Monday, 21 April 2014

The Break Fortnight...

Diary congestion is a pig...

London; done, dusted, photos bought...

Gentle recovery done during the week - keep moving Mon & Tuesday; Wednesday use a work trip to Buxton to take a stroll over a hill...


Only 5km stroll, but it felt good for three days after a marathon, Thursday and Friday more of the same, keep moving and keep loosening off the tight bits and testing for damage...

No damage.  All good then, Saturday was a stroll with friends in the Clywdians, 8 miles, one short sharp nasty climb - this time fully loaded for next weeks challenge.  The Fellsman has a strict equipment list; five top layers, two bottom, first aid kit, emergency food, woolly hat etc... All sensible stuff, but even with my predilection for gear it all adds up. 

Another cracking day on the hills -




The legs worked again - I'm not sure why I'm so surprised, but I am...

Sunday was a route recce for the Liverpool Rock n Roll Marathon - why?  Because it went places I don't tend to go in Liverpool and there's something odd about not knowing where your home marathon is going.  And I'm glad I did.  Liverpool isn't flat... But even I was surprised by the sheer number of hills they've managed to find...

However, if the runners look right when we go over Everton Brow they will get a treat to make a lot of it worthwhile..



A full world heritage site laid out - the panorama doesn't quite do it justice, but we could a have a view to the hill I was on the day before. I hope not, as that probably means it'd be another hot day...

And today was the fateful day where I pulled the trainers on and ran for the first time since London.  A new route, taking in Goodison & Anfield to take me up that hill, and build a little more strength in my legs.  It's more psychological that physical, but a gentle 5 miles, and yes my legs were heavy but I kept running, no walk breaks, and enjoyed it...


So, the plan - join the Rock n Roll people for another one of their fun 5km's on Wednesday night - more luminous body paint I'm afraid.  The Fellsman, it's got to be better than last year - Fellsman Muck Up - gentle recovery after that - however far we get and then on to what I'm sure will be a fun week - up the BT Tower for work, and the publication of something I'm insanely proud of being involved in, the to the Berghaus day in London - hearing from people who've run the length of South America... Now that's good going, and whether I get chosen for Chamonix or not meeting others with similar loves and madness's as mine will always be a good day...

Now where is my emergency marzipan?

TTFN

Paul

Friday, 18 April 2014

A blog without the R word...

A challenge, and a small donation, has been set...

A blog without the R word, nothing that involves harnesses, specialised shoes or body lube...

So welcome to my reflections on almost three years of being an Open University Student.

I'm a neophile, and specifically I like new stuff in new areas.  So its a good job I have the job I do, plenty of new things land on my desk at an alarmingly regular rate.  However, my desire for newness isn't totally satisfied by a random collection of requests from various parts of the Civil Service.

So, where do I go, and what do I do... I've got the BSc, and the Post Grad in Occupational Health... I've gone back and done GCSE French.  A couple of friends was saying how good their OU course was so I had a look...

I've always enjoyed arty farty stuff (despite being advised I wasn't good enough for GCSE Art), and often mooch around art galleries and museums. Combine that with the analytical part of my brain, and I quite often was asking questions like "and?" "Why?" and quite often either "Why all the saints?" or "WTF?".

So an arts based degree with the OU... Starting with the introductory course, just to check my brain wasn't going to melt and I could fit it in with the rest of my life.  That was what feels like a long time ago - three years and four courses.

Throw in a summer course on Material Culture, then a second year course on the History of Art - that was fun, it was the first time the OU had put that course on, and at times it showed.  It was also the course of the three tutors - not ideal.

However, I learnt new things, new theories, new ways of looking at things.  As well as paintings and sculpture I learned about buildings and garden designs, I'm not an expert in the detail but I can ask the questions of the experts without going "WTF?" a lot...

The current module is on heritage - and the feedback from other years is divided - some love the take the course has given us - who decides what is heritage, what mental processes go on consciously and unconsciously.  Its not an easy course conceptually, but its full of new stuff, so I'm a happy bunny!

