Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Bye bye November

More snow overnight. Difficult to say how much, maybe 3 inches, but the accumulation on the table and bench in the garden look to be well over 6-8 inches.

Fell shoes on today for 6 miles and some drills. If I run early but when its light I can run largely off road which would be more reassuring.

The weight loss seems to be going well. I only started on Friday and aside from a blip on Sunday (not too major a blip - related to an unplanned trip to the cinema to see Harry Potter - but enough to cause a temporary gain on the scales yesterday) things have gone nicely. After 4 days its 3.2lb down which is about what I'd expect from week one with the usual water and food in transit loss.

That's the end of November and advent starts tomorrow. Champion. Looking forward to Christmas this year.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Blimey, its been a week since I last blogged but then its been a busy last couple of weeks.

I've had 4 nights away in the last fortnight, 5 meetings last week, I've been as far south as Poole, as far north as Edinburgh, I've been in Newcastle in the heavy snow last week and driven through a blizzard on an untreated Northumbrian road (and scared myself silly). The man flu has slowly got better over the second half of the last week - not quite gone yet - but getting there. Oh, and I sorted the full Christmas dinner menu!

Running wise its gone OK all things considered. I managed to get out on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but not all as planned as Friday's intervals were replaced by a steady run (due to man flu) and yesterday's 10 mile race was (thankfully) cancelled so I did 10 miles along the snowy and frozen canal with a guy from the running club.

The supplementary exercising didn't go so well. I felt rotten last Monday and missed the reformer class; did the drills on Tuesday, was in Newcastle and Nottingham on Thursday and didn't get back in time to cross train or do the resistance training; and on Saturday I only got half way through the resistance training before having to collect Charlotte from her gymnastics class.

Diet wise its been mixed too. I'd weighed myself the Saturday before last and struck a hefty 12st 10.4lb. On Tuesday, as I drove to Edinburgh, I had a think about what I could or should do.

Here's the plan. Dead simple. I'll be weighing daily for 12 weeks by the end of which I would expect to be at or near 11st.

I know, I know, a complete volte face. The rationale is that I can't afford to continue drifting, particularly with Christmas coming. If I do I'll either face the prospect of not getting to target or having to diet 'firmly' throughout marathon training in the new year. Neither are enticing prospects.

What I'm expecting is that I can steadily lose so that the last 7 weeks of training won't require any restriction on calories beyond maintenance. It even allows for Christmas week 'off' (dieting, not training).

I still think getting away from the scales has to be the long term objective but the marathon is a fixed target that needs a more robust approach.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Return of the man flu

Well, I say return but it hasn't really gone away in about 3 weeks; and I say man flu in a rather self deprecating manner but its struck down two females of the household too.

Both Sue and I have had colds for 2-3 weeks. For me, some days I feel close to fine; but on others I'll have a rasping cough, a headache, stomach ache and so on. On a couple of occasions in the past week I've felt bad enough that I feared it was turning to sickness. Charlotte also had a thick cold for about 10 days but last week hers did turn to sickness and once she had that out of her system she was back to normal. Bethan just seems completely untouched by it.

Its not really helping the quest for health and fitness.

On Saturday I didn't do too badly despite needing to ferry Beth to a party, take Charlotte to gymnastics and swimming, and head into the city centre. I did manage to get onto a dreadmill while Charlotte was at gymnastics but I hadn't been 'with it' enough to be too organised meaning I only had about 45 minutes for exercising. That was OK though as I only had a 4 mile interval run scheduled in the cut back week. I managed this but found it extremely hard work - I think that was the virus.

Yesterday was always going to be difficult as I needed to be in the city centre by 7.45am as I was marshaling at the Leeds Abbey Dash, an annual 8,000 runner 10k. I enjoy marshaling but it meant I'd be in town until well after midday and probably a wee while longer than that as Bethan wanted me to meet the rest of the family at the German market afterwards.

After two poor nights of sleep I felt pretty rotten to start with yesterday but the fresh air and walking about 5 miles to/from marshal points meant I coped OK but knew running wouldn't be on the agenda. After meeting the girls for half hour I walked back to my car, went home, to bed and to sleep and woke up feeling worse!

So, exercise wise that meant I missed the drills, only did half of one of the two resistance exercise sessions, replaced the hill training with another intervals session and missed a 4 mile base pace run. Bugger.

Diet wise, not a lot better. I don't have any appetite for big meals nor anything healthy, so I pick; and what I pick at or snack on tends to be the worst kind of food.

Away again this week. Heading off tomorrow for Edinburgh with a meeting in the afternoon, then its another Edinburgh meeting the next day and one a few miles south in Selkirk before a couple of hours driving to Washington in Tyne & Wear where I'll stay en route to a meeting in Nottingham on Thursday morning. Lots of driving, lots of eating from service stations, lots of challenges for exercising.

Hoping the bug will go soon.

One silver lining is that having weighed myself on Saturday I don't look to have gained anything in the first 3 weeks of November.

Friday, 19 November 2010

A few days away

Been a busy week with work so far...Poole, Christchurch, Warwick, West Bromwich, Sheffield have all featured on my list of places I've been to and I must have driven nearly 1000 miles.

I have just about managed to keep up exercise wise though. Tuesday's early treadmill run was a good start (though it meant I missed the drills); Wednesday's hills were switched with Friday's intervals and that was fine too and yesterday I did a very short, very slow run but missed the resistance training. That leaves a bit of catch up to do today/tomorrow/Sunday but as its a cut back week its no biggie to tag on the drills to Sunday's run and to do a resistance session today.

