Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Week 12 Summary (21/04/2008 - 27/04/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 6:35
Running: 3x, 61.14km (36.6 miles)
Longest Run: 30.87km (18.5 miles)

Expended: 3153
Consumed: 2120 (Fat 36%, Carbs 44%, Protein 19%, Alcohol 1%)

Weight: 92.4kg
Body Fat(%): 21.5

HRrest: 46
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Lone Ranger

Last weekend Jo was away with her girlie friends - for a spot of culture in France, so I was left to do my runs on my own. Also, on Sunday, I was scheduled to meet up with some old Friends Provident mates for what can only be described as a geek-fest (aka playing Dungeons & Dragons!).

Usually when Jo is away for a weekend I'm afraid to say I become a slob. I end up buying junk food and become glued to the sofa while I eat junk, play on the Xbox and catch up on some DVDs. Well, this time, I was determined to avoid slob mode - so after work I went to the supermarket and bought all my food supplies for the weekend. I was pretty pleased with myself, as I avoided all the unhealthy treats. No chocolates, cakes or cheeses. Good start. Of course I regretted it late on Friday when I had a craving for a treat (or two) and discovered there was nothing in the house - but isn't that the point? Don't go food shopping when you are starving as you will then avoid buying rubbish, and so you won't have junk in your home that you're tempted to eat in a moment of weakness.

As much as I wanted to slob on Saturday I knew I had to run. Also I knew there was a good chance I wouldn't have the time or inclination to run on Sunday so I decided to do my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday. I couldn't face doing the long (and boring) run along the Thames without Jo so I decided to try a completely new route. The weather was brilliant - sunny and hot (especially since I faffed about for ages and ended up running at midday)...just how I like it.

I decided to run East to Limehouse and then pick up the Regent Canal, which goes North-West and eventually links up to the Grand Union Canal (hence I could run all 300 miles to Liverpool - and beyond - should I ever fancy it!). I wasn't sure what to expect; canal tow paths can be open and well maintained or derelict and dangerous (as they can be magnets for drunkard trouble makers). Jo and I had shied away from running along this canal before as it went through some dodgy area - dodgy in the sense the canal goes through housing estates where kids have nothing to keep them occupied as councils don't give a damn about providing them with decent sports facilities or parks, so they end up hanging around in groups looking for mischief.

Anyway I needn't have worried - the tow path was well maintained, open and frequented by plenty of families. It was brilliant. My family lived next to the Grand Union Canal twenty-five plus years ago - I think it was probably our happiest home (it certainly was for me), hence running along the canal brought back nice memories.

I was amazed at how quickly I got to Mile End from Limehouse along the canal. That's the great thing about running - it helps you get a better perspective of the area you live in. I had only ever been to Mile End by car or tube hence considered it to be quite far away, only now to discover it was pretty near. Although, to be honest, I was running too fast - I find it difficult to control my pace when I run on my own - my heart rate was in the mid 140s whereas it should have been sub-140...I knew I would pay the price on the return section. Just after Mile End I ran past a kind of water garden...it was lovely, plenty of ducks and other birds with their young and I even saw two small turtles basking in the sun (pretty unusual sight around London). It was lovely and tranquil, with not too many people about.

I wasn't actually sure how long I wanted to run for - I figured at least 25 kilometres and possibly longer (since I knew there was a good chance I wouldn't run on Sunday). Eventually (around 9km) the canal took me to Islington. When the Victorians decided to build this canal they decided that the canal would go under Islington, rather than using locks to go over it. That's a shame really - as it meant the tow path stopped. At Islington, you have to leave the canal and go over the hill while the canal goes under it. Islington High Street is pretty busy and horrid, so it meant slowing to a walk while I made my way - trying to follow sign posts which were few and far between. To be honest I wasn't impressed - the Regent Canal is brilliant, something that should be shouted about, but Islington council made nothing of it. You could live and work in Islington and not know there was a canal nearby - in fact our company has offices on Islington High Street...I had no idea the canal would take me there.

