After my earlier post on being able to stalk me, I've had literally a couple of people asking me to explain what RSS is after I included it in the list of ways to keep track of the blog.

Fair do's.

I included it without explanation because it's something I use a lot at work. Unforgivably, I assumed everyone knew how to use it. I was probably thinking that if an idiot like me can use it, everyone can.

So, here's Phil's guide to RSS...

To save the hassle of checking lots of websites to see what's been updated I use something called an RSS reader. I use Google Reader* as it's browser-based, so I can look at it on any computer with an interweb connection.

This tells you when there are new items on the sites you've told it you want to check (in my case mainly news sites).

Most news sites and blogs have an RSS button. To add it to your reader, simply click on it and copy the web address it gives you. For Google Reader, you then go to your reader, click on “add subscription”**, paste the address into the box and click "add".

Then you'll see the “feed” in your reader, which will be updated when something new is put on the website you want.

At the risk of sounding like I'm talking to a child, you do have to have your reader on to see updates. I know there are a lot of technophobes out there, so I'm trying not to isolate you.

Not sure comparing your mental capacity to a child is helpful, but there are also technophiles out there who probably think this is so very 2002.

When a new story comes up, some sites let you read the whole thing in the reader. Others (including this one) only give you the first few lines, so you have to click to go to the site to read the whole thing.

If, like me, you keep any eye on lots of feeds (in my case about 60) it saves lots of hassle. Also, you can usually create different labels/folders for different feeds. This means you can, for example, group all your sports feeds under one label, your news ones under another.

If none of this makes sense, just use one of the other ways, unless you fancy emailing me to try to explain it to you in a better way.

Alternatively, the BBC have a decent guide that might make more sense than this gibberish.

* Needs Google Account, which is free, and you can use it for Gmail, Google Docs and loads of other web-based stuff (I hesitate to use the term “cloud” for fear of confusing people even more).
** “subscription is just the term used for the RSS feed, it doesn't mean you have to pay anything!

Best shops for running gear?

Let's be honest, my entire marathon attempt is a bit of a low-budget affair.

I've bought cheap trainers, told you to work out what type of foot you have by standing in a puddle and recommended strapping a giant marker to your head , as low cost options to the scientific stuff proper athletes use.

I'm not ashamed of that – I firmly believe anyone training to do the marathon already is probably suffering enough, and they shouldn't be out of pocket for doing it as many are running to raise money for brilliant causes close to their heart.

So, when I defended JJB the other day, it wasn't out of any links or loyalty, just the fact that, from experience, they’ve the best major high street sport shop I've found.

I'm not saying they're brilliant, or running specialists, just for the average person who doesn't know a lot about running, you can get the basics, and a bit more, there - at reasonable prices.

I was planning to do a post looking at the full survey results from the Independent story - to see where any other sports shops came. Sadly, to see the full survey you have to pay to subscribe to Which?, which seems ironic.

So, I'm now doing my own - I've had a couple of suggestions via Facebook, and I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Where's good value? Who gives good advice? Which stores have the most attractive assistants? Who'll offer a good deal if you get two pairs?

Let me know about any of them, either via comments below, email, Twitter or Facebook, and I'll put together something on the results next week.

Opening up to the masses

After my post on major high street sports shops, I had a fair few comments from people suggesting other place to try.

I'm putting together a new post on that topic, but the feedback got me thinking that it might be worth tuning the comments on on here.

I haven't yet as I wasn't sure it was called for – people tend to dip in to see what I'm up to, then leave and get on with their lives.

So I'm gonna turn them on for a bit to see what comments/ suggestions/abuse comes my way.

Is it worth it?

I hate running

It's amazing how an eight mile run brings it all back.

No proper footpath, being run off the road by cars, slipping through mud, being chased by dogs, stitches, phone calls from window salesmen... why do people actually do this for fun?

Don't they have a TV?

And what is it with people not understanding the concept of indicators? When you turn into a junction, you indicate, so as to "indicate" to road users and pedestrians where you're going, and not scare the bejesus out of them (Volvo v40 driver - you know who you are!).

Equally, if you are approaching a junction indicating, then other road users and pedestrians will probably assume you are about to perform a turning manoeuvre and wait for you to turn. They do not expect you to keep rattling past (Escort van man, you know who you are).

Anyway, I've completed my longest run to date, which - from training point of view at least - went ok.

So, that's good.

But my hatred of everything continues unabated.

Marathon training for simpletons – revisited

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll confirm I'm nothing if not eager to make people happy.

They'll also tell you I'm full of happiness, love, and the milk of human kindness.

That's because if they didn't, they know I'd make their lives miserable.

Because I'm so eager to please, I've updated the Marathon Running for Simpletons mini-series with all the necessary links.

Why, do you ask, have I been labouring so hard?

Well, I checked my visitor stats, and a lot of people were coming in on the first part, then going to the search function as the info they needed wasn't easy to find.

Unlike a regular website, this blog doesn't have sections and drop down menus to organise the info on here.

That's because I wrote it organically, so only tended to link back to post I'd already written.

This is a good thing as it makes it a truer reflection of the journey I'm going on to get to the end of the Mall, but is limiting if people are just dropping in, and don't actually know - or care about - me.

I could spend time and effort making it more like a normal website, and messing around with the innards, but I'm not a script monkey so it would probably take ages, and there's a high likelihood it would break.

I've now gone back to the beginning to link through to posts that appeared later, so it's easier to find more specific info.

It's quite worrying that people are coming here for information on marathon running, as I'm no expert - just a bloke who's done it before and knows it's immensely difficult.

So if you just happen to be popping in to see what advice I have, here it is in a nutshell - don't do it, it's horrible!

