Quick update

Here’s a link to a quick vlog I made.

https://youtu.be/e_osIxLA0-A

So I’ve been training since 23rd February and it’s been pretty tough for many reasons, mostly not because of the running itself. Much of my difficulty lies in managing the balancing act between work, family life and attempting to train for an ultra. Now that’s no different to other people’s challenges, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a serious challenge and everyone’s situation is different.

Essentially, where I am is that I can happily run about 3 times further than I could at the beginning of my training. I was struggling to run a 5k, now I’m happy running up to 9 miles. Nowhere near enough for an ultra of course, so my plan is to walk as much as I need to during the event itself and not worry about it. Knowing that the experience will add value for next time!

The fact I am now happy to run that distance is important to me, finding the time to do so is still a challenge, so I’m just being kind to myself and running whenever I can and trying to stick to my plan as much as I can.

Ok, so take care all, happy running!

Adam

Well that hurt

Well, yesterday I ran along The Ridgeway, was aiming for 2 hours in power zone 2, did not achieve that!

I am learning to respect The Ridgeway.

My training plan was to run 2:45 on Sunday, this was never on the cards as I had missed some training due to ‘reasons out of my control” such as a 1-year-old, and work, insomnia, physical pain related to my cancer surgery etc. So I had planned for a 2-hour run, which was my longest this year, at that, I only managed 9 miles and even then, not in zone 2. The hills pushed me up into zone 5 at times and predominantly zones 3 and 4, despite being slow!

Aside from power zones and pace, I was running in my Vibram trail shoes, which to be honest, I might have as well been running barefoot and it felt like I was running the whole 9 miles on cobblestones. It. Really. Hurt!

I mean. Really.

By mile 5, I was suffering big-time, like no other run.

I had run a 10k the day before so my legs were a little tired anyhow but nothing dramatic. I had also had a bad nights sleep and was not feeling it but went anyway, after some mocking from my ever-loving wife when I was trying to chicken out of the ‘long run’, she rightly said, if you can’t run 2 hours now, how can you expect to run the ultra in 2 months? She was right and I knew it, so my stubborn side kicked in and took control.

Bloody idiot!

I ran, it hurt and it was slow and it was not pretty, but I slogged through a painful 9 miles at a ridiculously slow pace and I cared not a jot!

I ran up a huge hill, chatting to cyclists as I overtook them and then they overtook me and we switched places a couple of times, I stopped for photos I convinced myself that I would carry on, limping while running and then I discovered a new mantra for myself that kept me going.

SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP!

I had no choice, either give up and sit or just keep going, so I repeatedly told myself to suck it up buttercup.

This worked!

I swore at myself. I mocked myself. Then I ended up telling myself that I am better than I thought I was. Particularly when I got within 30 minutes of my finish point. 

So my lesson of the day is that I must respect The Ridgeway. It is beautiful but unforgiving, in its way.

adam

Big Bloke Running Ultra. 

Moving over to Vlogging!!

So…. I’m trying out Vlogging 

Here is the link to my first video

Not sure how this is going to play out, it’s maybe my technology geek coming through! I know I don’t have the right lighting yet or maybe background etc, but I’m playing with it and having fun.

 

Let me know what you think if you have a few minutes to spare 🙂

 

Adam

Well, it just gets better…

So Boris has cancelled Christmas, Brexit ‘no deal’ looks most likely and we have a new strain of COVID-19 which has led to countries closing their doors to people from the UK.

Merry Christmas!!

Looks like we are all heading for some fun times ahead, with around 21 million people having been put into tier 4 and thousands of them ‘making a run for it’ just before the deadline, I am guessing that this new strain which is apparently 70% more virulent that the standard strain, that we will see a nationwide viral explosion.

None of this of course has anything to do with running!

So let’s get back to that and step away from the politics shall we. I have been focussing much more on my running and have managed to meet my weekly goals most weeks now despite the growing pressures from work. I have been running to make myself happy, focussing on enjoying it rather than anything else. My ultra plan starts again in February, so just keeping a certain level of health (I won’t say fitness!!).

