Monday, November 20, 2017

WW50 Kit List

It’s been a while since I did an ultra, in fact this will only be my 4th event this year after the Cheltenham Challenge half, the 9-to-5 charity run and Boddington 50km. Even by my standards this is a slow year. 

I’m going to try and write a few blogs this week on the lead up to the event. 

For the approaching trail 50miler through Wendover Woods there’s a proper kit list. I will need to pack and prepare. For me this normally means a lot of disproportionate fretting. I really do over think this stuff. 

My kit list will essentially be...

  • Race vest (10ltr Salomon)
  • Bottles (x4) 2 in drop bag
  • 2xu shorts
  • Brooks shorts
  • Salomon jacket
  • Buff (x2) 1 in drop bag
  • Salomon beanie
  • Patagonia cap
  • Salomon Cup
  • Nike fleece top (in dry bag)
  • Petzls x2 + batteries
  • Run gloves
  • Buff beanie (in dry bag)
  • Adidas Terex
  • Salmon speedcross (in drop bag)
  • CEP socks x3 (1 in dry bag and one in drop bag)
  • Road ID
  • Run tops (tbc)
  • Gels etc plus some food in car to eat post race
  • Barrier cream (applied liberally at start and then in drop bag for emergency)

The route is 5 laps of 10 miles and has 9,500ft of gain and descent in total. I thought I’d done a good copy of this at the weekend with 10 miles through the woods and 1,500ft. This was hard enough and actually falls around 400ft short of a lap come race day. 

With a 15hr cut off it could be a looooooong day. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why do you run?

There's so much written about why we run. Comments range from "it allows me to eat cake" through to "it stops the crazy".

I'm not sure those are really an answer. They are an articulation of what might be an answer in the absence of being able to fully answer it. 

I run and I do like cake but it's not why I run! If I didn't run I'd probably still eat cake. I say probably I mean definitely. As for the crazy there may be something in that. 

That's not to say it stops me or anyone from going crazy but maybe it's a moment where you're just alone and not multi tasking. Unless listening to music or whatever while you run counts as multi tasking. 

When you're running it's just that. A physical act. An expression of what we are capable of. Something that feels right. It's also a time when, largely, you cannot be interrupted or distracted. No phone calls, emails, social media, kids, partner, work - the list goes on. 

It must feel right as it isn't easy. At least it isn't when you start but once people can run it seems to be what they want to do. What they have to do. 

Maybe it's addictive? People talk about endorphins and runners high - I don't think I've experienced that other than against the environment I'm running in. I run to work and rarely do I get home and talk about that run. Even if I have deviated a few miles to make it more of a session. It's a practical run. It gets me home. I enjoy it and it makes me feel good but is just functional. 

Put me somewhere different though and the experience is different. Totally different. I ran in Central Park NYC a couple of times this summer and loved every step. It was new, exciting and had some element of exploring in it. Same was true in Annapolis and even Amsterdam (it's been a good summer of running). 

So why do I run and why do so many of us run? 

I'm not sure there's an answer beyond it feels good and is addictive. I truly think it's addictive. Ultra running is full of people with addiction issues. The standard line being they have replaced one addiction with another. 

You can see this in the behaviour of a runner; life becomes about their running and when they can next run. It becomes about planning the run. Day dreaming about it. Surrounding yourself with other runners and talking about it. The new gear. The tech. The whole immersive all consuming aspect of running. It consumes you.

This is why it is hard for a non- runner to understand. How can you really explain to someone that 'yeah right now it feels hard and hurts and you're struggling but keep going and you'll just get it'. Invest in it and you'll get it. 

This is where perhaps modern culture doesn't allow for running. In an era dominated by talent shows and reality TV stars why do we need to invest in anything other than the desire to be famous. We are taught and teaching through TV and social media that it can happen instantly if you're in the right place or you do the right thing. Don't worry about working for something because you'll just get it. 

Running, like pretty much everything in actual reality, flies in the face of this. No-one leaves the house and just runs like a gazelle elegantly down the road. But..... you can get there if you start, invest and develop as a runner. 