So other than the specific of the History of Art and the Authorised Heritage Discourse, with odd bits of the psychological impact of monuments what I have learned?

1) I still love learning...

2) I'm still crap with languages, even English trying to pick out the rhymes in the very first course was painful. So, I'm not playing that game, good job there's plenty more.
3) I can switch between the science world and the arts world surprisingly easily - but have problems when the too butt up - the arguments on Faraday's religion will live on in infamy

4) The OU is a good place to learn, the material is well put together by people who know their stuff. I've not yet had a tutor that I didn't have time for (yes that sounds arrogant, but the four of us who have lunch regularly have nine degrees between us, and my bullshit meter is trained by 20+ years in the CS).

5) I can fit it in and I'm four years into the six years it should take me.  The OU says it can take up to 12 hours a week to do all of the stuff you need to do.  I reckon its about eight, but more when an essay is due (called a TMA in OU jargon).

6) Enjoy it - the tutorials are fun, the online forums are interesting and occasionally heated. 

7) It's not for everyone - I've put some structure in to make sure I read the chapters and the online guides I need to... If you don't do self-control then it may not be for you...

See, I can write a whole blog without mentioning the R word... Just...

TTFN

Paul     

Thursday, 17 April 2014

London - Done... Next...

London, six years in the making.

Everything was damn near perfect... except the weather.  As regular readers know I'm a cold weather runner, and heat takes it out of me more than most other things.

For 20 miles it was to the plan, through 13 in 2:33, through 20 in 4:05...

To say I was focused would be an understatement, the run walk was programmed in and was being turned out like a running metronome. I almost missed the Cutty Sark because I was in the zone and the crowds were rather large at that point...

Tower Bridge was the MOMENT, the one that I admit to dreaming of... Running up the ramp, knowing the bridge was under my feet, knowing that this was the magic.

Over the Thames, and turn right down to Canary Wharf - that series of monuments to high finance, before looping back to head down past the Tower of London, dropping to the Embankment and along to the Mall.

Sounds easy... But what makes it special is the people; the people who knew me as me (thank you all, its not an easy job) and the people supporting the runners because we are slightly potty and the vast majority of the runners (not the plonkers who barged through and took my water bottles out of my hand). 

Seeing friends on the course is a near novel experience on my long runs, hell seeing more than ten people in total is a novelty on some of my runs and indeed races - the back of the pack can be a lonely place at times.  So the lift at 8 miles, around Canary Wharf, and twice in the last few miles was appreciated.  Especially, in those last few miles...

I stopped sweating, I simply could not replace the liquid coming out with liquid going in.  So I slowed down, I dropped down to a level where I wasn't burning up.  The last ten km took an hour and a half - not terrible for the last 10 of a marathon for me.  But I couldn't quite keep it under 5:30 - a 5:34:6 is a 12 min PB - almost 30s a mile.  I'll take that on a hot day...

A special word of thanks to my running partner in crime - Kieran - he prefers hotter runs and took something like 30 min off his PB and finished with a bigger smile on his face than I did... We didn't do bad for a GUCH and a ex-GUCH heart transplant recipient...



And if there was ever any doubt about how seriously I take my times - a photo of me crossing the line, you'll spot the others with their hands in the air... and me studiously looking at my Garmin...

So, do I want to do London again... Yes, and maybe next time I'll release the control just slightly and enjoy the sights and sounds a bit more.  However, that all depends on the ballot...

So what to do with three and a half months training, some people will quite rightly throwing their trainers in the bin and never running again.  But the last six years have convinced me I do quite like this sort of madness.  So next is a walking challenge - the Fellsman, I have no idea if we'll finish it - 60 miles, 11,000ft of ascent is tough - and the cut off for the times may not be met.  And then the Rock and Roll Marathon in Liverpool.

A final thank you to all those who've sponsored me, or left nice words on Facebook, Twitter by email of through CHF - that what I do is worth some of your hard earned cash, or has inspired or helped others means as much as that cold hard medal... That I will stop stroking sometime soon...

TTFN

Paul


Monday, 7 April 2014

Marathon Distraction No 1 - Thank you Berghaus!

The taper...

