Wednesday 28 November 2012

1 Week Done - 20 To Go

It does not feel like it, but it has been a whole week since the blog went live and it has been a real surprise just how much its creation took out of me. 
Having spent the better part of 10 days writing content and code, I have been left burnt-out; becalmed in the creative doldrums and despite having a brimming top hat full of things with which I hope to entertain you, I have just not been able to put something together that I'm happy with. I promise to try harder!

Aside from scrambling my mental faculties, the added work-load also threw my running schedule out by two days and while this may not sound much, it required some committed action to drag it back on track which I should have managed by next Tuesday (and vitally, not having dropped any runs in the process)!

From any other perspective the first week has simply been incredible:

  • Your on-line donations now total an amazing  £2,115
  • You have sent cheques to us for a further £200
  • Between you, you have read 1,400 pages of blog
  • You have sent us over 50 wonderful emails of support and future pledges
  • You have written 2 blog comments and sent 2 Twitter replies

Alison and I have really been overwhelmed by your kindness and generosity and we hope you all know just how much it means to us - thank you so very, very much.
As we promised, we are committed to giving something back and despite creative block, in the last 7 days we have written 5 posts, 10 Tweets and churned out:

Cross-Trains Runs Total Miles Run Avg Pace (min/mile) Calories Run
Alison 2 3 22.72 10:31 2,318
Iain 0 4 27.44 8:42 3,337

One done, twenty to go and here is to next week and running in the snow.
It rhymes!

Monday 26 November 2012

'Go Go Gu!' - The Natural Energy Gel Substitute

I have been experimenting with taking on carbs during my long runs since I started running over 8 miles at a stretch - the proper science indicates that it enhances performance; Alison science says that it makes sure I can make it to the end.

A popular method of achieving this is by ingesting one or more of the myriad of carb gels available, predominately wrapped in day-glo packets containing all sorts of un-pronounceable chemicals which the fantastic calls 'marketing fluff'. The more I read, the more confused I became as to which was the best gel and as I generally prefer the natural route to nutrition I've decided to try and make my own carb gel substitute. And it shall be known as 'Go Go Gu'!

There are several resources suggesting recipes to replicate the branded gels based on combining two or more types of carbohydrate e.g. maltodextrin, dextrose and fructose so that the body can process more carbs overall (click here for the science) plus something to make it taste nice, for example: fruit purée, lemon juice or vanilla. 
These recipes are usually an economical endeavour aiming to replicate a shop-bought energy gel which can be over £1 a go (and you need several per long run). I didn't really want to shell out on sacks of sugary chemicals from the off so I narrowed my research with a more natural theme and came across this simple statement:
'Bananas are a naturally efficient and convenient food for runners to use as fuel. Their high carbohydrate content makes them good sources of energy. They're rich in potassium and magnesium, minerals that runners lose as they sweat. They also have chemical properties that help control stomach pain from nerves and reduce the risk of stomach upsets'
And so the humble banana is not only the perfect running fuel but the average shop-bought energy gel has around 100 calories and an average sized banana is roughly 95 calories - uncanny
Carrying four bananas in some bespoke ammo belt however, seems impractical and even if I could, I still haven't mastered the run-chew-breathe-at-the-same-time trick. 
To overcome these issues, mushing it up seemed like the best way to make it easily ingestible and gel-like and to add interest, viscosity, a few extra calories and presumably a different carb source (glucose vs. natural fructose in the banana), I added a heaped teaspoon of Creme de Marron (chestnut spread with vanilla) that I found in France. 
It tasted great!

My Go Go Gu (GGG) was initially dispensed from a small plastic container which proved tricky to use mid-run. I subsequently came across a suggestion on a mountain bike forum which advocated silicone tubes - only available in the UK from Lakeland. With them, it is possible to squeeze my GGG (Formula #1) into my mouth whilst running, not have to chew very much and wash it down with a sip of water. 
As it stands, I'm happy with Formula #1 but it takes up too much volume - one small GoToob plus one medium GoToob currently delivers only one banana-dose, and as I might need 4-6 doses for the marathon I am going to experiment with dehydrating the mix by cooking gently and/or substituting some banana for nut butter and honey to increase its energy by volume. 

If only I could find someone extolling the virtues of cake with tea as healthy running fuel... all I'd need would be a blender and my Camelbak :)

Friday 23 November 2012


Topically, this post is about giving thanks and yesterday, due to my increasing facial adornment, I was likened to Henry VIII which was particularly apropos as Thanksgiving came to prominence in England during the English Reformation.
That nugget not only finally justifies the history degree, but also represents a gift of knowledge from me to you and when it brings you a single-point victory in a local pub quiz night, don't forget those who helped you on your way.

