Monday, 16 March 2015

Smelly technical fabric (aka Smelly Helly)

In the interests of family harmony, I have needed to find a better way of dealing with my smelly running tops.  To say they are smelly is an understatement; even I have begun to admit they have become very smelly indeed.  Talk about Smelly Hellies.  These are shirts made from the synthetic, wicking type of fabrics.  I like these in all other respects - good at body temperature regulation, wicking away sweat, good at layering etc.

The problem has become such an issue, it has become an embarrassment.  Even when I put on a clean, freshly washed top, it smells.  In fact it stinks.  If I can smell it, others are bound to smell it.  It even makes every thing else smell just as bad in the same laundry basket or even if other clothes go through the same wash.

Rachel lovingly experimented with different detergents, pre-wash soaks and alternative methods but nothing really worked.  She was (generally) polite about it and would drop all kinds of hints around possible solutions to this tricky problem.  These included:

  • putting my washing out into the garage while they are waiting to be washed
  • gathering a washing machine load so they could all be washed together
  • deodorant
  • throw the whole lot away and start from stretch

Knowing that it was becoming an issue and pushing the tolerance to my running to the limit I took the plunge and surfed around and came up with this - Halo Sports Wash.

It seems to work, so far so good.  After the first wash I found 95% of the residual smell had gone.  Subsequent washes seem to have completed the task well.  The price?  Arguably a little more than the cost of normal detergent.  The price of marital harmony at home?  A true bargain.

Available from Wiggle.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The thing about being 53

When I was 50 I took great delight in blogging about it, celebrating the fact that I was in better shape than at 40.  I still remember that and feel thankful.

That was a few years ago and my health and fitness plateaued, I was not that conscious of any real changes.  However I have now become 53 and all of a sudden I seem to have aged and I'm still reconciling myself to this.

It seems as if quite a few tell-tale signs have crept up on me and I'm not so sure about how I should deal with these.  It used to be said we aged in steps, each seven years apart.  Now I'm sceptical about most of these claims which amount to old wives tales although surprisingly there is often a modicum of truth in these.  While that arithmetic doesn't work for me, I know I have definitely aged over the last 6-9 months and this is how it is showing itself:

  • my hair is thinning out (not too bothered)
  • my face is a bit more wrinkly (quite like this!)
  • my hearing has deteriorated (ear wax?)
  • my eyesight has really deteriorated 
  • my metabolism has changed - very, very easy to put weight on
  • toilet routine i.e. more frequent
  • when running my top speed is now slower
  • more tired in the evenings
  • I care even less about what other people think of me
My reaction to this?
In someways ageing is a beautiful thing but now this is happening to me, I'm not so sure.  Some of these things have taken me by surprise and others are trivial.

While I often used to joke about my middle age denial, now I cannot be so sure about this.  However, there's so much to be grateful for and to be inspired by:
  • Some older runners and cyclists are truly inspirational.  I have met some in their 60s and 70s who are incredibly fit, nimble, flexible and seem to have retained considerable stamina (but have needed to let go of speed)
  • The kayaking club: no, I'm not planning to give up running and cycling in favour of kayaking but I cannot help but be impressed by the good all-round levels of fitness amongst the paddlers there.  There's more to kayaking than simply having strong arm and shoulder muscles!  All-round fitness, strong core and stamina are important, along with poise and balance
  • At work I always use the stairs, unless I am escorting a less-able person through the building.  I generally go up two stairs at a time and have to go really fast before I get out of breath at the top.  Others who are much younger wheeze and struggle.  Some colleagues have been in the habit of using the lift over the years they and it really shows now (slippery slope syndrome?)
  • I am naturally an optimistic person and I can be pretty determined at times.  This means I will keep pressing ahead staying healthy and sharing this with others
  • Food and nutrition: there is so much really nasty, processed and unhealthy food around which is being sold in all kinds of guises.  I am avoiding this even more than ever but I'm not turning this blog into a guide to horrible food.  Instead I am learning more about food and how it is so strongly linked with good health
In a previous post I talked about becoming 50 and the reaction by senior colleagues at work.  Would you believe that seems to continue just the same!  I still have a regular "audience" with the Strategic Management Team (some might call it a grilling) and those biscuits are still there on the table.

Running and old age

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Marathon training update

Me, at the 2013 MK marathon

I am thinking I ought to be feeling a bit nervous now, the MK marathon is not too far away now.  IN fact it's early May i.e. less than two months away.  I am also looking forward to it which probably sounds a little mixed up.  Here's what's going on:

The positives

  • Looking back I have throughly enjoyed running this race before.  The best time was in 2013 when I came in just under 4 hours.  Now I know that's nothing too special but for me it was quite a lift
  • I regularly run 10 miles on a Saturday morning, with a couple of shorter runs in the week
  • I like the challenge.
  • I like the optimism of this time of year: daylight is growing each day and winter is gradually being left behind.  I like being outdoors to enjoy it.  I like being able to leave work with some lingering daylight left - this means I can do a 5 mile run which includes Fairlands Park in Stevenage.
  • I have some new shoes.
  • I am a little overweight so I'll be able to burn this off easier now.  When I say I'm overweight, this is by my reckoning.  Don't worry, I'm not actually overweight in terms of my BMI (as I'm in the middle of my BMI range) but I FEEL OVERWEIGHT.  I can tell I can put on 6 or 7lbs in the last 6 months.
  • Because it's always good to have a challenge in my diary lined up: this keeps me focussed and stops me drifting too much.