I am really looking forward to starting my training plan now and bringing a bit of structure to my runs, to be honest, a regular 5k, along the same route is starting to get monotonous, the trouble is that sticking with 5ks means that its really not worth travelling to anywhere for a run. The longer runs required in the plan will make it more worthwhile to drive to the Ridgeway for a run. The last time I ran there, it nearly killed me 🙂 so I think I had better make sure I run plenty there, specificity is key to training.

I plan to start using my GoPro to Vlog my runs, it will be a bit of an experiment, so when you see those, be kind! But I will appreciate feedback on how to improve them.

Talk soon, and have a wonderful Christmas all.

Better, slowly.

So in my last blog post I said that I would run four times a week, a minimum of 5k each time, I have, so far, been able to do this and do so without too much of a strain on my work / life balance, so for now, this seems to be ok

Screenshot 2020 11 17 at 09 32 25

In the picture you can see my daily Running Stress Score as created by Stryd, you can see the consecutive days of running then the car crash(!) and the beginnings of my four runs a week. Clearly October was not a great month for my running!

Todays run was a nice simple power zone 2, 5k run, I’m quite enjoying running without any stress of actually following a training plan, I know that is to come, but for now, thesis quite nice. I have an 80/20 Power running plan set up in my Training Peaks account which kicks in mid February, so that should see me ready for the Ultra next year. Right now, the right thing is  just to enjoy running.

Back to todays run! As I say, a simple zone 2 run, which means a really low pace, conversational pace really and sometimes even slower when going up any hills because a hill increases the power requirement for a given pace obviously. It was running mostly in the dark which I love almost as much as running in the rain (dark and rainy mornings are the best!), slightly cold but I’m not yet in my winter gear, looking forward to that (ummm no!). I managed to keep 71% of my run in zone 2, which is pretty good, but I need to focus a bit more and stay in that zone 2, I tend to speed up towards the end because I want it over, as you can see below (orange line power, blue line pace).

Screenshot 2020 11 17 at 09 52 25
The route I run is fairly uninspiring, although I guess many would love it, I run from Aston down to Cote, out towards Shifford a bit and then back. I have been running this route mostly because it has the quietest roads from a traffic perspective but also, it is easy as I just go from my doorstep rather than having to drive to a starting point.

One of the benefits of the route are the locals in Cote, there is in particular, one older gentleman who is nearly always out and has a chatter, really lovely chap, who I suspect might actually be lonely, so it’s nice to have a chatter with him in the mornings. I think he will get a Christmas hamper as a surprise! Of course another benefit is the wildlife, I have seen some really beautiful owls and other birds of prey, along with small deer.

I’m sat here now writing this and can still feel the fact I ran this morning, some 14 hours ago, its good to know that even a gentle run has an impact on the body in some way!

While I write this I am also thinking about work and the impact that has on my running and home life as the hours I work or spend with family blur into each other. I think that the changes that lockdown (and now LD2!) have brought are not necessarily healthy, but are rapidly becoming the new normal for so many people, in particular knowledge workers. I for one, spend far more hours in front of my screen sat at a desk than I have ever done. While I reflect upon this and the the results of my woeful training this year, I can’t help to wonder if the two are linked, it’s definitely an input to reduced motivation, of that I’m certain. I guess if the vaccines that are being spoken about now really bear fruit then maybe by this time next year I might be in a position to answer that!

 

Ok, going to drop off now, will catch up again soon.

adam

Slow progress

Some time ago I posted, saying that I had been struggling for a while with motivation, well, it seems I’m back there again! 

 

Work is busy, lockdown is back, motivation is gone! I went through a phase of running an easy 5k every day and that was fine, if not boring but I at least feel like I was getting out there. Then after about 31 days, I had a work commitment that I couldn’t avoid and which meant I just had no time to run and that seemed to break the spell. I tried restarting my training plan, and again, work got in the way. I have felt that maybe its time to stop running, but deeper inside I don’t want to, what I really want is to be somewhere beautiful and to run though woodlands, carefree, without the stresses that are everywhere. 