Not sure what thet'll do for my visitor stats, but I'm nothing if not honest.

Ask anyone who knows me...

I know Which? sports shop I prefer

I saw this story in the Independent on a report by Which? and it reminded me of the fun and games I had trying to find a hi-viz vest last year.

I have to agree JD Sports are crap, but at least JJB had something I wanted.

When I went to get new trainers I tried SportsDirect and asked the girl if they had anything with neutral cushioning for supinators and she ran away.

It's JJB I'm keeping an eye on for the trainers I'll be doing the marathon in, as they're the most runner-friendly major high street chain I've been able to find.

I've not yet had to ask for in-depth advice, but I'd trust them to know a bit more, or at least find someone in the shop who knows, than JD Sports.

If I were totally flush with cash I'd be probably be going to Sweatshop, but I'm not, so am making do the high street way.

As if the London marathon weren't a challenge enough...

Tonight Matthew, I'll be aiming for the second of three little challenges I've got this week.

The first was to get going again on Tuesday's seven miler. That was mission accomplished, with a few important lessons – don't forget to take hair stuff when you're running and showering before a meeting, and to warm down.

I was in some pain yesterday!

I normally go through a series of stretches to warm down. Then, for even more fun, I get into a cold shower for about a minute, to clear the lactic acid in my muscles, before running it hot.

It's something I thought I'd try after reading about it in Monty Panesar's biography that I got for Chrimbo. I've been trying it at smaller distances and, despite being horrible, it seems to help prevent the aching, but for some reason I didn't do it - or the stretches - on Tuesday.

Hopefully the constant dull aching will serve as a reminder to do it in future.

The next challenge is tonight's eight miler – my furthest run so far. It's another general aerobic run to get the miles under my belt and get my body adapting to what it needs to do to finish the 26.2 miles – such as high glycogen storage and using fat.

Thankfully (or not, depending on point of view) this is a straightforward there-and-back rather than a loop, so I'm less likely to be tempted to just go home. In my head I think I only have to run four miles. Then, if I want to get home, I have to run four miles back – see how I play with my mind!.

The third challenge, and the one I'm most dreading, is Sunday's 11 miles.

I'm not sure this qualifies as a “long run” in the scheme of my training – it's only just over half the distance of the longest training run I'll do. It's basically the first step on what will be my regular Sunday habit of pushing runs up to 20 miles .


I've not run double digits since last year's marathon so this also has the double pleasure of being both both a physical and psychological barrier.

As if one weren't enough.

So, to stop me dreading Sunday, I'm focusing on tonight's little trundle of joy, and on making sure I do the necessary to not suffer too much afterwards.

It's weird to think I have to focus on not being in pain.

This is what my life has become...

The difference between me and a good marathon runner...

Paula Radcliffe has apparently headed to the US to start her training for the Marathon.

She's already had three weeks in France, and heads out next week.

Alright for some!

Wonder if I jetted off around the world I'd be quite as good as her?

As I'm skint, I'll probably never know, but for now, the mean streets of Surrey and Greater London will have to do.

Half measures

Saw a report on the Stafford Sentinel about the high uptake they've got for the Stratford Half Marathon.

Apparently it's so busy because people are using it as part of their prepartion for the marathon.

Hadn't really thought about finding any half marathons to compliment the training. I looked at some last year, but the Wokingham was full, so I gave up.

I'm scheduled for a Marathon specific 15 miler that week w/ 12 mi @ marathon race pace, so a half, could be good on that weekend - though I shan't be schlepping to Stafford.

Think a peruse of Runners World may be on the cards.

Night of up and downs

I've had literally a person asking me how the run around the park next to work went last night. I was eager to blog an update last night, but I had a meeting that went on, and on, and on.

In the end I didn't get home until 11:20, so I wasn't convinced anyone would be up waiting at their PC for news on my training then, so thought I'd sleep instead.

Please correct me if I'm wrong. I'd hate to think anyone was up all night worrying.

The run was...odd.

It's a measured mile around the park, so I had to do seven laps. I'm not used to that and had to remember to count how many I'd done.

Normally I run to a point, then turn round and run home. I like that as it forces me to do the distance, as I've known myself for *cough* years and I hate running enough to know I'd be tempted to just go “oh sod it, I'm going back to bed”.

The same isn't true on a loop. The end of every mile presents you with the golden window of temptation to just say sod it.

Not go to bed, as I was by work, but to go chill before ridiculously long meetings.

I was sorely tempted at the end of miles three and four to do just that, but guilt at having missed a week of training provided me with sufficient stubbornness to keep going.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will know from my super scientific schedule that this wasn't just a seven-mile plod, this was seven miles with 8 x 100m strides in there.

This is basically, running flat out, stretching out the legs, for short bursts help improve my form.

I didn't like that bit.

At all.

It knackers you out, but then I guess it's supposed to.

Also, I don't know if you spend much time in a park in the dark, but you don't half get some looks!

Anyway, it was mission accomplished as I found my groove, and kept in it.

Run over, it was heading to the showers, which was when the wheels came off.

I got my stuff from my desk and headed to the shower room thing. There's a code on the door and I confidently tapped in the magical three digits.

Nothing happened.

Tried again.

Again, nothing.

If the 100m strides hadn't already accustomed me to my heart pounding, I could have found the pulse-quickening semi-panic quite daunting.

I'm not sure the prosepct of attending a meeting of around 50 councillors, and dozens of council officers is your kind of thing, but imagine it was, and you were going to such a meeting.

And you'd just been for a seven mile run.

And you hadn't been able to shower.

Fancy it? I thought not.

