Half way there is more than half way there.

It’s Sunday 27th March. 7pm has come around. I have waited all day to head out for my training run today as the weather was supposed to clear, which it has.

I wearily gather up my running vest so I can carry some nutrition, my head torch (cause despite the clocks going forward, it’s still going go get dark), kiss the wife and kids goodbye and then out into the twilight I go.

Heading up to the Havant road my path takes me westwards before I turn south and head onto Portsea Island (the island which Portsmouth city is on). Jogging past houses and flats, I am instantly struck by how much more you notice when running than any other form of locomotion.

I have driven, cycled and walked down this road hundreds, if not thousands of times, but running seems to allow me to take more in that any other method of getting about. I notice roads I have never noticed before, little cut through alleyways and paths weaving between the houses and flats. I am struck by the beauty of the twilight. It is quieter than I expected, and even though I am on a busy dual carriageway style urban road, there are few cars about.

Making my way further west the flats become a bit less frequent and more of the sky becomes visible, and it is a beauty. We often get stunning reds and oranges in our sunsets in Portsmouth, especially over the Solent, but todays sunset is lilac and purple and deep blue. There is a real “other worldly” sense about the night tonight. Dawn and dusk are by far my favourite parts of any day, but I think I especially enjoy sunset. The hustle and bustle of the daytime is giving way to the relative peace and tranquility of the night. The birds flying overhead are finding their nightime resting roosts, and not quite yet, but in a few weeks time the bats will be out, hoovering up insects as they expertly weave their way around the urban landscape. There is always great beauty to be found, if you just look around a bit.

Eventually I turn south, crossing over (or under in this case) the M27 and then making my way round the very top of Portsmouth Harbour. There is nobody about, and as I make my way past Hilsea Lido and then shortly afterwards, the SouthCoast Wakepark I am actually feeling fairly decent. I am just over 5km into my half marathon (21km, or 12.1 miles for those of use who like ancient units of measurement) and have completed the distance in about 35 minutes, which is far from fast, but perfect training pace.

They have recently updated the path around this part of Portsmouth Harbour, and they have done a great job. It is a great area to cycle or rollerblade or run or whatever, but tonight, other than an odd cyclist and a very occasional runner, I am out here on my own.

Looking west from the path around Portsmouth Harbour. The lights are the M275 that runs towards Gunwharf down the west coast of Portsea Island.

As my distance increases my pace slows a little, but this is inevitable. I am not as well trainied as I should be at this stage of my marathon training plan, but then again I never ever am, so this is par for the course. Never-the-less, I plod on, turning left again and making my way east across Portsmouth through North End. The houses here are mostly old Victorian terrace housing built around the turn of the century (1900 not 2000) and they have large bay windows and high ceilings. I have always loved this type of architecture and ponder to myself how so much of it is still in such good condition. I doubt when these houses were built anybody expected people to still be living in them 100 years later.

The occasional sickly sweet smell of what must be rather pungent cannabis hits my nostrils as I pass certain houses. “Clearly they are having a chilled one tonight” I think to myself, contemplating if they hear me shuffle past from inside their living room and are wondering to themselves what the hell somebody is doing out running. It is now about 8.30pm, I have been out for about an hour and I am going along nicely.

It is always strange where your mind goes to when you run long distances. More than an hour, and my mind seems to just relax into it. As long as I am not aching or struggling too much, I achieve a sort of Zen like state. I suppose it is the rhythmic pounding of my feet on the ground, the relaxed but elevated breathing, my heart going quicker than at rest, but I find the entire thing very relaxing. No sooner am I thinking how lovely and relaxing it is, than I turn south again and straight into the wind.

Now it is almost always windy in Portsmouth, so running in a breeze is standard fare for me. Running into the wind makes it a bit more tough going, but I soldier on past houses where old friends used to live, filled with memories of fun times. Many of these friends have left Portsmouth now, but the memories of BBQ’s and watching football matches and just hanging out remain. Great times.

Eventually turning back to the east and then northwards, I am out onto the Eastern Road and making my way North towards home. Now somehow (and I have no idea how) the wind is still into my face. Portsmouth has a unique way of channeling the wind so you always feel like you are running into it, and tonight is no different.

Slogging up the path to the side of the dual carriageway I am cursing the stupid wind. I am starting to feel pretty tired now and the last thing I need is the wind hampering my progress. I know that I have to do 10 miles (16km) before I will turn down the cycle path that runs along the north side of Langstone Harbour and the will be sheltered from the wind, but I am a few kilometres from that yet.

Approaching the 10 mile mark I start to get a bit of a second wind (pardon the pun). 10 miles always seems like a significant distance to me and I pick up my pace ever so slightly. I change from my usual audiobooks that I like to listen to when running, to a comedy podcast (The Wolf and Owl – extremely highly recommended) and turn onto the path that signifies the final leg of my journey. My kids call this path the “Dead Rat Trail” because they once saw a dead rat here, and imagining them talking about it amuses me as I complete the trail, turn north, then quickly west and am finally on the Havant road back home.

