Monday, 30 January 2012

Steaming ahead

Fortunately, the UPS man arrived at ten this morning, bringing my brand new legs. After years of wearing the same legs all year round, and putting up with all the usual tiredness, aches and niggles, I finally decided to bite the bullet and start using disposables.
"We can rebuild him, we have until Juneathon."

What a revelation!

Normally, I'd wait until the beginning of the calendar month before switching sets, but since the January issue are now pretty overused (despite going for the upgrade this month), I figured I may as well unwrap the new pair and set them to work. Since I've also had a couple of colds over the last few weeks, I really pushed the boat out and spent almost an hour in the garage giving my lungs and sinuses a full degrease, polish and lube. Then just a new groin bearing and I felt good as new.

So despite yesterday's long hilly excursion, which was way too far, and too fast for comfort, this morning I felt fresh as a daisy. On my run tonight it was all I could do not to keep going, and going, and going into the frosty night.

Another new route tonight - which was a bit of a south western extension to a loop I did last year, in torrential rain and floodwater. Back then, the nervous highlight was crossing a flooded plain, knee deep in running water, gambling on finding a submerged bridge crossing the swollen river. This year, although much drier, I played it safe and ran further out, to follow a more reliable path along the Wey, and the sloping sanctuary of the railway embankment.

River and railway was a running theme (ho ho) of much of tonight's outing, and certainly the new sections. Once off my hill, I followed St Swithun's Way to Bentley village, and then crossed the A31 over a cattle bridge, before turning to join the river meadows. In and out of trees and paddocks, over footbridges and stiles, it included a quarter mile stretch where I was accompanied by curious (therefore spooky) horses. This predominantly direct return to Farnham alternated between the grassy wiggles of a riverside path, and the muddy straights of the railway.

The steam rose from the river as it wound its way along, and as the frost settled around me I had to remember to breathe downwards, as bursts of exhaled air would catch the light of my headtorch and temporarily dazzle. In these clouds of steam, and running on shiny new bio-mechanical engineering I felt like the Flying Englishman.

Tonight's run: 13.6miles, 1:57hrs, 8:37/mile avg pace, 318ft ascent, 1900cals, 20ish spooky horses
Janathon total: 295.61 miles - 4.39miles to go for the mighty 300!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

LSR - Lumpy Sunday Run

LSR in the runner's vocabulary normally stands for Long Slow Run. It's a common staple of the marathon training schedule, and since this forms part of a winter regime for most, is often reserved for Sundays.

Today, for myself and fellow Janathonist Beanoutrunning, LSR became the Lumpy Sunday Run.

A couple of weeks ago, Beany and I agreed to conclude (almost) our Janathoning with a run together in the last Sunday, followed by some social grub at ours with the Better Halves (and Little Widgers).

Beany suggested a timeline that could include being joined by non-Janathoner Tom (the Racing Snake), and I duly plotted a two hour(ish) route from my front step, delivering a favourite local trail loop, only with a new start, and a finish neither of them had seen before.

By all accounts, it went down pretty well. We headed uphill from mine onto the highest point at Caesar's Camp, then down Old Park Lane into Farnham town. Jinking through the churchyard and across the water meadows, two pedestrian bridges got us onto a sneaky footpath that I haven't run for maybe five years, which slices between the gardens and garages of south Farnham, into the heart of Bourne Woods.

And now the route became familiar to Tom and James, having run it as a group many times in reverse. Through forest and farmyard, over the River Wey (using footbridge rather than ford), and along byways and footpaths to Tilford Village. After a scamper along the Mercedes-lined roads around the village grean, we darted back into bridleways and headed for home on Moor Park Lane, past WWII pillboxes, and sandstone caves.

Within the last half mile we sent Tom ahead to grab the first shower, while James and I wheezed behind, laughing about our common Janathon aches and niggles, and concluding that the groin pain resulting from sidestepping round gates and fences was undoubtedly the worst feature of the month.

Eventually, cleaned up and calmed down, a lunch of naughty fish pie (which is pie full of good fish and eggs, covered in marvelous melted cheese), a good natter, and chance for the mums, dads and babies to shoot the breeze, Sunday style.

Today's run: 14.8miles, 2:06hrs, 8:33/mile pace, 925ft ascent (oh yeah!), 2094cals, one jay, some coughing.
Janathon totals: 29 days, 282.0 miles. Looking good for 300 in Janathon.
My Janathon stats can be viewed at RunningFreeOnline here, and you can leave comments below. Thank you.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Little Switzerland

Apparently the Surrey Hills used to be known as Little Switzerland. It's a bit hilly, I grant you, but I was there all day, and I didn't eat any chocolate, or have to pay a bail bond to drive my car across the border.

Trig point on Pitch Hill, Surrey
Today was a day of bike coaching. I start the day with six clean, energetic people who want to improve their mountain biking, and end the day with six muddy, knackered people who want to go home and drink beer in the bath.

I had a really good mixed-ability group today, and we had great fun. It began with half a day of "core skills" coaching, made up of a little bit of theory, lots of practical drills, and thirty minutes of single-track riding to put it all in to practice. Half the group were making a full day of it, so after lunch we went out again for a guided ride, where I ease off the coaching, and focus on leading the group round some of the best trails this area has to offer, all at an appropriate level for their newfound techniques.

I love doing this. I do most of my MTB coaching for a great little company called Astounding Adventures, who simply call me when they want my help. But since my Monday to Friday job is so frequently Monday to Sunday (take note, all those that want my job after yesterday's blog), I don't get to do nearly as much of this as I would like.

However, this did mean that by half five, I'd already done a few miles up and down the ridges and valleys of Holmbury Hill, and the legs were a little weary. Still, Janathon isn't Pedal, Log and Blog, so off with the bike gear, on with the running gear and headtorch, and straight up the hill once more.

Tonight's run gave me chance to check a few new (and a few old) trails. The "rideability" of singletrack waxes and wanes, depending on factors like weather, timber harvesting activity, and mainly the recent use by bikers; cycles follow the trails, and the trails follow cycles, if you will.

Today's run: 6miles, 54:14mins, 518ft ascent, 823calories
Trails run: Reservoir Dogs, I Should Coco, Son of Coco, Telegraph, Three Corners
Janathon total: 28days, 267.2miles.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Work work work

Very rarely, but now and again, I have to run for work. Well... run, or mountain bike, or at least walk fast.

I plan sports events. These have ranged in the past from two day urban multi-sport treasure hunt style events, to straightforward (but carefully put together) trail runs.

I have to choose the locations, and work out the routes for these events. It's all about finding what's best for each particular type of event, and our expected participants.

Today I was in Nottinghamshire, on site at two of our event locations, meeting with the forest managers and checking the condition of last year's routes before submitting 2012 route proposals.

This meant a midday run at Sherwood Pines, round a 13k(ish) route we use for one of our "Notorious Night Runs". Legends of Sherwood takes participants through thick woods on twisty trails, scattered with forest (and manmade) obstacles, including "the Swamp", "the Borrow Pit" and "Spooky Wood". Slow going today, as many of the guerilla trails this event uses are less obvious this year, but a bit of sunshine made a nice change.

Then to Clumber Park, to check out the route of our 10k Trailblazer run, which is an event designed for first-time trail runners (or quicker types looking for fast, flowing courses). I ran the race route (unfortunately mostly in freezing rain), and since I've never done it before, added a lap of Clumber Lake for good measure.

Certainly not a bad day in the office.

I took videos, but my work phone won't talk to my PC. I'll work it out, but the last four days of Janathon and some sleep first I think. 