This image flashed through my mind in a split second, then I clicked into logical mode - the only possible cause of the problem was me being an idiot.

Unlikely, I know, but it can happen.

So I reached for my trusty Acer netbook, prayed the batetry was ok, and turned it on.

Sixteen seconds later (yes, 16 - try that on a Windows machine!) I was flying through my docs on there and opened my "FLM" document.

This was an inspired doc I wrote when I found out I was running this again, where I listed everything I needed to do before the day (new trainers, work out why back hurting, learn how to drink and run at same time etc.).

One of the items was "find code for work showers". Which I had done a while ago, and, recognising the crapness of my memory, I'd written the number next to it on the list.

God I'm good.

Turns out I was out by a digit, so I tapped in the right code, the door opened, and the weight of dread on my sholders evaporated.

I then jumped into the cubicle, unpacked my stuff, showered, dried off, got dressed and realised I hadn't brought any stuff to tame my hair.

If you don't know me, that might not seem much. But the fact is, I have what has been descibed by several barbers/hairdressers over the years as "b*****d hair". It's curly, unruly, and generally ridiculous. To keep from looking like I should be jumpgin over fences to help people sleep, I have to tame it with wax stuff.

So it was in such a state I sat through the meeting, feeling my hair growing more bouffon as the last of the moisture evapourated in the air conditioned chamber.

On the way to the station after the meeting, I caught sight of myself in a shop window. Not a good luck.

So, an otherwise successful run was marred by my failure to prepare adequately.

It's like a metaphor for how the marathon went last time!

Stalk me...

Because bookmarking a page and checking it every so often can be quite difficult for some people, I've also added a dazzling array of options to make it even easier to follow my progress.
  • Facebook - add me as a friend or join the Phil Runs London group
  • Twitter - follow me on twitter (profile id is philrunslondon) where I tweet regularly.
  • Email subscription - simply enter your email into the box on the right of this blog, verify it's you, then you can get regular updates in your inbox.
  • RSS - for those with readers like Google Reader, My Yahoo, Newsfire etc or use Firefox live bookmarks.
I'm sure I've missed some, but if you can't use at least one of the above, then you probably shouldn't be allowed near a computer, so you won't even be reading this email!

So, stay tuned, and enjoy my suffering as I once again take on the mean streets of London.

Training/work/life balance – 1-0 work?

So, you spend ages putting together a highly scientific* and personally tailored training schedule, and are raring** to rock on with the first run, when you suddenly find out the night you want to do it, you've got an evening meeting at work.

Not just working an extra couple of hours, but an actual meeting that doesn't kick off until 7:30pm. And it could go on for a couple of hours.

Now, running in the evenings is ok – I find it easier than mornings for some reason – but I don't fancy spending 14 hours at work, then half an hour getting home, then going for a 7 mile run.

I know, I know. I'm being awkward. But it just isn't my cup of tea.

I don't want to go squiffy on the schedule so early, so I am plotting a potential run at work - around the time everyone else is buggering off home. There's a measured mile in the park next to the building I'm in, so seven loops of that and the jobs a good one!

Thankfully there are showers at work, so I can freshen up before the meeting, and will hopefully avoid the “no-one sitting next to me” issue.

Just need to remember to take kit and shower stuff with me in the morning, otherwise I will be behind before I've even started.

* I have a BSc. so am a proper scientist.
** This claim may be a slight exaggeration

Nothing like the support of your colleagues

I've sent the obligatory email to a few dozen people at work letting them know I'm doing this again. This serves two purposes:
  1. Means I've got more people monitoring me to make sure I'm actually training
  2. Explains why I'm hobbling to meetings, without me having to relive the agony from a particularly painful run.

Now, I've been at my work for coming up for four years, so know a lot of people. A small percentage of these I can actually bear, so I let them know what I was doing.

And the response?

Good luck?

We're rooting for you?

Aren't you brave?

Not a chance. I've had “didn't you die last time?” and “nutter”.


It's lonely on the road...

It might be true that the London Marathon involves tens of thousands of people schlepping through the streets of the capital in a massive throng, but what you don't see on the tv from the comfort of your nice warm duvet on a Sunday morning, is that the training itself is pretty lonely.

Hundreds of miles of plodding along quiet roads can sound appealing - especially to someone like me who doesn't like people generally - but for months on end, it can be pretty soul destroying.

This is more noticeable for me this time, as unlike last year, I am doing this on my own. Last time I had a friend also giving it a stab, so there was someone to bounce off, to keep it interesting.

Not so this year, it's just me, my now-flagging w910i and the road.

This just dawned on me as I saw an article on the Guardian website offering the chance for some lucky person to have the use of a personal trainer to help prepare them for the marathon.
"Sam Murphy, will work with you over three intensive sessions in early February, March and April. She will improve your technique, teach you drills, set goals and create a personalised training programme for you. Ideally you will already have started your training, but Sam will help you take it to the next level."
I didn't think it possible to imagine another level to the horror that is training, but adding in a Mr Motivator-esque trainer to the equation certainly seems to do the job.

Then I got thinking.

Dangerous, I know.

Having someone to hold you to account on yuor training, offereing helpful advice, and being on the end of the email to answer questions, might be actually quite useful.

So I've whizzed an email off to see what happens, I doubt anything will, but the universe has some form in this area, so it might seek to punish me again.

Insane (almost) pensioner v stubborn northerner

It doesn't take much for me to think I'm not particularly good at this running lark, but when you read something like this it really hits home how crap I am.

This fellah is 63, trains six times a week - including a 22-miler every Sunday - and London will be his 66th marathon.

His 66th!

He's aiming to beat his time of 3:30 last year, which I would have been over the moon with myself!

