Sunday, 24 November 2013

I remember when I used to run

I've always needed something in the diary to get my motivation going. I'm just not a run for running's sake kind or person. Stupid really as when I do it, I love it but that's just me. I have plenty going on at the moment to come up with hundreds of excuses why I can't run.

However, 10 days ago, myself and eatingtrees booked our 'little European jaunt of happiness' for 2014. It's something we have to do. It started in 2009 with the Prague Half. 2010 was the truly painful Lisbon Half. 2011 we drove to Den Haag for their Half Marathon and then 2012 we decided to do the Marathon in Berlin. 2013 needed something a little more... well silly.... so we cycled through Holland and Belgium for the Maas Half Marathon. This year, I'm on a budget more than ever but we couldn't not do something so we've booked early, got some cheap seats and myself, eatingtrees and Mrs HMC are heading to Jersey for their Run Jersey event. Keeping the silliness level up, this involves 3 races in 3 days. A 5k on Friday night, a 10k on Saturday morning and then a Half marathon on the Sunday morning. None of which are difficult in their own right but still aiming for good times on those 3 consecutive will make it that bit more challenging.

The even cooler thing is Mrs HMC is going to join us for both he 5k and 10k before she becomes our official mascot on the Half.

This has very much motivated me to get my backside out and about 2 weekends in succession which in most respects is pretty damn poor but when you consider that prior to this, I had run a grand total of 4 times (total of 26km) since the end of July, that says it all. 8km last weekend in under 41 minutes and 6km today in 29 minutes tells me the pace is heading in the right direction too. Losing that stone and a bit has really helped! Now I just need to keep it going... Easier said than done!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Breaking my Parkrun duck!

Parkrun is something I've wanted to do for years. About 3 at least I think as I'm sure there was one at Wimbledon Common but I've always been torn that Saturday morning should be long run day.

However, being as apart from a 5km last weekend, I can count the number of times I've run in the last 3 months on one hand, that argument kinda goes out of the window. As I've heard nothing but good things, I signed up around 3 weeks ago to get me back into running but then a Ofsted visit plus other commitments like Segway racing happened and I haven't got to one. My local Parkrun is Nonsuch but I'm yet to actually get there. Instead, it was a visit to my parents this weekend that allowed me to do the Maldon one with a friend of mine who'd 'never been but always meant to go' as well.

It was a lot of fun, fully recommended and I now have a time to beat of 24:04 (time delivered to my mobile) which I'm pretty damn pleased with. (The weight loss seems to have helped the pace) I then ran back to my parents which was exactly 3km and I managed to do that bang on 15 minutes so kept the pace up well. 8km at a good pace with my first Parkrun complete. A good start to the weekend!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Segway Rally. The only way to travel

Being unstable on 2 wheels is quite a strange experience for me considering how many miles I clock up on the bike in a month so when faced with this, I realised I had something to learn... and quickly!

This is a segway but not one of those things lazy people use to look around European cities... no, no, no. This is the off road version and a LOT of fun. That is once you realise how to use it. Everything you've learnt up to this point goes out of the window. To go left or right, you lean that big metal stick left or right. It doesn't turn like a bike so takes some getting used to. Forward and back is achieved by funnily enough, leaning forward and back. That's everything there is to it so after a bit of training (beautifully shown by eatingtrees below), we hit the woods and the fun began!

We then had around 30 minutes to race around this woodland course and where as everyone was nervous and wary at first, by the end, most people were attempting to go flat out along the straights before zig zagging through the chicanes of trees. It's an awesome thing to do and for under £40 from the lovely people at Activity Superstore, it's cracking value. Even better if there's more than one of you. Just make sure you don't end up on You Tube under the banner of 'segway fails'. There are a LOT!


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Dunwich Dynamo XXI

We did it!!! No not just complete it. 3rd time lucky for eatingtrees and myself and this time, no curbs were hit. No punctures were created. No roadside maintenance sessions were needed at 2am. And then again at 3:30am. No collisions were had. No spokes were broken. And finally, no ditches were landed in. It was all a bit normal really. Well as normal as cycling 183km through the night from Hackney to the Suffolk coast on a Saturday night in July can be.