Legends: 9.1miles, 1:31hrs, 10:02/mile avg pace, 382ft ascent, 1254 cals. One swamp.
Trailblazer: 10.1miles, 1:25hrs, 8:27/mile avg pace, 276ft ascent, 1421 cals. One lake.

Janathon Total. 27 days, 261 miles. Roll on February!

You can view all my run stats on RunningFreeOnline here, and please leave your abuse below. Cheers!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Random Excuse Generator

I did a few miles tonight. The was much less than the least I wanted to do, but considerably more than the most I should have done.

Whilst there's only one reason I went, there are many more I ignored in order to leave the front step. I decided that since I ran anyway, I can defer any of these reasons for not running, and supplant them as a fitting excuse for writing a rubbish blog instead.

Pick a number between one and six.

Now scroll down to see what excuse you picked for me.

1. My cold has come back. Either that or truck has unloaded a half a ton of sawdust into my chest, and half a ton of gravel into my sinuses... and reversed over me as he left.

2. I had to work late. Well, not that I had to, but you know how you get those cans, and you open the can, and inside the can it looks like spaghetti, and it's not spaghetti but something else.......

3. I have an early start and lots of driving tomorrow. I don't have much time to get my stuff together, and then I'm coaching on Saturday so have to get my bike gear sorted. Not that I've done any of this of course.

4. I wanted to spend some time with my little boy. I had chance to take him off Fighter Command's hands for thirty minutes, and give him his bath and put him in jammies. It was that or six miles. Easy choice tonight.

5. There been a mist/freeze combo that's turned the pavements into icerinks. It's lethal out there. Thinking about it is affecting my ability to blog creatively. My plodding was unaffected, but don't tell anyone.

6. Twenty six days of consecutive running? Do we need an excuse for an off-day?

Thank you for listening. I ran a smidge over three miles, in the clothes I worked in, on the dullest route I could muster. I shall consider today's efforts merely a datum against which I shall measure the heights I aim to reach in the future.

janathon total: 242 miles.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

How to – Trailrunning at night

 “Trailrunning... at night? Seriously? But won’t I get mugged, or attacked by werewolves, or break my ankles?”

 For five months of the year the evening sun has set by half past six. So if you’re a nine-to-fiver, then your afterwork  run options start and finish with pavement plodding under orange streetlights. Trail running is relegated to the weekend, if you have time. Rubbish.

 But you should venture offroad, and regularly. Physiologically, it’s good for you. Surface conditions that constantly vary by softness, angle, and type creates variety that can prevent much of the repetitive damage caused by tarmac.  Psychologically, it’s good for you. Escape the concrete jungle, and you’ll notice the seasons, the local wildlife, and see the good in “bad” weather.

 “But at night?” Being in the woods or the hills in the dark feels liberating. After any initial nervousness, the thrill of being out at night remains, and soon you’re in your own world. A concentrated field of vision heightens your senses, and you become more aware of your immediate surroundings: the feel of the trail underfoot, the temperature of the air, the sounds and smells, all amplified.  

Kent Sunset. Headtorch on!
 Let there be light
 Get yourself a capable LED headtorch. Something with at least three AAA or AA batteries, preferably mounted at the back of your head for comfort. You should be able to adjust the beam to focus on the ground about twenty feet ahead, and the headtorch shouldn’t jiggle when you’re wearing it (try running on the spot in the shop). You could hold a torch in your hand if you prefer.

 Grab a mate
 Running scared is no fun, and unless you can tune into what you’re doing, there’s a much higher chance you’ll take a tumble, or get lost. Go running with some friends, but you’ll all need your own light sources, and be sure to leave the hi-viz clothing at home, otherwise you’ll dazzle each other.

 Layer up
 The sun isn’t going warm your back, and a frost can descend quickly. Consider an extra layer as a back-up.

 Know your trails
 Start with a trail run that you know well. It’ll look very different in the dark, so you shouldn’t venture anywhere new until you feel confident you won’t get lost. Just in case something unplanned does happen, take a phone, and leave route map and a timeline with someone responsible.

 Take it easy
 Take shorter strides, and slow it down. You’ll need to pay attention to the ground ahead of you, as obstacles like tree roots, holes, or slippery rocks will all look different at night. For your first few outings, you may feel like your torch isn’t up to the job, but this normally passes.

 Run responsive
 You won’t notice things far ahead of you, so you have to respond to conditions as you find them. This might mean focusing on where to place each foot, or even walking a few steps if your vision is compromised by something bright in front of your torch beam, like a hanging branch. On the plus side, you may find it much easier to run up hills, when you didn’t see them coming from a distance, and taking each step as you find it can benefit your running.

 Enjoy it
 If you’re not having fun, change whatever’s holding you back. If you always feel nervous, run with friends, or change your location. If you find yourself tripping or stumbling, focus on looking for good places to place your feet, rather than being distracted by the bad stuff, or take a handheld torch for some extra perspective. If you keep getting lost, do the run in the daylight, and make a note of key waypoints that are easy to spot in the dark.

 And now you've given it a go, and you're enjoying the "Dark Side", what next?

 Get a grip
 If you haven't already got some, get a pair of proper trail shoes. Look for an aggressive grip to help you in the loose stuff, and a low, narrow heel to help prevent a turned ankle. And since you’re likely to get wet and muddy, some technical, cotton-free socks will keep your feet comfy mile after mile.

 Blaze a trail
When you feel confident to be out at night, you can consider trying new trails as part of your nocturnal excursions. The easiest way to break new ground is to look for extensions to the loops you already run at night, or to identify a local trail like a circular walk, or long distance path that’s well signposted. If you’re a map and compass person, there’s an extra level of challenge navigating at night.

Headtorches at the "Mighty Deerstalker" Notorious Night Run

 Respect your environment
With all this new-found confidence, you may feel like you can take on Mother Nature, and win. Bear in mind, however, that despite our temperate climate and mostly timorous indigenous beasties, the risks and repercussions of being off the beaten track will always be greater at night, and should be taken seriously.

From my own experience, the greatest benefit of night-time trailrunning is that it creates huge opportunity. My leisure time is no more determined by the hours of daylight as the seasons, the weather, or even my location. In a country where we arguably have more to fear within our urban, than our rural areas, once you’ve challenged the notion of “straying off the path”, your horizons become infinitely broader.

Tonight's run went west across soggy fields & fairways, along unused footpaths & overused driveways.
9.0miles, 1:18hrs, 479ft of ascent
Janathon totals: 25days, 239 miles. You can check all my routes and stats by clicking here

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


 In the eight weeks since being a daddy, I’ve yet to hear any pitter pattering, although there has been plenty of "the yelling of tiny voices". But the introduction of a new human into our lives has meant many other changes, some obvious, some subtle.

 Things I realise that I can’t do anymore:

1.      Not sway. I can’t stand still without rocking side to side, or in a figure of eight motion. I call it Core Instability training. Anytime I’m stood up I look like I’m on the foredeck of a crab-boat.
2.      Walk away from a shopping trolley. Regardless of whether my child is actually in it or not. I'm no longer surprised to also find myself pushing it back and forth as I subconsciously rock potatoes to sleep.
3.      Wake up refreshed. Sleep is like the cartoons I watched as kid. They’re suddenly not there anymore, and now they’re gone I suddenly see how good they were, and I want them back.
4.       Leave a washing machine dormant. The thought of domestic appliances not working while I sleep/shop/work is enough to chill me to the core. If we had a dishwasher, I suspect I’d need a shrink. Factor Janathon into the laundry mountain, and it’s the stuff of nightmares.
5.       Regularly run more than eight miles a day. I’ve been thinking about this during my Janathon runs, whether I could run further, and blog less, but it's the day-in-day-out time away from home that adds up. If it’s personal and recreational, suddenly there’s a much finer balancing act to be done.