Arriving back at the house, I have completed a half marathon in just over 2hrs 30 mins, which is a good time for a training run, and most importantly, I have run the entire way without stopping and don’t feel like I am going to die, which is always a bonus.

I’m starting to feel like a proper runner again, which I am loving. It feels good to be able to go out and run long and enjoy it. Is a proper little bit of tranquility in an otherwise crazy world.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, and if you made it to the end, thank you for sticking with me. Just to remind you that all this training is in aide of the London Marathon for Daisy’s Dream, so if you can donate to my fundraising effort I would really appreciate it.

TTFN

Snooky

Some runs count triple

Its last Wednesday, just after lunch. I am having one of those days where I have tonnes to do but am getting nothing done. Sometimes it just goes like that. It’s been raining non-stop in England for what feels like forever. I genuinely can’t remember the last time that I saw the sun shining. Its grey, damp and depressing.

As I look out of my home office window onto the street the rain is coming down sideways. The wind is howling and it looks very much like there might be a bit of thunder. Another joyous winter day in England.

My motivation to do anything is virtually zero. I am moping about the house, trying to get my work done whilst figuring out if I need yet another coffee, something to eat, to do 1000 press ups or just to slack it all off and go to bed.

I am grumpy, and I am getting increasingly grumpy just about being grumpy. Fed up and I’ve just had enough. It is starting to get dark outside, but then again, it is pretty much totally dark even during the daytimes when the weather is like this.

Thinking back on my running career, I realise it is time to take action. To sort my life out. I wearily troop upstairs and dig out some running gear. Waterproof running top on, I stash a headtorch in the pocket and head out into the rain. ‘My god this weather is awful’ I think to myself as I head out the door.

Off I go on my usual 7ish km route that I regularly run. Out along the main road I plod, but quickly after I get going I start to feel better. Running can have this effect on you. Luckily, I am running with the wind, so as the rain lashes against my back I get a little boost. It is always easier running with the wind. That being said, the rain is so hard that it is stinging my calves as I make my way down the Havant road towards Langstone Harbour.

Right on queue, the thunder starts. A huge flash of light, followed very quickly by an enormous boom that sounds like the heavens are splitting in two. The storm must be right on top of me. I can only imagine what the car drivers are thinking as they see some lunatic runing down the road in a thunderstorm, their wheels sending up huge waves of water, soaking me through as they drive through the enormous puddles on the roadside. The thunder and lightening continues, flashes lighting up the dark clouds as the sky rumbles above me. Whenever I am out running and there is a thunderstorm, I always think back to the ancient people of earth. How scary it must have been for them, not knowing what is causing this apocalyptical noise. The Gods were definitely angry.

Soon I make my way through to an offroad section which leads to the harbour. I am sliding around all over the place in the mud. My road shoes have zero grip and I am forced to stop and turn on my headtorch. It is dark as hell.

The mud gives way to more tarmac, and as I turn along the harbourside, suddenly I am straight into the wind. The rain lashes at my face, stinging my eyes. My waterproof jacket is useless in this weather, having been soaked through by the car splashes, and I can feel water leaking through my shoulders and chest.

This really is the most horrendous running conditions, and I am absolutely LOVING it.

I am grinning like an idiot as I turn and make my way back across the M27 bridge and turn back for home. This is not some sort of massochistic joy, though you would not be mistaken in thinking that it was. My smile is because I know that runs like this are worth so much more than just the exercise itself.

Whilst I am always hopeful for good weather at the races that I run, good weather is far from guaranteed. Thinking back on it, I have run Beachy Head Marathon in the strongest wind I have ever been outside in. I ran the Mouth to Mouth Marathon during a horrendous hail storm, and the marathon at the end of my ironman triathlon was rain very similar to today (you can see this for yourself in this video of me and my mate Bushy crossing the finishing line). I even completed the Owler half ironman when literally half of the field had to stop on the bike leg because the rain was so hard you couldn’t see where you were going. I didn’t stop of course. Why would I? I finished last in that race, but at least I finished.

So I am no stranger to completing races in shocking conditions, and there is absolutely no guarantee that when I run London Marathon in 14 weeks time the weather will be good.

This is why these runs count triple. Firstly, you are out there running in the first place. Secondly, nobody else is mad enough to go out in these conditions and I could have easily just stayed in the house and done something else. Finally (and most importantly) Iare building up my mental reserves. These mental reserves are vital, cause if it is shocking weather on the day of your race at least I am conditioned for it. Preparation is vital, after all.

Getting home from the run, I felt great. After a quick shower I was able to focus, get on with my work and turn what would have been an unproductive day into a very productive one. This is the power that running can have, especially running in conditions that no sane person would even go outside in!

During this run I had a couple of phone calls. My wife rang me to see what I was up to, and wasn’t even slightly surprised that I was out running in the torrential rain. She is used to these sorts of antics now, and after a short conversation she just said “I’ll leave you to it, see you at home later.” No “take care, the weather is awful” or “what the hell are you doing out running in this”. This really amused me. I know that she is always worried about me when I am doing this crazy stuff, but I always make it home in the end and she knows the value of runs like this and how much I need running in my life.

