Thursday, 30 September 2010

I need help...

...which is something our lass has been telling me for years!

At the moment though I need some specific help.

Last night I trawled through some old entries and found that my weight last year, when I did the Horsforth 10k, was 11st 11lbs. That might be of interest when I weigh myself tomorrow in light of the PB on Sunday, i.e. it may well be that I ran a good PB when heavier than last year implying the improvement is wholly down to fitness. We shall see.

It got me thinking though. I could do with some sort of cross referencing tool and I've seen other blogs with key words or tags. So the help I need is... can I append tags to old entries and if I do that can I search them?

(Bear in mind I'm a technophobic Luddite).

In other news...

...last nights run was very slow and hillier than planned. Even with that pace I found it painful: my calves/achilles aren't feeling so good from running hard uphills on Sunday and Tuesday and my quads are sore from the downhills. Feel a lot better today but I'm taking it easy before running again tomorrow.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Weight of Expectation

Only two days to go until the moment of truth - I'll weigh myself!

I'm quite excited about it but have no real idea what to expect mainly because I have no start point to compare with. I know I was 11st 11lbs in late July and I know I gained after that but I don't know how much - could have been 12st 4lb, could have been 12st 10lb. I'm fairly sure I have lost weight though - my clothes, the mirror and energy levels tell me that.

I'm not even sure what I hope I'll see. On the one hand it would be great to be close to the late July weight - it would vindicate the recent changes in approach and be encouragingly in sight of goal - but there's also part of me that would like the weight to still be 2-3lbs over 12st as that would make Sunday's race time all the more impressive and so give greater promise of future improvement; although I suppose that would raise questions over the effectiveness of the changes I've made at least in terms of weight loss if not mental well being!

I'll carry on with the current approach whatever the numbers though. Sure, there have been times when I've gone overboard but I'm certain they'd have happened anyway. Most importantly though, dropping the rate of loss has made it easier to stick to target, I'm less obsessive about calories in/out and feel under far less pressure and the latter has (rather ironically as its counter to my views on my motivation and personality) made it easier to stick with things or get back on the horse.

After Friday's weigh in I won't weigh again until the 1st November and at that point I'll have a very clear idea of effectiveness in terms of loss in the previous 31 days.

In other news...

...did 7.1 miles with the running club last night. Hilly and sometimes rather brisk my legs certainly felt tired from the outset. Not sure yet if I'll run again today.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Please excuse this rather self indulgent post.

On Sunday I was pretty much focused on what had happened in the 10k but now its probably worth considering what the performance means and what I can learn. So, in no particular order, here's a brain dump of my thoughts 48 hours on.

  • I'm in better shape than I'd realised: pretty much where I was targeting for this stage before the injury/weight gain disruption of August.
  • Interestingly this is without much recent speedwork training so there's more improvement in me from that and the race itself will have benefited me greatly in terms of being a very tough tempo run!
  • Perhaps even more tellingly whilst I still don't know my weight I'd guess that I'm about a stone heavier than I'd originally expected to be so the time was done carrying that - again meaning there's plenty of room for further improvement.
  • Running without the Garmin obviously helped - at least for this race at this time...
  • Some soreness in the calves and quads that's now easing but very little (if any) groin pain.
  • I now have a time to use as a basis for future race targets and possibly training sessions.
  • My overall position didn't alter much in the second half of the race but if I magically had Garmin data I suspect it would show I very gradually slowed in the second half meaning speed endurance needs some work but that will come with the speed training and tempos.
  • Mental toughness is 95% where I want it to be.

Putting that little lot into some sort of semi coherent strategy:

  • I'll weigh myself this week but will continue with the current low pressure, slow and steady weight loss strategy.
  • Next road race is a 10 miler 3 weeks on Sunday. I'll use the Garmin but will try to run to a pace a few seconds a mile faster than the predicted 10m time of 1:15:10 based on the 10k time.
  • As of this week I'm starting speed training sessions again as well as doing a weekly tempo run.
  • I'll continue with a weekly Pilates class and daily Pilates exercises at home.
  • No substantial change to Das Uber Plan other than I might create a bit of a mileage ramp up over the next 2-3 weeks (Possibly not increasing weekly mileage - just getting rid of the jump from current levels) and I'm going to be flexible with Wednesday easy runs in the week after a race.

In other news...

...we booked the Paris flights at the weekend and provisionally sorted the accommodation too: Sue and the kids to stay on the outskirts with her sister and family while I stay in a rather modestly priced but perfect for my needs 'hostel'. The latter being a little grander than the name implies:

This will give a nice balanced solution:

  • At least £300 cheaper than our booking an apartment in the centre of the city - possibly far more.
  • Probably save another £150 - £200 on not having to eat out as much.
  • Sue gets to see her sister more.
  • I get time on my own pre-race in order to indulge my nervousness.
  • I get to go to bed early the night before and afterwards.
  • I have better control over my diet in the couple of days before.
  • The kids get to see their cousins and are less likely to go stir crazy.
  • They also get the opportunity to go somewhere out of the city - probably Versailles.
  • Overall it saves money and gives a practical balance between the sometimes conflicting demands of a family break/desire to see family/focus on the demands of a big race.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Horsforth 10k Race Report

In the aftermath of today's race I can't help but feel reminded of three races I was involved with last year:

The Leeds Half Marathon - Where I was marshaling at the finish and was interested to note that the fastest runners often seemed close to collapse or throwing up at the end, making me realise that its not just ability and training but that the faster runners simply seem able to push themselves harder.

The Kirkstall 7.25m trail race - Where I ran without my Garmin (as it froze a little while before) so had no idea of pace, but actually ran what was my best performance (relative to the others) of the year.

