Sunday, 2 December 2012

Animals I saw on the beach today

During a very chilly walk on Goswick beach today, I saw these weird and wonderful animals

Friday, 30 November 2012

A downside of (not) running

Briefly, after 2 months off due to injury, I started back running at the start of march 2012. I built up slowly, but was soon running quite big mileages. By the time I sustained a calf injury on 18 November 2012, I had run every day for 266 days covering 1702 miles. The last few months I was averaging 8 miles + per day. Then I stopped. Bang !
I realised that I had to let the injury heal and thought the enforced rest would be good for me generally. My legs were not in great shape, despite bi-weekly massages, and I was tired. And indeed the rest has helped my legs without doubt.
What I hadn't bargained for were the side effects of suddenly stopping running. All was fine for the first week, although I did have a couple of disrupted sleeps. Then I thought I'd contracted a stomach bug. I had the weird mixture of a bit of constipation combined with diarrhoea. This has now changed to constipation and all its associated nasties, such as bloating, wind etc.
I am tired pretty much most of the time. Two nights ago, I came in from work, ate a little soup and went to bed at 6pm. I made myself get up from 8 till 10 so that I might sleep most of the night. Last night I slept from 9pm till 3am, was awake from 3 till 4.30, and then slept again till 7.30. By 10.30 this morning, I was shattered and work was hard going.
I have just run 4 miles and fingers crossed my injury will be OK. I finished the run feeling sick, bloated and lethargic.
I'm not sure there is a lesson to be learned here. If there is one, it's perhaps that I need to get all my eggs out of the one basket.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The death of a runstreak

This is the tale of the death of my runstreak. Before its death, we should start at its birth. On the 27th of February this year (2012) I ran 1 mile. Sure it was only 1 mile, but in retrospect it was an important mile. I dont remember where it was or what it was like, but that doesnt matter. It was the first one of 1702 miles and 266 days that have been run in this runstreak.
Back to the start. I gave myself a stress fracture of a toe at the end of 2011. Why? How? No idea, but that's history, but that resulted in no running in January or February (until the 27th).
That first, tentative mile on the 27th February was the start of a journey I couldn't have nor wouldn't have dreamt of. Where it has taken me has delighted me and, to be honest, amazed me.
My initial wish was to be able to run again. I'd had great support from the running community on Twitter and it was with their encouragement that I started to build on it. I followed people on Twitter who were practising the runstreak (in real terms, running every day). I thought, in my naivety, that this might be a good vehicle to get me back.
Well, little did I know where it would take me. Slowly, mile by mile, I regained my confidence. I stopped thinking my foot would break on each step I took. I got boosted by the great people of Twitter who congratulated my 50 day runstreak, then my 100 day etc. I was amazed how quickly the days ticked by and how addictive this became. Very quickly the thought process changes from "shall I run today" to "when will I run today". I have joked that I was a prisoner to the runstreak. I knew that when I was saying that, that it was true. I was a prisoner, but I did love it !
Prior to this year, I have run 10ks, HMs etc. I was happy with that but not pushing my boundaries. The runstreak led me to try other things. I started going for much longer hill runs. Learning that walk was not a swear word.
To summarise 2012: I started off broken. I ran my first (and second) marathons off road, my first (and to date only) ultra off road. I broke my 10k PB and my HM PB (albeit in training as I didn't run one in race). I decided to try for 2012 running miles in 2012 in early October. Having missed January and February, this was always going to be a tall order. I was on course until yesterday.
Time to accept that I am injured, need to give my injury (and probably lots more of my body) time to heal.
I could go out now for a very slow, very sore mile as a streaksaver. But, lets be honest, that would be pointless.
I hereby lay this runstreak to rest, you have been awesome, I have hated you at times, but I love you more.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Why do I run?

Why do I run? A simple question with a simple answer: because I like it. As usual, behind every seemingly simple situation there is a lot more to it.