I also briefly spoke to Vicky from Daisy’s Dream, the charity that I am running London Marathon for. She was substantially more shocked than my wife that I was out running in the awful weather, but when I caught up with her the next day she too understood the value of going out in all conditions.

I suppose the moral of the story is that when you are in a funk, sometimes a bit of exercise is all that you need. Not all of us are lucky enough to be fit enough to run. Every day I count my lucky stars that I am in good enough condition at the moment to do some exercise. I have spent long periods of time injured and unable to exercise as I would like. But right now I am feeling good. Fitness is improving and I am proud that I went out in the awful conditions and am even more proud to be running for Daisy’s Dream.

My next post will be all about them and my fundraising endeavours this year. London Marathon is just the start of things for me. The first in a series of events this year to raise money for some very deserving charities. Times are hard in the UK right now. Most of us are cold at home cause the heating bills are so high. We are struggling to make ends meet. I know that. But at these times charity becomes even more important. This is why I will fundraise hard this year, because charities are hit the hardest during tough times. The work that they do is so very vital and so many people rely on them, and by proxy, they rely on people like me to hopefully motivate people like you to donate some of your hard earned money to keep them running and enable them to maintain the vital services they provide to those less fortunate than us.

Anyway, its a nice sunny day today (the first one that I can remember). Blue skies are shining outside my window and the world seems like a better place for it.

Even better, I am going out for dinner tonight with the lads from my NCT crew. We met during NCT classes when our first kids were all due to be born and have remained friends since, so I am excited to see them and catch up.

Hope all is well with you guys who are reading this. For all your runners out there, next time it is awful weather and you don’t want to run, think of me grinning my way round a 7km run in a thunderstorm and perhaps put your shoes on and head out yourself. You never know, you might just enjoy yourself.

TTFN

Snooky

PS – here is the link to my fundraising page. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/runsnookyrun

I promise you the money goes straight to Daisy’s Dream. I will be using my own money for dinner tonight ūüėČ

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen

Only the coolest amongst you will recognise where the quote from the title of this blog post is from (hint, the image below is a big clue). For the rest of you it will mean very little, other than the fact that for once in my life, my training is going to plan.

Palpatine - Wikipedia

So far I have run 13 out of 13 of my planned training runs. That is right, I have not missed a single one yet.

“Big Woop” I here all of you runners who stick religiously to your training plans say. But for me, this is quite the achievement.

Under usual circumstances I write a detailed plan, set out with the best of intentions then after a week or so it goes right off the rails and I usually end up just writing yet another plan, to plan for where the first plan went wrong, then not sticking to the new one. Rinse and repeat and hey presto, you have pretty much summed up my approach to training over the last few years.

This time it seems very different. I have consistently trained through tiredness, heat, rain, niggling calves and ankles. I have gone out regardless, and I feel a lot better for it.

The idea or concept of consistency is a fascinating one. Whilst it is entirely logical that if you consistently do a thing over a long enough period you are bound to improve at it, for some reason it has taken me a VERY long time to come around to this idea.

I recently read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography. In that, he talks about how he convinced James Cameron to give him the role of the Terminator (which was originally supposed to have been played by OJ Simpson, believe it or not).

Pin on The Terminator

Arnold mentions to Cameron that the Terminator is an android (cybernetic organism to be precise) and as such, would not blink when firing off pistols, shotguns or automatic rifles. To add authenticity to the part, Cameron would need an actor who can train himself not to blink when shooting weapons. An actor who can condition his body not to do a thing which it naturally does to protect itself (eg blink when a very loud and very bright weapon is discharged close to the eyes, which are very delicate at the best of times).

Arnold goes on to say that he is uniquely qualified to train himself into this position, as it is just about reps (repetitions). He has lifted tonnes upon tonnes of weights, performing rep after rep to get the physique that took him to 7 Mr Olympia titles.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Mr. Universe 1967 from Austria | Arnold ...

Firing a gun without blinking, argues Arnold, is exactly the same. So that is what he did. He went to the firing range and trained for months on end, firing all manner of different weapons until he could shoot these guns without blinking.

If you watch the Terminator movies closely, in the scenes when he is shooting weapons Arnold never blinks. It is such a subtle thing, but adds to the overall lore of the movie and helps the audience to realise just how deadly this android (cybernetic organism) really is. How unfeeling it is. How not human it is. How it cares about nothing but killing.

An actor blinking as he shot would make him look human. Arnold realised that this was no good, but also that there was only one way to train yourself to be able to shoot without blinking, and that was repetition and consistency.

Whilst I absolutely love this story (Schwarzenegger is a bit of an idol for me) it also has direct correlation to my own training journey.

Have I ever really consistently applied myself to fitness training in the past? The answer to that is no. Have I ever just repped out my training runs. Rep after rep, run after run. No matter what, gone out and completed that run. Again, the answer is no.

For the first time in my athletic endeavours, the importance of just repetition and consistency is clearly obvious to me. The penny has finally dropped.

