J minus 3 days

Like an angry badger lurking in a nearby hedgerow, Juneathon is waiting and ready to pounce. I am responding by going “la la la la la la la” with my fingers in my ears and my eyes shut. I have considered tearing June out of the calendar in an attempt to bypass the whole thing, but I suspect that this wouldn’t work and it might muck up the whole wibbly wobbly timey wimey thing.  Anyway, I’ve booked my train ticket for the Juneathon picnic and the Queen of the Athons has a very much zero tolerance policy for slackers (no Juneathon, no al fresco dining in the park), so it looks like I’ll be doing it again.

Anyone who has done one of the Athons will confirm that exercising every day is the easy bit, the challenge is to blog about something vaguely interesting every twenty-four hours. This Juneathon, I have a plan… I’m going on a treasure hunt.

What I would like is suggestions of thirty items treasure that I can find on my daily runs – things, concepts, stuff – and I’ll somehow try to incorporate one into each day’s blog or photo. This may turn out to be a ridiculous idea, but then it’s probably no more ridiculous than signing up for Juneathon again.

If you would like to suggest something, add a comment or send me a tweet (@knittingpenguin) but please bear in mind that I will be  doing most of my running around rural(ish) Lancashire, except for the nine days of my ten day holiday in (proper) rural Kent.

Oh, and Ginge has just declared himself Keeper of the List, apparently “so you can’t cherry pick the easiest ones” from people’s suggestions. I don’t think that I like that part…

Racing again – Port Sunlight 10k

Does anyone read this for up to the minute news about what I’m up to? I really hope not.

Not last Sunday, but the Sunday before was the first ever Port Sunlight 10k and I ran it. Not only did I run it, I was proper looking I think it was a combination of the fact that it was a brand new race and that they sent safety pins out with the race pack, but I had a feeling that it was going to be a lovely one. In fact, how can a place called Port Sunlight be anything but lovely?

The soft mist of spray on the breeze was very welcome

Port Sunlight was built by Mr Lever (of Lever Brothers fame) for the workers at the Sunlight soap factory. What makes it wonderful is that he commissioned thirty different architects to design the houses, meaning that there is an incredible mix of styles of housing – in fact the village has an amazing 900 listed buildings within its 130 acres. This was always going to be a bit different  to running along Blackpool front.

It’s a bit posh round here

When my safety pin filled race pack arrived, the first thing that I did was look at the course. The second thing that I did was start panicking that I was going to get lost. It’s a two lap race that goes round the village in a sort of complicated figure of eight – I tried to trace the route by following the arrows on the map, but kept ending up at the start point without going around the top half of the eight. Sensible logic told me that (a) there would be marshalls and (b) it was highly unlikely that I would find myself at the front of the pack yelling “tally ho chaps, follow me….”.

Even though my training continues to be unfocused and erratic, my enthusiasm for the race had me convinced that I could pull a decent performance out of the bag. It turned out that whilst a positive mental attitude is important on raceday, it cannot replace sweaty hard work out on the pavements. Whether it was a bit of sunshine, thinking too hard about what I was doing or a lack of actual training, I did find it hard going and although I was happy with the first half, I slumped between 5 and 6km and found it hard to get going again.

Strictly speaking, this is mostly the queue for the loo rather than, say, the start line

The race itself is very friendly – lots of local runners from the village and lots of people standing outside their houses cheering on people they know. The looped route made it quite spectator friendly and the sight of Ginge popping up when I least expected it was a welcome bonus. My other spectator highlights were a girl playing the spoons and the lady who yelled “come on, no slacking” at me as I shuffled past her front door. The marshalls were plentiful and supportive – on the second loop “this is the last time that you’ll pass these marshalls!” kept me going for a stretch. There was a good mix of club runners (to the chap in full compression gear – I salute you and can only imagine the ‘flub’ sound that would accompany me taking off that amount of tight lycra), mid-level runners, beginners and a bloke who was running proper barefoot. All in all it was a good morning out, even if my time wasn’t the best I’ve ever managed.