From the joys of Leyton... 'I f**king hate cyclists' to the bemusement of others 'what the hell is going on', it was the usual array of comments you get from people watching a lot of people on bikes heading past you dressed in anything from full lycra to 'I'm popping to the shop' attire. Dunwich Dynamo is just a wonderful, wonderful thing that brings a bunch of like-minded people on bromptons, road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, fixies, single-speeds, penny farthings, boris bikes, post office bikes, dog carrying bikes and various other contraptions for a night of enjoyment.

As this was our 3rd time, we've learn't a lot along the way including bring a flask of tea, a change of top for halfway and a little music for the early hours. Then don't crash and just enjoy it!


Now some people use it as a race and quite frankly, the quicker they go and take their condescending comments with them, the better, that then leaves the rest of us to enjoy the relatively relaxing ride to the coast where you can chat with who you like, go where you like (don't just follow the lights) and enjoy the satisfaction of the ride.

The first half is always relatively straight forward with our planned stops around 45 and then 86ish km. Then we head into what I call my dark place. Except it wasn't dark this time. In the past, I've sometimes struggled with this bit and questioned why I do it but this time when my eyes were feeling heavy and my blinks were getting longer and longer, I just called eatingtrees along side me, looked at him and said 'Right, I'm going to fall asleep soon and I need to stay awake so I'm just going to start talking to you and it's probably going to be a load of crap but just stick with me'. Eatingtrees being as wonderful as he is just said 'yep' and we started to chat which pretty much went on for the next hour and a half talking about everything and nothing. It was wonderful!


Then after our final pit stop at around 130km, I remembered why I do this. When the sun starts coming up around 4am, and then all the way until the beach, I get the biggest high I know. It's honestly like a drug. I sing, I smile, I attack the hills with glee, I dance on the peddles, I become chatty, I say hello to everyone, I laugh. It's like my body just says 'well if you're not gonna bloody sleep, we may as well have some fun'! I love the Dun Run, DD, the Dynamo. It makes me low, it makes me euphoric, it makes me think that everything should be this wonderful in life. See you next year, I may bring some friends!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Amazing Health benefits of CrossFit

If you are bored of your current fitness regime and are looking for something that will push you to your limits, then CrossFit might the answer.

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program designed to help you achieve broad and general fitness, so you are prepared for any physical challenge. This is not for the faint-hearted, so starting off with a decent level of fitness will help you adapt to the program; this is where your years of running come in.

Notable CrossFit athletes include Annie Thorisdottir, who obliterated the competition in the 2011 and 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games. She’s now known as the ‘fittest woman on Earth’. Although not competing this year, due to a back injury, Annie is an impressive physical specimen of how CrossFit can transform your body.

The CrossFit regime focuses on constantly varied functional movements, performed at high intensity. With a mixture of aerobic exercise, gymnastics, body weight exercise and Olympic weight lifting, it is a well-rounded program of fitness.

An example of a WOD (workout of the day) shows how intense CrossFit can be:
  • Running – 1 mile
  • Pull-ups – 100 reps (sounds impossible, but you do as many as you can, up 100 then return to it again and again between your push-ups and squats)
  • Push-ups – 200 reps
  • Bodyweight Squat – 300 reps
  • Running – 1 mile
Combining cardio with weight training, this WOD gives an overall workout that will push your body to the limits. As a runner, you will have the cardio bit down, but if your aim is to build up your strength and muscle, the pull-ups, push-ups and bodyweight squats will get you there.

This sport is massive in America, and is becoming increasingly popular in the UK with specialist suppliers such as Savage Strength offering a wide selection of CrossFit equipment to aid you in your strength and conditioning build up.

As a principal program for many police academies, tactical operations teams, champion martial art specialists and military special operations units, you can be sure that this regime is pretty hardcore, so you’ll need to look at your diet as well as your training routine.