The Great Yorkshire Run 10k - Where I'd targeted 45:59 but finished in 46:03, still a PB by 30 seconds but where I was really irked at not having a time beginning '45'.

So, what happened today then?

As per Das Kleine Plan I was to work to a target of 46:46 and had variable kilometre pace targets for each split (from 5:20 for the steepest uphill kilometre to 4:15 for the final one). I also knew that 46 minutes (new PB) would equate to an average of 4:36.

Unfortunately though, after a warm up jog and some stretches my Garmin bleeped to give a 'low battery' warning. Odd, as it had been on charge since Thursday, but I knew from previous experience that it tended to last a good hour after the first warning. It didn't bleep again but as I stood a few metres behind the start line I looked down and saw a blank screen! No Garmin for this race meaning all my careful planning disappeared up the Swanny - I'd have to run by feel and hope for the best.

We set off and I kept to what felt a reasonable pace through the opening 3km. The race has a notoriously difficult start with these opening kilometres a long, occasionally steep, uphill drag, barring a short downhill midway. It was certainly hard work - hard enough for a little voice to implore me to stop but easy enough that I didn't have to listen to it.

On reaching the end of the uphill at the A65 I needed a good 30m of flat to recover and regain my rhythm but I was able to pass a couple of runners as well as repeatedly fend off 'attacks' from a Kirkstall runner. It still felt tough so that even the fairly long downhill to the river didn't seem to offer any respite or recovery and it was here as I gradually started to suffer with stitch that the Kirkstall chap finally got ahead.

After crossing an ancient packhorse bridge across the River Aire I headed up a short uphill to the canal towpath but here I stopped for 10s to get rid of the stitch. I'm not sure if I genuinely needed to or if it was the bad voice briefly getting the better of me when I could have run it off just as easily. I don't know, but about half a dozen runners did pass me here.

What followed was 3.5km along the flat canal towpath. It felt a long section and whilst I seemed to be holding to my rhythm OK (with effort) some of the runners who had been just ahead at the start of the canal had gradually pulled further ahead by the time we left it. Then again, I can only recall three passing me (and staying past) and I managed to haul in an equal number myself. The 'slow down/stop' voice that had accompanied me all the way seemed to be getting louder and I had to make a conscious effort to ignore it.

At the end of the canal was a painful flight of steep steps up to the road and just before I reached them a girl who had passed me (and been passed back) passed me once more and I could hear a guy right behind me too but I managed to reach the steps just before him.
At the top there was a brief downhill and I took advantage of that to hold off the guy and pass the girl again and we stayed in that order along the road before entering a fairly narrow 100m or so of enclosed path just before the finishing straight.

I still had no idea of pace or time at this point but was heartened that Victoria, another Abbey Runner, hadn't yet passed me. This time last year we were running neck and neck in races and she seemed to have stepped up a gear since - knocking 3 minutes off last year's time in the Kirkstall 7.25 last week. So, the later it was that she passed me the more likely it was that I'd get a good time.

Anyway, as I came out of the path there was about 150m to go and I got first sight of the clock. I was shocked to see it saying 44:30/44:35 or similar and tried to speed up as best I could in order to get in under 45 minutes. I was just too worn out to go for an all out sprint, possibly not helped by the lack of anyone just in front to aim for, and the seconds seemed to pass very quickly. With 50m to go I was finally able to go all out but as I passed the clock I'm sure it was registering 45:03.

That's a full minute off the PB on a far from easy course, Victoria never did pass me, and I'm clearly in better shape than I realized but as I stumbled, retching, through the chutes my immediate emotions were disappointment and annoyance at missing 'forty four something'.

Now, had I had the Garmin on I'm sure it would have recorded a time a second or two under 45 minutes as it'll have taken a few seconds to pass the start after the gun. Equally, had I had the Garmin on I doubt I'd have allowed/pushed myself to run close to 45 minutes in the first place.

Overall I'm delighted!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

A few thoughts on Pilates

A few weeks ago a physio advised I look at doing some Pilates as a way of supplementing/replacing the core stability work I'd done (and sometimes not done) this year.

After taking advice from the good people at I booked myself in on three classes at the gym as well as booking a course of 1:1 instruction sessions with Kath, an experienced Pilates specialist at Here's my experience to date.

The gym classes
The Esporta gym classes are all taught by outside instructors and the three classes I've attended were all taught by different people.

Class 1 - Taught by a guy in his late 20s. All mat work. Nine people attended, 1 other guy, generally older people. I enjoyed this session. There was a decent amount of time spent on warm up and correct posture then a range of simple positions with very clear instructions and lots of pointers on what to watch for and how things should feel. I didn't get any corrective individual comments but don't know if this was because with clear instruction I could master the basic moves involved. Afterwards there was no soreness and I felt flexible and energetic; with the sciatica that had been bothering me disappearing too.

Class 2 - Taught by a lady in her early 40s, again all mat work but with the use of head block and resistance bands. More like a dozen people attended, all women, mainly older. This wasn't bad. The novelty of a guy on the class seemed to appeal to the instructor and I got a lot of 1:1 corrective instruction but some of the moves were more complex and the initial instruction maybe not quite as comprehensive. after this one I felt the tiniest hint of DOMS in the core.

Class 3 - Taught by a larger than life lady in her 30s, using mat, resistance band, stability ball, head block and half foam roller. Around fifteen attended, all women. It might be because the instructor was 10 minutes late and trying to cram everything in but this was a very tough session. I found it difficult to follow some of the moves and had to repeat some of them through to (muscle) exhaustion. A couple of the positions/moves I simply couldn't do or at least couldn't do effectively and I've found since that they are some of the most advanced positions in Pilates. I got no feedback during the class and felt a bit like the oaf in the corner that it was best to ignore! Afterwards my ribs and core muscles were sore as well as the area round my tailbone feeling rubbed and bruised from the failed attempts at one position.

