Hello Dave, you are my wife now…

I have been too busy getting on with (and enjoying) a week’s worth of exercise to actually write about it, so here goes with a quick recap. After a splendid weekend in London (where our food diary went something like; Mr Tickle jelly sweets, beer, piggy barmcake, beer, kangaroo burger, beer, beer, noodles, beer, noodles, beer, falafel, beer, pizza, beer, jaffa cakes) both Ginge and I felt that it was time for a week of temple food and committed exercise. I have been forced back into the gym to rediscover the fact that I quite like doing weights and I have discovered that necessity can be the mother of chilled out running…

I had planned to do a longish interval session, but couldn’t decide on what intervals to run. Because of my indecision, I ended up extending each running session by a minute and it turned into a longish pyramid interval session instead. Well it did for the first half… After a couple of miles or so I started to feel some lower abdominal pains, which never bodes well. Without going into too much detail, if this starts after a mile or so it’s usually a sign that I need to stop running away from home, turn round and make sure that I’m within dashing distance of a familiar loo. However, while I’ve been doing intervals and trying to pick up my speed, I’ve noticed that I get very similar pain when I start to run faster (I’m convinced it’s a combination of how I breathe and tense my upper body). The fun part is trying to tell which sort of pain it is.

I weighed up the fact that I was doing intervals against the fact that the weekend’s excesses had left my insides a bit confused and decided not to risk it. I turned round, abandoned the intervals and gently headed back. The pains didn’t stop. In fact they got worse. I walked for a bit. They got even worse. I had a growing sense of dread that I wasn’t going to make it home. I pulled up outside the slightly dodgy looking motel that I’ve gone past hundreds of times but never been in – they might have toilets near reception, I could just nip in couldn’t I? Deep breath, in I went – no loos. No signs of life. I followed the instructions for locating staff until I reached a door marked ‘Private’. Another deep breath. I tapped tentatively… Sounding like Hugh Grant* (“Um, excuse me, this is um very embarrassing, but I’m out running and ah, could I um, use your loo…?”) but feeling like Papa Lazarou (“Hello Dave, can I use your toilet Dave? Dave, there is a blockage in your toilet…” **). Luckily the lady was very nice, directed me to where I needed to be, I did what I needed to do and yelping “thank you very much” as I scuttled past the door marked ‘Private’.

The rest of the run was uneventful.

I went to the gym. I like the gym. They have proper facilities there.

I fell asleep and declared it a rest day.

I took advantage of a late start at work to do an early but not too early 6 miles. The run itself was uneventful apart from the fact that it felt good, I enjoyed it and I managed to ignore the nagging voice of doubt that crept in after a couple of miles. Oh, and I ran without tunes. Normally I would have my shuffle on for anything more than three miles, but I couldn’t find my earphones and I was feeling reckless so off I went with only my thoughts for company. It turns out my thoughts are mostly weird and a large chunk of the run was taken up with thinking about advanced directives and what decisions I would want making if anything happened to me and I lost capacity. Cheerful. It did occur to me that it would be ironic if this was the run, without tunes and whilst thinking about such things, that I would get run over by a bus. Thankfully I wasn’t. I did see some swans though.

Another self-declared rest day. I knitted.

Long run day. I wasn’t sure if I was looking forward to this. On the one hand, I’d had some good runs during the week and was enjoying myself; on the other hand, what if I couldn’t do it? For once I’d put some thought into making sure that I was well prepared – a good carb-loaded tea the night before, only a small glass of wine, water before bed and when I got up, oats eaten an hour before setting off, water bottle filled. I had no route planned, other than turning right at the front door, left at the end of the road and then running 10 miles. After about half a mile, I realised that I had left my carefully filled water bottle on the kitchen table. Arse. I tried not to panic or give up and plodded on. This decided my route for me – rather than go a way that I find difficult at the best of times and has no escape routes, I went for a loop that could be 6.5 miles or it could be extended as much as I want. I plodded on, ignoring the dark grey clouds gathering to my left and listening to clever Radio 4 people talking amusingly about intellectually challenging things. Just over halfway, the heavens opened – I plodded on, actually quite grateful to be hydrating one way or another. At 6.5 miles, I plodded on with my extension loop, pausing at 8 miles to consider my route, before turning round and heading home, cold, wet and very pleased with myself.