That two week period where you reduce your mileage and generally feel like crap... The temptation to try and cram an extra couple of miles in is huge, you remember the runs that didn't happen or didn't go brilliantly, you focus on the negative...

Is it any wonder sports psychologists are in such demand?

I have a couple of friends who are either qualified to strap me into a jacket that ties up at the back, or are training to be qualified; which is great apart from when they play with me head... (They don't that would be unethical... though as one pointed out - fun).

So with professional help a mere call away, but at a significant cost (my sanity), I tend to do the distraction thing... In previous years this has involved booking the next challenge, up to and including the next marathon or ultra...

Err this year they are booked... and I do need to think about the fun for next year, but not quite yet. 

I'm up to date with my OU reading...

Bugger...

At which point an email arrived from Berghaus, I'm 1 in a 100 - Berghaus have a small team of Trail Runners they're taking out to Chamonix for training, a shedload of kit and a chance to run bits of the Tour de Mont Blanc.  The UTMB is possibly the pinnacle of Ultras - the one you have to get points for to get into the ballot, and one of those that the realist in me knows will be a spectator sport - so the chance to run bits of it is in my top 10 (sporting) bucket list.

So the 1 in a 100?  Berghaus (and the other sponsors) have sifted through the applications and picked 100 of us to go to selection days... The first in the Lakes clashes with my next insanity that small matter of walking for 36 h, over Yorkshire, but the second I can make in London.  

The first has names I've read about in awe and near disbelief - Steve Birkinshaw and Helene Whitaker - from the Dragon's Back through KIMM and madness's many. "Feet in the Clouds" and "It's a Hill Get Over It" have been companions and inspirations for as long as I've been trying to combine my love of the hills with trying to move more rapidly than walking...

So I hope that the second can give some of that magic.  What I do know is that everyone of the 100 will be worthy of the trip out, I've not met a runner on the hills who wasn't amusing, potty and had a love for just trying things that transcended anything mundane like pace.  The 100 will have speedies, and others who like me aren't as speedy but all will hopefully have tales to tell and stories to share.  Because whether I am lucky enough to get to Chamonix or not, I am lucky in that I'm going to meet some more people like me, who inspire me, and challenge me to be what I can be not what I've been told I should be...

Who needs a sports psychologist when you have distractions like that to look forward to?

TTFN

Paul

Sunday, 6 April 2014

London Week 16 - It's the Final Countdown...

Apologies, I do like Hair Metal / Poodle Rock...

So I'm here, 6 days and counting... Nigh on 500km run in training (will be clicked over on Tuesday morning), two pairs of trainers, more body lube than I think I want to think about...

The training has been good - only a couple of runs dropped from the schedule, and I've been nailing the pace I wanted almost every run.  Yes, a 4h dead 20 miler would've been nice but 4:04 will do. Especially given compared with previous years worth of marathon training is a PB of 15 and a half min :-D

My taperitis is fading, usual niggles - left ankle, why?  It'll fade, I'll be fine... The smog scare did make me wheeze a bit, and looking back at the data it looks like some of the hard races coincided with bad days... Another bit of data - is useful?  I'm not sure, but it's something to watch...

This week included a proper fun run - the people behind the Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon now how to put the fun into marathon training, a 5km with glow in the dark face and body paint, free food (always a bonus) and a decent t-shirt!  On this basis the marathon is going to be a joy to take part in!

And so it's the Final Countdown... a two mile stretch, a five mile tempo run and then to London.  A trip to an Expo at least 10 times the size of anything I've been too before.  I'll be nervously reading the instruction book at least 5 times a day, and generally start loading the carbs...

If you wish to track me it should be possible through this link (on the day) VLM with race number 1212

So wish me luck, it's been a six year countdown...

TTFN

Paul



Sunday, 30 March 2014

London Week 15 - Taperitis, feel the power of my mind & going steady

Well it happened, 5 days into the taper and it hit... Taperitis... Grade 2... No running, eat loads, throw a migraine in there for fun, and generally feel like I've run a marathon a day for 3 days (and yes I do know what that feels like)...

