Thursday, 21 June 2012

Trail Running

I've been thinking a lot lately about the ultimate question in running... "Why do I run?" It's such a difficult question and for many years I've never really known the answer. Initially I ran to be fitter, to feel better about myself, it's helped to reduce stress and anxiety. But since I have got into trail running the answer has become more clear...Total escapism! The world we live in is getting busier by the day. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, emails make our daily work more demanding, people want everything yesterday. Even if you get to the gym or hit the streets running you are surrounded with the latest gadgets, lots of people and traffic.

Hitting the trails strips back life to it's raw bear bones. The stresses of the modern world are left behind, you are transported back to a world that evolution has left behind. I stepped out of the modern world for an hour today. I slipped out of my claustrophobic shirt and trousers into shorts, running top and trainers, left my car and headed onto the trails on the South Downs, I headed into Houghton Forest past a few dog walkers and in moments was the only man on the earth (or so it seemed). I went on a 6 mile run quiet,beautiful and at times challenging. I was either running up or down but very rarely horizontal. Once I got through the dense forest, I tracked around the perimeter of the forest with stunning views all around of open rolling hills that went on as far as the eye could see. I couldn't be further away from the modern world (apart from my mobile phone!).

My feet did not touch the tarmac once. Trail running is exciting, I love to run in new places with a bit of the unknown factor thrown in. The trails are pollution free, better at conditioning your body with the ever changing terrain and so much better on the joints and muscles. I still don't mind the odd road race, as Scottish Ultra and trail runner Ellie Greenwood says on a recent post on her blog it's a good place to see where you are at with your overall speed. Ellie recently finished an amazing second place in the Comrades road marathon in Durban. I reckon she has got it spot on with her mix. You will never run a trail marathon quicker than a road marathon 1)They are usually a lot hillier, and 2) The changes in terrain. Who can run faster in sand than on tarmac! Today for instance I had to trudge through long wet grass up to my waist which was impossible to run in so I had to except a few minutes at walking pace. But surely that's a greater payoff than running on tarmac through the busy polluted streets or the monotomy of the treadmill.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Adidas Kanadia TR4

New Shoes
I would say that 90% of my running is now done off road and has been for a few years now, so it was about time that I made the switch to the fast growing world of trail trainers. It would appear my love affair with my Nike Lunarglide's (which I've had 3 pairs of) would be put on hold. I've been so impressed with the Nike's and they have handled the non technical trails well but essentially Nike are in the business for road running shoes. I did have a look at what they had to offer in the trail market but decided on sticking with the brands that have been in the trail game longer.

As this was my first time dipping my toes in this market (forgive the pun!) I did not want to spend a fortune on my first pair so decided to go with the Adidas Kanadia TR4 a popular entry grade trail trainer. The trails I cover are not super technical (mud,sand,towpaths,woodland) so these should fit the bill nicely.I was slightly worried about the less support trail trainers seem to other, but remembered someone telling me that the trails are a lot more forgiving than tarmac so support is not required to the same extent as a road trainer.

Although not as cushioned as I'm used to, the TR4 feels and fits really nice around the foot, they look good, but one should not judge a book by it's cover. At 340g they feel pretty lightweight to which is a plus.

The lugs covering the underside of the TR4's front to back

I got myself down onto the North Downs Way to put the trainers through their paces over the undulating trail which offers Tarmac, Mud, Sand, Grass and woodland paths, so a good mixture of terrain.

The trainers seemed to come through with flying colours on all the terrains including a stretch of tarmac. The TR4's are not that flexible and I could feel the lugs underfoot on the tarmac, although not as big a problem as I thought it would be on the tarmac it was a bit like driving an off road vehicle on the road when its used to tougher terrain.

The TR4's were particularly good in the soft mud and sand, gripping and preventing sliding around. They also were happy with the harder uneven woodland trails although I did sometimes feel the foot rolling with no medial support to prevent this.

Sandy trails and obstacles

There is plenty of ventilation with the mesh that covers the forefoot but I did not run through any puddles to see how the trainer coped with holding water and drying out.

I know when its time to change my trainers, the 500 mile rule works pretty well but my Achilles start playing up too as the trainers lose their support. This was the reason in getting new trainers again this time round, but after today's run I've no reaction from my Achilles. This is the area that the TR4 offers best protection and cushioning so hopefully all will be good.

To sum up, the TR4 is fantastic value for money (£40 Sports Direct) looks and fits well and handles less technical trails really well. The only con's I can spot at the moment is it's lack of flexibility and both laces came undone once on an hours run, but so far so good.

Don't worry I'm only running half that speed!

Updated 12/06/12

A further test for the new trainers this morning, 13 miles along the flooded canal path so plenty of mud and water. There is certainly no miracle waterproofing properties to TR4's, by mile 3 my socks and feet were saturated. Admitley I ran through every puddle and to be fair even the specific waterproof trail trainer would have done well to keep the water out today. Although the trainer did remain light throughout the run and did not hold the water so a plus there. Once again the TR4's played to their strengths making mud and soft ground a breeze to run through with no sliding whatsoever, and I went through alot of mud.

Today's run confirmed all the positives of the TR4's, and the laces stayed done up all the way on this run!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Chitty Pasta with Tomato and Basil sauce

A super easy quick nutritious classic dish ideal for carb loading with low GI wholewheat pasta. (Remember keep your pasta and breads brown and not white)

Serves 4


  • 500g wholewheat pasta
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1000g of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of muscovado sugar
  • Bunch of fresh basil chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive oil

  • Cook the wholewheat pasta to instructions on packet
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  • Add the onion and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, cook for 3 minutes before reducing heat to simmer
  • Stir in the muscovado sugar
  • Add salt and pepper to taste (Lots of pepper works well)
  • Add the basil and continue to simmer for a couple more minutes
  • Drain the pasta and then add to the sauce and mix together well
  • Serve and enjoy
This dish is low in saturated fat but for a treat you can added grated cheese. Tastes even better the next day reheated.