A fast short long one …

It was a welcome respite from those long, long Sunday runs this week as my training plan suggested a fast 10k run (or race) was the best way to spend Sunday morning.  Coincidentally, it was the same weekend that we’d booked to go away to a cottage in the Cotswolds so it all fell together quite nicely.

One of many flooded fields in Oxfordshire

One of many flooded fields in Oxfordshire

I love running somewhere new and this weekend was no exception.  We were staying just outside of the small village of Kingham which was far enough north to have escaped the worst of the flooding, but still wet enough to change the landscape for a few days.

My route around Kingham, Churchill and back looked straightforward when I planned it and the first two kilometres were great.  The sun was shining for the first time in weeks and, whilst it was cool and crisp, the calmness of the air made it the most enjoyable running conditions so for this year!

I intentionally set out at a fast tempo avoiding any frosty patches that the sun hadn’t yet warmed and covered the first few kilometres through the village in good time.  The road kicked up a couple of times so inevitably my pace slowed a little but things got even more troublesome in the final kilometre or so when I realised I must have taken a wrong turn and began running on an unfamiliar road clearly in the wrong direction!

I should have paid more attention to this

I should have paid more attention to this

Being dedicated to running as fast a 10k as possible I just ignored the fact that I was lost and kept going until Runkeeper announced I’d done the distance I set out to do (albeit finishing a couple of miles south of where I’d intended!!!).  Taking stock of where I’d ended up, I made the embarrassing S.O.S. call to Mrs G and heard my eldest daughter in the background saying “Is Daddy lost again!!”

When my wife arrived to my rescue I tried to deflect from the daftness of getting lost by gloating that I’d averaged under 7 minute miles for the 10k but it was to no avail.  So when I was taking a post-run hot-tub back at the cottage I just had to soak up the stick I was taking from them all.  Like I said – I love running in new places but really should pay a bit of attention to where I’m going!

But I still averaged 6.59 minute miles and that’ll keep me buzzing until next weekends 19 miler!

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Not the sort of bonk you want …

Check out how smug I was in my last post where I was bragging about how I’d done so well losing weight since the turn of the year!  Well, I learnt a good lesson about dieting and training on Saturday morning.

I was delighted to get out on the bikes with my mate Stu who I cycled to France with.  He’s had a number of injuries over the last 12 months but seems to be on the mend so I hope he’ll be out with us more often this year.  We had a good chat and some banter around the first 27 miles of our route, then Stuey sensed the end was in sight and picked the pace up a little.

In normal circumstances I find the last 8 mile run-in on this route a good blast. It’s largely downhill from a beautiful village called Bitteswell, along quiet country lanes in the Leicestershire countryside.  Anyway, on Saturday I wasn’t so keen.

As soon as I had to start working harder, I found there was nothing in the tank. My quads felt heavy and ached to the point of exhaustion as I tailed behind Stu who was holding a 19-20 mph pace.  As soon as we hit the solitary incline on the run home I dropped way back despite pushing as much as I could.  The rest of the way home was just a case of keeping the wheels spinning and reserving some strength for Sundays 12 mile run.

Now, I do suffer from bad days from time to time and I am conscious that form and fitness only come along with hard work and dedication.  But this felt like something different and it didn’t take much analysis to work out what was going on.

I think I bonked.

Bonking is a “technical” cycling term relating to the point when you’ve got no energy left to draw on in your body.  Chris Froome was in danger of doing it in last years Tour de France and suffered a 20 second penalty when he got a late energy gel from the ever-loyal Richie Porte.  I’m not saying that the situation coming in to Sapcote was anything like the one Team Sky endured on l’Alpe d’Huez, but I do think I bonked!

A picture from the BBC showing Froome and Porte

Looking at what I ate on Friday helps explain.  With a total intake of around 1500 calories I hadn’t fuelled up for the ride which burnt 1200 calories in itself.  The tank was well and truly empty!

On rides of that distance I don’t bother with snacks but could’ve murdered a banana just to get some strength back.  As soon as I got home I started steadily carb loading with some macaroni cheese for lunch and a pasta dish for dinner.  I think I just about got enough in to cope with the 12 mile run on Sunday, but won’t be risking the same situation happening again.

So, lesson learned: In place of my daily tuna salad I’ll be having a pasta salad on Fridays from now on, with a proper carb balanced dinner in the evening. That’s about the best I think I can do to prevent any unwanted bonking in the future but I’m open to other suggestions?…

Progress Already!!

Just a short update on how the New Year has faired so far.

Each week I’ll be (trying) to do a weigh in to gauge my progress to running the Brighton Marathon a good few pounds lighter than at the turn of the year.

I know that these things seem easier when you’re just in “in the zone” so I’m hopping that blogging about it will keep me in that zone for as long as possible.

