Born of frustration

When I started blogging just over six weeks ago I did it on a bit of a whim. I’d signed up that week to run my first ever marathon and I was mainly looking for a way to record my traiukrucning and to reach out and get some advice and interaction with more seasoned runners so that the challenge I’d set myself didn’t seem so daunting. I’d been scratching around online and found various hints and tips for first timers but I was totally oblivious to the world of running bloggers and indeed vloggers already out there and at that point I was yet to sample the delights of the @ukrunchat community.

Some feedback I received raised a really pertinent point for me, “what do you want to get out of this?”. It’s not until the last week or so that I’ve actually stopped to reflect on this and think about it a bit more.

I wasn’t really looking for an audience or dedicated readership and I wasn’t even sure what I could offer to anyone else that would make my blog worth reading, my running experience is limited to say the least, so why on earth was I spending time writing this on top of the time commitments already given over to actually running?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. In my teens I wrote a couple of pieces for the Bradford City fanzine, The City Gent, at university I wrote some sports features and reports for the student newspaper, DARTS (Does Anybody Read This Sh*t) and at work part of my job involves writing quite lengthy, detailed reports on various subjects, I’m not exactly prolific though.

The reality I think is that I am a frustrated writer looking for a more regular outlet and by writing this blog I’m allowing those writing juices to start to flow in a way they never have before. I’m enjoying writing, I’m enjoying the challenge of coming up with content and I love that as someone who is naturally very much an introvert I have found my voice in a way that I am comfortable with. Behind my keyboard I seem to come alive and I am far more effusive in my writing than I normally am in conversation.

Fast forward six weeks and I now feel like a veteran blogger, I’m dabbling with vlogging and hundreds of people have read this blog and interacted with me to provide support, advice and feedback, a massive thank you to you all. I have readers from Norway to India and Switzerland to Mexico and these are people who read each post, this blows my mind and provides me with inspiration to write more but also a certain pressure that it has to be a good read.

I love reading the blogs of other runners out there too, I won’t single anyone out in particular but if you want to get into running there are some real gems worthy of a more professional status. The styles and content vary from blogger to blogger but the one thing that shines through is how much people love their running and how each blogger has their own unique story to tell.

As this is a running blog I’d better actually tell you about my recent running. In the seven days to last Thursday I ran an all time high of 32 miles across three runs through rain, hail, rainbows and glorious spring sunshine. On Sunday we also had a family walk up Pendle Hill which was a good leg stretch and took away some of the guilt of slight over-indulgence across the Mother’s Day weekend. I’ve then run 10.5 miles in just over 1hr 20 mins this evening and as things stand I’m feeling good about my training and that my preparation for the Leeds half marathon in mid-May is going well.

Given the title of this post and my apparent obsession with music I couldn’t leave you dear reader without a quick blast of the excellent James and their version of Born of Frustration.

 

As ever it would be great to hear from anyone out there who has any feedback, writing this blog is a massive learning curve for me. In addition, if you have any questions or even suggestions for future blogs I’d love for you to get in touch and I can try and work out some of my 39 years worth of frustration on putting something together.

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Fuelling / Refuelling – Part 2

Following my previous blog I received various pieces of advice on the subject of fuelling / refuelling from friends and those in the online running community. Jelly babies s8830621253662eem to be a mid-run favourite for many and according to a good friend I should consume a family bag of onion rings to stave off cramp, top tip Chris!

My plan was to try my longest run ever, 15.2 miles, in my usual slot after work on Friday and for it to be the first test of my fuelling / refuelling strategy ahead of the Leeds half marathon in May and the York marathon in October.

Pre-run

From my SIS kit, see Fuelling / Refuelling – Part 1 , I had the lemon flavour GO Energy powder as directed 2 hours before running. The powder is a 50g sachet and the instructions
on the back are to add 500ml of water. The free bottle you get from SIS is a 400ml bottle IMG_20170317_150618which I found rather odd as all the sachets supplied are 50g and need 500ml of water adding, the bottle does have a 40g powder indicator so you could stop there but it seems a bit of a waste to throw away some of the powder. Minor gripe but supplying a 500ml bottle would seem to make more sense to me.

