Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This Post is Brought to You by The Number 'Two'

Gym x 2
What a difference a week makes! Iain and I were cheered to hear the rain battering down on our roof on Saturday night washing all the frozen obstacles away. I can now thoroughly recommend The Gym Group for ad-hoc gym sessions since I used their facility at Waterloo on both Tuesday and Thursday last week to avoid both the potential for injury and the extra effort needed when running on snow, ice and slush. I was very disheartened to get the 'computer says no' response from the receptionist at the leisure centre where I swim when I asked if I could use the running machine as a one-off. Apparently I had to have an induction costing £20 and then it would be £8+ per session! Facing the possibility of nearly £40 for 2 runs and the unlikely happening of being able to get a gym induction at a moment's notice it was very refreshing to use The Gym Group for the very reasonable pay-as-you-go sum of £5. You aren't obliged to have an induction either although they are offered. The gym itself was well equipped, not busy and had hot showers - what more could you need! I found running on a treadmill surprisingly difficult not least because of the lack of wind drying the rivers of sweat that needed regular mopping and watching myself running in a mirror for an hour was awful. Being a no-frills gym there's no tv to distract you so I was forced to confront my rather knackered visage and constantly checked my watch to see if it was time to stop. Running outside even round the block beats a treadmill hands down though it did keep me training through the blizzard. On the other hand, runs outside aren't usually disrupted either by fire alarms going off requiring me to go outside in the -1 degrees chill soaking with sweat and not wearing many clothes for 15 minutes while the fire brigade do their thing. Exercising indoors is hazardous too!!!

TEAM! Meet 2
On Saturday ten of our TEAM! members met at the Southbank Centre. It was great to see so many of us together and I took some photos of us in our TEAM! purple laces to pass on to Diabetes UK. I'm due to speak to the charity later this week to see how they can help us fundraise with publicity since we have such a compelling story and represent the largest team of runners in the London Marathon the charity has had all running for the same reason. It was fantastic to hear how everyone is doing in their training with race goals varying from 6 hours to (a truly stunning if he achieves it) 3.5 hours! We're planning some kind of noticeable headgear so that our race-day supporters can spot TEAM! and we've also got some plans for a couple of fundraising events in the next two months... details to follow. Thanks to all of TEAM! who could made it along xx

The Big Two Zero
Thankfully the sun was shining on Sunday when Iain and I attempted our first training run of 20 miles - it turned out we needed every last scrap of help there was to finish the damn thing. I am truly thankful that my new-new trainers, that Run And Become very kindly exchanged for my old-new trainers after I got repeated ankle pain (see my last post), were absolutely fantastic and I finished neither with blisters nor ankle pain. It is certainly not advised to run such a long way wearing brand new trainers. I'd done 6 miles on the treadmill in them without ill effect but had no alternative than to wear them for the long run without the recommended gradual wearing-in. I was impressed again by the care and values of staff at Run And Become as embodied by a lovely lady called Dipika who spent time with me analysing my run in various shoes and really understanding my issues with my old-new shoes. She concluded that the moderately high mileage I've been doing had shown up asymmetry in my running style that could have worked itself out over time had I not been training for a marathon i.e. I was getting pain but if I had been doing lesser mileage the musculature would have a chance to adapt without pain. Since my issues were not the fault of the shop for fitting the shoes incorrectly it was generous of them to exchange them for a pair more like my old trainers (I now have Brooks Glycerin 10 Men's). So the shoes were great, I had three variants of GGG (nana + tbsp peanut butter, nana + heaped tsp chestnut puree, nana + heaped tsp blackcurrant jam) stowed in my Camelbak Marathoner, the sun was shining and all was going swimmingly until mile 16 when it all started to get a bit extremely chuffing difficult. Iain took this photo as I finished after 3 hours and 45 minutes of pounding...

I think my face says it all.

Naturally I'm overwhelmed with joy at the chance of revisiting the 20-Miler another four times at various paces before the marathon according to our training plan but at least I have now gone beyond my 2007 furthest distance run during training and that's a confidence boost in itself.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Letter From The Front

Hut 12,
The Penge Salient
South Eastern Front
January 2012

10 Day Log: 49.6 miles - 7 hours 35 mins

Dearest Samantha;
I am sorry that it has taken me so long to write, but we have been enduring the most ghastly winter. It is the cold Sam, an unceasing and insidious cold which has already cost us Crickson and Smart who went Blighty One with terrible frostbite. On top of that we have no pens and so I am writing this to you using Crickson's finger which he gave me before he left. All in all, I must say that the last 9 days have been quite bleak old thing. Yet still they make us run.

Friday, 18th January
Slated to go for a 7 mile tempo run round ▒▒▒▒▒▒e. Set out in to a fresh winter morning at 07:30 but the weather rapidly deteriorated and by the time I had finished, I was running through two inches of snow.
Thought it was actually quite jolly. What a fool I was.