Only Wednesday's run was important for any reason - a run along the south coast on the Dorset/Hants border. It was fairly stormy with the sea crashing over the quayside, looking (and sounding) dramatic as the wind was strong - again making intervals either very tough or very easy depending which way I was facing. The path itself was variable: a mix of concrete, road, sand and a bit of woodland trail past the rather pretty Highcliffe Castle. Castle is misleading as there's no hill, no moat, no keep, no thick walls or arrow slits but what there is is a rather grand looking stately home - what it's website describes as 'an early Victorian fantasy castle'.

I've not eaten well while away. I rarely do. There's just too much access to food - cooked breakfasts, dinner out somewhere, 3 course evening meals and long hours driving punctuated by coffee and chocolate.

I haven't weighed for over 2 weeks but will do so today. Whilst the running feels OK I feel like the weight is slowly creeping up. I'm not unduly concerned or beating myself up about it but want to get a bit of a handle on where I am so I can consider how to proceed.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Early to bed, early to rise...

...makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Apparently. Though I've seen precious little evidence of the latter two at least.

Last night was a relatively late night for me in that I didn't get into bed until nearly 9.30. That's well over an hour later than some nights last week. As soon as it reaches 8pm I'm struggling to stay awake but wake up easy enough on a morning. I think it may be related to the time of year and the clock change; and exasperated by their rarely being anything worth watching on TV.

I'm off shortly to the gym to either run on the treadmill or use the cross trainer. Not sure which. The prescribed activity is a 4 mile run with drills but as I need to leave for Dorset by 8.30 I'm a bit limited in what can do, especially as I'll still be there for tomorrow morning's run (due to be hills but I'll need to swap it for Friday's intervals) and out all of Thursday (so won't be able to x-train then but will do a run first thing). I either run and therefore run on 6 consecutive days, or I cross train and run on 5 consecutive days. Decisions, decisions.

Today's exercise is all made slightly easier by Charlotte being up much of the night ill. Like her parents she's had a cold that's come and gone for a couple of weeks but for her has now gone to her stomach. Not nice for her and not too wonderful for the mother that gets disrupted sleep to look after her every hour. It means Sue will be off and therefore I don't have to get back from the gym quite so early and therefore don't have to go there so early either.

Monday, 15 November 2010


Its the first recovery week of the marathon plan.

I don't really feel I deserve it yet as the top mileage week has only just nudged over 30 miles - a distance that was the norm from late spring through summer. However, its part of training and if it helps keep me fit and healthy ahead of the mileage increases then all well and good.

This week keeps the same themes as previous weeks - drills, resistance training, hills, intervals etc - it just cuts back on the mileage.

Mentally I tend to find cut back weeks to be a time for reflection and planning: reflecting on accomplishments to date and looking forward towards increased challenges ahead. This post is the reflecting - the looking ahead can be summed up in 30.5, 34.5, 34.5 as the mileage for the next 3 weeks.

Overall I'm pleased. I've adapted to the demands of consistent 5 day a week running (ironically it'll be 6 this week) without obvious injury; I'm cross training once a week, doing a reformer class and doing resistance exercises; as well as completing running drills and flexibility work.

Injury wise the groin seems reassuringly dormant (as it were). Sure there's occasional slight twinges but they're very isolated and probably no different to the momentary twinges I'll get elsewhere in the body every day. Cautiously optimistic there. Probably a slightly bigger concern is the left Achilles. I've had some tenderness there for many weeks but there's no sign of swelling or growth and the physio seemed unconcerned. Interestingly its been far better the last couple of days when I've been rubbing on some arnica oil to the wider area and spending an hour or so in a warming neoprene support. Optimistic that keeping that up along with lower volume of running will help fix that this week.

The running drills have been good even if I do have to find places to do them where I wont be seen or sectioned. After completing them I do feel my gait alters and I hope a little of that trickles through to the regular runs over time - I presume that's the theory.

Running at base pace has proved simple and made me wonder if I had a tendency to run too fast before, and that the secret to high mileage is making sure much of the running is low intensity - lower than I'd thought.

Recovery rate running I find more difficult - that's 9.20 - 10.30 pace and I find that strangely tiring. At present I only have to do it during warm up and cool down either side of hill training and in the recoveries between hill repeats.

Hill training itself has been good though. Its one of those sessions that's undeniably tough but a nice kind of tough - one that leaves me feeling relatively youthful and self satisfied. OK, its a difficult one to convey.

Interval training I've enjoyed for similar reasons and its got me back to doing some runs along the canal which gives some variety. Its been intervals at mile pace so far but as the length of intervals gets longer the pace drops over coming weeks to 3k pace, 5k pace, 10k pace, half and marathon paces. Interestingly though, even through the later weeks some faster 3k and 5k paces are included - its not all long and slow.

The dynamic flexibility exercises have seemed strangely tough, simply because I always find myself red in the face at the end of them! I'd like to extend their use further or supplement them with some static stretches and self massage, mainly due to the experience with the achilles. That's a focus for this week.

Talking of focuses...they've gone OK-ish. I'm meant to consider a different theme each week throughout each run and whilst that was fine in weeks one and two I completely forgot it last week, even to the point where I frequently forgot the week before's while running too.

Resistance training has been another winner though. That started as 1 set of each exercise twice a week and increased to two sets and three sets. They'll now stay at 3 sets but the mix of exercises will change. The ones so far have largely been 'introductory' and often simple Pilates moves. Its meant that between these, the reformer class and the two lots of dynamic 'stretches' (that include 2 types of lunges for example) I'm doing some sort of work on core/glutes 5 times each week.