Now the taste, the colleague who sits next to me verbalised my fear, “does it taste like Lemsip?” (other medicinal hot lemon cold and flu drinks are available). Thankfully no it didn’t, I can best describe it as sherbert lemon flavour and it was very easy to drink and I didn’t feel like it was sitting on my stomach at all. I also had my usual chocolate bar with the drink and within half an hour or so I got that slight tingly feeling in my body that you get when you have energy that needs to be burnt off.

The Run

Although the main thrust of this post is about fuelling / refuelling I have to give you some context for my run on Friday. The 15.2 mile route was a combination of a couple of my regular shorter routes so I knew where I was going and could focus on the distance and what I was doing. The problem was it was heaving down and blowing gusts of over 40mph. Not one to back down though I had planned this run all week and come hell or actual high water I was going out and doing it. There were several places on my route where the pavement disappeared and became a stream, I gave up trying to avoid puddles and just hoped in the end that I wouldn’t have trench foot by the time I got home; and of course there was THAT driver, we all know the one, who seemed to take great delight in going as fast as possible through the largest puddle known to man which drenched me, on top of the drenching I’d already endured for the previous hour and a half, it was all I could do at that point to muster a V sign at him.

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Last week I’d also bought myself a Nike running belt for the bargainous sum of £6.25. I’ve been getting a bit dehydrated on my longer runs and so thought this was a good investment. The bottles slot in very neatly to their clips and there is a decent size split pouch with a zip for all your bits and pieces. I’d run up and down the living room with it on but like a wazzock hadn’t filled the bottles to test it until I actually went out. The consequence was that for the first 2 miles or so on Friday I was more bothered with getting the belt comfortable than I was with my running. Should I have it on my back, my side, slung over my shoulder? Eventually I found the most comfortable place was on my front and once I’d taken on some water the bounce reduced and I didn’t really notice it was there.

By mile 9 of the run my nipples were stinging (I so should have vazzed up!!) and thanks to the wind and rain I couldn’t actually feel my thighs or my hands. At just after mile 10 I had the option to cut the run short and take an early turn for home, the thought seriously crossed my mind but I knew I’d regret it later and so I ploughed on into the head wind and driving rain. sisre

Mile 11 was the trigger for me to get my gel on board, from the SIS pack I’d taken with me the raspberry flavour GO electrolyte gel. I knew that just after mile 13 I had a pretty sharp climb of about 0.75 miles and so I wanted to give the gel time to kick in and give me a boost. It was the first time I’ve had this flavour and it was pleasant enough. As with the other SIS gels I’ve tried so far it was very easy to swallow and I certainly felt the benefit when I needed it. I did feel a bit of cramp at the very end of my run but I put that down to the cold more than anything.

By this time I had also gone slightly do-lally and started singing out loud to the songs I was listening to, and when I say loud I mean LOUD, given the conditions there was nobody else about and I just needed to do something to channel my mind away from the pain I had started to feel both from the running and the cold.

Eventually I made it home in 2hr 6mins, my wife had towels at the ready, as I stood in the hall peeling clothes off reality and self-doubt crept in and I had a little cry to myself, how the hell am I going to add another 11 miles to that? I know the conditions were very much against me and I have time on my side to build on this but I was hurting.

Post-run

regoMy post-run SIS selection was the REGO recovery sachet, again a 50g sachet which I made up 400ml of before I hit the shower. It is billed as chocolate flavour, maybe I was expecting too much, but it didn’t really hit the chocolate spot for me and tasted more of a mix between a malt drink and chocolate. Again though I did feel a boost but the morning after would be key here as this product should replace key nutrients and aid recovery.