The negatives

  • I have an injury, the worst I have had since becoming a runner.  It is a strain in one of my calf muscles (see post below).  I am hoping I can run enough to stay fit and build up the mileage without making it any worse.  My new shoes will help.
  • I feel overweight.
  • Finding the time is a struggle.
  • I need to build up the long run distances - 12miles, 14miles, 16miles, 18miles and 20 miles and then maintain for a week or so before tapering.  While I love the thought of that, finding the time is a challenge.
  • I have hardly cycled at all this year.
More on finding the time

Life is pretty busy and I quite like this but nevertheless it is sometimes a juggle and compromise from day to day.  Family life mustn't be neglected, neither must work.

Work is demanding for me with the never ending changes in my bit of the justice system.  Talk about "more for less" and how than intensifies more each year it would seem.  Some of my colleagues are taking voluntary redundancy as there was an enhanced scheme which they took advantage of.  This might open up again soon, although I'm not completely sure.  I am also not sure what I would do, job wise, should I take redundancy (any offers out there?).  

I have recently become a school governor.  This is a voluntary position and one I hope I could do well over the next few years.  I have good experience, from an officer perspective, of reporting to a Board and being scrutinised left, right and centre.

My second stint of jury service coming up at the Coroner's Court later this week.  It is an important and responsible thing for anyone who is called (i.e. summoned) to do this; having a jury made up of lay members of the public is an important part of our justice system.  I am pleased it is with the Coroner's Court as I have no professional experience of this at all.

Spending time with my family is a joy.  Seeing Becky & Hannah grow, mature and flourish is a wonderful thing.  Their lives are becoming more independent, demanding and fast moving these days.  I keep wanting to press the pause button or at least to slow it down a little - life is flashing by so fast.


Oh how I wish I could spend a little more time talking to you out there.  I wish I could spend more time only blogs as they are also serving the purpose of being a personal diary for me.  When I run, I have so many thoughts and ideas about different blog posts but I rarely have enough time to get them all posted.  I do enjoy blogging and it has become a vital part of my life nowadays, certainly an intrinsic part of running and staying healthy.  I'm not too bothered that the page view stats have become lower these days - it's not about blogging to see how high the stats go.  No, it's about recording some of my own running and healthy living journey for my benefit and also other people's as well.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

New Asics from Sweatshop, Milton Keynes

I was hardly dressed for running or having my gait analysis carried out!
"It's time to check out some new running shoes" I said to myself on my last long run over the weekend.  I reckon I have now acquired an injury in one of my calf muscles as it's affecting my running and I can also feel it complaining when I walk downstairs.  While this is annoying, it has to be said I've been pretty fortunate as in the eight years of running, I have only had the occasional niggle and this is the first real injury.

You might be wondering, as I have, what could have caused this injury.  While I know I am no sports physiotherapist, I put it down to two factors:

  • My increased mileage over Christmas and continued into the new year (including 84 miles over the two week Christmas break) and continued at about 20 miles a week since.  All of this has exasperated the next point....
  • My running form, i.e. my gait, has changed over the years.  So while the shoes I originally had and continued to replace like-for-like were correct at the time, my gait has changed over the years. 

I haven't bought shoes from the Sweatshop for myself although one of my daughters has.  A couple of colleagues who run have also used the Sweatshop and speak positively about the experience.  So after work one day I had the opportunity to call into the Milton Keynes branch on my way home.

It is probably worth pointing out that the Sweatshop is in one of those places where, if you're not careful, you could spend a fortune!  That's because it's in the Xscape Building in Central MK and there's also a branch of Evans (for bikes) and a whole range of other outdoorsy shops.  Plenty of places to eat too but there's not much chance you ever see me scoffing that junk food there.

First impressions is that it's a well stocked and well used shop - in all the times I have walked passed the front I have never seen it empty!  This time I waited my turn and Julie came to help me.  I explained my thinking that I was after some new shoes and showed her my existing shoes.

"Ah, these look about 400 miles old" and she was spot on.  Suddenly I felt embarrassed at all the mud dropping off as she examined the wear on the tread pattern, quickly comparing the left and right shoe.

Julie also commented that, chances are, a runner's gait will change over the years and as I've been running for almost eight years this will probably apply to me.  I said that I was there to buy some new shoes, with no gaffing around, as I too had suspected my running gait had changed.  Besides, it makes sense to have a couple of pairs of running shoes on the go at any one time (this is cost effective and not extravagant for a committed runner).