It started when he went to the gym, then he got the running bug. Another very good reason never to go to the gym in my opinion.

I know I'm doing it again, so some might claim I've got "the bug", but there is a crucial difference between me and Terry. Well, there are many actually - he can run 22 miles, is healthy, dedicated etc.

But the main one is probably that I run out of stubbornness, not pleasure.

I'm not doing it to be healthy, find myself, or even to raise money. These are some of the side effects, but not the motivation.

I'm motivated by the fact I did so badly last time and need to redeem myself. It's pure bloody-mindedness, no more, no less.

Yes, raising money is great, and I've still never felt as healthy as when I did it last time, but that alone isn't enough for me to strap on the trainers.

I don't know if it's a psychological flaw, and I don't really care, but I know that if I'd made it round uninjured last time, I wouldn't be trying this again.

But I didn't, so I've got 13 weeks to get ready to get round.

And try to reconcile myself with the idea I'll probably be beaten by a 63 year old.

I love it when a plan comes together...

Being bed-ridden is annoying, but, it turns out, it has it's advantages.

After having plans that frankly went tits up, then having new ones, which injury/illness have scuppered, I've now put together the plan to get me round this puppy.

If you've been following my mini-series Marathon Training for Simpletons about the building blocks of training, you'll see that the elements mentioned are all in here.

It kicks off from Monday, and neatly dovetails into my unpublished one, that I've fallen behind on this week.

It's essentially broken down into four periods which have a specific objective.
  • From now until 9 weeks out, it's all about building up endurance;
  • weeks 8 to 6 are endurance and lactate threshold training;
  • weeks 5 to 3 it's all about race preparation; and
  • 2 weeks out until the day, it's nothing but tapering and racing.
There's an important one I've missed out there, and it's recovery, but I don't think you're very interested in that, but it's crucial if I ever want to walk again!

Marathon Training for Simpletons Part VI - Recovery

My name's Phil, and I'm an idiot for trying to run the marathon

With any addiction, the first step to getting over it is to admit you have a problem. Sadly, I've admitted that from day one, and I'm still doing it.

This final (unless I want to resurrect it later) instalment of the fascinating Marathon Training for Simpletons mini-series looks at the crucial, but oft ignored or misunderstood element - recovery.

VO2 max training
, lactate threshold training and runs to improve running economy and glycogen use are all well and good, but they're only half the story.

Think about what training is - it's adapting your body to improve in some specific way. No one run will do this in itself, annoyingly. It's the sum of lots of them. And to best adapt, the body needs to respond positively, and not be overwhelmed by training.

That's not to say when you do a hard session you shouldn't do anything the next day, though obviously that's an option. You just need to make sure you do something a bit different, and not overdo it.

Another aspect of recovery is tapering as the marathon itself gets closer. This lets your body recover from the rigour of training, and at the same time keeping the intensity there so you don't lose the fitness you've built up.

That might sound weird, but essentially means doing less mileage overall, but keeping the high-intensity efforts, just less of them. This'll leave you fresh and prepared for the race itself.

I know from last year when I did this that it does make a difference. Before my knees went, I'd never had such a great run, so this will defo be built into the training plan.

Not like I'd need an excuse to rest...

Marathon Training for Simpletons Part V - High glycogen storage and fat use


Still with me on this, my eye-opening exploration of the proper scientific theory behind marathon training?

No? Well, tough, you're here now, so you might as well carry on reading.

If you've missed the first four exciting installments, you should be ashamed.

Not only have you missed a wonderous display of marathon training blogging, but you've also made me feel bad.

I don't write these things for fun you know. It's largely to pass time when I'm ill, but also as a warning to you not to do what I've done and take up the challenge of the marathon.

Honestly, it's a stupid thing to do, and not worth it. It hurts, consumes your life, and could be responsible for pestilence and famine around the world.

With that in mind, lets get on with this.

Glycogen storage and fat utilisation (I refuse to spell that with a "z", no matter what this yankee blogging platform tells me) sounds horrific.

The image of fat storage that springs into my mind is a kitchen cupboard that oozes horrible white gunk onto the worktop when you open the door.

I was going to try to recreate this for a picture, but then got bored of the idea when I realised I'd have to go out and buy lots of lard.

In fact, glycogen is the carbohydrate in your body that gives you energy. Ideally you want to be able to both store enough glycogen to last 26.2 miles, and make sure you use it efficiently when running.

When you hit the wall, it's because you're running low and your body is trying to use fat instead, which is less good at using oxygen.

You still need to be able to use fat, so you need to train so that your body conserves glycogen to keep you going.

This one's fairly simple to work on as endurance training - running for more than an hour and a half, say - stimulates your body to adapt. Also, the volume of training contributes, so just getting out and running in some form, even relatively short distances later in the training, helps.

So building general long runs into training, as well as general shorter ones will help me improve this aspect.

Marathon Training for Simpletons Part IV - High VO2 max

Nothing to do with shampoo

So far in this highly scientific mini-series on the building blocks of marathon training we've looked at lactate threshold and running economy. Now, we turn our short-spanned attention to VO2 max.

First up, let me point out that that "2" should be hanging below the "O" in the same way it does for water - H2O. I just don't know how to do that here, so you'll have to just deal with it.

Secondly, the "V" should also have a dot above it as it stands for volume per time, or something.

It' science, so just trust me, ok?

Now, scientific shorthand aside, this one's widely seen as the most important factor of cardiovascular fitness. So what, in the name of all that is holy, is it?

Keeping in mind the mental capacity for the average reader of this blog (I have low targets, so apologies if you're an astrophysicist or something), I'll try to use only short words.