I did get my chocolate fix later though with a nice big slab of chocolate and banana cake. I’d made this earlier in the week with the help of my mini sous-chef Hattie, and very nice it is too.

The day after

Given my efforts I was naturally tired on Friday evening but Saturday morning brought a pleasant surprise, not only did the kids stay in bed until after 7am, but I felt human, I could get out of bed without a hoist, I could walk without pain and I felt normal. Certainly my body has accustomed itself more to the aftermath of running but I’ve never felt that good and given that I’ve never run so far and never used any recovery fuel in the past I can only put my condition, at least in part, down to the SIS products putting me in a good place.

All in all whilst I certainly wouldn’t say I enjoyed Friday’s run/squelch around East Lancashire I most definitely learned a thing or two and it will stand me in good stead for future efforts. I’m going to stick with the SIS products and play around a bit with some other options to see what works best, maybe jelly babies, possibly some protein bars, sadly though Chris I think the onion rings won’t make it into my race day nutrition plan.

Fuelling / Refuelling – Part 1

Until recently these two words were not part of my everyday vocabulary. The only time I’d really come across either was when the erstwhile England manager Graham Taylor made reference to Paul Gascoigne having “refuelling problems” back in the early 90s. Loosely translated this meant that between games Gazza liked to sink too many beers and preferred a large donner kebab or KFC to a nice bowl of pasta. beer

Whilst I enjoy a pint or two of my homebrew beer and cider, it’s good stuff, verging on rocket fuel at times, I have in the last year or so radically changed my diet. Out with the processed foods and a drawer full of snacks in my desk at work; in with fruit, veg and fresh meat. This has helped me to lose nearly 3 stone and a lot of body fat to the point where according to a doctor I contacted via a post on #ukrunchat last week my body fat level is that of a Premier League footballer and really I need to actually put a bit back on.

How to balance the right day to day nutrition, plus pre-run fuelling and post-run refuelling has become a regular question in my head. I normally run after work and so have a day’s worth of fuel inside me. I make sure I have a chocolate bar mid-afternoon on running days for some extra energy but that token gesture aside I haven’t really done anything else and my post-run regime is non-existent. This lack of preparation came into sharp focus though after a recent 10k race which was at a different time to my normal runs and after which I felt terrible, read about it here Accrington 10k – Race Review. I needed to start taking this aspect of my training more seriously.

I’ve dabbled with some energy gels on a couple of my longer evening runs but I’d like to start to nail down a regular routine now and so have bought a mixed starter nutrition pack from Science In Sport (SIS) to find out if any of these products can work for me and in business speak add some value.

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Firstly the pack was a bargain at £7.80 from Amazon, box ticked for tight Yorkshireman! The pack contains two GO Energy sachets of powder to mix up in the bottle which comes with the pack and drink around 2 hours before I go out to help me get enough carbohydrates on board ready for my run, in addition there’s two GO Electrolyte powder sachets to again mix up and drink whilst running. Also included are five GO gels for a boost mid-run, one of these is a an electrolyte energy gel which is of particular interest to me as on the two recent 13 mile runs I’ve done I’ve started to cramp up a couple of miles from home and I’m keen to find out if this gel will prevent that. The final product is a chocolate flavour REGO rapid recovery powder sachet to mix up and drink in order to get vital nutrients back in my system straight after I’ve finished.

As well as fuel, hydration is also now on my mind as Spring brings higher temperatures and I actually start to sweat a bit during my runs. Whilst I can do a 10k or so without taking on water the longer runs I’m now embarking on will definitely need me to drink during my runs and so I’ve bagged another bargain and bought a Nike Running belt with two small bottles. I know Sports Direct are derided by many, and with some of their practices rightly so, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to get something I’ve had my eye on for the princely sum of £6.25.

