Monday, 31 October 2011

The Surly Slob

Firstly my apologies to regular readers for not posting anything new for almost a week but I have a few posts "up my sleeve".  No, the title is not a reference to myself hopefully but to a driver I encountered this morning on my ride in to work.

For a while now I have had in mind putting together some groups of drivers, based on my cycling experience but progressed no further until now. Probably a huge amount of stereotyping to come.   Here goes.

The Surly Slob

Imagine the scene.  A narrow country lane, room only for one vehicle at a time along a 300 yard stretch.  Coming towards me was a refuse lorry complete with lots of flashing lights.  I stopped and pulled in just off the road into a convenient passing place.  The truck drove up towards me and stopped in order to empty a wheely bin and it was at this point I clocked the driver.

He was slumped against the door as he pulled up, looking as if he having a doze and driving on a kind of auto-pilot.  He just didn't seem to move or even notice I was there, so as he was stationary and there was a space I made a move to ride passed him.  In doing so I smiled at him but he didn't react at all although he must have seen me.  There he was, slumped against the door, one hand on the steering wheel, motionless and staring into the far distance.  Was he "on something"?  Was he miffed at his colleagues or me as a cyclist wanting to share the road?  Was he feeling superior in some way?  Perhaps a team leader and being cool about it?  Perhaps demoted and taking umbrage?  Whatever was going on, he was not happy:  He was surly.

He is not alone.  He reminded me of those drivers who feel easily wronged when they get held up through someone else's mistake.  They show their indignation by slumping in their seat with a hand draped over the top of the steering wheel, maybe visibly sighing to convey their impatience and annoyance.  Some might think they'll be drumming their fingers on the dashboard for everyone to see but no, they're too lazy for that.  Another feature are the shades in an attempt to look cool.  Nobody is impressed by this nowadays.  Grow up.

So what kind of car do they drive besides refuse trucks?  

As they're wannabee climbers in their world - so maybe older and affordable German executive cars.  If they ride a bike almost certainly it will have started life as a cheap mountain bike, probably flat-packed from a supermarket and be the wrong size.  Naturally it will have suspension front and back, lots of gears and have had little use.

How can a cyclist manage them?

Don't antagonise as you don't know what's running through their mind or completely know how they'll react; move on, leave them and try not to feel offended.  The chances are nothing would happen, they'll remain slumped until they get a chance to move on.

And you?  Have you encountered the Surly Slob?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

How to grow sprouts

Dried seeds, ready for sprouting
A while back I was having a read of Dr Gillian McKeith's book "You are what you eat" and I was impressed by the page on "What are Sprouts?".  If you have a copy of the book, it is on page 211.

McKeith talks about sprouts as being a real superfood with all kinds of benefits, so I just had to find out more, including how to grow them.

Firstly it was easy to buy some in Holland & Barrett - a well known health food chain in the UK.  Many independent whole food suppliers will stock these and probably many other kinds.  This is a mixture of Mung beans, Chick peas and Green lentils.

At 2 days
All you need to do is wash out an old jam jar and find a piece of muslin cloth.  I had to resort to raiding the garage for a soft car polishing cloth, without too much dried up polish on.  I rinsed out the jar and then tipped about 2cm of seeds in and rinsed a couple more times.  Stretch the muslin cloth over the top and hold it in place with a rubber band.  Then simply leave it in a dark place (I chose the airing cupboard) and forget it.  No don't forget it!  You need to rinse it out at least once a day (keeps it moist and clear from any mould).

I remember feeling quite excited when some of the seeds started to swell and sprout - and relieved as I am not known for my gardening skills, strangely enough.

Ready at 4 to 5 days
Then after about 4 or 5 days they'll be ready to eat.  At this stage it's best to keep them in a refrigerator to maintain them as they are.

They can be scoffed as they are (raw), or perhaps in a salad or a sandwich or perhaps used as an ingredient in cooking them in a Runner's Curry . Of course, to get the real benefit, they should be very fresh and raw.  Simple as that.

