Trick or treat ?

31 10 2008

We are visiting my mother-in-law, Renate at the moment and so I had the opportunity to run in fairly unfamiliar surroundings in “leafy” Surrey. A pretty but much more densely populated part of the country within an easy commute of London.

I always plan my run before I set off which involves mapping out the distance on a google style map. I can then accurately log my progress on the map to Madrid. At home planning my run is quite straight forward as there are relatively few roads and I am fairly familiar with how places link together. Planning a simple route here was a lot more involved as there are roads crisscrossing my google map everywhere. With this in mind and to avoid getting completely lost I made a simple loop following the Basingstoke canal and one main road.

I had just 1 more km to run for my mother-in-law so it seemed entirely appropriate to run it here. I didn’t give her the pleasure of seeing me suffer but she did kindly wash my kit afterwards and so would have got a sense of the torture I put myself through from just the smell !

My run was to be around 8 miles in distance. A little less than last Saturday. I decided for once to listen to my body as my mobility last Saturday after my 11 mile run left a lot to be desired.

The run along the canal was very scenic with the trees full of leaves of varying shades of green, brown and gold. There was a lovely blue sky and this contrasted with the crispness of the air. I love Winter/Autumn days like this they are such a bonus after all the grey.

I’m sorry to say though that despite the conditions my body did not rise to the challenge. Plod plod plod. None of those good moments today when you feel you are moving quickly and effortlessly. 

The bonus of my run though was that my wife joined me 4 miles into the run for a mile or so. That was nice.  She has hopes of running more seriously in the future too but seems to be plagued with back injuries.

 I was surprised by how quiet the towpath was. It is quite a strange sensation running along a ribbon of quiet countryside only to find you have passed underneath the often congested M25 motorway encircling London. 

We once saw a Kingfisher from the very same path. However, it was not to be today. The only wildlife was ducks and noisy ones at that. One duck in particular gave me a bit of a fright when I was daydreaming about food. It must have known that “le canard” served in its own “jus” is one of my favourite dishes. The French have discovered a way of squeezing a  whole duck into a tin barely larger than a plate. Delicious.

On arriving “home” I rang the doorbell and wobbled in. I am only a month into my serious running but I do have some concerns about my form over the last week or so.  I must improve.

I want to run Madrid with my head held high in style with senoritas cheering me all the way. Well we can always dream can’t we ?

Celebrating after the marathon

Celebrating after the marathon



28 10 2008

Snow today. What happened to Autumn ?  It seems that the weather is becoming as chaotic as the economy.

It wasn’t easy dragging myself out tonight. My first run in the dark was to be at a temperature of 1 degree celsius. I was shocked to see blizzard conditions out of my office window for a spell this afternoon and this is a place which rarely sees the white stuff. On the positive side at least the snow did not stick and the insect swallowing problems are now going to be a distant memory. Thank goodness I ordered warmer kit when I did.

A short run of four miles or so tonight along busy, well lit roads with pavements. Not my cup of tea at all. I took it easy as the pavements are full of wet leaves and quite treacherous. I think I have now started the long Winter grind.

My main aim over the Winter is to stay fit and injury free and hopefully get a half-marathon under my belt in the New Year. This is not terribly compatible with my usual instincts of basically staying cosy and warm over the Winter.

I expect as the Winter progresses my kit will become less practical and more and more comforting. If I can run with a hydration system attached to a belt is there anything to stop me replacing this with a hot water bottle ? Could I put fur lining inside my trainers ?

Lovely cosy thoughts.

Today is a good day to die

25 10 2008

My plan today was to step up the distance as I now have a hydration system on board and much more appropriate kit for Autumn. I’ll talk about the hydration system I carried on another entry but it was a great help overall.

I started with a long slow climb out of Neston and up Hinderton Road. This is a 200 foot steady climb away from the coast in around 2 miles of running. It is non relenting but not too steep. I usually drive this way in the morning and always thought it looked quite challenging. I felt quite “ploddy” and was overtaken by another runner…but I reached the top of the rise in one piece and I certainly wasn’t going to use much of my energy knowing I had another 9 miles to go.

Shortly afterwards I was out into the countryside and faced with my first obstacle. A lorry was dropping off a skip and took up the whole of the narrow lane I was running up. I made sure the driver had seen me. A heavy skip being lowered onto me would not leave me in the best sort of shape ! The lane was little more than a dirt track and had been churned up by farm vehicles and so I had to take care.

Fortunately, it was not long before I was onto a tarmac road again and able to relax again. Running felt very natural today. It really took me back to my late teens. Running down quiet roads and having the time to observe the changing landscape does have a lot of appeal to it. Probably why I fell in love with running the first time. It has never really been about speed for me. It is about distance. The endurance. The slog.