Simple put, it's the ability to send lots of oxygen to your muscles, and how much of this the muscles can use. The larger the better for this as you need the oxygen to keep the muscles going.

This is another one that's largely determined genetically, but we short-cutters need not lose heart.

One of the factors that determine VO2 max level is the how much blood you can pump to your muscles, which depends on the strength of your hearbeat.

You can improve this by running at almost your current VO2 max level, for a decent distance a few times in one session. To work out how fast this is, look at the time it'd take to race about 5k times (about three and a half miles), and run at about 95 per cent of that pace.

I've worked this into my training with VO2 sessions where I'll do several "bursts" at this pace over between 600 and 1,000m.

They sound horrific, but in the name of science, I'll give them a go. They should help and will provide a bit of variety, which I guess is worth it.

Marathon Training for Simpletons Part III - Running economy

Government bail out would be welcomed

With economies around the world struggling because everyone borrowed too much money, many of you will be thinking this could be my manifesto for sorting the whole mess out.

It isn't.

This is a blog about something much harder - getting a lazy northerner around the London Marathon.

So, if my previous two posts in this mini-series on the thinking behind my training haven't put you off, lets see if this one can.

Running economy is, simply put, how much oxygen you use while running. It's like fuel economy in cars - if you use less oxygen to run the same as someone else, you've got better efficiency.

It's dictated mainly by the types of muscle fibres you have - slow or fast-twitch - so is largely determined by genetics, but training can help too.

Annoyingly for those of us eager to find short cuts to improve and focus on them, this one's not so simple to improve. This is mainly because lots of running over a period of years seems to be the best way to get your body adapted.

Not what I wanted to hear.

However, even us short term thinkers can get some improvement by increasing the mileage in our training over time, and repeatedly running short bursts of around 100m at a fast pace (repetitions).

Repetitions are a bit of a workaround solution as they help to improve your running form - the mechanics of your running - which stops you wasting energy, and oxygen, so your economy improves.

So all the core strength nonsense I've got to do to stop my spine snapping in two is also helping with this one. That's cool as in my head rolling around on the floor was only tenuously linked to running, so now it feels more like it's for something.

I therefore need to make sure I build repetitions, and increased mileage, into the training to make sure it's as effective as poss.

It's starting to almost sound like I know what I'm talking about!

Must be ill - I've been forward thinking

I'm still holed up at home, hiding under the duvet when I'm freezing, then throwing it off when I start to fry. It's safe to say, I'm not having fun.

To keep me sane (now have freeview in the bedroom, but it's still a bit pants) I've been constructively working on finishing my ultra-scientific, and thoroughly researched* Marathon Training for Simpletons mini-series.

I've scheduled these to come out over the next few days, before unveiling my now complete training plan. Isn't that clever of me?

It's taken ages as I keep falling asleep midway through a post, so if they're no good, that's why! Nothing to do with the quality of my writing generally.

I've got to feel better tomorrow as I think otherwise I'm gonna explode with boredom.

* This may or may not be true

Marathon Training for Simpletons Part II - Lactate Threshold

Why would a cow need a doorway?

My original post on how to get my training plan sorted raised a lot of questions:
  • what is lactate threshold, and why is it important?
  • what are you gibbering about Phil? It's clear to everyone that you're talking s***
  • where's the last pie gone?
Now, skirting deftly around many of these issues, I shall be looking at your lactate threshold (LT), and how you can improve it.

Now, I don't mean I'll be looking at your personal one.

I have no idea who you are or what your personal threshold is.

I'm talking generally. Stop reading too much into it!

As you all know, I'm male, so I'm not really that bothered about why something does something. I just need to know if it's important, and how can I make it better.

I could go on about by products of carbohydrate metabolism, increased number of mitochondria, aerobic enzyme activity etc but I don't think you'd care.

Or at least I don't, and I'm writing this, so deal with it.

Basically, lactate comes from your muscles. The more you work them, the more is produce. Once
you get a certain level of lactate (your LT) your body can't get rid of it, and it accumulates, especially if you're doing something for longer than 30 mins.

Once it then gets to a certain level it starts to bugger around with how you produce energy so you have to slow down.

LT training helps to increase the level at which your body can't cope with the lactate being produced, and the best way to do this is to run at your current LT or slightly faster for a continuous run.

That just begs the question, what the hell is my LT?

Now, despite being a scientist, I'm not allowed a lab for insurance purposes, so a blood test to accurately work out the level simply isn't gonna happen.

The DIY way is to work out the pace you'd run an hour long race. You then just need to use that pace as a benchmark to get your LT level up. You'd do this during mid length runs of 8 or so miles, and you'd build up the pace so about half of the total distance is at this kind of pace.

So, just need to slip a few of them into training and the jobs a good one!

Marathon training for simpletons - Part I

Lets get some science in here

As a bone fide scientist* and world class procrastinator, I think it was only a matter of time before I gave into my childish urge to take things apart to see what's going on - purely to find out if I could learn something to help me run the marathon.

Now, although I have, on occasion, performed minor surgery on myself (not recommended, for the love of God, don't do it!) I don't think even my finely toned body (stop sniggering at the back) can recover from me opening up my leg with a kitchen knife to see what's going on in there.

So, I decided to instead dissect a training plan - much less mess, and most importantly, I don't get hurt.

There are loads of good ones on Runners World, and with a name like that, they're bound to know what's going on.

The thing is, like too many of my childhood toys, once taken apart, I couldn't put it back together without wanting to "improve" it slightly. Like when one of my toy trains got a rocket booster...

But how? You might ask, but only if you're the kind of person who likes to ask people "how?"

