Plodding Along

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Since my last angst-filled posts, I have managed to get out a couple of times, but I’m not back even to twice-a-week running yet.

Still. On the plus side, last Sunday I got out for a 10K run through Leigh Woods, albeit with a bit of a walking break on the steep bits. This weekend I was away visiting friends in Wales, but managed to fit in a 5K hike up a very steep hill, which should have been good for the calories. And tonight I wandered off down the towpath for 5K and back.

I’m afraid I can present no evidence here, as RunKeeper’s site is currently down due to a power outage, so instead here’s a snap of the Suspension Bridge I took on the way back.

Not long to go now to the half marathon, and I’m still feeling rather worried about it. But hey, at least I’ve done a long run now — that 10K’s further than I’ve been for months.

Everybody Needs a Montage

I’ve had my failures. Most of them, with running so far, have been individual screwups. Bad runs, bad shoes, that kind of thing. But at the moment, I’m facing a larger failure. I’ve repeatedly failed to lose weight since I started running, but recently — the last year or so — I’ve been actively putting weight on.

For a few different reasons, I’ve not been running as often. I did nip out for a bit of a jog/walk last weekend, and I’ve cycled to work a few times recently, but it feels like I’ve just, well — lost it a bit.

I guess this happens with every hobby or pasttime, doesn’t it? Sometimes, there’s just a loss of interest, a lack of energy.

The weight and the lack of running, I think, are related. It’s not so much that the lack of running is causing me to put on weight, as the other way around — I’ve put on weight, so I feel less comfortable running. Especially in summer, where you don’t really want to dress up in a nice stomach-disguising outer layer, and it’s not dark, so everyone can see you.

I feel a bit paranoid about running at the moment, to be honest.

And I feel a bit guilty, too. I’m a runner. Not only am I a runner, but I’m also very proud to be a part of the team for a product that helps get people running. So not getting out and running makes me feel pretty shabby, frankly.

But of course, that doesn’t help.

What really brought this home was the email reminder that there’s only about eleven weeks to go to the Bristol Half Marathon. And I think I’m a slower runner right now, not to mention a flabbier runner, than I was when I did it last year, or when I did the Bath Half earlier on this year.

Eleven weeks.

Of course, there’s an image in my head of me suddenly turning my current lax ways around, starting to spring out of bed at 6am, going for an hour-long jog along the Portway, coming back to breakfast on a glassful of carrot juice before cycling to work the long way round, maybe via Clevedon. Then a full day’s work, including nipping out for a couple of hours at a gym instead of having lunch. Finish off my day with a hearty meal of fish and wholegrain rice, then maybe watch a motivational film before my newly-imposed 9pm bedtime.

And repeat without fail for eleven weeks. Yes, well, it’s a mental montage, not a reality. I’ve never had a single day that healthy in my entire life, of course. What I should do, really, is try to turn things around gradually and sensibly, one day at a time, and just deal with the half marathon when it comes along. See how I’m feeling.

But it seems quite hard to even make that small start.

What do you do when you’re in this kind of mood? Any other runners out there who’ve been through this? Any tips for going from putting on the pounds to taking them off? All advice gratefully received…

Bristol 10K 2011

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The Bristol 10K was my first race, this time last year. It’s a good, fun race, with a whole lot of people — 9,000 finished this year — and it’s right on my doorstep. It only takes me twenty minutes to get to the start line, and then we run right back past my flat and run out along the Portway, my default jogging route.

Last year I ran the whole way around with my friend Mike. This year I did it solo (though Mike met me at the end to take me for our now-traditional post-race Rocotillos milkshake!)

Running solo, and having done two half-marathons in the meantime, the race felt quite different from last year. For a start, I wasn’t the least bit nervous. Once you’ve done 21K a couple of times, a 10K is distinctly less intimidating.

It felt significantly easier, in fact, all the way around. I kept up a very steady pace, except for putting on a bit of speed here a couple of times to see what it felt like (not that sustainable, sadly!) And I just kept going, knowing I had plenty of distance in reserve, and enjoying the atmosphere.

And the costumes. The team (I’m guessing husband and wife) who jogged past as policeman and convict, joined with handcuffs; the “three amigos” with their sombreros and inflatable horses (mules?); the breasts bobbing along for breast cancer, and the Royal Engineers (I think), in uniform rather than costume, who did it with big heavy packs on. Crazy people.

On the downside, I don’t know whether it was lack of speed practice, lack of a running partner, or just the extra weight I’m carrying this time around, I came in at 01:11:15, which is 1 minute 47 slower than last year’s time. Still, that’s just motivation to train a bit harder for next year’s race!

On the upside, I’ve raised at least £135 for St. Peter’s Hospice, thanks to some generous donations from lovely people. Work will double that, so that’s a very decent £270 minimum for the hospice. Thank you, most excellent sponsors!