1:1 sessions
I've just been to 2 of these. The first one was largely made up of being massaged around left groin, both piriformis and on my neck. The groin has felt looser since and pain free, the neck likewise but the massage on the tight piriformis seemed to trigger the sciatica again. The second session was lighter massage and stretching on the groin along with working through a series of basic positions (hip twist, bridge, one leg stretch, scissors, hundreds and clam). Lots of feedback on specifics. Sciatica is still present afterwards but lessened. The positions are all to be practised daily.

I've got 3 more sessions of 1:1 and at some stage I will be doing a session on the 'reformer'.

Overall they've been very good though I can't afford to keep them going in the longer term.

Interesting to see where I've come across Pilates without realising. Many of the initial exercises the physio gave me back in March seem to be Pilates positions, the ideas on posture seem very similar to chi running and many of the exercises Matt Fitzgerald lists for core stability in his books are also Pilates positions.

I can see Pilates helping me a great deal. I'm going to continue to do the Monday class at the gym but will drop the other two. I have the 3 more 1:1s and after that I'll either book in for occasional 1:1s or may book a weekly class at the centre. Either way I'll keep it up as a valued supplement to running.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Das Kleine Plan

Das uber plan is ticking along nicely - though may be in for some modifications soon - but Sunday is 10k race day so its time for...

...das kleine plan!

If you'd asked me a couple of months ago what I would be expecting to do this weekend it would have been easy: something around or under 45 minutes. Then I got injured...cut back drastically on running...put on weight...and a couple of weeks back when I went round the course with a mate I found doing it in 54 minutes extremely tough.

Tuesday's run gave me some confidence though. I felt strong heading up the long drags and managed a decent pace - even though there were 2 stops to wait for others in those last 2.5 miles - but yesterday's run dented that a bit. I opted not to head to Kirkstall and instead took advantage of the last bit of daylight and did 5 miles on my own through the woods near home. It felt hard work and 9 minute miling felt more like 7!

I suspect I was just tired though and today I added a treadmill run of 3.5k onto the end of a tough Pilates class and included a couple of brisk kilometres 0f 7:00 mile and 7:30 mile pace just to remind myself what pace feels like.

I've also managed to find my km splits from last years race and mapped these against the course profile. I finished in 46:13 last year - 10s outside a PB on a far from flat course.

Putting that all together I've decided to be bold and have worked out pace targets for each kilometre that would bring me home in 46:46, on the basis that if I can sneak under those a PB could be doable.

I have no idea if I'm in that sort of shape, probably not, but why not try?

Bottom line I think would be that I'd be distraught at anything over 50 minutes, might expect 48 and anything close to a PB would be a major boost.

To give myself the best shot I'm doing no more running or similar ahead of the race. Tonight I have a sports massage on my legs and tomorrow a Pilates session cum massage but other than lots of stretching and nothing more.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The last week

While working long days on Monday and Tuesday, and doing a lot of driving, I was predictably thinking a lot about running, diet and fitness and a couple of blog subjects came to mind, most notably something on mileage and something on my evolving outlook.

However, I'll have to save them as I haven't given any sort of update to what I've been doing (or how I've been doing) for over a week so maybe I'd best do that first?

Overall I'm feeling pretty good. Definitely feel more lithe, more svelte, more energetic, more purposeful, less sluggish, less painful.

Yet the last week didn't start perfectly as on Wednesday I once again ate rubbish through the evening but I've been able to draw a line under that and have been fine since.

Thursday - stayed on track diet wise and did 6.6 hilly miles at 8:04 a mile.

Friday - another on track day and 5.5 hilly miles at 8:14 a mile.

Saturday - marshaled at a local race, stuck to diet (despite being home alone with the family away) and ran a mile or so after marshaling.

Sunday - marshaling again but did 9 miles before that at 8:15 a mile, and within kcals once more (another good weekend).

Monday - Busy day work wise but stuck to kcals again, with the only exercise being a very good Pilates class first thing.

Tuesday - Away again but once more within kcals and did 5.7 miles with the running club at 8:14 overall, but with the final 2.5 (uphill) miles at about 7:45.

Plan for the next few days is to run gently with Kirkstall tonight, run again tomorrow for just 4 miles (opening uphill miles of Sunday's race), Pilates on both days, massage on legs tomorrow evening, Pilates/massage Friday, rest on Saturday OR 2 miles with strides, race Sunday. Job done!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Das Uber Plan

I've yet to work out how to get this into the blog as a clearer image - sorry.

This is the first draft and I expect to adapt it over the coming weeks where necessary but the key features are:

  • Fairly static mileage of 26 -30 miles a week with only a 10% cutback every 4th week.
  • Pilates classes 3 times a week.
  • Tempo runs each Tuesday.
  • Easy runs on Wednesdays.
  • Either speedwork/hill training or easy runs on Thursdays.
  • LSR or race at the weekend.
  • Each week has a focus to concentrate on in terms of making my gait more efficient.
Hopefully this addresses the aims:

  • To maintain a steady base ahead of marathon training just about at week 1/16 level
  • To gradually re-introduce speed training
  • To enjoy races
  • To get a decent idea of fitness progress from 3 of the races
  • To strengthen my core
  • To improve running efficiency
  • To be used to 4 runs a week (so marathon training only adds one more)

At the moment there are no pace targets. Partly because I don't have a recent race to base them on as the lack of running and poor condition over the last 6 weeks means using Castle Douglas is a bit risky, but also because the speed/hill work fits with club training and Tuesday's tempo run is done with the club too.