After a decent 10.8 miles in 1hr 23 mins on Monday night fuelled by my normal day’s food and a rather soft Werther’s Original which I found in my bag and sucked on for a couple of miles mid-run, I’m going to put the SIS pack and water belt to the test on Friday when I plan to run just over 15 miles, the longest I’ve ever run.

Before then if anyone has any advice on fuelling/refuelling/hydration or any experience of using these specific products I’d love to have your feedback and I’ll post a full review in part two over the coming weekend. That is if my fingers will type coherently through the additional refuelling haze of gallons of homebrew and enough Nutella and banana cake (thanks to fellow blogger Sophie for the recipe) to feed a small country!! Just taking the doctor’s advice to add a bit of body fat!

Survivor

A warning to all music fans, before getting your hopes up this post isn’t about the mullet kings of 80s American soft rock who sang this beauty made famous in Rocky III, despite its links to running and the famous scene of Sly Stallone legging it up the 72 stone steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

And it isn’t about Beyoncé and her pals in Destiny’s Child strutting their stuff in camouflage gear either.

In November 2011 I was sat in a pub half watching some match or other whilst chatting away to my mate, we spotted that several players were sporting rather dubious facial hair in aid of Movember and joked that next year we should give it a go, little did I realise at the time how prophetic that off the cuff conversation would be. A couple of weeks later I found a lump and thought it best to get checked out just to be on the safe side, the doctor said it was most likely a cyst but he’d book me in for a scan to make sure.

A couple of weeks went by and no appointment came, by now it was Christmas time and without going into graphic detail things had grown and I was becoming increasingly anxious. I went back to the doctors and no scan appointment had been made, a misplaced fax was blamed (Fax!!!!!! What year were we in??? 1983???). Eventually my appointment came through and the next day I received the call nobody wants, my results were in and the doctor wanted to see me asap. Whilst fearing the worst a part of me hoped that he was calling me in so quickly to put my mind at ease, wrong, I had testicular cancer, I took in very little else that was said to me. To cut a long story short on 7th March 2012 I had the cancer removed and have been cancer free ever since, no chemo, no radiotherapy, nothing apart from regular check ups, if you can have cancer and class yourself as lucky that’s me.

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Isaac’s cheese face with his own muzzer!

In November that year the conversation of 12 months earlier became reality and I grew a very dodgy ‘tache for Movember, the support I received from friends, family and colleagues was immense.

During my check ups I saw in waiting rooms how others suffered far worse than I did and that made me determined to give something back and take the chance I have been given. For those reasons one of the charities I will be raising money for when running the Leeds half marathon and York marathon will be Macmillan Cancer Support.

My other charity is somewhat less well known but equally deserving. On 11th May 1985, 56 people lost their lives in the fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade stadium, one of them was my cousin Adrian, aged 11. Hundreds of people were injured that day many with severe, life changing burns. Out of something so tragic came something so positive, the Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit (PSBRU). They used pioneering techniques to treat the injured and since that day have been working tirelessly to enhance medical knowledge and clinical technique in the treatment of burns. Everyone affected by the tragedy is, in my mind at least, a survivor.

The memory of these two events in my life pushes me on when things are tough, they give me perspective and now my running gives me the opportunity to raise money for these charities and make a difference to the lives of others.

If you would like to sponsor me you can find full details on my Sponsorship page.

“I’m a survivor, keep on surviving”.

Accrington 10k – Race Review

Those who live outside of East Lancashire and particularly those who grew up in the 80s will have heard of Accrington for one reason and one reason alone.

The town is also the birthplace of former England cricketer turned Sky pundit David “Bumble” Lloyd and European Championship, Commonwealth Games and Boston marathon winner Ron Hill after whom this race is named.

img_20170301_193100_526Accrington, like most towns in this
part of the world, is far from flat and having reviewed the course video and route profile pre-race I knew I was in for a challenging middle section of the race with a pretty constant incline for around 2 miles, the weather forecast was also terrible with heavy rain expected.

