Page 3 of 3

Oh for crying out loud!!! – SNOW

Well, the last couple of runs have been fun!

Wednesday was a ‘power zone 2 run’, which basically means a slow run (even by my standards!) It’s a foundational run in my training plan, being the 80% of all the training. The thinking behind this is data driven, and to cut a long story short, is based upon the fact that elite distance runner athletes spend 80% of their time in low intensity training zones and 20% in high intensity zones. Now, my low intensity zones are, maybe, marginally different to an elite athlete, granted, but the principle remains! So, my zone 2 runs are achingly slow and it gets somewhat dull while running sometimes, this was one of those days. The weather was beautiful, clear, dry, a little sunshine but cold (apparently felt like -3!) although not too bad. I had a nice subtle tailwind while going out, with a frosty headwind on the way back. When I got back home my legs were very red but the run kind of felt a little bland, also being an hour’s run, the distance wasn’t interesting either! Todays run, was a tempo run, I had been looking forward to it, adding a bit of pace, but not too much, to the run is nice. The run consists of 15 minutes warm up in zone 2, 30 minutes tempo run in zone 3 and then 15 minutes cool down back in zone 2 (remembering the 80/20 plan adds 2 extra zones in, so we get Z1, Z2, ZX, Z3, ZY, Z4, Z5). I usually enjoy this one because I know that towards the tail end of the tempo run piece, I am feeling it, and I like that. Today however was not as nice as I had hoped, I woke up and my phone told me it was snowy with poor visibility, I curled back up in bed! After about another 10 minutes I forced myself out of bed, knowing that if I went back to sleep that would be the end of that! I looked out the window and saw no snow, I thought, bloody phone, then, great, let’s go. Got my normal gear on, stepped outdoors into sideways snow!

Well, thanks for that! I completed my run as per the plan but really did not enjoy it, I was cold and the snow was blowing straight into my face for half the run. Happily, no snow was settling on the ground, but it was definitely soggy out there. When I got back I had chilblains all over my legs and particularly my feet as I had worn my normal road running Vibrams instead of my water resistant trail running Vibrams, not a happy bunny! On my way back I ran passed a friend (Emma) who asked if I was cold enough yet, I responded with something like a falsely jovial ‘not yet, haha ’ but actually I was freezing! LOL

Anyways! Not fast, but moving!

Screenshot 2020 02 27 at 15 17 45

Screenshot 2020 02 27 at 15 17 02

Funny how the runs you don’t want to do can end up being the best ones!

How was todays run?

I slept bad, awakened by my daughter at 4am for some crazy reason which to her made sense I am sure, but to me it was ludicrous, I then got back in bed and spent another 90 minutes (ish) debating if I should just get up and run. When I eventually dragged my sorry ass out of bed and got outside, just as I stepped out the door, it started raining, well thank you very much! That did not improve my mood in the slightest!

But, today was intervals and I just love intervals, I get to have a plod around but also to push myself a bit.

Today was a little different because instead of using data to control my output, I ran by perceived effort, it was interesting because although I was aiming for zone 4 in the high intervals, I was actually running over 3 minutes a mile faster than normal and was easily in high zone 5, yet my effort for 5 out of 6 of these intervals felt great. I felt I was on the lower end of zone 4, although on the 6th interval I definitely felt like I faded (despite the actual power output showing higher!). That said, I am quite impressed with how well I managed to hold my efforts!

I used to hate running intervals, but I have got to the stage in my training, which focuses most of my effort (80% of it) on running slow, so I now look forward to these as they add a welcome variation and the speedwork challenges me to endure the pain, my legs tingle all day long and I often get a rush of endorphins (the runners high), with so much of my plan being low effort, it’s a welcome buzz!

At the end of my run today, I felt absolutely GREAT, note to self, when I don’t want to run, GO RUN!!

Screenshot 2020 02 25 at 19 00 32
Screenshot 2020 02 25 at 18 58 00

Perfectly balanced, as all things should be – according to Thanos in Infinity War!

Ah the rest day.

I have come to have a love hate relationship with the rest day!

It is supposed to be a time when your muscles mend themselves, building strength for the next time we tear them apart again in some way. I so wish it would feel like strength building!

What I tend to get are legs that want to run, especially when I’m trying to get to sleep! Then my legs feel heavy and I have creeping guilt that maybe I should have run actually, despite what the plan says, I look at my metrics, you will maybe know by now I am a number nerd(!) and I see the subtle downtick in the numbers each time I have a rest day, with this softened by an overall positive trend which tempers my behaviour!