Eventually I found my way overland to the canal and continued West. After about 14km it started to get noticeably busier on the tow path (but still easy to navigate). About 100 metres from the 15km mark it got very busy and then (exactly on the 15km mark) I realised I was in hell (aka Camden). For those of you who don't know Camden - to say it was busy and crowded would be like saying the Sahara desert is a bit sandy!!! I've never been a fan of Camden (it's definitely not my cup of tea) - and to discover that there was no way along the tow path other than through the mega busy and smelly food market was the final straw....it was time to turn around and head for home. It's probably just as well really because I was in my Forrest Gump mood - I would have just kept on running. Last year when I was training for the Helsinki Marathon I was scheduled to do a 30km training run - instead of turning back for home at 15km I just carried on...in the end I turned around at 21km hence doing a complete marathon (42km). My ethos is that sometimes it's good for the soul to just run in one direction as far as you can comfortably go - without worrying about the distance back to home. You will always get home...whether you run, walk or jump onto a bus, so why worry about it. In the mood I was in I was keen to see Regents Park (around 16km) and Maida Vale, aka "Little Venice" (around 19km), in fact I may have carried on all the way to Southall and Bulls Bridge where we used to live (probably around 30km from home!)....so it was a good thing I was forced to turn around and head home.

Just before the Islington tunnel I struck up a conversation with two young guys in a boat.
They asked "Are you going across to the other side of the tunnel?".
"You couldn't do us a favour could you?"
"Sure. What is it?"
"Over there you'll see a boat called the Lone Ranger. It's blue."
"Could you ask the lovely lady if she would come and rescue us from this side of the tunnel?"
They'd obviously made their way across through the tunnel but for some reason didn't relish going back into the dark to the other side.
"Lone Ranger, right?"
"Yes, thanks - just before the dock. Cheers."
I made it to the other side of the tunnel (over ground) and found the Lone Ranger.
"I've got a message for you, from two guys in a boat on the other side of the tunnel. Could you please go and rescue them from that side?"
"On the other side of the tunnel - not just the other side of the bridge?"
"Yup - there's on the other side of the tunnel. I think they're scared of the dark. They were crying so I felt sorry for them and so here I am!!"
She laughed, but I'm not sure she was convinced they needed rescuing.

On the way home the tow path was considerably busier (think people were back on their walks after eating) - but it's amazing how much you appreciate a bit of politeness on the path. Twice I ran past walkers who went out of their way to ensure that my path was clear...as I ran past I said "thank you" and they took the time to say "you're welcome". It's all too rare these days in this "wonderful" city of ours! The norm in London is what happened about a kilometre from home. Two women walking with their bikes (towards me) on a very wide footpath - I'm running on the roadside of the path....even though they could see me clearly (and they looked me straight in the eye as they approached) they still only gave me 6 inches of footpath to run on as we passed (as they were too busy chatting to bother moving over slightly for me). People are just so inconsiderate.
"Thanks for moving over for me" I shouted...I know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but people like that really get my goat...there's no excuse for being oblivious to the rest of humanity.

I didn't, however, let that last incident change the way I felt about Saturday's run....I loved it. I ran with the sun and a smile on my face - shame Jo wasn't with me...reckon we would have looked like two weirdos both running with big stupid grins...suspect the men with white coats would have taken us away.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Gearing up...(part I)

Well I said I'd talk about gear, so I guess I had better made a start. This is the low-down on (some of) the gear we use and our thoughts on what works etc. Hope you find it useful - please post your thoughts, especially if you have gear that you wish to praise or trash.

Assuming you're not happy to run barefoot (which apparently we all can do successfully...as long as we build up to it slowly) then footwear is the most important piece of kit for runners. In my book the number one rule is to look after your feet and they'll carry you over anything.

The right footwear will always be different from one runner to the next. I would definitely recommend you buy your trainers from a decent running store, especially one where they can do gait analysis (i.e. watch you run - in slow motion - on a treadmill). I discovered that my feet tend to over-pronate (i.e. the feet tend to roll outwards when they land) hence I need trainers that have some sort of motion-control or stability that combats this movement. Most of the top manufacturers have shoes in their range that tackle this issue.

I also have broad (Hobbit-like!!) feet hence I am limited to certain manufacturers - for example Asics tend to be too tight around the arch of my feet. I find Saucony and New Balance to be pretty spacious, especially at the front of the foot, which suits me perfectly.

Finally, the size of footwear has to be bigger than your normal shoe-size - as you run the feet swell. Also you must ensure the toes have enough space so that they do not touch the front of the trainer (otherwise be prepared to have blisters or lose your toes tails...as Jo found out after doing London Marathon a few years ago). My "normal" shoe-size is UK 11 (USA 12), but when I choose running trainers the minimum size I end up getting is UK 12.5 (USA 13.5). Nowadays, however, I find I'm having to go up two sizes to UK size 13 trainers because of running in hotter conditions (feet swell more) and as a result of doing more hills (the toes will push that little bit further forwards on the downhills). I guess might as well go the whole hog and get those clown shoes - they'd give me an advantage pipping others at the finish line!!