So here is to a further 17 weeks of consistent training. No missing any sessions. At all. For any reason. Consistent running. 5 times a week, every week, for 17 more weeks.

My body will adapt to this. I will get fitter. Only consistency and repetition will cause this to happen. And who knows, perhaps I will be able to not blink when the starting pistol sounds at 6am on the 7th November.

Here is to consistent training, loving the journey and making the start line.

TTFN

Snooky

Ever wonder why people run?……..this is why

Just over a couple of weeks ago, whilst sitting on my sofa, I was thinking about my upcoming races this year. I am running the brilliant Ragnar Relay with 4 good friends, but this won’t require me to run more than 7-8 miles in one go. My usual level of bravado figured this will be fairly easy at any level of fitness (completely untrue) and despite the fact that I haven’t really run properly all year, I wasn’t worried. There was 12 weeks to go till the envent. Plenty of time.

Then my mind slowly turned to the next event after that, the Beachy Head Marathon. Slightly different kettle of fish this, but I have run it before, it was 16 weeks or so away and with my usual level of misguided bravado I figured it would be alright.

That brings me on very nicely to the next event, the Wendover Woods 50 (WW50). This is 50 miles, not 50km. So its an ultra. And it was (at the time) 18 weeks away. It is now 16 weeks away!

Now bearing in mind I had hardly run all year, have put on almost 10kg in weight compared to when I was running regularly, this is clearly a slightly bigger fish to fry. For some unknown reason, I thought that this course was fairly flat. I even tweeted as such. You can read the fairly worrying responses to this tweet here.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that the WW50 is hilly. Sorry did I say hilly. I should have said HILLY. Sorry did I say HILLY. I meant HILLY. Apparently, it has approximately 10,000ft of elevation gain over 50 miles. If you consider that the South Downs Way 100 (twice the distance) has approximately 12,000ft of elevation change, this should give you an idea of just how hilly the WW50 is.

Rapidly I felt my previous bravado leaching away from me. In place of this bravado was abject panic. “Is it possible to train up from virtually nothing to 50 miles in 18 weeks” I thought to myself. Well there was only one way to find out.

Jump forward two weeks to the present day, and I have two weeks of training behind me. Two gruelling, punishing weeks where my body had to learn to run again. Even 30 minutes was hard. How was I ever going to run for upwards of 15 hours? Then it all came together in one beautiful moment, and I remembered why I love running so much.

Sunday was my “long run” day, so I headed up to the South Downs just north of where I live in Portsmouth, ready for a nice gentle 70 minute run on the trails. It was evening time, about 8pm. The light was perfect when I parked my car. It was still, quiet and beautiful.

The run started in the Sustainability Centre car park near East Meon. I was straight onto the South Downs Way and immediately heading uphill. For those of you who have not run on the South Downs Way, it is almost always either uphill or downhill. As I ran up the first hill I felt OK. In fact I felt a bit better than OK, I felt good. I reached the top of the hill and remember thinking “well you couldn’t have done that two weeks ago”.

As I plodded on, down single track running trails and descending a super steep rocky path, I felt good. I was running well. No aches and pains. Not feeling like I couldn’t breathe. It felt good.

Meon Springs

Running past Meon Springs fishing and campsite, I realised that I hadn’t passed a single other person. I hadn’t even seen a car, or heard a plane in the sky. No tractors or agricultural vehicles. Nothing. I was all alone on the South Downs with just cows, sheep and goats for company. The sun was dropping in the sky, bathing the countryside in a beautiful orange glow. I raised my hands up to the sky and was thankful. Just to be able to run in such a stunning place, to be able to do this, is magical in its own rights.

Reaching the bottom of Old Winchester Hill, I turned around and headed back the way I came. It is amazing how running the opposite direction always seems shorter to me, despite the fact that I had a very steep incline to walk up and it actually took me a little bit longer to get back.

Arriving back at the car park, I posed in the classic style of the wonderful @RunningDads on twitter (who is the master of this strange open mouth pose) and my run was complete. A total of a hilly 10km in just over 70 minutes. I’ll take that any day of the week.

So that is why I love running. All alone, sun setting in one of the most beautiful places on earth I was reminded that with training, you can condition your body to enable you to enjoy a 10km run. If you run in the right places, at the right times, you get a connection to nature and the outdoors which is second to none.

Hope you are all out there enjoying your running as much as I am.

TTFN – Snooky

QE Spring Half Marathon – race report

It is 6.30am on Sunday 26th March and my alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the QE Spring Half Marathon, run by Second Wind Running.

Well I say my alarm has just gone off. ¬†This is not entirely accurate. ¬†I have a 4 year old who gets up at somewhere between 6am and 6.30am every day, so no need for an alarm really ūüôā

I was looking forward to this race.  Despite my training going nowhere near to plan due to injury and illness, I was feeling fairly fit and this hilly half marathon is a preparation run for Brighton Marathon in a few weeks time.  No need to try and rush round, just turn up, complete the race uninjured and move on.