Simply enough, with science.

After some thorough research** it soon became clear that there was some serious thinking behind this training malarkey, and if you think about it properly, it can help you get around much easier.

Basically, good marathoners (I'm not one) have a lot of similar physiological traits.
So, training needs to improve all these to get me around! Simple.

Now, using our finely tuned scientific minds, it's possible to look at what kinds of training address these bits, and use then these as building blocks to a decent training schedule.

So, tune in to future episodes of what I have christened Marathon Training For Simpletons*** to find out how I've done this, and, more importantly, what, like the crazed scientists of third-rate sci-fi, I emerge through the fog of my laboratory with!

* BSc in Politics and History, First Class (hons) - yeah baby!
** Googling "marathon training theory"
*** Not in anyway affiliated to Marathon Training for Dummies, which, it turns out does exist as I Googled it prior to posting and had to change the sodding title. Seriously, what's next? Nose blowing for Dummies? Arse wiping for Dummies? Breathing for Dummies?

Will I be beaten by glamour model?

First time for everything *cough*

The potential for humiliation stakes have risen - Katie Price aka Jordan is running the marathon this year.

Now she may be many things, and I'm not personally a fan, but this is someone who when she wants something, works to get it.

She'll actually do the training, and it's for a cause close to her heart, so I doubt she'll suffer from Goody-itis.

I'm not sure I could live with myself if she beat me, so that motivation I was looking for the other day, may have been located.

Top London Marathon 2009 Blogs

After my post last year about other running blogs, I thought it might be good to explore what others are out there specifically for the London Marathon.

I've deliberately waited a bit as I know from experience that once people get their place, they then sort out their training plan (must get me one of those), and many are tempted to then set up a blog to share the experience.

Then, life takes over and after the first couple of posts, and little sign of people actually reading it, they give up as they're in too much pain from the training and think it was a stupid idea to run 26.2 miles anyway.

If that sounds like you, you're right. It's a ridiculous thing to do - I've done it before, hated it, and am now doing it again.

I need help.


Anyway, I've done the same as these people, but as I'm from stubborn Yorkshire stock* I have no problem not being listened to.

However, I'm painfully aware, not everyone is lucky enough to be from God's own county, so I didn't want to look around for blogs only to find they'd stopped posting after I'd directed you lovely people there.

An example is this fella. He's high ranking on a google search for "London Marathon Blog" (on front page when I wrote this), but he only seems to have put in one entry. I suspect some kind of software genius is at work who has optimized the site for Google. I can't be bothered with that as it could take up to 20 minutes and my time is precious.

Stop sniggering at the back.

Some of you may remember last year I made the local paper, and one of the hacks was also running it. He's now buggered off to Canada to study journalism (I have no idea either, but it does answer some of the questions we had about the quality of his reporting - joke Joseph!) so he won't be taking advantage of his paper's new website.

I have, in his honour, found a lady called Vikki at the Malvern Gazette who's posting weekly (so far) on her training. I'm intrigued by her fellah's measuring wheel, but who wouldn't be?!

Possible the most terrifying one I've seen is from Mike Trees, a former elite athlete who seems to run mind-bogglingly long distances. I strongly suspect he will be finishing ahead of me...

The last, and my fave so far, is Jim's Marathon Blog. I suspect it might be my fave because of the northern humour, but he's also training around Skipton/ Gargrave, where I spent a lot of time back in the day. Yeah he seems to be working at Lancaster University, but as long as it's only taking their money then it's fine.

If you know of/have a blog about getting ready for this year's marathon, let me know as I want to know more about how other people are getting on!

* That is in no way similar to chicken or vegetable stock - though if it did exist, Yorkshire Stock would probably have a strong gravy flavour.

Transformers and motivation

As I'm currently out of action I thought it might be a good time to reflect on how best to come back raring to go.

Or as raring as it's possible for me to get, given I hate running.

Ok, so it's not utterly unbearable plodding along, well it is, but I can handle it. It's actually finding the time to get changed, get out, warm down, get showered etc that is probably the most difficult bit at this point.

After a hard day's work it's not exactly easy to get motivated to go through the rigmarole of getting ready, then disappearing for up to an hour or more (when longer runs are needed) when everyone else is rightly settling down for a chilled evening - especially as I've now got Sky One back on Virgin, so the Simpsons are once more a distraction.

The original plan was to make use of mornings, and showers at work, but that's logistically tricky as I can't run with a bag.

So, there was thought of doing it during the day at work, but not sure I could face running around the park that's overlooked by our canteen - could lead to some serious piss-taking.

So, that leaves the evenings, which is when I'm feeling least motivated. That's probably one of the reasons I hate running, as it feels like such a chore.

If I'm lucky I might be able to wangle finishing earlier from work, which would mean I could get out earlier, but on the downside, it increases the likelihood of me being seen when I'm running.

And I do look ridiculous.

So, if anyone has some motivation out there that they're happy to lend me, let me know via email.

Another day, another write off

Ok, I'm ill.

Not made it to work today, and most of the weekend was written off under a duvet.

Sore throat, runny nose and constant headache means I'm not happy getting off the sofa, never mind strapping on my trainers, so this weeks plan is a bit up in the air.

I'm putting all my faith in the only drug, except caffeine, I'm comfortable taking - Lemsip (blackcurrant flavour as the other stuff is the drink of the devil).

Technically it's not a drug, but it does have paracetamol and phenylephrine hydrochloride in there.

I normally refuse to take any medication, even prescribed stuff, unless I really have to. My thinking that if you get used to taking stuff, then your body adapts to it so it won't work. Now, I'm not sure what scientific reasoning lies behind this, but I'm just not comfortable taking stuff for the sake of it.

