Sunday, 23 February 2014

Thought of the day

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Trails of the unexpected

The UK has suffered it's wettest winter on record. Costal towns and villages near rivers that have burst their banks have caused serious damage to properties and chaos up and down the country. Add to this the high winds we've been getting and it's really been a winter to forget.

Although personally I've not been affected by the floods to the extent of others, the local trails have become saturated, lots of surface water and deep mud. So running the trails now takes twice the effort to get through the leg sapping mud and an all round tougher workout.

My 10K night trail race the other week was one of the toughest I've run due to the conditions underfoot.

Well a remarkable thing happened today (Sunday) the forecast for the whole day was.....Sunshine! 

I wasn't going to miss the chance to get out for some decent miles in the sun, so I head out on one of my favourite local runs which takes me up over the Hogs Back and onto the North Downs Way, an area of beautiful rolling hills, woodland, trails and....Mud! Lots of it!

I took a few pictures along the way to show the effects the weather has had on our UK trails.

It wasn't long once I hit the trails for the first surface water to appear.

A stretch of road before hitting the trails again.

Back on the trails....back in the mud!

Thou shall not pass this stretch of path, water as far as the eye could see!

It's all worth it once you get to the top though, stunning views and one of my favourite spots on this run.

Back on the road on the way home and pass my favourite brewery....after the tough hilly trails, what I wouldn't have give for a pint of that!

Friday, 14 February 2014

3 minute healthy cooked breakfast

Whatever diet you may or may not be following, this breakfast ticks most boxes, and is super healthy and satisfying.

This is my healthy take on the great full English fry up with no frying or oils involved. I have this most days at work and it takes just 3 minutes in the microwave.

In a microwaveable bowl place a big handful of spinach and then layer with as many mushrooms and tomatoes you want, then season with pepper, cover and cook on full power for 2 minutes (900w microwave)

Next crack two eggs into a shallow microwaveable bowl and cook for 1 minute, or adjust according to how you like your eggs cooked.

Plate up and eat, easy and 3 of your 5 a day and protein to feed your muscles before the days even started.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Ultrarunning - The aftermath

So if you follow me on Twitter or are maybe part of the Ultrarunning community, you may have got wind of the storm that was blowing in Ultraland and on Twitter in response to my last post.

Some of the tweets were valid, some abusive, some irrelevant but in all, a bigger reaction than I expected.

After the dust had settled a little, I tweeted earlier this week that I would give the chance to even things up and proposed to interview 3 amateur Ultrarunners on the blog and let them respond to my questions I have on the subject, after all it's difficult to debate in 140 characters on social networking.

So Wednesday night, I put my Jeremy Paxman head on to try to come up with some hard hitting questions.

I penned my first question....

An amateur marathon runner can just about train for a marathon around work, family etc. But how can anyone unless they are an elite Ultrarunner, train for a 100 mile race and not risk serious effects on the body?

In between coming up with my questions I flicked in and out of Twitter.

I remember I had favourited a tweet from Susie Chan and a link to her latest blog post which was a response to my last post.

Susie is a well known and popular amateur Ultrarunner on Twitter, who lives local and has joined me and friends on a couple of runs while she was training for the marathon des Sables.

I read her well written post and after reading, she had answered what was to be my first question above.

Amateur runners can achieve these huge distance races, how and why?

There is no 'why' to any of this, there are no questions to ask.

Why am I even taking this any further. 

Why challenge fellow runners just because it's a distance I don't choose to travel. As someone tweeted, who cares what distances people run at least they are up off their arses!

So I'm cancelling my interview post, but thanks to Richard,Tim and Naomi from Twitter for agreeing to take part.

The original post was just my opinion on the subject of Ultrarunning and actually my main gripe was the fact that the trail running press and media seems to be relating everything trail running to Ultra's. When I open up the popular trail running magazine( you all know the one!) to read about trail running; interviews and race reports are generally all Ultra related.....put Ultra in the title so everyone knows what type of magazine you are!.....Oh god, sorry I'm at it again!