 However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Parenthood brings with it some unusual discoveries, including a whole host of things I realise I can now do one handed (since there’s invariably a baby occupying the other one):

1.       Type. Currently beinng dedmonbstratedd refasonabbly profhicienttly....
2.       Make a cup of tea. Though I suspect it will be many, many years before I get to finish one.
3.       Open a new pack of baby-wipes, or unpop poppers, or unfold blankets, or wipe peanut-piccalili (or something of similar appearance, consistency and aroma) off the lower half of a wriggling mammal. Nappy times are either the proving ground of the ambidextrous, or a bio-chemical catastrophe.
4.       Open and close screwtop bottles, jars etc. I still don’t know how this is done, because I’m always doing it at four in the morning in the pitch dark, but I can assure you it is somehow possible.
5.       Wash up, hoover, fold clothes, i.e. any housework-related effort that doesn’t involve chemicals or dust.

 Tonight I ran late again, but got the miles in. Another new route included a couple of decoy trails that turned into bramble or swamp, and the odd section of shoe-slurping mud slowed things down, but the mist was very pleasant, there were lots of friendly deer out, and I managed to wind the pace up for the final two miles, which always feels good. 

 The next mini-milestone of parenthood to look forward to will sadly mean less trail running. Once I'm happy that Littl'un can stabilise his head properly, he'll be joining me for the odd outing in his joggy-buggy thing. I'm sure I don't mind a bit of tarmac if it means I've got some company, and I'm excited to add one-handed running to my new parental repertoire.

Tonight's run: 9.03miles, 1:14hrs, 456ft ascent, 1265cals, two dead end trails
Janathon: 24 days, 24 blog posts, 230 miles

Pub Crawl

If leaving a party yesterday to go for a run wasn't rock and roll enough, tonight I have excelled myself, by visiting seven local hostelries.. after they'd shut.

No time today for a long run, and even less time to blog, so I thought I'd do a regular five mile road loop, and keep phone in-hand to take pictures and spare words.

I wasn't sure what to record until it occurred to me that the British man navigates by pubs. If I recorded all the pubs I ran past, then it would save having to write about my route, and would spare at least half all Janathoners having to visit RunningFreeOnline to see the route map.

The Alma
Nelson Arms
The Marlborough Head
The Seven Stars
The Albion
The Six Bells

Okay, I'm glad we're all clear.


Tonight's run: 5.2miles, 41:22 mins, 7 pubs, 5 churches, 2 vets, 0 owls
Janathon: 23 Days, 221miles.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Churchill Country

 Great running today, thanks to a family excursion, and the understanding nature of my lovely wife and her family.

 It's my niece's first birthday, and we were invited to her party, about an hour's drive away in northwest Kent. With little time for a morning run, I quite fancied the idea of running some trails in a different part of the world, so I discussed with my wife whether I might be able to sneak out of  the party for a couple of hours. She said yes.

 So I dug out an old section of laminated map showing the Greensand ridgeline stretching west to east, just a few miles north of the party location in Edenbridge. I decided this was my goal.

 Some years ago I lived in the Edenbridge area and it was here that I started trail running properly, scouring the footpaths and bridleways in my first trail shoes. I came to love some of the running around here, and have been back a few times for the annual 30 mile Gatliff Marathon race, where my local knowledge has given me some strong finishes.

Vanguard Way reflective waymarking. Perfect!
 Tonight I wanted a trip down memory lane, and plotted a loop of typical north Kent running: field-edge footpaths, wooded bridleways, and the odd fast section on byways and farm tracks. Skirting close to Winston Churchill's former house in Chartwell, I deliberately included chunks of the Vanguard Way, the Greensand Way, and the Eden Valley Walk, since each have easy-to-follow waymarking.

 I snuck off as planned, armed with the longest-range beams on my headtorch for spotting stiles on the far sides of fields, mini-map and compass, and ran off into the night. The ground was surprisingly good, the air was cool and still, and I felt like I had the whole world to myself.

 I lost the trails a couple of times in tractor-scattered farmyards and footpath-riddled hillside hamlets, but always managed to get back on the right track. I remembered from years ago that many of these footpaths are underused and practically non-existent, but that's simply part of the feel of the place.

 Sneaking back in, a quick shower, change and upload of my Garmin stats, then back into the throng, where my absence had barely registered. I felt like it had been my birthday, twelve and a half amazing LFI (Low Family Impact) Janathon miles on new, exciting trails, and the extended family still thanked me for coming along.

 Tonight's run: 12.6miles, 1:54hrs, 568ft of ascent, 1712cals, one brown (ie non-Barn) owl
 Janathon totals: 22 days, 215.6miles, 22 blogs, many inspiring comments, thank you.
 My run routes are all on RunningFreeOnline here, please feel free to leave comments below.

Free Peace Sweet

Today was a day of three parts.

Part 1 started overnight and proliferated through most of the day. It came as the random, disruptive, but  wonderful interference that is an eight week old child. In the slightly-too-late-to-still-be-called-early hours I was still Twittering with JogBlog, she with assignments to research, me with a fractious young-un to rock back to sleep.

"Little Adventures"
This is not unusual. Little-Adventures hasn't worked out joined-up sleeping yet. Spells of between twenty minutes and three hours are haphazardly sprinkled through day and night. People without children often ask "Does he have a routine yet?", to which we answer "Oh yes.... every half an hour he changes his mind."

But it's good stuff, and with challenges come rewards. A difficult night meant a wonderful day, with a long lie in for mummy (her first), and regular rounds of sleep, change, feed, sleep, change and play. As I type, he sleeps.

Part 2 was a to-do list, well ticked. Nana mucked in, gladly occupying Littl'un while his mum and I sorted out the Christmas decorations before they went into the loft, had a general clear out and spruce up, and finally built the brand-new-all-singing-all-dancing-cot-bed to replace a Moses basket, to which all babies appear to have an allergic reaction.

Part 3 was the run: very late in execution, and very light on planning. In the twenty seconds I gave myself to think of a fresh trail loop, I failed. So on with the road shoes and out the door, figuring if nothing else came to mind I could do a brainless out-and-back.

Heading up over Rowhill the legs felt a bit jangly (twenty days of running will do that), but as the Garmin beeped one mile, I was surprised to see 7:34 on the timer. A quick sense check revealed everything was settling down, and with a gentle descent ahead, I decided to try and fix on a sub 7:30 pace for the first time in months.

Straight down the deserted A325, past Aldershot's Garrison Church and Queen's Parade playing fields, then a right turn round a school where I used to play rugby, then right again into North Camp and past the Garrison sports facilities. Five miles in, and struggling to maintain pace up "Hospital Hill" I checked the watch, and with relief I saw I was averaging 7:27. I worked out that if I pressed on, I might have a spare twenty seconds to get me back over Rowhill in time.

"You boy, fetch me a bigger horse!"
A lightening stop at 10k for a photo of the Duke of Wellington on his diminutive pony, and then a straight fight uphill. Bursting over the top I fought to keep the legs turning over, and pushed again on the descent. Overshooting my turning to round up the distance I wrung every drop out of my lungs and legs, gasping in relief as the Garmin finally beeped.