The endurance runs* have been fine too. They're the one area where I've cheated the plan a bit. They should have been 5 miles, 6 miles and 8 miles whereas I've done 7 miles, 8.5 miles and 10 miles, but these are still well down on previous running and haven't caused a problem so I have no concerns. Its a policy I'll maintain for the next 4 weeks (if only for the practical reason that I have 10 and 11 mile races in that time) but my guess, and without checking the plan's requirements, is that by mid January at the latest the prescribed distances will be the ones I do.

Cross training has been fine too. Its only a once a week requirement and the only challenge has been to slow myself down as its meant to be completed at 'recovery pace' whereas I've always tended to keep myself interested on CV machines by pushing myself to hit certain targets.

*In Brain Training what might be thought of as the Long Slow Run (LSR) is called the endurance run. I suspect there's two reasons for this. Firstly LSR simply describes what the run is - long but slow - whereas 'endurance' describes what the type of training will test and what it will build. Also, a traditional LSR is single pace and typically far slower than marathon pace - maybe 90s a mile slower. In Brain Training the endurance run is 30s - 60s slower than marathon pace but some weeks may include far faster paces, so, for example a 16m run might have 8 miles at base pace then 7 miles getting progressively faster from marathon pace down to 5/10k pace before a final base pace mile at then end. That trains you rather differently to simple long and slow and I'm hoping that works well as it does this in place of doing more of the longest runs.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Last few days

That's week 3 completed - 1/8th of the way through the training already and into a cut back week next week.

Pleased with the week. 30.53 miles completed with no great ill effects other than a ruddy great blister on my left little toe.

Yesterday's easy 5 mile run at 8.39 a mile was pleasing simply because it was completed on a treadmill. I find them really hard work as I get hot and don't like the fixed pace or lack of scenery. Yesterday's wasn't made any easier by my forgetting the iPod. I don't normally run with music but can make an allowance in the gym. That left me with 3 of the screens directly in front but no sound. I was distracted momentarily by a music video featuring one of Girls Aloud (not sure what they call her) where she sometimes appeared in stockings and suspenders but it was transient relief from the boredom, particularly as the other 2 screens were showing the tedious pursuit that is rugby union.

At one stage I considered pausing at 25/30 minutes and do my resistance exercises ahead of the final minutes running but in the end I saw it through OK in one go with the only real problem that of the afore mentioned blister.

Today was the endurance run - 10 miles along the canal. I deliberately got up early as its Charlotte's birthday and left home about 7.30. That meant the canal was quiet, misty, cold but still. With the sun low in the sky throughout, the water still and reflecting the skeletal trees, and various sections accompanied by the sound of cows mooing in neighbouring fields it was quite a pleasant run.

I ignored the time almost completely, just aiming to run at an easy feeling pace, and found I'd averaged 8.53 with the first mile at 9.34 but getting fairly consistently faster mile on mile until the last at 8.20. That's nicely on track with the prescribed targets.

Diet hasn't been so good the last few days. No binging but just not particularly tight either. That's OK. Off for a birthday curry this evening.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Are you an exercise voyeur?

In my late 20s and early 30s I did a fair amount of weight training. I tended to be quite focused or even introverted in concentrating on what I was doing but between sets would watch what was going on around me. Weights areas in gyms seemed to be exclusively male zones back then and I did used to snigger at the way so many of the fellas would deliberately clatter weights around; force themselves to grunt loudly before, during and after lifting; preen and pose in front of the mirrors and do that funny walk beloved of insecure weight training males - the one where they walk as if carrying an invisible roll of carpet under each arm.

I wonder if any of them did ever get a room? Certainly I suspect openly gay men would have had the confidence and style not to put on such crass courtship displays.

That was all before running though. At that time I doubt I'd given runners a second look. Sure, a badly fitted sports bra or a pert lycra clad derriere might get a passing glance but that's about all.

When I started running that changed. At first I'd just look to see if I knew them, or to size them up as to whether they looked faster than me, or to work out where they might have been running to/from or if they looked like they were marathon training as opposed to 2 mile joggers. If injured, as so often I was (see the earlier diatribe on running shoes) then I'd look on them with jealousy. Male or female, it didn't matter.

Over time I began to notice, and critique, running styles - especially if they were strange. I also found I could recognise runners I knew by their running style long before they were close enough to even tell whether male or female, even if their gait were pretty normal.

Yesterday, as I walked along a nearby road a thirty something, slim, lycra clad blonde appeared, running towards me on the other side of the street. What did I find myself looking at? Her foot strike. That's what its come to.

Anyone else find they stare at other runners or other people using the gym? What do you look at/for? Were you as base as I was or as clinical as I've become?

In other news...

...yesterday's run was OK. In strong winds along an often exposed canal towpath it was hard work running into the wind on the way out but wonderfully easy on the way back.

It was the week's intervals run but unfortunately I'd 'misremembered' (having got used to Dubya it doesn't seem right America not having a fuckwit as President - I suppose there's the equally dumb and dangerous Sarah Palin to come though). Where was I? Ah yes. I'd misread or, indeed, forgotten, the number of intervals I needed to do. I did 4 x 45s when the plan called for 6. It was the same for Wednesday's hill repeats. On the plus side at least on each day I felt I could have done more, and yesterday's run was half a mile longer than the plan called for. What that means though is that I'm getting longer rest between repeats than I should get and might explain why I'm running them comfortably faster than target.