2012 has been an amazing year for me, however I will start this blog a few years earlier. As a youth I was always "sporty", rugby being my greatest strength. When I left school, other interests less sporty took my attention,
Lets skip forward 20 years to 2004. Aged 40 I stopped smoking and started going to circuit training in the local gym. I enjoyed the buzz of the workout and kept going.
In 2008 I was in the local pub when I found out the landlady and barmaid were running the Great Edinburgh 10k the next weekend. With sufficient beer onboard I agreed to join them ! So five days later I ran my first 10k. I remember little of the race itself other than it hurt big style. I think I ran 52 something and realised quite quickly that I could actually do this running stuff. I then ran some 5 and 10ks before joining a running club, which brought me on. I spent the next three running years in limbo. I'd get excited about it and then get tired of it. The running club didn't work out for me, mainly I think because I don't like to be told where, when and how to run. I started to get involved in the running community on Twitter 2011 and this proved to be a landmark moment for me. I loved the involvment, support and encouragement it afforded, but at the same time I was on my own. It encouraged me to run, yet I could run on my own. Selfish? Maybe, but it suits me.
I took up the challenge on Twitter last December, which I think was called Marcothon after some Marco dude who thought it up. Basically the idea was to run at least 3 miles or 25 minutes every day of December. Great pain invaded my foot on December 29th ! A stress fracture was diagnosed 2 months later after scans and x-rays, however I was not able to run during January and February.
When I started back running, I was afraid of hurting my foot again and so ran off road. I am lucky enough to live on a farm and can run in the fields, hills, riverbanks etc. Soon I realised that this was where I wanted to run. I wasn't so interested in pace, I stopped listening to music while I ran, I just ran. I listened to my breathing, my footfall, the sounds of nature around me. I "felt" my body doing what it was doing. And I loved it.
By this time I had already been inspired by the idiots on Twitter who practice the runstreak (you know who you are!), so I thought I'd give it a go. In simple terms, it means running everyday. Simple! At the time of writing I have been running for 245 days. At times, it can be a chore. But only until I actually start running, and then its a joy more often than not.
My new found playground involved hills, woods, mud, water. Tough running conditions, but it has built up a stanima I didn't think I had in me. The few times I venture onto the roads now also see the benifit: a 10k race and HM training run PB this summer.
My running journey took an unexpected twist in late May. I asked someone if she knew of any off road races coming up. She mentioned a few, including an off road marathon in the Lake District. This was May 30th this year (2012). I looked up the event and found out the closing entry date was May 31st ! Time for an Englishman to enter the equation.
I had been chatting to said Englishman on Twitter for a few months and knew he was looking at running his first marathon. I also knew he was discovering off road running too. I dropped the "I will if you will" into a conversation and he bit ! Now said marathon was only one month away, so we really had to get our heads round this idea. Added to which was the fact we had no idea how hard the course would be. I suppose this kind of suited me because, as I said earlier, I don't like to be told how to run, when to run etc, and a training schedule was out of the question at this late date.
I won't go into the details of the actual race except to say it rained all day, there was no visibility so the beautiful scenery remains unseen to me and we ran it together, finishing together. Blow me, I'm a marathon runner. How did that happen?
The Englishman and I went on to run the Kielder marathon which is a very different type of run. I found it very tough. He went off fast, suffered after 18 miles and came home in an amazing time. Finishing my first marathon was an amazing feeling, finishing my second was more emotional for some reason.
Now in between these two events the Englishman had got in into his tiny noddle to run an Ultra. How silly can you be? Well of course you can guess the outcome. We did. We ran the Ennerdale trail 50k on 21st Oct 2012. Again this is not a race report, so I will limit my comments to saying that when I realised I "only" had 5 miles or so to go and was feeling really strong, I looked around to check no-one could hear me, and started singing! I can't sing by the way! I sang because I was so happy that I was doing this, was able to do this and I was inhaling every moment of it, knowing it would be over all too soon.
Two lovely friends were at the finish to cheer me home and I had now run my first marathon and Ultra marathon with the Englishman. He's in my soul.
I'm not putting down short distance by any means. I've been thrilled when I have run a PB, but distance just does it for me. It seems to suit my character.
I had kept both my first marathon and ultra quiet on Twitter as I didn't want the added pressure. I have one more challenge left in what has been an amazing running year. I want to run 2012 miles. As I missed January and Febuary, I never considered this until early October. Then I had to average 8 miles per day for the rest of the year. I'm on target.
To answer my original question, I run because it has taken me on this journey and I am still travelling.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Testing some new kit

Today was wet and windy, so I took the opportunity to try out some new clothing, namely Inov8 Mistlite jacket and trousers and More Mile Cheviot trail shoes.
Conditions: 5 to 6 degrees, NE wind, raining, very soggy underfoot. Running on grass and woodland boggy trails. Just over an hours running.
The Jacket: I have worn this quite a few times before today and find it quite sweaty, especially in the arms. Today was quite a bit colder so I never felt this a problem. The windproofing is excellent and its quite water resistant without being waterproof (which I dont think it claims to be). Today was the first time I’ve used the hood. I didnt think I like the feeling of restriction, but I was happy with it. Keeping the windchill off my head was good. I found it a bit intrusive around the eyes with the draw strings pulled, but I had no hat on, so I think it would fit better with a hat. It rolls up easily into its own pocket and worn round the waist with its own belt, its very comfortable. Verdict: too sweaty for warmer weather, but about perfect for todays conditions.