 

In 2018, we went on holiday to the USA and Canada, it was amazing. Two of the places I ran there were just awesome, one of them was a greenbelt within Toronto (Anawen Greenbelt), and although it was in Toronto, you could easily be mistaken for thinking you were in the middle of nowhere, I actually got lost there(!). It was so beautiful, and it’s one of the places I try to remember while running sometimes. There other place is Metzger lake in Wisconsin, this really was out in the middle of nowhere and was truly magical to go for a run, the complete silence (compared to city life) is incredible, but knowing that all around you is real wildlife!

 

Unfortunately, although I do live ‘in the country’ there are not many good routes to run around here, so I usually end up taking the same routes, which, ok, makes me a Strava Legend on two segments (yay, biggest loser lol!), doesn’t really inspire me. I sometimes consider driving somewhere to run but my time is so limited usually that I don’t do it. 

 

Maybe I’m just whingeing here though? Yeah, maybe. Trouble is, it affects me so I need to find the way around it and put ‘running’ back where I need it, which is a good place, rather than the chore it has started to feel. To do that, I need to figure out why I feel like that and the location thing is the closest I can come up with right now, I guess that and the fact I seem to be getting slower and slower! 

 

Feeling demotivated by getting slower is odd though, because I’m doing that on purpose, with the logic being that if you train to run slower, you can run further, just, its not yet working for me because I’m not…  and maybe that’s the reality of the demotivation, or it’s a combination of this with everything else, I mean, its not exactly been a fantastic year has it? Trouble is, next year doesn’t really hold much promise right now either, so I need to get on with things.

 

So here’s my plan.

 

I am going to start running slow 5k’s again to build the habit again, plan to run 4 days a week.

Do that until the New Year, allow myself some time over Christmas and New Year to enjoy family, then after my birthday in mid February start my ultra training again.

I’m putting it here so that those of you who follow me on Strava will know, it will help me to know that you know!

 

No more whingeing. Get it done.

My favourite running gear – pt2

Ok, so quite honestly I thought these were a bit of a joke when I first heard about them. I mean underwear for runners, called Runderwear! Why? Just stop it!

Well, as it turns out, for really good reason, at least for some of us in my view, and definitely for me.

I have been running for about 10 years now, essentially I started running because I realised I couldn’t run half a mile to the shops to buy a packet of cigarettes.

I gave up smoking and started running, then quickly found it hurt for lots of reasons. Not least of which being my thunder thighs rubbing together and chafing badly. There have been times when it has been painful to walk for days after a run and my skin has been so chafed it has bled.

I had tried all different types of shorts, ones with inner shorts built-in, very long shorts, very VERY long shorts, very short shorts, none of which really resolved the problem, I then tried things like Skin-glide, Vaseline or any other type of skin lubricant I could find, which all had varying degrees of success of course but I always disliked the process!

I came across Runderwear and gave a pair a try, chafing quickly became a thing of the past and I never ever run without these on anymore. I currently have a pair of their latest Merino wool boxers which are great and currently about £22, which is a bargain!


WMens Merino Boxer Angle 2xhat I like the most about these is clearly no more chafing but they are also supremely comfortable in all the right places 🤐!!

The fact that I won’t run anywhere, any distance now without these is why they have made it to second place on my favourite running gear list.

Since Runderwear started, they have improved their design, materials and range and I cannot recommend them highly enough. If you have any chafing or find the need for Skin-glide etc consider checking their range of products, you might just find a solution here.

My favourite running gear – pt1

So I’m going to start a mini series of reviews about the gear I use. As with so many other runners, I obsess over data, but again, as a runner, I obsess over running shoes even more, so I am going to start with my running shoes.

I have been through many shoes in my time as a runner, I used to be a huge fan of Saucony shoes, primarily because they are just so damn comfortable, starting with Saucony guides then moving on to Saucony Freedoms, replacing my shoes roughly every 5 months or so. Last year though, I tried Vibram V-runs, a minimalist pair of running shoes after reading Chris McDougall’s ‘Born to Run’ and being inspired to try something new with the hope that it would improve my running performance. I had bought a pair of Vibrams, some years ago, on a bit of a whim while in the USA on holiday, they never came home with me, there was so much about minimalist running that I didn’t know and I just thought they were bloody painful to wear!