Sunday, 20th January
Snow has gotten worse. Most of our supply lines have been cut off and people are panic buying in Waitrose like they do on Christmas Eve. I looked in the log and saw 17 miles next to my name yet through the despair I could feel my upper lip annealing as I pulled on my shoes - this is how we conquered half the globe Sam. Two times round the b▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒n, and running on icy sand, but I did it; by the grace of Chaka Khan I did it.

Wednesday, 23rd January
I can hardly write today Sam. The reduction in traction has taken its toll. 
I have just got back from 6 miles of 1km intervals and it was simply horrid.
Ice still there, snow still there and Sunday's sly 17 had taken a bigger chunk from me than I thought.
500m in to the first interval I noticed something was awry when I found that I could not make my legs go fast enough. Sure enough, some b▒▒▒▒▒▒ had replaced them with bully beef. 
As I completed the second interval, I realised that my bully beef was slowly turning to Jell-O.
Just as I could not see how I was going to get though another step, let alone two more repeats, my iPhone stopped working like the capricious little s▒▒▒ it is and so I was left on my own in no man's land with no Def Leppard. But I could not fail Sam: I set my face in to a primeval grimace of furious spleen and set off on the third repeat on the ice like Bambi with rabies. As I descended in to a berserk madness, I forged myself onward with the old regiment's marching song 'F▒▒▒ ▒▒▒ you ▒▒▒▒▒▒g ▒▒▒▒' which was spat with venom at trees, lamposts, bus stops and accidentally one slightly aghast woman round a corner. There are always casualties in war Sam.
After completing the last interval on screaming Jell-O sticks, I returned with mission accomplished, but I had paid my dues, been through the wringer and its memory will long be with me.

Friday, 25th January
6 miles, very little snow, still having flashbacks from Wednesday.

Sunday, 27th January
Woke to rain. There was no snow and no ice but there was rain with a brisk and gusting wind.
But then, like a spell breaking, the clouds rolled away to reveal a most beautiful blue, English sky and I knew that it was today that I was going over the top, Sam. 3 miles over the top to be precise.
The first 17 miles were fine, but in mile 18 and after 3 years apart, I once again came face to face with Herr Doktor von Marathon when Mr. Glycogen checked his cupboards and found that he had mistakenly wandered in to Mrs. Hubbard's and she was still panic buying in Waitrose.
My Central Nervous System had run a stock check, found that someone had clumsily left the tap on and that the Carb tank was nearly empty necessitating an enforced shut down of all non-essential activity.
But I pushed on and through, although I felt none too damn clever for the next two days I can tell you.
This is a long race Sam but one we must run so chin chin and remember to pour some sugar on me old thing.
Your faithful &tc.

Iain (ATP Barred)


dear sir STOP no one here has the slightest idea who you are STOP please refrain from writing STOP we have informed the police STOP

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Wintery Running And Boobie Snax

This week I have been mostly training in wintery scenes with yesterday's 17-mile long run taking me to the brink of tears as I feebly knocked on our front door for Iain to let me in. It was quite astounding how running on snow and sludge, whilst not feeling unsafe providing I ran slowly round bends, required a considerably greater effort than normal. The cushioning snow and the slippery sludge meant getting any kind of real push off with every step was impossible. After feeling like stopping half-way round due to ankle pain recurring (more on that later) as I passed the flat to start the second lap, I actually ran as much as I could on the road surfaces and just let the oncoming cars get out of my way. If the snow persists then I'd seriously consider training this week on a treadmill. Finding one that doesn't require membership of some sort may be more of a challenge than the runs though!

Here's a couple of pretty pictures taken whilst running this week:

If Beckenham can look this pretty then the Highlands must be stunning.

I've never seen so many people at the South Norwood Country Park and... not pretty but wintery - Iain returns this afternoon after his 17-miler

And so to the Boobie Snax. I'm sure the post title had everyone intrigued though I'm sure only a few will be familiar with the reference! Since doing long runs requires a supply of water and nutrition to be carried, I've become used to using a Camelbak that was part of Emily's running gear. I don't like to carry bottles or wear a waist pack as they usually ride up to around my armpits so the Camelbak has been great in solving these issues. The pack I had been using only had just over a litre fluid capacity and I had to remove it whilst going along to get at my GGG nutrition. Donations by the Christmas Fairy allowed me to purchase a new pack with a 2 litre capacity and pockets on the front with a vest-like design called the Marathoner. I have plenty of water for the 20-mile runs I've got to do (eeeeek!) and can stash my GGG on the front where it's easily accessible. I tried it out for the first time yesterday and so far I think it's great. I searched for a long time to find a review of the pack by a woman presuming that the vest front might have some unfortunate chafing effects but I didn't find anything so I've just taken the plunge. Yesterday I was wearing my merino wool Smartwool top, a fleece and my windproof running outer as well so any rubbing would have gone un-noticed. Fingers crossed for the same when the weather gets warmer and I'm wearing less than 3 layers.