In a weird way, training for the marathon backs me up on this.

I'm not athletic. Not sporty. In no way could I be described as "active".

But, I know that with a few months training, my body can get used to the demands of running and get me, reluctantly, 26.2 miles around London.
Your body gets used to it, and much like taking the drugs, I'm not sure I want it to. If it did get used to it, would it mean the training would stop making a difference? No. It'd probably make it easier.

But, like taking drugs, I'll only do it for a specific purpose, when nothing else is going to help.

There comes a point when I can't keep refusing to take ibuprofen for a pain, and, like it or not, I'm going to have to get some serious training under my belt once I've got this latest setback behind me.

In the meantime, I shall be seeking inspiration from those other masters of becoming something they're not when it's called for. I am of course talking about Transformers.

If I find anything useful there, I'll be sure to let you know.

Slow progress

This week has pretty much gone out the window.

Running-wise that is.

I have not yet been able to work out how to solidify time in such a way that it could be thrown out of anywhere, let alone a window, but rest assured, I'm working on it.

A tweaked calf (in my leg, I don't participate in bullying young bovines) meant that early in the week I didn't want to push myself and risk more damage. The latter part of the week has been taken up with trying to shake a cold.

I can't overemphasise how much that sucks.

Last week I actually started to feel like I was getting there, but then life comes along and bowls you a doosra and you're walking back to the pavillion wondering what the hell just happened.

Did you like that cricket metaphor? I've no idea where it came from, I was just typing and there it was. Usually when that happens I delete it, but I'm leaving this one.


So, need to focus on feeling well enough to run, then getting back into the groove.


I hope this blog doesn't just turn into an online record of failure followed by rugged determination, followed by further failure. That'd be far too cheesy for me - I'll leave that to an American.

Whilst it seems to be heading that way, I suppose acknowledging the problem is an essential part of dealing with it.

Much like recovering from alcoholism.

Not that I am, but there are definite signs that my obsession with actually running 26.2 miles is verging on addiction. I'm sure someone who knows more about psychology could offer an insight into what's going on, but I'm from Yorkshire so not really into that hippy nonsense.

I'm even ashamed to be on the Lemsip, but I have to acknowledge I've been down south a while now so aren't as hardy as I once was.

Hoping to get over it this weekend, so back to it soon.

Now, I'm off for a Lemsip.

Procrastination or self-preservation?

I gave my planned run last night a miss as my calf was still a bit sore fom the weekend and I don't want to do myself a mischief.

At least that's what I told myself.

My calf is sore, and after last year I'm determined to get through this as injury free as possible, but as I was trying to get to sleep last night I couldn't help wondering how much of it is in my head.

Now I'm painfully aware that trying to be a hero and plough through can be counter-productive, but the delay in getting the training going properly has made me anxious.

The other night I blogged about the fact I'm doing twice what I was last time, and that cheered me up as it told me I'm getting better prepared, but I also know that there's a risk I'll be complacent with it.

It's like a part of me is still thinking: "You don't need to worry, you've done it before you'll be fine".
Is it weird that it's usually saying that in a sort of Belgian accent? I digress...

So I'm trying to get the balance right between:
  • trying to catch up with where I hoped I'd be;
  • trying not to get injured;
  • not being complacent; and
  • finding the time to do what I want.
I've thrown in the latter as work is a bit mad at the moment.

We've now started timesheeting so my habit of consistently working stupidly long days (I basically gave an extra day and a half last week for nothing) is at least being noted.

I'll never get overtime, but should be forced to actually take some of my flexitime.

That'll be weird as I don't actually mind the hours - I work as long as it takes to get things done, and I do actually quite like my job, so I don't begrudge it.

But, from the running point of view, getting home an hour or so earlier, even only a couple of days a week, will make the training much easier.

If I just try to change some of the focus I have for work towards the training, then I would probably be able to sort out the rest too.

But it's getting that balance which I need to work on, which is easier said than,

Especially with an evil Belgian conscience to contend with.

What a difference a year makes

Out of curiosity, I had a peek at my training plan from last time around.

Compared with this stage last year I was doing: 4 miles on Tues, 4 on Thurs, 4 on Sat, and 6 on Sun, with a weekly total of 17 miles.

That's half what I'm hoping to do this week, so that means I'll probably run it twice as quickly.

I'm almost certain that's how it works...

Targets for 15 weeks to go

So, the thing last week where I put my targets for the week ahead online seems to have done the trick.

Was out much more last week, so to give myself the proverbial kick up the arse, I'm gonna do it again.

This merely goes to prove that the only way to get me to do something is to risk public humiliation.

So, here's this week's plan:

Monday – Core strength
Tuesday – 5 miles
Wednesday – 8 miles + core strength
Thursday – rest
Friday – 6 miles + core strength
Saturday – 5 miles
Sunday – 10 miles + core strength

Total = 34

With any luck this will be another week of progress so I can feel like I'm getting stuck into this puppy.

What has my life become...

Mixed weekend

Had a couple of runs this weekend - a 6 miler on sat, and a just shy of a five this morning.

Both were nice earlyish morning runs, and the route looked stunning. Took a few snaps to remind myself that there are definitely worse areas in the world.

The Saturday run was meant to be shorter, but I was feeling good so decided to crack on a bit.

Typically, fate wasn't having any of that so made my right calf tweak, so the plan for a longer one on Sunday didn't happen as I was still feeling it and didn't want to do myself any more damage than strictly necessary.

I was wondering if my age meant I'm more susceptible to injury, but then I remembered the universe hates me, so it would have happened even if I was 18.

It's typical it happened when I was just starting to find my rhythm.

