Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: Trail running

Rinse and repeat

I’ve reached the point in my training which I knew would come eventually, where the getting up at 5.40am starts to become dull, where it takes me twice as long to tie my laces in the morning than normal and where the thought of just rolling over and snoozing becomes oh so tempting.

I like to call this the hill of doom

I like to call this the hill of doom

My work schedule hasn’t helped things, I’m currently doing a coverage for a colleague in the US, but from here which means lots of late night meetings. Hardly conducive to being  bright and fresh in the morning is it? But it’s also just the repetition, 560 miles run this year now and that takes its toll. There are only so many different routes you can take from home, especially when you run with a dog. You become blasé about the beautiful scenery and sunrises and it becomes just another run.

This isn’t me and isn’t why I run. I run because I love it, I love being outdoors on the trails, being part of the scenery. I don’t want it to become a chore or something I ‘have’ to do. But that morning slot is my main opportunity to run so I can’t go out at a different time and of course Bracken still needs his exercise.

So what to do? Well they say a change is as good as a holiday so I’m doing a couple of new things with my training. First I’m adding in some speed work to my runs, either short sections on my normal run where I up the pace, or stopping and doing a 4 or 5 sprints up a section of the trail. It adds a new element and challenge to break the plod, avoid every run being the same. It of course also has benefits to my training and helps build some extra speed into my legs.

Second I’m increasing the cycling, which may sound an odd way to improve your  running but there is some logic. I need to do a good amount of cycling anyway given that there is 70 miles of cycling in the race, but by increasing the amount I do it gives me the cardio workout and means I can do an easy run in the morning and not feel guilty. I’m also trying to do some days where I do a bike and a run, straight after each other where possible. Perfect training for that transition in the race and a great new challenge to keep me sharp.

The race is less than 3 months away now and despite my bravado is starting to get a bit real, I can feel the nerves building and the doubts as to whether I can do it. I re-watch the race video every so often and get that goose bump feeling at the thought that it’ll be me stood next to the North Sea on 14th September waiting to cross Scotland in a day. Scary stuff, but also a great motivator.

But if all that fails you just have to remind yourself as you lie under your warm duvet that you never regret a run.

Not a bad place to run I guess

Not a bad place to run I guess

The Running Dad – fitting it all in

All of us have to make choices about where we allocate the minutes and hours of our days. Work and family clearly consume a good chunk of that time leaving relatively small opportunities to do hobbies or other activities. For me blogging obviously takes up another part of the day (and can consume every evening if you let it), there’s a bit of gardening and home maintenance in there, dog walking every day and maybe even some time to actually talk to the lady of the manor occasionally.

Which means for this running obsessed dad I have to work hard to get my daily fix in. I love running, I really do, but can I justify going for a run instead of spending time with my children for example? Difficult to justify that to yourself long term unless if you want to be any sort of real parent.

Barbury castle trailThis leads me to, what is for me, the only real conclusion. Exercise early in the morning before anyone else gets up. It’s perfect, I take the dog so he gets exercised too, the children never really notice that I’ve gone and I get a quality run in while most people are still tucked up in their beds.

It’s definitely not easy dragging yourself out of bed at 5.40am every day come rain or shine, putting a head torch on in the dark winter mornings so you can see where you are going. But on days like today it’s just fabulous. Mother nature puts on one hell of a show as the sun rises and the mist slowly clears from fields. We see deer, rabbits, hares, pheasants and cows most of which Bracken will attempt to chase.

Best of all you have this all to yourself, your own private country estate.

While I’m not obsessed with running particular distances or times, I do like to use Runkeeper to keep track of the exercise I’m doing. It appeals to the finance person in me who likes a nice graph and also to see whether I’m doing enough total mileage as I train for the Scotland coast to coast in September. I’m now doing close to 30 miles a week and having built my fitness up will start adding in some longer runs at the weekend that should push me over that.

Runkeeper graph

I’ve set a goal of running 1000 miles this year, something which helps motivate me to consistently train and not loss momentum as the year progresses. I’ve done 400 miles so far so well on track and feeling really good for it, not sure what 1000 miles really signifies but it’s a nice round number isn’t it?  When I started running regularly again at the start of this year losing weight wasn’t a prime objective. However it is a nice side effect, so far I’ve lost over 16lbs which is really satisfying. But more importantly I feel good, I feel strong and fit. All those back problems from the last 18 months seem like a distant memory and I know full well that mentally running is really good for me too.

So what are you waiting for? Think you don’t have enough time to exercise then you’re wrong. But you do need to be motivated and imaginative in how you fit running into a busy day. Getting up early is my solution but I’d love to hear how you’ve managed it. Do you literally do the school run? Or fit it into your lunch times perhaps?

The Running Dad Returns

Almost exactly a year ago I was lying on the lounge floor crippled by the pain in my lower back, my mind full of worry about how serious it was, would I walk let alone run again? Am I going to need surgery? How they hell am I going to help with a 2 month old baby feeling like this? I’d been making great plans about the running I was going to do once I could start getting some more training in as Matilda got older. Those plans went very quickly out of the window.

