Man With A Plan

Sunday 8th October 2017, when I look back in years to come this day will either be fondly remembered with a smile and a glowing sense of satisfaction and achievement or there’ll be a grimace, a rueful shake of the head and thoughts of what might have been.

All roads, all thoughts, all the training I have been putting in, even the majority of what I have been writing about on here, ultimately lead to the York marathon and last week I started my marathon training in earnest. I like organisation and structure and wanting to give myself the best shot of making it to the start line in good shape I have put together the obligatory training plan. I’ve seen numerous plans online, a good friend sent me a plan he previously used (65 miles in a week at its peak!), and various people have suggested plans that have worked for them. We are all unique beasts though and so the plan that I have come up with is designed to suit me in terms of my current fitness, where I need to push myself to distance wise and when I am actually able to get out and run.

My aim is to do two longer runs per week along with a shorter, faster run built in too. Depending on how I feel and what I can fit in around life, I may also add some short bits of speed work and some track or field laps too, the plan really though is to build up sensibly to around 40 miles per week which I think is manageable, will give me the chance to spend plenty of time out on my feet but won’t push me beyond what I can reasonably achieve at the moment which would then increase my risk of injury and the whole thing falling apart around my ears.

In all honesty I have probably over thought this whole experience but the memories of the Great North Run 2007 when I was woefully under prepared nag me still. I know my running, my fitness and my preparation are already so much better than they were then and if someone held a gun to my head now and told me to run a marathon I could probably do it but I want to enjoy the day and if I do then I will have the confidence to enter future marathons. The battle here is almost entirely in my own mind, as the rational thoughts are shouted down by the self-doubt and the fear of the unknown.

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Looking at the positive though marathon training week one has gone well. First of all my fantastic wife offered to bring forward my 40th birthday present by 5 months and so I have a shiny new Garmin Forerunner 35 to play with and my hope is that this will really help me to nail down my pacing and give me confidence that my legs will last the distance, I’m also a data geek so love looking at all the stats it fires out. My first run of the week was deliberately hilly as I prepare for the challenging course of the Pendle Running Festival 10k on 15th July, a solid 7 miles, followed on Wednesday by a quick 5 miler, as both runs coincided with summer (yes that was it folks, summer came and went last week, we’re on the downhill to Christmas now, if you missed it you missed out) I came home in a rather sweaty state after both. Friday’s 13 miles were a lot cooler though and felt good especially since I haven’t run more than 10 miles since the Leeds half back in mid May, looking at the myriad of stats from my Garmin my pacing was rather wonky but where I live and run is an undulating environment and so I’m never going to get it bang on.

The countdown then is now on, I love it when a plan comes together!

 

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Unilite Head Torch Review

I recently saw a post on Twitter asking if any bloggers who also run would be interested in testing out the Unilite head torch; blogger tick, runner tick, lover of freebies tick tick tick.

A couple of quick emails later and the head torch arrived all securely boxed up and ready to go, the model I received is a PS-HDL2, you can find the full spec here. First off it’s well packaged and just looking at the unit you get a sense that it is a quality product which retails for around £30. In the packaging there is a clear, simple instruction guide and the reverse of the product label shows the different light settings and an approximate battery life for having the torch on each setting constantly.

 

I found it very easy to set the torch up, it runs on normal AAA batteries and three Energizer batteries were supplied with the unit, I always appreciate it when a manufacturer provides batteries along with a product so that you can use it straight away.

The torch unit I received came in high vis yellow colour and has a rotational setting so that you can angle the beam, it fits onto the headband through a clip at the back and the headband itself is fully adjustable to fit your head size and has a silicone lining running right the way around it which prevents the band from slipping during use and as it weighs in at just 88g it is super light.

 

Given the nights are rather short at the moment I delayed my evening run last Wednesday until just before 10pm so that I could give the head torch a test run. The street lights were just coming on as I set out, it was by no means pitch dark but the conditions allowed me a good understanding of what the product can do. As a runner I want to feel safe in the dark, I want to be able to see and be seen and the Unilite certainly gives you that, the beam on all settings provided ample illumination and personally I like the flashing/strobe modes as they stand out to other road and pavement users. Despite the late start time it was still rather muggy and it wasn’t long before I had worked up a decent sweat, the headband though didn’t move a millimetre. I also made sure I included both uphill and downhill sections in my route to test for any bounce on the product, again it delivered perfectly staying exactly as I had set off. By the time I got home dusk was turning to darkness and where I live looks out over a large unlit field, I stood on the step at the side of the house and with the torch on full beam I was able to see quite a distance into the trees and bushes beyond.

 

I would say overall that my impressions of the Unilite are really positive and I look forward to using it more in my running later in the year as the nights close in. It is a flexible product though and can be put to many other uses including camping, fishing, dog walking and going down to the shed in the dark to draw off a pint or two of homebrew, a favourite pastime of mine!

One thing that Unilite may want to consider is bringing out a red head torch so that people can also be seen from behind, I know this would be useful for me as a runner, whether it could also fit onto the headband without feeling too uncomfortable I don’t know but if they ever want someone to be a guinea pig and trial something like this for them then I’m the man.

 

Sitting Down Is Dangerous!