Last year, when I finally had read a lot, learned a lot and taken the decision to buy a pair, I finally got the Vibram 5 Fingers V-Running shoes:-

UntitledImage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I needed about a month to adapt to running in minimalist shoes.

It hurt.

A lot.

I have done an earlier post on the adaptation process I experienced, might be useful for you if you are considering it! But suffice to say, do not rush this, it is not worth it.

So, what do I think about these shoes, that I have been running in 3-5 times a week for around 13 months now? Well, let’s explore!

Lets first think about value for money (I can be a bit flinty!). When I purchased these they cost £120, not an unusual price for a good pair of running shoes, a pair of Saucony Freedom 3 shoes could set you back £140, so not a lot in it. I also needed to buy a couple of pairs of Injinji toe socks so that more than made up the difference. The big difference I am going to shout about is that with my Saucony shoes, I would have to replace them frequently because they wear out and manufacturers recommend replacement (my cynic is shouting “well of course they do you idiot!!”), oh, and this is not just Saucony, this is every running show I have ever worn. I have historically replaced my running shoes around 3-400 miles, mostly because they look more knackered than me, but with my Vibrams, I am currently at 736 miles and they are going strong, just starting to show a little wear on the soles but not of concern. The reason for this of course is that in (lets call them) ‘normal’ running shoes, you have a layer of foam or gel or whatever to cushion your heel strike, obviously this wears out and you can end up causing more harm than good to your body and your running technique. With Vibrams there is ZERO cushion from the start, so it can’t wear out and you adapt to running in a way your were ‘Born to Run’, ie without a heel strike.

From a styling perspective, lets just say that these are fairly unique! I usually get comments from other runners (or at least used to when running together was ok at places like ParkRun) asking how they are and do they make me faster (I’ll come back to that) also sometimes a little banter about looking like I have gorilla feet lol. But to me they are functional and work perfectly.

The quality of the shoe is undeniable, well stitched, machine washable and they dry quickly, I have absolutely no issues with their quality.

The effects of using these shoes for over a year now is interesting. The first thing I notice is more flexibility in my feet, particularly my toes, (not so much one of my big toes because I recently broke that, not running!) I can flex my toes much more than before and have far greater individual control of each toe. I had heard this before starting using minimalist shoes but disregarded it thinking it was hokum, but its true! I also notice far greater muscle definition of my calves, which makes sense seeing that you end up using your tendons and muscles as springs when running in shoes like this. But I guess the burning question from many runners is, do they make you faster, and I have to say, no, if anything, I am slower. I don’t know if that is down to the shoes, my training plan, age, beer etc, maybe a combination of all of these but I am slower than I used to be, but I’m ok with that. So, don’t expect to put these on and get magically faster, they simply make you run the way your body is meant to, without any carbon aids or springy foamy gel stuff. If you stick with the shoes, you will become a forefoot striker, widely recognised as the best way for a distance runner, other than that and the incidentals I noted above there is no other benefits to minimalist running that I can see. That said, these are great benefits, from just a shoe!

In a nutshell, I love these shoes and run in nothing else except a pair of Vibram V-Trails which I use if I know I am going trail running. I did, one day, try running in my Saucony’s (which I now use around the house) but they felt awful, unnatural, heavy and cumbersome. I had to stop and get my Vibrams, so I guess that proves it for me!

So, next up for my reviews will be clothes, giving you my views of the tops, shorts and underwear I use 🙂

 

Flow

 

My running volume has reduced over the past 3 weeks, primarily due to the fact I badly stubbed my big toe on my right foot. I don’t think that it broke, but it was pretty bad and dark purple! I took almost a whole week with no running, then started back again, just running gently and short distances to test the injury.

I notice a few things change when I stop running or reduce running volume. From a physiological point, for sure, my metrics go the wrong way. Vo2 max drops quite quickly, which I guess is a fair reflection on fitness loss during inactivity, and my weight piles back on and I start eating poorly (or is it the other way around?!). Apart from the physical changes and metrics, my general mental state changes too, I find that I am more snappy and irritable a lot more, generally much less tolerant and less engaged with normal life.