Yet here I am a year later after a very long road of recovery that quite honestly still hasn’t finished, but it’s time to re-discover the running dad again. I’ve been running fairly regularly for most of this year and while still have some aches and pains on the whole feel ok. So now I’m starting to think ahead to the running challenges I want to complete in next 12-18 months. I need these goals and targets in my life to keep the motivation going.

I also finally realised last week that part of the frustration that has been building is because I haven’t been running. A self enforced break for the weeks following Henry’s birth where there just wasn’t time. But I started to feel the fog descend, the cloudy brain, the getting stroppy and angry, this isn’t me and running is the medicine I need.

So what about the challenges? Well my philosophy about running is that the adventure in completing is what excites me and motivates me. I don’t run for particular times or results and that reflects in my training. Sure I try and mix it up with different speeds and distances and I do throw in some speed training, but I don’t have an itemised training plan. I run for the enjoyment of running, that’s it. Just look at the photo to the right, 6.15am this morning on the canal towpath, an amazing morning so peaceful and quiet. That’s why I run, for moments like that.

But I do like to have a challenge, one that when you tell people what you are doing they look at you like you’re a little crazy. I take a sadistic satisfaction from knowing that most people wouldn’t even attempt let alone finish the event. So here’s the plan so far:

  • Autumn/Winter 2012 – my favourite trail series kicks off again. Great races in breathtaking scenery and a choice of distances. I think I’ll start with a few 10k’s as I build my training, conscious of having 2 little children at home which restricts time to train. Then maybe attempt a half marathon. I doubt I’ll do every race in the series but hopefully 4 or 5.
  • Spring 2013 – with luck I’ll get my entry in the London Marathon through the ballot. I think it’s time I attempted a marathon and where better than London? If this fails I may look for a smaller event elsewhere in the country.
  • September 2013 – an event I have been dreaming of doing for a while and hopefully next year will have the time to train for it with the babies that bit older. It’s called the Scotland coast to coastand is a non stop 102 mile race from Nairn on the North sea down to the Isle of Glencoe. A mixture of cycling on and off road plus some trail running and kayaking. Looks truly incredible.

No doubt you are now thinking ‘I know why he’s called a fool now’! But what’s life without an adventure eh? Any events that you want to do? Seen something that might interest me? Or even better do you want to join me on one of these adventures? Then leave a comment why don’t you?

New Years resolutions

Although I mentioned a couple of resolutions in my 2011 year in review post here, I’m linking up with a few lovely bloggers to share our resolutions. Hopefully this will help motivate us to achieve them and a little moral support is always useful.

I’ve seen a lot of people write that resolutions aren’t worth it because they get broken etc but you know what? I actually like them, I think it’s a really positive thing that at the start of a new year you sit back and think what you want to do differently or what you want to achieve. Otherwise the year will fly past and will be the same as all the others. However the resolutions do need to be meaningful, personal and specific, not just ‘lose weight’ because that’s what people do at this time of year.

So here in all their glory are my big 3 resolutions for the year.

  1. Get our finances in order; this has to be top priority, we’ve made some good progress in 2011 but with the sprout due in May we really need to get ourselves firmly in the black. I’d love for the lady of the manor to be able to stay at home as much as possible when her maternity leave ends in 2013 and the only way this will be possible is if we pay off debts and start saving. We did some planning last week and by the summer we should have got rid of our credit card, overdraft and car loan. So perhaps for the first time since I graduated in 2005 we may be properly in the black with some savings.
  2. I’m a pretty healthy person but I do have a sweet tooth and love food, I’m never going to be the person that eats just salad as I enjoy eating good food too much. We eat a pretty balanced diet and almost zero junk food or takeaways but I think 2 simple changes will help. First I want to cut out refined sugar as much as possible, this does funny things to your body, serves no nutritional benefit and gives you rapid highs and lows. Second I will make more effort with vegetarian meals, we do eat a lot of veg but generally just steamed etc. Time to get a bit more imaginative and make them the main component of a meal a few days a week.
  3. Finally after not really running for most of 2011 due to back problems I intend to return to my running. I’m going to start planning some trail races and also like the idea of entering Cani-x which is trail running with your dog. Bracken is a very willing runner and loves coming out, we regularly do 5 miles together no problem at all. By the end of the year I’d like to have done a 1/2 marathon off road and plan a big adventure race for 2013. Trying to do too much more in 2012 is silly because the 6 months or so after the sprout is born are going to be pretty busy and tiring.

What do you think? Good resolutions? Achievable? I hope so and need to make sure to keep thinking back to these during the year. Finally please take a look at my fellow bloggers and their resolutions, if you want to join in feel free to link up also and let me know:

Jude Warton 

Steph at I’m counting UFO’s

Lena at mum on a mission 

Byrony at views from the lounge window

The running dad – it’s all in the planning

If you’re a bit OCD like me and enjoy planning things almost as much as doing them, then this post is for you. If you don’t ever plan and do ‘what feels right’ then this post is also for you, even if you don’t know it, you do need it.