The result was a very satisfying day. As I sit with tingling legs I feel invigorated that I managed to average 7:20 per mile on tonight's run, faster than I've sustained for a long time. I feel at ease in my home, knowing things needing doing are done. Above all, I feel very lucky to have our little endurance-monkey as our son.

Tonight's run: 8miles, 58:39mins, avg pace 7:20/mile. Last mile in 6:44.
Janathon total: 203miles, 1838mins, avg pace 8:52/mile, 4.2kgs lost.
As always, you can check out my stats and maps here, and leave your abuse below. All gladly received.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Roads less traveled

 In December 2010 I was told about the first Janathon, and once I was sure I'd made the leap from luddite to blogger I duly signed up. At the time I thought I might average five miles per day, and spent a few hours over Twixtmas working out some nearby routes that could deliver the daily jaunt.

 What happened next suddenly made everything a bit redundant. Within ten days I'd already covered more than a hundred and sixty miles, and keen to maintain momentum, those five mile loops never got a look-in. Instead, intent to run every day in fresh locations, I pushed myself outward from my home turf and rarely looked back.

 Tonight I remembered a couple of trails that I'd picked out thirteen months ago, and worked out a way to have a look at them in an hour-long run. I donned my trusty "run anywhere" Sauconys and Ay-up headtorch, and headed over the hill on regular tracks. Dropped onto the overlooked network of unmade roads that make up "Old Park Lane"s, I finally reached Farnham town via some new and surprising footpaths and fields.

 Between the timbered shops of Lion & Lamb Walk, through the churchyard into Gostrey Park, crossing the River Wey on a bowed timber bridge. Over the busy A31 and onto another unmade road "Snails Lynch" to run alone, following the river along the very start of the North Downs Way, just a stones throw from the heaving commuter traffic.

 After a quick jink around the Shepherd and Flock roundabout, I crossed my regular southern escape route and wove onto "Green Lane" for the first time, and the final muddy section before the tarmac haul homeward.

Photo courtesy of
 Sometimes I bemoan my location. I'm neither in a great range of hills nor by lakes or the sea. In one sense I can feel like a displaced surfer, climber, kayaker, hiker or biker; and even when I think of great trail running, it's images of ridgelines and mountainsides that stir my soul. But it's easy to overlook the roads less traveled within spitting distance of our own front steps. Despite all the miles I ran in January last year, and the eighteen months that I've lived in Farnham, in this last three weeks I've still found new routes to run, and been treated on every new excursion.

 Tonight's highlight? Breezing downhill along a forgotten treelined avenue, with just a barn owl for company.

 Today: 7.8miles, 1:03hrs, 407ft ascent, 1093 cals, 20% new trails, 1 barn owl
 Janathon Total: 20 days run, 195ish miles.
 Please feel free to add a comment if your browser allows.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Who goes there?

Tonight's run had a character all of its own, and came as a clear reminder of why I'm lucky enough to live so close to a great trail running area.

I left the house and headed up our hill, jinked into an unadopted side road, ducked behind the garages, through a fenceline, and once again I was on military land, and after three quarters of a mile of running emerged from the trees atop Hungry Hill, where I can see most of  Caesar's Camp before me. 

By night time, there's little indication of what lies ahead. The few street lights of the Sandy Hill estate over to my left, and the distant glow of Farnborough airfield to my right give me my bearings, and occasionally a car will drive along Bourley Road, and pick out the northern perimeter; but other than that, the place is usually dark, and all mine.

Not tonight. As I cleared the treeline I immediately saw the lights from three slowmoving vehicles on three different tracks within the range. It looked like manoeuvres. Rats. Tonight's plan might have to go on hold.

I turned left onto the southern perimeter path and within half a mile was stopped by a fellow with a big rucksack and a gun, backlit by a stationary four tonne truck. In a thick scouse accent the options were made clear: "That way or turn round please chief". 

Extreme Trig Hugging
I went "that way". Down a steep descent into Long Valley, and my plans were scuppered already. I worked out how to box round, cut a corner or two and get back on line, but another couple of miles and I came across a barricade-and-sentry set up across the main firetrack. "Halt halt" came the command. Nice to see everyone in charge of a weapon was paying attention. I halted. Chatting with the young lass at the comfy end of the gun, it seemed that pretty much all of Caesar's Camp was in active operation tonight, and my best bet was to just run randomly, and politely swerve any attention as I found it.

So that was it. I jinked around a bit, followed some deer trails, and mountain bike singletrack through the woods, turning round a couple of times when I spotted the lines of olive twine and low-slung bashas, keen not to disturb the beauty sleep of Her Majesty's finest in their overnight camps.

Two-Handed Planking

Other than that, some reasonable, if haphazard running, and a bit of mucking about at my friendly neighbourhood trig point to give you something to look at.

Tonight's run: 7miles, 1:02hrs, 980cals, two semi-automatic rifles, two "Halt, halt"s and one trig point.

Janathon: 19days, 187miles.

As always, my stats are available to view here, please leave your comments below. Now I've worked out how to reply to them individually, all are guaranteed a response, most of which will be grateful!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Rat Race

Deja vu time today, since this week's work schedule meant a day trip to the office, and an almost exact copy of Janathon Day 4 from a fortnight ago. Those who've embraced Janathon in all its masochistic glory will appreciate that any opportunity to bag a few cheap miles is worth snatching; particularly on those days when work, family or lethargy mean there isn't much day left at either end.

But I've come to the painful conclusion that this is a tough way to pick up another fourteen miles, for a number of reasons:

Yorkshire. Home of puddings, tea and a pretend-London-eye
Firstly, there's a rucksack involved. Once again today, 4kg for the first seven miles, 7kg for the last seven. Carrying two laptops does horrible things to your running. Carrying one laptop is bad enough. Hats off to anyone that does a daily run-commute with the company dumbbell.

Secondly, there are four train journeys in the mix, and the process is the same for each one... and not dissimilar on reaching the office (albeit there's are some ablutions involved there):

1. Run to station paranoid about missing train. Arrive with much relief and panting.
2. Collect tickets, check departures, wait for train, produce rivers of sweat. 
3. Board train, squeeze into seat between offended people.
4. Profuse head/neck sweating as body temperature soars. Try not to look like a drug addict.
5. Eventually start to cool down (now wringing wet). Put on windproof coat and trousers.
6. Start getting really chilly. Hood up, occasional shiver. Try not to look like a drug addict.
7. Start warming up again. Try not to look like a steam iron. 
8. Regain normal body temperature. Remove coat and trousers. Try not to smell like a laundry bin.
9. Alight from train at jogging pace. Try to look like a runner.
10. Repeat until funny.

And finally, because going for six runs in a day is actually really hard. The legs never get going for long enough to settle in, and never stop for long enough to recover. They feel like two huge obstinate sausages, 70% twinges, niggles and aches, with the remainder mostly rusk and weakness (whatever rusk is). By the time the final train arrives, depositing me a measly two and a bit miles from my front door, I've inevitably had a serious sense of humour failure, and the only reason I don't have little cry is because there isn't a drop of moisture left in the dessicated husk that used to be my body. 

On every other Wednesday in January I remember why I bought a folding bike. 

Today's stats: 14.7miles, 2:10hrs. One serious sense of humour failure, and about three knees.
Janathon total: 180.2miles. You can view my maps and stuff here

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Wrong Trousers

"You should keep a runner's diary"... say the running magazines.

We've all bought them, read them, bought the new one, read the new one, and perhaps have tried to think what they'd changed between the two...?

Was it the skinny chick on the front cover? Did she look happier last month? Is that even possible? More sweaty perhaps? Maybe even just glowing? Maybe she had different coloured hair-that-wasn't-sticking-to-her-neck?

Come to think of it, it must be pretty difficult coming up with new ways to motivate the runner, month in, year out, when Nike summed up almost all the best advice with "Just Do It".

But... there remain good and valid reasons for keeping some kind of a record. The first, is that you'll never believe how fit you once became (or have yet to become) when you're looking at it from a distance.

Even more importantly though, is you can define the purpose of all that running kit accumulating in random drawers and boxes under beds, and perhaps even get rid of some. With every run you chose your weapons of choice based on temperature, precipitation, wind,  distance, effort, terrain; and you either make the right choices, or you find you could have made better ones.

Gore LS top (too hot), Adidas Clima tights (too hot),
Hilly gloves (too hot). Thank god I didn't take a Buff
A few years ago I started making notes of what I wore, in which conditions, and what felt good or bad. I was staggered by the results, since it made over half my running gear redundant. Most stuff I wore because I had it, and I discovered that despite owning four (or five?) windproof running jackets they invariably make me too hot, unless it's slutting down with rain, getting close to freezing, and/or I'm out for more than an hour.

This evening I ignored my own advice and rushed out the house in a pair of running tights. Yet unlike the last three evenings there was no frost, no wind, and no dawn of a nuclear winter.


Within just a couple of miles I was sleeves up, gloves off, zip down to navel, and still I can't remember ever being so uncomfortably warm in an English winter. 

I guess I'm not going to be on the cover of any running magazines this month...

Tonight's run: 6miles, 47:37mins, 6 degrees C, dry, no wind. 
Janathon so far: 17 days, 165miles, 8 whole pounds in weight (mostly perspiration)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Halfway Haiku

Janathon fever
February nears each day
Rest waits patiently

Each run considered
Seconds, minutes, hours before
Time passes in miles

Dew covered clothing
Runners move through clouded breaths
Dawn on silver frost

Dodging grey traffic
Suit swapped for soft shoe shuffle
Lunchtime escapades

Winter nights descend
Cold streetlights spread monochrome
Emptying the streets

The runner endures
Mustering resolve he leaves
The warm family

A body of aches
Moves on complaining muscles
Mind elsewhere above

Alone and peaceful
Puffing chest and pounding heart
A spirit rising

Download and upload
The world just a click away
Sharing each triumph

Every run a win
Another day overcome
A winter beaten

Tonight's run: 8miles, 1:08hrs, avg pace 8:34/mile, fastest mile 7:15
Janathon total: 159.4miles
You can view my run stats on RunningFreeOnline here.

If you'd like to leave a haiku in response to today's post, three lines, of five, then seven, then five syllables. I'd be very grateful.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Thirty and sunny

It's Sunday! For many recreational runners this means the Long Slow Run.

For many Janathoners this means "oh please no - I'm so tired - I just want a lay in and a bacon sandwich"

I don't normally include maps. But I'm gloating a bit...
This morning I was definitely the latter, but that's the benefit of entering reasonably priced events on a whim, weeks in advance.

So today I ran thirty miles. It was zero degrees at the start, and about five degrees at the end. As beautiful as the early afternoon sun was, by mile twenty five my twinging muscles would have preferred the hard frost of the morning to the sun-melted chalk souffle masquerading as the North Downs Way.

That's it for me today. I'm a bit tired now, and I want to spend some time with my family while my legs still bend.

It's possible that this may be the worst post I write in January. If you agree, please write your comments on the back of a thirty mile trail race completion certificate, and send it in.

Today: 30.1miles (booyah!), 5:10hrs, 3896cals and probably arthritis in my fifties. All for you...
Janathon: 141.5miles. 59% of family brownie points.
If the boss is "working from home" again on Monday morning, you can view today's run stats here.

Ways and means

Tonight's run was all about the mileage. I wanted an easy plod before a Long Sunday Run, and I was racking my brains thinking about where I could go for an hour.

I dug out the map, spotted some residential roads I'd not run before, Mapometer'ed a route on the laptop, put on my shoes and headed into the cold night air.

During my plod I considered how many variables there may be to get a similar mileage from my front step, and I thought back to fellow Janathoner Beanoutrunning's recent post "How many ways can you skin a cat?".  Whilst I remembered a supposed origin of the phrase, I got to wondering how many ways there might actually be to skin a cat.

So on my return I Googled it.

"Ways to skin a cat" turned up 45,600,000 responses. This was quite a few more than I expected, but a cursory glance through the top responses failed to reveal the answer to my question. So I decided to broaden my understanding, and check whether this was a reasonable number.

I deleted "skin a cat", and typed "slice an onion". After all, I could think of at least five ways to do that.

Six million responses.

Probably a little on the high side, but maybe some of those websites had copied each other. Still, my fuzzy mathematical mind quickly deduced that according to Google, there are (hang on, x over y, carry the two, hold on a minute) seven and a half times more ways to skin a cat, than slice an onion. Okay, that's probably worthy of a saying.

Hold on though, that still doesn't give me anything definite. How about I test my process by Googling something that has only one way? I deleted "slice an onion" and inserted "Amarillo". Tony Christie never sung "Is this one of the ways to Amarillo".

How wrong I was. Over sixteen million ways to Amarillo. Texas clearly has some enviable transport links.

It doesn't stop there.

Contrary to Paul Simon's gross underestimate of fifty, there are over eighteen million ways to leave your lover, which, according to Google, give the average cad as many options as surviving a hurricane.

What about the classics? Ways to a woman's heart revealed two hundred million permutations, whereas a man's heart seems twice as accessible. Does that mean that men fall in love too easily - or does it mean that the spaces in the male ribcage are a little wider, and the pulmonary organ sits a little nearer to the skin?

Eventually, I deleted everything, leaving only "Ways to", and saw what Google threw me. I was terrified. At the top of the shortlist, Google prompted "Ways to destroy the earth", suggesting that this was the question on everybody's lips. Seventy four million links. I feared for the future.

In a final bid to redeem the internet, I replaced "destroy" with "save".

The good news? There are over three times as many ways to save the earth than destroy it; and over six times more ways to the human heart as there are to skin a cat.

It turns out we're all lovers, not cat-skinners.

Tonight's run: 8.1miles, 1:04hrs, zero planets saved or destroyed.
Janathon total: 121.3miles. All my stats and maps are on RunningFreeOnline here
Don't be a stranger (could you be any stranger?) - leave a comment.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Orange squiggly lines which we try to make sense of how height (aka elevation) is depicted on a map.

Tonight's trail run had its ups and downs, but the nub of this post was considered last night, when scanning a map for some "fast" angles onto a steep hill. I was thinking how useful I find Contour Lines on maps, but how for many people they're just really confusing. I wondered, could I explain it better than my geography teacher?

Take this example on the left. This is a section of a map showing a hilly part of Scotland, which is one of the favourite natural habitats of the Contour, represented on this map by orange squiggly lines.

Now look at the image of some circular steps below. See how they form a depression and a ridge, how each step is of a uniform height, and that it's the shapes of the steps that determine the lie of the land.

Imagine how they would look if drawn from directly above....

Hopefully, you can see the similarity. Each Contour Line is like a step, in that it's the same height along its whole length. The closer together the lines, the steeper the slope. The more lines, the higher the peak.

Obviously, unless you live in the Andean foothills, you probably won't find actual steps cut into the hillside. So what each Contour Line actually represents is the like the very tip of a step, with mud and rocks smoothing the gaps in between.