This race had been entered due to my friends Mike and Neil both signing up and persuading me to do so. ¬†Since then, they have both had to withdraw from the race due to injury, leaving me to it. ¬†No real drama, as they both run WAY faster than I do so would only have seen them at the start, and then again at the end. ¬†They would have been looking all lithe and fit and well rested as I hauled myself over the line hours after they have finished. ¬†So really a blessing in disguise I was going on my own, as I wouldn’t have to suffer that. ¬†ūüôā

Queen Elizabeth (QE) Country Park is just up the road from where I live in Portsmouth.  Nestled along the absolutely stunning South Downs Way, QE allows access to miles of mountain bike and running tracks, and is just about as nicer place as you could ever want to run.  All except for one minor point.  It is hilly.  Very hilly!

2017-01-02 14.34.00
One of the stunning views on the South Downs Way

Now I am not somebody who balks at hills.  In fact I quite enjoy a hill.  Those that are too steep for me to run up I simply walk up, meaning I get a well earned rest and can then fly down he other side of the hill like a mountain goat running away from a snow leopard.  At least that is the idea anyway.  Plus my ultra marathon that I have booked in June is along the South Downs Way, which means that any hill practice I get in now will hold me in good stead for that race.

Arriving at race HQ at around 9.15am for a 10.15am race start, I quickly registered and set about the tedious business of trying to pin my race number onto my vest.  Luckily, I had the ever cheerful Dave Ludlam to talk to.  Dave is a fellow member of Portsmouth Triathletes, and also a fellow blogger.  His blog is well worth a read if you fancy it.  You can find it here.  I always enjoy talking to Dave and we were discussing his race schedule for this year, my race schedule and various other bits and bobs as I got prepared for the race.

Soon enough the race brief was upon us and we filed over to the race start. ¬†I had never run this race before, so didn’t know what to expect (other than hills), so the plan was to start slow and see how I got on. ¬†This plan worked perfectly, as soon after the start Dave and others were powering up the first switch-back style hill, as I slowly trundled along towards the back.

Once we submitted the first hill we were in the woods at QE, winding through well worn paths and out away from the park.  The run was essentially either uphill, or downhill with very few flat sections.  I was concentrating on just keeping it steady.  Not worrying about the pace on my watch, just nice and steady.

After a few kilometres I caught up with Dave.  We had a brief chat on how we were getting on before getting to yet another uphill, where I slowly moved away from him.  I was feeling good at this point in the race and wanted to maintain a nice solid pace.  On we climbed through another switchback and out into the sunshine at the top of the hill.

2017-03-26 09.19.00
There are worse race carparks around!

The scenery around QE park, the Downs and the Meon Valley is simply stunning. ¬†On a warm morning in March there is nowhere better. ¬†Each turn presented another stunning view and I felt very privileged to be able to run in such a beautiful place. ¬†As we continued onwards I glanced down at my GPS watch, which seemed to be stuck, saying I had only run 2.79km. ¬†Oh well, I wasn’t planning on using it much anyway, so would just keep going.

Soon we were through the first aide station (at the 4.5 mile mark), manned by some cheerful volunteers.  I was running with my race pack on (that I will use for all my marathons this year) so had water with me.  There was no need to top up the bottle, so I just kept going.  We were running through some great single track at this point and I had settled in with a group of runners who all seemed a similar speed to me.  There was pink top lady, green jacket man and another lady with some very colourful trousers on.  We would all take turns overtaking each other, but essentially seemed locked together.  It is funny how this tends to happen in races.  I never plan to stick with certain people, it just seems to naturally occur.

As the race wound on and I was feeling good.  After 1 hour of running I had no idea how far I had gone (cause of the watch), but I felt really strong.  The sun was beating down on me, but my legs felt great, my breathing was easy and I was running well.

Onwards and onwards, uphill then down again, I continued.  At the second aide station (at the 9 mile mark) I stopped to top up my water bottle.  It was really quite hot and my water consumption rate had risen.  Luckily, I had run enough races to tell when I needed to drink more and had adapted my water intake accordingly.  I had also taken a couple of energy gels by now to keep the energy levels topped up.  These are great but sometimes give me a bit of a stomach ache.  This would prove to be the case shortly.

As I approached around 2 hours of running I started to flag.  We were out in the open.  The wind was blowing and the sun was strong.  I was running out of beans.  Hardly surprising on the amount of training I had done, but never the less it was a problem.  I decided to take my final energy gel, even through I had taken the previous one only 20 minutes before.  Usually I have to leave it at least 30-40 minutes or I am guaranteed stomach ache; however this was not a luxury I had. I needed the energy boost.  No sooner had I taken it than I got stomach cramp.  I knew this would happen, so just kept on running.  Concentrating on my breathing I got the cramp to pass, lifted my head up and got on with the race.

Shortly after this I was overtaken by a very fast runner. ¬†He was running the full marathon distance, which was two laps of the same course I was completing one lap of. ¬†Bearing in mind I had only been going for 2 hours, he was on for a very fast marathon time, as I couldn’t of been that far from the finish at this point. ¬†Impressive running indeed.