When I first started running (2005) I ran in New Balance 856s. These worked great for the London Marathon in 2006...no blisters and no lost toe nails. Then I tried Saucony Stabil MC 5 - a pretty good shoe, but it lacked cushioning hence I got really sore feet; just before the Helsinki Marathon (2007) I got a very sore pressure spot below my 3rd metatarsal (right foot) which impacted on my training. I had scans to ensure it wasn't anything serious like a Mortons Neuroma or a stress fracture - it wasn't. After the marathon (and a rest) I found the pressure spot moved from my right foot to my left foot (weird!). I have got used to the sore spot and it's not as bad as pre-Helsinki (I think the gradual mileage increase has helped) but I have now switched to New Balance 858s as they provide better cushioning (but weigh more as a result) - we'll see if that helps.

In terms of Trail shoes I'm not fussed about getting totally waterproof trainers as that usually means getting GoreTex which doesn't breathe very well, so I use the New Balance 782s which provide some water resistance but do not claim to be waterproof. These have been great in muddy and wet Wales and also in hot and rocky Lanzarote. I have just ordered a new pair (now model 783s) of UK size 13s, as the 12.5s were a little small (as discovered on Lanzarote's downhills).
If, like me, you suffer from sore feet - no doubt more common on heavier build runners then consider buying better insoles for your trainers. Decent insoles cost around £20 a pair - it is unlikely that the quality of insole used by trainer manufacturers will be on par with these independent insoles.

Body Glide
This is the 2nd most important item in a runners kitbag - unless they're happy to run naked!!! It's simple - to avoid chaffing use Body Glide. Vaseline works well as a (cheaper) alternative but in my opinion for distances longer than 10k you either need to keep topping up the vaseline (easy at London Marathon as they provide top-ups along the course) or use a longer lasting product (such as Body Glide). Body Glide is brilliant - it's a deodorant-stick-like product that goes on easily and comes off slowly, keeping areas lubricated hence irradicating any chaffing in that area. Say "goodbye" to chaffed nipples and...urm other chaffed areas!

Decent running socks make a massive difference. Proper running socks will wick sweat away from your feet hence keeping them dry and free from blisters. If you still have problems with blisters then go and get yourself a pair of dual layer running socks, such as the WrightSock Double Layer series. I don't have a problem with blisters, my primary concern is cushioning hence I use Thorlo socks. These are some of the best socks on the market - they provide great cushioning and also manage to keep blisters away (even though they aren't dual layered). My personal preference is always to get full length socks rather than crew socks, as I figure there's been research to back wearing (very) long socks to aid calf recovery (shifts lactic acid) hence surely long socks must be better than crew socks.

If you're running in conditions where your feet are likely to get very wet then you may want to consider something more robust to keep your feet dry. When Jo and I did that very very wet trek in Wales we wore Sealskinz socks. These socks are absolutely amazing - 100% waterproof and yet breathable. Expensive (£22.50 a pair) but worth every penny.

It always amazes me when I see someone running in cotton clothing. The biggest threat to performance is over-heating (and the dehydration it causes). The body cools itself via evaporation, i.e. you sweat, and when the sweat evaporates from the body it also takes heat away from your skin, hence cooling you down. If you run in humid conditions, or sweat soaked cotton clothing then this evaporation process is hindered hence you're likely to overheat. Furthermore, when you stop running the sweat will cool and you'll get cold quickly. I would, therefore, always recommend you wear the appropriate moisture wicking running clothing that all top sports manufacturers provide. Also proper clothing chaffes less - try running a marathon in a cotton t-shirt and decide whether you like having sore and bloody nipples by the end (ouch). Proper running gear is expensive, but it lasts and it works.

There has been extensive research that backs the use of compression clothing in sports. Apparently it "improves microcirculation and tissue oxygenation" thus aids performance and recovery. I started wearing old style compression shorts (aka lycra/spandex!) seventeen or so years ago. I played a lot of five-a-side football (soccer) and was constantly getting groin strains. I found using lycra shorts gave me a bit of support on the muscles as well as keeping them warm. I don't recall having a groin strain since! Skin shorts also help alleviate chaffing (if Body Glide isn't enough).

Nowadays there are a host of companies that sell compression clothing, including the big boys (Nike, Adidas etc) but my favourite is Skins; they last ages, can handle plenty of abuse (common when you're trying to take the damn things off) and they are comfortable (tight without being restrictive). Skins do a variety of garments for all shapes and sizes. Don't get the "long" size unless you really are very tall (i.e. over 6 ft 6 incles) as the long items really are very long!