Its a base pace 5 miles today which I'll do on a treadmill. I don't like treadmills and find them far harder than outdoor runs as I get very hot and don't enjoy the purely flat gradient and fixed speed, but if the weather turns bad I might have to do a few runs, even LSRs, on them. On that basis it might be worth my trying to do one run a week on them just to get used to it.

Diet wasn't so good yesterday. A delay of an hour before I could have my tea meant I found myself picking at bread before and eating toast after. A trip to the sweetie shop followed. Overall I'm hoping it still only came out at about maintenance.

Today I'm going to make second use of the excellent poaching pods I got from Lakeland earlier in the week. So after the run, and the swimming with Charlotte, it'll be poached eggs, wholemeal toast, Applewood smoked bacon, Suma baked beans (my fave) and a whole punnet of dry fried mushrooms.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Death of a gay icon

Yesterday marked the passing of our guinea pig, Bolton.

He must have been 6 years old at least as we'd had him for over 5 years and got him from a guinea pig sanctuary (yes, there are such things) as an adult. I suppose he'd had a good innings and was only ill for around 16 hours. I noticed early evening on Wednesday that he was listless and taking little interest in the celery and broccoli I'd given him earlier but we got some water into him and he seemed to revive a little but by yesterday morning he was hardly able to move and was refusing water. The writing was on the wall, and whilst he was still just about alive at 11am, by 11.30 he'd gone. Not sure what did for him but he'd suddenly developed a bald patch on his back which might mean some form of common but often deadly lice infection. Yuk.

Still, why Bolton and who is this gay icon? The answer to those is one and the same. Let me explain.

We initially bought 2 female guinea pigs about 7 years ago: Squeaky and Scarlet. A few weeks later after conspicuous weight gain one of the ladies gave birth to 6 little guinea pigs - all hairy and like tiny adult guinea pigs. A month or two after that she gave birth to six more. Clearly Scarlet was no lady and as soon as we realised squeaky was preggers again he was whisked to the vets to be neutered.

Unfortunately Squeaky died a few months later by which time we'd given away the offspring leaving scarlet alone. As a result we went and got another male to keep him company - a confirmed bachelor and a widower sharing accommodation in their dotage.

The newcomer didn't know what to make of a neutered male so upon meeting him he did a little courtship dance and tried to shag him. An act he kept up for a day or two before finally getting the message. By this time we'd jokingly decided he was gay, and as we'd heard a news item that morning that said Bolton had the largest ratio of gay and lesbian residents of any UK town or city we opted for the name Bolton. It was fate.

After a year Scarlet died suddenly leaving Bolton alone but we moved him to the kitchen so he'd be around people all day and he seemed perfectly happy.

Its funny how we give our animals personalities they don't necessarily warrant. To us, Bolton was lovably camp and his cries of "Reet, reet, reet, reet" whenever he heard the rustle of a plastic bag (which to him meant lettuce/carrots/celery or some other delicacy) we decided to interpret as clear evidence of his Yorkshire dialect.

When Scarlet had died I quickly popped him into a carrier bag and chucked I'm in the wheelie bin. What it lacked in dignity it more than made up for in practicality. This time Bethan has said she wants to bury him so today I need to dig a hole. I don't think that's a bad thing as it'll help her to understand death. For the same reason I encouraged her to see him and stroke him to say goodbye. Unfortunately she has a terminally ill grand parent and may have that and her mother's grief to deal with in the coming months.

A sober end to what I hope was a fairly buoyant tale of a well loved piggy.

Its the second day where I've gone completely off script blog wise but I promise that tomorrow will be better. Just for reassurance though - yesterday's prescribed cross training and resistance training were duly completed and the diet remained good.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

That's Christmas dinner sorted then

I'm sure I read somewhere that the brain is very good at problem solving and organising while you sleep.

I woke this morning at 4am needing the loo (its an age thing - since I reached about 39 I've woke in the night for a wee nine nights out of ten. Ah well.) As I lay down to sleep again I reeled off the Christmas dinner menu despite not having given it too much thought previously.

I always cook Christmas dinner and normally do a traditional one. Sometimes it was just for us, sometimes for us and my mam and dad and one year for us, mam and dad, Sue's parents, and her sister in law and her family. That year I really went to town and not only made the usuals but also the Christmas pud, various sauces, a venison and walnut stew for Boxing Day, sausage rolls etc. I even made my own chocolate truffles. By Boxing Day morning I was exhausted.

Three years ago we'd just moved back to Leeds and hadn't yet had the kitchen done out so all we had was a very small unfamiliar kitchen and most of our equipment still in boxes in the garage. That year we did a Marksies Christmas with ready prepared veg. It was pleasant enough but not the same.

For the last 2 years I've tried to be different and cooked curries. The year before last it was excellent - an absolute banquet that we all enjoyed. Last year I got even more ambitious and began cooking and freezing curries from late October onwards as well as doing an awful lot on Christmas eve and Christmas day. I've lost the 'menu' I typed up but there were Indian lamb shanks, two other lamb curries, 2-3 chicken curries, 3 dal curries, at least 8 vegetable curries, a banquet style rice, breads, 2 different salads and at least 8 different sauces and accompaniments. All home made barring the bread. Again I was too exhausted to enjoy it on the day though there was enough for the next 2 days as well as far, far too much that had to be thrown. I think I got a bit manic about it.

This year the plan is to revert to a traditional Christmas dinner but not too OTT, and then do a couple of good curries for New Year's eve.