The lesson of this story is that I seem to have an awful lot of comfort blankets in the form of routines when I run, some of them might be useful, but as long as I have me and my trainers I’m mostly ok.

And I hesitate to say this, but I think that I might have got my running mojo back!

*But not looking like him, unless he’s become a sweaty, red-raced blonde

**I hope that all of you familiar with the League of Gentleman are doing the voice. If you didn’t, go back and do the voice. Go on. You know you should.

Shiny new gadgetry in the sunshine

Having spent my last week of Juneathon blogging from a tent using an iPhone that hovered on the edge of battery life from about 4 o’clock on the day we arrived, I could have done with having some kind of mobile charging device. Unfortunately, I didn’t have one then. However, it appears that mobile charging devices are a bit like buses and, all of a sudden, two have come along at once.

The nice people at Mobile Solar Chargers sent me two styles to try. Both of them can be charged by mains, solar and USB or can trickle charge (I’m learning the technical terms as I go along) your electrical gubbins purely from the sun.

My plan for testing these was to give them a full charge and discharge three times for the sake of the battery and then take one to work to test it on one of my staying late days. Unfortunately my natural level of disorganisation let me down. The first time I tried, I remembered my phone and the charger, but not the right adapter. The second time I tried, I remembered my charger and the right adapter, but forgot my actual phone (it was awful, I felt lost). Anyway, what followed was a much more haphazard approach to my trials.

The Lite mobile charger has a nifty light on a stalk and an LED indicator on the back to show how much charge it has. I tried to charge this on the window sill but after a full day, I couldn’t get it past 80% so I gave up and charged it with the plug. Since then, I haven’t really tried out the charging technology, but the light on a stalk has proved to be bloody brilliant for reading my Kindle in bed.

Lite charger – with nifty light on a stalk

The second charger is the Pocket mobile charger. This doesn’t have a light on a stalk but instinctively I prefer the look and feel of it. This is purely a shallow judgement because it looks sleeker and swishier than its Lite counterpart (which seems a bit boxy and clunky in comparison).

The swishy Pocket mobile charger

Again, I haven’t had the organisational skills to try it out using its stored charge, but did carry out the following selfless scientific research. If you want to replicate the experiment you will need:

  • A sunny Thursday (preferably a birthday)
  • A beer garden
  • Some lovely beer (to be truly accurate reconstruction, this should be a pint of Lancaster Straw)
  • Splendid company
  • An iPhone and a solar charger

First of all, fritter away a good amount of battery power by messing around on twitter and the internet.

Do not judge the prioritising of my apps. Just look at the lovely sheep.

Next, locate a suitable beer garden, purchase a pint of lovely beer and take up residence in the sunshine. Bask for a moment in the joy of being in a beer garden on a Thursday afternoon.
Whilst basking (there’s no point stopping just for the sake of science) plug charger into phone and wait.

After an hour or so, marvel that your phone is fully charged.

Oooh look! Charged! I had a very nice slow cooked pulled beef sandwich while this was doing its thing.

This bodes very well for future camping trips.

Oh, and another thing that I have been very impressed with is the sturdiness of the various adapters – I’ve had another charger in the past and that ended up with me having to use a pair of tweezers to remove half a mini-USB lead from some gadget or another.

Both the Lite (£24.95) and Pocket (£19.95) chargers are available from Mobile Solar Chargers (and I do intend to carry on with my haphazard experiments).

Nagging voices (real and imagined)

The battle between head and legs has started. I have developed another mental block on long runs and the really annoying thing is that it’s kicking in after, ooooh, a couple of miles. A couple of miles! Ridiculous. To try to get past this (and because he’s managed to nearly lop off the top of one of his fingers and can’t do his normal gym/training stuff) Ginge joined me on an after work long run of 10ish miles.

The negative nagging head kicked in after an unbearably short while at which point Ginge looked disappointed and nagged encouraged me to stop being a slacker. This lasted until I next ground to a halt when he decided to introduce a penalty system where I would have to do an extra 0.1 mile for every time I stopped. Apparently this was a carrot and stick system where the stick was having to do the extra distance if I stopped running and the carrot was not having to do the extra distance if I didn’t stop running; I still feel that I’ve been duped on this one.  To be honest, I carried on being a bit rubbish and there were little walking breaks throughout the whole thing.