 

I arrived in plenty of time and headed to race HQ to collect my number. The lady iIMG_20170305_084933.jpgn front of me got number 13, I got number 413, was someone trying to tell me something? I was also given a timing ankle strap, I’ve never worn one of them before and it made me feel slightly like a crim who’s tagged and has a 9pm curfew!!

I headed back to the car to get my things together and try and decide if I needed my running jacket or if I was going to tough it out. The sky was slate grey (nothing new) but no signs of rain so I decided to brave it and went off back to race HQ to use the facilities and keep warm until gun time.

There were around 500 starters, lots of runners sporting the colours of various local running clubs, so I decided to err on the side of caution and start dead last (apart from the man in the hi-viz 10k Sweeper jacket whose job it was to bring up the rear). I hoped to give myself a bit of a buffer on the pack and it’s always a confidence boost to pass people rather than be passed. As the race wasn’t entirely on closed roads headphones had been banned, I totally agree with that from a safety point of view, but I always train with headphones in and use the music to give me a rough guide of pace so I found the first part of the race rather strange as I tried to establish a comfortable pace.

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Pre-race snap in the car park! Ignore the quiff!

We set off down a nice wide closed road that gave everyone plenty of chance to fan out and gave me the opportunity to start moving up the field. After a mile or so we then turned onto a path along the side of the railway line and out the back end of town. A couple of twists and turns later and we picked up the start of the woodland path that marked the start of the hill section. To be honest it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, the incline was steady but the problem was that the path wasn’t particularly wide and along both sides was a combination of mud and mulched leaves so if you wanted to pass anyone you needed to move off the racing line and into the brown stuff! It had also started to rain gently at this point and that added to the deluges of the last couple of days made the mulch somewhat slippy!!!

After seeing a 2k marker before we started on the path I realised after a while that I hadn’t seen another marker for what felt like quite a while, the absence of music didn’t help me here either as I had no idea how far I’d gone and how long I’d been running for (and it did feel like I was running rather than advanced jogging today). It wasn’t far though until I noticed 5k marked in yellow spray paint on the path which gave me a boost.

A few kilometres further and somewhat muddier we came off the track and back out into civilisation. This section was nice and flat and although the road was open the pavement was wide enough and the field spread out enough for it not to be a problem.

Finally at about 2k to go the much anticipated downhill section started. As mentioned in my post Eyes On The Prize I actually find going downhill quite difficult in terms of getting my stride pattern correct and this was the only time I remember being passed by a couple of other runners. We then hit the flat again before another sharp descent and turn into the finishing straight. I had no idea at this point what my time was but I felt I’d done a decent, consistent pace throughout. The clock was to the left of the finish line rather than above it, as I have experienced in the past, so I only actually glimpsed it as I crossed the line and I managed to pick out 47.img_20170305_102735

I was hopeful I’d done well and as I crossed the line I saw Ben from our IT team at work. Ben is someone I’d define as a “serious runner”, he finished 12th in just over 38 minutes! It was nice to see a friendly face but still no idea of time. I collected my goodie bag and set off for home.

I only live about a 15 minute drive away and so it wasn’t long until I was back and could log on and access the results section. A quick search showed me in 81st place in 46mins 28secs, a massive personal best, for context I’d done my previous 10k last June in 54 mins 49 secs!!!

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Whilst I was chuffed with the time I felt rough. I don’t usually run in the mornings and had only eaten a banana for breakfast. As this was about helping me to bag some preparation ahead of my marathon in October I think this morning provided a great learning experience, not only in terms of running in a field of other people but also in terms of fuelling and my future training schedule. I need to do more morning runs and I need to get my fuelling right or I’m going to be wrecked before I even get anywhere near half distance on the big day.

All in all a good morning’s work. Delighted with my time, challenging course overcome, well organised race, learned lots and nice to get out among a great bunch of people in this amazing running community. Now to rest up, refuel and get back on it next week.