Rucksacks (& Camelbaks)
Apart from having to carry fuel (food/energy bars) and extra layers of clothing in case the weather takes a turn for the worst we always carry a water bladder (i.e. a camelbak) whenever we do runs in excess of 1 hour (10km). It is essential to get into the habit of taking on fluids as we run. I know, from weighing myself before and after runs, that I lose between 0.5 and 1 litre of fluid (through sweat loss) per hour of running (primarily depending on the temperature). This is the net loss when I take a camelbak with me so god only knows how bad it would be if I didn't drink as I run; I find I drink about half a litre every hour (I know I need to improve that to force myself to drink a litre an hour). Apparently your performance suffers once you lose 3% of your body mass through dehydration, so as it stands my performance will begin to fade after about 3 hours of running.

The minimum weight of a rucksack (with a full camelbak) is about 3kg, and when we run to work (on Wednesdays and Thursdays) it can weigh close to 10kg (especially in Jo's case) - so the rucksack has a big impact on our running. We used to use our Camelbak rucksacks (which we had from mountain biking) but we found that our backs were getting badly scratched/chaffed. Constant rubbing over a period of two hours or more will have that effect! So the rucksack you use needs to have enough straps on it so that you can really tighten it down, and it needs to wick sweat away from your back. Some form of ventilated back panel is also desirable.

A few months ago I bought Jo an Osprey Talon 22 rucksack - it's brilliant; it's very light, made from a great durable material, it has a good back panel, it has two hip pockets (great for easy access to energy gels) and it has plenty of straps that allow you to adjust it to exactly how you want. In the interest of research I bought myself a (different) new rucksack a month ago - a Deuter Futura 28. On paper it looked impressive, and it had a great back panel but it was just so uncomfortable - I just couldn't run with it. Needless to say I took it back and swapped it for an Osprey Talon 33 (almost as light as the 22 but just that little bit bigger, just as brilliant).

Finally (for this posting) - I'd add a Buff to your kit bag. It is best described (by Buff) as "multi-functional headwear". It's made from microfibre, hence it wicks moisture, it's wind-resistant and breathable, it dries in minutes and retains it's elasticity (I should charge Buff for publishing this corporate propaganda). Basically it's easy to wear, and it protects from cold, heat, wind and dust. It's just so versatile - and I totally agree with the company when they state "it can be worn as a bandana, sun-guard, thermal scarf, balaclava, headband, scrunchie, wristband, helmet-liner, muffler or dust screen".

That's about it for this particular posting, hopefully it's given you some helpful tips. If any of the above-mentioned companies are interested in sponsoring our adventure then please don't hesitate to get in touch! ;)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Week 11 Summary (14/04/2008 - 20/04/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 11:36
Running: 3x, 53.56km (32 miles)
Mountain Bike: 1x, 50.00km (30 miles)
Longest Run: 26.00km (15.57 miles)

Calorie Averages (daily):
Expended: 3568
Consumed: 3172 (Fat 29%, Carbs 48%, Protein 17%, Alcohol 6%)

Weight: 93.6kg
Body Fat(%): 21.5

RestHR: 46
MaxHR: 181 (estimated)

Week 10 Summary (07/04/2008 - 13/04/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 10:45
Running: 6x, 98.32km (59 miles)
Longest Run: 30.00km (18 miles)

Calorie Averages (daily):
Expended: 3546
Consumed: 2536 (Fat 32%, Carbs 41%, Protein 22%, Alcohol 5%)

Weight: unknown
Body Fat(%): unknown

RestHR: 46
MaxHR: 181 (estimated)

Monday, 21 April 2008


The blog has been silent for over a week because we've been on holiday (with the rest of my family). We went for a week to Lanzarote....it was great getting some sunshine in our lives for a change.

We flew out to Lanzarote on Thursday (10th April). We all met up at Gatwick airport - which all went quite smoothly (a rare occurrence when my family is involved). The "family" consisted of Jo, my parents (aka mum and dad), my oldest sister Am (who did most of the leg work in organising the holiday - hence needed a holiday the most!), my other sister Kam, her husband Hosh, their daughters Simren and Sukhmuni, my oldest brother Satpal, his wife Parm and finally my other brother Jag (unfortunately due to a marriage break-up his wife and kids weren't present). Phew - now you can see why Am needed a holiday....organising the Sandhu (and Phagura) clans is anything but straight-forward.