I called Ultrarunning a the response I got, maybe I was wrong :-)

I wrote the post to give my blog a bit more of an edge, to be a bit different than the rest, to provoke a got that all right!

I put at the end of the post that I didn't want to alienate myself from fellow runners who run a lot further from me, hopefully I've not done that as there is some great people out there. 

I even got a new follower on Twitter who is an Ultrarunner!

Anyway I'm off to put together my next post....'Fad diets'.........I'm joking, I'm joking!!!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Running rant #1 - Ultrarunning

When I'm out on a long run, I often think about what to write about next on the blog. I think about lots of running subjects, some of which get me wound up! So I'm now having a section on the blog called 'Running rants' where I can air my frustrations!

It would appear the latest running 'fad' is gaining momentum. Ultra running! Yes these days it appears every mere mortal runner is turning into 'ULTRARUNNER'.

Have cake, will run far!

Everyone' bio on Twitter now seems to contain the 'Ultra' word!

Ultra running takes place predominantly on the trails, and I too love the trails, most of my running is done on the trails, but it seems everything related to trail running these days is all about Ultra races. Magazines,videos, everything it seems trail related means you have to run something over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles!

I'm fresh back from a trail race, one of the most enjoyable races I've far?....10K!

Currently I'm running around 30 miles a week, all on the trails. It's perfect for me physically and mentally, I'm not over tired, it's perfect. The trails are strengthening my body and the volume of mileage is keeping me injury free. 

Was a human being really made to run so far, in one go?

I don't think so, when you read about people's race reports after doing these Ultra runs, 90% are injured after the event and can't run for weeks later until they are fully recovered. If cavemen (which everyone seems to be harping back to) had ran this far, they would have gone pretty hungry waiting to recover!

The philosophy of Ultra racing, I do happen to agree with, running long distances slow is how it should be done. I've learnt that ever since training with my heartrate monitor. According to my program that I follow 80% of my running should be in the lower heartrate zones. Running slow burns fat, which is ultimately a main reason why people run.

I think in the long term the buzz and fad of Ultrarunning will pass and return to its routes where it was very much an underground sport. The likes of athletes such as Dean Karnazes really brought this topic to the public domain with his popular book Ultramarathonman (a book I own and love, I'd like to add). But Karnazes is to Ultrarunning what Christopher McDougall is to barefoot running and bringing these subjects to everyone's awareness, but look at barefoot running now, it's been and gone as a fad and returned to a small community who still invest in the idea.

This next point is personal to me, but when it comes to running I'm a bit of a purist. Running is running, not running and walking and if I have to walk in a race then I feel defeated. I know this is totally the wrong attitude, there's nothing wrong with walking, but unless you're one of the Ultrarunning elite then ultra races mean run/walk and that's not in my running mentality.

All this is just my opinion, I certainly don't want to alienate myself from 'Ultrarunners', some of the nicest runners I've met and have run with are into ultra's and lots of people I communicate with on Social networking are the same but hopefully this stirs up a healthy debate :-)

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Watercress challenge - The conclusion

As the years advance, as a runner you need all the help you can get. So when approached to take on this challenge I jumped at it. I mean I didn't realise that Watercress was so good for you and particularly for preventing the damage caused to DNA cells during high intensity exercise.

As you know if you follow the blog, I've included Watercress in my meals everyday for the last 2 weeks leading up to my race, which took place Saturday night. You can see what I've eaten in my previous posts.

Saturday leading up to the race, I had my Watercress and sweet potato soup again (delicious and becoming a regular meal now!) Early evening and it was a lovely piece of Salmon, new potatoes, green beans and a homemade Watercress sauce (1 bag of Watercress, 150g creme fraiche, a dash of water, a dash of lemon juice, salt and pepper)

The race was a tough one (see last post) not due to the distance but the ground conditions. If I was expecting the same affect to what Popeye gets when he eats spinach then it didn't come. But what I have found is the effects of recovery improve.