Shortly afterwards I passed some large kennels on the left. My Goodness I had visions of a scene on the Simpsons when Mr. Burns says “release the hounds”. There were a lot of excitable dogs in there … a LOT. I picked up my pace slightly just in case. Pathetic isn’t it. I mean was it likely that I could outrun a pack of dogs ? I always think of who I am currently running for in my roll of honour (sponsors) so I couldn’t help taking pleasure in the thought of them chasing my mother-in-law (sorry Oma !).

Tranquillity returned shortly afterwards as I passed the Wheatsheaf Pub in Raby at the 5k mark certainly a favourite of mine. Oh to fill my hydration system with a fine draft cask ale ! Beer is meant to be very good for runners as it is full of minerals that are lost through sweat. I might reverse the route and pop into the pub one day. A beer fuelled last three miles home would be interesting.

My legs were now fully recovered from the initial plod up the hill and there was not much more to report on my run down towards Hooton.

Hooton station is the beginning of the Wirral Way and at the 10k mark for this particular run. I grabbed the bagpipe that is my running hydration system and drank greedily. How athletes can actually drink from these things when running God only knows.

Just 7.5 kms to go and my legs were still feeling solid. I now had the Wirral Way to deal with.
I always plan my runs so I have little route finding when I know I will be tired. In many respects it feels like you are at high altitude. My brain is just switched off and focussed on my legs by this stage.

There were so many people on the Wirral Way and the exchange of pleasantries such as the “Good mornings”, “Hi’s” etc. etc. are almost as tiring as the run. As I am going to be running in Madrid perhaps “Ola” would be more appropriate. Nah what could be better than the Klingon greeting Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam which means “today is a good day to die”.

Click here:

(I assure the reader that I am not a Trekkie)

I finally arrived home in 1 hour 47 mins and had covered 10.9 miles or 17.5 km. Now we’re cooking with gas ! Slow I know but totally intentional.

My legs are certainly feeling it …

Look at me !

22 10 2008

When I go to bed each night especially at the weekend I can still hear our two year old son saying the words “look… look at me”. Well tonight it was time to look at me. My Autumn running gear has arrived which included loads of high visibility items. A running jacket, two pairs of tracksters, two long sleeved running tops and a high visibility bib. I was really impressed with my purchases as I felt I hadn’t spent loads.

Everything is so hi-tech these days.

This is what I wore tonight and I quote directly from the catalogue:

“A Day Glo long sleeve top with…wait for it…fast moisture transportation”

It begs the question as to where my moisture is being transported to. What moisture is it referring to ? Do they mean my sweat ? Transportation almost sounds as though lorry loads of the stuff are being carted away. Not me – I hardly sweat at all. As I keep reminding my wife I went around the tropical zone biosphere at the Eden project wearing a fleece and not a bead of sweat appeared. (I can see her eyebrows lifting as she reads this.) I suspect Madrid might be different.

I also wore my moisture wicking running pant with stirrups and inner key pocket. Crikey, I didn’t know there was an inner key pocket ! I’m glad I read that again now. It must be really discreet. Hope the moisture doesn’t all go into that pocket or the key will be washed out.

Well joking apart it was a pleasure wearing the kit and it certainly did feel nice and much warmer than a t-shirt and shorts…and probably a lot safer too.

Ran a nice steady 7 kms or so (4.4 miles) this evening and have now reached Knutsford on my virtual map. I was pleased as I had enough left in my legs to sprint the last bit. I hope none of the neighbours were watching !!

Missing time

20 10 2008

The evenings are almost dark now by the time I get home and so this was probably the last time I will run my favourite Wood Lane route for a while as there are too many potholes and not enough lights.

I was keen to go for a personal best. The route is about 5.5 kms or 3.4 miles. My previous best without fishcakes was 29:56. I decided to run without the help of fishcakes as I am due a fishcake doping test soon and need to clean my blood. I know if I am found with fishcakes in my system I might be banned from racing.

I set off at my fastest pace. Slightly faster than slow endurance. My leg muscles were burning with the effort as I pushed on the early part of my route which involves a steady uphill climb up to the thin air at over 100 feet. I felt my systems beginning to struggle and shut down at this altitude. Nevertheless I ignored the pain and pushed on down Wood Lane in the dark.

When I got to the end of Wood Lane I reached the corner with Boathouse Lane where the lovely downhill starts. I was hit by a blast of wind. It felt great. Like a cool shower. Totally refreshed I charged on removing my hat. There was a head wind against me but I was going downhill and still running well.

The front was quite blustery too but I settled into a nice pace knowing I was easily going to beat my previous time. I was so confident I had time to turn my head towards the chip shop and take in the lovely scent…thankfully I turned my head back just in time to avoid the litter bin. Now that would have been an embarrassing injury !

I kicked on home and arrived totally out of breath. I must have shaved a good minute or two off my previous best. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my watch – a measly 14 seconds quicker after all that effort !!

I had run at full pelt at 8:42 pace and yet my slow endurance run on Saturday of over 13 1/2 km was at 9:01 pace. No way !