The workouts for CrossFit are generic enough to be adapted depending on your body type and fitness goals, so you can scour through the backlog of WODs to find some of the less extreme ones to try out this fitness regime. You can find a vast amount of information at - including workouts - and if your local gym is anything to brag about, they should have a CrossFit class for you to test out.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Cranleigh 10k Race Report. 2013

Better late than never i guess but the 7th July saw my 3rd attempt at the Cranleigh 10k. I love this race a lot! I've said it all before but what's not to love about a small local village race where the route is flat, the marshalls are friendly and it is generally good weather. unfortunately, due to the very, very good weather, (which i am in no way complaining about) all PB attempts were cancelled. And also extremely unlikely even if it had attempted it!

A warm day meant picnic, so along with Mrs HMC, we packed the monsters into the car nice and early so they could eat some food and burn off some energy in the vast field and playground near the finish while I did a little run.

The route is approx 5/6km slightly shaded and 4/5km open sunshine. It's those 4/5 km that hurt a lot. But I'm not complaining ok. Just to make that clear. I'm not complaining. A slow 10k was eventually finished just under 54 minutes caused but my completely erratic pace (no idea what was going on there) and the heat but a lovely run none the less. I do love this race and will return next year hoping for just a couple of degrees cooler!

For now, I need to concentrate on next weekend's Dunwich Dynamo where myself and eatingtrees attempt to cycle 180km through the night. This year in a change from previous years though, we will be attempting to both stay on our bikes for the entire duration. Wish us luck...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tough 'n' Soggy

I did my 'run half way to work' route this morning which in a word...  Or two I guess, was bloody horrible. Ignoring the hills which you can't do anything about in Surrey, it was made hard for a number of other reasons. These are as follows:

1. I haven't run anything like near enough recently. My fault completely. I mean I can come up with the most fantastic excuses if you want but I reckon they'll have a touch of bs about them. 
2. I have a shocking cough which produces a phenomenal amount of phelm in the mornings. Too graphic? Sorry about that.
3. I dressed for rain, I got warm, bright and insanely humid weather. It took over an hour to cool down afterwards. Even after the shower...

Why was I dressed for rain when it wasn't? Well it did rain just before I left and the weather/voodoo forecast said showers all morning and after Saturday's long ride with eatingtrees and spending an hour on a bike, in Hertfordshire, on tiny roads and country paths, IN A BLOODY THUNDERSTORM AND TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR I felt my body could do with slightly less moisture. It seems that backfired as the sweat was of epic proportions. Ah well, it's summer now right? So less rain? Yeah?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Back in the groove - Nike Free 5.0 review

It's funny how things turn out. Only 2 days before, I had been telling eatingtrees that I really needed some new trainers as the current ones were a little worse for wear and lo and behold I get an email telling me that the senders finally had my size in and were offering me a chance to review the new Nike Free 5.0. I jumped at the chance.

The shoes I had run my first ever Half Marathon in were a pair of Nikes but weren't exactly running shoes. Once completed I realised that I needed a proper pair of shoes and went off to be checked and fitted and my wallet emptied. I have worn those shoes or the latest variations of them for around 4 years now. Reason being as I've always been scared of the dreaded iliotibial band syndrome as I knew a couple of people who 'got' it when they changed their shoe but it was time for a change.

Nike say of the Nike Free 5.0... 'Natural Barefoot-like Feel'. Well my previous foray into the world of minimalist running was with the New Balance Minimus range but for someone who comes in 'overweight' on a BMI basis they didn't have the comfort needed despite the enjoyment of a more forefoot strike. These Nike Free 5.0 are an absolute bloody joy. The 'barefoot-like feel' makes sense now I've tried the shoes. Yes there's cushioning on the soles for which I can hear the barefoot traditionalists shouting 'it's not proper barefoot running' and you know what, they are completely correct. It's not. But that's not what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to be as efficient as I can be while being comfortable and enjoying my running. These are as light as a feather, still encourage me to forefoot strike and so far, I'm injury free. I love these shoes and the colour.... WOW

It's like they were designed by someone who works in a cave all day and once they came out, they wanted to spread a little colour around. I have to say, when I got them out of the box and was brave enough to remove my sunglasses, I was a little shocked but they've grown on me and I absolutely love them now. There's loads of equally bright colours (plus probably a black and white option) available but I wouldn't change these for anything now.