The other missing element is weight training. The obvious place to slot that would be Friday or Saturday but I'll leave the day flexible. At present I'm only looking at one session a week and am open minded as to whether I should do upper and lower body - any thoughts on lower body weight training during a training plan welcome.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

I give you fair warning

I entered Paris marathon this morning and as its already less than 206 days to go I feel an urgent compulsion to produce a training plan. Trouble is there's little point in doing one for the traditional 16 weeks prior as I don't yet know the pace.

However, at the moment I'm a man with only the loosest of plans through to December so I'm going to pull together some ideas to create das uber plan by the end of the weekend (using a bit of pigeon German in connection with things like plans always makes them feel big, efficient and more than a little sinister).

It'll run for 10 weeks, it'll have colours, varied activities, races and even a weekly focus that will change every...well...every week actually. At least that's the plan, though whether I'll manage to fit all that into a 2D table I'm not sure. We shall see, but in any event I intend to reproduce it here and anally pore over it ad nauseum in the coming weeks. Proper geek porn.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Blip, Blip: the best laid plans of mice and men

There you go a bit of Robbie Burns in the post title!

The first 16 hours of yesterday went really well. Light breakfast and mid morning snack then wholefood salad shaker and fresh pineapple from Marksies for dinner on my way to a couple of meetings in Nottingham.

Then the wheels started to fall off.

The plan was that I'd leave Nottingham by 4.30 at the latest in time for a massage at 6.30, then running club at 7.45 and a couple of bowls of homemade minestrone when I got in about 9.20pm.

In the event the second client was nearly an hour late arriving and then the meeting over ran by an hour on top of that so it was gone 6.30 before I'd even left Nottingham. Massage and run were already scuppered.

The temptation to respond to that with a visit to a services to get something terrible to eat was strong, but to my credit I resisted that at least.

When I got in at a little after 8pm I had the planned 2 huge bowls of soup. Unfortunately I then also had 2 bowls of rice crispies and finished off the remains of the previous day's baguette before the eldest gave me the remains of the bag of sweets she'd bought earlier...

I don't adapt well to forced changes to plans!

Still, at least it was logged again and it comes out at maintenance level so perhaps it wasn't too bad for a forced rest day.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


During yesterday afternoon I'd considered my next blog entry and decided it was going to be on cooking. However, there's also a Pilates session to mention and also last night where I was bad; bad to the degree that would normally require a visit to a Hague I better examine them instead.

First the initial 1:1 Pilates session.

In reality this was a massage on my lower back, my neck, my hip flexors and a piriformis stretch as well as a few minutes explaining what might be a good approach for me in the future. Overall it was good. Before the session I couldn't turn far to the right making driving dangerous, but afterwards (as now) my neck is sore but mobile. The back probably got worse afterwards but the groin, which wasn't painful before, does feel looser and is pain free.

Last night though I had a good old fashioned binge. There's a few things that conspired to create the conditions for it so its maybe worth mentioning them:

The weather - it was dull, windy and raining for most of the day. Distinctly autumnal if not wintry. Such weather makes me feel a bit down and gives me a significant craving for carbs.

Work - nothing terrible, just that a few things went wrong that were outside my control but where I'll need to pick up the pieces and formulate the apologies. That's a common feature of my job but one that occasionally gets me down a bit.

Eldest daughter - started high school recently and seems to be feeling forced into getting closer to a couple of vacuous girls from her old school who flitted between friendship and alot of mind games and online/offline bullying of her last year.

Home alone - OK, not quite alone, Charlotte was with me, but no restraining adult influence!

Disappointing meal - I'd made a cucumber and lentil curry to have with brown rice. In itself it was alright though it needed something with it to give some variety, and the rice timings I'd been blasé about leaving it a little undercooked and chewy. I felt a bit let down by it and didn't really feel satisfied, with the next options all being calorific and 'dirty'.

Bread - this can be such a danger for me and features in most of my episodes. Sue had bought a fresh baguette and crusty rolls (neither of which normally feature for us and I later they were for her work - oops) and left them on the side. They taunted me and once I'd given in to have just one it was like a feeding frenzy - think Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.

Rest day - even with the extra 250kcals a rest day can feel a bit restrictive and sometimes I can feel like rebelling against that. Plus, exercise forces me to be disciplined in a way a rest day doesn't.

(Any of these triggers sound familiar to anyone else?)

In isolation none of those cause a problem but put together they can do. And they did.

Overall I left myself with a sugar induced headache by 8pm and went over by 2000 kcals for the day.

In a way though, that's the silver lining to this particular cloud: I did, at least, enter what I'd eaten (after the event) and feel that I can put it behind me and get back to plan immediately. It might be a big blip but its still only a blip!

That's something isn't it?

Monday, 13 September 2010

State of Play

As I was running through the (notably autumnal) sunshine yesterday morning I reflected on the previous few days and thought it worth updating and recording.

First the good news:

  • I've ran 16 miles in the last 2 days and am starting to feel like a runner again.
  • I've comfortably got through a weekend in terms of staying within calories.
  • I have no obvious groin pain despite the mileage and running on consecutive days.
  • Dropping the rate of weight loss to 1.5lbs seems to really help.
And now the bad news:

  • I have my first race in less than 2 weeks and ran the course at 9:00 minute miles on Saturday, though I'd hoped to be able to drop that by 1:30 a mile for the race (and that didn't feel likely).
  • I feel sluggish when I run.

On the whole that's pretty good though isn't it?

In terms of the race and pace concerns I'll try and run in a more structured manner for the next 2 weeks and see where that gets me. I can't really do more, though its interesting that the Sunday 9.5 miles was done over 30s a mile quicker than Saturday's 6.4 and in terms of the mean average doesn't compare badly with LSRs from May - July when I felt I was running well.