 Yesterday pre-run with Boobie Snax in position!

Those of you with keen eyes might notice that I'm not wearing my new trainers with purple laces in the picture. The reason being that I've started to get some pain on the inside of my leg a couple of inches above the ankle on the right side but only after pounding out at least 6-7 miles first. I saw Ryan the physio last Tuesday as if there's something I can do I want to nip it in the bud. We surmised that because the pain is relieved on stopping running (there seem to be no lasting physical symptoms) and coincided with me starting to wear my new trainers a few weeks ago that the trainers might be the cause. He suggested I wear my old trainers for yesterday's long run with the new trainer insoles inside to try and avoid my 10-mile blister and see if the pain recurred. Sadly the insole idea didn't work and I've got a nice blister on my left foot and I did also experience some of the pain but intermittently. As Ryan explained, the neutral shoes I had fitted compared to my old neutral trainers showed some striking differences in both arch support and heel cup stability. For those non-runners, trainers designed for running are made to cover a range of foot striking characteristics, so some people tend to roll over their arch (support needed) and some don't (less support needed). Trainer manufacturers make shoes designed with varying levels of structure in different places to help support the foot depending on how you run. It seems the label 'neutral' does not make them equal and now I'll have to decide what to do next. For the runners reading this, Ryan gave me a web address for an independent assessment review of all the available running shoes grouping them into their various support categories - very useful!

I hope I can find a solution soon because the even bigger miles are a comin'.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

'Twas New Year's Eve And All Round The House...

It has been a little while since I last put fingers to keys and in the intervening much has indeed happened: we have made merry with the Christmas Bacchanalia and I have spent 14 hours, 3 minutes and 26 seconds running 97.5 miles to name just two, but as presaged by Alisonthis week I will be mostly talking about the Brooks Serpentine New Year's Day 10k.
I entered the race back in October when I had finalised my training as it fell nicely at the end of my 10k plan and while Alison had already run her mid-way training race of truth just before Christmas, she saw an opportunity to take part in the craic and maybe set a new PB for the distance and that is why on New Year's Eve we were in bed just after 10pm.
We awoke bright-eyed and eager for the off on the stroke of midnight when Kent and London spontaneously performed a reenactment of Desert Storm. Lulled back to sleep by the shelling, gunfire and to the strains of avant-garde, abusive street theatre, I passed the time by imagining I was actually happily watching Jools Holland with a glass of fizz.

The race itself was, as the name suggests, run around Hyde Park and arriving with an hour to spare I was surprised how nervous I was feeling. We have both run a number of 10ks over the years and I am usually just excited - and also cold - but now there was a looming presence of expectation perched hawkishly over my peace of mind. The previous 3 months had been the most concerted training programme I had ever done and all the effort was about to be put to the test.
For the record, our previous bests for 10k were both set at the 26.2 Road Club's Valentines 10k held in Chessington every February and they were: Iain 53:42 set in 2007 and Alison 58:43 in 2012.

The park was very fresh and the hand dryers in the cafe by the Serpentine were being heavily used by the 500 runners who had gathered to see in the new year with their feet. As we queued at the start, the main distraction was Winter Wonderland which in my memory consisted of a Ferris wheel and three sorry-looking sheds covered in cotton wool but which now appears to cover 40 acres of mud with an enormous cash-cow collection of tenuous 'Festive' attractions and a talking tree. 

The course was reasonably flat (Alison thought it was hilly), there was a nice mix of competitors and as the race organisers had banned headphones, the entertainment was provided by hordes of tourists alternating between asking the marshalls what was going on and getting in the way.
I had planned the run at 8:19 min/miles and as is customary, despite experience telling me otherwise, I started too fast but as it was a 10k, you can sometimes get away with it and this was thankfully one of those occasions.
The Results:
Alison 56:25
Iain 48:46

So, Personal Bests all round, festive hi fives and here is Alison on the run in to the finish proving she clearly did not run fast enough as she is still smiling.
The down side of these results is that we had to recalculate our training paces for the next 16 weeks off the back of them and mine are just insane! 
More on that to follow.
Until next time, stay off the pies and please, everyone spend a minute doing this;

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Lesson #1

Big hill = shredded thighs

The huge green hump in the chart above was the middle section of my long run on Sunday and is Priest Hill joining Old Windsor and Englefield Green in Surrey. I felt I had no choice as returning the way I'd come meant a cross-country swamp dodge due to the effects of the flooded Thames and that wasn't much fun either. It really is incredible how doing something you're not used to despite all the fitness training, in this case running up steep hills, can have unexpected after-effects and as such I couldn't walk comfortably let alone do my swim yesterday. Lesson learned - hill running remains for loonies (and Iain) and London Marathon long-distance training MUST be flat.