One skipped run, a lot of calories eaten (not sensible ones either) and a general feeling that if this is psychosomatic then I have a hellishly powerful brain... So, as ever eliminate the impossible and whatever is left, however improbable, is often the solution... Drinks lots and take the tablets for the headache, take the hayfever tablets (cheery trees I hate you), try and eat a good mix (why is when you're ill there is nothing as good as a chilli burger, with chilli fries) and hold on tight because I know I will come out of it...

The plan for today's run was a) get out there and do it b) keep as close to 12 min miles g pit stop...

And it wasn't easy running that controlled at that pace, the desire to stretch the legs out and do the miles faster... But that's not the name of the game for the next couple of runs - go steady, keep it controlled focus on the big one... Ok, the first of the big ones.

The second, the Fellsman, is in mental prep - the rucksack is getting filled with gear, jacket & trousers are proofed and 50 safety pins bought... I will not fail scrutiny this year.

The Third, the Rock and Roll Liverpool Marathon is covered by this marathon training plan - after the Fellsman I rest for one week and then repeat the last three weeks of this training plan... However, the RRLM people are helping this week, with a night jog around Sefton Park - apart from anything else I'm a sucker for a free t-shirt! A shift of my training from a morn to an evening won't do any harm and it'll be nice to run with people rather than on my own.  The only thing I have to watch - its a 5KM training run, NOT A BLAT!!!!  That comes later...
 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

London Week 14: Taper Time, 10 for 1 and Looking forward...

It's done, the last of the long LSRs... 20 miles.  The first time in a marathon training plan I've survived going out to 20 miles twice.



The weather was entertaining, starting off warm enough that I was about to strip off my jacket, followed by a hail storm, followed by torrential rain... and repeat...about every 5 miles.  Soaked to the skin and then baked dry I'm seriously happy that I didn't chaff. 

I'd have preferred to run the second half smoother, but hey ho - 20 miles in a PB is 20 miles in a PB.  And better lumpy than injured!

It also bought up the 10 in 1 ratio I've struggled to reach in other years, so for every mile of the marathon I have run 10 in training... and I've a few more to go.

A taper isn't a full stop, its an active period letting your muscles and tendons and mind get back to their best... That's the theory and whilst I know from experience that the muscles and tendons bit work mentally its bloody hard work... So hold on people I may be a grumpy bastard for a couple of weeks...

The one advantageous I've given myself this year is London is not a stop, its an important way point... a very important waypoint and probably the primary one for the year, but then comes the fun... The Fellsman - 60 miles of brutality, where a third don't get to the finish... and then my local marathon - The Rock & Roll Liverpool Marathon...

So three weeks to London, five to Fellsman, nine to Liverpool...

Wish me luck, I'm going to need it...

TTFN

Paul

Saturday, 15 March 2014

London Weeks 12 & 13 - 300, 130 and 1212

This is very late, but I've been having a week at work... Lots landing from a great height, limited dodging ability etc etc etc...

Anyway, this is a bit of a catch up as I've skipped a blog posting as I've been running around the country, both for work and for fun... It's also a blog of numbers...

It's also my 300th Blog - I've spouted on 300 times... Some of them have been written with a smile on my face, others with tears running down my cheeks.  Such is my life as a GUCH, and I hope that its not too boring.

Since I've started this blog, I've gone from a nervous marathon virgin to a multi-ultra marathon runner, I've been invested as an MBE, and I've seen too many friends go through pain and too many die.  I've also seen many kids with heart conditions grow up and be what they want to be, or just grow up to be normal human beings. Having a heart condition doesn't make us good or bad, it just means we have something extra to deal with.  Don't assume we're little angels or little devils - we're just normal...

So, that's the 300 dealt with...

130?  That's the number of seconds slower than my half marathon PB I was on Sunday.  Cambridge is a favourite, mainly because I get to run with one of the runners I find most inspiration - my mate Kieran used to be a GUCH, until he became a heart transplant recipient... He trains despite the nerve induction meaning his system doesn't get warm for miles, and despite a dicky hip and every injury a runner can get.  Travelling down the day before gave us a chance to catch up, gossip, eat scotch eggs and talk training, injuries and chaffing- we're runners, what else are we going to talk about.  And we are runners, neither of us fit with the fun runner motif, we don't have that luxury.