Taste-wise, they're filling and don't slip down without a good chew which all helps their digestion to release the wonderful enzymes.  Of course seeds like Alfalfa are much smaller and much easier to eat.

It's worth remembering what the benefits are with these sprouted seeds and to know what all the fuss is from those whole-food healthy types.  Here I go back to Dr Gillian McKeith's book.  Each sprouted seed is a concentration of proteins, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fibre and enzymes in the most easily digestible form.

The pack I got from Holland & Barrett is an organic sprouting mix which contains the above mixture and a separate bag of Alfalfa seeds.  Weight for weight these foods must surely rank among the best for their nutritional value and I'm really pleased I've grown them.  Makes a change from buying those sprouted packs in Sainbury's for a costly amount.  Still cheaper than meat and they must be better for us.

Oh, before I forget, the seeds are Just Wholefoods, Cirencester, England. and worth checking out for other healthy things.

I would be really interested to hear how other people get on with growing sprouts.  What kinds do you grow?  Any comments about their healthy properties?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

How often, how far, how fast?

How often should I cycle?  How far do I need to cycle to stay fit?  How fast should I cycle?  All good questions for anyone taking up cycling but today's question is how often should I cycle [to stay fit]?

With the pressures of work and the daylight getting so short, I've not had the chance to get out and ride my bike over the last week or two.  I really miss it.  And then yesterday there was a "window" late in the afternoon when I could just escape for an hour.  It was a wonderful ride; no where new or anything like that but still a wonderful ride which culminated in the awe-inspiring view (just had to stop and take this photograph).  A chance just to reflect on things as well as huff and puff up a couple of short hills.

After the short steep hills, there is a longer more steady climb, perhaps about a mile.  It wasn't too steep, I could maintain 10mph quite easily but I could feel some muscles telling me they weren't used to this and what was I up to!  That took me by surprise - just how easily some muscle strength and tone could be lost.  Also a reminder that running does not automatically improve my cycling!

I'm thinking that I need to have a decent ride (i.e. 20 miles plus) at least once a week at weekends, if I've not cycled to work at least once in the week.  This will help my muscles stay "in tune" for cycling and it helps mentally in terms of the opportunity for reflection, pondering and mulling things over.  I'd hate the thought of starting from scratch again.

Mind you, I wouldn't want you to think I'm taking things too easy as I've been out running this week, including 8 miles this morning.  I set out just before sunrise and just as I got to the top of the nearest small hill 15 minutes later, I could see the sun just coming up above the horizon.  I ran on autopilot watching it rise above the distant horizon and I felt truly blessed; I was very thankful for such an uplifting sight.

So, just to conclude, memo to self etc.  Make sure you get out at least once a week for a bike ride; covering 20 miles or more.  Don't even think about ice, snow or other reasons, just make sure you get those miles in.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Socks for Running

X Socks with my Asics Gel 1150s
In the world of running there's a lot of attention given to running shoes; this is appropriate as they are the single most important bit of kit for a runner.  Closely related but rarely mentioned are socks so I thought I would give them a positive mention today.

What are running socks?
They are made specifically for running in and are different to ordinary sports socks.  They normally have a sporty look, often in white.  They come in different styles, for instance ankle length or those that are almost invisible.  Having tried both types, I think I prefer the longer sock but there's not much difference here.

What do running socks do, how are they different?
Running produces a lot of sweat which needs dealing with in order to keep your feet dry.  Good running socks will wick away perspiration so feet don't become clammy and uncomfortable.  To do this they are probably not made from cotton but instead from a synthetic material - also known as being "technical".

Running socks also need to be durable and stand up to a lot of repetitive pounding, in fact I once tried my wife's pedometer and it showed over 10,000 strides in 6 miles.  That is hard work for feet, shoes and the socks in between them.  The socks also need extra support or strength in particular places in order to cope with the demands their owners will - I think the heel is a vulnerable area.

My X socks have some ridges built into the construction and this gives room for some air to circulate around my feet.

What else makes a good running sock?
Quickly forgetting you're even wearing them!  You should not be aware of them as you're running.  Also being made in a seamless way in order to avoid scope for chaffing or undue rubbing is important.

