Which running dog are you? 10 types of dog to choose from!

This week, boy on the run tackles one the big issues of running: which running dog would you be?

1. Greyhound

“…when he is not running, the greyhound tends to spend most of his time biting children and pooing in gardens…”

Sleek, fast, light and highly compact, the greyhound likes to run. In fact when he’s not running the greyhound tends to spend most of his time biting children and pooing in gardens. It isn’t all good though… Sure the greyhound is fast, but every now and then they will give up on the first bend, especially if they get muscled out by a bigger, more aggressive dog.

Speed : 10
Endurance : 6
Temperament : 3
Character : 1

 

2. Bulldog

Oy! This is my race pace: Stationery.

Lets be honest, the bulldog isn’t built for running. Really, he’s not even terribly well built for breathing. He’s fat, smokes a pack a day, has no running technique and is the only dog that wears an ASBO bracelet.  Really he is the embodiment of modern Britain.  He does have one ace up his sleeve however, and that he always runs his heart out. He is what Steve Jones would be like with bad parenting.  You’ll see this guy making up places in the last six miles of a marathon.

Speed : 1
Endurance : 7
Temperament : 1
Character : 9

 

3. Dachshund

“C’mon boy! Run towards the hot dog bun…”

The dachshund is another dog that really isn’t a natural runner.  The dachshund is primarily built to be difficult to spell, to win the coveted Crufts “Dog Limbo” and to sit nicely in a hot dog bun.  Dachshunds are obsessed with their cadence.  You will often be accosted by a dachshund after training, vainly pointing at the 250 steps per minute cadence that he claims to have held for the last hour.  It breaks your heart to point out that he’s actually only gone 11 metres.

Speed : 2
Endurance : 2
Temperament : 8
Character : 8

4. Siberian Husky

“The husky is instinctively aware that he’s bigger, faster, fluffier, stronger, cuter and more expensive than you.”

The husky is one of the best running dogs around.  Their calm demeanour belies the fact that the husky is instinctively aware that he’s bigger, faster, fluffier, stronger, cuter and more expensive than you.  Unfortunately, the husky has two critical weaknesses.  The first is that they can’t run on their own, and if they lose sight of their mates in a big race, they are finished.  The other is that they absolutely hate a hot race.  This one isn’t going to be winning the Badwater Ultramarathon.

Speed : 9
Endurance : 9
Temperament : 6
Character : 7

5. Border Collie

“It is often difficult to induce a dog to run a marathon. With a border collie you just need to be able to throw a ball 13.1 miles.”

The Border Collie is one enthusiastic guy.  He’ll go anywhere and do anything at any time.  He loves his owner and he loves his life.  He also loves his running, if that is what he thinks his owner wants him to like. He also loves retrieving.  It is often difficult to induce a dog to run a marathon. With a border collie you just need to be able to throw a ball 13.1 miles.  The only problem is  if you are waiting to spur him on at the 20 mile mark, he might spend the next six hours sitting at your feet and chewing a Frisbee.

Speed : 8
Endurance : 8
Temperament : 9
Character : 6

6. Portuguese Water Dog

“The Portuguese Water Dog is a multi-discipline super athlete.”

The Portuguese Water Dog is a working dog and was originally used to herd fish into nets.  This makes the breed ideally suited to multi-discipline events such as triathlon and Irondog.  They are also extremely competitive in the hurdles and steeplechase and often place highly in the Dogathlon. Yes, dogathlon.

Speed : 9
Endurance : 9
Temperament : 9
Character : 7

7. Chicken

This one isn’t a dog. Well spotted. 10 points for Gryffindor.

Speed : N/A (Not a dog)
Endurance : N/A (Not a dog)
Temperament : N/A (Not a dog)
Character : N/A (Not a dog)

8. Poodle

“If you make me run… I’ll see to it that the servants have you shot.”

The poodle is naturally a very strong runner. The only problem with the breed, is you might end up with one that is like the picture.  One that is called “Boo Boo” or “Princess” and sure as hell isn’t going to do any running.  The poodle is always a gamble.  And you may find after 5 hours yours is still at the start line looking at itself in the mirror.