The rate of loss change feels like it could be a master stroke.

It stems from the rejection of weighing. Previously I was very focused on weight changes and (almost invariably missed) target dates but as I don't know my weight I can't set specific target dates so going for the maximum loss doesn't feel so pressing. So, using that to give myself an extra 250kcals a day really eases the pressure especially on rest days where 1250 limit was very tough to stick to - even if I ate frugally through the day the evening could be too challenging and lead to feelings of failure and mini-binges.

It also reflects a thought I had about moving from loss to maintenance and how the closer the weight loss kcals are to maintenance the easier it must be. There's no question that the extra 250 makes it feel more 'normal' and less restrictive and I might even take this further and try to transition to maintenance with the last 4lb, taking 6 weeks by dropping the rate of loss to 1lb and then 0.5lb.

Good idea?

In other news...

I made an excellent minestrone soup on Saturday, saw a very good production of Billy Liar that evening, Leeds United came from 1-0 down to beat Swansea 2-1, Leeds Rhinos came from 14-0 down to beat Wigan 27-26 and we had a pleasant walk near Grassington and Linton yesterday.

Friday, 10 September 2010

I didn't have to wear a leotard

Yesterday was back on track.

I know why the previous couple of days had been difficult and unsuccessful so I'm happy to just put them behind me - I'm not worried that they're indicative of some more deep seated issue.

That's good as I had a gnawing doubt that perhaps taking pressure off myself in terms of weight and timescales was just a way of making failure more palatable. Not so. It was just 'life' and as soon as the problem was over I was able to get back on track. That's not something that has always been the case when obsessing over weight and rate of progress when a couple of 'off days' meant a fear of getting back on the scales and led to prolonging any stress induced blips by simply changing the cause of the stress.

Yesterday gave a belated first run of the week: 5 miles from home, downhill on the way out and uphill on the way back. It was a run carried out with no particular aim or plan other than a wish to run at an easy 8:00 to 8:30 pace. First mile was well on track at 7:56 but after that I had a couple of difficult miles in the September sunshine that I'd put down once again to poor hydration (something I need to address as routine as its previously been a strength of mine). I slowed down and the sun went in and gradually things began to feel easier leading to a pleasing last uphill mile at 8:12 and an on track average of 8:21. The last mile was especially good simply because it felt 'right' - smooth and efficient. I probably ought to do a bit of hill training over the autumn.

Yesterday was also a landmark for me: my first ever attendance at a gym class. I've always shied away from these. I've got good balance but struggle to copy 'moves' very quickly and I'm self conscious of that fact, probably compounding it. However, the physio suggested Pilates might be good for me so I attended a beginner's class yesterday and got on OK.

There were only 6 of us and the instructor went round each of us pointing out faults and aside from my feet rising off the floor as I lay back (difficult to explain) nothing was said to me so I assume that meant I was OK. I suspect that might be the case as I have learned to engage and hold the core muscles and much of the posture is identical to that suggested in Chi running (in fact...more on that in a later entry I think) so I had some experience of that too.

Even that first session was taxing enough for me to think 2-3 sessions a week could well be a real benefit, particularly as my ability to keep up with core exercises at home still proves pretty variable at best.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

A mighty torrent of mental effluence

Its said that a key feature of goal setting is that of time: if you don't set a time limit or a target date then you won't push yourself and may not reach your goal at all.

I've been thinking about this the last couple of days. Not all the time you understand. That would be weird and a bit scary. Like Jimmy Saville.

I digress.

The thought process started on Monday when I looked back at the weekend's highs and lows. I knew - even without feedback from the scales - that Tuesday to Friday had been good. I could see it in the mirror and I could 'feel' it, but Saturday and Sunday evenings I'd over eaten. That didn't bother me too much. I decided there were specific circumstances (Saturday's meal out and theatre, and Sunday's race) that made my actions understandable or perhaps just 'normal' and I rather revelled in that lack of pressure or guilt that the scales normally induced. I decided that was a healthy way to be and something I might benefit from taking further still.

Having reached that conclusion I then thought about goal setting, as taking such a laissez faire attitude provides goal setting challenges - no time limit and no pressure.

At the moment my (vaguely) specific goal is/was to reach about 11st by about mid/late November, in time for one last tilt at a PB in a 10k race then. The lack of knowing the start point weight wise is one reason for the vagueness but it rests on a rough idea of where my weight was likely to be and a 1.5 - 2.0lb a week rate of loss.

By necessity though, that meant I wouldn't be near target for the other races I had planned - something I'd aimed for since the spring. Does that matter? I'm not sure but its a moot point anyway - barring liposuction or amputation I won't reach 11st by then.

If they don't matter though, then does the November one?

In some respects no. Looking at the wider objectives I want to be fit and well enough to run Paris in April and to run it close to or beneath 3:30 so there's an argument that being at 11st for April is the bottom line but, working backwards, it would be preferential to have reached that rate before training starts in December (as lower weight reduces injury risk and allows a bit of leeway for Christmas excesses), and that would mean another 4 weeks available in which to reach target if I wanted/needed to use it.

However, the race time from November is probably what will determine my training intensity and target marathon time so I do want to give it a pretty decent shot.

So where does all that leave me? My mental meandering left me feeling like I'd taken a long journey but wasn't really sure I'd arrived anywhere - a feeling anyone who reads my blog entries will be familiar with.

This was probably compounded by my over eating on each of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings - though again I could rationalise that to some extent and so not beat myself up too badly because of it.