The Trousers: This was the first time I’d tried the trousers. I am very much a “shorts” runner so I was apprehensive about these. I need not have been. I barely knew I had them on and was delighted not to feel the windchill with the wind driving the rain onto me (rather than caused by my speed !). Again I think they’d be a bit sweaty in warmer weather, but then I wouldnt be wearing them if it was warmer. I’d be happy to carry them on a hill run just in case the weather turned. Verdict: excellent, although no obvious way of carrying them other than in a backpack.

The Shoes: I admit that I was attracted to these shoes purely for their price and the deal. I have only had Inov8 trail shoes. These shoes cost £30 with a running fleece (excellent quality) thrown in from They have very rough tread which provided excellent grip in the muddy conditions. They felt comfortable. I havent owned trail shoes this grippy before and was impressed. If my run involved firmer tracks I’d prefer my Inov8 Roclites or Flyrocs, but for the sloppy stuff these win hands down. Its too early to tell how long they will last, but for the deal I am more than happy.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Hadrian's Wall Half

I seldom write race reports, but when i do I like to do it whilst the race is still raw so to speak. I think this gives a chance to be more accurate and see less through the rose tinted glasses.
Today I ran the Hadrian’s Wall half marathon. This is described as a multi terrain race suitable for those venturing off the road for the first time. More about that later (see note 1)
As I didnt really know where I was going exactly and being unsure of parking etc, I set off in plenty of time and got there in plenty of time ! Like an hour to go. Dont I just love hanging around pre-race!
As I always do, I set off at the back and slowly picked off a lot of runners that were either slower than me or had simply gone off too fast. The first 4.5 miles were on undulating roads, the next 5 were on hard, loose gravel forestry tracks.
I settled into what I thought was a decent pace (I had 8 min/mile in mind) and set about doing the job in front of me. I use my Garmin, but never set the pace I want for a race as it distracts me too much. At the 2 mile marker I could see 14.18 or in other words, way too fast! This dilemma I have had often: do I slow down quickly to get back to my target pace or say “it’s time in the bank for later?”? I always opt for the latter just because...!
As the race went on I started to feel good, strong and steady. I picked a few places off and thanked the twitter #runstreak for getting me to this level.
As I have not a lot to think about as I’m trotting along, I started to do some algebra (best/worst thing I learned at school). I realised that as I was inside 8 min pace and feeling good and we were probably at the highest point of the race, I could go sub 1.45. My road HM PB on a flat road course is 1.45.12.
Oops, big mistake ! We left the forest to descend into what can only be described as a BOG as opposed to a bog ! Not only did I sink almost up to my knees, I wasnt sure where I should be going. To rub salt in, it was then steep uphill! Walkie time for me. After about a mile, we started running decent grass with the odd ditch or stile, but the bog had killed my legs (see note 2).
I was disappointed in myself in that I struggled to pick up the pace on the flat or downhill sections. My posture was crap. I was knackered and started to wonder if I was bonking. Surely not after 12 miles with loads of grub inside me. I wasnt, I was just being a wuss.
By now I could see the finish, nice and white in the sunlight. Bastards didnt need to light it up ! Unfortunately, mile 13 was all uphill and into the wind (some would call it a breeze, I call it a wind). I kept expecting to be overtaken, but it seems those behind me were feeling it as much as me. The last wee bit was mercifully downhill/flat and a managed a fast finish to sneak in under 1.50.
A couple of months ago I ran my first marathon in the Cumbrian hills. There were many times today I asked myself, how on earth did you manage that?
Note 1) I’m not sure quite how I feel about this type of race. The road section was reasonably easy, as was the forest section. The bog was brutal. I’ve never raced this sort of mix before and I can see it tempting road runners off for the first time. I can also see it putting them off for good.
It’s taught me some stuff though and thats banked for future use.
Note 2) I was relieved to hear guys who had finished way ahead of me talking of how the bog killed their legs. So it wasnt just me !
In summary, I’m glad I ran this race. I learned more about mixed terrain running, hopefully I’m a better runner for having done it. I’d run it again if I lived nearer,I’d like to try to run it smarter.
On the plus side, I may have just managed a top 15 place !