Before I continue, it needs to be said that Alison and I have always struggled with the idea of a work/life divide. This may be because we work for ourselves, or it may be that subconsciously we harbour treacherous and treasonous criticism of our current reality and have succumbed to the logic and pathos of such socioeconomic commentators as Tibor ScitovskyBarry Schwartz, Ernst Schumacher and Making Magazine, okay I say we; Alison doesn't read the magazine.
One of the consequences of this is that we do not differentiate between the people who share our lives:
We treat everyone the same; our friends and also the people we work with.
On the negative side, this way of living clashes with people who expect us to deal with them on a purely commercial footing, who are expectant of a sleek, product-, brand- and service-driven experience where the customer is always right and cash is king.
However, on the positive side, Alison and I get up in the morning because we actually want to do the work for the people we do it for; it is certainly not for profit but simply because to us, they are friends and we would not have it any other way.

I hope that will go some way to explain and convey how deeply impacted we have both been by the host of sincere, encouraging, heart-warming, personal, sharing and simply wonderful messages that we have received over the past 24 hours. That is not to mention the phenomenal generosity shown to us and our cause which has given our fundraising an amazing boon.
Every communication makes us humble, proud of how we live and work and honoured to share our lives with you.
Thank you.

p.s. I promise that I will write something less intense and hopefully funny tomorrow.
p.p.s. I will wreak my re-wengy for the stretching video.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Elaine Paige Horror

Iain's gone out so I can share this amusing sneaky video of him stretching post-run.... heh heh heh ;)
Note: you definitely need sound for this!  (Mobile users click here)

Monday 19 November 2012

Lovely Laces

Last week on Friday I posted a pair of special running laces to TEAM! members donated by my parents to help provide the team with a way of feeling part of the group effort when we're all out there pounding the miles out training on our own. They're purple because Emily liked purple, and so do I ;)

I hope they like them!

34% Done!

I realised that even though I trained for a year to do the marathon in 2007, I didn’t do enough long runs to fully prepare myself, so this time round I've done some research and decided on a training plan following the advice in this book: I looked for a running plan that meant I could keep swimming since I had up until April 2012 spent a year doing a combination of swimming and running to lose weight and get fitter and I just don’t like running enough to do it full time. This time around I was already competent up to 10K to start with so I’m planning to do the ‘FIRST’ method plan for half marathon distance followed immediately by their plan for marathon distance. 

As I write this, I am on week 13 of my 34-week quest to become an averagely competent marathon runner. That's 34% completed!  As prescribed, I run three times a week and cross-train (swim) twice a week and so far I’ve found the plan pretty challenging but just about do-able. I hope it works as my predicted marathon time based on the reality of my pre-training fitness should be around 4.5 hours and that would be a dramatic improvement on 2007 (5:52:34!).  

I've been training since late August and using Iain's Garmin watch with the aid of a post-it note (I didn't understand how to program the watch) to time and run the very specific paces that FIRST stipulates. Iain surprised me with a gift of my very own Garmin Forerunner a few weeks ago so you can now see here the crazy number of times so far, even only since October, I've run round the local parks. 
Both Iain and my run archives are always up to date and can be accessed through the permanent link on the right of the site.
Also, Iain and I can now go out running at the same time of day although not physically together as he's quicker than me!

On an emotional level I've found the training to be helpful in having a goal to work towards when everything else feels it's in disarray and my fundamental belief structure has been turned on its head. Time out running, particularly early in the day when it's just me, the wildlife and the dog-walkers/twitchers feels uncomplicated and allows reflection that brings some tears, but the ducks don't seem to mind :)

Begin the Beguine

Nothing starts from nothing, a bit of running begets a bit more running and old habits die hard. 
It has been 5 years since I last wrote on a blog - the 2007 Marathon blog to be precise - and in the intervening, there have a few miles worn in to the trainers and no doubt a few errors worn in to the DNA. Welcome back!
As this is the first post, I will keep it brief and cover the basics...

The why is covered throughout the site; the where is all over London; the when is 21st April 2013 and this and future posts will cover the how; more precisely how Iain is going to run a sub-4 marathon.
Having tried and failed twice (2007 - 04:49:08 / 2010 - 04:05:57), I have placed my athletic future in the hands of Messrs. Pierce, Murr and Moss, the authors behind the so-far-fantastic Run Less, Run Faster.
Alison and I will undoubtedly spill the beans on the science and the experience as we go, but safe to say that we have been already following the plan for several weeks, and it is going ok!
In the 2007 blog, I added in run analysis for those with a particular interest in the details and I will be doing so again, but this time I have technology working overtime for me: what used to be 30 minutes work on graphics is now only a cut and paste away - here is a archive of all my runs (click on Slideshow, top-left for detailed view) courtesy of Garmin Connect - if you are a member, feel free to befriend me, or whatever the term is! 
Both Alison and my run archives are always up to date and can be accessed through the permanent link on the right of the site!

Please do feel free, indeed we implore you, to comment on our posts (no registration needed) as it makes us feel less alone. We will be using twitter (feed at bottom of page) to post the more flippant and emotional content.
Emily exemplified that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give; here's to a new journey.