Balancing Act

IMG 2390I’ve got a problem at work. Well, okay, I have several problems at work, including the irritating fact I have to go there every day. But the problem I want to share today is the Problem of the Spare Desk.

Since our team moved floors a couple of months ago, I’ve had to sit next to the aforementioned spare desk. If you’ve not sat next to a spare desk before, here’s a picture of what they look like most of the time. Because pretty much every day, someone has a birthday, or is holding a bake sale for charity, or just feels like cheering people up because it’s Monday. Or because it’s Friday. Or because there’s a vowel in the month, or whatever.

And these things are all celebrated with calorie-dense, vitamin-free foods, all of which get put on the spare desk, of course. Today it’s Dan’s birthday and here are his doughnuts, shortbread, crisps, Haribo, rocky road, cocktail sausages, Oreos, cream cakes, and so on.

And I’ve had to sit next to the bloody things all day. While carrying on bravely with my diet.

I don’t think I ended up too many calories up, despite caving in to temptation in the afternoon. I didn’t buy lunch today, swapping it for occasional sugar-based grazing from the empty desk. And then this evening I ran 4K down the towpath. Hopefully, as well as starting to re-form the habit of weekday running, the 523 calories RunKeeper says I burned should cancel out quite a few shortbread biscuits.

So, on the whole, I think I got away with it.

But the next time our office has a re-shuffle, remind me to bribe the floor-planner, will you? I think that spare desks should only be put next to those irritating skinny people who can eat fifteen doughnuts a day without putting on an ounce.

Getting Out There

7048257f8fc1413c852bc886040aba1e 7 copyDespite being robbed of an hour in bed by the clocks going forward, I still managed to get out and do a 7.5K out along the towpath, through Leigh Woods, and back to the Suspension Bridge this morning. It was a nice day for a jog; cool but not cold, and rain-free. It’s been a bit hazy in Bristol these last two days, as you can see from this little Instagram snap from my walking warm-up.

However, I did have a couple of pauses in today’s run. One was accidental, and involved stepping on a rock that had passed under my “trip hazard” radar, but that was minor. The other was me running out of breath halfway up the hill into Leigh Woods. I guess this means my aerobic capacity still isn’t back up to what it was before I took December off.

This is partly because I’m still not back in the habit of weekday running, I reckon. This is a mostly psychological problem, I think, especially as we’re now into the season of longer days and warmer weather. So, this week, I’m gong to go running on Wednesday evening. I figure nominating a day in advance will help. Also, having a low bar to start with might also encourage me out, so I’m only going to do 3K. That sounds so easy that hopefully it’ll still sound easy on Wednesday evening after a tiring day at work…

On the weight front, things seem to be going well. It’s hard to tell for sure, though, as it’s only been a couple of weeks, and my weight can vary so much from day to day. But it looks like the overall trend is downwards. I guess I’ll know for sure after a couple more weeks…

Anyway. Nothing else to report. Enjoy the warmer weather if you’re getting it!

Weighty Matters


Avon Gorge, from Sea Wall
Avon Gorge, today 🙂

I’ve been taking it easy since the Bath Half, giving myself some recovery time, though I did manage to wander out for a 5K last Sunday, and a 5K today, too.

But my thoughts recently have been more on eating than on exercise. Because, despite taking up jogging, my weight has been remarkably static. Checking back to some numbers I captured on in August 2009, pretty much when I took up jogging, I can reveal the massive effect one and a half years of regular exercise has had on me: I have put on a pound.

A single, solitary pound. That’s the difference between my weight now and my weight back then. And not only that, but it’s a pound in the wrong direction.

So, yet again, I think I need to concentrate on my eating for a bit. The exercise is definitely doing me good, and I’m a lot fitter than I would have been without it, but at over seventeen stone, I clearly need to lose a bit of weight by adding some calorie control as well.

Being a geek, I have, of course, started off my diet by purchasing technology. I’ve bought a Withings Body Scale, a Wi-Fi-connected scale that will record, graph and share your weight. If you look over to the sidebar of this blog, in fact, you’ll see a (slightly ugly, sadly) weight widget that has probably got a pretty recent reading on it — which was sent directly here from my shiny new bathroom scale, a few seconds after I last stepped on it.

If you want to know more about the Withings, I’ve written a detailed review on my more geeky blog, here.

Also on the technological side, as suggested by my friends Hal and Rowly, I’m using to record my meals and stay below a set calorie limit.

My plan is to drop half a stone before the Bristol 10K in May, which should (a) be a realistic target, and (b) make sure I don’t feel quite so lardy as I plod around Bristol in front of hundreds of onlookers.

I’ll probably be trying to get out for at least a couple of runs a week from now on, just because the weather’s getting nicer — it was definitely Spring today! — and it’s lighter in the evenings, and I’ll just tag occasional progress reports on my weight onto the end of my normal “I’ve been for a jog” posts. And we’ll see how I do! Wish me luck…

Charridy Update

thank you note for every language

A very heartfelt thanks to everyone who sponsored my Bath Half run. The RNLI are a great cause, and they need all the donations they can get.

All in all, you donated £120 at my Just Giving page. My employer kindly matched those donations, and with that, plus the Gift Aid that can be claimed back from UK personal tax payers, minus Just Giving’s 5% fee, I think the grand total for the RNLI works out at £252.75, which is fab!