Anyway, we’re one week in to the New Year – how is everyone getting along with their plan and resolutions?  From my perspective it was about getting back to fitness, more clean living and dropping a few pounds.  Here’s what I have changed:

  • Back on the training plan and I have run 4 times/27 miles
  • Completely cut out some “bad” stuff:
    • The B’s = bread, biscuits, booze
    • The C’s = crisps, chocolate, cheese
  • Used My Net App to stay on top of what’s going in and what’s being burned
  • Started back on skimmed milk and cereal for breakfast
  • Fast food now means soup
  • Drinking herbal teas as a direct substitute to wine!
My little helpers!

My little helpers!

I’m pleased with progress on everything other than fitness – but that’ll come back with time.  I’ve already lost 5lb’s in weight and that is just the motivation I need to get out for a run later!  I hope it’s going well for you too?

A Little Wet One

The logic is this:  Run in the winter because cycling when the weather is bad can be rubbish.

Now that marathon training us well underway I am running twice each weekend (unless Saturday is good in which case I’ll take the chance for a ride).  So I’ve applied new logic too: If it looks like bad weather on both Saturday and Sunday, embrace it and go trail running on the Saturday.

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Sounds good in theory, but lessons I learned this week include:

  • Running across fields and slipping all over the place doesn’t really replicate a road run
  • Slipping can be dangerous
  • Pay attention to the telly when it says there is flooding everywhere
  • Wading through 15 inches of flood water is not great training
  • Have the kettle ready to go … it’s pretty grim out there!

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It was a character building run on Saturday but I twisted my knee a little while running through a swamp!  Subsequently, Sundays 10 mile run was a little disappointing.  I suppose there’ll be plenty of good and bad training runs before April. Let’s hope this running lark gets a bit more fruitful in the next few weeks!

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New Year, New Regime

Aarghh!!

Has anybody else got that perennial feeling of dismay after stepping on the scales or going for a ride and realising they’re back to the same stage they were this time last year?  After training with focus and determination during October and November the festive month of December has completely scuppered me!

The pinnacle of my autumnal training came at the start of December with a 14 mile run.  It was the most substantial distance of my early marathon training and a real confidence booster for the strains and stresses that lie ahead.  But that was it.  During the following week I contracted the man-flu that is doing the rounds (I was lucky but I know lots of other people using antibiotics to fight off the virus) and lost 10 days of training before heading out for my pre-Christmas half marathon (which was a big disappointment anyway)

I threw myself 100% in to New Years Eve

I threw myself 100% in to New Years Eve

Even on the run-up to the event I was fully in to Christmas party mode:  For two weeks I had drinks on Tuesdays, recovery Wednesdays, party on Thursdays, recovery on Friday, out on Saturday night…. you get the picture.  When the festivities were finally upon us, I was already feeling the bulge growing around my belly and my belt appeared to have shrunk again!  During this time the exercise all but dried up.  Even the Boxing Day bike ride that I arranged (from our local pub) didn’t help because my hangover started after about 10 miles!  Other than that, one short bike ride on a Saturday morning and plenty of postponed runs are not enough to maintain fitness whilst loading the body up with lager, wine, gin and mince pies!

So here I am again at the start of January, having enjoyed a brilliant months of partying, nursing the tail-end of my New Years Eve hangover and rueing the loss of that fitness I had just a month ago.

Yet I still feel hopeful of what the sporting year ahead may bring.  I’ll be repeating last years alcohol free January which helped me shed about half a stone and my marathon training schedule will

Todays Net Diary

Todays Net Diary

kick back in properly next week (with plans for a couple of runs/rides in the next few days).  As of today, I’ll resume using the app that helped me get on top of my food intake 18 months ago (that I’d highly recommend) and start avoiding the “3 C’s” of crisps, chocolate and cheese.  The tuna salad is already in my lunchbox along with some Greek yoghurt and fruit and I’ll be actively ignoring the treats lying in wait within the kids’ Christmas selection boxes!

So I think I’m in a good position – well informed and motivated for the marathon – and should be OK to drop the first few kilos that will get the ball rolling and enable me to see the rewards of my dietary discipline!

Is anyone else in the same boat as me and if so, what’s the plan?

Bang!! Running in to the wall.

Phew – what a roller coast the last week or so has been.

The response to my last blog post was simply stunning.  A few of us has a deeply, deeply emotional weekend as we read peoples responses to the post on Facebook, email, and in the Just Giving pages.  The pledges made to Mind so far have knocked me sideways.  As I write this, nearly £700 has been raised online alone.

All sorts of people have sponsored: friends of mine, friends of Paul, friends of Sarah and even some people none of us have ever met! The impact of such generosity was firstly extremely satisfying, then slightly overwhelming, and then confusing.  Then my head hit the wall.

Just a snapshot of some inspiring messages

Just a snapshot of some inspiring messages

It was during a highly motivated 14 miles that I started to get my head around the sponsorship thing.

Some people are sponsoring me because they know me and want to support me.  Others are supporting the charity and the cause.  But most people are sponsoring because of the sense of affection and loss they still feel about Paul and their admiration for Sarah.  Anyhow, if anyone who has sponsored me is reading this: Thank You.

In fact, in many cases I’ve stopped thinking of the generous donations as sponsorship for my run.  Instead I think people are using the opportunity to sponsor as a tangible way of showing their ongoing grief and commitment to support.  The results are tremendous and more overwhelming than the amount of money raised so far.

Lot’s of people still feel the same way that I do.  I know they do because I read what all of them have written on the Just Giving pages.  I’ve had contact with a number of people following their donations and something that will stay with me forever came from one of Pauls friends who I only met a couple of times.  He said “what happened with Paul changed us all forever”.  Yes.  Yes it did.

That makes me think about my grief and the ongoing grief demonstrated by so many generous people who reacted my last blog.  We changed.  We’re all trying to come to terms with the loss we feel, but maybe we should also be coming to terms that we’ve changed.  That gap that Paul left will never be filled – it’s just a Paul sized gap that we’ll all carry around with us for ever more.  Because we’ve changed.

On the training front things haven’t gone too well.  After the successful 14 miles I’ve had a horrible cold and taken a week off training.  I was back on the bike last night and will be running 10k tomorrow before resting up for a half marathon at Stanwick Lakes on Sunday…. watch this space to see how I get on.

Chasing Rainbows

To commit to marathon training you either need to be addicted to running or have a bloody good reason to ramp up the training. I’m not addicted to running. Here is my bloody good reason.

Three years ago, pretty much to the day, I lost my best friend Paul.

Over a number of years Paul and I had become close friends as our lives came together and intersected through our work, our hobbies and our families.  We met working in India but were originally no more than friendly acquaintances.  I can’t remember how it happened, but when we were back in the UK we began playing golf together and pretty soon spent every other weekend at a golf course.

By this time our work life was following a similar path.  Both of us were selected for a management development programme as our careers moved steadily forward and we graduated together with our Mum’s looking proudly on. Throughout this time, we were both cultivating great relationships for ourselves so Paul and his fiancee Sarah came to our wedding about a year before we went to theirs.  Within the next 12 months we’d both had fantastic baby daughters.  I can remember playing golf with Paul at Oadby in Leicester where he told me they were expecting a baby.  We were on the 7th tee. We celebrated with a couple of pints when we finished and he told me of his impending redundancy.

It was at the same golf course that I planned to break the news about our second pregnancy a few years later.  I’d intended to tell him on the 7th tee and he was to be the first person I had confided in outside of my family.  Anyway, he pipped me to it when, on the 2nd tee, he told me that they were expecting their second baby too.  We were delighted for each other and stood hugging in celebration.

That was just one of many fantastic memories I have of sharing time with Paul.  His stag weekend in Newquay was easily the best one I have been on and we often shared stories of mine in Edinburgh.

After leaving our company Paul worked hard to make a go of things in the Financial Services sector and seemed to be getting along well.  But there must have been something else going on in Paul’s mind.   Three weeks after our last round of golf, two weeks after coming round to our house with his family to enjoy dinner together, three days after we popped round to ease the quarantine induced cabin fever of their daughter having chicken pox, Paul committed suicide.

None of us saw it coming.  And to be honest, I have never understood or really got my head around what happened.  It felt like our worlds had been turned upside down and I cannot begin to imagine how Sarah, who was still pregnant at the time, coped with losing him and looking after their daughter.

In my world, I had hoped that Paul and Sarah would be our “friends for life”.  The ones with whom our lives just easily intertwined.  And so, selfishly, Pauls death hit me hard.  And it scared me.  Because Paul was like me, he was my buddy and I can’t understand what happened that made him need to end his life.  Running this marathon for Mind is both charitable and therapeutic in equal part.  I still don’t understand and I still can’t change what happened but maybe I can raise a bit of money to prevent it happening to another family.

Throughout everything, Sarah has been a rock and is truly my most inspiring friend. I’m sure she has had dark days and I hope that we have been the friends she has needed us to be.  Our youngest daughters were born just a day apart less than three months after Paul died, and if ever a person should be celebrated as an amazing mother it is Sarah…. but she’d hate that!

To help their daughter come to terms with things, Sarah asked her to remember her Daddy every time she saw a rainbow. I hold on that as a reminder Sarah’s strength and of the glorious responsibilities and privileges we enjoy as parents.JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Every rainbow I see makes me smile. It makes me cry. And it makes me remember Paul.

I’m running the Brighton Marathon for Mind because there are enough rainbows in the sky.