Getting a good fit is important.  You should be able to get them in a size which roughly reflects your shoes size.  Mine are also labelled Left and Right (which amused my kids!) in order to give a really good fit.  I cannot emphasise how important getting a good fit is so important; the wrong size, shape, material or design could lead to blisters - this can be disastrous.

How much do they cost?
Allow £10 per pair, give or take a little.  That might sound expensive but when considering their importance and durability, it's not too bad.  The X Socks in the above photo have served me well for about 2,000 miles

Anything else?
  • Be prepared to experiment in getting the right shoe / sock combination right as it can make all the difference.  If you cannot afford these right now, simply save up and don't be put-off by running in ordinary socks for now
  • It is worth getting 2 or 3 pairs
  • Although they are expensive, they really are worth it.
  • Buy them with your new running shoes and ask for advice if you're unsure which to go for.
  • Sometimes relatives ask for birthday or Christmas present suggestions and socks seem ideal for people, price wise.
  • It is better to have a clean pair for each run - personal hygiene
  • See my recent article on looking after your feet.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Is curry good for runners and cyclists?

Following on from yesterday's blog post on Fauja Singh, the 100 year old marathon runner, I have given some thought to his liking of curry, particularly ginger curry.  Has this made a difference or is it coincidence?  Is curry good or bad for you?

I am not expert chef or connoisseur of Indian food, though I do occasionally enjoy making a curry.  At home my family will sometimes be brave and share a curry if it is sufficiently mild and even my mother-in-law has been known to enjoy something with a bit more "impact".  Having said that, I highly doubt if my mother-in-law would describe herself as having been a runner or even a cyclist.

What is curry and is it healthy?  I think of curry as the flavouring of whatever food it is cooked with i.e. chicken curry, vegetable curry, beef curry etc.  Then there are the various terms such as Korma, Masala and of course, the infamous Vindoloo and many others.  Some ingredients are:

Ginger: some real health properties as Kauja Singh can testify and also it tastes good.  It has a "warming" kind of taste which is why it is nice if you're feeling cold or chilled.  It has an anti inflammatory effect, which might help relieve some of the worn joints after a long run.

Onion:  a common ingredient in Indian, Chinese and Thai food, an easily grown bulb-like vegetable.  It is of benefit to the blood and amongst other properties it has an antiseptic effect and may protect the stomach against cancer.

Tumeric:  a strong, powerful flavour in my view and has a potent effect in supporting the liver and is believed by many to have wide-ranging benefits

Chilli: possibly the strongest of flavours and range from very mild to a red hot explosion in your mouth.  The critical chemical is Capascin which is good for the respiratory system generally

Yoghurt:  perhaps an unlikely ingredient but one I have found is a natural antidote to the strong flavours.  Being a dairy product, it contains good levels of calcium and some vitamins.

So it seems many of the ingredients in a curry are good for us but it all depends on what the curry flavour is applied to.  Curried fatty meat is not a great idea, no matter how great the spices are, so some food-for-thought then.  Perhaps it is also a reminder of why having a wide ranging diet is a good approach.  Each of the spices (and many others) each bring specific nutrients which we might only need in small quantities on an occasional basis or for the treatment of a temporary condition.

So, good for runners and cyclists?  Yes I believe so!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fauja Singh: Marathon record breaker at 100


On 16th October 2011 Fauja Singh has set another record by becoming the oldest marathon runner at the age of 100.  He ran the Toronto Marathon in 8 hours 25 minutes, ahead of five other runners.

Living in Ilford, London but originally from the Punjab, he took up running seriously at  the age of 89 following the death of his wife.  His training consists of running 10 miles each day, which to me sounds impressive.   Looking at him, you can't help but notice he's in good shape and as far as his diet is concerned, it consists of Ginger Curry and lots of tea.  I'm sure there are other things but that sounds a good starting point.

When asked about his extraordinary achievement he said "the secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free.  Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running".