Making it back into the woods I recognised where we were. ¬†I often run the Parkrun at QE and we were at the bottom of the biggest hill that the Parkrun runs down. ¬†Turning right to head up that hill, I knew what a beast it was. ¬†The pink top lady from before was still with me, and she took the lead up the hill. ¬†We both had to walk in places. ¬†Boy was it steep. ¬†About half way up I gritted my teeth and decided I would just run. ¬†I knew how far we had to go to the top of th hill (about 150 metres), and knew once I was at the top there wouldn’t be much more of the course left. ¬†Powering up the hill, I left pink top lady behind. ¬†I was breathing heavily, but summited the hill without stopping.

Turning left, I knew I was on the final descent to the race finish.  Picking up the pace on the downhill section I felt great.  I was going to finish in less than 2hrs and 30 mins (which was my target).  Not only that, I had run a good race.  My hydration was good, my nutrition plan mostly worked and I had not got injured.
Down the final hill and across the line I was done.  2hrs and 22 minutes.  Not bad.  Most encouraging was that after the race results came out I finished 103rd out of 198 runners.  No more finishing last for me.  Perhaps I might make a go of this running thing after all.

TTFN

Snooky

 

2017-03-26 12.44.14
Happily finished wth my bunny medal

Why I run

Since deciding to take on the Ironman in 2013, I have increasingly gained a reputation as a distance endurance athlete.  Those who knew me before 2013 and how I lived my life would laugh at this.  Those who have met me after would know no different.

Never the less I often get asked why I run.  Not only run, but run long distances or challenging races.  So below are the top 5 reasons why I run.

 

  1. I run to raise money for charity. ¬†I support Chestnut Tree House, a children’s hospice who cared for my friends daughter during her last days of fighting Neuroblastoma. ¬†This childhood cancer took her at the tender age of just 2 years old. ¬†Ever since I have raised money for Chestnut, who rely on fundraising just to stay open. ¬†You can read more about Ambers story here.
  2. Running resets my brain. ¬†There is a quote I read once, which simply states “show me a man with a problem. ¬†Once he has run for 2 hours, he no longer has that problem.” ¬†Running give me time to think. ¬†To organise my thoughts and plan. ¬†It is wonderful headspace.
  3. I feel 1000 times better when I exercise.  It took me a very long time to get fit enough to be able to just go out and run.  Not months, but years of effort to get to this point.  But now I can just run for an hour without thinking about it, I rely on that exercise and my body seems to need it.  We are, after all, Born to Run.
  4. Running outside connects you to the world. Whether you are running on pavements through a city or town, or on trails through woodland or rolling hills, running connects you to that world.  You see some amazing stuff whilst running.  Things you would never normally see.  It is a beautiful world out there when you run through it.
  5. Pushing yourself to your¬†limits makes you realise what you really can achieve.¬†Each time you push yourself to your limits, you realise that you really don’t have any limits. ¬†When I started running I couldn’t even run to the end of my road. ¬†This year I am going to run 13 marathons and two Ultra marathons. ¬†Who knows where next year will take me. ¬†I feel truly limitless.

 

If you are reading this thinking to yourself that you could never be a runner, or that running isn’t for you, I would strongly encourage you to think otherwise. ¬†I genuinely was the worst runner when I started. ¬†I got injured. ¬†I consistently finished last in races. ¬†But perseverance and determination has opened up the world of running to me and it really is a wonderful world.

Plus, if it was easy, there would be no satisfaction in doing it. ¬†Right ūüôā

 

 

Training with a cold – what are my options?

So I have a cold. ¬†I’m a bit achey. ¬†My nose if running like mad. I am sneezing a¬†bit. ¬†My throat hurts. ¬†It isn’t life threatening. ¬†It is not “man flu”. ¬†It’s just a cold.

“WHO CARES” I can hear you shouting at your screens before promptly closing down my blog and going back to Facebook. ¬†Well please stick with me readers, I do have a point.

You don’t need to spend a huge amount of time on Google before you discover that there is a wealth of information out there on exercising with a cold, and nobody can really make up their mind if it is a good idea or not. ¬†Most say “listen to your body”. ¬†Well if I listened to my body all the time I would be lying on the sofa eating Doritos. ¬†I’m not sure my body knows what it’s on about sometimes.

81wca9s13yl-_sl1500_
Yum

So if I am not going to listen to my body, what am I going to do.  Listen to my head?  Well my head says that I should allow myself time to recover.  All well and good, but I do have a 21 mile cross country to run in only 13 days time (Meon Valley Plod Рrun by Portsmouth Joggers), so my head also says that I should be forgetting about this cold and getting my trainers on.

Of course, the flip side of putting my trainers on and getting out there is that I might take longer to recover from my cold if I go out training. ¬†If that is the case, I am risking not getting over the cold in the pre-requisite 13 days and then having to run 21 off road, muddy, likely chilly miles with a cold. ¬†This doesn’t sound very good either.