Speed : 1/7
Endurance : 1/7
Temperament : 1/9
Character : 0/8

9. Doberman

“When I get to the next drink station, I’m going to tear the throat out of the volunteer scouts…”

Dobermans are more suited to sprinting. The sort that ends with someone being knocked to the ground and having their spinal chord removed through their throat.  I wouldn’t recommend lining one up next to 38 000 other of what it calls “prey”.  To be honest, I wouldn’t even try and pin the number on one.  Not a middle-distance running dog.

Speed : 9
Endurance : 3
Temperament : 0
Character : 3

10. Komondor

“He is running… I think…”

Initially designed as a means of cleaning floors with zero effort, the Komondor would have been an awesome dog if he didn’t have 15kg of mop fabric to carry around.  As it is he is more often deployed after the marathon as a “course-cleaning endurance dog”. Yeah, one of those…

Speed : 5
Endurance : 4
Temperament : 5
Character : 10

 

Which dog would I be?

I am a cross between a greyhound and a border collie.  I’m a border collie because I’m mindlessly enthusiastic about things like intervals but also “a bit thick”.  I’m a greyhound because you can count my ribs and because I often bite small children.

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Running solely to lose weight – from zero to “size zero hero” without having to buy too much gear-o.

On this blog I have mainly talked about what is loosely termed competitive running. Working hard, training smart and being hell bent on becoming a faster and stronger runner. Getting in the top 20%.  Maybe even winning some races.  The reality is that for a lot of people the main purpose of running is to get fit… and more importantly, to lose some weight.

Scale: “One at a time please…”

This blog entry is for the people that:

  • Don’t want to win races
  • Don’t want to run a marathon
  • Don’t want to improve on their 10km personal best by doing laps of a running track in the rain
  • Want to shed some pounds and look FABULOUS

First lets start with some home truths.

Home Truth #1 – You won’t be dieting.

That’s right.  You heard that right. You won’t be dieting.

Blog Reader: “But Duncan… Why not?”

Duncan: “Because diets don’t work.”

Blog Reader: “Yes they do.  My friend lost 8 kg on the Atkins diet.”

Duncan: “But they have gone and put it right back on haven’t they?”

Blog Reader: “Actually… Yes they did… And some more…”

Duncan: “That is why diets don’t work.  And did their breath smell like a donkey’s a**ehole whilst they were on the diet?”

Blog Reader: “In fact… It did!”

Duncan: “How would you know what a donkey’s a**ehole smells like?”

Blog Reader: “That was mean. You tricked me.”

Duncan: “Sorry, I was just underlining my point about dieting.”

Blog Reader: “It was a cruel trick and had nothing to do with dieting and you know that.”

Through the magic of the Adkins diet your a**e can smell like this.

The point of this blog (apart from pissing about) is to use running to change your lifestyle in a way that you are happy to maintain for the rest of your life.  Don’t get me wrong, you will need to improve your eating if you start running more.  The fact remains that the best way to achieve this is by eating better, more appropriate food, instead of starving yourself.

Home Truth #2 – You won’t lose 10kg in a week

Outside of the Biggest Loser series of shows, people generally don’t safely lose massive amounts of weight quickly.  I think that people are very happy to lose weight at a rate of half to one kg a week – provided they can keep that going for years.  Plus, you have to have a deficit of over 7500 calories to lose 1kg.  With numbers like that it just isn’t safe to lose weight too quickly.

You can lose massive amounts of weight through self-induced digestive illness. Not recommended.

RUNNING TIPS FOR LOSING WEIGHT

So these are my tips to running solely for weight loss.  Running burns a lot of calories, these tips basically support your running – so you can run more often and at a greater intensity – and thus burn more calories.  Although you will be running to lose weight, you will also find you are probably a lot happier. Enjoy!

1) Set a training plan. Tell everyone.

If you can get another person or group of people to adopt a training plan then that is even better!  Basically, you want to have the motivation and structure that a training plan provides, and the more you involve other people, the greater that motivational pull becomes.  The training plan also allows you to plan the amount of running you are doing, ensuring that you build up the amount slowly. The rule of thumb is to not increase your total mileage by more than 10% each week. Here are some Runners World beginner training plans to get you started.

Davo, Johhnno, Andy, Bender, Smeggsy and Tubs decided they were spending too much time in the boozer, so they started jogging together to lose weight. Still got a way to go fellas!

2) Run regularly

Running smaller amounts regularly (3-4 times a week) is much better than doing 2 runs a week, as your body will gear up for running much quicker, and you will have more potential to get more running done.

3) Mix-it-up

This will be the topic of next week’s blog.  I will be outlining awesome, simple fartlek and interval-style workouts that people can do even if they are completely new to running.  The idea is to mix a bit of running fast with a bit of running slow and to claim back those endorphins that are owed to you!  More about this next week!

4) Eat properly to support your running

This is a critical one.  Be very afraid of the classic:

“I’m a runner now. It doesn’t matter what I eat, it will all get burnt.”

that I mention in one my previous posts.  But at the same time you will need to eat more.  The trick is to eat really healthy stuff and cut out the high fat, high sugar foods.  When you run often, it does change your relationship with food.  You will be hungrier than you have probably ever been, and you will directly suffer from the affects of food and alcohol binges, as they will limit your ability to run.

5) Learn to love running

If you want to lose weight through running and stay thin for the rest of your life… You are going to need to LOVE running! Running is ultimately high impact and requires a tonne of both physical and mental energy. If you find every second  a chore, then there is no way you will sustain it and therefore no way that you will permanently keep the weight off. So you need to learn to love it.  Go on.  I have some tips on ways to love running if you don’t already:

  • Learn to love how you feel after running – You should feel good. Personally, I’m a complete endorphin junkie.  When I’m not running, I get a bit moody and when I’m finally back running, I start grinning away like I’ve just shot up.
  • Get social – Having a crowd of friends that you run with can turn that “Tuesday pain session” into a “Tuesday catch-up and gossip”.  When you run more and more, you can actually get to the stage where you natter and jog for 45 minutes without actually noticing that you are exercising!
  • Listen to some awesome tunes – If I don’t run with people, I always run with music. Suddenly you have your favourite tunes, beautiful scenery, endorphins and weight loss… What is not to like?

6) Give it one month.

Take my points on board.  Try them reasonably aggressively for 1 month. Then think about how you feel, and step on the scales…. Maybe it will change your life. Believe me..  I run 6 days a week, and I feel great every single day.

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Going new age

Last week(ish) I talked about going old skool, and in complete blog tradition I’m going to completely contradict myself and suggest you should try going new age. Who knows, you might surprise yourself! Here are some suggestions for your transition to new age runner…

1. Go Vegan

Maybe you could try not eating animals or animal products?

Scott Jurek is both Vegan and a very, very strong runner.

Why should I?

      • 2 x Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles) and 7 x Western States Endurance Run (100 miles) winner Scott Jurek is a Vegan, and he is a running monster, admired by all. Also, I’ve read Scott’s book and there are tonnes of yummy recipes inside.
      • You will avoid all the gross chemicals and additives associated with modern meat production and animal products
      • As there is a fair amount of saturated fat in meat products, you will probably lose some weight and feel better
      • Meat is relatively expensive so going Vegan should be cheaper

Bellamy gets to live

Daisy also gets to live


 

  • You dont have to kill Daisy the Lamb or Bellamy the bunny

Why shouldn’t I?

  • You might find it difficult to get enough nutrients.  Sure Scott Jurek can do it, but he is a professional athlete, so it is his full time job to worry about his diet.  You may not have the time.
  • Some of those specialist soy protein products aren’t exactly cheap, so cost savings won’t always be as dramatic as you’d think
  • Your friends probably won’t invite you to dinner anymore.  Maybe they never did?  Maybe you never had any friends? Just saying…
  • You might have to make “industrial upgrades” to your toilet infrastructure as your new way of eating might not agree with your large intestines

2. Yoga

This could be good for your running, if perhaps not for the meat and two veg.

Yes, we’re really going there.  In many ways yoga, and the “yoga mentality” is the antithesis of distance running.  Runners like to run until they are out of breath and their heart rate is through the roof, whereas yoga is about controlling your breathing. Runners are often fairly inflexible and clumsy when they aren’t running, whereas yoga practitioners are supple, flexible and strong.  Runners are deeply rooted in science, explaining how to stretch an IT band or increase a lactate threshold, whereas yoga is more rooted in Eastern medicine, which is at best holistic and illuminating and at worse, a pile of old horse***t.  Also, bear in mind that I know very little about yoga (having done 3 classes and 1.5 years of pilates), so take my “wisdom” with a grain of salt!

Why should I?

  • Every yoga teacher I have ever met has been outrageously strong and flexible in a way I have never seen before in conventional sports
  • Yoga makes you calm and gives your overburdened, over-trained body a chance to properly unwind
  • Regularly strengthening and stretching your muscles will make you faster, and will greatly reduce injuries
  • That positive, meditative philosophy might help you in those dark running moments (20 miles into a marathon) when you feel like you are falling to pieces

Why shouldn’t I?

  • It takes time that could be spent training specifically for running. Still, it is worth factoring in how much time you could lose with an injury that yoga could have prevented

 

This just isn’t my thing

 

  • Bikram yoga, the one that involves no talking, wearing bathing gear and extreme heat, sounds bloody awful! And apparently some instructors wear Speedos.  That just isn’t my thing.
  • People do get injured doing yoga so this opens up a new risk
  • The yoga fraternity sometimes has a tendency to re-imagine quite complicated sciences (such as the central nervous system) as various combinations of good and bad energies

 

Beware the yoga fart

 

  • You may end up doing a massive fart in front of a group of strangers with your a**e in the air.  But maybe that is your thing?

3. Chi Running

Chi running

Cheese running

Chi Running was developed by ultra-marathon runner and T’ai Chi practitioner Danny Dreyer and is a way of running focused on efficiency. In essence, it is an application of T’ai Chi principles to running.  If you are the kind of runner that heel strikes, always runs at full tilt and will slam home that personal best even if you’ve broken 2 ribs and popped an anterior cruciate ligament, then you’re possibly not a Chi Runner.

Why should I?

  • Learning to run with a strong technique is critical for injury reduction, speed and enjoyment
  • Chi running can help you to really enjoy running and removes the competitive element, which many people find off-putting
  • T’ai Chi is a pretty cool way to warm up before running

Why shouldn’t I?

  • You could get very bored running every day with no way to accurately gauge your progress.  And you’d have no stats to bore your friends s***less with.
  • Sometimes nothing beats slogging out some interval sessions, both in terms of improving and in terms of post workout endorphins
  • You might be a happy heel striker that doesn’t want to go through the painful and risky task of changing to forefoot
  • You might get confused with “Cheese Running” and end up breaking your neck running down a hill in Gloucester

4. Barefoot Running

I’m only going to “dip in” to this subject because it causes so much division and animosity in the running world. Barefoot running basically involves running without shoes or in Vibrams (magic monkey shoes).  There is also the world of the minimalist running shoe but that is not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about proper barefoot.  Almost everyone who is part of this world has read Born to Run and loves it.

Why should I?

  • A forefoot/midfoot strike is considered the most efficient and is used by all leading Kenyan/Ethiopian runners
  • Runners that have experiences horrible repeat injuries in conventional running shoes may find that running barefoot eliminates hip and knee injuries that they used to have
  • If you run completely barefooted then you save on the cost of shoes
  • Running barefoot can also strengthen leg, ankle and Achilles tendon muscles which will help you avoid injuries in the course of your running career

Why shouldn’t I?

  • Statistically, running barefoot is more likely to give you an injury than avoid one. I have had plantar fasciitis  for 8 months thanks to my foray into the barefoot world.
  • You can’t run or train properly in many conditions; in particular concrete with scatterings of stones
  • If you live in an urban environment you will spend a lot of time in the hospital having glass, nails and syringes removed from your foot

 

Be careful you don’t get captured by hospital staff

 

  • Running with no shoes will make you look a little bit like an escaped mental patient
  • Vibrams are actually more expensive than conventional running shoes.  And they smell even worse!

Anyway, I hope you try at least one of the above and if you have any other new age tips I’d love to hear about them!  Obviously I’m an “old skool soldier” so this new age *** isn’t for me.  I’ll go back to “steak and intervals” right after I finish this vegan, yoga, chi-running workshop….

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Going “old skool” – part 2

This post follows on from my last post and completes the guide of how to transform you from “new age softy” to  “old skool soldier”

1) Shun the fancy products (drink water, eat food)

I received a complimentary product the other day called ‘Nectar – Sports Fuel Concentrate’ which describes itself as a “high performance fuelling system”.  Seriously… A high performance fuelling system. Here is the marketing:

Am I meant to drink this? Or does it go in my car? Or use it to wash my hands?

I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to drink it, put it in my car, or use it to wash my hands.  It is reassuring that it is:

  • hypotonic
  • isotonic
  • hypertonic

It just needs to be:

  • supersonic
  • catatonic
  • gin and tonic

and I’ll buy it.  To be honest I’ve had enough of orange liquid that is packaged like a speaker cover on a modified Peugot 106 (see my article on energy gels!).  I’ve had enough of milky recovery liquid that is 3 parts klingon and 2 parts echinacea swishing around in my stomach.  The old skool soldier doesn’t waste time and money on this rubbish. The old skool soldier drinks water and eats food.

I remember an American interviewer asking Haile Gebrselassie how he prepared for his World Record marathon (2:03:59).  Actually what he asked was:

“Haile, what was your fuelling strategy on marathon morning?”

Haille answered:

“I ate some toast.  With Jam.”

Legend.

2) Stop worrying about your shoes

I have a friend who is obsessed with running in lighter shoes, or flats.  Or those ridiculous huaraches that are so popular with rich white guys who are desperate to imitate the primitive Indians that would actually buy shoes if they could afford them.

I also have some other friends who are amazing runners and there is one thing I have noticed about them: they have absolutely no interest in talking about shoes, trying different shoes or discussing the “barefoot movement”.  I remember I bumped into my friend who runs a sub 70 minute half marathon the other day.  I asked him about shoes, in particular whether he thought that there was anything to the whole barefoot movement.  His eyes glazed over and he said:

“I just wear these old Adidas flats.”

and then we both looked down at his feet.  He was wearing non-flats from Asics.  My friend looked up and said:

“Sorry… I don’t really keep track of these things… I just have a big box of shoes and I choose a pair at random…”

The old skool athlete doesn’t follow shoe trends.  The old skool athlete knows that he can achieve more on a running track with blood sweat and tears than he can ponying around with a pair of vibrams.  Don’t be the fat office hamster limping 2 miles in Vibrams, be the lean sweaty animal smashing it out in the 1980s trainers.

Finally! A use for Vibrams…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Do something out of your comfort zone

Sometimes running can become a predictable routine.  Every now and then it is great to completely mix it up.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Run a stupidly long distance (30+ miles) just to “see if you can” (I’ve never done this one)
  • Run in extreme weather
  • Run (or better still race) an extreme course
  • Do a hill session on a 20% plus gradient
  • Run with a bunch of people you have never met before when on holiday
  • Start a race at a breakneck pace just to see what will happen and whether you can “hang in there”
  • Run a distance that you don’t normally do (marathon runners can run 1 mile and 10km runners can do a 20 miler!)

Just get out of that comfort zone.  When you get back home you will probably be absolutely slaughtered and you want your partner to have their hands on their hips and be saying:

“I have no idea why the f**k you just did that!”

Then you know you did well.

4) Grow a moustache

To illustrate this point I will describe 3 moustached heroes called Dave (only two of which were actually runners)

David Bedford – Former 10000m world record holder and former Race Director of the London Marathon

Wikipedia: “He did run the first London Marathon in 1981 but as a bet. He had been in a nightclub the previous night and David Coleman had remarked on how unwell he looked. Having consumed a curry on the way home from the nightclub, Bedford completed the impromptu marathon but was pictured vomiting at the roadside part way through. However later in the same year he did manage to win the London Cross Country Title at the age of 31.”

Dave Scott – Six-time Ironman Triathon World Champion

Dave Scott won the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii in 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987. Scott is also referred to as “The Man”. And he has an awesome mo’.

David Boon – Australian Cricketer and Drinking Record Holder

David boon drank 52 cans of beer on a flight from Sydney to London in 1989, on the way to the Ashes Tour. In many ways this makes him one of the greatest endurance athletes of all time.

Next week I will be cementing this blog’s reputation as a “contradictory load of made up b*****” by encouraging you to “go new age”!

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Going “old skool” – part 1

I’ve been running “seriously” for 3 years now and in the last 6 months I’ve trained with increasing simplicity and increasing effectiveness.  I guess I did a lot of my early running with the Aussie Rules boundary umpires back in Melbourne, and the world of running was very different then.  You just turned up and went out with a group of grizzly old veterans.  There was some guy who knew the most about running who was the coach and he told us what to run on a given day.  We were doing lactate runs, V02Max sessions, tempo runs and intervals but we didn’t know what they were called.  We knew what was required of us, we had to turn up, and run our friggin hearts out.

If your workouts start resembling Japanese fetish porn, then you might want to go old skool

Nowadays we live in a world of Stella Mcartney designed running gear, Crossfit, Aqua-Zumba, heart rate monitors, Bikram Yoga, GPS watches and running computers that plug into smartphones.  Yeah, when I’m not working on a computer doing complicated calculations all day, there is nothing I like doing better than loading my Garmin stats onto my computer and going:

“Ooh, my heart rate dipped to 126, if I extrapolate that from my Max HR to 170 that I calculated the other day, I can determine that… I should have spent yesterday doing some “eyeballs-out” proper training instead of pissing around with my stupid gadgets.

What is she doing? What is she wearing? Who knows!

People, it is time to go old school. Stop faffing. Stop calculating. Stop looking for quick fixes that don’t involve leaving blood and sweat on the track.  Go old skool. With a ‘k’.  Rebel. Ignore the spell checker. Go crazy. Intervals, tempos, long runs.  Work on the mat, work on the track, work on the road. Hang the excuses next to the Vibrams and GET THE *** OUT THERE.

1) Throw away your heart belt

What is this obsession with heart rate (see my two articles on heart rate: Here, and here)?

Don’t let this happen to you

“Oooh, I’m dropping to 75% of something or other, I have to slow down…or else I might turn into a pumpkin” Last time I ran, which will probably be no less than 20 hours ago, my body seemed to be capable of giving me some signals about how it was doing.  Here is a nice simple guide to interpreting them. After that you can throw away your stupid heart rate belt.

Boy on the Run Alternative to Heart Rate Chart

You feel fine – Zone 1
Action:  Go faster. Princess.

You start sweating – Zone 2
Action:
Well done.  If you don’t like sweat, have you considered another sport? Say, darts or bridge?

You start feeling breathless and you are sweating profusely – Zone 3
Action: Nice.  If you really work at this you’ll be able to run most of a marathon at this pace.

You start really sweating and your breathing is heavy – Zone 4
Action: 
Better.  You should really be hurting now.  See, you didn’t need to do a percentage calculation to work that out.  Pain is nice and simple.

You swear you will explode, puke and spontaneously combust – Zone 5
Action:
Who needs a heart rate monitor to find their maximum output?  You’ve found it all on your own!  Try and sit in this zone for another 30 seconds.  Then recover. Then have another go!

2) Seek running friends that are going to tear your heart out and show it to you (Indiana Jones style)

Having your heart torn out and set on fire is a sure sign your coach is working you hard

It wasn’t until I watched Indiana Jones that I realised that I wasn’t training hard enough. You to need to have your heart torn out and set on fire (metaphorically of course) every now and again to attain true improvement.  And this is a great and simple tenant of the “old skool way”:
Find people that are a bit better than you and try and run with them.  You will find that you will get a lot better a lot quicker.

The only problem is that you will suffer in these sessions.  Make sure you have some easier more “recovery-style” sessions lined up as well.

3) Listen to your body. Train accordingly.

Instead of planning your training plans in Excel 4 months before the race and sticking to them like glue, give yourself a rough outline of what you want to achieve and then go with the maximum you think your body can manage.  For example in a week I look for:

– 40+ miles of base mileage
– 1 decent interval session
– 1 decent lactate run
– 1 decent long run

But that is only a rough outline.  If I feel knackered all week I might just run 30 miles with no quality.  If I feel like Chuck Norris, then I might run 50 miles and extend out my long run.  There are two key points that you want to avoid:

  1. Running when you are exhausted because it says so in your training plan.
  2. Holding off when you have lots of energy because your quality session is scheduled for another day

Next week is part 2 which includes the following 4 points:

  • Shun the fancy products (drink water, eat food)
  • Stop worrying about your shoes
  • Do something out of your comfort zone
  • Grow a moustache
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Being sick and training for a marathon – Dos and Don’ts

This week I was sick.  I struggled not just to train, but to make it to the shops. Or out of bed.  I was pathetic.  This was the 10 days leading up to my last big 20 mile run and the beginning of my marathon taper and I couldn’t train.  I was devastated and tempted to do some very stupid things.  I’m well now and because of that I have compiled some Dos and Don’ts that I have learnt over the last few years of not running.  Listen to Sensei: Don’t find these out the hard way.

1. DO: Stop running

It really is that simple.  If you are coughing like a chain smoker, wheezing like an overbred chihuahua breathing through a hockey mask, aching like a lovestruck teenager and pooing like an incontinent poodle who has overdosed on laxative-laced dog food then you don’t want to be knocking out 16 mile training runs.  You want to be in bed drinking Lemsip.  And reading a Swedish detective novel from the 60s. Be honest with yourself.  Running is for when you are well.

2. DO: Use running as a motivation for taking care of yourself

The other edge of the “shut up – go to bed – drink green tea – no chocolate ice cream” sword is that you now have motivation to get better.  So you miss running? Well sleep for 12 hours today and you’ll be closer to your next run.  Take the day off work instead of slaving through it and it won’t be long before you are running from angry geese along a canal while a tramp tries to crush you with a shopping cart because you haven’t shaved in 3 weeks and he thinks you’re Jesus.  Or wherever you run.

3. DON’T: Think about running

Thinking about running will only frustrate you, and being frustrated isn’t conducive to healing.  So put the Runner’s World away and read an article about whether Echinacea actually does something or how to make homemade butternut squash soup or one of those hard-hitting Guardian articles about house plants or artisan coffee.

Butternut squash soup. Yum!

4. DON’T: Start training again too soon

“Great, I haven’t thrown up in 1 hour and my nose was clear for 15 seconds today, I’m ready for that 12 mile fartlek session in the pouring rain…  “

Easy tiger! This is the only point here that I actually broke myself.  I went on a brisk 12km run probably one day too early into my recovery.  My rationale was:

  • Running releases endorphins
  • Endorphins stimulate the immune system
  • Running makes me so happy it has to help
I got away with it, but there were a couple of hours right after the run where I thought it might be quite bad.  I was lucky, but it could easily have set me back a long way.  I wouldn’t recommend it.

5. DON’T: Ramp up your training to compensate

When I was ill and frustrated at not training I had mapped out about 5 consecutive 10-12 mile power sessions to make up for lost time.  This is a classic mistake.  And the important point is this:

You can’t make up for lost training. You are more likely to prolong your illness than to help yourself.

After my first run back, upon realising that “I could still run”, I decided just to take the training hit.  I calculated it was 3% of my total training and “got over it”.  Experience taught me the way.

6. DON’T: Shorten your taper to compensate

Not tapering will leave your preparation half-baked.

This is the other classic mistake to make when you are feeling ill close to the start of your taper.  You find yourself justifying a 1 week taper.  Or maybe 3 days.  Or maybe 1 day.  Ultimately they don’t recommend a taper based on some complex reasoning or on elaborate guesswork.  It is pure science.  Sports scientists analysed 100s of atheletes that didn’t taper verses 100s of atheletes that tapered for 2-3 weeks and worked out the tapering ones performed much better.  You are no exception. Go home and bake some bread that you prove for only half the recommended time.  Now how did that bread turn out?

7. DO: Get some f***ing perspective

You’re not Mo Farah. You’re a sick office worker who does running as a hobby.

8. DO: Watch your game of Thrones Blu-Ray set

"Joffrey after a heavy intervals session"

It is awesome.  And it doesn’t have anything to do with running.   Although even though King Joffrey isn’t the world’s best King, I think he would have made the best runner.  Possibly without the armour.

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The art of pacing – What I learnt as an “unofficial” pacer

Robot pacer

The real thing!

Running pacers remind me of that old joke about drummers:

Q: How many drummers does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: They’ve got a machine to do that now.

Really, with advanced running watches  including such features as a “virtual partner”, the need for pacers is greatly reduced in the world of running.  Or so I thought. Today I had my first experience of pacing other runners, and not only was it awesome fun, but out of the 3 runners we achieved 3 massive personal bests…. And it got me thinking… Maybe there is something in this pacing lark.

My watch is innacurate? No. Those are just "Mars Miles".

Today at work I offered to run my recovery run as a 45min 10km “pacing run”, so that anyone who wanted to run a sub 45min PB could use me as their “non-virtual partner”.  I just threw the idea out there, but it turned out to be surprisingly popular.  It got me thinking about qualities of being a pacer and whether I have them.  Here are the qualities that I thought would be useful:

  • Must be able to do the distance “with a hoof in the air” (comfortably).  Well I have that. A struggling pacer is like a chef asking the diner if he knows how long to cook chicken for.
  • Must run fairly consistently.  I have that one too.  (I’m not called T1000 for nothing. Actually I’m not called T1000 at all)
  • Must have some kind of fancy watch that is fairly accurate and not based on Mars gravity, timings and distances.  I have an Garmin FR70 and it was out by only 0.2% over 20 miles so I’m pretty confident I’m on earth time there.
  • Must be pretty good with sums.  Yeah, I’m good with my running maths.  In fact better than I am with my running.
  • Must be a motivational type.  This could be the weak link…

Rainman had the maths of pacing nailed. The running ability and calmness... not so strong.