Still, it doesn’t feel good, yet, if you had asked me some years ago if staying warm and dry out of whichever storm happens to be battering us that day, feels good? I would have answered absolutely yes! Nowadays, I just find myself getting itchy to get back out and run, regardless of the weather, or indeed, to jump on my treadmill, but, I heed the plan. Feeling fat, angsty downright grumpy!

On the flip side, I have learned to trust the fact that my body needs rest, despite the part of my brain claiming super human abilities to just keep running like a demented Forrest Gump on drugs, noting that, having recently run along part of The Ridgeway and finding that actually I was more like a very old man ascending a mountain of custard while wearing skates! I find it generally best to have the rest regardless of how it makes me feel. The performance changes are notable during my training plan cycles of high and low intensity, while in a high intensity cycle, the rest improves my performance and perceived effort upon returning to running the following day, in the low intensity, I notice it less, but it’s there.

I try to adapt my plan or non-running activities around the rest days if I can, with varying levels of success, this often creates a little more ease in my busy life while managing a busy job, supporting the needs of a loving family and preparing for a new baby while trying to train for an ultra trail marathon of 62 miles over 2 days. Ultimately, each time, something has to give and sometimes I have to skip a run if something else has a higher demand on me, especially if I have already had a rest day.

I think all runners have these challenges, but possibly it is even harder for people training for ultras as the demand on time is greater and the risks higher. Training for a marathon is tough, when I ran London in 2017, I had not trained nearly enough and on the day, it showed, but I got around and I completed my task. If I miss too much training for the ultra, although this is a well supported one and I’m not going to be stuck out on my own in the middle of a desert somewhere, the effect of missing training will be magnified due to the distance, the terrain and the sheer time on my feet. So my priority is to stick to the plan as much as possible, albeit, I know I have to adapt, the one thing you cannot gain back is time, miss the training and you are too late. Simple as that! You have to move on.

Coming back to rest days, they are important for your body, my view is that if you are training with a specific target in mind, rather than just running for the sake of it, then you should not run every day, be kind to your body and listen to it, most times it knows what it’s talking about! If you must run, I suggest using a treadmill as the impact is reduced, otherwise, find another way to exercise, I hear cycling and swimming is also good for you(!), plus it looks ominously like we will have plenty of chances to swim (at least around here anyway!).

How and why to become a minimalist runner in 5 simple steps (run barefoot!)

Running barefoot is crazy, or so I’m told!

Apparently, I’m crazy to attempt trail ultra marathons in my minimalist running shoes but I LOVE my Vibrams, from Barefoot Junkie.

And yet, here I am, I run everywhere in my Vibrams 5 days a week and I WILL complete an ultra marathon in them. Also, running barefoot is how we were meant to run, I hear the naysayers saying ‘we don’t live in caves anymore’ and I get that, but still, it is natural for us to run this way, not with cushioning so that we cannot sense the ground. 

Why do I think more people should become minimalist runners? Quite frankly and simply, it makes you a better runner, not necessarily faster (I will come back to that later) but definitely a better runner from a technique perspective. I look back at photos of me running before my barefoot days and I can see that despite what I thought then, I was a heel striker. In case you don’t know, heel striking is inefficient as each strike scrubs energy from your forward momentum. I am now definitely a forefoot striker and my feet are lifting much higher up behind me especially when in a sprint, much better form, just from barefoot running. The coaching I had pointed me in the right direction, definitely, but the barefoot running took me down the right road (pun intended) so that now I am a more agile runner, much better able to sense the ground beneath me and adapt to it. I know of at least one occasion when I was running that being barefoot has saved me from an ankle injury (due to an unseen hole in the ground).

How should you start with barefoot running?

1. Decide why you want to do it, maybe it is to get better form, maybe to develop better calf strength or even just for the novelty factor (other runners always talk to me about it!).

2. Choose a brand, there are many, do your research and find a brand you can trust, for me, there was no question about it, had to be Vibrams via Barefoot Junkie, great shoes that last forever and fantastic customer service. Whatever brand you choose, be careful on sizing because it matters more with barefoot shoes.

3. Decide if you want toe socks or not (if in toe shoes!), I found that the fit of my shoes are better with my InJini socks.