In the last couple of years at the old house we used a series of Jamie Oliver recipes from a Christmas dinner DVD he did. There were some real winners there - a light Christmas pud (think a heavier version of spotted dick but with winter spices), flavoured butters for veg, excellent roast butternut squash, a really good chestnut stuffing...

We're doing the same this year with most recipes from JO and a couple from Delia's Christmas book, so I can reveal Christmas dinner 2010 will comprise:

  • Roast turkey
  • Roast gammon
  • Chestnut stuffing
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Homemade gravy
  • Roast potatoes
  • Honey glazed roast parsnips
  • Roast spiced butternut squash
  • Mashed carrot & swede with orange and cumin flavoured butter
  • Peas with flavoured butter
  • Stir fried sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta
  • Cranberry & orange sauce
  • Bread sauce
Beforehand there may be a bit of salmon on brown bread and afterwards Christmas pud for us and some over blown, over priced, over engineered, cleverly marketed American ice cream for the kids. Unless I can think of something creative that the kids will enjoy but also has a Christmassy feel. Any ideas?

I feel quite festive now.

Whats everyone else doing for Christmas? Where will you be? Have you decided on the food yet? Am I just a little bit sad for thinking about it in early November?

Before I forget....yesterday's hill training was fine and my food consumption good...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Work life balance

The cold continues to fade, and whilst the bloating/pain were still there yesterday they were significantly less than the day before. As Sue has had stomach ache last night and this morning I'm definitely thinking its a bug.

Diet wise yesterday was good in terms of quality and calories but bad in terms of timing i.e. almost all of my food was consumed after 6pm.

That was largely to do with running and work. Let me explain.

Generally I work from home but with anything from zero to four meetings a week where I could be anywhere in the UK. This week looks like being a home week whereas next week I'll be in Nottingham, Warwick, Poole and West Bromwich.

When I'm at home I tend to switch the work laptop on anywhere between 6am and 8am and switch it off anytime from 6pm i.e. a long day. However, I'm not sat in front of it all day: if I want a drink or snack I go and get one; if I have a doctor/dentist/physio appointment I don't take time off for it I just go and from time to time I'll do a short run essentially in lieu of a dinner break. Sort of unwritten flexibility.

Yesterday was one of those days. Initially I was going to go for a run in the morning so had only the lightest of snacks first thing but work was such that I found morning drifted into early afternoon with no run. Nor did I have dinner as I was 'shortly' to run and by 2.30 had got as far as kit and trainers on. Then work stepped in again, then the eldest daughter came home and a quick conversation on why she wouldn't be getting a Blackberry for Christmas (she's not yet 12) delayed further, then a quick check of the email caused another delay...until I got going about 4.10pm.

It was a strange run - dry but windy and cold - and I really felt the latter on my hands in the first few minutes but it soon wore off and I didn't think about it again. The run itself was 5 rather contrived miles plus 4 x running drills. The drills involved my running with my arms in a big basketball style loop in front of me and running without bending my knees so I was keen to get onto a rarely used single track dead end road to do them despite the failing light.

All good though and all done.

Today its 5 miles again but with hill repeats at mile pace (4 x 45s @ 6 min mile pace up hill). Gulp.

When do you run and how do you fit it in?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Buffeted by wind

Yes, that's right: buffeted by wind. Not the wind. Not winds. Now that's clear you can decide if you want to read on.

Last week's cold has slowly been abating. The sore throat is gone, the stuffy headache too has disappeared, I'm still a bit snotty on a morning when I get up but that's lessening each day.

The things that have remained or gotten worse are a feeling of being bloated and getting stomach cramps - the sort you feel in your back as much as your stomach. Unsurprisingly these are accompanied, or caused, by a lot of wind. Generally, though far from exclusively, of the upwards variety.

Initially I'd thought this was due to the cold, then I thought it might be stress related. There's no major stress at the moment: a few niggles from work and some annoyance over the weekend at getting behind on the training plan but nothing major, though Sue said I seemed a bit uptight. Interestingly though, the pain didn't lessen when I felt particularly relaxed or happy.

I've tried a couple of 'wind' medicines with limited effect as well as some anti-spasmodics which had zero effect. That made me wonder if it was really stress related at all. I now think its just the vestiges of the cold.

It made the reformer class yesterday a bit of a risk. When you're lying on your back with knees bent up for much of an hour its an ideal gas release position and in a small quiet studio with only 4 other people there's nowhere to hide should such an episode occur. Last night I was lucky.

So, when I got in I decided to go for another tactic. About 5/6 years ago I had a similar thing and ended up going to the doctor who suggested I take soluble fibre supplements as well as eating a lot of 'bulky' foods for a couple of days. His theory was that by sending a lot of bulk through the system I'd push out any lingering bacteria or virus - rather like a sweep cleaning a chimney or, more pertinently, a guy from Dyna-Rod unblocking a drain. As a result last night after my tea I had 4 slices of wholemeal toast and 3 bowls of Shreddies. Not great weight loss tactic but hopefully enough to do a bit of good in settling the stomach.

There. That wasn't so bad, and I didn't even have to confess to the time a couple of years ago when I let out an enormous and involuntary fart when setting off on a club run but managed to get away with it by giving a dirty look to the partially deaf chap who was running alongside me.

Oh. Right.

Monday, 8 November 2010

That Was The Week That Was

I'm never sure if these 'quirky' post titles work. I usually can't think of anything simple and precise so I write some sort of vague association in the hope that its 'interesting'. Its a fine line between being 'quirky' and just being a cock though. I know that. For the record 'That was the week that was' was a satirical 60s TV programme (that I've never seen anything other than a clip from) but it helped launch the careers of the likes of the Two Ronnies and the Monty Python team. It had absolutely nothing to do with running, diet or indeed anything within the weekly review that now follows...