So what is the solution to all this? ¬†Well really it is a simple one. ¬†What you should do is procrastinate. ¬†Fill up your time with other stuff (like writing your blog, doing some meditation, looking on Wiggle etc) and that way by the time you get around to running it will be too late and you won’t be able to go.

All I need to do is follow this simple method for the next 13 days straight and I will be in perfect fettle for the Meon Valley Plod.

Hurrah!

TTFN

Snooky

PS РWant to learn how to be a master procrastinator.  I absolutely love this article and it explains it a lot better than I can.  http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html

PPS РPlease click below to share my blog.  I will love you forever if you do!

 

5 things I would not have known if I hadn’t gotten injured

So it is now about 4 weeks since I got injured running the Hellrunner. ¬†Just a badly sprained ankle. ¬†It still hurts now, but I did manage to go out for a run at the weekend. ¬†I thought I would just do a couple of kilometres to ease myself in and ended up running 12. ¬†Still, I survived, and as long as I don’t try to change direction too quickly and stay on flat surfaces my ankle feels OK.

Whilst I had 4 weeks off running I thought I would concentrate on some other areas of fitness. ¬†Below are the 5 things that I have learn’t through this period.

1. I am very bad at losing weight through diet alone

iuI have been a lot more careful about what I am eating (well at least during the week I have been) and have managed to stop myself from putting on any weight. ¬†I haven’t gained any, but haven’t really lost any. ¬†I eat healthily in the week and it all goes flying out of the window at the weekend. ¬†This seems to maintain some sort of equilibrium; however I would not necessary recommend this method to anybody. ¬†Essentially I have been beating myself up about this quite a bit. ¬†Why can’t I just stay on course with a diet? ¬†Why do I sabotage myself? ¬†Why do I not care more. ¬†Luckily this moves me onto number 2

2. I should stop beating myself up so much

By way of a regular email update I receive from the superb Darin Olien website Superlife, I was directed to this article on the website of Nate Green website, simply entitled “Why is it so hard to stay consistent at the weekend?”¬† It is well worth a quick read, but essentially says that it is easy to skip out on the healthy habits that you may have formed and be able to stick to during the week when you are out of routine at the weekend. ¬†Now I am an absolute MASTER at this, but took some comfort from the article and have subsequently adopted number 3 into my life

3. I have created myself a shortlist

This is a shortlist of things that I will endeavour to do each and every day in order to keep my healthy habits in check (as per the article above).  The shortlist I have decided on is this:

  1. Get 7-8 hours sleep every night
  2. Do a minimum of 10 minutes meditation every day
  3. Eat a vegan diet, with a minimum of one whole food plant based meal per day
  4. 30 minutes exercise per day
  5. 20 minutes of stretching/yoga per day
  6. Work on your book / practice piano / updated your blog for 30 minutes per day

I should probably break these down a bit more to add a bit more context.

  1. With two children under 4 this is not always in my control, but I will be going to bed earlier at a minimum
  2. I have the Headspace App and this is easy to fit into even the busiest day.
  3. I eat Vegan 99% of the time, but it is easy to eat a fairly poor vegan diet (chips, sandwiches etc).  From now onwards I will make sure that one meal is whole food and plant based entirely.  Nothing processed.
  4. This can be either weights, running, cycling, swimming, whatever.  Just must get my heart rate up for a minimum of 30 minutes
  5. This will either be first thing in the morning or just before bed, but is essential as I do absolutely none of this now.
  6. I have wanted to write a book about my Ironman exploits ever since completing it. ¬†I also have a piano and want to learn to play it, and should definitely be better at updating my blog. ¬†It’s only 30 minutes after all.

4. No more watching TV

Due to being injured I had a very good excuse to just flop on the sofa and do nothing every evening in front of the TV.  I was getting really good at it too.  Often I would fall asleep on the sofa and never even make it into bed.  I was enjoying my lazy lifestyle far too much.  So I decided no more TV.  Since stopping watching it I have achieved far more every evening.  So to allow the 6 things above to happen, TV has had to get out of the way.  Do I miss it.  Not one bit!

5. I can really achieve anything if I just go after it hard enough

You would think that somebody who has completed an Ironman would already believe this, and to a large extent I do.  The difference now is that I spent time educating myself whilst I was off injured.  Looking into the amazing feats of others.  How do they manage them?  What makes them different to me?  You know what I realised?  Nothing makes them different to me.

david-goggins1
David Goggins

I have been hugely inspired by the stories of both David Goggins¬†and Andrew Taylor. ¬†Goggins is an ex Navy Seal, and is widely considered the Toughest or Fittest athlete in the World.¬† He held the world pull up record (over 4000 in 24 hours), ran a 100 mile running race with absolutely no training at all and has gone onto¬†complete multiple ultra-marathons, triathlons, ultra-triathlons, bike races and arduous mountain ascents, setting new course records and regularly placing in the top five. ¬†His entire attitude is, you only fail if you don’t want it enough. ¬†The Rich Roll podcast with him on is absolutely worth a listen to if you fancy some inspiration from a truly remarkable person. ¬†The best part is, he is no different from you or I. ¬†He just wants it more!