"But we did all this in school, it still doesn't mean we they make any sense to us! How to we tell which is the top, and which is the bottom?"

Look at the image of the steps again. If you were looking from directly above, then unless there was a big puddle at the bottom, there'd be no clue as to which circle of stairs was going up, and which was going down. Whereas in the map, we've got lots of clues. The first, are the orange numbers drawn on every tenth contour line, which represent height in metres above sea level.

But these numbers aren't everywhere, and they're hard to read. So how do we get an idea where the high and low points are? Look at those blue veins on the map. These are your puddles. Water will run downhill, so if you look for the water, you'll find the valleys and low spots, and normally with highspots and ridges in between.

"I still cant find the ridges - where am I looking?" See the dotted black lines that look like a chain of ants? These are established paths, since people like to walk along valleys and ridges, where the ground is less steep. If you can see a nice bumbling pathway that's out of reach of water, more often than not, it's a high-way (geddit?) and that'll pinpoint the ridgeline.

Prominent peaks often have a name, and normally a spot height (a number shown in black). That'll give you a quick clue as to whether a ridge rise or falls along its length. In the example above, there's a ridge running from northeast to south west (top right to bottom left). Sgurr Mor at 1003m translates as Big Peak, and a ridge drops gradually to the south west to little brother Sgurr Beag (Little Peak) at 890m. If you keep going, the ridge drops a little (where a path joins from the southern valley), before regaining height to the peak of An Eag at 873m.

Get yourself on a hillside with a good view, a see how the contour lines on a map correspond to the ground.

And don't be put off - the penny will drop, and you'll be surprised how much you'll be able to pick up from one quick look and a bunch of orange squiggly lines.

Tonight's run was a random bimble through Caesar's camp military training area, on some old and new trails.

Janathon Day 13: 8.3miles, 1:10hrs, 115 orange squiggly lines crossed both up and down, no ladders gone under, no pavement cracks stepped on.
Janathon total: 113miles. You can view all my maps and stats here.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Tickety Boo

One hundred miles in Janathon 2012 - tick!
One photograph with a trig point - tick!
One plank - tick!

Good running again tonight, the legs are starting to co-operate, now that we (that's "the legs", and me) can finally see the back of this Christmas cold. I noticed yesterday on RunningFreeOnline that the century was sneaking up, so I wanted to try and mark it with a notable geographic feature, and finally include a photograph in my post.

A right planker
So I decided to run to Crooksbury Hill, which is a green lump that watches over my right shoulder, when I'm sat at my desk, halfway up the opposite hillside. I broke the two hundred barrier on this hill last year, so it seemed fitting enough.

When I ran this lump in Janathon last year, it formed part of a loop I called "Straight Outta Compton", but I'll be badgered if I can remember how I got to it, or where I ran after it. All I can remember, is I was doing about 75% more mileage back then, and my legs felt a bit wobbly most of the time.

Tonight was a really good run. Usual routes for the first and last quarter, a bit of the North Downs Way, a smattering of new bridleways and a couple of fast miles in the mix. Bright moon, Orion doing his thing in the southern sky, Jack Frost numbing my thumbs.

The only break in my stride was when I gronked my ankle just before halfway, too busy looking for wildlife in the woodland either side of the road to notice the crevasse in the tarmac ahead of me. I went over on my ankle so far I scuffed my sock on the ground. Gronk! Oh well, run it off Vallance, that's why you've got two legs.

Tonight's run: 8.15miles, 1:06hrs, 2x young fallow deer within 20 feet, 1142calories (that's probably equivalent to a couple of rounds of fallow deer sandwiches if you include the chutney).
Janathon total mileage: 104.9
All my Janathon run stats can be found on RunningFreOnline here.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Familiarly Vague

Great running tonight. I left the house with a vague idea where my 60ish minutes would be taking me, and once into my run enjoyed some well-run trails and rough roads heading south west off Beacon Hill, towards the St Swithun's Way. Once past the huge private houses in Dippenhall, a "regular" route would take me up a steep escarpment, and right on a footpath. Tonight, a quick timecheck suggested that might be overextending myself, so I took a left instead to turn in towards the axis of a loop.

Orion, the Air Guitarist
Having done so I was treated to a beautiful sight. Ahead of me the grassy hillside rolled gently down into an illuminated Farnham, silver and gold in its streetlit glory. The rooflights of the railway sheds on the far side of the Wey Valley, and beyond in the distance, a single red light hovering over Crooksbury Hill.

It then dawned on me that I was running on new trails. Within a couple of miles of my front step, and I was on footpaths I'd never visited before. Enclosed fencelines and fieldedges zigzagged their way between copse and road crossing. Path junctions tried to baffle with choices, but with the moon bright enough to scan ahead, and the giant Orion to steer me home, it wasn't long before I was back on familiar ground.

Wonderful stuff.

Tonight's run: 8.2miles, 1:06hrs, 1145cals, two muddy feet, one cheesy grin,
Janathon so far: 96.75miles. Looks like it could be the century tomorrow.
Feel free to check out tonight's run stats (and map) here.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Running Drunk

"Ladeeesh an Jennelmen.... hic...."

Well, not quite. This post is actually about EFFECTIVE HYDRATION when running.

Though... a drunken long slow run on a weekend might produce interesting results.... almost as good as fellow Janathonist "K as in Cake"s suggestion as a response to my January 1st post "The Green Triangle", where she suggested throwing Quality Street chocolates onto a map, and running a route around them on the corresponding roads.

Instead, this post was inspired by what appears, from the map, to be a drunken episode during tonight's run. I've included the map to show you what I mean. If it were possible to keep enlarging and enlarging the scale, then this route would continue to look increasingly inebriated - almost like drunken fractals.

So having considered this on my run back home, I remembered something that I'd read in a post by Janathoner "RunDMT", where she mentioned that she'd dropped her water bottle, and was surprised (and pleased) that she'd gone seven miles without it. Now, I suspect that RunDMT is in Florida, but for us temperate bods, there's no reason you should need to carry any fluids on a run of ninety minutes or more, if the weather is mild, (unlike "...musing...", running his Janathon in the Australian summer) and you get your hydration right.

And here's how you do it.

1. Drink a normal amount during the day leading up to your run, whatever the time of day.
2. Drink 500ml of fluid, briskly, 20 to 15 minutes before your leave the door on your run.
3. Go running.
4. Have plenty to drink after your run. Chocolate milkshake is a favourite, and good for you..

Don't walk around all day sipping water - it'll only fill your bladder.
Don't go running with a bottle, having not drunk anything beforehand - too late.
Don't be too surprised when this actually works.

It's really that simple.

According to my friendly paralympian sports scientist (although I may be forgiven for oversimplifying this), it's all down to "gastric emptying". In essence, when you drink 500ml quickly, the alarm bells go off in your stomach, and it rushes as much of this fluid into your system as quick as it can, in case there's more on the way. Fifteen minutes later, you're well hydrated, and almost none of it has reached your bladder. The best bit, is that once in this state of alert, your stomach stays there for a while, so if you're planning a run longer than a couple of hours, you can do exactly the same thing to kickstart the gastric emptying, then soon into your run, start taking on fluids in small, but frequent amounts, and none of it gets wasted.

So there you go, another day, another run, and another tip, which I hope helps you enjoy your running.

Today's run: 9.0miles, 1:14hrs, avg 8:15/mile, 1279cals, two owls, one bullet casing, 500ml orange squash.
Janathon total: 88.6miles. You can look up the stats for this run, and others here.
Please feel free to leave a comment. I don't vet them, so this is your chance for random profanity.

