Hiatus

April 2nd, 2013 1 comment

Attentive readers will have noticed that I said I was going to diet and exercise and do a thousand and one other good things before the Bristol 10K. Then I went out for a couple of rubbish runs and haven’t been heard from since.

This is due to the untimely arrival of the Dreaded Man-Flu chez Matt. Sadly, it’s not even been the conducive-to-weight-loss kind of flu where you don’t want to eat anything. So, basically, my weight-loss and jogging plans have had a fair bit of a dent kicked into them.

It feels like the illness is easing off, and we’ve even had some glimpses of Spring in Bristol over the last couple of days, so hopefully this will be the turning point. Then I’ve got some catch-up to play.

I’m really hoping that those last couple of rubbish runs were because my immune system was already fighting something off, leaving me with a bit less energy… I guess this week we’ll see, as I gradually recover and get out there for the next couple.

Categories: illness Tags:

No Go-Go Mojo

March 20th, 2013 Comments off

Ugh. After my last 5K up Bridge Valley Road, you’d have thought that a simple 5K on the flat would have been a dream. But tonight’s slow 5K down the Portway and back was annoying. My hip ached, I was slow, and I just wasn’t feeling it.

I think the only thing to do is to keep on trying and hope I start feeling better. It’s so odd that 5K can be such a struggle when I’ve happily done a half-marathon this month.

On the plus side, I did at least do something productive, cheering and jogging-related today: I published the shiny new version of the Get Running website. It’s all sexy and responsive (i.e. it scales down and rearranges itself as you make its window smaller, so the same base site works well on big desktops and small mobile screens) and I’m glad I finally managed to release it.

If only jogging was as painless as making websites about jogging…

Categories: aches and pains Tags:

Simple 5K

March 17th, 2013 Comments off

Today I stopped my post-Bath Half lazing around and started my seven-week countdown to the Bristol 10K by nipping out for an easy 5K up Bridge Valley Road and around a bit of the Downs.

It felt ploddy, and I really wasn’t feeling the joy, even though the weather was unusually sunny (i.e. it wasn’t pissing down, as it mostly has been for the last six months, it seems.) It’s possible I’m still recovering from the Bristol Beer Festival, which is where I spent Friday evening.

Oh well. At least it was better than not running.

Categories: 10K, Bristol 10K, weather Tags:

Losing Weight for the 10K

March 16th, 2013 Comments off

I don’t seem to be good at losing weight. Or rather, I’m not that bad at losing weight, but I’m also pretty good at gaining it, too. For the Bath Half, I was at the lightest weight I’ve been for any half-marathon I’ve ever done, I think; I am gradually reducing. But it’s very much a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back pattern.

This is bad, because if there’s one thing that would make me faster at running, and reduce my likelihood of injury, and have lots of health benefits, and so on, it’s getting a bit lighter.

So. Having had my post-half-marathon break, it’s time to get back to running. It’s also time, I think, to be a bit more formal about my weight loss than I’ve been over the last few years, and get some practice at consistently losing weight, rather than reducing for a few weeks, piling most of it back on, reducing again, and so on.

I’ve just added this little widget to my desktop:

Countdown Widget on Desktop

It’s a countdown to the Bristol 10K. Tomorrow there will be 49 days — exactly seven weeks — to go. If I were to carry on at my current rate, I’d probably only be a couple of pounds lighter by then. Instead I’m setting what should be a perfectly achievable target of losing seven pounds. If I manage that, I’ll be the lowest weight I’ve seen since I bought a Withings Body Scale a couple of years ago. And a few pounds below the weight I was for the last 10K.

The little desktop widget is part of my strategy. Being a programmer, I’m in front of the computer a lot, so that little widget should be a near-constant reminder of what my target is, and how long I’ve got to go. I’m hoping it helps, and I’m hoping I’ll think of a few more ideas to keep my mind on the weight loss.

I doubt it’s going to be easy. I’ll report back here each week, whether things are going well or badly, and maybe I’ll learn something, either way…

Categories: bath half, Bristol 10K, races, weight Tags:

Bath Half Marathon 2013

March 4th, 2013 Comments off

Medal

I wasn’t as worried about the Bath Half this year as I was last year. Last year I hadn’t done enough distance training. This year I managed a 15K including some fairly steep hills a week and a bit before the Half, so I reckoned I was ready.