I've run the same 6km route 3 times in the last week in them now and I love how they feel. I've also upped the pace a bit although that's probably down to me enjoying running in them a lot more than my olds shoes but that's worth it's weight in gold. They offer me a good amount of support, they are comfy to run in and I know I'm still forefoot running as my calf muscles always feel they are given a good work out. And the best thing in the world about them???? They have Waffle Outsole Pistons. Nope I have no idea either but that's genius... What sane man in this world would NOT want Waffle Outsole Pistons!

I just have to add, the Nike Free's are also available on the rather cool NIKEiD. You can completely customise the shoe. I've just done it. A lot of fun and you can get the exact shoe you want. Not only can you muck around with the colours of EVERYTHING, you can also use different parts of different shoes. For example, using the sock-like feel of the Nike Free 3.0 with the cushioned midsole of the Nike Free 5.0. Or vice versa. Get it feeling exactly as you want it but in the exact colour combo you want too. For now, I'm completely sold on my neon ones but when they do wear out, I'll be heading out to find some more. Chuffed

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Maas Half Marathon Race and Trip report

One of the best things I've ever done! The planning I mean. It was spot on. As for the rest of the trip, sublime. 6 days, 5 nights with one of your best mates who shares the same beliefs of doing something a little bit silly and pushing your boundaries as you do.

From the first Royal Parks Half Marathon we ran in 2008, we've almost egged each other on, year on year. From eatingtrees first suggestion in a pub afterwards that we should do a European Half 'next year' which put us in Prague to our first Dunwich Dynamo in 2011. We like a challenge and this little adventure had been in the making for 2 years but got put on hold when we decided to tackle the Berlin Marathon last year. Now it was time for the silliest one yet.

If you've read anything of mine recently, I won't go through all the detail again but essentially it was a 3 day cycle across Netherlands & Belgium with one day of rest (when we did a little more cycling) before running the Maas Half Marathon. Oh sod it, here's the detail...

After meeting at the station, the first day was a gentle 30ish km to Harwich to catch the overnight ferry where we froze to death (almost) due to some Dutch cargo loader deciding that lorries were more important! I have to be honest this is the only thing the Dutch did wrong the entire time!! When we disembarked at the other end, we just had these views (and quite a lot of mist).

If fact it felt so good, we decided on a 25+ km detour to Rotterdam purely on the basis of 'we could'. Thats the kind of thinking that came back to bite us on the arse later as surviving only on coffee and cake that we had earlier, we struggled to find anywhere for lunch. Eventually and by the power of Open Source mapping and GPS, we came across the tiniest of places and by the power of charades, play acting, guesswork and luck, managed to get coke, coffee, water, chips and rolls. Honestly, it's like the carb gods were smiling down on us! Oh... and a mars bar!

After finding our most wonderful B&B which I fully and whole heartedly recommend, the heavens opened and stopped our trek up the road to find a restaurant BUT... we were then saved by our wonderful B&B owner who took some of our cash and drove up the road to get us a Chinese takeaway. After explaining the eatingtrees only eats trees and not proper food, she headed off to get us a mixture of stuff. Vegetarian to Chinese restaurant owners in Netherlands means the following. Try and hide the meat under the non meat. Needless to say, I ate like a king. Grant enjoyed some rice. And some soup. Well until he found meat in that too. The chicken omelette in a sticky sauce wasn't exactly welcomed either. Anyway, this completely unstaged picture was taken the next morning when still full from the banquette, we headed off!

Day 2 was the most enjoyable day cycling for me. Nearly all on wonderfully flat, even cycle paths without a pothole in sight through some absolutely beautiful countryside as Grant demonstrates below.

We also cycled along the massive Albert Canal which for a transport geek like me was just brilliant. Huge, huge ships and the canal was as straight as an arrow for miles upon miles on the smoothest bike path that the world could throw at us. Lunches were planned slightly better too meaning we didn't starve and when we got to our apartment, an awesome 3 bed place near nowhere but a forest and a bar, it gave the perfect end to the perfect day. Well that was until we tried to get food. On a public holiday. In Belgium. After a 14km round trip, we had a box of pasta and a jar of sauce. Still it could have been worse, the Chinese might have been open!