I think we can all take a leaf out of his book, so to speak.  Although I can only say this anecdotally, I believe having a positive attitude towards health, life and general direction does have a bearing on our health.  Of course we cannot prevent illness and disease completely by having a positive outlook, that is a fact of life.  In periods in my life when I have had less general happiness, I think I have been prone to colds, bugs etc.  Likewise I nowadays resist these things through being positive, keeping fit, sleeping and eating well.  Dealing with problems in a proactive way helps, much better than pretending they'll go away if they're ignored for long enough.

We can help ourselves by having a "half full"  outlook and taking care of ourselves.  Having a good measure of self belief and determination is important too.  For myself these things work and I often find myself focusing on the positives - like the fantastic outcomes and sense of achievement along with the need to rise above all of life's challenges.  Sounds a bit like a self-talk module in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which I still remember from a training course many years ago.  Having the belief of "I can do this...." really helps.

Fauja Singh adds that he avoids negative people and I think there is something to be said for this.  Do you find that some people's disposition can be infectious in some way?  I think so but I think it's a skill in managing this which is important and goes beyond simply avoiding such people.  But who am I to say this?  Fauja Singh has just run a marathon at 100 and I'm about half his age: we should all congratulate him.  Perhaps we should go further and allow his routine and approach to be a challenge for ourselves?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Water bottles from Bob's Cycle Center, California

I am very thankful to my Californian friend Dee, who's also a keen cyclist and good friend.  I mentioned a while ago that the water bottle he kindly gave to me back in the 1980's is still going strong.  He was so impressed, he got hold of a more up to date version, also from Bob's Cycle Center in California and sent it to me.  So here are both on my bike, while I admired the view from the top of Dunstable Downs.

So thank you Dee and thank you to those folk in Bob's Cycle Center.  I'll need a new frame if I get any more water bottles!

Can anyone in California guess what my bike is leaning against?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Why it is easy

Early this morning I had a short run, just a few miles while it was getting light.  Also the first frost of the autumn and another glimpse of those lovely early morning mists lingering down in the valleys.  All is well.

It was also the maiden voyage for my new running shoes - Brooks Vapour 9 - pretty good and more about these another time.  I found myself thinking of the cost of all this sportiness, keeping fit and healthy living.  On one hand I could feel a tinge of guilt (public sector pay freeze, rising prices etc.. mean we are well over £3k worse off a year) and then I thought some more.  Throughout our married life, over 15 years now, we have each had a critical illness policy.  These don't come cheap but I have always justified it as my monthly invoice for staying free from critical illnesses.

Some readers will know I quit my gym membership earlier this year and again I had no problem in justifying the cost of the membership while I had it.  Buying an occasional pair of running shoes, entering the odd race, buying this or that all adds up.  So how do I justify it?  It is simple.  Without investing the time, effort and a little money in keeping fit means I stay in good health physically AND mentally.

Many times I have come close to quitting my job because of the stress and anxiety it causes and one would have to ask what benefit of quitting would it bring for my family?  Probably real hardship before too long.  It would lead me to feel even more anxious if I were not providing for my family and the guilt would be profound together with the long term consequences.  The good Lord has given me a job and a brain to do it, plus a means of handling the stress.

How about you?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Cycling and sunglasses

Ordinarily I loathe wearing glasses of any kind but increasingly I need to.  Firstly I couldn't be sitting here typing right now without glasses through being long sighted (allegedly to do with this middle age stuff) and also because my Optician emphatically says everyone should wear sunglasses in bright conditions.

Years ago I used to wear sunglasses but frequently lost them and eventually gave up.  Nowadays through having retina problems I am trying to take care of my sight a bit better.

There is much evidence to confirm excessive sunlight, containing ultra violet light is harmful to our eyes.  Too much bright sunlight can increase the chances of cataracts and glaucoma, neither are trivial to deal with.

I hate the idea of donning all this trendy gear for a bike ride (helmet, padded mitts, SPD shoes and sunglasses) as it takes away some of the freedom and the carefree appeal of cycling.  We live in a society in which our transport system is so regulated and controlled, cycling is almost the last part yet to come under officialdom's policy making machinery.  So, I resisted.  Then first came the helmet (obliged by family), padded mitts (did I tell you I injured my hand in January and it STILL hurts) and now sunglasses.

