Archive for March, 2009

Other Forms of Exercise:

Let’s face it, after 12 weeks of running 4-5 times a week, you start to get a little bored. I’ve changed my running routes that many times that I could probably pass ‘The Knowledge’ exam section for the South East of London. I could tell you, without hesitation, all 6 TV stations that are on in my local gym between 6pm and 7pm weeknights and (because I’ve read the text on my treadmill so many times) what the average heartbeat of an 80-year-old man running at 65% would be. Let’s just say, maybe it’s time to change things up a little.

Wednesday night, 45-minutes hard-effort. I plonked myself on a treadmill, ready to set off, only to turn around to see a work-colleague warming up for her spinning class. I went over.

“How long is this class?”, I asked.
“45 minutes”, she said. “You should join me!”.

It was a sign. My blisters needed a bit of a break and after my 19-miler things were a little chafe-tastic. My buddy showed me how to adjust the seat and the instructor came around to show me the ins and outs. I knew that the seat had to be low enough so that at the moment your pedal is at the bottom of its revolution, your knee joint doesn’t lock out. But that was about it. Turns out it’s a dangerous game this spinning. The pedals are connected directly to the flywheel at the front, which means that if your feet come out then the pedals will continue spinning, entangling your legs!

We set off, my colleague on the bike immediately to my left, and I was determined not to be shown up. I’ve been running well for 12 weeks now so I should be fairly competent at this! I thought it was just going to be a case of pedalling at different tempos. ‘Pedal fast, now pedal slow.’ But after a series of different positions (standing, sitting and squatting), tempos (sprint, three quarters and in-time with the music) and resistance (the dial at the front making it feel like you’re riding through treacle) I was absolutely spent.

No good...

I’d managed to finish well but I’d stupidly not brought a towel with me and I was sweating so much I couldn’t see. I have a new-found respect for those that do that twice a week as it can be killer on the knees. I was obviously a beginner. My seat adjustment was slightly too high and at the sprint sections it meant that I was bobbing up and down on the seat like a jackhammer. I bruised my tail bone as a result (back to running for me).

On Thursday nights I’ve changed my running for a weekly game of 5-a-side football. Our company sponsors a league, playing our clients. Our boss keeps telling us to let them win but at the moment there’s been no ‘let’ about it. 6 games and no victory so far. Again, when we started (6 weeks ago), I was adamant that my marathon training would give me an advantage over my colleagues as half of them haven’t done any exercise in a year! Again, I was wrong.

Football is a completely different type of exercise to long-distance running. The constant stopping, starting, sprinting, walking, twisting and turning is killer on the joints and I initially grew tired quite quickly. Changing up the routine to include football once a week has really developed my quads and, 6 weeks after starting, I can now last the 30 minutes at a pretty quick pace. Unfortunately, being able to run fast doesn’t make you a good footballer (and I’m probably the reason why our team isn’t winning). With football, however, there is a very high risk of injury so I think during the last three weeks of training I’ll have to stop and let the ‘new blood’ come through.

4 weeks to go and I managed a new PB with a 10k run yesteday. 51 minutes. Bring it on…

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It Won!

I had some smashing news today. The video entry I created for the Justgiving video competition came first place and won a cracking £100 sponsorship for the MS Society. Many many thanks to the Justgiving crew for voting for it and a huge thank you to everyone who viewed the video and got its hit stats up on Youtube.

For those that haven’t seen the video yet, here it is:

Also, a huge congratulations to Jenny Rice, Ulen Neale and Kaveh Fatemian who were awarded the runner up positions. I’m sure having a video to display on their Justgiving pages has increased awareness to their sponsorship efforts, as it has mine.

Since posting the video 5 days ago, I’ve had a huge £257.22 in sponsorship. It works and even though the competition is over, there’s still a valid reason to get a little bit proactive and gain a little extra money for your charity. All it takes is a digital camera/mobile phone and a copy of Windows Movie Maker! Blair Witch Project, eat your heart out.

The temptation of a video is too much to resist for today’s web 2.0 culture. The video, along with the use of Twitter, Facebook and blogging, has kept those long distance relatives and friends in the loop and has pulled some much needed sponsorship out of the woodwork. Some people who have sponsored me I haven’t spoken to for 10 years or more!