If you have a particular race (or series of races in my case) that you are training for then you need a training plan. Without one you’ll train a lot less than you need to and without the variety of training needed to really be succesful. It keeps you motivated to train as you don’t want to miss sessions and makes sure you build in some speed sessions and hills etc into your routine. The vast majority of my training is done on my own, so I like to keep a record of exactly how much I have done and when (you see I told you I was OCD). This can also help you see the progress you have made if you tend to run the same routes fairly regularly.

I recently bought some running shoes from Sweatshop (who are thoroughly recommended by the way) and with it came a voucher for a free customised training plan from Full potential so I’ve been trying to follow that. Always good to get a new approach to training, but no matter what plan you follow I think there are a couple of key things that all training plans should have;

  • Hills and speed sessions; this either involve various lengths of hill sprints for the hills session or a training session where you run at a number of different speeds. Both of these help train your body to run faster and also builds strength for any hills you may have during your race.
  • Variety; there needs to be a real mix of sessions, even in a marathon training plan where mileage is important. Also make sure for any long runs that you have a variety of routes planned. It’s also worth trying to do these longer runs at roughly the same time of day as your race wherever possible.
  • Not just running; I’d suggest getting at least one cross training session (cycling or swimming for example) into each week. Also never underestimate the importance of stretching.

This week I have been taking my own advice and I’ve managed the following:

  • Monday – 4.5 mile easy pace run – 36
  • Wednesday – 4x6mins at threshold pace with 2 mins race in between
  • Friday – 25 min trail run with Bracken
  • Saturday – 26 min trail run with Bracken

The only thing I need to do now is a few longer runs once a week and also a bit more stretching/cross training. Running with Bracken is great because it kills 2 birds with 1 stone and he NEVER runs out of energy which is useful in a training partner. Although it can make you feel very slow and unfit watching him trot by you.

The running dad

It’s time for me to come clean and lift this weight from my shoulders; I have an addiction, an addiction that needs feeding each week, one that makes my legs ache if I don’t get my fix, one that can make me a social outcast and a weirdo. But also one that keeps me sane, relieves all my stresses, gives me a whole new perspective on a place and one that makes me feel positive. You see dear reader I am addicted to running.

I love it, I love the feeling of satisfaction that a good run gives, the release of those fabulous endorphins, the tired and aching legs the day after a long run, the look in people’s eyes when you tell them about the crazy run you just did for fun. If you don’t run you don’t understand the mentality, people will ask what you are training for or what charity you are running for, if your answer is for fun they look at you though you are just a little bit mental. We probably are, but after each race you want the next one to be longer, tougher, more exotic, with obstacles the list is endless.

In recent years I’ve shunned road running in favour of trails, much better to get out in the ‘wild’ than be choked by exhaust fumes. I also began taking part in some adventure races which are a kind of off road triathlon. The races involve Mountain biking, trail running and kayaking in a small team with some orienteering thrown in for good measure. Great fun and most participants take it much less seriously than road races meaning some good banter along the way.

I’ve also run in some amazing places over the past few years. Whenever I travel for work I always pack my running shoes. Running along the piers in San Francisco bay at 6am is one of my particular favourites, such amazing views looking out at Alcatraz and the Golden gate bridge before turning to race one of the streetcars up the hill back to the hotel. Closer to home the coastal path near Padstow is great, finding all the little coves and beaches that no one visits and almost coming to a standstill when you turn the corner and the sea wind hits you.

However inevitably work life eventually encroaches on your running time; particularly if it involves commuting 60 miles a day. Plus of course the arrival of Matilda means the motivation for running rather than having a nap is pretty low and arranging to take part in races becomes much more challenging.. As I wrote here for Kate’s fitness Thursday series I managed to fit running into my daily commute in order to keep some exercise going. But a gentle and relatively short run each day really isn’t satisfying and my fitness quickly plateaued.

So I now find myself stuck somewhat in a rut and needing a new challenge. I don’t feel entirely happy in my body and can feel myself slowly developing an office workers middle. This culminated last week with a colleague who I hadn’t seen for a while telling me I was ‘more round’ than last time he saw me. But I know all too well that to keep motivated with my running I need something to aim for. I need something exciting, something that will confirm people’s suspicion that I am a little crazy. This post is the first step in that process, if I document here my challenge then the sheer embarrassment of not achieving it should be enough to keep me on track.

There is a trail series run by Endurance Life with a number of different races in different coastal locations. Attached to the series is a little side challenge to take part in 7 races of the same distance. Requiring you to stay both fit and motivated for 6 months or so and in true runners style the reward for completing this challenge is simply the sheer satisfaction. While I’m not crazy enough or have enough time to train for off road marathons there is a 10k at each leg and this is what I’m going to try and run.

So there you have it, the challenge and my objective. The first race should be in October so plenty of time to work on my fitness. I’ve already started making some changes, but I’ll share more of that later. For now if at least one person reads this then someone else knows about my challenge and I can’t possibly not do it right?!

P.S. if you’ve set a running or fitness challenge I’d love to hear about it and share in your experience.