After racking my mind for a while I came to the only logical conclusion a sane person could make. I had experienced “missing time” . I had of course been abducted by aliens – probably on Wood Lane. It was the only possible explanation and would explain the feeling of tiredness when I reached Boathouse Lane. I had been PROBED. Obviously in their excitement of examining such a finely tuned athlete they had forgotten to stop and then restart my stopwatch…and I had been worried about my time. Silly me ?!!

What am I getting into ?

18 10 2008

I have read a little more about the Madrid marathon this week and it looks much harder than London.

In particular, on reading around on the web only 120,000 runners out of 200,000 who have ever run the marathon have finished within the deadline of 6 hours. That is not a great percentage. This is due apparently to the heat (even in April Madrid can be pretty hot), the humidity, the altitude (around 2,000 feet) and the challenging hills. I realised Madrid would be pretty hot but I think what has shocked me are the statistics – only 60% finish. When I have run races (my two half marathons when I was 17 and more recently the Hoylake 10k) I tend to finish races in about the middle ie in the top 50-70 %. So statistically as things stand perhaps I have only a 50% chance of finishing.

That is why I have decided to run in 2010 and not 2009. I think an even wiser decision than I initially thought. I am now aiming to ease up on the training front and want to be ready for a Blackpool marathon in early April. This would be my first marathon. I might be kidding myself but that is the target. We will see.

The Madrid marathon does look spectacular though just take a look at this picture :

I continued with my training today and am now up to over 8 miles without stopping/walking. I am quite chuffed really as my pace was 9 minute pace as well which is fine for me.

Up to now I have been running “clean”… no ipod, no water, no fancy gadgets. How running has changed since my earlier years. There is now a possibility of mild dehydration on runs due to the fact that I am out on the road for over an hour and so I have ordered a hydration system (posh water bottle to the rest of us). Will be trying it out next week hopefully. I am really excited about that as it sits on my bottom like a bumbag and comes with a very long straw. Let’s hope I don’t trip over it.

I have now finished running for my wife, Helen and am so grateful to her for getting the ball rolling with donations and for her 100% love and support. I am very lucky to have her.

The even better news is I am now running for my German mother-in-law Renate. I heard gun shots on my run today and I must say politically incorrect thoughts did cross my mind…

I am now suffering for you “Oma” – enjoy it while you can !!


A run of two halves (and the fishcakes)

15 10 2008

I have been injured by mosquitos over the last few days as unfortunately my ankles (or should I say trotters) swelled up after being nibbled on Sunday afternoon. So no running for me until today.

I was a bit silly as I didn’t really eat much lunch at work and when I arrived home was beginning to feel light headed. Probably idiotic to go for a run tonight I thought… but aha… my two sons had not finished their supper and daddy was about to take advantage. Fishcakes and a bit of a potato waffle. I pounced on the leftovers. It all went in the microwave and within 2 minutes I had hoovered it up. Great home cooking.

I got into my kit and the light headedness began to pass. It was a beautiful crisp evening with a full moon so too good an opportunity to miss.

I just thought I would do another 5km or so and take my time. Just get round. Nice and steady does it … I don’t want to faint or anything. Within 1km or so I had a stitch and was beginning to regret my greedy binge. Then I got to Brook Lane. Now I know why it gets that name. Strangely the unadopted road I run along, Wood Lane was flooded at the Brook Lane junction. I had to stop and go around the grass verge (grannies came into my mind – see earlier post). Things were not going well. I plodded on.

Finally I reached the lovely downhill run to the Boathouse Inn. I settled a bit more into a nice slow but steady pace. Then I felt it. I can’t put my finger on it – just a surge of energy came. It took me a few moments to work it out and then the penny dropped. The fishcakes it must be the fishcakes !!

I began to accelerate down towards the Boathouse Inn. Some drinkers were leaving the pub. As I drew level with them they were murmuring to each other in respectful tones and nodding. I just caught a word … “fishcakes”. They had noticed too. I nodded back at them knowingly.

This was wonderful I haven’t run like this since I was a teen. The front at Parkgate is not a quiet place even during a cool Autumn evening. I noticed a change. I no longer saw pity in people’s eyes when they looked at me. I saw admiration and I kept hearing the same word over and over …”fishcakes”.

Then the mother of ideas came to me. I was approaching the Chinese fish and chip shop. Dare I ? … I might run like the Gods if I was to pop in and “top up” ? No. I must not. I will save that one for another day. Parkgate is not quite ready yet.

I flew towards home and in the distance I saw a stranger in the dark. To my disbelief he shouted to me “Get a move on Robert”. It was my neighbour and one of my sponsors Barry. All I could muster was a “bl**dy hell… it’s you” such was my surprise. I was brought down to earth again with a bump.

A great run back though and you know what, I may have found my secret weapon !!!