Lemon Drizzle

Evening (or morning) all. Apologies in advance, but a rushed run this evening, and an even more rushed blog, as I restrict myself to no more than ten minutes, on account of matters I shall explain.

Firstly- Lemon Drizzle? Is this a cunning ploy to lure weary Janathonists into my blog, on the insinuation of cakey goodness? Perhaps, but it was actually the most pertinent thing that came to mind about this evening's bimble.

It was drizzling, and I was the lemon for being out in it, still nursing the thudding, rattling remnants of a stupid cold. I promise myself I will finally get better before February, and I know it would happen much quicker (or t least think it might happen a bit quicker) if I didn't go out running in the rain everyday, but frankly Janathon was never meant to be a sensible idea, and I do feel much more clear headed and empty chested having enjoyed an hour of heavy breathing in the fresh air.

So an uninspired plod this evening. Just getting the miles in, and resorting to the comparative drudgery of tarmac. But it keeps me in sight of the top guns on the Janathon totaliser, and that's all the motivation I need when I've got my head over a bowl of boiling water.

And the reason for the quick blog? Our six week old young'un is having a grizzly period, and you know how it is fighting a grizzly, you don't get to stop until the grizzly's tired. Family duty calls.

Tonight: 7:00miles, 1:00hrs, 9480heartbeats, 756cals, 7 foxes spotted, including 3 at once.
Janathon Total : 79.5miles. Today's run is on RunnigFreeOnline here.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Trail shoe review!

"Deeee Eeeeght in tha Janathon Hoose, and Loocal Adventures is gannin on aboot his shoes..."

Ultrabobban posted that he was looking for some new trail shoes, and suggested he might try Saucony Progrid Peregrines. I agreed wholeheartedly, and it occurred to me that a load of trailrunners might be missing a trick by overlooking these. After running in them again tonight, I thought I'd share the (my) love.

Saucony co-sponsored the Runner's World Trailblazer series of 10km trail runs I organised in 2011, and kindly gave me a couple of pairs of the shoes they were previewing at the events. I normally swear by my numerous pairs of Inov-8s for offroad duties, but I've also tried Salomons, Mizunos, New Balance and (unfortunately) The North Face over the years. But for three reasons, I was very excited about getting my mits on these

1. I LOVE new trail shoes.
2. My very first pair of trail shoes were Sauconys, and they were excellent, also underrated.
3. The shoes were designed around a lightweight, low drop chassis, intended as a "natural running" inspired go-anywhere trail shoe, and suited to UK trails (allegedly).

I was intrigued. They looked and felt more like a 10k racing flat than the usual over-engineered leviathans that some American sports companies call trail shoes. In fetching blue and black, if they turned out to be rubbish, they were presentable enough for jeans duty.

I love the smell of trail shoes in the morning
I debuted them on a recce run round one of the 10km Trailblazer routes, and wasn't immediately impressed. They were undoubtedly extremely lightweight (my new size 10s weighed a smidge under 300g on the kitchen scales), and despite a relatively thin and pliant midsole, they offered a surprising level of cushioning.

But they didn't really light my fire, and I was almost a little disappointed. However, I wore them for the three event weekends, lots of running about putting out waymarking etc, and quite unknowingly, they became my "go-to" trail shoes. Eventually, they were the only trail shoes I was traveling with.

The fit is roomy in the front, with some structured padding in the back which holds my skinny heels perfectly. A smooth lining and sensible stitching has been rub free, even on a 50 mile August ultra (which is also in part to Thorlo mini crew socks). The lacing system is dependable, wet or dry, and Saucony have left ingenious gaps in the webbing in the forefoot to drain any water away quickly. There's even a d-ring at the base of the laces to hook an ankle gaiter to. So well thought-out.

The upper is covered with a rubbery web, I guess to add some protection to the fabric. This isn't the same kind of flak-jacket you might find on some of the Inov-8 range, but does the job (though I'll avoid Highland heather-bashing). It's breaking up in a couple of crease points, but the fabric is much more durable than first impressions.

The sole unit is superb for British all-trail conditions. A hiking-boot-inspired grip, with a single block at the back might lack the outright grip of a fell shoe, but the diagonal lugs and side ribs feel stable underfoot and clear mud better than equivalent trail offerings from other non-UK manufacturers, and after many miles still have bags of depth left, without feeling like they're poking into the underside of my feet. The rubber is apparently "sticky" for grip when wet, and they feel as dependable as any other shoe I've used.

They have only a 4mm drop between heel and forefoot. This feels perfect whatever the job. I'm never dragging my heels, or being shoved into the front of the shoe on downhills, yet it doesn't feel like any cushioning is missing. The heel is narrow (80mm on the 10), so you're not going to twist your ankles in deep mud, wheel ruts or sheep tracks.

If your regular runs include a mix of tarmac, fire road, woodland trails, sheep tracks, footpaths, bridleways, mud, sand, gravel, rock or chalk, then these are hard to beat. I can't recommend them enough; you'll run them to death from spring to winter, take them on your holidays, use them on the hotel treadmill, and when they're gone, you'll wish you'd bought two pairs and remember them fondly.

On the tongue is a label saying "RUNANYWHERE", and this is surprisingly profound. With a road shoe, a trail shoe, and a fell shoe you could run anywhere in the British Isles; add something comfortable for an ultra, and  lightweight for a race and you're looking at five shoes at least; but if you had to choose just one pair of shoes, I think this shoe might be the one.

Tonight's run: 13miles of mixed trail, 1:51hrs, 1833cals, two deer, one mouse, yummy shoes.
Janathon total: 73miles, too many late nights already.
View my training stats and run route here on RunningFreeOnline, if you like.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Rice and Chips

According to a good friend (who since living in South Wales for a number of years, appears to have caught Welsh), there is a term which means having a little bit of both. It sounds like a phrase borne of the late night butty van: "Rice and Chips".

I wanted a trail run today. I've been missing them. After today's family schedule got pushed back due to a poorly littl'un, it was looking like another midnight ramble, and I promised my wife I'd only be an hour.

So where to run? North Downs or Army Training areas? I was undecided, and running short on time, so I made up a route as I went, and ending up having a bit of both, and loving it all. Having run it on a whim, I feel a bit guilty for overlooking it in the past.

One of the nicest things about it, is that it suits my preference for a training loop with a testing "third quarter". I'll explain, since this may also benefit your training and route choice (even though this one was a fluke):

Caution - If you prefer your running "improvement free", you should probably look away now

Pick a route that has a natural effort, between roughly 50-75% of the way round. This could be an uphill drag, or a long straight, or even a wiggly, sandy or muddy section on a trail or forest run. When you reach the start of this section, imagine that this is actually the home straight, and the plan is to get to the end of the section as fast as possible, all out, maximum effort.

If you've ever run with a friend and found the pace ramping up in the last third of the run, this is the same principle, except you're doing it sooner, superimposing the finish line on the 75% mark.

Once you get to that 75% distance, back right off, to a pace you can just manage, without keeling over. You might be puffing, sweating, or wanting to stop, but keep going, at a plod, a shuffle, whatever. Eventually, your breathing gets back to normal, your heart rate lowers, and your running starts to quicken again. All you have to do now is get to the real finish, at a pace that feels good. In many cases, you'll unknowingly start moving again faster than you were going in the first half of your run, despite the sustained effort in between.

It's a natural way to add an extra training element to some of your loops, and hugely effective at developing speed and stamina. Most importantly for me though, is the mental training of feeling like you've used all the gas in the tank, only to find there's more in there than you thought.