They do have some mitigation though:
  1. They were fairly economical - £20 from Boots (July price)
  2. They seem good quality
  3. They keep flies and flying insects out of my eyes (eye hitting an insect at 40mph is disconcerting)
  4. My kids say I look super-cool wearing them
  5. As "sports" glasses they have a good "grip" and don't fall off
  6. Quick and easy to get used to them
  7. The right level of light-blocking

Thursday, 13 October 2011

How to look after your feet

Everyone needs good feet, especially runners and cyclists.  This has been brought home to me through my parents both needing to see a chiropodist as they're both pensioners and, for that age group, I understand it's a common thing to do.

Our feet do an amazing job but just spare them a thought for them with all the pounding and stresses they go through in  propelling you through a lengthy race.  I reckon I take over 10,000 strides every hour when I am running!  Having taken the trouble, yet again, to make sure I have the right running shoes, here's a few tips for looking after feet:

  1. Deal with any problems as they arise.  Consider your Doctor or maybe a chiropodist or a podiatrist
  2. Always have good fitting shoes.  Don't be tempted to squeeze your feet into some fashionable but ridiculous looking and uncomfortable shoes - sorry but that would be plain daft
  3. Have the size of your feet checked from time to time.  Even as adults we can change shoe size and shape through the years.  I can vouch for this - my feet are half a size bigger now that when I was 15 years younger.
  4. Aim to buy shoes in the afternoon - apparently feet expand during the morning
  5. Do not wear the same shoes on consecutive days; giving leather shoes a rest allows time for any sweat or moisture to dry naturally and this lowers the likelihood of fungal problems or cracked leather 
  6. Pay extra attention to your feet if you are diabetic.  Do you know if you are diabetic or whether there is a possibility?
  7. Do not buy plastic shoes that don't breathe and will lead to sweaty feet
  8. Wash your feet daily, or have a shower; not too hot
  9. Take care drying your feet, especially in between your toes.  Avoid pulling your toes around to shove a thick towel in between your toes.  You might risk breaking the skin which can lead to infections
  10. Clean socks everyday
  11. Remove hard skin
  12. Consider wearing flip flops at public swimming pools to avoid picking up an infection

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Lyz Best - article in Runner's World magazine

I have blogged before about why I run  and this about someone else who runs.  Lyz Best appears in this month's Runner's World magazine and I think it is worthy of a special mention here as it is a deeply moving article (one of a few moving related articles this month).

Lyz is described in the article as a Flight 93 widow - i.e. from the 9/11 hijackings in America.  It was her husband, Jeremy, who was one of the brave people that tried in vane to regain control of Flight 93 before it tragically crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside.

The article talks about how Lyz used to go running with her husband for all of the usual reasons that people do go running.  What is moving is how she talks about her running since and in particular her preparations for the New York City Marathon on 6th November.  She'll be running with others who lost loved ones on 9/11 and are wanting to raise awareness for their efforts in establishing a lasting memorial at the Flight 93 crash site.  Strengthened and inspired by her late husband, this will be a very significant marathon.  No doubt charged with emotion and profoundly driven to do her very best.

If you can, please do get hold of the full article yourself; it's a good read and includes other runners who also have a 9/11 story to tell.  Each is poignant in its own way; each moving and connected by that tragic life-changing day.

We all have our different reasons to run, cycle and keep in good shape.  While I have my own story, what could be more profound than what's found in this month's Runner's World?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ridgeway Run 2011 - Tring Running Club

I am really pleased I had another go at this race but less pleased with my time (1hr 18mins) being a minute slower than last year but equal to my run in 2009.  This year there appeared to be more runners than last year, also they were slightly older and perhaps more my age group (he says poised to become a super-vet soon!).

Conditions were perfect: cloud, mild but dry.