The flight was on Monarch Airways - probably the worst airline in the western world. Do they think that the flying population consists of hobbits? Extra legroom is of course available - at an extra charge....why don't they just ensure their seats come with enough legroom for the average human being!? I had to tell the passenger in front of me to not attempt to recline her seat as she was crushing my kneecaps - she had her headphones in, hence couldn't hear the crunch of bone every time she pushed her seat back and couldn't work out why it wasn't moving!!!

We arrived in Lanzarote late afternoon - collected the rental cars and headed to our two villas in Playa Blanca. I had every intention of eating healthy and sensible size portions this week but the first meal kind of set the scene. We started with garlic prawns (lets just say I'll be sweating garlic for the next month) and then had seafood barbecue. Four of us ordered the seafood barbecue, but enough food for ten people was served. I hate leaving food and I hate over-eating - so I think I settled somewhere in between! The food for the rest of the week was pretty much a repeat of this...not quite as big in terms of portions, but definitely in terms of garlic!

On Friday morning Jo and I went for a 12km hard run (DPT). West along the coast from Playa Blanca to just beyond the lighthouse and back. My knees hurt a little from the crammed flight but eventually they sorted themselves out. The coastal path has some nice uphills - so was good training. Friday evening Satpal and Hosh went for a 10km run - so I decided to join them...a nice slow 10km. I felt good.

Persuaded Satpal, Kam and Hosh to join Jo and myself on our Saturday morning run. We were aiming for 20km. Kam intended to turn around after a few km but Satpal and Hosh were looking to stick with us for about 7km (hence 14km total). Satpal's maximum distance ever had been 10km so this was going to be his longest ever run. Hosh on the other hand has always been a runner - he trained to do the London Marathon a few years ago but had to pull out due to problems with his knees. When Hosh ran with us it confirmed what we had suspected...Hosh trains too hard, running at our slow pace was an eye opener for him (I think). The fact that he hadn't ever run this slow before highlighted that he didn't do the slow build-up training that is necessary in order to prepare your legs and feet for the time spent pounding the pavements. Hosh is a much faster runner than myself or Jo so hopefully this slower, more enjoyable, pace of running will rekindle his motivation for running so that he can keep at it consistently.

The run this time took us East along the coast past Playa Blanca, heading to Playa Papagayo. Jo and I really enjoyed the run - Jo, Hosh and Kam chatted together while Satpal and I had a good old banter too. It made the time (and distance) pass quickly. Kam peeled off in the centre of Playa Blanca. We bumped into Parm on her run (think she's not prepared to run with us quite yet - although I think she runs faster than us too). Then it was just Jo, Satpal, Hosh and myself. The weather was perfect going out - a little windy but Lanzarote is always windy! We passed the 7km mark and Satpal and Hosh stayed with us. Satpal contemplated turning around at 8km but we persuaded him to stick with us to the 10km turnaround point. "You can always walk once you're too tired to run" (I knew walking was never going to be an option, but I knew he was capable of doing the 20km at our slow pace, and Hosh had done further than 20km in his training in the past so no worries there either). So we carried on to the 10km return point, which took us to the beaches around Papagayo beach. It got a bit hotter on the way home so we suffered a little bit more, but before we were struggling too much I suggested to Satpal that he may want to do an extra half kilometre away from home, so that our total distance would be 21km....so that he could say he did a half-marathon. He didn't say "no", so I took that for a "yes" ;)

Satpal was cursing me when we veered away from home to squeeze in an extra kilometre, but looking back I'm sure he's glad we did it. We all sprinted home at the end of the run. Jo crept up on me going into the final 100 metres, but she kicked too early and I put my foot down and won the final sprints (did I mention we're a competitive family!)...in fact it was my fastest ever sprint, going over 20kph (that's the same pace that professionals run the entire distance of a marathon - insane!). I totally agree with Jo - it was our most enjoyable run ever.

I tried to look after my legs for the rest of the day...plenty of cold showers, with a hot tub treatment in between and further cooling in the swimming pool. What a hard life!

Sunday was our long run, 30km. It was to be just Jo and myself. The aim was to run the 10km to Papagayo beach, then to run 10km beyond, returning to Papagayo where the rest of the family would meet us for some seaside fun and games (and feeding). The run itself was pretty uneventful. We both felt strong going out. The first 10km was easy. The next 10km I really enjoyed but Jo hated. Mentally Jo found it difficult as it was barren and desolate, but that's exactly why I enjoyed it. Also it was mostly uphill. I found the final (mostly downhill) 10km hard as my feet were beginning to hurt (mainly because my trainers were only one size too big, which for me is not enough especially in hot weather - the feet expand and when you go downhill the toes hit the front of the trainers causing friction and pain). Jo, on the other hand, loved most of the final 10km - especially the roller coaster (short uphills and long downhills).