You might not have the answer as to why you run but you will be asked the question. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Running 9-to-5

I was in a team that ran a working day on Wednesday. The 'Running 9-to-5' event raising funds for MIND. 

Aside from running for 8hrs this was 8hrs lapping a building. A glass structure surrounded by cars and with a concrete path. More reflective surfaces than a budgies paradise.

It was, as it turned out, hot too. Really hot. Getting on for 30c and with no shade or breeze and reflections everywhere probably even hotter. 

We started, there were 7 of us, at 9am. A few runners had signed up to join us and they started lapping with us 2/3 km around with 9m of elevation. Lap after lap. We probably started a bit quick but then who doesn't! Around 7.5 miles in the first hour. The morning continued to go well with marathon distance in around 4hrs.

I took a break for lunch, heading indoors to eat a sandwich and try to cool down a bit. It was the afternoon where I suffered. I forget how much I'd run but as I approached the hill I felt my stomach turn and stopped myself being sick. I carried on but had to walk. Nausea really hitting me. My afternoon continued with great difficulty. 

I was trying to run but was done in. The heat was sapping everything I had. This was new, while I haven't raced in the heat, I have run plenty of times when abroad in some warm climates. I've never struggled like this. 

Honestly the afternoon is a blur. On reflection I should have probably stopped. I also shouldn't have succumbed to some gentle peer pressure to run the last couple of laps. I was hot and spaced out. 

We finished at 5 o'clock. We'd covered as a team of 7 around 266 miles which was 660 laps! It was awesome. 

A couple of the runners covered big distances in the 40's. the third was at 40. I was behind in 38.5 miles then most awesome, the two female members of the team each hit 35 miles. Witnessing the birth of two ultra runners was a beautiful thing (prior to this the most they had run was a marathon). 

The final member of the team covered 30 miles and had been fighting the conditions all day. 

There was massive elation at the end and really, physically at least, no one was broken. No soft tissue injures or worse. 

On the day the most significant factor was the heat. 

My struggles through the afternoon were down to more than the climate. On the Monday I started with an insulin pump. 

The omni pod. 

I spent Monday at the hospital setting it up for me and left to return the next Friday to do some tune ups. 

What I never realised is that all the basal I had added to the machine were not saved. Rather than 7.5 units of insulin as background over 24 hrs I was getting 1.2. 

I should stress that this was user error and not the Omni Pod in any shape or form. 

That's a significant drop off in insulin requirement and has an effect. Blood sugars rise. What this meant in reality for me was that I could not temporarily reduce my basal rate as it was already too low. In the circumstances I suspended all insulin.  For the morning this was fine. I was running and so, and I'm not sure what the technical term here is, but I was using the sugar. I was eating and my blood sugars were around 5-6mmol. This is good! In the afternoon once I was walking more than running my blood sugars increased. At the end of the run my sugars were 10mmol. Later that evening they were 20 and rising. There was though, remember, no basal. 

When I relayed this to my support team this was the response I got.

"...Your sensitivity is much more increased when on a pump and it is more likely that you needed basal insulin even if it is just a very small amount therefore your blood glucose was elevated a few hours later.


That’s why they recommend you are not off the pump or no basal running through for longer than an hour. Again, because you have increased sensitivity you reacted to high blood glucose levels by feeling sick and nauseous than you normally would on insulin pens. Did you think about checking ketones?.


Next time try the temporary basal reduction now you know turning off the temp off setting will help, even if the pump is only running at 10% will make a positive difference..."

This is the TOTAL opposite of what I did previously. When i was on pens I'd use my basal and the manage my bolus down to accommodate the impact of training. Now on a pump I need to reduce the basal and bolus as normal. 

Took me a while to get my head around that one. 

My physical recovery was actually pretty quick. A couple of hours and I felt well enough to function. Initially we finished i tried to eat but just couldn't. I managed to eventually get food in me around 10pm. I think the last time I ate before that was 1pm. 

The only carb I had consumed in that intervening period was a bottle of Tailwind. I couldn't eat and my blood sugar was going down. It wouldn't stabilise and I needed something to bring it up. 