Andrew Taylor is better known as “Spud Fit”. ¬†A genuinely fascinating antipodean who ate only potatoes for an entire year! ¬†He lost over 114lbs in weight, his health improved exponentially and most of all he survived with no adverse affects. ¬†That’s right, a diet of only potatoes for an entire year. ¬†Once again, dedication and a bit of self control and this crazy Aussie did something pretty damn amazing.

andrew-taylor-spudfit-stack
Andrew “Spudfit” Taylor

Both of these guys have reminded me that if you want extreme results, sometimes you have to go through extreme measures.  I want to run 13 marathons in 12 months (including two ultra marathons now, not just one). To many this is pretty extreme, and perhaps it is.  But I am going to go to extreme lengths to make it happen.  I am going to train hard.  I am going to focus.  I am not going to beat myself up every day, but instead do something every day to move me closer to my goal.  I am going to endure, through pain, through injury, through doubt, through fear, through whatever this journey throws at me and I will complete my marathon journey!

Just like Goggins and Taylor, if I want it badly enough I will be able to get it.

Now it’s off to the garage to lift some weights, then yoga, then meditation then bed!

TTFN

Snooky

PS – If you enjoy my blog please scroll to the top of the left hand column and share it on social media, or even better click the “Follow” button to be automatically updated when I update the site. ¬†It means the world to me, and the more shares the more likely I am to raise ¬£1000’s for charity when I start my fundraising. ¬†Thank you all.

 

4 reasons why my diet is the missing link to my training.

As any regular blog readers will know, mostly I blog about training, fundraising or write ups from the races I take part in.

Ever since I stated this endurance racing adventure there has always been an elephant in the room. ¬†Lurking in the background has been an inescapable fact that I have chosen to ignore. ¬†Yes you can train hard. ¬†Yes you can train smart. ¬†Yes you can make sure to rest well and sleep 8 hours a night, but if your diet isn’t on point then you are almost certainly letting yourself down.

1)  I am an unhealthy vegan.

vegan-policeLike most people in the Western world, I probably don’t eat the best diet. ¬†Despite going 99% vegan last year (nobody is 100% vegan…………right???), I quickly found a way to eat a fairly unhealthy vegan diet.

Vegan cakes are easy to make. ¬†Chips are always vegan, and so are baked beans, lots of vegetarian sausages, many pies, take away pizza (with no cheese), etc etc. ¬†Also, almost all booze is vegan, and who doesn’t enjoy a bit of booze?

Plus, it is easy to over eat no matter what your diet is like. ¬†Simply, if you consume more calories than you burn up each day you will gain weight. ¬† And gain weight I did. ¬†Over the Christmas period I managed to gain an impressive 16lbs of weight. ¬†8kg in new money. ¬†That’s a lot to gain in 3 weeks off work.

2) Sometimes I run like the wind………other times I just have wind!

I often suffer with stomach cramps when I run.  If I get my diet wrong before I run, or I go for a run too soon after eating I will almost always suffer from a bad stomach.  This is fairly common with runners or endurance athletes; however when I generally eat badly I feel a lot more sluggish when out exercising.  This clearly does nothing to aide my training.

3) You are what you eat

This is an old saying, but is entirely true.  How can you expect to fuel a machine to its maximum performance if you feed it crap.  If you put dodgy petrol in a car then it runs worse.  Perfectly logical.  If you feed yourself on crap food you will perform worse.  Also logical.

4) 5% of the time this works, every time.

Mo Farah celebrates winning the men's 5,000m final at the European Championships in Helsinki in JuneI cannot remember where I read the following statistic, but it has stuck in my ever since I
read it. ¬†For every 5% of weight you lose you gain 5% in athletic performance with no additional training. ¬†In other words, somebody who is as fit as me but weighs 5% less will be 5% faster. ¬†This makes perfect sense. ¬†You don’t see very many overweight people on the podium at triathlons. ¬†Mo Farah doesn’t look like he is carrying a lot of extra baggage around.

Another way to think about it is this. ¬†My “racing weight”, e.g. my ideal weight for maximum athletic performance is around 168lbs (calculate your own racing weight by clicking here). ¬†This is 76kg for you Europeans. Or exactly 12 stone for us good old Brits.

I currently weigh a whopping 206lbs, 93.4kg or 14stone and 10 lbs.  In other words, I am 38lbs (17kg) overweight.

If I was lined up at the start of a marathon and somebody said to me “would you like to carry round this backpack that weighs 38lbs or not”, I think you can all guess what the answer would be. ¬†But that is essentially what I am doing. ¬†Imagine how much quicker I would be, how much easier it would be on my body if I can shed that unnecessary weight.

 

The moral of the story…..

So the moral of this story is, it is time to sort out my diet, and by proxy my weight.  I am determined to nail this missing link to my training.  I have never paid that close attention before, but this is going to change.  Somehow I feel this might be the most difficult part of any training I have ever done.

Wish me luck

TTFN

Snooky