That evening, after discussing where we were heading with Josee, the apartment owner, she made an up and down movement with her arm. Grant assumed this wasn't an up and down movement at all, more a we were going from place to place movement and there would be no hills. In the morning when we left, Josee's husband confirmed my fears. There were hills. After 2 days when a bridge over a river was our biggest problem, it seemed we were going to be tested a little more. With that in mind, we decided, after a breakfast of coffee and biscuits (the shops were shut remember) to try and crack on that morning and get a good portion of the days ride done before lunch. Although there was still time for an action shot!

And one to prove there were hills!

Anyway, we certainly did and 60km was ticked off before a lunch of milk rolls containing pate, cheese and sweet chilli crisps and a can of beer. Don't judge me, it was all fuel...

Mid afternoon and rush hour in Vise meant that we arrived and saw more traffic in 15 minutes than we had for the entire trip previous! And then the second biggest hill of the trip so far which over the next 2 days, we rode up and over too many times to mention!

Anyway, to the race itself. The Maas Half Marathon. Brilliant. Organisation was second to none (they had 6 different distances from 300m for the very young children to the full marathon for odd people). The Half was our race of choice and having cycled 370km up to this point, I wasn't expecting a quick time. In fact completion was the goal and because of the lovely course, great support and shere bloody mindedness that my my aching legs would get me over that line, I finished in just under 2 hours. That I didn't expect and was chuffed to bits. The screen shot shows my relief quite well I believe!

This race cost me 10 euros. For that, I got a brilliantly organised race, loads of support, a full buffet, race rucksack, a technical t-shirt and loads of great memories. This trip will live on with me for a long time so next time you fancy a race that's outside of your local area and has some good cycling routes on the way, this is a must! Here's the post run shot for you all!

For the final jaunt, we had to get changed (very quickly), get back on the bikes and head off to catch a train. By the time I got home late Sunday night, the odometer was reading 400.5km ridden and 21.1km run. Not bad for a weeks work. Now if I could just stand up without other people's help or having to use furniture as a balance, everything would be fine!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The 'we should know better trip' Day 1. 48.4km

Day 1 and we're currently sat waiting for the ferry! We made it across London without any problems and despite Greater Anglia's best efforts to the contrary, managed to get the bikes on train, get a seat and relax.

Once we got to Colchester, we managed to haul the bikes out of the very front of the train and get them down a lift and back up the stairs, and finally hit the road again.

A lovely countryside cycle (well once out of Colchester) was ruined only by the lack of open countryside pubs. Do they not have alcoholics in the countryside? We plodded on regardless and ended up in a cheap chain pub which has done the job.

Now I'm stood looking at a ferry I can't board for another 30 mins but hey ho, inside I have a bed, maybe a pint and I get to get out of the cycling underwear that I've had on for quite a while. It's like a nappy.... Now I know how my kids feel!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Nearly ready, nearly packed & nearly fit enough!

Tomorrow, the final packing will be completed and the only thing left for me to do will be to get on my bike and pedal!

This is gonna be awesome. A reminder of what myself and eatingtrees have planned for our 2 beautiful singlespeeds is as follows:

Tues: Get the train to Colchester in Essex early afternoon for a 30km cycle to Harwich to catch the night ferry to Hook of Holland.

Wed: Approx 95km ride to the Netherlands/Belgium border where a lovely B&B awaits.

Thurs: Around 80km ride following the Albert Canal to an apartment in the middle of nowhere with the only thing close by, being a bar. Liquid dinner then!

Fri: The final long ride will be approx 105km all the way to a place near Vise in Belgium. This is our base for 2 nights.

Sat: Nothing, a quiet day resting the legs before Sunday.

Sun: Take part in the Maas Half Marathon on very heavy legs before getting back on the bike and cycling another 20km back to Liege before getting on the Eurostar from Brussels and *hopefully* getting home at a reasonable hour in Sunday night.