The next big race I’ve got planned will be the Bristol Half Marathon in September. I need to knuckle down and do some training and lose some weight for that! Maybe I can beat my personal best from the Bath Half…

I’ll leave you with a picture of my 10K medal, as it’s a really nice one — much more decorative than last year’s! I’m really building up quite a collection now…

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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.

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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 anatomy ((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.)). 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!

Beating the Weather

IMG 2248I’m sitting in a café writing this blog entry, looking smugly out at the weather I would have been slogging wetly through if I’d gone out for my normal Sunday run.

It’s a typically British Spring selection of random sunshine, showers and hail out there, rotating about every five minutes. Nice. Luckily, I took a look out of the window yesterday, clocked the nice sunshine, and nipped out for a quick 5K then, instead. It was lovely and bright and mild yesterday, perfect jogging weather.

That was probably my last jog before Sunday’s half marathon, unless I particularly fancy a short evening run at some point this week. I’ll try to walk to work rather than take the boat as much as I can, though, just to keep the legs ticking over.

Looks like I’ve raised £40 for the RNLI already — thanks folks! — which isn’t bad in a couple of days. I shall throw some begging tweets and Facebook status updates out this week and see if I can get a few more donations before the day 🙂

January Sunshine


Today I went out for my first jog of the year — my first jog in more than a month, in fact, having taken December off! It wasn’t as difficult as I feared it might have been. Helping with that was the weather — sunny, cool but not freezing, just right for jogging. I felt good enough not to bother starting back too gingerly and gently, so I did a full 5K starting with Bridge Valley Road. I was slow, but not much slower than normal, really, so I’m pretty happy with that.

Which is just as well, really, as it’s just under two months to the Bath Half Marathon. Hmm. Might have left building up my training a little late. Still, if I get back to my usual routine fairly quickly it shouldn’t be impossible. I guess we’ll have to see!

Happy new year, everyone 🙂

Starting My Speed Training

I was in London at the weekend. I ate most of it. Well, it felt like it, anyway. My friend Kavey invited me along for the weekend to celebrate her recent birthday, and we went along to Chocolate Unwrapped, and also had a fab afternoon tea at the astoundingly stylish Bob Bob Ricard.

That meant that (a) I missed the start of the RunKeeper FitnessClass programme I’m meant to be doing, and (b) put on about half a stone in the course of two days. Although that may be an exaggeration.

Either way, tonight I tried to catch up with the FitnessClass thingy by doing day 3 of the programme, which I was meant to do yesterday. Then I’ll hopefully catch up with the schedule over the next couple of runs, and get myself roughly in sync with the other people doing the class across the world.

The main difference between tonight’s run and my normal weekday runs was that this was broken up into intervals — four minutes running, one minute walking, repeated six times. This means I can work on my speed a bit without actually killing myself, because I’ve got a chance to take a breather every now and again. It seems to work — I tried to up my pace significantly from my normal running, though not so fast that I was sprinting, and the log shows that I did okay. Even including the walking, my average overall pace was under 7 minutes per km, which is pretty good for me.

So, there will be lots more of this, plus some longer weekend runs with a slower pace, also with some walking breaks, over the next month or two. We’ll see how I get on…

Winter Fitness Class

Just a quick 5K down the Portway for me this evening. After I got back, I signed up for one of RunKeeper’s new “virtual FitnessClasses”, which I’m hoping will give me a training plan to stick to through the winter.

My half-marathon speed was really quite rubbish — hardly surprising given that I’ve never pushed myself to go faster in training (and, of course, I’m quite lardy, and it was my first one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud and happy that I did a half marathon at all!) So I’ve signed up for the 17-week “Break a 2 hour 20 minute half marathon” plan.

I’m liking the idea of these virtual fitness classes, which I’m presuming will deliver plans straight to RunKeeper for iPhone to save me having to think too hard about what day I’m up to in the plan or what I should be doing on that day (though the blog post isn’t clear on exactly how it works.) The other nice aspect is the social one — I and a bunch of other RunKeeper users from all across the planet will be doing the training plan at the same time, and we’ll be able to see each others’ progress, too, which should give a good feeling of solidarity.

I don’t know how likely I am to increase my speed that much in seventeen weeks — bear in mind my time for the Bristol Half was 02:53:43, so I’d have to knock more than half an hour off! But hopefully the regular interval training that’s part of the plan will get me going a bit faster, at least. And it’ll be good to have a solid, three-times-a-week plan to take me through the winter.

One thing that strikes me as truly unrealistic about this fitness class: will I really get out for a 20km jog on Boxing Day? I’m pretty sure I’ll still be weighed down by turkey and stuffing from the day before!