I've definitely found on some longer training runs that I've felt stronger by the time I run again and recovered quicker. As I've mentioned before I seem to have slept better the last 2 weeks although this is not documented anywhere as a benefit of eating Watercress.

It's been a positive experience because I've found some great healthy recipes and come up with some of my own which has been fun. I now eat Watercress every lunchtime at work along with mixed beans and mackerel so the last 2 weeks has had a positive affect on my diet.

For more information and great recipes visit the Watercress website.

Open Adventure Silva 10 trail series - North Downs

This was the toughest 10K I have run, magnified by the conditions underfoot due to the amount of rain that has hit the UK this winter.

The race making it's debut in the race calendar was held in the Surrey countryside and starts in the Village of Cranleigh. 

Race registration was in the band hall within the village. I arrived in good time parking in the adjacent car park and had chance to sit in the warm for half an hour before heading off to the start line about a mile away. This was a good chance to warm up for the race and I walk/jogged my way to the start.

We all gathered under a large gazebo for race briefing and registering our 'dibbers' attached around our wrists that would time our run.

We then made our way to the start and after a 3,2,1 countdown we were off.

The first couple of minutes was on the Tarmac as we made our way to the trail. 

The pace was good on the road but that was soon to come to an abrupt end as we turned into the first field...a very wet field and then we hit the trails...very muddy trails, all this plus the fact we were steadily climbing in elevation.

In fact it felt like most the first half of the race was climbing, and the mud and puddles were becoming ever more frequent and tricky to manoeuvre through. 

Head torches at the ready, the start and finish line

The worst part was that the mud was sapping the strength out my legs and by the time we reached the biggest hill of the race at around 4K, I was already reduced and resigned to walking the hill. Even on a good day I would have struggled with this hill, the incline was steep and I never saw anyone around me or ahead running it.

I saw some people at the start in road trainers, I dread to think how they got on, my new Soloman's were made for this type of terrain, but even they found it hard sometimes to grip in the deep slippery mud. Generally though they were brilliant on the course unlike my headtorch.

I think I had the cheapest headtorch on show in this race and a lot of the time I was thankful to be running near someone with a better brighter light. My torch was just not sufficient for this quite technical course in the dark. I don't know how I got around without doing myself an injury, most the time it was pot luck and I just went with the flow as my body slipped around the course.

As well as a couple of steep up hills there were a couple of quite tricky steep technical downhills, a combination of rocks, tree trunks and mud. My trainers definitely helped me out here.

The course was well marked with reflective arrows and a few Marshall's braving the dark around the course. It worked well but at one point a small crowd of us lost a couple of minutes continuing to run up a hill on some Tarmac when we should have turned left earlier. I think we were just enjoying the Tarmac after all the mud!

The second half of the race was definitely the easier and I tried to make up some time on the less technical down hills. The last 3K I was running alone with no one else around me which at times had me wondering if I'd gone of course, but at the same time was exciting to be running somewhere new in the dark. By this time I was holding my headtorch in my hand to get more light on the ground. 

Plenty more water to get through and dodging fallen trees but It wasn't long before the finish was in sight and I finished in a time of 1:07:26

My 10K PB is 44 minutes, so I was a long way off of that, but conditions and the technicality of the course put pay to that. In fact the winning time was 45 minutes, and I came in 38th position overall and 10th in my age group. Quite a respectable position which considering how difficult the race was I'm quite satisfied.

After a nice hot sweet black coffee and some biscuits I made my way back to the car a mile away before changing into something dry and warm and driving home.

The socks (and legs) were white before I left!
I thought the organisation was good and professional. A good course (would have been better a bit drier underfoot!) and something different. 

A little disappointed with no medal or goody bag but for £10 entry it was certainly value for money. I don't know of many races these days that is as cheap as this so well done to the organisers for keeping the price down.

Would definitely recommend and I'll be looking out for future Open Adventure events.