See simple. As long as we don't get lost, crash, have a mechanical breakdown we can't fix, find our places to stay, get injured, find enough to eat, are able to run 21.1km, not miss our train, get the bikes on the train and South West trains still run on Sunday night without engineering works to allow me to make it home. What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, 29 April 2013

Walking and wheeling

With 8 days remaining until myself and eatingtrees get on our singlespeeds and head for The Netherlands and Belgium, the weekend before last, I needed to check I had the ability to cycle 2 consecutive days before I attempted to do it for 4 and run a half marathon at the end of it.

With the in-laws kindly putting me up for the night, I abandoned my parenting duties and hit the road fully laden with everything I'll be taking with me. I've done the route south to Worthing a few times now so I pretty much knew when it was going to hurt and when I could relax so with the weather a wonderful 20 degrees, I made it in a good time despite a detour due to a road closure and feeling pretty damn good. 80km done.

The return journey started around 8:45am after a mountain of breakfast but as I'd decided to go in a completely new direction I'd never done even in a car, let alone on a bike, I was thankful for the GPS showing me the way. That was until after speeding along and making great time, I accidentally hit the North Downs. I say hit because that's how it felt. I just stopped. Going up an 18% gradient on a single speed fully loaded with panniers, saddle bags and a fat bloke ain't gonna happen. I got off top walk and was suddenly joined by many a Lycra clad roadie as a found myself slap bang in the middle of a cycling event. I enjoyed a certain smugness that at least it wasn't only me walking...

Anyway, after that little power walking exercise, I made it home again feeling pretty damn good albeit very hungry! 75km done.

The running training for the half marathon I've abandoned in the knowledge that anything I do is more likely to make my foot worse, not better so I'll just wing it and hope for the best. I certainly won't be setting any records but after all the cycling, that was never likely anyway. Completion is everything!

This weekend was spent getting attacked in Zagreb for Mrs HMC's early birthday trip. I say attacked but I do mean by tree pollen. Being a hay fever sufferer got me worse than it ever has before and it was really tough to get any sleep but, and here's the thing, it was totally worth it. 3 nights spent in Zagreb looking around and seeing the place was great but my absolute highlight was walking up Medvednica Mountain. Just the hiking trail was 4.5km at a 14% gradient so up and down that plus a couple of km either end getting there and back meant we did a 12ish km walk to pretty much the summit through the conservation area of forest. It was awesome... Even if it did mean that we could barely walk the next day. It's the downhills that seemed to cause the most problems with ankles and calf muscles but come next week, I'll be hoping for every downhill I can find.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Telling Tonsillitis to toddle off!

That was bloody horrible! I had no idea how much it makes you ache and how much it hurt. I am a big girls blouse but hardly being able to swallow is a particular worry for me considering my wine and biscuit addictions (I should point out, not together). I was in danger of withering away to nothing. Or at the very least losing my 4th spare tyre!

I spoke to the docs and was advised not to run and expect to get very tired if I got on the bike. Not ideal when training to cycling across Belgium and a little bit of the Netherlands in order to run the Maas Half! Bugger!

On Monday I took to the bike for my commute and although the 'to work' was good, the 'from work' hurt a little more than it probably should. This morning, I ran some of the way into work and a steady 8 and a bit km was done in around 44mins. It didn't hurt too much so I'm either improving or not trying hard enough. Probably both.

None of those things will quite prepare me for this weekends excursions though. Cycling 75km down to the coast where the in-laws are very kindly putting me up before I jump on the bike again on Sunday morning to cycle home again. That's gonna be sore. There are hills and everything. And the bike will be fully loaded as if it were the trip to Belgium in order to make sure I have everything!!