I think though I've reached a conclusion of sorts:

Change my rate of loss to 1.5lbs a week to give a little more leeway to accommodate rest days or days where work/life just make restrictive calorie consumption difficult...that will have me hitting target (at a guess) in early December...i.e. before marathon training but not long after the PB attempt...meaning a PB is still very possible, nay, likely.

If anyone is still reading this does that sound like a plan? Am I thinking along sensible lines or am I on the slippery slope of having my cake and eating lots of it? Do you set very specific weight loss goals and do you adapt them over time? How does it work for you?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Weekend woes to weekend wonders

It occurred to me on Saturday morning that a subtle change in approach had taken place.

When weighing daily the results on the scales would warp my self image so that, for example, if I appeared heavier than expected I would look in the mirror and see a flabby physique whereas if the scales suggested loss or that I was ahead of target I'd be happy at how lean I looked. To some extent the mirror maybe did reflect the scales but not to the extent I felt.

Now, starved of weight feedback, I have to look more carefully but perhaps what clues I find are all the more reliable. So, on Saturday morning I felt my stomach certainly looked pretty flat, I felt I looked a little less flabby and was pleased to find when putting on jeans that I've gone back to the tightest notch on the belt.

Mind you, the second half of Saturday might have undone some of that!

I did a short (2.6 mile) jog with a few strides thrown in on Saturday lunchtime and found even that to be tough, but again I suspected that I was poorly hydrated despite making more of an effort to drink more water rather than the Rooibos or 7up Zero that had been mainstays of previous days.

Late afternoon I headed to Bradford to meet the family as Charlotte's dance club had been putting on a show at the Alhambra theatre and with Saturday having both a matinee and evening performance she had 2 hours off in which we'd all eat and then watch her in the evening show.

I knew this would mean high calories as we'd agreed to walk up the hill to one of Bradford's many curry houses but wasn't too concerned as I was happy to have plenty of glycogen in the muscles ahead of Sunday's relay race. In the end I ate more than planned though - Charlotte wanted a starter so we all had (unplanned starters) then she couldn't eat much of her curry so I felt obliged to eat some of it and finally the others wanted to order a naan bread (that the particular curry house is famed for and are the size of 5/6 ordinary naans put together) and then ate very little of it so I again felt obliged to eat until full to make more of a dent in it.

The theatre also contained challenges. Its custom to get sweet and/or an interval ice cream and I ended up with my very own over priced box of Smarties, though mercifully no ice cream. On getting in I had 2 pieces of unnecessary toast.

Yesterday, I needed to meet at the running club at 12:30 so Peter (my team mate) and I could sort out transport and logistics, and then was due to run about 1:50pm. I had a bowl of Special K in the morning along with many, many drinks of water and was thankful that it appeared to be breezy and overcast outside.

By 1:30 that had changed to sunny with occasional breaks and it felt warm as we stood and waited.

Bang on time the preceding pair came in, I took the baton and off we went.

I knew the route very well for the first 3.5 miles and by the end of that section, and for a half mile beyond, we averaged 8.0 minutes a mile. I was pleased with that. Not that it was particularly fast but I hadn't run much, it was an undulating route and it was hot and sunny (with all clouds now having gone). Moreover, I'd seen the team's performance from the last 2 years and knew that our leg had taken 1:28 and 1:25 and so an average pace of 8.30 and 8.50. We seemed well ahead, although Peter my team mate had warned that the second half is tougher than the first.

He was right. As we crossed the Harewood estate at the 4 mile marker we left some shady woods and set off through a gate and up a steep rough track. I'd ran the reverse in a trail race and thought there would be 1/4 mile uphill followed by 1/3 mile flat before we reached the road. In the end it was a full mile of uphill by the end of which Peter was a fair way further back.

As part of the relay rules the pair have to finish together so there's no point in one getting too far ahead of the other. For the most part I'd ran 5-10m ahead so far acting as a sort of pacemaker and Peter, who hadn't done too much serious training for a few months, was able to hold on to what, at that stage, felt a comfortable pace to me.

The end of the uphill was marked by the busy A61 and sod's law being what it is we arrived about 2 seconds too late to run straight across and had to wait well over a minute eventually finding a half gap to sprint through in the two streams of traffic.

The hill and the crossing, along with the 2 gates meant we'd lost a fair chunk of time but mile 5, along a trail once more, wasn't far from 8.0 minute pace despite containing 3 more gates.

The gates became a very regular feature from there on and one of the reasons why we steadily lost time. If running together a gate would mean 10 seconds lost in stopping, opening and closing but typically I was a little ahead so I'd stop, open and wait but the net loss would be about the same. Some gates were more difficult though. There was one that had been tied together with twine half way down so we spent 10/15 seconds working this out and then had to climb over (probably losing half a minute), at another a horse rider had opened it and left it for us to close but having not opened it we couldn't see where it closed again giving an additional 15 seconds or so before we figured that it just hooked onto some barbed wire.

As well as the gates there were a few stiles to clamber over and all these obstacles (I'd guess at 4-5 per mile from mile 6) took time and disrupted rhythm.

They weren't the only challenge. By mile 6 we had other problems. The heat, for me, had become quite oppressive and whilst being fully hydrated when we set off and getting a cup of water at 7.5 miles I flagged a bit in the last two and realised later from colour and frequency of toilet trips that I'd got dehydrated again. Navigation was also an issue. Peter knew the route but I didn't so he tended to shout an instruction for where the next turn was but there were times when I'd need to stop and beckon back for guidance and two occasions where I took a wrong turn in one case assuming a gate was the one we wanted and another where I turned left about 5m too early and merrily headed off on the wrong track before being called back.