In one way, shape or form, we all do it, regardless of our personal circumstances our days tend to follow a pattern, the daily grind, the same old same old, or as the French wonderfully put it métro, boulot, dodo.

I recently wrote about breaking that cycle in terms of training and mixing it up and I’m doing my best to stick to my guns and heed my own advice. This week I’m planning on going out for a run at around 10pm, I have the ulterior motive of testing my new Unilite head torch, and I’m also going to attempt the Strava mile PB challenge, something I’m really looking forward to testing myself on.

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Since returning from holiday last week though I have noticed something that concerns me about my day to day. Since February I’ve had a niggling pain at the top of my right hamstring. It coincided with an increase in miles in my training and naturally I put it down to that. It’s never been majorly painful and hasn’t stopped me from running. I bought myself a foam roller to work on it and that provided a degree of relief. The niggle was still there though and ahead of the Leeds half marathon I went for my first ever sports massage to try and work it out, what an experience that was! I encountered uncharted levels of pain and paid £30 for the privilege, it seemed to do the trick and I got round pain free.

A couple of days later though the niggle was back and it stayed until I went on holiday. For the first two days I didn’t really give it a second thought but at the end of the second day after I’d done a 5 mile run it dawned on me that the niggle wasn’t there, it wasn’t there the day after or on any day whilst we were away despite me doing a further four runs in 26 degree heat.

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Last Tuesday I returned to work and that evening the niggle was back, I hadn’t even been out for a run. It’s there now having been sat at my desk all day and therein I think lies the problem. Whilst on holiday I was either relaxing on a sun lounger, in the pool or out running, the only time I sat down was to eat or drink cocktails! At work though I generally sit at my desk for over 7 hours a day and whilst I make a conscious effort to take breaks and go out for a leg stretch at lunchtime my job is what it is. Don’t get me wrong my employer does a lot of positive work around staff wellbeing, I’ve done my workstation assessment and I am in no way blaming this niggle on them. I think the issue is down to my posture, the way I shift around on my chair and the way that I actually rest my feet, sometimes I catch myself with my foot resting on its side and that can’t be good!

Sitting at a desk does seem a rather odd way to pick up an injury but our general posture is probably at the root of more problems than people are actually aware of and don’t forget dear readers that the former England footballer Rio Ferdinand once injured himself by straining a tendon in his knee from having his feet up on a coffee table for a couple of hours whilst watching TV, it happens to the best of us!

Be careful out there, injury is lurking everywhere in your everyday.

Run Tourism

Despite it only being three weeks since I last posted a blog it feels like forever and quite a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. I have been officially discharged from cancer surveillance and given the all clear after 5 years, I’ve been offered a new job (both on the same day), I’ve been to Wembley and experienced the gut wrenching disappointment of playoff final defeat, I had a blog posted by the fantastic people at RUNR and I have experienced run tourism for the first time during a family holiday to the Costa Blanca.

Normally our family holidays include chasing the kids around a pool trying to make sure they are safe whilst attempting some form of sun bathing/relaxation and if we are lucky the odd bit of cultural diversity to take in some of the local sites, sounds and cuisine. This year though Isaac and Hattie are a little bit older, Isaac is already a good swimmer so as long as he stayed in view we were happy for him to go off and throw himself down slides and work on his bombing. Hattie is a little younger but the hotel we stayed at was well geared up for children of her age and so we didn’t have to follow her around 24/7. Consequently we were able to relax a bit more and I was able to take some me time to explore the delights of Albir, Altea and Benidorm with five runs in the eleven nights we were there. This exercise also helped to a degree to stave off the negative impact of chocolate doughnuts for breakfast and my evening tipple of mojitos laced with brown sugar which I became rather fond of! IMG_20170526_210424

Overall despite a few challenges, mostly of my own making, I would say my first foray into the world of run tourism was a success. Notes to self and others who fancy getting out this summer whilst away, mostly blindingly obvious but here goes:

  • Don’t forget to take water
  • If you like to run with music, remember where on earth in all your bags and suitcases you put your headphones
  • Wear a cap/visor/headband/anything to absorb the sweat and stop it running into your eyes and stinging like hell, it’s hot out there
  • Remember that in Europe they drive on the other side of the road, make sure you look the right way at junctions
  • Give any local runners you encounter a big smile, wave or thumbs up, share the love, most return it
  • Take your phone in case you get lost
  • Take a couple of sets of kit, you’ll sweat, a lot, you’ll smell

The majority of my five runs were around 45 minutes long and gave me plenty of chance to discover the local area from the delights of dodging stag and hen parties outside bars in Benidorm to the more sedate promenade that runs from Albir along to Altea with a beautiful backdrop and locals fishing and windsurfing. I surprised myself with how much I genuinely enjoyed the experience and I even had other hotel guests approaching me to ask about my running after they had seen me out and about.

Whilst my run tourism was entirely out of the make it up as you go along handbook, there is an increasing number of companies who offer guided running tours of cities around the world. I’ve no first hand experience of these tours but the feedback on social media seems favourable on the whole and the guided element takes away some of the fear of perhaps getting lost and makes sure that you see what a city or region really has to offer.

If you are due to go away then this summer, wherever that may be, take your running shoes, take your sense of adventure and go and see a bit more of the world.