Parking the car at Tring Cricket Club was straightforward, as was registering, though I did feel a tad surprised at the £2 surcharge for on-the-day registration.  I jogged around the field a couple of times; other runners were doing the same but only a handful.  Others were stretching and chatting, plus the usual pre-race wee for many.

Then a jog or stroll over to the start, which is about 10 minutes away.  I remember eyeing up the competition; some clearly super fit and often wearing their running club tee shirt or vest.  There seems to be a running club in most Hertfordshire towns but also there were representations from Dunstable Running Club and I think I spotted some from a Northampton club too.  Others were setting their GPS watches and EVERYONE seemed to be talking to someone EXCEPT  me.  Who cares, the horn sounded, the talking stopped and we were off.  Well, we all started to shuffle a few yards while the front Whiz Kids sped off.  All I could hear around me was the sound of feet running and the footsteps were all blending into each other.  Gradually huffing and puffing sounds grew but not from me; I realised I was near the back of the field  amongst runners who were quickly getting out of breath.  The field slowly thinned out and we were all jockeying for position which involved me nipping ahead a bit.  The race passed through a farm yard, over a railway line and over the Grand Union Canal, a road and then the start of the first climb started.

Now if you're a regular reader you'll know I quite like running up hills and I reckon I'm reasonable at it.  Not so for some around me and in front with a bottle-neck delay held me up as running up hill was in single file as the trail was so narrow in places.

It didn't stop someone in a red vest, hunky and hairy trying to pull in front of me and then you nearly bashed me in my face with your elbow.  If that's you - please be more aware of others around you - you probably know who you are!  Some runners turned into walkers for some of the uphill bits causing another bottleneck.  I couldn't help but laugh at the sight of some ramblers stepping to one side in allowing us runners to pass by.  I heard a woman behind me say "you didn't expect this, did you?" which was just spot on!  Excellent.

Getting up to the Bridgwater monument was nice as I knew that there was a fast bit to come with a wide trail through the woods.  Eventually emerged from the woods over towards Ivinghoe Beacon before turning left, and down hill and onto what I assume is part of the long distance footpath.  Another drink station ahead at the bottom of a short - but very steep hill - and the end was almost in sight.

I enjoyed chasing someone through the woodland stretch with all kinds of tree roots and stumps which needed attention.  Down then onto the flat and the straight lane back towards Tring.  I checked my watch and knew I was going to need to increase my speed to stand a chance of improving my time.  I managed to remember that the finish is not where the starting line is but back at the cricket club (about half a mile further on).  It was a real joy sprinting up to the finishing line and into the funnel.  

I checked my watch and realised I was too slow.  Although it was a small affair, I thought all the volunteers did a splendid job in handing out the usual goodies.  Below, a few snaps after the race...

post race stretch!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Ridgeway Run 2011 Results

Follow this link....

Well done everyone and a big "thank you" to all the marshals, organisers, volunteers etc.

I'll do a proper blog post with my experience, time and reflections over the next few days.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ridgeway Run is tomorrow!

For the last two years I have run this race organised by those nicely friendly people in Tring Running Club.  I really have enjoyed this race before, partly because of the lovely scenery and because it's a small, local and straightforward race.

It has none of the hype or commercialism that comes with bigger more sophisticated races but just a few hundred runners with lots of enthusiasm and united in their joy of running (with a bit of healthy competition thrown in).

What with one thing and another, I haven't even registered yet and it means I'm going to turn up on the day and take my chances.  Just been for a steady pace run, just a couple of miles before breakfast to keep myself loosened up.  Going in a different direction to my normal heading, it was a nice gentle run through the dog walkers and cows involving one seriously steep hill, all part of getting in the right frame of mind for tomorrow.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Runners World, St Albans

It's much brighter when you get inside....
For a little while now I have been thinking my Saucony's are starting to wear out.  How do I know?  Early warning signs are a little bit of an ache here or there and checking out the tread.  They're not completely worn out but due for replacement soon.  After all, it's a pretty good idea to use two pairs, alternating between runs.