I also woke up yesterday morning having slept fairly well and without the kind of headache which annoyed me during the last Bristol Half.

Driving to Bath Racecourse to enjoy their usual Half Marathon Park & Ride scheme, the weather was a bit of a concern, though. There was a lot more frost about than I’d seen on previous years, and my car’s temperature sensor said it was -0.5C outside. On the other hand, I’d rather be too cold than too hot, and it was the heat that really got to me — and quite a few other people — last year.

Starting Line

A cup of tea at the race course, a quick coach ride into town, a loo stop and an idle wander around the runner’s village, and it was time to form up into our start lines. It was still so cold that I was almost tempted to keep on the £2 charity-shop fleece I’d picked up on Saturday, but I realised I’d soon warm up, so I dumped it at the side to be collected for recycling as the queue started moving.

Apparently there were 11,156 of us, and I could easily believe it for the first few kilometres through the centre of Bath. This was a bit problematic for some, as it made obstacles a lot less obvious. One poor bloke, distracted by cheering supporters at the top of a double-decker bus, tripped right over one of the traffic cones separating the two lanes of the race, which was barely visible in the forest of pumping legs. Still, he picked himself up and carried on quickly enough.

I managed to survive unscathed, and started thinking a bit about the kind of mental trickery I talked about in my last post. What could I do to make the race psychologically easier?

The problem I had with the Bath Half last time was that it’s a two-lap race. You do more than 10K, and then you do it all again.

I decided, therefore, to treat the first lap as a warmup. The first lap wasn’t part of the race at all, in my mind. The first lap was just a jog to the starting line. The real race would be the second lap.

As it turned out, this mental trickery worked well for me. The first lap passed fairly quickly — I may write a separate blog post about what goes through runner’s minds when they’re on long runs — and was no problem at all. The halfway point came up sooner than I was expecting, in fact. Around there, I spotted my friend Mandy cheering people on, too, which was a bonus.

And thus began the second lap. I decided to break it up into two 5K runs in my head, with a break about halfway through where I could eat the gel energy thingy I was carrying.

I carried on, passing again the excellent live rock band who had been doing a suitably-raunchy version of Sweet Home Alabama on the first lap, enjoying the support, passing some lovely fancy dressers, which included overtaking a Smurf, and generally enjoying myself.

After 5K more, I decided to take a quick loo break, as I’d been wanting to go for a while, and I spotted a free cubicle by one of the water stations. On my way back to the road, I took the chance to check my time and do a few mental calculations, and was pleasantly surprised.

All I had to do was jog 5K at about my normal pace, and I’d be coming in under 2 hours 45, which is comfortably under my personal best.

Of course, it’s never that easy, and though I forced down my energy gel, it didn’t seem to give me that much energy, and the last few kilometres were quite a struggle. I kept on going, though, increasingly relying more on bloodymindedness than physical strength. I passed my cheering friends José and Emma, which was a nice boost, and soon after that passed Mandy for the second time, and knew I was nearly done. And at least there wasn’t much danger of overheating, as it was still bloody freezing!

It was quite tough coming up to the finish line. There was one very happy reason for that, which was that even if I’d stopped jogging and walked there, I’d still have beaten my personal best. But I resisted the temptation and jogged all the way.

Here’s a little Vine video of my finish (you can click on it to stop it playing, if it’s making you seasick 😀 ):

In the end, I managed to get around in 02:42:05, a whole five minutes faster than my previous best time. Hurrah!

So, my sixth half marathon was definitely a good half marathon. Not only that, but as of this morning, I’d raised £215 for the MS Society on Just Giving. Thanks for all the support, you lovely people 😀

So, there we go. I’ve now done six half marathons and three 10Ks, along with a few charity 5Ks and fun runs here and there. It’s surprising how fast those medals seem to mount up…

Back to training for the Bristol 10K now, I suppose…

Gongs

Passing Around the Hat

February 25th, 2013 Comments off

This week, I probably won’t be running until Sunday, when I’m taking part in the Bath Half Marathon. This year I’m running to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis society. My mum died of MS nineteen years ago last month, and we still don’t have a cure or even much clue as to the causes of MS.

Any donations, big or small, would be very welcome. Thanks! (And thanks to those reading who have already given! You rock.)