We arrived on the beach to applause from the family (much appreciated) and a tour party cruising on Segways!!!

I think we were both pretty tired when we finished. I forced us to take our shoes off and walk into the sea; the Atlantic sea is freezing, perfect for a post run leg cool down. Jo didn't stay in the sea for too long - but I stuck it out (as I knew I was down for a long mountain bike ride the next day, whereas Jo had an easy run to do).

We then spent the rest of the day with the family, chilling out on the beach and eating.

The next day (without Jo) I left to go mountain biking with the lads (Satpal, Hosh and Jag). We hired bikes and a guide from Costa Teguise. It was a good thing we hired a guide because it pushed us - otherwise we probably would have hit the first hill and then gone to a bar!! Instead we had a mammoth 50km bike ride up some hellish terrain. I think that was, for me, one of the hardest bike rides ever....technically it was easy, but in terms of effort (maybe due to the heat and my long run yesterday) it was mega hard. We did a bike ride near Moab ("Behind The Rocks") a couple of years ago that was probably slightly harder (due to the heat and the sand). The fact that we cycled to the highest point on the island (about 700 metres) didn't help either! When I go mountain biking with the lads I'm usually at the back - and I was certainly expecting to be at the back this time too, but it wasn't to be the case this time. I felt pretty good on the ride...I found the uphills hard but I never stalled.

Hosh and Satpal almost kept up with the guide who obviously made light work of the terrain but Jag struggled. Jag didn't have breakfast, didn't bring enough water and spent the last few days rollerblading in the midday sun (hence started from a state of dehydration) - so it was no surprise that he hit the "wall", having to push the bike up the final uphill to the peak. Jag loves rollerblading and currently (due to complexity in his life) doesn't have time for other activities, hence his fitness is very seasonal. Once rollerblading season kicks off in the UK then he'll probably return to his peak fitness but since the weather in the UK has been so poor he hasn't done much for a while (although I think he's taken up swimming too). In the past Jag has been so fit that he's not had to worry about hydration or fuel - I don't think he has that luxury anymore...welcome to the world of mortals bro ;) If he was fuelled up then I don't think he would've struggled with the bike ride - but I was glad....it was nice to have company at the back for a change!!

Tuesday, thank god, was a rest day. Phew! We took a trip to the Timanfaya national park to see the volcano - it was a nice break. The terrain is awesome - all I saw was endless running possibilities (I think I'm obsessed).

It was pretty cold up at the park but standing next to the thermal vents soon fixed that.

Later on, on Tuesday, we decided to trek up the local peak next to Playa Blanca, called Montana Roja. It's only a tiny peak but the views were still amazing and it helped loosen the leg muscles. Even dad made it to the top.

As to be expected from Lanzarote, it was pretty windy at the top.

Wednesday's run (DPT) was fast. Probably our fastest 12km to date. We both felt strong. We ran towards Papagayo beach (as the route to the lighthouse is a bit boring). It was great, especially since it was probably the first time that I actually got my heart rate up to DPT level consistently. Usually when Jo and I run together there has to be a compromise. If I run at DPT pace then Jo ends up having to go beyond DPT, so usually we settle for me running at a high BT2 pace and Jo does a DPT. For some reason during this run our heart rates were in sync with each other (which normally only happens in slow runs - after the first hour). It was a perfect run to end the week on.

On Thursday we returned to Britain. It was freezing. We were supposed to run on Friday but just could not motivate ourselves to face that freezing weather (especially since Jo didn't have Friday off - hence it would have meant an even colder 6am run).

So it was a great holiday, which doubled up as a brilliant training week.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Five a week

The sun finally made an appearance for one of our runs this year. This was the first time we were intending to do five runs in a week - really we should have started doing this last week but the trek changed our plans. We decided to do the long run on Saturday instead of (as planned) doing it on Sunday because the weather forecast for Sunday was pretty grim.

Saturday's run started in warm sunshine - in fact within a few kilometre we were removing our running jackets; it felt great to be running in short sleeves for the first time this year. Our run took us along our usual route west along the river Thames. For those of you familiar with London, our route takes us past the Tower of London, Millennium Bridge, Houses of Parliament, Tate Britain (formerly known as the Tate Gallery) and then a long boring stretch, continuing along the river to Chelsea Docks where we turn around and head home.