Monday - Rest day but the first Pilates reformer class. Went well but caused a bit of doms 48hrs on.

Tuesday - 4.5 miles at base pace along with 2 drills (bounding and high knees).

Wednesday - 4.85 miles including 4 x 30s of steep hill sprints.

Thursday - Full of cold so postponed the planned resistance training but did 30 minutes on x-trainer as well as attempting 20 minutes swimming. Felt wasted.

Friday - Still full of cold so did Saturday's 4.5 mile base pace run instead of Friday's intervals and flexibility training. Went OK all things considered.

Saturday - Planned to do the intervals on the treadmill as well as doing the flexibility and resistance exercises at the gym - thwarted by Esporta. Found solace in chocolate.

Sunday - Did the flexibility exercises from the day before then did 8.5 miles at base pace with 6 x 30s at mile pace sprinkled within. That meant I was only 2.0 miles short for the week and it meant I did the intervals element. Still meant I'd missed both resistance sessions. Also walked about 4 miles with the family in the afternoon.

Diet - Mixed. I knew Monday & Tuesday would be difficult due to birthday but Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were excellent as was most of Saturday. Unfortunately I turned to chocolate after the gym debacle (a lot of chocolate) and whilst Sunday was pretty lean during the day the evening included such glories as pizza, garlic bread, Kettlechips, treacle sponge pudding with double cream and matchmakers. That's OK though.

The week ahead...

...follows a similar theme exercise wise but will get up to about 30 miles overall with each run being half a mile or so further, the intervals/hills longer, the LSR up to 10 miles and the cross training and resistance training each 33% longer. Its a cut back week the week after though.

Diet wise I just want a consistent week. Next Sunday is Charlotte's birthday and so a trip to an Indian restaurant but I'll just need to factor that in.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


I think I tempted fate yesterday by even suggesting a consideration of feeling like a running deity. The running Gods were clearly angered and triggered a series of events to thwart my plans.

I could have ran in the morning before 11 except daughter number one would need picking up from staying at a friends and I was waiting on a call/text from her to say when, so I contented myself with cooking. In the end I went to pick her up at 11.15, having received no call, to find she wasn't ready which in turn meant she'd miss her singing lesson. That didn't amuse me - particularly as the last time she'd gone out with friends she missed a Doctor's appointment by being late back.

Anyway, I carried on cooking and decided to do the scheduled run at the gym as by the time I'd got her home and waited for Sue and the youngest to get in there wasn't much time to head out. That's not something I enjoy but I worked out the different speeds in kmph and set off with daughter number 2 to take her to gymnastics (at the gym) at 2pm.

By 2.10pm there were 6 lots of impatient parents and kids but no instructors. I went up to reception to try to find out what was going on and a few minutes later someone was sent down to explain that one of the instructors had left/been sacked and so neither she nor her friend would be doing the instruction hence the course was cancelled. No phone calls to us to tell us, not even a message left at reception so we'd know on arrival. presumably at some stage they'll refund the additional money we'd paid for the course. That seems pretty typical of Esporta. The last 3 exercise classes were all cancelled at short notice and the one prior to that 2 external instructors turned up for and had a tense 'stand off' at the start! When the whole family were members a couple of years ago we'd frequently turn up to Friday evening Street Dance with the eldest to find it was cancelled - again without notice - and that was a key reason for our cancelling.

I digress. The cancellation meant that whilst it was still only 2.30 I had the youngest with me and had promised to take her swimming and for a drink and muffin in the bar afterwards. By the time we'd finished it was 4pm and there was still cooking to do. No run, no exercise, no happy.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Confessions of a lush

Alison asked earlier, via her blog at http://runningfromrunningto.blogspot.com/, about people's experience of abstinence with regards to drinking. Rather than post a huge comment there I thought I'd do a blog entry on the subject here. Its a bit of a confessional and its rather long.

'Officially' I haven't had a drink since the 27th July 2008. 'Unofficially' I did have 2 small bottles of Stella on Boxing Day that year but after a few months off didn't much like the taste any more and absolutely hated the light headed feeling to the point where I had to go and lie down. Prior to then there had been no finality in my decision but that experience ensured that abstinence would be permanent.

I'd drank since I was 13. Before then I'd had the odd drink at Christmas (port & lemon, Advocaat or a shandy) but at the age of 13 I looked 16 and that was good enough to get me served in off licences and in certain pubs and in a working class mining town in the recession hit early 80s that was an attractive thing to do. I can still remember the first time I went into 'town' aged 13 and had 4 pints of Castlemaine XXXX and Fosters. Within a few months I was drinking cans with mates several evenings a week and at weekends would go to the rugby club disco where I'd down pints of snakebite and then numerous vodka and limes to the point where I'd hardly be able to stand and would be sick the next day. At 14 I went on a school trip to Bulgaria, drank a full bottle of Vodka and fell off a first floor window ledge, fortunately landing in a pile of snow. That was a blessing though as for many years after that I couldn't face spirits. I'd walk to and from school most days in order to save the bus fare and exaggerated the cost of school dinners to get more money that way. Between those and other occasional less honest means I had the money to drink.

That sounds like I was some young teen addict. I wasn't. Certainly not physically; but it did establish an emotional relationship/reliance with/on alcohol that became entrenched.

Nothing much changed during 6th form, accept by then I was working part time so had more funds available, and would go to the pub most dinner times as well as 4-5 nights a week.

