Monday, 29 November 2010

good winter running

This morning's 16 mile run took about 7 or 8 minutes longer than usual.  I'm not complaining though as running through snow gave me some extra resistance training.  It wasn't actually snowing but there was plenty of the white stuff around and the frozen Leeds Liverpool Canal looked splendid.

Hollins Hill, between Baildon and Guiseley wasn't easy to run up but apart from that I just plodded away and enjoyed myself.

The temperature this morning was probably about 0.8 C when I left home just before 8.00am, In Guiseley at about 8.35am the temperature fell to about -1.0 C.  Until about 9.30am it stayed constant but when I ran back into Wharfedale the temperature rose slightly to 1.3 C.

I know that isn't cold compared to some parts of the world but for the UK in November we've had record lows ... and it's likely to last at least another week.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Tony Mangan and the weather

Congratulations to Tony Mangan on completing the first 1000 km on his World Jog.  It took 31 days and included a flight across the Atlantic from Ireland to Newfoundland.  Obviously he has a long way to go in his quest to run around the world in 1000 days.  His blog does make a fascinating read though.

I know it's been cold where Tony is at the moment and it's very cold where I am too ... unseasonably so in fact.  More details here.  Running has been perfectly OK except for the extreme cold which has seen me wearing three pairs of gloves, a hat and two tops (along with the usual other stuff ...).

The forecast for where I live is:

Of course the runners in Monaco are having better weather during the No Finish Line 8 day race which started last weekend.  Pam Storey is taking part and looking to complete 400 km.  After 148 hours she's managed almost 276 km so unfortunately it's unlikely she'll manage her target.  She's raised a fair amount for charity though and I'm sure Alan Young will be looking after her.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

good service

Last week I decided it was time to use the £50 voucher I won at Perth at the beginning of September.  The voucher is from the Run and Become chain of shops.  They have three shops - London, Cardiff and Edinburgh - and I live about 200 miles from each of them ... so it isn't very practical to go and visit.

As the voucher came from Edinburgh I sent an email to Scotland asking how they would like me to use the voucher for a mail order or online sale.  A few hours later I received a reply and I posted the voucher and sent an email order for some Amios mpFree Headphones.

I posted the voucher last Wednesday and parcel I received on Saturday came from Cardiff.  Very good.  I decided to get these because the MP3 player I used for a couple of hours in Perth has mysteriously stopped working.  Not sure why but I've tried everything I can think of to get it revive it ... without success.

I don't normally listen to music while training outdoors but I thought I'd give these a try on yesterday's long run.  I was very impressed by the comfort, fit and sound quality ... I'll definitely be using them again but I'm still a bit unsure about the fact that traffic (and other dangerous) noise is less easy to hear whilst listening to music.

Fantastic service though from Run and Become.  Thank you and well done.

Friday, 19 November 2010

changes ...

A few hours ago I came across an important piece of news on the IAU website.  It's about Brugg now being unable to stage  the World Championships next year.

This could mean a complete change to my training plans.  Of course I won't know until the new date has been chosen, and according to the IAU website that won't be until a new venue has been decided upon.

Whatever the outcome, for the moment I'm going to continue training as though nothing has changed.  I'm still at the stage where things can be altered but obviously that will only be possible for a few months.

And then there's the Commonwealth Championships next September.  Hopefully the new date will not clash with that event.

It may be that the new date enables me to more easily fit it one or two other long ultras in 2011.  We'll just have to wait and see.

... and then there's the Iron Maiden tour.  Fay is insisting we go to the gig in Newcastle.  Forty pounds each for tickets.  Then there's the hotel, travel, food, merchandise ... all in all not cheap.

I hope the new World Championships date isn't 23 July.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

things are going well

Recovery has gone exceptionally well after the race in Perth.  Much better than anticipated and I feel ready for all the winter training in the lead up to next year's World Championships in Brugg.  Apart from the usual form of training - running - I'm now beginning to introduce quite a few new strength exercises to my repertoire.

Hope it's not as cold as the last winter though.

As mentioned in an earlier post I'm looking to do an ultra (or two) in the spring.  Well, plans are well underway for that to happen and full details will be on this site when everything's confirmed.  Other, shorter, races in the pipeline include the traditional Otley AC Christmas handicap on 19 Dec and then other possibles include the Huddersfield 10k (27 Feb), Northern Athletics 12 stage relay in Catterick (20 Mar), Guiseley Gallop (24 Apr), Rothwell 10k (2 May), Ripon 10 (8 May) ... and a few Park Run 5k races in Bradford and Leeds.  Again I'll post details as soon as things are confirmed.

After the World Championships there's the second Commonwealth Championships at the end of September.  Slightly more details as to the venues have recently been posted on the England Athletics website.  Having briefly looked at a map I can't immediately find a suitable venue for a 24hr race in Llandudno (or even Lllandudno).  I'm sure everything is there though and it's probable that I've just looked in the wrong area.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


I've recently been reading a great post on Stuart Mills' blog which is about self expectations and fatigue.

I've been a runner since 1972 and in that time I reckon I've learned quite a lot about myself - most of it since 2005 when I decided to try ultra marathons.