The answer was a friends Tailwind - don't ask me what flavour it was!! I made a 500ml bottle of it and it did the trick. My blood sugars rose to 7 mmol and I could press on with some confidence. Tailwind might very well have saved my life a little bit!

Going back to the Omni Pod, at my hospital follow up on Friday it was identified that my basal settings had not saved. We unravelled the issues and everything made sense. Issue corrected the pump is working brilliantly for me now. I will be doing a 'sort of' long run tomorrow to test it out.

It won't be laps and it won't be 38.5 miles either. 

What all of this made me realise, as if there were any doubt, is what running means to me. I cannot articulate it fully but I know that without it I'm just not who I am. 

Diabetes will never stop me running or for that matter doing anything.

That's a fact. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

On Cloudsurfer

If you look at running shoes there's very little by way of true innovation. Funky colours maybe, interesting lacing systems, minimalist or maximalist but essentially they look the same. A rubber outersole, EVA midsole then the last. End of.  

That's not the case with ON Running who have developed a truly innovative sole that is comprised of clouds. There's an upper and some EVA (not a lot) then these clouds that sit along the sole and provide the ride. The tagline is land soft and take off hard.

I have seen these shoes being advertised more and more then heard that Rich Roll was wearing them for his this is 50 training stuff he's doing for Otillo. As i looked closer i found a review on the Ultrarunner Podcast that kind of finished the seduction. 

The first thing i noticed about these shoes out of the box was that they do not feel like a traditional shoe. They feel rigid in the hand yet when you put your foot in they do not feel that way at all. The heel cup and shoe opening allow the foot to slide in very easily and more importantly out with minimal effort. This will be useful, incredibly so, at the end of a long run when you don't want to have to fight your footwear.

The Cloudsurfers i have are neutral and i wear them with my custom orthotics (for collapsing arches). 

When i put them on initially the comfort strikes you immediately, i'm not a heel striker (when i run) but walking in these felt soft and easy. As i left the house this morning to run i felt a bit like one of those dogs that you see on the internet wearing shoes. It's unnatural and just plain odd. 

As i started to jog i could feel the spring in the shoes. The landing was soft and the take off responsive. But the spring made it feel that my legs were flying about. They weren't but it felt like that. They also felt fast. I did wonder if my mile splits would show this and they don't so it was all perception. I guess on reflection they just felt different. 

The upper is knitted and double layered. It's a very fine knit much more so than the Ultraboosts i have which are my only experience of knitted shoes. They have a squared off toe box that has some stiffer protection around the toe overlaid on the knitted upper. The double layer is red underneath with the grey on the top. The upper is grey with a red heel cup, tongue and sole. Nice styling. The shoes have nice detailing with the ON logo and some piping in highly reflective material. 

Putting them on is easy, the foot just slides in. The lacing system is best described as traditional. This is the only drawback i can see really. That the shoes have lace-ups is fine, I have no problem with that but what i don't like is the supplied laces. They are super skinny and do not really get any purchase on each other. The laces are like the ones in the Salomon S-Lock system but without the locking. I would prefer them to have a thicker lace that would grip against the other when they were tied. 

This is a small issue. 

Running this morning, once i had settled down into my rhythm, felt great. The shoes are incredibly comfortable; they feel really soft on landing and responsive on take-off. I felt like my stride was being tuned, i was picking up my heels much more than normal. I try to do this but know i lapse into that inefficient shuffle that long distance runners at the back/middle of the pack do. I know this was happening this morning as for the remainder of the day i could feel the run in my calves. 

They look good and they encourage good form - excellent!

They are eye catching too - i saw a couple of my running buddies and they immediately spotted the shoes and were inquisitive about them. They are that kind of shoe. 

Its very easy to be seduced by new gear. New shoes in particular always feel great out of the box, a little less so after a few hundred miles. I also know that i am always seduced by kit and generally love everything i have to do with running. 

This review is based on 5 miles of running, nowhere near enough to make a proper judgement but enough to say that i like them. I have a rest day tomorrow and then on Sunday am planning an 8 mile run in them. This will be a test of both the shoe and me. I'm pretty excited about this and have high hopes for the shoe and how it will perform and what impact it will have on my running. 