Less than £400 to go with 5 weeks left.

Coverage:
Justgiving blog
MS Society Fan Page
Justgiving London Marathon eNewsletter
MS Society eNewsletter
Horncastle News

Marathon Email

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Marathon Pace:

I got up this morning and ran 19 miles. It kicked off immediately with a celebrity spot as Richard Bacon jogged past me! I wonder if he has any old Blue Peter badges knocking around? He deserved one with the pace he was running at. He’s probably Ebayed the lot of them though.

This was my biggest run so far in training (and ever) and the first 2 hours went really well. I thought I’d try out chomping on some jelly beans as I ran today to give me a bit of a boost in the latter stages. At each hour mark I had about three. I’ve never eaten them before while training and really had no idea of the amount you’re supposed to eat but I didn’t really get much from them. Maybe three isn’t enough but I have to be careful with my sugar intake, being diabetic.

I ran from Blackheath to the O2 dome and then back through Greenwich to Canary Wharf. From there I ventured into Central London and ran over Tower Bridge. After I hit Waterloo Bridge (after running along the embankment) I was making fairly decent time. I didn’t set out to break the land speed record but I thought I’d give it a good go. However, after 2 and a half hours of running, I hit a spell of extreme tiredness.

Jelly bean fun...

The previous Saturday I ran for 2 and a half hours and couldn’t go on any more. I blamed this on not preparing well enough. For breakfast I’d had a boiled egg, no water and didn’t go for a pee. So by the time I got back I was dying of thirst, bursting for the loo and my blood sugar was so low that I was almost experiencing those hallucinations I mentioned in ‘The wall‘ post. But this week I’d had a hearty breakfast, hydrated well and had my magic beans so I should have been fine.

I know this is my first marathon event but I really want to do it well. Apart from a 6-year spell when I smoked, did no exercise and ate what I want (ah University – leaving home never felt so good), I’ve always considered myself to have a pretty good base-level of fitness. I’m not sure why I so desperately want to complete the FLM in under 4 hours but now I’m not so sure I’ll be able to complete it in under 5!

Today, after 2 and a half hours, the same thing happened. My legs tensed up, my pace slowed and at any slope I ground to a halt (and by any slope I really do mean any slope – stepping up on to the pavement was agony!). With a bit of will power I stopped myself from walking and continued to jog, but my 19-miler took me 3 hours and 20 minutes! Miles off the pace.

My worry is that I’m not training enough. Here is the guide I used before I picked my training plan:

Intermediate:
“Who is this plan for? You are already a runner, you have been running for a minimum of several months, you have probably completed a 10k or half marathon event, you are currently comfortable with training for approximately 4-5 hours per week, you may have already completed a marathon and are looking to improve your time.”

That suits me perfectly but I’ve noticed something. My training plan sets your daily targets in minutes run, not miles.

Essentially, I could have been following this plan to the exact detail and have never really exerted myself! That’s a harsh reality to face, given that there’s only 5 weeks of training left so today has been a tough day (and not just because I can hardly move).

Runners World Pace Guide

There are two points that I can console myself with and relieve a bit of pressure.

  1. Running through central London is the worst. Constantly stopping and starting to make room for traffic, STUPID bloody tourists and ignorant men with a dog on a leash is a pain. Getting back up to speed after you’ve been running for three hours and had to stop is unbelievably hard.
  2. It was bloody hot today.

It might be time to start finding out my split times. I have one more long run to do before tapering down in preparation for the main event. Lets see if I can break 9-minute miles and still have enough at the end. Visit Runner’s World for a great pace band that you can print off, cut out and wear on race day. Mine’s on the right.

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Sir Jog A Lot – The Movie:

So you may have noticed that I haven’t written a blog post for a little while. This is because I’ve been hard at work in the ‘studio’ creating Sir Jog A Lot – The Movie!