I learnt this seven or eight years ago, on some of the runs I used to do with a buddy who's enjoying his first Janathon as Beanoutrunning. He runs phenomenally well, and throws together a great blog. Look him up here.

Tonight: 7.88m, 64:32mins, avg pace 8:12/mile, 1099 cals, slightly more rice than chips.
Janathon Week 1: 59.5miles, 9:50hrs.

You can check out my stats here, but I'd much prefer if you wrote a nice comment below. If your browser won't let you, then go to the stats page and write something rude instead! Cheers!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Midnight Rambler

A day of two halves.

The first half started at nine at my desk, and finished about eleven hours later. The second, rather shorter half started at about half eleven, and finished about three quarters of an hour after that.

I didn't say these halves were equal. They were, in fact very inequal.

Half number one was very considered, since it was a day of work, but the significant (and favourite) part of the output was to prepare the following items for people signing up to our two day ultra-running event in June:

1. Top tips for completing an ultra
2. A five month, multi-discipline training plan to turn mortals into ultra-distance runners
3. An article providing event-specific recommendations on clothing, shoes, nutrition and kit.

Nice work if you can get it.

I'll put a link to the content once it's live on the site. The event, in case you were wondering, is an ultra-run from Carlisle Castle to Newcastle Gateshead, either in one go, or over two days, with a night stop half way. Have look at the current site here if you like.

Half number two was a my run. It was ill conceived, rushed even. It came too late in the day, and too soon after a fish supper. Whether it was all the gastric activity going on, or a residual symptom of my now receding cold, I daydreamed (nightdreamed?) the whole way round, and at one point, forget where I was going. Thinking back, I remember bookmarking certain aspects with peculiar clarity.

- The clouds were hanging low, and felt like they were hogging the mildness, the light, and the sound. I could see my breath, and it felt like there had been a fresh snowfall, but someone had stolen it, and left the effects.

- Curled beech leaves rolled as they blew down a street lined with Victorian houses on one side and a building site hoarding on the other. They were all I could hear, and they sounded like spinning pebbles bouncing down a rocky hillside.

- Running towards a formaldehyde car showroom, intense forecourt uplights appeared to fire sparks of light towards me, along the reflections of the brand new gutters hanging from eaves of the building overhead.

- Dented hatchbacks full of partygoers beep horns and swerve as they burble past. I wonder how close they'd  consider funny if it weren't for the wheel-buckling kerb between us. Meanwhile, the polite druggies in the park beyond the fence call "good evening".

- I collide with a very small dog outside a pub, the very next signpost insists Dogs Must Be Kept On Lead. The smoking owner seems oblivious. It occurs to me that the same control is not required of the owners of tigers.

Tonight: 6.5 miles, 51:32mins, avg pace 7:54/mile, one dog, three hatchbacks, no snow.
So far in Janathon, 51.62 miles, and all my Christmas chocolate, finally. Run stats are up on runningfreeonline here.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Less running, more congesting

The lurgy's not letting up. I can put up with the rattly chest, the runny nose, the rollercoaster temperature. When I've got all that going on, I actually look forward to a run. But.... all that fresh air and elevated heart rate isn't doing me any good now my Christmas Cold has become a Happy New Ear, Nose & Throat infection. My sinuses are so motion-sensitive I feel like I'm teething, and my hair is painful to the touch.

2.77m, 23:51mins, 500mg amoxycillin, 3x bowls boiling water, 1x towel over head.
Janathon totals: 45miles run. 28% family brownie points used up.
You can view today's run here if you're having a slow morning.

"Cross Country" Running

Those of you that followed my Janathon blog last year may be familiar with today’s scamperings, since it was the only route to (roughly) feature twice. It’s basically six short runs in one day.

Guess I won't be running along the riverside today then...
Every fortnight I travel 240 miles “oop north” for an 11am meeting. If I take the first train from my home town, I can arrive at about 1030. However, if I leave an hour and a half later, and forego the Underground connection in favour of a two mile cycle across London, then I can arrive by the skin of  my teeth. This makes sense to me, and is the main reason I have a foldie bike, for the to-and-fro at each end, and the time-saving crosstown dash.

In January last year, I realised I could also just about make it on foot. Whilst it’s significantly more physical than biking, it has practically no impact on those at home: Janathonists everywhere will recognise free mileage when they see it.

But it’s bloody hard. The stop-start wears you down, as does the rucksack containing office clothes, lunch, netbook, work stuff etc. Choosing running wear to allow for weather variables throughout the day in Hampshire, London and Yorkshire is further frustrated by inconsistently tropical and baltic meetings rooms at the office. It means spending chunks of the day being a little bit uncomfortable.

Today, on my return sections my pack included an extra full-sized laptop PC. Not the most welcome addition. If you’ve never run with a 14lb pack, dodging rush hour commuters, then it's worth doing once, only to feel what a redundant stone in weight does to your running. It's quite the motivator.

Todays runs: 14.2m total (2.1m, 2.3m, 2.5m, 2.7m, 2.3m, 2.2m), Avg pace 8:43/mile. Wet socks x2.
Janathon Total: 42.3miles. You can view today's runs (if the mood takes you) by clicking here.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Gymnastics and Ju Jitsu

I teach people how to ride mountain bikes. From complete beginners to competitive level; teaching, coaching, generally making people better in the dirt, on two wheels.

A couple of years ago, someone asked me whether I could design a skills course that taught people how to fall off mountain bikes safely. I shuddered at the thought. Whilst it's very possible to teach old dogs new tricks, young dogs bounce better. Ultimately, some things are so counter-intuitive to the adult mind that the risks simply outweigh the rewards. I imagined the end of a session, the ambulance waiting in the carpark, while battered bikers limped back with tails between legs and confidence in tatters.

There's an ideal time to learn how to fall well, without hurting yourself. It's while you're young. It's why I hope to introduce my growing son to gymnastics and ju jitsu, as I was.

So why this, now?

Well, after the meteorologcial onslaught that devoured the country through the first half of the day, I felt I should bag a few miles during a starlit reprise. Which is when I took a purler.

Given that I still have a cold, I left the house with the intention of taking it easy, but a gentle downhill start felt good, so I kept cadence high, backed off a bit on the hills, and breezed my way round an unassuming loop.

Rub some dirt on it - all better.
However, half a mile from home I came a cropper. On a narrow pavement between wall and oncoming traffic, a manhole cover had been forced open from underneath by a million wet leaves. This slab of immovable iron was invisible on my full-tilt approach, and my left foot swung into it with a "Oh-heavens-what-the-hell-was-that-I'm airborne-and-the-feet-aren't-hitting-the-ground-again-any-time-soon-here-comes-the-tarmac-this-could-hurt-hang-on-angle-hand-tuck-shoulder-roll-back-scuff-hip-heel-aaaand-stop". My next thought as I laid on my back was to pause my Garmin, while I checked my legs were still working.

The principles and application of tumbling techniques can be the difference between instinctively distributing an impact force around the body, or smashing wrists, knees, elbows, head. The medical profession call these kinds of injuries FOOSLs - or Falls On Out-Stretched Limbs, and they constitute a high proportion of winter A&E admissions.

I however, received a scuff on my hand, a throbbing big toe, and another dramatic fall to run away from, and feel good about.

Today's run: 3.6miles, 27:38mins, fastest pace 5:18min/miles, highest airborne trajectory 1.4m,
Janathon total: 28miles, one fall, no submissions. Click here for today's run stats.