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Berwickshire Coastal Path

Here are some pictures from a run along the Berwickshire Coastal Path from Eyemouth, past St Abbs Head towards Fast Castle. I did get lost often, thinking I was on the path but I was actually on a sheep track far far too close to the cliff edge for comfort/safety/sanity. Truly stunning views, but very very tough running conditions, some of it only walkable (I did have to resort to all fours once!)

Here are some pictures from a run along the Berwickshire Coastal Path from Eyemouth, past St Abbs Head towards Fast Castle. I did get lost often, thinking I was on the path but I was actually on a sheep track far far too close to the cliff edge for comfort/safety/sanity. Truly stunning views, but very very tough running conditions, some of it only walkable (I did have to resort to all fours once!)

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Thursday, 5 July 2012

My first marathon

Once I recovered from a stress fracture of a toe at the end of February this year, I started back running off road to ease my foot back into regular running. This turned out to be a “eureka” moment (more like month) as I realised that this is where running was at for me. Not quite goodbye road forever, but definitely the mud and hills were where i wanted to run.
I built this up gradually and started to wonder how far I could go. A chance meeting on 30th May told me about a trail marathon, but the closing date was 31st May. A marathon? Really ! Me? With a feeling of now or never, I got on the computer and pressed the GO button before I could change my mind.
I had a month to get my head around the idea and to be fit enough. I was running every day, so I had no problem upping the mileage on the weekend runs. Where I live lends itself well to hill, trail, bog running, so I got stuck in.
The race ? Well it was the Lakeland Trail Marathon around Coniston Lake on Sunday 1st July. I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter and get great support from the fabulous people on there, but i decided to keep this quiet. This was something I had to do myself. There were two people who knew about it because I helped tempt another into doing it (his first too) and a very special friend.
We agreed to run this together, despite never having met before (Twitter power ! ).
I travelled to the lakes on the Saturday and met my friends in Ambleside. We went to Coniston to register and collect our race numbers. Suddenly it was very real. I had a race number and was chatting with a man I had not met until half an hour previous, and we were about to embark on a journey neither of us knew about ! Exciting times.
Pre race evening preparations consisted of a couple of pints, followed by a delightful meal of sausage and mash. Lots of friendly chat. I felt so comfortable with these people.
I had booked into a campsite. Being an old bloke, I dont camp. Period ! So I had borrowed an airbed and was sleeping in my van. This is a small van, and whilst at 6ft I’m not huge, I am about 4 inchs too long for my van. I fell asleep quickly and all was well until 12.30 when the “neighbours” got home, decided to sit out and chat until 1.30. Peace for 10 minutes until the snoring started. Oh God, no. I’m running my first marathon in about 5 hours.
After some sleep, it was morning. Rain lashing the van woke me up ! Oh yes, here we go. I got into my race kit, pinned my number on, eat my pre race meusli smoothie (food of the running Gods) and headed off to the start about a mile away.
I met my friends there, attended to pre race briefing (no I never heard a word yet ! ) and we were off. As I have said, we agreed to run together. I wasnt sure how we would actually do this. It turned out that we had quite different running styles. He ran almost all the hills. I walked frequently. He descended cautiously, I freewheeled. I found the first third of the race quite tough. The hills were much shorter and sharper than I imagined and found it hard to get any sort of rhythm. My mate was cruising along steadily in front, occasionally looking back waiting for the thumbs up from me to indicte I was OK.
Somewhere after halfway the terrain changed quite dramatically. Now we were running moorland, bogs, stream beds, stones, the works. I was probably starting to hurt by now, but to be honest I dont remember. This is what running is all about for me. I noticed the 15 mile mark pass before my watch ran out of battery and went blank (note to self : charge up your watch ).
I can hardly believe we ran 11 more miles from here, it was just so much fun. Somewhere I got all silly and flew down some rock strewn, boggy hillside with total abandon. The fact that it had been grey and rainy all day didnt matter.
The terrain flattened out a bit after this and my buddy moved on nicely. I found it harder and thought of something I had read on a blog (@rhinomittens your advice to your pal), JUST KEEP GOING. I kept going. I could see my companion trip over tree roots a couple of times. I knew he was tiring, so shouted at him “keep dancing, man, keep dancing”. He knew what i meant.
The last couple of miles were alongside Lake Coniston and onto the playing field that was both the start and finish. I was delighted (but not surprised) when I saw my guy slow up to a trot a mile from home to allow me to catch up. We ran that last bit side by side, chatting, got a huge cheer from the crowds at the finish, crossed the line hand in hand. We were immediately hugged by the third member of the team. Job done. Happy? Yes. Elated? F*ck YES