This year, Justgiving have a competition to create a video that promotes your fundraising efforts for the London Marathon. The prize is a £100 donation to your Justgiving page. Last year Gwan Yips won £500 with this effort (obviously the credit crunch has hit Justgiving as they’ve cut their prize by £400). With my fundraising target still in the distance and sponsorship drying up I thought it couldn’t hurt to sacrifice one Sunday to create an entry for this competition…

…and here it is:

Possibly the most embarrassing Sunday of my life (parading around London like a lunatic and getting filmed doing it) but I console myself with the thought that it’s all for charity. Anyone can do this and I encourage you to give it a go. I made this with a digital camera and Windows Movie Maker and it’s a fantastic way to drive traffic to your sponsorship page.

However, if you are going to do a video then wait until after Friday (as that’s when the competition closes)!

If you’re interested, the backing track is from a song called ‘Mr Munchies’ that myself and a couple of  old school friends, Paul Child and Thom Hawkins, wrote when we were 16. It comes with lyrics too and if you want a copy then let me know. Be warned: The lyrics are very childish, rude and resemble any song by Afro-Man.

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Marathon Training Routes:

I went home this weekend. On Friday night after work I broke the land speed record in my girlfriend’s car while she slept the entire way to my home town of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Big birthday celebrations on Saturday night so I needed to get the long weekend training run out of the way on Saturday morning.

I set off for my 2 hour and 25 minute run at 9am and decided to leg it to the neighbouring village of Tetford and back. I knew it was roughly 6 and a half miles to get there so I’d do a loop around the village to up the mileage a bit. Here’s how it looks from above:

Horncastle to Tetford and back
I regularly use Google Maps to map my training routes after my runs and see my how far I went. I bought a fairly decent stop-watch at the beginning of my training but it’s no Garmin Forerunner. Along with a piece of software, these GPS watches can plot your route, work out split times, average speeds and give you a virtual runner to run against! Who needs friends? A few of my fellow marathon bloggers have been having fun with these watches.

As you can see from the aerial picture, Lincolnshire is a pretty agricultural county. If you’ve never been in a tractor, built a scarecrow or used the phrase “Now then” then you’re not ‘Shire’ material. The countryside and views along this run are incredible. I’ve gotten used to the constant hum of London so I wasn’t prepared for how quiet it would be. It’s quite eerie. I popped in the headphones after 10 minutes of running and plodded along for what I thought was going to be quite a chilled, peaceful run.

I would never have thought in a million years that I would struggle to find a decent running route in an area as arable as this. The problem with any run over 3 miles from Horncastle is the absence of a path. The roads were narrow, windy and lined with 6ft tall hedges that obstruct the view of anything lurking behind a corner. Like, for example, a 6ft, lanky jogger. The 4 or 5-mile stretch of road to the village was also pretty hilly. So my chilled, relaxing, picturesque jog across the countryside turned into a fartlek, hilly endurance race. Through the bendy sections of road I was sure I was going to end up as road-kill so I would charge through to the straight as quick as I could, and by the end of the run legs turned to jelly.

Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park

It can take a little while to find a decent training route. There are a few good like sites that you can use to compare your training runs with others, such as the FLM Training Route Planner, Gmaps Pedometer or the Nike Route Finder. The irony is that by the time you’ve found yourself a decent route you probably need to change it as you extend your distance or to prevent yourself becoming bored. Try to explore as much as you can and keep your route varied. Also, from time to time change the surface you’re running on and make sure you include a hill or two in there somewhere.

A couple of people have asked about my routes so if you’re interested (and live in southeast London) then I’ve added mine to the Gmaps Pedometer. It’s pretty random and darts from one place to the next but you get to see Greenwich Park, the 02 Dome and Canary Wharf (parts of which are on the marathon route itself!). Click here to view it (thanks to Phil for recommending Gmaps Pedometer – a very useful running tool). At the weekend Canary Wharf is like a ghost-town so there’s no need to worry about traffic or tourist-dodging.

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The Eastbourne Half Marathon – part 2:

…and off we went.

