Sunday, 26 October 2014

Thinking about a new challenge...

Okay so you have gathered by now I'm getting back into running more and really enjoying it.  Yesterday morning I had some time to think a few things through while I was doing a 10 mile run, once again on the Grand Union Canal towpath.  This time I headed south from Linslade to Horton Lock, back up through Leighton Buzzard and returned to the start.  Great.

Here are my thoughts, summarised in a clumsy way:

Running is good for me, physically.  It helps keep my weight down, helps maintain a good cardiovascular health, strengthens my ligaments, tendons and all the muscles etc that hold it altogether.

Running is good for me, mentally.  It helps me think things through, makes me feel good (runner's high), sleep is even deeeeeper and more wonderful and most importantly, it helps me keep things in perspective, deal with stress and solve problems at work.

I happen to prefer the longer distance challenges rather than speed i.e. completing and enjoying a marathon is more important than achieving a new PB in a 10k.

I work best when I have something to aim for, a target, a date in my calendar.  So this all brings me around to thinking of making sure I run every day, or more sensibly 5 or 6 days a week.  I have previously had little "projects" where I have made sure I have run or cycled every day over the Christmas holidays i.e. up to 12 or 13 consecutive days.  This has worked well.  Last Christmas I cycled in all kinds of crazy winds, rain, ice and darkness.  Previously I have done the same except I have run instead - and absolutely loved it!

So, with these ingredients, what would hit the mark?  Enter some kind of event?  Maybe.  Run 1000  miles in 2015?  Yes, this could be getting closer.  And then I thought "why wait until January 1st before I start doing this?  I could do this tomorrow".

I chatted to Rachel about this.  Broadly supportive but reminds me I mustn't go tempting her to do anything like that.  Through a combination of my discussions with Rachel and thinking it through a little further I am weighing up the pros and cons (and I did this in 2013 when I started to consider a long distance bike event).  So here goes:

Reasons to run 1000 miles in a year:

  • Great to have a challenge, might bring out the best in me
  • Good discipline, which I need
  • Health benefits of running
  • No huge exertion - i.e. more about "little and often" rather than running a few marathons (though I wouldn't rule that out!)
  • Even short runs count.  A humble 3 mile run which can easily be done 25 minutes is 0.3% of the aim.
  • No huge expense as I wouldn't need to buy a new bike or anything like that, just one or two pairs of running shoes
  • When I'm an old man, I can think "I did it"
  • I reckon I would normally run 600 miles in a year quite easily, so I should be able to make it to 1000 miles.  After all it is less than an average of 3 miles a day, if I were to run each day
  • Plenty of things to blog about (I might even start a new blog???)

Reasons not to run 1000 miles in a year:

  • Could become a bit boring or monotonous
  • Will it wear out my joints?
  • I could become a running bore
  • I could find I give up cycling completely, something I don't want to do
  • What if I fail for some reason.  Will I feel foolish, let myself down, embarrass myself through having set myself up?
  • Supposing I trip over and really injure myself?  I have had a few trips and falls since running and this is probably my biggest fear.

Christmas holiday run no. 12
The Pros and Cons of cycling Coast to Coast

Would be glad to have any comments.....

Friday, 24 October 2014

Time flies

I can hardly believe how much time has flown by since I last posted here.  Quite a few runs lately and I'm settling nicely into a routine which I am feeling the benefit of.  Here's a run-down of what's happening:

Long runs
As my youngest daughter, Hannah, has taken up kayaking on Saturday mornings, it means that it's an ideal time for my long run.  She has joined the club at Linslade in Bedfordshire and this means relatively easy access to the Grand Union Canal.  I drive her over there for about 9:00am and then I run for anything up to 90 minutes.

So far this is working well and I am enjoying the scenery.  It is pleasant running along the tow path and there always seems to be things of interest going on.  Quite a few people actually live on the Canal in narrow boats and these seem to fall into different groups with, at one end of the scale, wealthy boater types with gleaming palaces.  These are complete with smart boats, lots of solar panels and luxuriously furnished.  Others are more modest, looking a bit ramshackle, cluttered and showing signs of a hard life.  Wood smoke emerges from some chimneys and drifts around on these quiet autumn days.

I head from Linslade to Three Locks and then to the first bridge and then back again.  This adds up to a little over 10 miles and nicely fits into the time Hannah is paddling her kayak.  As my run is on the towpath, it's completely flat but at least it is fast.

Short runs

Yep I've had a few of these too, normally two or three each week, bringing my weekly mileage to around 18-22 miles.  I would like to think they're faster than my long runs but in reality there's little difference in the pace.  Part of the reason is that it takes me about 20-30 minutes to get proper;y warmed up and running well.  So by the time I'm properly warmed up, it's time to finish.  Hmmmmm.

Nevertheless these runs have a good role in helping me leave behind the stresses and strains of work. They also help keep me 'ticking' over during the week ahead of a longer run.


Training?  Yes but not my training!  A couple of friends, Nettie and John, who are non-runners have bother signed up for one of those army-style obstacle races.  These are the kind of race where you can't really race at all; you might have to wait before you can climb over somethings or deal with an obstacle.  Plus they're only over 5 or 10k.

Well the thing is, they've asked me to train them!  I agreed but only as far as the running is concerned as I don't know anything about dealing with the obstacles and besides, I think they're a recipe for a broken arm for myself but they are more confident than I am to have a go at this challenge.

So far we've had a training run / brisk walk in the rain.  And it was dark but we did it!   We did 5km and John asked me to repeat it again, which we did earlier this week and it was fine.  Nettie will come along as time allows.

I am really looking forward to being able to encourage John and Nettie.  It will be a pleasure to see them become fitter and fitter and running well.  I have a strong testimony as to the joys and real benefits of running as it means so much to me.  To share that with friends is something I take seriously and consider an honour.  I wouldn't push myself onto them at all, that wouldn't be right.

An after work run

So after spending so much time concentrating on cycling earlier this year, having a rest to put on 5lbs in weight, I am enjoying running again.  A few days ago I had a run around some of Stevenage (where my office is) and quite enjoyed it, although there was a sad tinge to it.  Part of the route included running through Fairlands Valley Park, just after dusk and although the conditions were perfect, there was a sense of the fading daylight, the fading sunny days, the changing seasons and winter coming.

As the park isn't really suitable for running through at night I knew it was probably the last time before 2015 unless I storm out of work for a lunch time blast sometime - and I might just do that one day!

Running in winter
When is the best time to run?
Running after work

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