When I start running again, I notice that, although the initial runs feel harder, after a few outings, I can run a little faster, I guess this is due to reduced running stress on my body. My Vo2 max starts to pick back up, albeit very slowly. Weight and eating habits, of course, change even slower, it is amazing how much a small injury can affect my overall wellbeing.
After a running break, while I am running, even a short distance like a 5k, I can feel the positive effects on my mental state, I can process some stuff and, throw it away or come to a conclusion. I can relax and start to enter almost a meditative state, helped by the rhythm of my steps and breathing. Some runners call this ‘flow’ and I can understand why, when I’m there, I don’t have to think about what I’m doing, I can focus outwardly and enjoy the countryside, I don’t feel stressed or in any pain, I can feel my body working and the effort it takes, but I don’t mind. This is the state when I feel like I could run all day and night. More importantly, when my run finishes, after being in this ‘flow’, I am relaxed, calm and ready for whatever is next.

I know a lot of people talk about the mental health benefits of running, but I think this is what it really brings for me, much more than the physical benefits, sure, they are there, but the mental benefits are much more important to me, especially with my busy work where sometimes I am up at 04:30 to start work and other times still working at 22:00.
Getting to ‘flow’ while on a run, is something I can’t achieve every time, I haven’t quite figured that out yet, I don’t think there is an instruction booklet for it(!), but it is something I often consciously try to achieve and other times, it almost takes me by surprise when I’m there. If you have experienced it, you will know what I mean, if not, then maybe you are reading this thinking I am talking crap, I used to think that too, when every run is an internal battle of voices shouting stop/keep going it is difficult to even conceive that you can run almost without effort, letting the body do its thing while the mind relaxes and enjoys the ride! But it is there and when you experience it, it’s like gold!

Short and sweet this time, for my next article, I plan to review some of my running gear, I also plan to get this done soon!

 

 

Running for me

If you’re a runner, by that, I mean you go out and run regularly, no matter how far or fast. You will know that everybody has their own reasons to run. For some time now, since COVID-19, I have struggled to motivate myself because all my races have been postponed. Sounds like a bit of a lame excuse maybe, but the loss of motivation was not a conscious choice, just a result that I experienced. I have been battling this by registering for virtual races but tbh, they really have not motivated me!

After some time doing some unhelpful comparing myself to other runners it becomes clear that, while I will probably never stop doing that because I am just a bit competitive (!), that I need to ensure I keep it healthy. I went through a stage of having a lot of negative thoughts about myself and self-doubt.

How to stop myself having those negative thoughts and self doubt, I’m not quite certain just yet but I am starting with the title of this post and just running for me. Not for a race, not to compete (even in my own head) with others, just to enjoy the running and the feeling I get after a run.

From a practical perspective, to help me with this, I am going to revert back to my training plan which is focused on running 80% of the time in Power Zone 2.

This forces me to slow down. It seems odd to do this but I have seen performance improvements since taking up this strategy.

It is often really difficult to run slow and of course all the metrics go the wrong way in every app (presumably because they expect you to be trying your hardest to run your fastest all the time?) that I have.

But it feels better, and as I say, I have already seen big performance improvements. The other part of this is that if I know I am sticking to my plan, I won’t care when I see other runners on strava running much faster than me! While some people actively mock my 11 minute+ miles, I know I am doing it for a reason so screw them!

I also have to remember that I am a ‘big bloke running’, I am in my 50’s and a cancer survivor which still impacts my day to day life with constant pain, and so I need to sometimes just cut myself a little slack and be kind to myself (just a bit of self coaching here!).

On a separate subject, maybe I can ask for some advice from you?!

I have noticed in my data something that I can’t explain.

Sometimes my heart rate falls if I run faster!

I can’t explain it when combined with any other metric. I first thought it must be hills, but that didn’t tally, then I thought well maybe my running form was better when I run faster but none of my other metrics (cadence, GCT, vertical oscillation, leg spring stiffness, power, temperature) seem to align. While of course some of these do look slightly better as you may expect, my heart rate can drop from the 180’s to the 140’s! I also often note that on those same runs, the run feels easier.

So I was wondering if other runners see this or not? It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s becoming more regular. I was wondering if it is a result of my slowly improving VO2 max, would that make sense?

Let me know your thoughts, and thanks in advance!