On the one hand I know that this is a perfectly acceptable way to approach longer distances and I know that they weren’t the best conditions for me. I had underfed myself (salad is not pre-run food) (although Ginge had eaten the same as me and he was fine) (but I’m soft), it was a lot warmer than I expected and I was somewhat distracted by an impending stressful work thing the next day. On the other hand, I know that these are just excuses and I can do this if I put my mind to it and start to ignore the negative little voice that lurks in the back.

By the end of the run (which ended up as 10.5 miles because of route mismanagement rather than punishment) I felt as if my knees had been put on backwards and my aching ankles (caused by traipsing around Manchester over the weekend) were grumbling even more. All of this makes me suspect that a new pair of trainers might be in order. I was hoping that my faithful New Balances and the cheeky new upstart Asics Kayanos (that have tried to replace the NBs in my affections) might survive until October and then I could treat myself to a shiny new pair post-Royal Parks. Now I’m not so sure. I think that there’s certainly enough time to break in a new pair before the start line and the idea of running on bouncy new soles is rather appealing, but this wasn’t part of the plan. I think I’ll give my Asics a run out and see how they go over a distance. Or maybe think of a new post-race treat…

A marathon effort

Last night’s Olympics-inspired take-no-prisoners attitude to trainin lasted until, um, this morning when we were woken by the swish of cars through puddles as the rain fell steadily. Then I remembered that the Olympic women’s marathon had been run in a downpour and none of them had melted (although a few didn’t took too impressed at the wet sponges that we’re being proferred at them by the stewards).

Of course the one thing missing from the marathon was Paula Radcliffe. I was sent a rather lovely infographic (that I don’t fully understand) that maps out her world record-setting London Marathon run in 2003.

Paula Radcliffe sets marathon world record; London, 2003

“This fabulous work represents an aerial view of the Marathon’s route and plots Radcliffe’s progression through London. The crosshair signifies the starting point of the race. Each kilometre is shown as a concentric circle in gold, growing in width the further along the route that point is. The silver markings represent the increase and decrease in Paula’s speed throughout each 5-mile split, whilst the gloss layer showcases the official 5-mile split times.”

My run was nothing like that and I did 8.5miles disturbed only by a thunderous tummy rumble of hunger at 3 miles. And it didn’t even rain that much in the end.

Awe inspiring

Following complaints that I haven’t written anything for a while (apparently it’s the only way that my immediate family know what I’ve been up to – hello mum), last night I started to post about how my running has been a bit on and off recently because I’ve had (to use the technical medical term) ‘generalised wonkiness‘.

But then I watched the Olympic athletics on the telly and heard Mo Farah say that he runs 120 miles a week (and he’s not even doing Juneathon), which quite frankly made me feel a bit mardy for whinging that I’ve had a bit of a cold. I turn 33 next week, so I presume that I’m not quite the generation that the Olympic legacy should be inspiring, and I certainly didn’t expect to get caught up in all of the coverage, but I have. I sit and marvel at the human form – the women are basically made up of the same component parts as me, we have the same basic arrangement of skin and bones and muscle groups, but they’re just assembled so, so differently. The effort and commitment that goes into being an athlete (of any sport or discipline) like that puts into context the grumbling about getting out after work or resisting a lovely biscuit (she says typing with fingers made sticky by jam tarts).

And I love the fact that even though there’s all sorts of super-technology going into race kit, they still have to have their race numbers safety pinned to their fronts like us mere mortals (but somehow I doubt that any of them have had an over the boobs/under the boobs pinning debate pre-race).

So how to get into the Olympic spirit even more? Well, with a visit to Bradley Wiggins’s actual golden postbox with Stan the knitted pigeon, that’s how.

One postbox, one pigeon

Stan proudly adorned with his medal that he won in Aunty Freda’s button box


PS. Since my last post, I’ve discovered that the actual collective noun for slugs is ‘a cornucopia’ – I wish to register a complaint about this.