For me, self expectation is derived from training.  Over the years I've found that generally my mental strength is very good and that I'm usually good at sticking to any race plan I may have.  Of course, having a race plan in the first place entails estimating my fitness at the time of the race.  This estimation is largely built upon knowledge of previous races and comparing the training for them with recent training.  If I get this estimate wrong one of two things will happen:

(1)  I'll finish the race knowing I could have done better, or
(2)  fatigue will develop which will result in the inevitable reduction in speed.

In the above paragraph 'fitness' is not the same as the dictionary definition:  "capability of the body of distributing inhaled oxygen to muscle tissue during increased physical effort."

I have found that there is definitely a mental aspect and in ultra running terms I would suggest that a better definition of 'fitness' would be:  "preparedness to compete to the best of one's ability."  Therefore 'fully fit' would mean 'fully prepared'.

Being prepared naturally involves training the body to meet the physical demands of the race but it also means being aware of, and planning/training for, the other issues that arise in very long races.  This is the mental aspect of fitness.  If I'm confident that my training has gone well AND my race plan is sound then I know I'll do well.  In my last ultra I found that the icing on the cake was having someone unexpectedly tell me before the race that I was capable of winning.

For a long ultra my race plan will involve a knowledge of nutrition, hydration, local weather conditions, course layout (and surface, etc).

The mental aspect also comes into play when one or more aspect of my preparation has been at fault ... of course, I usually don't realise that my preparation was wrong until the last third of the race.

Tim Noakes also provides an insight into fatigue and his definition focuses almost exclusively on the mental aspect (which he calls the Central Governor Theory):

"... the increasing feeling of fatigue and the progressive reduction in the capacity of the exercising muscles to maintain a constant work output during prolonged exercise results from currently unrecognized processes in the brain, which presumably act to prevent bodily harm during such exercise. This model theorizes that performance during exercise is determined by two separate phenomena:

(a)  A pacing strategy that is preprogrammed into the athlete's subconscious brain as a result of previous training and racing experiences.
(b)  Acute alterations to that preprogrammed strategy resulting from sensory input from a variety of organs - heart, muscle, brain, blood and lungs, among others - to the exercise controller or governor in the brain. Output from the controller to the motor cortex then determines the mass of skeletal muscle that can be activated and for how long, thereby determining the pacing strategy that the subconscious brain adopts during exercise.

At the same time, information is sent from the controller to the emotional and other centers in the brain. These influence the level of discomfort that is felt, the emotional response, and the self-talk and self-doubt that are additional but poorly understood features of the fatigue that develops during exercise."

Understanding fatigue and how to avoid it and/or cope with it is one of the keys to successful ultra distance racing.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

weather and running

Training going well so far and I'm pleased to report that I'm still here after two long runs (yesterday and today) in atrocious weather.  Especially yesterday when we had heavy rain, strong winds and cold temperatures all day.  After running around Wharfedale and Airedale it seemed to me that the former was much colder than the latter.  I arrived home (I live in Wharfedale) with numb fingers which painfully thawed out over about two hours or so.  Not much fun but runs like this make one stronger mentally.  It doesn't seem so at the time but ...

Today was the same except it wasn't raining.  I found a few large puddles and soggy trails though.  Again not much fun but with a thermal hat and two pairs of thermal gloves it wasn't too bad.

In terms of the weather in this part of the world, the best day this week is forecast to be Wednesday ... the one day I'm not running.  Typical bad planning.  Not by me !!!

Congratulations too to Ellie Greenwood and Lizzy Hawker on their excellent performances in last weekend's World & European 100k Championships which were held in Gibralter.  For GB to have the gold and bronze medals is truly remarkable - especially as those two runners could be said to be trail running specialists.  

Reading the reports carefully it appears that the course measurement or route marking wasn't up to the usual standard and for much of the race the km marking were about 1.3 km beyond where they should have been.  At the pace Ellie was running that's almost 6 minutes.

That's one problem we don't have in 24 hour races.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Commonwealth Championships

Today I received confirmation that there will be another Commonwealth Championships for ultra running and mountain running.  It will be the second staging - the first was at Keswick, England in September 2009.

That was where I received my first international vest (read my report here).  The atmosphere was exceptional and that was the week I learned just why the Commonwealth Games are often dubbed 'The Friendly Games'.

The second Commonwealth Championships will be held in north Wales between 23 and 25 September 2011.  The three races confirmed are:

- 24 hour race
- fell race (up and down ... not 'up only')
- ultra distance trail race (50 to 60 km)

There will be men's and women's competitions in all those disciplines making a total of six sets of medals up for grabs.  I'm not sure why there isn't a 100k race ... I guess it will be too close to the 100k World and European Championships which will be in Winschoten (Netherlands) next year on 10 September.

Needless to say, I expect to be there and running for England for the third time.  Last time I finished fifth with 231k ... can I do better in Wales ?  Well it won't be through lack of trying that's for sure.

Anyway, now that the date has been finalised my training can begin in earnest.  But first there's the small matter of next year's World Championships in Brugg, and before that a shorter race or two in this country.

More details about those later.