Then came university. There I'd drink heavily and regularly. Sometimes I'd drink all day long for 2-3 days on the trot and alcohol was the main cause why I regret not taking advantage of the opportunity university offered - I was bright enough to very rarely attend yet still get a 2:1 - had I worked I might have found it hugely fulfilling and breezed a 1st . I never really felt like I belonged though and found that period a strange one as I was away from home, had access to money, for almost the first time regularly had girlfriends or girlfriend troubles and was amongst people of a type I'd never really met before. Before going to university myself I don't think I'd ever met anyone who'd been to one.

Drink seemed to be a way of dealing with that but it came at a cost as drink also highlighted my demons. I'd get into fights, be aggressive, once punched through a glass door (still got the scars), had someone try to glass me (fortunately they tried to break the glass on my neck rather than breaking it on a table first). Not good.

After university I met Sue and whilst we'd always have beers in and would go out 2-3 times a week I'd rarely have more than 3-4 pints and all was well. Every couple of weeks though I'd go out with mates and have a skin full. When I got my first office job there was a serious drinking culture and most days I'd have 2-4 pints before driving (told you it was a confessional) home.

At the next job it was similar (only I used public transport) and after Beth was born and while I was struggling to adapt I'd go out once a week and get wasted. One night I went out with people from work and ended up head butting one of them.

After that job the work related drinking pretty much stopped but the focus then became one of drinking heavily at rugby league games. The old aggressiveness had largely gone but looking back I know that even the one drink could leave me moody or short tempered as easily as it might leave me feeling merry or chilled.

At home we still had beers in and I got into wine a bit too. That was a more relaxed 'drunk' but if we ever went anywhere I'd be manic about going to a pub and could easily have 4 pints with a pub lunch then go home with a headache for the rest of the day. From time to time I'd still drink to absolute excess - I always struggled to stop - and at a party next door had so much that I fell down the stairs when we got in and threw up across the bathroom floor.

Another thing I found by my mid 30s was that my capacity for alcohol diminished. Previously I'd been able to drink very heavily but appear relatively sober. I'd see others sway, slur their speach or repeat themselves but these were only characteristics I noted in myself from about 35.

Then I came back from 2 weeks holiday and decided to give up. It was only meant to be a temporary measure to help me lose the weight I'd put on whilst there - losing the empty calories as well as the reduced willpower that alcohol provides.

The first few weeks were genuinely tough. As I said earlier, I don't think there was a physical addiction but there may well have been an emotional or cultural one. We drank regularly at home - Sue still has wine most evenings - and going to the rugby or football meant drinking as did most of our trips out anywhere.

After about 6 weeks it got easier and I decided to keep it going until my birthday, around 14 weeks after stopping. By then though it seemed second nature not to drink so I decided to carry on for an indeterminate period.

How do I feel about it now?

Foremost, I have no intention of starting again. Partly as that Boxing Day tells me my body no longer likes it but mainly because I feel my life is simpler and easier without alcohol. Money is saved, no hangovers, no concern about drink driving, no alcohol induced moods, no getting drunk and ill, but most of all far more of a feeling of control.

I really do feel it was a hugely positive thing for me to do and whilst not everyone is the same as I was I do think that a great many people would benefit from abstaining.

Phlegm, Latin American Cuisine and a Messiah Complex

The man flu is still with me, and whilst the symptoms are changing a bit its no better, no worse.

As a result of the man flu I swapped yesterday's intervals for today's base pace run. That worked well for yesterday as I managed the run ok, and felt a bit better afterwards, but I might have struggled to do the intervals.

Mind you, that now means that today I have to fit in the run with intervals; 2 resistance sessions (might move one to the morning), one dynamic flexibility session, a trip to the gym to take the youngest to gymnastics, a trip to take the eldest to singing lessons, taking the youngest swimming and cooking 5 dishes.

The 5 dishes being a clean eating Cuban based dish of shredded beef with peppers, onion and carrots, a Cuban rice with black beans and vegetables, a Mexican tomato salsa, an avocado salsa and a sweetcorn salsa. I'm hoping the cold can be countered by a combination of chillies and vitamin c! Oh, and there will be enough for today and tomorrow.

On both days this weekend I'll run along the canal. Its a really good time to run there as the autumn leaves that fall create a beautiful glistening mosaic across the water. It looks solid, almost as if it could be walked upon. I haven't put that to the test yet - even on one of those rare occasions where I feel like a bit of a running God.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The last rites

Ugh. Man flu.

Woke this morning with my throat even more sore and with a headache that's yet to go away. I did manage to get a trip to the gym in and did 30 minutes on the cross trainer and that was just about ok but when I tried a gentle swim afterwards I felt absolutely wasted.

Resistance training postponed until tomorrow.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Got my sex face on?

In the new pictures. Its either an orgasm, trapped wind or the end of a tough race. Funny that as I was just reading this morning about learning to welcome pain in races.

I was also reading this morning in http://www.theroserunner.co.uk/ about one of those runs where you seem to be running round in circles trying to reach a mileage target. I had one of those today with the hill training. Two mile warm up and two mile cool down sandwiching 4 x 30s steep hill sprints with 2 minute jogs between. All good fun but a bit contrived feeling - I far prefer a loop or out and back course to going back and forth on the same old streets forever gazing at the mileage.

I again chose a particularly steep local slope that's 0.09 miles long and I can just get up it in 30 seconds but my word its tough. On each repeat I was glancing at the Garmin by 22/23 seconds. I did consider taking a picture of it but on reading/seeing Laura's experiences in trying to 'capture' a hill for posterity I may reconsider!

Very much back on board with the diet/healthy eating today but I need to be. The gain over the last month has put paid to my plans for very slow loss as otherwise I'll need to be doing it right through to Paris! Need a good kick start this side of Christmas, then cut back on the rate of loss for 2 months then maintain. That's the plan.

So, tonight its off to see the third of four comedians in a month having done Jimmy Carr and Jeremy Hardy, tonight is Reginald D Hunter. I shall resist the charms of the interval choc ice.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Its easier this year

41 today, and this birthday feels a whole lot easier than last year's. Turning 40 was grim, as was turning 30 before it. Funny that as a great many people aren't bothered by it yet for some reason these milestones did bother me. That's a contrast to New Year for example, where I couldn't care two hoots about the evening or the change of year.

Last day of my leave today so, despite the grey weather and rain, I did the prescribed run and running drills on a section of the Leeds Country Way near home and then headed off to the gym for 25 minutes swimming and a skinny latte to follow. I'm glad I went. I enjoyed the swim and there was some sort of mother and (very young) baby session going on in the pool and the babies absolutely loved it - that was really nice to see.

That's exercise done for the day (and it really does sound horrible out now) so aside from ferrying the kids round my only remaining plans for the day are to eat a Chinese takeaway and probably a large quantity of cake as from tomorrow its very much back on track diet wise...!

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Reformed Character

Well, sort of.

I had my first Pilates reformer class today. Its an interesting piece of kit and far more versatile than I expected giving a pretty decent core workout with some ancillary benefit to other muscles too. I suspect I may be a little bit sore tomorrow though!

That's the first of 7 sessions, one each Monday between now and Christmas. I forgot to mention them as part of the training plan and I suppose they are done on my rest day but I think they'll make a good compliment to the rest of the base training phase.

On a completely unrelated note its my birthday tomorrow :)

Its All Saints Day

Oops. Eleven days since my last blog entry.

What can I share with you? I suppose first up I better give an account of my whereabouts for those 11 days. Since the 22nd I've been off work (on leave) and won't be back again until Wednesday. Food wise the first few days were fine - spotlessly clean - but since the 24th I've been dirty, dirty, dirty. I think its just down to being off, at home. So moving swiftly on...

...to running.

A few weeks back I blogged about my dilemma over which (if any) marathon training plan to follow and only came to a partial conclusion. Well, that' s changed. I decided to re-read Matt Fitzgerald's excellent book 'Brain Training for Runners', and after a few chapters decided that I'd follow his 'Level 2' plan precisely. I say precisely, though one of the features of the plan is the ability to alter workouts based on how you feel but what I mean is I'd undertake it as written despite it seeming to lack many longer LSRs (only 1x18, 1x20, 1x22) - I wouldn't try to substitute in longer LSRs: I'd trust the plan.

One of the differentiators of the Brain Training plan is it's duration: it covers 24 weeks rather than the usual 16. When I'd first looked at the plan I'd dismissed the first 8 weeks as simple base training and was going to stick with Das Uber Plan until -16 weeks then begin the selected programme then. I had a change of heart though deciding that the first 8 week's training were quite specific in their aims and methods and would be important in preparing me for the full plan even though some features seemed to have me going 'backwards' in terms of typical run pace or LSR distances.

The plan itself calls for:
  • Running on at least 5 days a week
  • Then either a 6th run or an alternative x-training session
  • One rest day a week
  • Two harder training days (intervals, hills, tempo)
  • One LSR a week
  • Two sessions of body weight resistance training focused on core and lower body
  • Dynamic flexibility exercises before any harder session
  • Running drills aimed at gait optimisation once a week
  • A specific focus (in terms of improving gait) to consider while running each week
  • Set pace targets to run to (mile, 3k, 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, base and recovery)
  • Faster pace running of LSRs i.e. focusing more on pace than time on feet or endurance

Week 1 looked a little like this:

  • Monday - Rest day
  • Tuesday - 4 miles @ base pace plus 2 running drills
  • Wednesday - Dynamic stretching then 4.35 miles including 2 x 30s steep hill sprints
  • Thursday - 30 minutes on x-trainer plus 1 set resistance exercises
  • Friday - Dynamic stretching then 4.25 miles @ base pace with 2 x 30 seconds @ 1 mile pace
  • Saturday - 4.25 miles @ base pace plus 1 set of resistance exercises
  • Sunday - 6 miles @ base pace
The next 23 weeks will follow a similar format except the speed training elements will become longer (doubling this week), the LSRs will steadily get longer and the resistance exercises increase over the next 9 weeks in number of sets and difficulty of exercises. About every 4-5 weeks there's a recovery week and there's also a suggestion of a race every month or so to test condition to see if the pace targets need altering (I had to work out personal pace targets based on race performance and so these might change).

In all, it means that I'm now incorporating other features into the running training as well as increasing my running frequency but the cost of this (at least initially) is shorter runs and slower pace. That seems to work as I feel fine.

In terms of races to fit in with the plan so far I have:
  • Thirsk 10 mile on 28th November
  • Brass Monkey Half on 23rd January
  • Snake Lane 10 mile on 27th February

That means I'll drop the plan to do a 10k on New Year's Day but need to find something in mid/late March possibly - will need to check the plan/dates. I have 2 other races booked in: Chevin Chase trail race on Boxing day (which will fit as a base pace run) and Hellrunner on Sunday. Not sure what to do about the latter. If I find someone who wants my place they can have it but if not I'll probably do it very, very carefully.

Right, best get back to this here resting now...