in our diets which contributes towards a healthy digestive system and may assist with the right balance of cholesterol in our bodies.  This is achieved by helping to bind cholesterol together in a sticky gel-like substance and then allow it to pass through the bowels.  For every 100g there is 9.3g of dietary fibre and 383 calories so you won't become obese with some of this in your diet.  Quite the opposite in fact as it is liked by successful slimmers.

It also contains Beta Glucan, which is the ingredient which helps bind cholesterol together and, according to HeartUK, it can help regulate the absorption of sugars and control blood sugar levels which is helpful to diabetics.


Wheatbran has a higher content of insoluble fibre i.e. the bulk that will pass through you and the importance of this should not be underestimated.  The Western diet typically has insufficient fibre which is why various avoidable problems can occur; these may include constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) etc.  It is a really good source of this valuable fibre in a way that doesn't involve shovelling in lots of additional calories  According to my packet of Neal's Yard bran, a 100g only contains 206 calories.  The 100g actually contains 36.4g of dietary fibre which is quite an impressive amount - but do not consume this all in one go!!!! This bran is best added as a spoonful to a soup, a bread mix, breakfast cereal etc and consumed with plenty of fluids throughout the day so that you don't create any blockages in your gut (which can be painful).  Actually I think it is best, if you're changing your diet to include more fibre, to do this gradually and build this up over a period of time so as to avoid any undue consequences.

Wheatbran contains Vitamin B6 and niacin, together with some micronutrients such as iron, selenium, phosphorus and magnesium which are useful.


Both of these foods keep very well in cool airtight containers and are available for little cost via Amazon (see my Affiliate link) or from your local health food shop.  It is an inexpensive food to buy and we never buy it boxed or in fancy packaging.

These brans can be added (i.e. sprinkled) into a variety of dishes so it's easy to increase our intake without feeling we're living on a sawdust diet - in fact if you use it thoughtfully you won't even notice it and yet you will realise the health benefits.  Rachel quite often puts some into our homemade bread which I never tire of at all; it's just good wholesome food and the kind I love so much.