I will provide an update once i have run a couple hundred miles. First impressions are that these are going to be a hit!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What is core strength?

Anyone that knows me knows I've had my injury issues. Many different running injuries over quite a period of time.  Frustrating doesn't begin to describe it. 

With age the injury niggles have increased and I guess that as I am only going to get older I can look forward to more. But it doesn't have to be like this. Yes age or rather advancing years is the issue but only because of a failure on my part to do the other work necessary to stay fit. 

What's the secret? Who do I sell my soul to? 

What do I need to sacrifice at full moon to get this insight.

You don't need to do any of those things and the answer is probably something you know already and probably something you don't want to hear.

What's the secret? It's all about core. Sorry.

Like most runners my core routine would comprise a couple of 20 second planks a couple times a week. Ok, a couple times a month. Maybe less. I'd also add a little bit of regular foam rolling and some hockey ball massage. 

But core strength, that's different and takes effort. I actually think that most runners don't know what it is and don't know how to build it. I didn't. 

At one of my physio appointments it was described to me that people hang on their ligaments rather than use their muscles. You can see this everywhere. Poor posture; rounded backs, shoulders coming forwards, dropped hips. So many people are like this. It is the product of the lives we lead. We spend far too much time sitting, far too much time hunched over keyboards and smartphones. This is directly proportional to the lack of physical effort in our normal lives.   

To hold yourself properly when you're sat or moving takes muscle. Not eye popping bulging muscle we aren't talking Schwarzenegger here!!

To build the muscle required takes consistent effort and yet most runners given some time to train will opt for a run over anything else. Running got them fit in the first place so it will keep them fit. There's also the nagging doubt that if I don't run I'll lose fitness and my favourite, I'll put on weight if I strength train and it will make me slower. 

All wrong. 

But it doesn't address what is core fitness and how do you get it? For me it's been an interesting journey and taken some months. It's about consistency and doing the right things. It's not all lifting massive weights, it's not really about that at all.

Next time you run take a moment to asses your posture. You should be on the mid/front foot, leaning from the ankles your arms should be powering forward and importantly your heels should be coming up to your backside and your shoulders should be back. 
This video shows really well the correct posture for running 


If you cannot run like this then chances are it is strength that's the missing ingredient. 

For me it started through working with Martin at No Limit Fitness and assessing how bad my posture was. Years spent sat down at a desk tapping onto a computer keyboard take a toll. Shoulders come forward and roll. I also had little flexibility through my hips and no stability. Sure, I could run a long way but what sort of condition would I be in when I got there? 

This video shows this brilliantly!!

My strength training is 2-2.5hrs per week at the Trimnasium. It's been low weight. It's a mixture of functional movement and traditional weights. I've done more squats Iin the last 6 months than in my whole life previous. Yes I have put on some weight but it is the right sort of weight. 

My regimen includes some of the following on a regular basis, 
  • front squats
  • chest press
  • seated row
  • squats (with weights)
  • quad lifts
  • hamstring curls
  • lunges (both balanced and unbalanced*)
  • ball throws (throiwng and catching a weighted medicine ball off a wall)
  • deadlifts
  • floor exercise and stretching that focusses on the back, hamstrings, glutes and quads
  • kettlebell swings
*a 20kg bar across the shoulders with a 5kg weight on one side to unbalance and work the core more through a routine of lunges. 

Notice whats's missing from that list? There's no crunches in there at all. 

None of these exercises is with large weights either as this does not work with what you need to be a runner. What it's about is strength to be able run. 

The outcome of all this is still work in progress but the improvement to my injuries has been significant. My hips are getting stronger and I no longer 'hang on my ligaments'. I know I hold myself better, sometimes without realising and others very deliberately. Where i have the option I sit on stools with no backs so i can keep upright, engage my core and activate it. I am more aware than ever before and it shows. My shoulders are back, my back straighter and my hips are stronger than before. When i run i can feel my chest is more open and i run much more upright, initially this felt slower, it isn't it just feels different.

Core strength is something that everyone needs. If you want to continue running and run injury and niggle free then it is even more important than that. Set aside a couple of hours and get on with it! 