The other issue was the hills. There were some downhill sections but the uphills seemed longer. There were two uphill road sections that were steep and baking, including 1/4 mile to the finish, but two that skirted recently ploughed, rocky fields stick out for their length and gradient, and by the end of one of these I felt shattered struggling to get back into rhythm quickly on the short flat section that followed.

The downhills too seemed difficult. Firstly there appeared to be fewer and they were shorter but they frequently seemed to take place over rough ground or on narrow twisting paths regularly punctuated by stiles or gates and so giving limited opportunity to speed up and make up some time.

By 9 miles I felt less able or inclined to be a pacesetter as the lack of recent running began to take it's toll on me and in the last mile we were often running together again and in the end we finished in 1hr 27 mins - pretty much on track with the last 2 year's performance. Bearing in mind the weather and our recent running history I think we did OK.

Immediately after I felt fine but after an hour I was shattered - very much like the aftermath of a gruelling long run feeling tired, hungry yet not hungry (difficult to explain that one)and by 7.45pm I was struggling to stay awake as I lay on the bed reading.

Happily though I felt no groin pain during the run nor since and even the back/piriformis pain and Achillies pain that have greeted me on getting out of bed most mornings of late don't seem evident today. That being the case I feel pretty good about things.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Saturday update

Thursday's run was tougher than expected and got progressively slower from the 3rd to 6th mile, and I didn't feel there was a whole lot I could do to prevent that. It was along the canal so flat barring the set of locks (pictured a few posts below) so it shouldn't have been difficult but it was still warm and sunny and I suspect (judging from the colour of my wee after!) that I was poorly hydrated.

Still, I've had enough bad runs not to be worried and overall 8.0 minute miles was OK considering I'm a little out of shape.

Yesterday included a trip to the physio to get some advice on groin, Achilles and back. It was to a new physio as the original is on maternity and her replacement has since left.

All in all she seemed to know little or nothing of the groin injury but tested my engagement of the core muscles and felt I engage them well and appear to have good strength and stability as a result. she also tested if my glutes 'fired' well and felt they did. Cautious optimism.

For the Achilles she could find no tenderness which suggested the stretching of the calves is helping but felt I had a hint of plantar fasciitis, but seemingly nothing too much to worry about.

For the back she massaged and found a fair bit of tightness but whether this was cause or effect it was impossible to say. Overall though she thought it was probably more to do with overstretching the piriformis (which figures as I'd been stretching 3 times a day rather than the prescribed once) and suggested I stick to a gentler stretch until that eases.

That all seemed a bit of a result but by lunchtime I had a little bit of groin pain, whether from the previous day's run or the manipulation at the physio I couldn't be sure but this got a little worse after 40 minutes on the cross trainer at the gym in the evening. The latter also seemed to trigger some Achilles pain which was present again this morning.

Diet wise Thursday was good again and yesterday was so so. I went over by 570 (or under by 430 depending how you view it) partly because I was home alone in the evening, partly because the bulgar wheat/quinoa based salad I made had more calories than I expected and partly because I used the estimate of calories burned on a cross trainer - which is only a third of what the machine tells me I've burned with the truth possibly lying somewhere between.

Importantly though, I logged everything meaning that know I'm still 56 under for the week!

Today I'll aim to go 'over' by about 500 again, mainly because of tomorrow's race, but can do so without a fear of what that will do to Sunday or Monday's weigh ins. In other words, its an example of how the focus on the process rather than the immediate results allows me to eat more sensibly relative to activities.

Not that a 10 mile run should really have me in need of doing anything special but recognising that I'm not in the best shape I suppose I feel I need to give myself every little bit of help!

So, today's plan is to tentatively restart the core stability work, go for a 3 mile jog with a few strides thrown in, go out for a curry early evening and make sure I drink water regularly throughout the day particularly as the forecast for tomorrow is disappointingly 21/22c and sunny.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Brief toilet based update...

It seems that 150ml of beetroot juice is not limited in its vivid colour changing capacity to liquid toilet offerings...

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Psycho-babble - AKA I have pink urine & don't know how much I weigh...


This risks being a highly self indulgent post. You have been warned.

As I get a few days into a bad nutritional week I begin to dread getting on the scales again. I just don't want to confront the 'damage'. It might sometimes even delay my putting an end to a bad episode or binge.

However, in the end I dismiss the feeling and confront the scales. Sometimes the damage is less than expected and sometimes more but in either case I then focus fully and carefully monitor the changing figures each day thereafter. There's always then a high as water retention and 'food in transit' are banished providing a swift but arguably false weight loss, followed by a more challenging period when the scales become less predictable or even. Or, at least that's how I thought it went.

This time getting back on the waggon was harder. I was carrying three injuries so the usual response of immediately upping exercise levels wasn't such an obvious outlet and I probably feared the scales all the more because of it. Moreover, I felt a failure.

So, rather than dismissing this scale phobia as emotional weakness, as I normally might, I sought to rationalise both the feeling itself and seek to see if it was an indicator of a wider problem.

After several hours of subconscious mental rumination I came to the conclusion that the previous approach was far from proven. I stuck to the usual approach because I told myself it was successful and felt secure in a structured and consistent response, but whilst I could rightfully claim to be (about) 45lbs lighter than my heaviest I'm also (about) 20lbs over my eventual target. Moreover, the previous approach should have had me reaching my target after about 34 weeks but here I am around 295 weeks on from starting my (if you'll excuse the nauseating expression beloved of those in the colonies) 'weight loss journey'...

My immediate response to this realisation was that I needed to take a radically different approach. Ditch calorie counting completely and totally clean up my diet perhaps?

But that was missing the point. Calorie counting works for me. Cleaner eating makes it work better perhaps but the bottom line is that calorie counting itself has always worked. What has gone wrong is that I haven't been able to stick to it for truly sustained periods.