Cambridge was hot - the paper the day after said 20 degrees, which isn't what I like - I sweat at 0 degrees so 20 is painful.  I also got stuck in a group, running faster than I'd intended - I didn't spot they were carrying the batons of relay runners until 8km in.  I was fast, for me, very fact for the first half... and then got hot and started doubting myself... and then got hotter.  By the time I'd choked on another spouty pouch water thingy and realised the PB was on I hadn't left enough time to make it... 130s... two minutes ten seconds over 21km... That's classified as close.

Kieran?  Given his injury record - he finished and with a smile on his face! That's better than many:-)

1212?  That's my race number for London.  I'm terrified now, its a very low number and while I'm sure its independent of the pen I'm in but its still a worry.  It's also a marker for my runs - I've two Long LSRs left - 16 miles tomorrow and 20 the week after, then its stepping down - 12 & 8,,, Nice short runs.

After six years its all getting a bit close... My main job now is to run easy and stay injury free... No heroics and try and avoid this weeks angry run - I do what I do for my charities because I care and when I read that care hasn't been offered to all then I remember why I do what I do. 

So, that was the blog of numbers...  

TTFN

Paul

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

London Week 10 - A niceness of numbers, being a race tart, and Garmin being very annoying...


Well, the miles are rolling out - two  mid week 10ks and then a 10 miler today.  Good solid, 10ks and a 5min negative split for 10 miles.  The amount of walking is dropping, the 900/100 split for the first 5 miles was mainly to get me warmed up and in the flow.

And in a niceness of numbers - I've bought up 200 training miles on my 26th training run... They've not all been easy, they've not all been PBs, but they are relentlessly moving me forward.  It's getting scarily close - I've 3 LSRs until the big day; 13.1 (Cambridge half), a 16 and a 20 miler, then a two week active taper... Five weeks...

 

Five weeks to add some polish, to find the correct strategy for me - balancing that desire of running all the way with the simple fact that adding in a little walking in the first half is paying huge dividends in terms of both my overall speed and how I feel.  At Boot Camp there was an ideal espoused that we should make the first half feel like it was easy, and then get out of the cab and use our strength for the second half.  That's the plan... And yes I will get snide comments for walking in the first KM... but quite frankly I know what I'm doing.   as ever I've been honest about my predicted time on the application forms for London - so I suspect even with my modified-Galloway, topsy-turvy, walk-run, negative split generating weirdness of a run I'll be overtaking a lot of those who were more confident...
 
That was almost diplomatic... and brings me nicely to Cambridge.

My 10mile PB is slower per-KM than my half marathon PB - many reasons for that, mainly I'm a race tart.  I like the  crowds, the cheering, the free sweeties.... I also do better in races than on my own, the ability to follow a cute backside or get into a niggle with someone just a little faster than comfortable for me is a great motivator.  There is also something special about pulling on my CHF colours with a number on, that  takes the commitment up a level...

However, my job this year is to get to London is as good a shape as possible - so my target isn't a PB its simpler than that 1) get round and feel good, with 2) sub-2:30 being faster than the marathon pace...

There. pressures off... and relax!

Garmin, the company who make my running watch, and who for the best part of a decade have kept my heart rate and distance mapping have decided to get annoying.  They've bought out some new software, to replace the old way in which the computer spoke to the watch.  And it doesn't like my watch... All of which can happen and I have no problem with... I do have a problem with Garmin ignoring a polite request, and prioritising those who are rude and abusive.  Which they have done twice now... They're also on to the third iteration of their new software in a week... which doesn't sound like a job well done.  So this is an open, and polite, rant - Garmin I love you... bring back a way for my watch to talk to my PC without me having to use the old software you tell me is out of date!

 

Finally, some good news - the annual diabetic check up was good on all counts!