Weather got a little cooler after we turned around - so Jo put her running jacket back on, but it was still dry. Jo found the last five or so kilometres of Saturday's run difficult - most likely the legs were beginning to feel the strain from a hard week of training, especially after the effort of last Saturday's trek. Even though my legs felt heavy towards the end I still finished strongly.

Got home...and then it started to rain (good timing or what).

Managed to go out to the shops to get some more running gear; Jo needed new trainers and I needed to change my rucksack. Earlier in the week I had bought a new rucksack, Deuter AC Futura 28. It seemed comfortable enough in the shop but once I ran with it...man was it uncomfortable or what. Jo tried it and after about 50 yards declared that I absolutely had to take it back and try and change it. I was very pleased when "Snow and Rock" allowed me to change it. I ended up getting an Osprey Talon 33 - wow what a comfortable rucksack. The longer you run the more problems you get if you run with gear that isn't right - so it was important to get the right rucksack. I'll try and do a proper posting about gear in the next week or so - so as to share some knowledge on the subject.

We were knackered so the rest of the day we just crashed out in front of the TV to watch my beloved Liverpool take on Arsenal in the Premiership. Final score 1-all...think that ends Arsenals title hopes; shame really as I hate Chelsea and Manchester United!! Roll on Tuesday when we play each other in the really big game - for a place in the Champions League Semi-Final - got butterflies in my stomach already :(

Woke up on Sunday to a big surprise - mega snow falling in London. This is April isn't it? We had breakfast and, after a couple of hours to allow digestion, we headed our for our shorter weekend run, in the snow. It wasn't too bad to be honest - at least the bad weather kept the tourists off the streets (it can be a nightmare trying to avoid them while you're running in London). We had to head out while it was still snowing because the Olympic Torch was expected (along with thousands of protesters) in London later that day. We, therefore, ensured we finished our training run before the commotion kicked off in London.

We got home...and then the sun came out (bad timing or what).

Judging by the news coverage later on (some of it along the route we had run) we had made the right decision to avoid it all. It was serious chaos. I am, however, glad the protesters were allowed to make their protests heard. Some would say politics and sports don't mix, but I think it's impossible to separate them when politicians use sports to boost their profile and to infer some sort of global acceptance via the sports. In this case the Chinese government does seem to want it's people to think everything is great and rosy with it's country, after all that must surely be the case since the global community is coming to their Olympics! Don't get me wrong - I don't think there are many countries in the world that could hold the Olympics with a clear conscience about their human rights record. Also I understand that our view of China is clouded by the one-sided media coverage shown in the west. I don't know what the true facts are but there were enough Tibetan protesters out on Sunday to imply they have a serious problem with China's handling of their country and it's people.

On a lighter note - I bumped into my old boss yesterday. I hadn't seen him in over 9 months...the first thing he said to me was "blimey you've lost a lot of weight - you're half the man you were". Guess the training is paying off :)

Week 9 Summary (31/03/2008 - 06/04/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 8:41
Running: 5x, 78.27km (47 miles)

Calorie Averages (daily):
Expended: 3374
Consumed: 2493 (Fat 37%, Carbs 41%, Protein 21%, Alcohol 1%)

Weight: 94.4kg
Body Fat(%): 23.0

RestHR: 46
MaxHR: 181 (estimated)

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Does it get any easier?

I asked Jo this morning "does it get any easier?".

I was in a grumpy mood - waking up at 5:20am in order to get a run in before work, and to make matters worse it was dark outside because of the clocks going forward last weekend. Also we hadn't changed the time on our central heating system - so it was cold in the house, not mega cold but just not warm enough to entice you to escape the duvet. I miss my sleep :(

It was pretty much the same yesterday - that seems to be our Wednesday and Thursday routine; up at 5:20am (Jo has a snooze as she gets ready quicker, whereas I like a certain amout of "gaze into space" time so I have to get up when the alarm goes), then out the door by 6:00am. Run 15km on Wednesdays (at a nice slow pace) and 12km on Thursday at a much harder pace.

Jo said "yes it does get easier". I'm not sure I believe her!!