I have pre-warned Mrs HMC that I'll probably be in a foul mood by the time I return and may need excessive amounts of doughnuts and beer to see me through the afternoon. I expect her response will be something along the lines of  'I've been looking after our children while you've been lazing around on your bike. Get over yourself and help me out!' To be honest, I don't deserve anything more.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Me =

Have : Tonsillitis
Training : None
Mood : Miserable
Fitness : Crap
Dream : To run or ride
Ability : Sit on arse in pain
Half Marathon : 5 weeks
Cycle Benelux : 4 weeks, 2 days
Excitement : HUGE apart from
Have : Tonsillitis


Friday, 29 March 2013

10 bloomin' miles

Good Friday. Well it certainly felt like it. OK so spring hadn't actually sprung but the sun was shining, the wind had dropped and with the temperatures reaching the dizzy heights of +1, I set out with a friend of mine who I don't get to run with very often on my longest run since the Berlin marathon and my friend's longest run ever.

I was back visiting my parents where I grew up so the chance to run on some small country lanes through the Essex countryside and catching up with someone I hadn't seen in a while was a great thing to do and although it certainly wasn't fast, it was good to get some miles in the legs. With only 5 weeks until mine and eatingtrees'  epic ride across The Netherlands and Belgium to run in the Maas Half Marathon, I now have a more little confidence that I'm actually going to be able to run at the end of the 3 days of cycling.

Tomorrow, the plan is to get on the bike and try a little more of that too as after all, If I can't even make it to the start of the race, what's the point in doing the running...

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Holding Out for the Warm Weather

GUEST POST: Craig Bradshaw. Marathon Runner, Blackpool.

This year, I decided to enter the first ever Yorkshire Marathon, which takes place at the end of October. My reasons for doing this were threefold.

One of my main reasons for entering the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon was that it has an exceptionally flat course - flatter than New York, Paris and London, meaning I can hopefully record an exceptionally fast time.

Another reason that I opted for York over London was that, as my old University stomping ground, I am sure to be kept visually stimulated throughout the 26.2 miles of the scenic course; starting and finishing at York University, and taking in villages, countryside, and famous landmarks such as Mansion House, Betty’s Tearooms and York Minster along the way.

Finally, and most importantly, as someone who is well-versed in competing in marathons that take place in April or May, such as London and Edinburgh, I couldn’t bear the thought of starting my training in early January, and having to put up with 16 weeks of completely miserable weather.

The Yorkshire Marathon was set up as a tribute to Yorkshire fundraiser Jane Tomlinson CBE, who died in 2007 after completing an Iron Man, three London Marathons and a host of other challenges, and raised almost £2m for charity, all while undergoing chemotherapy treatment for terminal breast cancer.

Given that the Yorkshire Marathon doesn’t take place until 20 October, I don’t realistically need to start my serious training until June, which hopefully means that I can enjoy 4 months of relatively warm weather; hopefully making training that little bit more enjoyable.

However, seeing as the mornings are getting lighter, I have started to do a few 5 mile runs before work in the morning, as a way of slowly increasing my mileage in the run up to June. Unfortunately the days might be getting longer, but the temperatures aren’t getting any higher.

In my opinion, one of the most indispensable pieces of clothing for any runner in this weather is base layer clothing, as they can help to regulate your body temperature, reduce your recovery periods, enhance your performance, and reduce the risk of injury.

Since I have been running, one of my most pivotal pieces of clothing for any marathon training is my Helly Hansen base layer, which aren’t available to buy direct from Helly Hansen (they don’t have a UK site), so I have to get them from a licensed supplier such as Outwood Sports or Amazon.

In previous marathon years, I have managed to shed most of my layers by late March, affording me the luxury of being able to train in appropriate race attire, such as vest/t-shirt and shorts. This year is a completely different kettle of fish, and it looks as if I will be stuck having to wear at least 3 layers for another few weeks at least!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


Well and truly told off! That was me after spending 45 minutes with my osteopath this morning after I tried and almost failed to get out of bed the day before.

The tightness in my left shoulder which has been causing my a lot of pain in the night while attempting to sleep and had gone down to my lower back and in my left leg and ALSO caused pain in my left knee when cycling is all down to the worlds tightest left hamstring!

I was told that sessions with him alone would not solve it, I need to start stretching it properly every night otherwise it'll get worse again. Joy. At least it's happened now rather than a week before I cycle across Belgium and run a half marathon I guess.