Sally’s advice went right out the window. I was looking at my watch every 2 seconds to check my mile marker times, the first being 9 minutes 30 and the second was the same. I was already behind and although this was playing with me a little, I kept to a very strict, even and steady pace. In the first 2 miles everyone went past me. I was passed by two girls dressed like Arnie in the film Predator, a 70-year-old man and the lady in the dalmatian outfit. There were only around 1000 people in the run and by the time I’d gotten to the start line I was fairly near the back anyway (it had taken me a minute or two to get through the start/finish line and start my stopwatch). At mile two I took a look behind me and there were only a hundred or so people behind me.

Just as I was thinking, ‘I’m going to come last‘ I hit mile 2 and the incline started. The Eastbourne run has two or three great sections where you run along the beach front and you can see for miles. I could see the approaching incline in the distance ahead of me, after which the runners were turning right, around a corner. Keeping the pace as even as possible I carried on in to a series of back streets and parked cars. The hill became a little steeper, evened out for about a minute and then started to climb.

Bricking it before the race

What I saw in front of me could only be described as a mass organised hike. The gradient had steepened so much that the runners who had overtaken me in the early stages were now all walking. In the stretch of road in front of me I could see roughly 100 runners and literally 8 of them were running. However, I was runner number 9. I was feeling great and passing so many people that I opened it up a little just to show off!

Bye bye Arnold Schwarzenegger! Peace out Pongo. See you later granddad!

After a mile of this the road U-turned sharply and uphill immediately became downhill. At this point I simply switched off the engine, extended my stride slightly and let the hill do the work. My pace was ridiculous but I was using half the energy and mile 3 – 4 went by in about 7 minutes. After a quick drink, which I had to queue up for, I made it to the bottom of the hill and started the 4-mile straight along Eastbourne’s beautiful coast-line. At mile 6 I was starting to feel a little tired and it was at this point that I took a look up and saw my girlfriend waving with her camera poised so I swiftly changed lanes to greet her. She’d been sat there for a while so I gave her a little pose and a wave to the camera, before realising that the lens cap was on and she’d missed my hilarious pose. I discretely pointed it out as I ran past only to hear an “Oh bugger!” behind me.

Trying hard not to laugh too much (my co-runners were all in hysterics) I pushed on. The support from the spectators at Eastbourne’s coast line was fantastic. Without my headphones on (obviously), I clapped back to all those who clapped me and although it wasn’t quite the half-a-million road-side onlookers that the London Marathon can expect, it was much appreciated. There was a troop of boy scouts handing out drinks, 2 bagpipe players and a hareem of rowdy women. What more could you ask for?

The latter stages of the race were situated around the suburbs of Eastbourne (where the spectators were now waving from their balconies) and Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour. At mile 8 I started pushing a bit harder to try to improve my split times. By this time the race had spread out a lot, to the point where the front-runners were returning to the finish line in the other direction (very demoralising). However, the traffic was bad as the roads had turned to pavements and the harbour’s tight, twisting paths and pedestrian bridges acted like bottle necks. A car turned into a side road and cut the path of myself and a fellow runner, who immediately unleashed on the marshal (whose job it was to prevent this) in the broadest Scottish accent I’ve ever heard.

“Youeer suppawsed to keep the f***ing traffic oot of ewer bliddy way you f***ing cretin!”

A little harsh maybe. The marshals are all there voluntarily and had, so far, done a fantastic job co-ordinating the direction of the race. The Scottish man then tried to engage me in conversation, which was just the motivation I needed to run a little faster. I’d like to thank him for that.

At the 10-mile marker my watch read 1 hour and 35 minutes. I’ve run 3 miles in 25 minutes before, but not at the end of a 10 mile run so I gave it my best and seeing Sally (lens cap now off) really spurred me on. She took a little video:

This’ll be important in the London Marathon so we’ll have to organise some strategic positions for her on the 26th April.

The last half-mile went on for absolutely ages. You could see the finish line but the course looped around the field where everyone had gathered at the start and my 2 hour time eeked away from me. With just enough energy for a last dash sprint I crossed the line, received my medal, grabbed a banana and went thirsty (the organisers had run out of water).

Just finished

Final time: 2hours 2 minutes 35 seconds

I’m off London marathon pace, which is disappointing but I don’t think that’s too bad for my first one. With 2 months training left before the big day I’m sure I can improve. Thanks to all of the Twitterati who posted congratulatory messages after the run.

**If you’re thinking of competing in next year’s Eastbourne Half Marathon then see Runner’s World for a few reviews**

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The Eastbourne Half Marathon – part 1:

I looked through my training plan a month ago and saw this:

Sun 1st March – Half marathon race. Good effort + warm-up and cool-down

Unless I wanted to be racing against my girlfriend I’d have to book into an event sharpish. It wasn’t absolutely imperative that it had to be a race but the training guide I’ve been following has been really useful and until now I’d really had no reason to push too hard. I’ve been clocking up the hours and miles alright but I’d not really gone that extra mile (literally in this case as the most I’ve run so far is 12 miles).

I went straight on to Runner’s World, typed in the date, distance and my postcode and the first official event that came up was the Eastbourne Half Marathon. Done. Two weeks later my running number arrived in the post. It had a wire loop on the back with a timing chip attached to it. Fancy. It also came with a 16-point sheet with the details of the day and a map of the course. The course details were as follows:

“The route is mainly flat with a hill between 2 – 3 miles…
…as you pass through the harbour, there are several tight turns and three pedestrian swing bridges…
…there is a small gravel slope which may be slippery.”

Sounds simple enough.

Yesterday, we arrived at a sunny Eastbourne, dropped off our bags and headed straight for the legendary Beachy Head. My girlfriend had foolishly told me prior to our trip that Beachy Head is a notorious suicide spot and at every opportunity I got I would walk up to the cliff edge, test the cusp with a few good stamps of my feet and peer over. This is what I saw.

Taken tentatively from the edge

Gulp! After dicing with death a few more times (and one hair-raising gust of wind) I’d seen enough and we made our way back down the hill in my girlfriend’s car. However, as we came back down we noticed yellow arrow markers stapled to trees and road signs and quickly realised that this was the hill between 2 – 3 miles! To say the gradient was steep was an understatement. In our car it looked like we were in a roller-coaster (I felt like raising my hands above my head)! Now, I do occasionally exaggerate to make a story more interesting but you’ll see later on just how steep this hill was.

Dinner that night consisted of pasta at Zizzi’s, 2 diet-cokes and an early night so I could lie there, not sleeping, thinking about the race the next day. I’d already decided that I was going to try and aim for marathon pace. If I’m aiming to finish the London marathon in under 4 hours then I’d need to do the Eastbourne half in under 2. This meant an average of just over 9 minutes per mile. With this hill throwing me a curve-ball I was a little concerned but Sally (my girlfriend) had some good advice and I calmed down. “Just pace yourself and don’t even look at your watch in the first few miles. Focus on getting up that hill comfortably and you can push in the later stages.”

Nom nom nom... 7am and an early rise at our beach-view hotel (courtesy of lastminute.com and a shrewd girlfriend), a quick shower and a healthy, carb-fuelled breakfast (fruit salad, bran flakes and 2 slices of brown toast). The waitress, looking at my order, said, “Are you running today? I don’t know why all these people do it, especially on a Sunday!”. Thanks for the confidence boost love, now go and get my breakfast.

Back up to the room for some lashings of Bodyglide. I was wearing my MS Society vest to try it out in preparation for marathon day. A buddy of mine had told me to use the Bodyglide around the armpits where the vest would rub as he hadn’t done it on his marathon run and the chafing was unbelievable. I duly obeyed.

We set off for the start line, about a mile away (a nice warm up walk) and could already see my competitors, some of whom were warming up by running in the opposite direction. This got my nerves going and my legs started feeling like jelly. There were around a thousand runners when we got there, from all ages, shapes and sizes. The previous day my Mam text me and asked me how many people were running. “1000”, I said. “So you might win then?!”, she said. What had happened to the ‘it’s the taking part that counts‘? I found it a couple of minutes later as a man dressed in a Spiderman outfit and a lady dressed as a dalmatian joined me at the start line. After a quick warm up from three cheer leaders on a stage (which I didn’t take part in as I’m self-conscious as hell) it was 10am and we were off…

It was cold and really sunny...what?!

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