My lesson learned is that if I want to get a bit faster, I’ll have to have a bit of focus and as such I am embarking on a plan to shift my arse into gear. Luckily it’s nearly Juneathon…

Drummers – a guaranteed pickmeup

A weighty issue

I’ve spent quite a chunk of today pondering on whether or not to write this post. Obviously I’ve plumped for ‘yes’. Plumped is the operative word here as today’s post is about weight. More specifically, my weight. I don’t usually write about weight because in all honesty, that’s not what my running is all about. While I happily admit to the fact that I didn’t run I would probably be lardier, I don’t run to lose weight. In fact, I’m quite happy with my size and shape. Don’t get me wrong, there’s times in changing rooms where I might wish there was a bit less squidge (especially when I’m between trouser sizes) and occasionally I will look enviously at willowy types with their gazelle-like legs, but on the whole I’m content and am certainly happier with myself now than I was when I was nearly a stone lighter.

So why now? Well since Easter I’ve had a wedding, a bit of a holiday, meals out, a few days off at home, a brownie and pizza fuelled day out in London, a lot of beer and a degree of laziness resulting in a few too many takeaways. On top of that, bad habits have crept in; mainly treats becoming daily occurrences (I do enjoy something sweet with my evening cup of tea) and a lax approach to portion control (especially when a generous heap of my homemade muesli with dried fruit, nuts, seeds and um, maple syrup, has replaced my carefully measured porridge oats on a daily basis…). Normally after an indulgent weekend I’ll see a couple of pounds go on but they’ll slide off after a few days. At the moment, those couple of pounds have decided that they’ll stick around and then invite some mates around for a bit of extra company.

Basically, if I don’t do something, those pounds will become permanent residents, my weight will creep up a bit more and, horror of horrors, I will have to go shopping for new work trousers. This is not how I want to spend my time or my money.

A few years ago (although thinking about it, it’s about eight years now), I lost a couple of stones at Weight Watchers. I have absolutely no urge to go any slimming club at the moment; they work but that’s not where my head is at the moment. While I didn’t appreciate the incessant flogging of weighing scales and cereal bars, going to Weight Watchers did teach me a couple of things mainly Write Stuff Down and Make Better Choices. It does me good to keep an honest food diary, otherwise I ‘forget’ about the bits raided from the fridge, the team meeting biscuits and all sorts of other odds and ends. The choices thing sort of can be summed up by the Men’s Health book Eat This, Not That, and is really the realisation that sometimes a small tweak of a choice can make a difference (see my muesli vs porridge situation). It can also be a question of acknowledging that although you can have your cake and eat it, you can’t always have a pie as well – there must be a decision which is more important (the answer to that depends on the cake. And the pie). This all came from the day that I realised that a lovely KitKat Chunky was a third of my days points – much as I like them, I didn’t like them that much. Having said that, I had a similar moment when I realised that a J2O had the same points as a pint of Guinness (like that’s a choice that needs a lot of thinking over).

So in an attempt to record my food and make positive choices, I have downloaded the MyFitnessPal app. I’ve follow a lot of people on Twitter who use this and after a day I like what I see. I’m not planning to do strict calorie counting, but it’s already making me think about what I’m eating (it was the brains behind my muesli eureka moment and the reason why I chose to have an adequate portion of couscous, rather than an autopilot half a bag of fresh pasta, for my tea). It gives me nifty little piecharts and stats about the nutritional values of what I’m eating, and does the adding up of all these figures. I also get to zap barcodes, which always makes me happy.

I’m not sharing numbers with you all, I can’t guarantee that I will write regularly about any of this particular project and I can’t even say for certain that it will work. I’ll be the first to admit that no one comes here for the technical details, if you do want to read about proper weight loss and fitness, have a look at Julia Buckley who has both (a) given exact details (b) taken ‘before’ photos and (c) knows exactly what she’s talking about. I on the other hand, am more likely to get distracted and post about wool.