It's the only the second time in my life that one visit to the Osteopath hasn't sorted a problem. It bugs me really, they're like insurance companies, expensive and pretty pointless up until that point you really need them!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

I move slow and steady

I've had to temporarily abandon my transition to minimalist running due to what could be plantar fasciitis or what I generally class as a bloody sore foot! The facts are this. I'm too fat and my running style too inefficient to carry on in those shoes to be able to run a half marathon in what is only around 8 weeks time around Maas.

Today, I reverted back to the old faithful's that got me through the Berlin Marathon. You know, the ones that made my toes go numb for 4-6 weeks!! Brilliant. Quite frankly though, I needed to get some k's back into the legs. I know I can get through the 3 days of cycling on our trip to Belgium but I needed to prove to myself that I can run more the 7km without dying. I can!

I left this morning with the words 'I don't know where I'm going and I hope to be back sometime between 35 mins and an hour' depending on how it was going. Well it went OK. As per the Of Monsters & Men inspired blog post title, it wasn't quick but 12.3km completed in 1hr 6mins.

What made it better was some good coffee when I got home. Now rather embarrassingly, I cannot remember for the life of me, who sent it to me but I can vouch that it is bloody tasty despite having quite frankly, the most bizarre packaging. What has a picture of a pouting/angry women and a fake monkey got to do with coffee. Any who, it's called Bounce or Aroma, I think. Who knows.... However, as I said, really, really tasty and highly recommended. So much so, I'm off to make another pot!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Getting into Intervals

As the weather gradually starts to improve, more and more people are going to start planning long distance races into their schedules.

In the midst of winter, the thought of spending longer than 5 minutes running outside is enough to make you want to rustle up a hot chocolate and pretend that humans were never designed to run in the first place.

However, the appeal of long distance races seems to grow exponentially with the increase in temperatures, meaning now’s the time to ramp up your training. 

One of the most valuable training methods to utilise in your quest for a new PB is interval training, which refers to training using a mix of short, high intensity effort combined with slower, recovery phases throughout a training session.

The benefits of interval training are myriad, but one of the prime advantages is that you can squeeze more quality training into a shorter period of time (especially valuable seeing as it’s dark by 5pm). Interval Training will also allow you to maintain some semblance of a normal working and family life.

Integrating an interval training session into your weekly training schedule will definitely put you on an accelerated course (pun intended) to improved fitness and race performances. The science behind this interval-based wizardry is that interval training has the ability to increase your anaerobic/lactate thresholds; the premise of this can be neatly summed up with this nifty little infographic

As any running aficionado will be well aware, the term anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’ in plain English.

Working at an anaerobic level is a result of lactic acid accumulating in your system as it cannot be broken down quickly enough, which sends you into oxygen debt. For any gluttons for punishment, you can reach this anaerobic level by doing any form of exercise at a really hard effort, but you are unable to stay at anaerobic level for long periods of time.

This is why interval training makes use of intense bursts of short effort, and the more you train at anaerobic level, the more your own body’s anaerobic/lactate thresholds will improve; this will result in significant gains in your speed and endurance.

The following example of an interval training plan can be easily incorporated into your current race plan (or just as a substitute for a normal run if you aren’t training for anything in particular). As a responsible running contributor, I must advocate that you are adequately hydrated and properly warmed-up before your interval training session.

Another handy piece of advice is to invest in a proper running watch to help you keep track of your interval times and pace; my personal favourite is the Garmin Forerunner 410, which has a built in GPS and has more features than you can shake a stick at. I got mine from Uttings Outdoor, but if the Garmin is a little too pricey for you, there are plenty of others out there to choose from.

When performing interval sprints on either the treadmill or the track, the basic unit of measurement is 400m with 45 seconds rest.  Start by doing 16 reps of 400m at slightly quicker than race pace with 45 seconds rest in between; the following week, do 8 reps of 800m with 90 seconds rest in between.  You will gradually work your way up to 3 reps of 2000m, with 225 seconds (3 mins 45) rest in between; then you start to decrease the distance again.  The following table should provide you with a handy guide.