What are you waiting for?

Monday, February 20, 2017

You're not being stalked by Stephen Hawking...

I was out running on Friday evening, a couple of miles through Cox's Meadow and Sandford Park in Cheltenham. I was with the dog so it was easy pace and just a leg stretcher. As I rehab from injury running with the dog keeps my pace down and means I take more walk breaks as I inevitably need to wait for her or chivvy her along. On Friday I was using Strava on my iPhone as my Garmin Fenix was out of charge (I had left it trying to synch all night).

I had my phone in my flip belt recording the run. What I had forgotten was that Strava speaks to you. So at mile 1 I jumped out of my skin as my phone told me, at full volume, I had run a mile at whatever pace I had. We continued to run and as we made our way back towards the car we closed in on a couple of lady runners. As we got within maybe 3 metres of them it coincidentally was mile 2. My phone started talking, loudly.

The two female runners jumped!

I apologised and said it was ok they weren't being chased by Stephen Hawking. I thought it was funny but i'm not sure they laughed or not so we just ran past them and onwards to the end of our run..

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dreams have the answer

We're going to NYC on holiday this summer. One thing, among many, that I'm looking forward to is running in Central Park. I've been to NYC twice before but never as a runner.

I've obviously been thinking about it and planning it with last night's dream giving me the answer!

The question being how not to let running kit stink out a hotel room? I thought about maybe some special travel wash or stuff like that. 

My dream, though, had the answer. 


Specifically Ashmei. 

Wear, run, sweat, wick repeat. Does not smell and does not need washing. 

A couple pairs of socks and a t-shirt and sorted!! So that's the answer and it came in a dream....

Who says I'm obsessed with running??

Friday, February 3, 2017

Not running

I'm not running at the moment.


Injuries again, I thought it was piriformis giving me sciatic referral pain. This, it appears was incorrect. The issue, or one of them, is sciatica. Lower back stiffness the probable cause. This caused by running, lots of running, and core work. 

I also have an inflamed sacroiliac - this is a ligament not a muscle. It's in the hip and is a shock absorber.

I've also strained my psoas. I did this doing lunges with 2 x 50kg kettle bells. I lie, they were 10kg each - no really. 

The fix for these is not that elusive. Quad stretches, back stretches and a lay off from running. 

I'd already determined to take February off from running so while not ideal it was easy to accept.

More physio on Monday means massage and ultrasound.

The lesson? There's always a lesson. As good as google is it isn't a trained professional physiotherapist. We, runners, think we know all this stuff but we don't. 

Professional diagnosis people. 

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Sciatica is an awful constant pain. For me it's the outside of the lower leg. Mid way down the calf. A constant, consuming ache. The skin over the area has little sensation, like it's not my skin. The worse pain and discomfort comes from the simple action of sitting in a chair. 

Lucky for me this is something I only do every day while tapping a computer. Standing works well as does lieing down. If I'm not flexing joints then it's fine. In the evening when I sit down I tend to lie down to relieve the pressure. 

I have had diagnosis and the sciatica is a result of piriformis syndrome. The piriformis is a small stabilising muscle deep in the glute. Small and innocuous but a literal pain in the arse. When it's inflamed in rubs the sciatic nerve and boom there's your pain.

I've had for this for nearly a year. In the early part it was excruciating - every time I got out of a chair I could barely move. I found myself really tensing moly core to try and prevent and dissipate the awful pain. On a pain index it would go from being a 9-10 to 0-2 in a matter of seconds. Very painful seconds. 

This is what makes the issue an odd one. Piriformis syndrome is, I believe, an overuse injury - look online the remedy is essentially stretching and core work. I have joined a gym and been doing lots of that work. It has improved but so slowly.

It's the beginning of 2017 and I have plans. Those plans involve long runs and while I can do the runs I am not so sure that I can recover from them. I'm not even sure if I should be running with this but if I don't I don't feel like I am me. 

A recent call out on Twitter for someone that can really fix this has yielded a response. Hopefully they have the ability and knowledge to get into the area and help it along. 

Fingers (not legs) crossed.