 

TTFN

 

Paul

 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

London Week 8 - Recovery, Car Crashes, Misdirection and Inspiration

It's been an odd week, busy at work... The plan was that I'd be writing up a couple of walks and a gentle run today, but the lovely people at VirginMoneyGiving invited me an a friend (of who more later) to a day of training tips and inspiration - so instead of north I headed south, to London and Windsor...

Two recovery runs in the week - I can't share them as Garmin has done one of its periodically amazingly poor upgrades to their system, and I now can't make the watch talk to the computer... Then a night at the theatre with friends watching Japanese belt the living daylights of drums - http://www.kodo.or.jp/index_en.html

Then down to London, meeting up with my mate Kieran at Waterloo - Kieran is one of my inspirations, there is no need for someone who has done what's he's done to be doing another marathon - but he say's there's unfinished business and that's good enough for me... Hell, he's scared of heights and has jumped out of a plane...

Out to Eton, and jump a cab - out to the Dorney Lake complex, where there was a Triathlon ongoing and a hole load of rowing (it is Eton College's rowing centre...). Unfortunately, there's not a lot of parking so it looked like all of the rowers had abandoned their cars on the side of the road... Our cab was going one way, and the large 4x4 with a trailer attached... that'll be a trailer with now a large amount of the cab's paint on it... a short chase ensued, and our out of breathe cabbie came back without any insurance details...

We arrived, with 20 minutes to spare before the start... For the reception guy to tell us that anything running related was down the other end - back 2km to the triathlon tent...

And so we walked down... and the guys and girls to look confused and send us back up to the reception...

The rowing course is 2000m... Kieran had started suggesting that this was an elaborate scam, but trust me I've nothing worth the effort of this one...

So we walked back up...

And then as we approached the complex again... we saw a sign.... I say a sign, an A4 bit of paper...


That made me happy...

Martin Yelling was excellent - good sensible advice based on the simple fact that if we've done the training we've all done and kept doing it we would finish.  It was going to hurt, but that the hurt would be worth it for the cold heavy weight of a medal at the finish line - we talked runs, food, the taper and fundamentally disagreed with the existence of the wall - if you do things right, it DOES NOT EXIST!!!

All good stuff - we then went out for light session - c5km in total (still locked into the Garmin), running at our easy, steady and threshold paces and showing us how easy it is to run too fast, and what an impact that can have... 5km has never been so interesting, trying to run for 90s at threshold, and then 1min recover, turn around, and if you're getting it about right you finish 90s later exactly where you started...

Lunch... and the view...


Yes, this is February...

After lunch we had a good talk on nutrition & hydration, complete with freebees from Lucozade (thank you) and an absolutely brutal stretching session that hurt more than the run... Trust me if some of those photos come out there'll be some explaining to do ;-)

Then the lads from Walking for Wounded talked about walking to the South Pole and how they kept going in -40, with ipods freezing, altitude sickness knocking their mates... All done with the sort of pathos any GUCH would recognise, that acknowledgement that our bodies may be battered, missing bits or have plastic bits inside of us... but we're still a damn sight luckier than many of our friends.

The guys were genuinely great, funny, and self effacing - they'll also be on the start line at London with us - though I suspect they'll be somewhere ahead of me, grinning and thinking about the finish line and a cold pint...

We finished with a session on how to make our virginmoney giving pages more appealing... which was all good stuff:-)

Then an event free trip back, apart from the very happy England fans getting on at Twickenham, and the less happy Irish fans.  A stroll along the South Bank admiring the view and a quick healthy pizza.

The Kieran headed back to Cambridge to home and to get ready for his LSR and I off to the YHA at Thameside for another recovery run, the 20miler was good, but it took a lot out of me.  So 10km to the Cutty Sark, via circumnavigating Peter the Great and an emergency stop at a McDonalds toilet...

So, an excellent day - thank you to VirginMoneyGiving for picking me and letting the pair of dickey ticker runners to turn up and cause havoc.  Special thanks to the Walking for Wounded for reminding us all that how ever shit it gets out there, we're doing 26.2 miles not 10 days and to Martin for sage counsel and advice.

A good week, just need to get the Garmin talking to the laptop

TTFN

Paul