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

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

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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).

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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 – 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:-

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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!

 

 

Longest run in 3 years

Today’s run was long, for me anyway!

A 14 mile run, twice around a 7 mile loop which takes me passed my house. Going passed my house was hard, starting the second loop was a little emotional to be honest!

The run was a power zone 2 run so was intentionally slow, which from a power perspective is ok but oh lord it took so long at nearly 3 hours, it seemed a very long time to be running so slowly. You can see below I had regular stops for water and Trail-butter which I love, along with a couple of extra traffic stops as this was all road running.

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I have also blasted my weekly mileage goal, which is set at 20 miles a week in order to hit 1000 miles in 2020, this week having hit over 33 miles, putting me 34 miles ahead at this point for the year. Bearing in mind my wife is due our second baby in 12 days, I need to get ahead if I want to ensure I meet that target, obviously, it is far more important that I support my wife than meeting the goal, but it would be nice to do both.

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So as you can see above, slow, but done! Whore hey (Jorge) was kind to me and it stayed dry, if a bit windy. At around 9.5 miles, I nearly bailed, strangely, I started feely fuzzy headed and could not focus for some reason. I was not sure what was happening as I have run further than this before with no problems and had been taking plenty of fluids and nutrition. I decided to carry on running and see what happened, knowing my wife would be unlikely to come and pick me up anyway as she was out (also with baby 12 days away, I wouldn’t blame her for not wanting to come searching for me lol). So I trudged on and if you look carefully at the charts from Stryd you will see that my power output went all over the place at around 10 miles, which was me basically battling this fuzzy headedness. At around 11.5 miles I started feeling fine, but it was a real battle during this time. This is something I am going to have to investigate because, it felt like I was bonking, so maybe my nutrition was not at the right levels for a run of this length on an empty stomach.

 

 

 

Slower than a slow thing having a slow day in slow town

Today I was slower than a tortoise in treacle

But I’m ok with that.

Today was a 1 hour zone 2 run, simple, straightforward, nothing fancy. It was a good time to chat with my friend about work and understand more of the politics going on at work while having a nice relaxing run at very low effort.

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We didn’t run far or fast, which was exactly what we had planned. I stayed in mid zone 2, did not break a sweat or get out of breath at all. Slow. Yes, indeed, but I was ok with that because that is what I am supposed to be doing. Running like this brings the joy back to running again which I love, but also it allows me to spend an hour with a friend just talking stuff through, I think we both find that beneficial to be honest.

Screenshot 2020 02 29 at 19 36 53You can see here that I am diligently following my plan, tomorrow is a long run (well, long enough for me at 14 miles). I have a nice 2 loop local route planned and I am hoping that storm Jorge (whorehay!!!??? WTF!! LOL!) won’t hit too hard in the morning and the run will be a comfortable one. Whatever happens, you can be assured that I will complete my target, worst case scenario I might have to run on the treadmill. I don’t mind a treadmill run but for this distance, I am going to struggle with boredom I think, which then means I will end up focussing on the pain. So hopefully, whorehay will be kind!

Screenshot 2020 02 29 at 19 58 08As you can see from my PMC I am now slightly fitter than I was 2 years ago when I ran the London Big Half, which is encouraging because I don’t feel like I have had to train particularly hard to get back to a fitness level where the thought of running 14 miles tomorrow does not phase me, in fact, I’m looking forward to it.

I have found that forcing myself to slow down while running has allowed my body to adapt faster. I am definitely losing weight, at some point I might have to change the name of the blog, but hold on, let’s not get carried away lol! People are noticing my weight loss and my clothes are getting looser, so the 80/20 plan I am following is doing all the right things!

2 social soulless sociopaths bound together in a friendless world

So this post is nothing about 2 social soulless sociopaths bound together in a friendless world, I just heard that phrase recently and it made me laugh, thought maybe it would share a smile!

Today was a rest day so I am feeling fat and heavy, hold on, I am fat and heavy(!), well, more than normal! I have been sat at my computer fathoming out spreadsheets for work all day and cajoling people into doing what they are paid to do, but hey ho, I’m paid too!

The rest day is an odd beast, the night before, I look forward to not having to get up early and going out in the rain. Then I wake up early, get up and look out the window, wanting to run! I then proceed to slouch around all day and hardly move.

Normally I take about 13000 steps a day, on a rest day, it’s more like 3000 steps and I really feel the difference.

Anyway, Just a short note tonight to have a grumble about inactivity, looking forward to my run with a friend in the morning!

My Stryd wind pod says I’m balancing my running stress and recovery and my TrainingPeaks PMC says I’m getting fitter (blue shaded area), in fact, fitter than I have been for over a year now so I will trust the data!

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