Saturday was also weird as it was freezing, and snowing at times. Can't remember if it snowed while I was actually running last year, but it was certainly different.

This weekend was also the first time I've worn a baseball hat. My hair looks nuts first thing in the morning, and I could have caused a crash if a passing motorist saw me, so I dug out a hat and ran in that. Never done that before, but seemed to work. My head didn't fall off, and no-one seemed to veer off the road into a tree, so will bear that one in mind in future.

My bloody toe

It's funny what your mind does to protect you - how it emphasises the good memories, and skirts over the bad.

Until last night, when I went or a five miler, I had completely forgotten about the sheer number of times I got home from a run and, upon removing my trainer and socks, discovered blood pouring from my toe.

It's not bad, not painful, but still, when I saw it, my memory suddenly swamped my brain with the memories of it happening last time. It was ike it went “oh, you mean these memories? Yeah, I've got loads of them!”

Until then it hadn't occurred to me at all, which is weird when you consider a large chunk of my blogging last time involved pictures of blood stained socks.

I'm putting it down to a sort of self defence mechanism in my brain, trying to make this whole thing seem easier than it actually is. That in itself is weird, as I'm more than aware how hard this will be.

So, once again, my brain and I are in conflict, which I find surprisingly reassuring. I'm a fan of arguing to get things better – the best way to improve is to challenge – so, I'm taking this as a sign that I'm going to be better prepared mentally this time around as I won't fall into a complacent mood.

Or, I've become schitzophrenic.

Running form

Previous posts on core strength touched on the idea that how I run is important.

This isn't the whole “moving you legs a bit faster than if you're walking” thing, it's about posture, movement, balance. What us runners *cough* call “running form”.

Annoyingly, form is mainly dictated by your physical make-up – length of bones, muscle and tendon flexibility, strength and endurance of various muscles, and how all these contract and move. I'm 29 now so can't do much about the length of my bones, but, in theory, the others can be worked on.

Looking at my running form should also help me lower the chance of being injured (the main reason I'm interested in it), stop me wasting energy as I run (not just stopping me drumming along to Foo Fighter tracks) and help iron out any imperfections that make what is already an arduous business, somewhat easier (also a bonus!).

The scientific way to do it is to video yourself whilst running and analyse that.

Although I am technically a scientist (I've got a BSc!) that's a bit namby-pamby for me. And I hate looking in a mirror, or at pictures of myself, so the idea of watching video of me getting knackered wearing shorts isn't really that high on my to do list.

Probably just behind chewing off my arm, but above going to a Take That concert.

So, instead I'm building it into my running as a way of helping pass the time. Thinking about how much my arms swing, how tense they are, how I'm leaning, relaxing my shoulders, head position, and how flat I'm running.

That last one sounds weird, but imagine you had a giant marker on your head and were running alongside a large blank piece of paper – better still, actually get a three-foot long marker, attach it to your head and run past a white wall.

If the line the marker draws on the wall is very up-and-down - oscillates (told you I'm a scientist!) - it means you're wasting energy moving up and down as you run.

Now there's gonna naturally be some vertical movement, but if you can get this line flatter, it means you're wasting less energy as your body goes up.

To run a marathon you ideally want to focus on going forward – that's where the finish line is and that's the best bit. Any energy spent moving in a different direction is wasted and believe me when I say you'll need it later on.

If you take two runners, one with good form, and one with bad form, and they reach halfway at the same time, chances are, the one with better form will finish ahead as they'll have wasted less energy getting to where they are.

For me, the main issues are keeping my back straight (so I'm not wasting energy keeping my balance) and relaxing my shoulders.

My poor form is down to my crap back, so getting the core bit stronger will mean I'll be able to run more upright, without tensing up. That'll mean I've got more energy for later on when I need it.

This isn't to say it'll make a massive difference, but it's one of a few things which, when added together, will go a long way towards helping me complete that 26.2 miles in April.

Targets for 16 weeks to go

Ok, so it's dawned on me I need to get going a bit better, so I thought it'd be a good idea to actually put my weekly goals up here so people can hold me to them.

I'm the kind of person who tends to only act when I'm forced to, so I reasoned that if I say what I need to do publicly, then I'll have to do it or people will be able to take the piss out of me.

So, this week I aim to:

Monday – Rest
Tuesday – 5 miles + core strength
Wednesday – 5 miles
Thursday – core strength
Friday – 5 miles
Saturday – 5 miles + core strength
Sunday – 8 miles

Total = 28

Not easy given the xmas break, but need to get going, so rock on...

I'm running the London Marathon this year!

That title dawned on me yesterday as the new year brought with it the inescapable fact that I can no longer say I'm running the marathon “next year”. This is important as it sounds less daunting than “this year”.

The only positive is that I can now accurately say I ran “last year's” marathon. Having to say I ran “this year's marathon” just sounded weird from a tense perspective.

Grammar aside, it's now only 16 weeks 'til race day, and I'm well behind on the training. This next few weeks will need some pretty serious sessions to get up to where I want to be, but it's a fine balance between building up the mileage and not hurting myself.

Now, pain is a natural part of training, which is one of the many reasons I'm not a fan of the sport. If I weren't so bloody-minded I'd happily never wear trainers again! But there's the pain from having had a “good” training session (training is never good), and the pain of having screwed yourself up, and it's the latter I need to avoid.

So goal of the next few weeks is to build up the mileage so I'm somewhere around 50/60 a week, then I can kick into some specific training to help boost performance.

Just need to keep focused and not let the general crapness of January distract me. It's the work I do now that'll get me over the line in 16 weeks, so time to stop fannying around and get stuck in.