Today was particularly difficult. The first ten to twenty minutes of a run are usually difficult, but usually I relax a bit and then begin to enjoy it. Today's run was at a hard intensity (DPT) so I didn't really get to relax (no matter how hard I tried). It didn't help when Jo started singing along to "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. Jo listens to music on her iPod whereas I prefer silence (or rather, the sound of my feet and my breathing); I prefer to lose myself in a meditative state - so when Jo sings it brings me back to reality (which is fine if we're doing an easy run, but not when I'm trying to shut myself off from the effort of a hard run). Jo's better than me at running at higher intensity - several times today she engaged me in "idle" chatter. Since we were doing a hard run I assumed idle chatter meant she wasn't working hard enough ;) so usually this was followed by me asking "what's your heart rate?" or "how's your effort out of ten?". Jo's response usually implied she was at exactly the heart rate/effort that she should be at - I cannot understand how she could sing or chat at that intensity; she's definitely made of sterner stuff than me.

For anyone who hasn't bothered looking at our training plan (and I don't blame you...it bores me too), here's a summary of our run types. Regeneration runs, usually Monday, are very very easy - just to shift some lactic acid from the weekend's runs. BT1 (Basic Training 1), usually Wednesdays and Sundays, is also pretty easy, still at fat-burning (65%) intensity. Then we shift up to BT2, currently our new Saturday runs; this is still at a "talking" pace (75%) but now we begin to utilise more carbs (although fat is still the predominant fuel used for this). Stepping up to a much harder pace is DPT (Development Phase Training), usually our Thursday run; this is a tempo run (i.e. you can manage an hour at this pace without stopping, but not much more). DPT is hard (85% - hence about an 8.5 out of 10 in perceived effort) - expect to be hungry after this run, as it's now using mainly carbs (which the body will want to replace ASAP after the run, hence the hunger pangs). Finally we come to PIT (Peak Interval Training) - just the thought of these scare me!! These we don't do yet - thankfully we have about 10 weeks of training before we get to this intensity of training, but I am not looking forward to it. PIT will involve going as hard as you can for the interval duration (1km or 2km), hence expect pain and serious (95%) effort.

So - does it get any easier? I'm afraid not :(

PS. I weighed my rucksack after the run this morning (containing work clothes and water). It only weighed 5kg (11lb) hence only half as heavy as Freddie and George's weight vest. It sure felt heavier than that :(

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Week 8 Summary (24/03/2008 - 30/03/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 15:20
Running: 3x, 40.33km (24 miles)
Trekking: 1x, 33.40km (20 miles)

Calorie Averages (daily):
Expended: 3783
Consumed: 2553 (Fat 36%, Carbs 41%, Protein 20%, Alcohol 2%)

Weight: 95.4kg
Body Fat(%): 22.5

RestHR: 46
MaxHR: 181 (estimated)

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Hello world!!

I must confess I do get a buzz out of looking at our blog page's stats and finding we have readers from all over the world, other than just the UK. Hopefully they are genuine readers and not looking for a Rocking Transvestites website!!! So please feel free to post so that we know something about our readers. Unfortunately we don't have any readers in Asia or Africa but I'm trying to change that by plugging our site on Indian running blogs....no luck yet through :(

The Americans are our most frequent overseas readers, which I guess is to be expected. I'm hoping to get a reader from each US state, currently we have readers from about 10 states....so please spread the link to your friends ;)
Also, I guess we're cheating a little because we're getting readers from several South American countries - but this is just because Gill and Andy are currently travelling around South America. I think they might be our only readers South of USA.

The rest of Europe is slowly showing interest in the blog, but what I'm really pleased about is our small contingent of readers in Australia - G'day mates (er...sorry!!)

Anyway - hopefully we'll have a few new readers in the coming weeks as we've just been mentioned in the TransRockies Run March newsletter. Sorry Jo...I know it's not a great photo of us, but we don't seem to have many photos with the two of in...seven years of hell/bliss/marriage and we've only got about seven photos of us together...are you trying to tell me something?!! :o

The newsletters also mentions a couple of other teams taking part in this years run. I am drawn to Team Knuckleheads (link to their blog on the right). Team Knuckleheads consists of two guys, Fred and George who are both over 50 years old, 54 and 55 respectively. That's what I call inspiration. They will be 15 years older than me and I suspect I will be chasing their tail up the mountains in August :(

Inspiration is found everywhere you look - if you care to look. For example, doing that horrid trek last weekend with my sister. She's fifty and easily held her own on the walk, even though she's nursing an ankle injury. I must confess though, I get most of my inspiration from the likes of Dean Karnazes and Joe Simpson, as they "were" mere mortals like us until action and circumstance (respectively) turned them into something much much more.

Inspiration, however, doesn't have to come from the superhumans of this world like Lance Amstrong (or Dean Karnazes or Joe Simpson), it exists in our own backyards...amongst mere mortals.