As for me, I’ll be off for a jog this weekend, and will probably be posting about a Cunning Plan I have to lose some weight before the Bristol 10K rolls around in May, and about a related gadget I just bought…

Thank you” image by woodleywonderworks, as created by Wordle.

Bath Half Marathon 2011

Bath Half 2011 Medal

Well, that was fun! Okay, if I’m being entirely honest, the first eight or nine miles were fun, and it was more of a slog after that, but still!

It was a nice day for running. It was pretty chilly first thing, and especially hanging around in the runners’ village and the start pens, but it warmed up as the day went on, and there were even some bursts of nice spring sunshine. No rain, which was a nice change from the Bristol Half

There were apparently 11,000 people running, and it certainly felt like it. It didn’t thin out as quickly as the Bristol race, partly because it’s a two-lap course. It was quite impressive to hear the rumbling of a motorbike escort, followed by the two race leaders, overtaking on their second lap as I was somewhere around the three mile mark!

In the end, Edwin Kipkorir of Kenya finished in exactly 64 minutes. Sixty. Four. Minutes. For thirteen miles. It makes my cardiovascular system shake with inadequacy just thinking about it.

Personally, I kept up a determined, consistent pace (i.e. a slow plod) all the way around — as you can see from the RunKeeper log — and came in somewhere around the same time I managed in Bristol in September, i.e. about 2 hours 50-something. The official results aren’t up yet, so I don’t know whether I have a new personal best or not, but it was certainly close.

The spectators were a great crowd; there’s a lot more residential area on the route in Bath, and there were plenty of people with their windows open pounding some music out for us on top of the official entertainments like the samba band. Although I think I heard the “Rocky” theme just a tad to often, personally…

One running highlight was a bloke who ran the entire course with a guitar, spontaneously breaking into a bit of singing and strumming every now and again, all while keeping up the jogging. He was running for Jessie’s Fund, a music therapy charity, as I found out when I jogged alongside him while he was being interviewed for local radio.

But my favourite runners, or at least my choice for “most masochistic”, were the two nutcases who ran the entire course dressed as a pantomime camel, for the Breast Cancer Campaign. That can’t have been easy.

IMG 2277

The lowlight of the race was probably between miles nine and eleven. From around the ninth mile, it really started to quieten down, as the bulk of the runners had gone on ahead, and the rest of us were really feeling our legs starting to get leaden. I overtook a lot of walkers who’d obviously set off jogging ahead of me at the beginning but run out of steam, and everyone else was just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, and not feeling quite so cheery.

At this point I started having quite odd thoughts. I remember jogging behind a couple of near-identical women running together, one in lurid blue, one in lurid red, for about ten minutes. I started wondering whether if I put some 3D glasses on, I could turn them into one single badly-dressed person a lot further away, which would be a big improvement…

But, heading back towards town, although my legs were getting heavier and heavier, the crowd started building back up again, and there were lots of friendly shouts of “nearly there!” to keep me going. It helped to be running in a charity t‑shirt, too; I got lots of “Come on, Lifeguards!” all the way…

Finally coming up to the end, I managed to put on some speed and do a near-sprint finish, which was more than I’d managed for Bristol!

All in all, a good half-marathon, on a good day for running, with a good crowd. And I can just about move, still. Although I may need a dose of “vitamin I” to let me walk to work tomorrow. Just as well I’ve taken the morning off!

UPDATE: I was disappointed at first when I checked the official results — 2:56:49 — but it turns out that Bath uses “gun time” as their official time. That’s the time from the official start time until you cross the finish line. Starting right at the back, it took me more than five minutes just to get to the start line!

Luckily, they also tell you your “net time”, (start line to finish line, which is how the Bristol Half is measured) and I came in at 2:49:38. Which means I shaved more than four minutes off my Bristol Half time. Not a huge improvement, but I’m definitely not getting worse, at least!

Marathon Eve

So, it’s the evening before the Bath Half Marathon. In the morning I’ll be heading off for the Bath Racecourse, who are running a service where you park at the racecourse and they get you into town on a bus, which seemed like an easy option.

Today I’ve taken things nice and easy. I’ve done very little, I’ve drunk plenty of fluids, and I’ve eaten a fair few carbs. Not that that last point marks this Saturday apart from any other Saturday, for me 😉

Now I’m going to spend a half-hour getting stuff ready. I want to get everything sorted out for the morning — from programming Bath Races into my car satnav to laying out the plasters I want to remember to stick on a certain couple of sensitive areas of anatomy1. That way I can do the bare minimum in the morning; just get up, have a shower, drag my clothes on and get out of the door.

If you want to see how I’m doing at any point tomorrow, you’ll hopefully be able to see a little dot that represents me crawling around a map as I jog on my RunKeeper profile page. I’ll probably start off sometime between 11 and 11:30, I think.

You’ll have plenty of time to find me on that map. My running speed doesn’t seem to have improved any since the Bristol Half Marathon, where my time was 2:53:43. This means I’ll be coming in around… er… last, on the Bath Half. Certainly the race info pack seems to suggest that if you take more than three hours, then people start sweeping up and opening roads around you.

But hey, I’m not in it for the speed. For this one, I’m in it for the RNLI, of course, so please give generously, and think of me slogging around the streets for a few hours tomorrow…

Hopefully there will be a happy post-race post tomorrow evening, or Monday morning — I’ve taken Monday morning off work to give myself some recovery time!

  1. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you probably don’t want to know, but just in case, this link may enlighten you. []