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Don’t Be A Fair-Weather Runner

February 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Rainy Portway

Recently, I seem to have been a bit of a fair-weather runner. Do you know that feeling? You look out of the window at the dark skies and the rain, and decide that you could just as well go running tomorrow, when it might be nicer.

If, like me, you live in England, you’ll already have spotted the problem here. In the last year, the chances of tomorrow being nicer have been pretty low.

Becoming a fair-weather runner puts your fitness at the mercy of long spells of crap weather. Looking back, I should have found some better running clothes, gritted my teeth, and got out there.

Even if I didn’t go out for that long run in Leigh Woods — because I’d have had to swim some of it through mud — I should have just got out for a couple of turns around the harbour, rather than letting the conditions put me off all together.

And not just for the physical exercise. There’s a big psychological advantage in regularly running in adverse conditions.

I was reminded of that yesterday, as I was getting tired on a 15K jog. I checked my distance, and found I’d only done 10K. I’ve not done much more than 10K for a few months, so I guess my muscles’ upper limit has reduced a bit.

So, I used a technique I’ve found very handy towards the end of half marathons. That technique is born of years of dragging myself out to do 5K runs whether I’ve felt like it or not. Five kilometres is pretty much my default distance, probably because it’s the distance I worked up to when I got started with Get Running.

So, that’s what I tell myself. I’ve only got 5K to go. Sure, I’ve already run 10K, or 16K, or whatever, but I’ve only got 5K to go.

And I can do 5K standing on my head. I’ve done 5K in rain, snow and ice. I’ve done 5K in howling, freezing wind. I’ve done 5K when I’ve been ill. I’ve done 5K first thing in the morning. I’ve done 5K last thing at night. I’ve done 5K when I’ve been dog tired. I’ve done 5K up a hill with a hangover.

So I can sure as hell do 5K right now.

And it works. It’s got me through quite a few last-5Ks of longer runs, as my muscles tire and I’m just left with my brain to keep me going, throwing one foot in front of the other and gradually getting the distance down to 4K, 3K, 2K… Through the last half-hour, all the way to the finish line.

There’s my motivation the next time I look out of the window and think, “Oh, gawd, it’s still raining…” My reply to myself should be, “Good! You can exercise your psychological muscles as well as your physical ones.”

Getting out in the sunshine is lovely, but it doesn’t work on your mental endurance anything like as much as getting out in the rain.

Short and Long

February 18th, 2013 Comments off

I’m playing blog catchup today, because I’ve been for a couple of runs since the last entry.

On Thursday I went out for a quick 5K along the Portway. Sadly I forgot to tell RunKeeper to stop timing me, as I found out about a half kilometre into my walk into town on Friday morning, when the RunKeeper voice unexpectedly chimed in on my headphones, telling me I’d run seven kilometres in a little over sixteen hours. A new personal worst, I guess…

Yesterday I went out without much of a route in mind, just with the idea that I wanted to run a bit further. I started off down the Portway again, with the idea of maybe doing a bit of out-and-back before heading up Bridge Valley Road.

In the end, I made it out to just past Sea Mills, and then decided to follow the signs for the Zoo, up Sylvan Way, on the grounds that heading for the Zoo would take me to the Downs. And so it did, up a very long hill (well, there had to be one somewhere), past Stoke Bishop along the Shirehampton Road and Parry’s Lane, to emerge at the entrance to Wills Hall.

After that, I just jogged around the outside of the Downs and back to Clifton Village for lunch. All in all, it was 11.35km, and quite a pleasant route. Not too many roads to cross in the suburban bits, and some new things to look at to keep my mind off the hill 🙂

So, pretty enjoyable. And my longest run of the year so far. Hurrah!

I’ll leave you with a photo of some people I saw on a route I won’t be taking. Crazy Avon Gorge climbers!

Rock Climbers

Categories: distance, routes Tags:

Meditation Chimer

February 17th, 2013 Comments off

Well, it scratched an itch I had, and didn’t take long to write.

Meditation Chimer. App Icon. It times. It chimes. It’s simple. Meditation Chimer is a simple meditation timer app for Android. It will chime for the start and end of your meditation, and optionally ch…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

My first ever promo video. I’m pretty happy with that.

February 4th, 2013 Comments off

My first ever promo video. I’m pretty happy with that.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: