Janathon – day 31. A run along the beach at Llandudno.

Blimey! I made it to the end of Janathon, injury free and actually feeling alright. I had been planning on doing a three mile run along the promenade at Llandudno with Lorna, but after a slight organisational mishap, there wasn’t going to be enough time for us to run together, so I went out myself.

Llandudno beach. How inviting is that?
Llandudno beach. How inviting is that?
The weather had been dreadful when I arrived in Llandudno, but by the time I was heading out it had cleared up and it was beautiful. Cold, but not too windy. I thought that I was doing a gentle pace along the promenade when runkeeper chimed in at 4:50ish to say I’d done half a mile. For me that’s pretty good, and it hasn’t happened this January. I pulled back very slightly and when I got to the end of the promenade I sort of jogged / walked down to the beach over the pebbles and ran back.

Getting my feet wet at the end of Janathon.
Getting my feet wet at the end of Janathon.
The run along the sand was amazing. There was water everywhere and I didn’t bother trying to avoid them, well it would have been impossible. Instead I just enjoyed the cold water on my feet. At two miles it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get to three miles, I’d misjudged the distance. So instead I stopped and went for a paddle. It was wonderful, really, and a lovely way to finish what has been a brilliant month. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.

Tomorrow is slated as a day off, but I’ve brought my resistance bands – just in case I get the urge!

Janathon #30. Weights. One day to go. Whoooo!

For my penultimate janathon I did as planned and went through the NROL workout B. Last one of these according to the book and I need to pick out what to do next.

Gym20WeightliftingIt’s incredible how these things become easier over time. I know that it’s just biology, but just as I’m always amazed at how the running improves over time, I’m astonished at how the weights get (slightly) easier. Or more precisely, how I’m able to do all that lifting and pulling and pushing with heavier weights over time.

For the record my notes were:

  • 2×15 deadlift. 26lbs each dumbbell.
  • Step ups 26lbs each arm, higher step this time.
  • one arm shoulder press 2×15 26lbs
  • Lat pull downs 40lbs 2×15, row pull downs 2×15
  • Reverse crunches 2×20 done with a bit of oomph

For fun:

  • 2×20 swiss ball crunches
  • 2×15 push ups. …

I never imagined I’d write “for fun” on one of these things!

It doesn’t feel like a month since I started doing this, and part of me is tempted to take the resistance bands with me to Llandudno tomorrow so that I can sneak in a bit of training on Saturday. Even though I’ve got a day off lined up. This doesn’t seem right.

The whole experience of the month exercising has been brilliant. Overall the experience has been great fun and I feel a lot better that I did at the start of the month. I’ve also found that it’s been a great relief to be able to get out every day and do something that wasn’t work related. Given that I probably work too hard and too much, it’s great to take some time out just for myself and have some quiet time. Even if I’ve got the Arcade Fire on nice and loud as I’m running.

Sadly, I haven’t lost as much weight as I’d hoped, although all that Christmas weight has come off. I’m a size down in my trousers, so I’m guessing that the weight of the fat lost has probably been made up in muscle somewhere. I’m certainly firmer in a couple of places (fnarr!) And somewhere under the rolls of belly fat I can feel something developing.

I’ve really noticed the weight training having an effect on my running. A couple of places: in my shoulders as I’m running, it feels like there is more energy when I’m running; in my stomach and back, which I’d previously felt get tired when on a long run; and in my thighs. To be honest my legs have felt like they’ve been through a lot this week, and I think that was down to the cross-training at the gym. I’ll factor that into my February plans.

On the whole it’s all been good! Tomorrow I run in Llandudno, I expect it’ll be like the Rocky 3 training montage – with rain.

One day to go. Yay!!!

29th Jan update. One year in.

Today is the first anniversary of my first proper run. It was on Sunday 27th last year when I resolved to try out running during a hungover conversation in a cafe in Prestatyn. I wasn’t really sure how it would go, but I was recommended two apps – runkeeper and couch to 5k. I installed these and off I went, on the treadmill, to see how I’d get on.

We had bought the treadmill, probably about 10 years earlier when we lived in our last house. Back then I’d given it a few goes, but had flagged, tried running outside a couple of times, but had given up. It was a bit of a failure. This time I was determined to give it a good shot.

By the third or fourth day, I decided to run outside. With the encouragement of friends on Facebook, who had been an amazing source of encouragement. And so I plugged away at it – through most of February.

In April I went running along this beach in Portugal.
In April I went running along this beach in Portugal – Lovely (but hot!).
Jude had signed up to do the Manchester 10k in May and so I signed up along with Lorna – who had been encouraging me to run. When I completed the race it felt like the most brilliant thing possible. By that point the two of us had signed up for the Birmingham half marathon in October.

It’s fair to say that rather than pick up, the training took a bit of a nose-dive after the 10k. There was work to be done. I’d had a big customer go bust on me and there was a bit of scrambling with work to make the numbers add up again.

I tried running the Juneathon, but I had hurt my foot in the 10k and it scuppered me within a couple of days of the month starting. I did lots of other exercising through the month, but I’d fallen at the first hurdle. I was also having trouble with my chest and had to go to the doctors to get checked over and they prescribed some asthma prevention drugs. I’d had asthma when I was young and was concerned when it appeared to become a problem again.

Then it was summer holidays and then our Autumn in Abersoch. It was difficult finding time to run when I had the children by myself, so could only get out when Jude or my parents were down at the same time as me.

By the time we went to Northern Ireland with Lorna and Matthias I was feeling pretty unfit and ill-prepared, and I struggled on our runs when we were there.

At the start of the Birmingham Half Marathon. This is not my happy face.
At the start of the Birmingham Half Marathon. This is not my happy face.
The prospect of a half marathon in two months had me out running again and I maintained an ad-hoc training schedule; basically making it up as I went along. This was bad. The other bad thing was that Lorna had an accident and her injury meant that she couldn’t do the run in October. Through September and October it felt like it was a very lonely pursuit, there were pressures around work and I was very anxious about how the half marathon would go. By the time race day came, I was in a bad way and my head was not at all right. I got around the course in three hours, but my heart wasn’t in it.

In retrospect it’s a shame, and perhaps I should have pulled out. My feeling earlier in the year had been that if I could run a half marathon, then I could do anything. By the time the race came along I felt pretty isolated, alone and on the day, unhappy.

Training tailed off again but picked up again when we decided to do the Milton Keynes half marathon in March 2014. I started getting back in to something more like regular training again mid-way through December and resolved to get through Janathon – which is one run and one weights session from completion.

So I’ve got through a year of enthusiastic starts, followed by stop-start training, a 5k then three 10k’s and a half marathon completed.

Throughout the year my friends have been a brilliant source of encouragement and by sharing runs, problems and successes on Facebook there has always been someone to cheer or to lend some words of advice. It’s really appreciated.

I’m glad that I’ve done Janathon. It’s cleared my head of a lot of rubbish that was floating around. In particular I’m glad that I’ve basically stuck to the half marathon programme. That was my downfall last year and the lesson learned is to stick to the damned training programme, through hell or high water. The other lesson has been to do the strength training, that has helped a lot.

janathon-participant-logoI’m aiming for 2014 to be a lot more disciplined. I’m tempted to enter a full marathon in the autumn (maybe Amsterdam). This would mean that I’d have very little time to rest and slip into bad habits after the MK half.

Oh, and I ran today – it’s still Janathon and my schedule told me to run 3 miles with occasional intervals. Which I did! It took 32:33 so it was a reasonable pace for me, but I had to stop a couple of times for traffic, headphones not working and at one point runkeeper tried to take a photo and I couldn’t see how to turn off the camera. Weights tomorrow, then a 3 mile run on Friday in Llandudno, back to where I’d first resolved to go out running. Then I think I’ll have a beer.

Janathon Day 28. Weights and the alternative Valentines Day.

Today has been a straight day of working at home with no real surprises. Dropped the kids off at 8, worked through and went to pick them up at 3. Everything moving forward, slowly.

At lunchtime I took out half an hour to do the strength exercises as demanded by the schedule. This is my last New Rules of Lifting break-in workout “A”. Next week I’ll move on to another one, and will check with Matthias before doing anything rash – he’s my go-to lifting expert!

Weight-LiftingLast week, when I wasn’t feeling great I thought I’d up the weights a bit. I survived and so I thought I’d increase them again to see what level I was starting to struggle at. I think with the squats I found it at 43lbs (these are resistance bands, so these numbers may not mean anything). I was able to do 15 reps then another five before I couldn’t manage any more. I dropped down to 32lbs and finished off the remaining 10 reps. Last week I’d done 31lbs, so perhaps I’d pushed it a bit…

Then the lunges, 2×15 on each leg. I increased it to 35lbs from 31lbs last week. This was hard work – really hard work. I’d made a note that I was knackered at the end of the two sets last week, this week I felt properly tired.

“Dumbbell row with elbow out” I did at 23lbs (up from 20 last week). That felt ok if I’m honest and I could have probably done more.

Finally the push ups and the squats were the same as last week.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 17.12.42This time I wore a heart monitor to see what was going on. I hadn’t ever done it for a weights session and it was fascinating to see.

You can clearly see the reps, my big old gaps between the weights and the push ups and crunches at the end. This is great fun, I’ve no idea if that’s good bad or indifferent, but it looks cool!

This evening we’re off to the Fat Olive in town for some special anniversary grub. Jude and I celebrate an alternative valentines on the 28th January as it’s the date that we got engaged… oh so many years ago. Oh we were just children. yadayadaya.

This is the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Tubas in the Moonlight. It was the first dance song at our wedding. Happy days!

Janathon day 27. Four mile run through mud along Burscough Canal.

Today the schedule demanded that I go for a four mile run “off road”. So I dutifully donned my running gear after a productive morning and headed down to Burscough. The canal towpath is a pleasant run and something that I haven’t done in months. In fact, I think I last did it when I was starting out and running 3-4k’s maximum.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 18.57.45The weather was bright and warm for this time of year – six degrees! So a t-shirt and some shorts was sufficient. In retrospect, I probably looked like a nutter because everyone else I saw was wrapped up with coats and scarves, but hey ho, I felt fine.

The run starts on a soft gravel section. I quickly discovered that this was ideal for large puddles to form and the grass around the path had reverted to a vast sea of mud. I picked my way through this as best I could, thinking that one false move could end up with me in the canal.

After about a mile the path thins out and becomes a hard mud rut from people walking along the canal. This was fine for about 300 yards. Then I hit a sea of mud that went for the rest of the run until I turned around. Ground churned up variously by bikes, motorbikes, horses, walkers (and possibly the odd person running). With every step I was getting more tired, slipping all over the place and generally concerned that I’d twist my ankle or something else.

This video should give you an idea of what I must have looked like:

I finally made it back to the car after a much slower run than anticipated. The puddles that had looked like vast lakes on the way out now looked like nothing and I was just running through any old water and mud just to get back. My legs felt knackered and overall I was shattered.

All in all, I was happy that I’d done the run and I can see why they had a shorter run off-road than I’ve been doing lately. It’s really very hard.

Tomorrow the schedule says weights. So it’s another NROL break-in workout. I’m very glad that I’ll be giving the legs a teeny tiny rest. Not much though, those squats and lunges can be a killer.

Only four more days until the end of Janathon. You never know, I might just get to the end.

Foot related caution – visit to the gym. Day 26

ricky-tomlinson-the-greenroom-477102795-3269061This morning I woke up at the Jury’s Inn hotel at the Albert Dock in Liverpool. We had been out at the Green Room the night before. A fascinating evening which most of the family looked like they really enjoyed. It’s a cabaret style club in the centre of Liverpool, run by Ricky Tomlinson – of Brookside and Royle Family fame. His face is everywhere. Like an omnipresent overlord of FUN. Sadly he wasn’t compereing this evening. But his stand in was amazing.

The first act was a 17 year old singer who came on to do three warbling songs – the standard fare on X-Factor (well, the bits that I’ve seen). The compare introduced him with the line “Give a warm welcome for this lad – he’s nervous back there. In fact he’s shitting himself”, and so the bar was set high before he even came on.

Second up was a musical comedy “impersonator”. His act consisted of donning different wigs and glasses, singing amusing lyrics to famous songs. There were elements of this act that I found difficult to enjoy, but on the whole I’d say that most people really enjoyed him a lot. I watched a lot of it from between the gaps of my fingers.

The third act was a sort of cabaret entertaining singer. He was good. His rendition of Born Free had Jude and I singing along – we were singing the Vic Reeves version, but it was still fun.

Finally there was a Stylistics tribute act. They were fine. They played two songs that I recognised, but there was a lot of dancing around the tables. And yes, I joined in.

Overall it was fun – everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and Sue (who’s birthday it was) appeared to have a brilliant time. The way the evening unfolds, it feels very much like we were being bludgeoned into having fun. That probably sounds a bit churlish. I’d go back. There’s a Take That tribute band on in May, that would be incredible.

So when I woke up this morning the top of my right foot felt sore. It feels like something has been pulled. I’m not sure what it is because I’ve never had a soreness quite like it. I’ve had a quick look on the Bupa running injuries site, but I can’t see what it could be. It’s definitely not plantar fasciitis, because it’s in the wrong place, but I decided to be a bit careful.

janathon-participant-logoI was going to go out to do my 8 mile run today. A glorious run down towards Westhead and then back around Lathom and Burscough to get back home. However, I was worried that I might hurt my foot a bit more and so instead went to the gym this afternoon. At least I could stick to machines that wouldn’t impact my foot too much.

I pulled out my old card that I hadn’t updated since November and did the programme that I was doing back then. Happily I did a bit (and sometimes a lot) better than I was doing back then:

  • Running machine, 10 minutes, speed 8.5-9.0 (up from 8-8.5)
  • Rowing machine, 2000m. 8 minutes 51 seconds. Down from 9:05 last time
  • Mountain climber machine thing. 10 minutes, 1.3km compared to 1.07km last time.
  • 3×20 swiss ball crunches (didn’t do these last time, was waiting for the cross trainer machine)
  • Cross trainer: 20 minutes, 3.34 km compared to 2.86km last time

On the whole it looks like I’ve improved across the board in the last couple of months. This is good. I’ll try and include a session in the gym through February’s training as I really felt that I could have done a lot better on the rowing machine.

I can still feel my foot, but it’s not too bad. It just doesn’t feel right and so I’ll continue to err on the side of caution until such time that I’m confident to do a good long run on it.

Parkrun. Janathon Day 25.

Blogging early today. Paul Cotterill and I went to the Pennington Flash Parkrun, partly to see how things are done there. It was my first time at a Parkrun and I was really impressed – with the informality and friendliness and with the efficiency of the organisation.

2014-01-25 09.02.20

On the surface there isn’t much to running a Parkrun. A few marshals and volunteers along with a bit of scanning technology to make the results easier to organise. It works well that way because it allows people to just turn up without a number, and yet still be able to be logged in the national database and get a recorded time. I was impressed.

The schedule says that I should be doing some weights today, but I think that I’m ok squeezing in a quick run rather than the session that I had planned.

We’re off to The Green Room tonight. A club in Liverpool owned (and apparently compered) by Ricky Tomlinson. It’s a birthday party and it should be really good fun. Goodness knows how I’ll feel tomorrow when I’m supposed to do my long run, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

For now I’ll just pat myself on the back. I’ve done more running in January now than I have in any other month since I started nearly a year ago. Well, I’ve run further and at some point this coming week I will have run for longer. I’ve also done more activities.

So far this month I’ve done the following:

  • 25 activities
  • 15 runs
  • 10 weights / strength sessions
  • 56.4 miles run
  • 11.05 hours running
  • about 5 hours weights

One week to go and I’m feeling really very pleased about it.

I’ve been thinking about old friends again recently. I should really be in touch with them more – especially those on Facebook, since it’s just a case of dropping a quick note. But I often feel like they’re busy, or wouldn’t want to be bothered by a message from me. I’m sure that one or two might read this from time to time. *waves* I haven’t forgotten you and I really ought to make more of an effort.

As it’s Liverpool tonight, I’m going to indulge in a little bit. I don’t really like The Beatles much any more, and I particularly don’t like the way that they’re idolised by planners and politicians in Liverpool. The people that I meet and know don’t seem to hold them up as saints, but I guess the city elders have to try and get tourists in somehow. It gives the impression of a city constantly looking backwards, unable to let go of the past. Of course the irony of that statement immediately after my note about friends isn’t lost on me! To continue the mixed up hypocrisy and confusion, “In My Life” is one of the few Beatles songs that I think I’ll always adore. Here’s the Johnny Cash version.

Janathon day 24. Rain in the runnertime.

Today I’ve mostly been at the Wigan Youth Zone. Have I mentioned before that it’s the biggest youth club in the country? Well, apparently it is. Some say that it’s the largest in Europe, but I couldn’t say.

This is inside the youth centre. Just a teeny tiny part of it.
This is inside the youth centre. Just a teeny tiny part of it.

I’ve been working on some of the IT at the centre, and we’re currently getting some fingerprint biometrics in.

It’s an interesting project, partly because of the perceived issues around privacy, databases and what we might be doing with the data. At least I know exactly what we’re doing with the data. We’re not using something off the shelf, but instead our own code, so I’m happy that we’re not slipping fingerprint images off to the police, the NSA or GCHQ.

2014-01-24 14.47.28-1So we had some fingerprint readers put on to the main turnstile into the centre. Not live yet, but it should be ready to go some time next week. I think that they look alright, and the system should be brilliant once it’s all working.

I was at the Youth Zone through most of the day, getting back home some time after 4pm. The training schedule says I should take a 4 mile run today. Through the afternoon it had been raining persistently. It rained all the way home and I was seriously considering running on the treadmill. However, anything over three miles is a real pain on the treadmill – it gets too hot, it’s monotonous and my feet and calves generally hurt after it. I probably run differently on the treadmill than when I’m outside.

The rain got heavier when I got home, and it was cold and windy. It was a hard decision, but I opted for running outside, despite never having gone out when it was raining. To be fair, I’ve been caught in the rain many times but never willingly gone out.

So I took the route down Narrow Moss Lane and back along Pippin Street, the same one that I took on day 13. It’s a good route, gently downhill and mostly gently uphill (apart from a bit close to the Beaufort when it rises quite quickly). The problem today was that as I was running further away from the house, I could feel the wind and the rain hitting my back. Which meant that the return was uphill with the wind and rain hitting my front and face. The return is mainly open fields, so the wind was whipping across the fields. It was reminiscent of running in the snow last year. That time I ended up taking a short cut and getting home quickly. This time I took the full route to get to the four miles.

When I did the run the other day it took 46:51, this time it was 44:55. Which made it the fastest that I’ve run 3-4 miles, smaller distances don’t count (for the purposes of this). So I ran in rain that was like the end of the world, and I ran the fastest. These two things may well be linked, but regardless, I’m very happy about this.

Next weekend I’m off to see T’Alarm in Llandudno. Some hungover conversations led to me going out running which led to this craziness. Quite a big anniversary.

Day 23. Woooooooooooooooo! Woo hoo! Woooooooooo!

Awesomeness_motivational_poster_1_A_Whole_Lotta_Pictures_s500x400_147703_580-s500x400-157374-580I’m fucking awesome. Did I ever tell you that? Probably not, because it’s something that I’ve kept close to my chest – hidden mostly. But those close to me know that it’s impossible to spend more than five minutes with me without being slimed with awesomeness.

Something happened to change my mind recently. I’d always been ashamed of the sticky residue of awesomegoop that I left as a trail, but the scales have been scrubbed from my eyes with wire wool and I’m ready to take on the world.

Why the change? Well I did my weights this evening.





Not just normal weights, oh no. SUPER FUCKING AWESOME weights. Day 23 weights. Lifting things. Oh yes. And pulling things down. Oh and stepping up and down – like a BOSS!

And it was harder.

Bigger heavier weights. Pullier harder bands. Steppier steps. And I rocked them all.

Now get back to whatever not-awesome thing you were doing. I have beer to drink. Awesome beer.

Janathon day 22. A seven mile run.

37640583Yesterday was, in the local vernacular, “a bit shit”. Today was better – yay! I have my theories on why yesterday was so rubbish, but I think that lack of sleep played a big part.

Recognising that, I’m now staying up late to try and get this blog post written. Oh how I don’t learn.

So today’s work-related fun was mostly around software licensing and getting some decent ownership deeds in place for a bundle of things that I’ve been developing (or have been working with others). I met the solicitor who will be doing the work over at Source, my favourite deli/beer shop/breakfast haunt. I find that it’s good to hold business meetings somewhere with shelves full of beer. Even if I can’t drink them, it’s somehow reassuring.

I’ve also been mulling over the idea of being a project manager. Apparently that’s what I’m doing most of the time. Although I’d class it as project mis-management. Training might be in order and this is probably something for February. While I very much enjoy programming and think it’s a noble skill and profession, I think that economics and practical time management have meant that I’m organising others to do the writing and not me. Oh well, I suppose this is just one home truth that I need to learn to live with. Plenty more where that came from!

The schedule said that I should do a four mile run today, with some intervals. However, I was feeling slightly bad for skipping the long run at the weekend, when I was at training and didn’t really have time. So I resolved to do the long run today.

My happy plan of going for the run and then getting the children was scuppered due to a mixture of phone calls, emails and trying to work out a route that would start and end at the school. So instead I waited until after taking the children to Tai Kwon Do.

I worked out a pleasant route out through Burscough, up towards Lathom, over to Westhead, up the hill back into Ormskirk and then gently downhill again to our house. It would have been a great route – had it not been pitch black and on one of the craziest-driving back roads in the Borough. So I had to reassess.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 23.40.14In the interests of staying alive, I decided to go for the uninspiring, yet lit, route of running along the A59. Out through Burscough and then on towards Rufford. Turning around at 3.5 miles and then running back.

The only problem with this route is that it’s basically downhill all the way out and then uphill all the way back. Unlike Monday’s run where the uphill part is for about one mile of a four mile run, this was 3.5 miles down and 3.5 miles back up. When I got to the point of turning around, I was very tempted to just phone Jude and ask her to come pick me up.

Actually, the other problem with this run is that I turn around just after passing a really lovely curry house, right in the middle of nowhere. Last time we went it was delicious. Next time, I should wear a rucksack and pick up some food for when I get home.

Coming back was slower than going out. Pace of 11:30-ish per mile going out 12:45-ish coming back. That’s probably consistent with the terrain. I didn’t want to go too fast heading out because I wanted to get back home in one piece.

I had realised that I was running using my calf muscles the other day, or being over-reliant on them, and so today I tried pushing from my thighs instead. This seemed to work better for the uphill part of the run, but I think it shows that I need to work on my technique. It certainly explains why my calfs had been getting quite achey after runs.

That said, I’m quite achey now. I was a little sore when I first headed out. That was down to my weights liftathon yesterday. I was feeling it when I got home. Having said that, I felt like I could have done another couple of miles at that pace – albeit a slow pace. I think that I might push 8 miles at the weekend.

So I did 7 miles in 1 hour and 25 minutes. This classes as my fourth fastest 5+ mile run according to Runkeeper. However, when I dug into it, it’s my fastest 7 mile run, and I’ll take that, thank you very much. I also wore a heart monitor as I was using my Garmin watch. That showed an steady heartbeat and an average of 155. Given what I’ve read, I think that’s a fair rate.

I got back close to 9pm. Time for a shower, dinner, skype meeting and writing a presentation for the morning. It’ll be another busy day tomorrow. I’m really banking on it being quiet and relatively relaxed at the weekend. Fingers crossed.