Anyway, I digress.  I remember getting a flyer for this shop when I did the St Albans Half earlier this year and made a mental note.  The shop was easy enough to find and it was in one of those quaint (but mostly very drab) neighbourhood shopping parades, complete with nearby free car parking.  Not many of these in St Albans.  

Besides, I felt sure I could just walk out of my office not feeling as if I owe any time.  As a public servant I am certain I'll never be paid for all those extra hours at my desk, or times when I've had to leave the house so early and wear my car out driving to some place for a daft meeting about nothing very important.  There's no way I could quantify the times when I've been very worried about work, waking up at 3am and tossing and turning, all because of some problem at work.  The times when I have neglected meaningful conversation and attention to my family, all because of being preoccupied with my job.  Nevertheless I did still feel a little bit guilty in disappearing from work early even though I am owed so many hours.

I took in my old shoes since I can never remember what kind of shoe I need (support, control etc.).  I got chatting to Alex who confirmed the wear was fairly even and obviously they were a good shoe for me.  I was expecting to be offered something similar and maybe a quick run on the treadmill to make sure.  Instead Alex started from scratch and I ended up trying out 4 or 5 shoes and narrowing it down by even having one type on one foot and another kind on the other foot!  So through it all, I've got a pair of Brooks Vapor 9 (costing £75).  He checked out with me whether I'd had any injuries and what kind of distances I run, since this might make a difference in what I needed.

Easy, I suppose, to think I could probably get a pair from Wiggle for less - but considering I effectively had a consultation lasting about one hour and a decent pair of running shoes out of it, that seems a good deal to me.

Me on the treadmill.  Wow I look old but no need to comment on this caption

I was impressed by the software used for the Gait Analysis. It was the usual set up of a video camera, at ankle height and filming me run from behind and then being played back in slow motion to see how my feet lands, rolls forwards and takes off again. The difference was having 2 or 3 separate films set up alongside each other and in perfect synchronisation so you could see exactly what was going on and make comparisons. It really is worth getting a Gait Analysis done if you're just getting in to running and in order to get the right shoe and avoid undue discomfort or injury. I actually think it should be done each time you buy a new pair of shoes, especially if they are a different brand.
As Alex was there in his running gear and uniform, I couldn't resist asking him about his running.  The reply was "I do 800s".  His shop, owned by himself and his partner is about a year old and is a kind of independent group of individual shops within the Runners World chain.  The actual chain has been running (what a pun!) for about 30 years.  Each of the staff are experienced in an aspect of sports therapy.

I mentioned Wiggle earlier on.  They do a great range of sporty stuff and I have had the odd thing from them, though I can't remember what it was now.  Good as they are, they are no substitute for a local running shop, or bike shop, or swimming shop and the service they can collectively offer.  Often these shops are owned by an enthusiast and the staff are like-minded.  Of course we have to remember that enthusiasm on its own doesn't make a good shop owner or manager and it doesn't make them good at business with the right people skills - but it all helps.  I really feel for independent shops these days.  Trading must be hard when many of us use e-trading so much because of the convenience factor in our busy lives, not to mention everyone's need for thriftiness (yes even in St Albans). 
Owner Alex, in his bright, modern shop

This brings me to express my appreciation for people like Alex.  It is a brave move for anyone in opening a retail shop these days with so much competition from the internet.  Succeeding means building up a regular customer base through offering that "something extra" - great service, conversation, advice, information, a bit of flattery and all the other tricks used by those highly skilled car salesmen (or executives as they like to call themselves nowadays).  If you're made to feel positive about parting with money, chances are you'll go back for more of the same.  For the likes of shop owners like Alex, being bold, using imagination and all those people skills could just make all the difference - and I wish them well.

Here's their web address:

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Luton Marathon 2011 is now FULL

This evening I planned to enter the Luton Marathon on-line but alas it's full.  Grrrrrrr.  Quickly had a look around for alternatives and saw the Gloucester Marathon on 22 January 2012 which looks very tempting - especially as I used to live there and know of the route.  It is several decades since I've been around the lanes taking in Elmore, Longley etc but it would be lovely to see them again - especially through running a marathon there.