4. Start running in your shoes but start extremely gently. You will probably quickly notice that your calves really hurt! That’s because you are now using muscles differently, remember how much it hurt when you first started running, no?, well, try doing an exercise you are not used to and see how you feel (seriously though, don’t hurt yourself!!). That’s exactly what you are doing because you will absolutely be running differently, immediately in barefoot shoes, 1 or 2 heel strikes is all it will take to change your running technique!

5. Keep trying the barefoot shoes and gradually extend your range. It took me about a month until I could run my normal distances on the road, it was a month of calf pain but it was so worth it. Take your time and listen to your body, you will soon find that you are running lighter and easier than ever before, keep that in mind, it will come but it takes perseverance. Sometimes I found it easier to run on a treadmill during the first few days as Vibrams actually adapt to the shape of the foot somewhat and the fit gets a little better.

As for running faster, other minimalist runners say that on race day they run in ‘normal’ running shoes and that because all of their training has been in minimalist shoes, they run faster (due to better run efficiency built up), but as I have not done that, I can’t attest to it.

On a separate note, Vibrams will save you money as well because they are no more (often less) expensive than normal running shoes but they also do not wear out anywhere near as quickly, my first pair have now run 400 miles and are barely showing any signs of wear, other normal running shoes I have used have always needed replacing by about 300 miles!

The Secret to Successful Running

So many people run these days, it’s awesome. I love being out on a run and seeing others out there.

While out running today, I was pondering the ‘secrets of successful running’.

It’s an interesting thing to think about and because my planned run today was 90 minutes long, I decided I would give it some thought.

To me, I am successful as a runner if I enjoy myself and I achieve the goals I have set myself (such as complete a certain run etc) but for others, they might not consider themselves successful unless they achieve a certain time over a set distance. For example, I saw a post on Strava by another runner saying his run was ‘worst ever’ (or words to that effect) and I thought, WOW, if only I could run like that and be dissapointed! Granted, this guy is a lot younger than me so his targets are completely different, but I wondered how that made him feel to have run a distance and to think it was so bad. Did it inspire him to work harder next time or did it make him unhappy. Either way, it’s a shame he sees his running that way don’t you think?

Today I ran a little over 7.6 miles in my 90 minute run, I ran in power zone X for 60 minutes of that, with a 15 minute warm up and 15 minute cool down, an average of 253 watts, which is about right compared to my plan. Great, by that measure todays run was a success!

I also completed my weekly mileage plan, boom!

I matched the training plan (pretty much) with the power bands I was supposed to run in.

Lastly, I enjoyed it!

That, to me was a success every way I looked at it!

So, thinking about the ‘secret to successful running’ I think, the key is to really prioritise what is important to you, accept that you will not always achieve that and when you fail, treat it as learning, it all becomes a win-win then.

Of course the running elite will have different views, that makes sense, I expect they are not running to enjoy themselves (anymore?), they probably run for different reasons, such as money, pride, honour etc, but for the rest of us, maybe cut yourself some slack and learn to enjoy running again. When I was running today, a young boy of maybe 7 years old came racing towards me with his dad in ‘close support’ and I saw the joy on this lads face and remembered my joy of running when I was a kid. I am finding that joy again, less exuberant, sure, but it’s there and I love it. I’ve never been the most athletic, but I certainly used to enjoy running, I remember a kid in my junior school named Ian Butt (yeah, I know!), he was a fast runner and at that time, I thought of him as a good friend. He told me that the secret of running fast was to have your hands flat and pointy then showed me how he cut through the air, sadly, for me, this didn’t work, I didn’t run any faster, but I still loved running! These days, after having a coach support me on my running dynamics, sometimes I think that maybe Ian wasn’t that far off the mark! 

Ultimately, I think that the real secret comes down to you, define your own success measures, set yourself targets and work towards them, enjoy running, when you’re out there, focus outwards and relax. Maybe that sounds a little lame and you were hoping I would give some magical answer, sorry, flat and pointy doesn’t actually work! Set your goals and enjoy it, take all the help you can get (good advice, good kit, good data, great weather if you can!) and give yourself the time.

The secret is simple. Go do it.
IMG 3770

https://www.strava.com/athletes/232206

Todays run hurt. 55 minutes of pain (and it really shouldn’t have been!)

So today was supposed to be a nice relaxed run with a friend, I use a Stryd (wind) power meter to help me quantify my effort and analyse my performance / inform my next steps by helping me to clearly understand the inputs and outputs of my running. As a bit of a statistical geek (I’m a lean six sigma black belt so I do a lot of data analysis) I like to have a deeper understanding of the data, the Stryd pod really helps with that.

My training plan said to run a power zone 2 run (that’s almost a walk by the way!) for 50 minutes. How it ended up was somewhat different from a power perspective.

We have a 4 mile route we follow on a Saturday morning, leaving Northleach, going uphill in the general direction of Cheltenham. We are used to the hill, but the effect of the wind was something of a challenge while trotting up the hill. 

A zone 2 run for me puts me in the range of 209-242 watts, as you can see below, there were points when I was at 486 watts, while there were only gusts of wind causing that, the rest of the time the wind was mostly a headwind making it almost (well, mostly!) impossible to stay within the correct power zone while also making the total running time longer than it should have been because we were slowing down dramatically!

Since November 2019 I’ve been training for an ultra run (62 miles over 2 days) but this weekend run with my friend is much more of a social thing and to try to ‘give back’ by helping someone else become a ‘runner’

Tomorrow should be interesting as I have a tougher run planned, I will let you know how I get on with that!

How was your run today? How do you analyse your data?

 


Screenshot 2020 02 22 at 13 11 04

5 Running books you need to read (And why).

I read a lot of books, either real physical books, or quite often, listening to audiobooks while running. I decided that as today is a ‘rest day’ in my training plan that I would share my thoughts on the 5 best reads that have either inspired or informed my running.

1. Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

As a barefoot runner, I have to start with ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall, the book that has done more than any other for the whole barefoot running community and truly inspired people all over the world to try their foot at barefoot running!

Born to Run chronicles Christopher McDougall’s experience of running and his amazing time spent running with and learning from the Mexican Tarahumara, native people who are known for running races of over 100 miles, in sandals that they make themselves across rugged grounds like the searingly hot Copper Canyon. In the book, Christopher challenges the whole running shoe industry as it became clear to him that not only are we ‘Born to Run’ without running shoes but that running shoes are actually doing more harm than good!

I have to say, that since reading this book and transitioning to barefoot running, I am certainly a stronger runner, fitter, probably not faster, but I can run further than I used to be able to!

2. Let your mind Run – Deena Kastor

I love this book from the simply amazing Deena Kastor and it was a really tough choice deciding if this was first or second on my list! I went with second because barefoot running describes me now, but second because I love the positivity in this book. Deena has taught me that the power of the mind can overcome the weaknesses of the body through positive positioning of the battle that we all go through each time we run. This book really does give an insight into how the minds of top athletes work, while I will never be in that group of people, it is a powerful thing to be able to learn the thinking of someone who had to overcome her own thoughts that were stopping her from becoming one of the world’s best elite runners!

3. Finding Ultra – Rich Roll

Being an older runner, I’m just fascinated by this book by Rich Roll, who was middle aged before becoming one of the world’s fittest men! Now, while I have to admit, that’s an extremely unlikely outcome for me (lol) it just goes to show how much can be achieved through dedication and belief in yourself. The book also struck a chord with me as Rich Roll is vegan, I’m vegetarian but clearly there is a link here, despite the fact that Rich Roll went from couch potato to running, no, competing in some of the world’s toughest events just 18 months later! His writing style is easy and entertaining while being truly inspirational.


If you are an older runner, check out The OMIL’s blog, some really useful stuff and a fun read!


4. Eat and Run – Scott Jurek

If you run ultras, or are planning to run an ultra, you simply must read this book by Scott Jurek, he is an icon in the ultra community. A vegan runner who has held many of the worlds greatest running endurance championships. The book chronicles Scott’s journey towards his place in history and his record breaking performances through his amazing ironclad willpower. You will soon realise how much Scott places in fuelling the body well, he gives some great nutrition tips and practical advice. An awesome book by a fantastic runner.

5. Fat man to Green man – Ira Rainey

Ira Rainey’s book is a little different and means a lot to me personally because his story really kicks in when his friend is diagnosed with terminal cancer. I have been pushing myself hard for the last 8 years after being given a 30% chance of surviving 5 years due to a cancer diagnosis, you can read more about that in other posts of mine. Essentially, this book delivers humour while following Ira from fat to fit but also gives an insight into what that takes to achieve.

 

Why read these books?

Well, my reasoning lies in what you might notice between all of these, the common threads.

The need to understand the mindset required to deliver growth and change, and the desire to push beyond perceived limitations.

As an overweight, older runner, still physically and men
tally scarred by cancer and it’s side effects, pushing beyond what I thought was ever possible for me is an essential driver for my life now. So if you want inspiration, be it for running, cycling, or any other challenge you care to take on, these books hit the nail on the head for having your head in the right place!

If you decide to have a read of these books, or have already read them, let me know what you think in the comments, also your thoughts or questions on barefoot running, if I can help you with that, by answering questions, just let me know.

I run barefoot.

Well almost.

I am often asked about this, some of my running friends laugh at me, some think I’m crazy, others are curious.

This started summer 2019. In 2018 I had some coaching on my running mechanics with a great coach in Oxford, Tony Pound https://www.journeyhappyfp.com.

After some time I read about barefoot running and decided to explore this more, mostly because of the amount of positivity surrounding it.

What I found was that after about a month of pain(!!) while my body adjusted to running with no cushioning, I started to get short intervals of feeling like I was running without any effort, literally feeling like I was simply bouncing along!

Of course. If you have experience with barefoot running, that is the nirvana, it comes from your springy tendons! Sometimes, and so far, it’s only sometimes for me, I can get it just right and running feels effortless because my tendons are acting as springs (essentially). But, it gives me an insight into some of the seemingly impossible achievements of the worlds elite ultra runners may who also run barefoot, or like me, minimalistic. This inspires me to keep running barefoot.

If you can, give barefoot a go, but give it time and take it easy!

Adam

 

Run run run run run!!

I run. I run early in the morning. I run 5 days a week. I think I’m an addict now.

This was my view while running this morning. I clear my mind, I run at peace, I don’t chastise myself for my slow plod, I know I’m doing it the right way. I focus my mind outwardly so as to not focus on the pain. Life is too short to focus on pain, I have found that if I focus on my surroundings and admire the animals that I see, not only do I not notice the pain as much but the miles pass easily. I recently had a beautiful barn owl fly silently just over my head and ahead of me, it was amazing. Had I been focussing on the pain, I probably would not have even noticed.

 

I’ve been training for the 2020 Race to the Stones for some time now, so I’m going to start blogging about my experience of it here, all the ups and downs, the doubts and the joy. I might add some podcasts / videos as well, let’s see how that goes. At the very least, this will be here and serve as a reminder of my work.

I’m a cancer survivor, cholangiocarcinoma, which, at time of diagnosis in 2012, was quite a rare cancer with only a 30% survival rate. So I’m very glad to still be here, plodding around the countryside at the age of 51.

To me, all the above says, keep fighting, look for the joy, enjoy the journey.

 

I love to run, I’m not fast, but I run!

For over ten years I have been running, it’s my way of staying healthy both physically and mentally.

I run to give myself some time to be thankful and appreciate the world, it is truly my moment of freedom. Often times this feels like I imagine meditation to feel, other times it is a social event when I run with people either I know and like or run as part of a group such as ParkRun. 

In the last few years I have lost 3 stone 10 pounds (about 23.5 kilos) mostly through running and being a little more mindful of what I eat, I have tried diets but I never seem to get on with them. I still weigh more than I should (just over 100kg), but its going in the right direction, and more to the point, I have found how to love running.

I had a coach some time ago, a guy called Tony Pound (from Track Bang Wallop in Oxford) who I found via werun.com, I asked him to coach me on my running technique, which he did an excellent job of doing. From there, I went on to running in minimalist shoes (Vibrams) and getting a footpad (Stryd) to help me analyse my outputs in more detail.

Over the years since I started running, I have now run 9 half marathons, The London Marathon, a full Tough Mudder, and this year I am taking on The Race to the Stones over 2 days, which is 2 back to back ultra marathons totalling 100km (62 miles).

 

To help me achieve my objective of completing The Race to the Stones, I read a book called 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald and later bought his Ultra training plan. The methodology essentially means that 80% of my running focus is on low power zones output (zone 2, just above walking pace!), which at first felt incredibly difficult. I have been following this plan for nearly 4 months now and I am fitter and a better runner than I ever have been, as long as you look at my metrics based upon my objective. Based upon the data, I am slower than I used to be, but I am far more comfortable running further, which is the aim of course! I expect that if I wanted to run faster, I could, but I have stuck as close to the plan as I can, there are always days of course where it is just impossible. Those days, I just ignore, chalk it up to ‘life’ and move on, I don’t get hung up over it.