That brought me back to the scales. For about 3 years now I've weighed if not daily then certainly very frequently. When I've been in the groove in terms of diet and exercise its been daily and when I've slipped up I've consciously avoided the scales.

When I considered this I realised the figure on the scales might have been a hindrance as much as help - if the numbers were kind I was tempted to treat myself to a day off which sometimes became a week, and if the numbers were harsh it was easy to feel demoralised and turn to food.

If the scales ever truly demonstrated it was simply a very approximate reflection of my adherence or otherwise to staying within calorie limits but in doing so they provided a potentially damaging distraction from the fundamental: the weight loss process itself.

This was dangerous, seditious thought and my conservative mind (I'd like to stress the very, very small 'c' there) retorted: if a major reason for losing weight is to run faster than surely the numbers on the scales ARE important? And how can I judge if I'm being successful or not if I don't know where I started or where I am.

There's merit to both points but the fundamental aspect is the process: if I consume 7,000 calories a week less than I expend then I will lose around 2lb. Whether I stand on a set of scales every day, every week or not at all won't make any difference to that. Process & time equals result and as long as I lived consistently by that maxim I would lose weight and get faster.

Ergo, I decided I wouldn't weigh myself until the end of the month but I would log my consumption and exercise fully every day and trust that that would deliver results away from the distraction and damage of the scales.

As a result I haven't got a clue how much I weighed when I got back on the horse, how much damage had been done or what changes there may have been in the first three days back - and that really does feel kind of liberating.

Oh, and the pink urine? I bought a bottle of beetroot juice...

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

So far, so good.

I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things.

Yesterday I logged my food intake and stayed within target - in each case for the first time in nearly 2 weeks. In the evening I did my first run with the club in around 7 weeks. 5.4 miles ran at a very conservative pace with the slower runners but importantly no groin pain.

Not that I think I'm out of the woods on that front. Far from it - I still get the odd twinge and haven't done any core exercises since the 20th August - but its still progress and tomorrow I'll begin to do core exercises again. Bear in mind that the physio felt I would be ok to run and even race as long as I kept up the exercises, its just that I'm starting to keep up from tomorrow...

The back pain is no better nor worse than since Sunday. It feels tight when I first get out of bed but eases with movement and doesn't seem to impinge on running at all. I'm hopeful that it'll just get better slowly but on Friday I have a physio appointment to double check and get some advice on both back and achilles pain (did I mention that yesterday?). Whether I did or not, that's slowly easing too, presumably thanks to the calf stretching I've been doing the last few days.

I stuck to calorie target again today despite it being a rest day. That's good too.

Plan for the remainder of the week is to run again tomorrow, go to the gym Friday (but probably only for cardio) then rest once again on Saturday.

Are you impressed by my steady, level headed, conservative approach to getting back in the swing of things and not over stressing a recently injured and as yet not fully recovered body?

If so, then be content and read no further.

(As I've also agreed to run a leg of the Leeds Country Way relay on Sunday - a little over 10 miles cross country. Sorry.)

The Dirty Dozen

That’s my last 12 days. Very little exercise and horrendous over consumption.

On the afternoon of the 20th August I was able to look back on a pretty solid couple of weeks in terms of weight loss and exercise, and my mirror image and feeling of energy confirmed the good news the scales were telling me. So where did it go wrong?

I suppose it started that evening with a trip to an Indian buffet and an unsurprisingly large and difficult to calorie count meal but the problem really set in on the Saturday morning following a short run with Beth. I’d felt a slight twinge in my back the previous day while doing a side plank exercise. The pain was to the right of my spine, very low down where back blends to buttock and an hour or two after the run it was considerably worse with bending or twisting very difficult.

I have no idea how I did it but the cramp like pain was unpleasant and pretty soon the whole area tightened up so that any sort of movement was as painful as it was difficult. That ruled out the planned trip to the gym on Saturday afternoon as well as Sunday’s run, so I found solace, as ever, in eating.

By Monday it had eased a fair bit – still there but far from debilitating - so I ventured another short run with Bethan and if anything it helped loosen things up. That should have been the end of that but maybe because the core exercises had ceased as soon as the back went my groin now started to give a few twinges of pain and tightness. I continued to seek comfort in food.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were similar. I didn’t feel I should try anything at the gym or do core exercises until the back was completely pain free and didn’t feel I could run until I could do the core exercises to ease the all I managed was another short jog with Beth.

I was frustrated and continued to eat with a vengeance but added excessive amounts of chocolate to the daily shopping list.

I think Saturday was then the worst day when I managed a large Dairy Milk, a large Milky Bar, a small Milky Bar and a bag of jelly beans AFTER a Chinese takeaway. Some going huh?

Saturday had been especially difficult as we had been due to go camping for the weekend but by Friday evening my back seized up again and there was no way I could pack the car let alone put a tent up. Saturday morning felt similar but after a hot shower, then a hot bath and 400mg of Ibuprofen I was able to keep my back moving and it seemed to respond well to that and eased off hugely.

Trouble was I’d had the expectancy of meals out on Saturday, Sunday and Monday which not only made it feel difficult to think anything other than ‘Oh sod it’ during the week but also meant we felt we needed to go out at the weekend in the absence of camping- particularly as it was Sue’s birthday weekend. Result being that Sunday meant a trip to a pub for a huge gammon and chips followed by sticky toffee pud and Charlotte’s leftover chocolate fudge cake (with a box of Milk Tray – of all things – consumed when I got in...), and then Sunday was another trip to the Indian buffet for an enormous meal.

At least on Sunday I did manage to fit in a fairly gentle 4/5 miles walk on the moors and showed marginally more restraint before and after the evening meal than I had in the previous days.