I do feel a tad apprehensive.  Trying to get the training in during this time of year is bad enough let alone the winter with even shorter days but I am determined to do it.  So much so I am tempted to rejoin the gym to have access to a tread mill etc. but that is not what I had planned.  So I'm going to chew this over for a bit.

In the meantime I could have a go at the Ridegeway Run again this coming Sunday (having done this twice, it's a nice local race, quite a small field of fellow runners) and I just love the scenery.  I'm also tempted by the Stevenage Half Marathon on 6th November.

As I need a new pair of running shoes very soon and will try out Runners World in St Albans (maybe even tomorrow!) I might ask them for other suggestions; they're bound to know.  Perhaps not doing the Luton Marathon is a blessing in disguise as I am cutting it tight for getting the miles in.  I think I could do it but maybe not as thoroughly as it could be.  I reckon I could complete 18 miles right now so 26 miles ought to be achievable before too long (maybe adding 2 miles per week on the weekend long run)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Which way to go?

Which way? 
For the last two weekends I have had a longer run, with the  Luton Marathon in mind - much training to do.  The beauty of this is that I am having to invent different routes away from my usual patch.

These runs have taken just a little over two hours so I guess that's a half marathon (give or take a bit) as I wasn't running at my "race pace".  Some of the time I was trying to figure out which way to go.  I know most of the local footpaths but there is something really nice about exploring new tracks....

"Where does this go?"

"What's it like on the other of that hill?"

"I've never been along here"

That's the beauty of running and cycling - exploring new areas, seeing familiar things from a different perspective.  Profound, almost.

I do admit to feeling some anxiety especially when I run as I never take a map or reading glasses with me.  Probably the trickiest is running into a woodland area in which taking lots of twists and turns it is easy to lose my sense of direction and even more so when I pop out on the other side and recognise nothing at all.  Interestingly any feelings of tiredness seem to evaporate - no time to feel tired, more important to figure out where I am and how to get back.  I know I could always turn around and retrace my steps if all else fails but I've not needed to do this.  Somehow it's a rewarding thing to do but only after I've got back home and I recount where I've been; often to a politely interested look which hides a certain ambivalence.

So now I have a longer run in mind for a few weeks but I only know the first 6 or 7 miles, so building up the next few miles is looking very promising!

It is probably worth mentioning the Runner's High from this run yesterday.  As it was a long, slower run than normal, I didn't get that dramatic rush.  Instead it was a good feeling that lasted for hours afterwards.  That was a feeling of satisfaction and well-being combined with a sense of achievement and accomplishment.  Already looking forward to next weekend, albeit with a couple of shorter, faster runs in the meantime.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Farewell to our friend Lubo

Rachel & Hannah also saying farewell

Yesterday we said farewell to our good friend Lubo as he flew back to Slovakia.  He came into our lives through a chance meeting in January and has been a pleasure to know since.  We feel for people in his situation - positive work ethic but alas with doors being closed in every direction.

Lubo, I'll just have to manage training for the Luton Marathon on my own now!

As we drove back from school sometime later, we looked out of the window and saw a Ryanair jet climbing into the late afternoon sky.  Rachel looked at her watch and said it could be you up there.  We saw it starting turn and realised it was heading East so we knew it was up there.  Hannah waved at you all the way up there.

It has been "SUPERB" knowing you and look forward to seeing you again sometime in the future.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

More cool images from London Skyride 2011

Just clicking through my camera and I came across this year's London Skyride and a couple of other images.  Once again please allow me to applaud the concept of turning the streets over to bicycles, albeit for just one day in the year.
We really were impressed by this recumbent tandem - if anyone can give me a ride on one please leave me a comment!

Becky as we rode over Westminster Bridge

Novelty cycles add a real sparkle to the Skyride.  Sadly it seemed there were less of these for this year.

High speed Hannah closely followed by Rachel on her Boris Bike and about to shoot past us all

In the rain and out in front - nothing (not even speed cameras) stopping Rachel on a Boris Bike