Before we started the run I worked out the per-mile pace for 45 minutes and it came to 7:15.  I then worked out the following mile marker times:

1st Quarter  : 1:49
1st Third      : 2:25
1st half          : 3:37
2 Thirds        : 4:50
3 Quarters    : 5:26
Full mile        : 7:15

and took it strictly mile-by-mile. Once I had these remembered I could easily workout whether we needed to speed up and slow down. I managed to make miles splits of:

7:16
7:11
7:13
7:15
7:12
7:21

which put me 2 seconds out overall.  Not bad.

It was an interesting experience in the sense was that I expected was that everyone would sit flush up behind me, clinging for dear life as I clawed them kicking and screaming over the line.  But it wasn’t like that at all.  It was not a very talkative run.  Right from the start all 3 of my mates went into “business mode” and the only soundtrack was their increasingly heavy breathing.  I spent most of my time looking at my watch, trying to work out if we were under running or overrunning.  Sometimes it was like a computer game.   Run a 45 minutes 10km, dodge that child on a scooter, duck under that bridge, avoid the cyclist and the woman with the pram and make sure you announce each mile marker.

We managed to keep together for about 2.5 miles and then one of my friends dropped off. It feels quite brutal to maintain a pace once someone has dropped behind it, but I guess that is exactly what your job is.  I thought in my head:

“He can still see me up ahead. He’ll reel me in.”

A mile later and one of my mates decided I was going too slow for him and pulled away.  Then the other guys started to edge a lead over me and I thought “this is fun, running on my own, no headphones on and stressing about time. Who’d do this?”  In the end my 2 friends destroyed me finishing well faster than 45 minutes and my other friend who finished behind me still achieved a PB with 45:30ish.  And I managed to find time to tell a kid that the reason I could overtake him on foot when he was on a bike was that he was too fat because he eats too much KFC.  But pacing was fun.  You don’t push yourself too hard and it is a lot of fun helping people achieve their goals.  I’m going to pace a half marathon at some point in the future.  I still wouldn’t do a marathon because I’m not confident of the “toilet aspect” of the distance.  I wouldn’t want to have to turn around to a bunch of runners at 22 miles and say:

“Okay guys… Two choices, either you pace the last 4 miles home on your own… Or you get to be with me while I finally poo myself in public.  Then you can just follow the smell for the remaining 4 miles.”

In all serious I think the advantages of “human pacing” are:

  • You can turn off a Garmin virtual partner and no one will ever know.  A pacer has actually taken the time to be there.  It motivates you to go harder.
  • When you are just ahead of the pacer, your are remorselessly driven by the sound of their footsteps.  It is a big motivator.
  • Sometimes when the pacer randomly insults overweight teenagers it can distract you from the pain.
  • A pacer can provide “verbal motivation”.  The Garmin one just tells you if you are ahead or behind.

Although the motivation aspect is a two-edged sword.  I decided to stick to basic “mile complete” messages and leave the Dean Karnazes motivational stuff alone.

I could imagine their reactions to my various clichés:

Me: C’mon guys!  Only 3 miles to go.

Them: Great.  21 minutes and 45 seconds more agony.  I feel so much better now. Dickhead.

Me: You’re all doing great.  You’re running really well.

Them: Could you sound any more patronising?  Save the gait analysis for another day w**ker.

Me: Remember, pain is just weakness leaving the body.

Them: Shut up you annoying little s**t or my pain will leave my body and enter yours.

Never pick a fight with an animal that has a 1 metre long neck.

Me: I’m not happy with the look that Goose gave us.  I fear a BIRD ATTACK is imminent.

Them: I’m so bored of your hysteria about the BIRD ATTACK.  Hang on… Is that Swann carrying a bowie knife.  Help!

So I stuck to “end of mile” messages.  3 PBS.  Can’t argue with that.

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