Lesson #2

Artificial fabric running top = room-emptying stench

When Iain started shutting my Nike long-sleeved running top in the bathroom to dry alone I knew I couldn't wait for it to wear out before I replaced it so I am now the owner of two Smartwool Light long-sleeved tops. I wore one out on Sunday and can say that it's certainly warm and absorbent (see soggy post-run picture below), didn't chafe and doesn't smell bad so far. Merino wool has myriad benefits in a garment in addition to being environmentally sustainable so it gets the thumbs up from me.

A final thought and reference to my last post about doing our best to avoid Type 2 diabetes is that most things are ok in moderation so long as there's a balance:

13 Mile Run (approx. 1400 calories burned) = Alison Gets to Eat a Pile of Cake

Yum :) and thanks to everyone who told me on Sunday at the aforementioned cake-eating extravaganza at Great Fosters in celebration of Francesca's (Mark of TEAM!'s partner) imminent child-birthingness they've been reading our blog over the last few months. It's great to feel supported. x

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Running For A Reason

Happy New Year Everyone!

At the time of my last post, I was finishing the first 50% of my training plan which culminated in a race-pace Half Marathon on the 23rd December. The following week provided a break which allowed the seasonal consumption of large amounts of protein, sugar and a bit of alcohol - I wasn't expecting this time off and I think I must have miscalculated my weeks somewhere - so that worked out quite well then! Today, stage two has begun with a 10K race in Hyde Park on which Iain will report shortly.

Half our time off over Christmas was spent cooking, eating and washing-up and in the other half we attempted the ambitious challenge of sorting out our spare room once and for all. We really know how to enjoy ourselves!
A chunk of the sorting was through things that came from Emily's flat and amongst them I found something so relevant that it needs to be shared.

In 2005, Emily applied and was given a Golden Bond place for Diabetes UK. Sadly she had to turn it down a few months later as she struggled to keep control of her condition under the demands of the training. 
Members of TEAM! will be familiar with the application form, and what follows is from Emily's own application to run from 7 years ago.

Why do you want to support Diabetes UK?
"Finding out that I had Type 1 Diabetes came as a big shock and my desire to run the London Marathon for Diabetes UK stems from a desire to turn diabetes into something positive for me. I want to prove to myself that having diabetes will not change my outlook on life. I am a positive, motivated and hardworking individual who loves to set challenges."

How will you fundraise?
"My idea of fundraising incorporates both raising money for Diabetes UK and raising awareness of Diabetes among those who choose to sponsor me. Therefore in asking people for sponsorship I want to highlight and educate them on current debates surrounding diabetes. A recent article in The Times suggested that 'one in ten Britons can expect to suffer from diabetes by 2010'. As a diabetic I feel that I have a duty to highlight medical concerns arising from high levels of obesity currently dominating headlines in this country. My aim would be to offer sponsors information compiled around a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise. I want to highlight the consequences of poor diet and minimal exercise and offer alternative ways of living to ensure the individual strives to stay healthy. Alongside this I want to propel forward the active research into Type 1 diabetes that will have a positive effect on myself in the future. My fundraising message will be one of education and awareness. To do this I will present each sponsor with a fact sheet of information that encourages them to become more informed. This along with my sponsorship information I would send to all my friends and family and encourage them to pass it amongst their peers and colleagues. I would also advertise my marathon mission in the local shops and newspapers and wear a Diabetes UK t-shirt during my training to encourage people to enquire about my challenge thus promoting the cause and mission ahead."

Emily continued to apply through the marathon ballot and finally got a place to run in 2012 which she deferred to 2013. 

Aside from being a terrifically poignant reminder of my loss, here in her own words, Emily is telling us how she felt about diabetes. 
Emily had no choice in developing the condition and she knew very well how serious and impactful being a diabetic was. When she saw so many people taking their good health for granted; making and pursuing highly unhealthy lifestyle choices which dramatically increased their own likelihood of developing the condition, it caused her a great deal of sadness, disbelief and real anger that people could actively choose to increase their own risk of developing it.  
As all of TEAM! are helping to run Emily's marathon for her, here is the essence of her message from 2005 brought to you as I hope she would be pleased with:

Whilst we will all have been consuming a little too much over Christmas, and probably making the same old new year resolutions to lose weight, get fitter and eat more healthily perhaps we all ought to start keeping those promises. 
Diabetes as we have discovered is not a benign condition which can be swept under the carpet and the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes is heavily influenced by your lifestyle choices 
It's serious shit: don't bring it on yourself.
Alison (and Emily)