Process kicks in
I knew fairly soon that Julie was following a step-by-step process to make sure I got the shoes I needed.  Ordinarily I would sabotage a salesperson's script and process but this time I was happy to go along with it, this was a pragmatic decision as I simply wanted a good pair of new shoes and I was happy to trust Julie to help me make the right decision.

If you are looking to buy your first pair of running shoes, you need to allow plenty of time and not to rush the process.  First stage was to take a look at my feet i.e. whether I have a high or low arch.  This is done by standing on a glass platform with spooky green lights underneath, along with mirrors and some kind of camera.  The image of my feet in contact with the glass plate were shown on a computer screen.  I was fairly medium and it was funny to see this.

Next was trying a pair of shoes.  I had already said I quite liked Saucony and have always got on well with these.  So I ran for a minute or so in some neutral Sauconys on the treadmill for my gait analysis - this is arguably the most important part of the process.

Typical gait analysis taking place
Julie played back some of the film in slow motion and then went back and forth, frame by frame, watching the way my feet landed and then took off again.  Using an on-screen vertical line, it was clear these neutral shoes were causing my legs to be at a slightly awkward angle.  I suspect if I was filmed wearing my old shoes, my legs would be leaning the other way as they were over correcting my imbalance.  The following stage was to find shoes that would be the right level of correction.

So. Three pairs appeared.  First I tried looked fancy and unusually attractive though I can't remember the brand.  They weren't bad.

"The price?"

"£5 above average"


Next were some Sauconys (my favourite brand).  These were pretty good but the fit wasn't right, even though they were the correct size.  Next some Asics.  These were the best of the three and Julie almost anticipated I would be asking the price, so instead I simply said "don't tell me the price; I have to get the best shoes and not bother about the price".  Although I like Sauconys best of all, these Asics were the best of the choice and, as I've had Asics before I was happy to do this again.

Perhaps I ought to have mentioned these earlier as they're part of the process of buying new shoes.  While I was having my feet checked and just after the treadmill run, some custom insoles were moulded to my feet - this was quite a pleasant warming kind of sensation.  The rationale was that everything possible is thrown at me to make sure I get the best kit for running.

I could feel the insoles when they were there and knew when they weren't as I tried jogging around the shop in the various shoes.  They brought a new kind of connection with the shoes which was new to me and Julie suggested it might lengthen the lifespan of my new shoes.  Perhaps I ought to have bought them; perhaps I'll never know.  On this occasion I declined the kind offer was that I've not needed these before and I don't really want to start experimenting right now.  Having said that, I can see the logic and argument in favour of these and it certainly makes sense to get these at the same time of new running shoes. 

Going home
Driving home I reflected on my new running shoes.  I was pleased I'd gone ahead and got some new shoes that promise to be better for me.  In fact I'm pretty confident these are right.  The process had confirmed my suspicion that my running gait had changed and these new shoes are less severe in their "correction" and therefore should be okay.

I remembered Julie saying I could change them within 30 days if they're not right (could be a useful reassurance).  Furthermore Sweatshop do organise some runs, a kind of 'community run' and as an incentive to join in there's a free technical tee shirt up for grabs after a few runs.

Perhaps the only possible regret with my new shoes?  They won't stay that white for long!

Review - Asics Gel 1150 (September 2011)
Running socks are important
Two pairs of running shoes?
Are my running shoes worn out?

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Where did February go?

February has just rushed by so quickly and I'm sorry I haven't been updating my blog so much.  Plenty has been happening, including a trip to the London Bike Show and quite a few runs to savour.

Life outside staying fit and healthy has been happening too; might be an idea to get these out of the way first.  My work life is as busy and varied as ever but also has some future uncertainties mixed in these days (the effects of Ministry of Justice reforms).  We are well as a family.

Jury service
I have hardly stopped during January and February.  In fact the only time off from work I had was during jury service which you might think is hardly an activity away from my work.  It was actually, almost to the point of enjoying being in a slightly different role and seeing the whole Court scene from the general public's perspective.  What made it even more interesting was that it wasn't a criminal court but instead a Coroner's court; something I have had no experience of.  It was a sad case, about a middle aged man who took his own life while in prison.  Quite a sad tale.  However it was a poignant opportunity for the general public to become involved in the whole question of justice; there were eight of us, all local people selected at random and there to have an input into the wheels of justice.  The inquest itself was listed for three days but in effect only lasted two days, so I took some flexi time to enjoy having a day off and I can tell you, that seemed so weird.

Interestingly I have another Coroner's Court jury to sit on later in March.  Again the case is listed for three days and I wonder if it will actually take the whole three days, not that these important things should be rushed.  We must take it seriously and return the correct verdict, according to the oath we all take at the start of the proceedings.

A new venture
To make a short story even shorter, I have found myself becoming a school Governor and will attend my first meeting soon.  I am actually looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into doing this and I like the idea of doing a few more things in my community as a volunteer.  Having the time has always been a factor, as well as finding something that I would be able to do.  I can tell you, I would be hopeless as a volunteer in helping local groups take care of the Downs (lopping trees, fencing etc).  

Kayaking and the running
I am still a non-paddling member at the club and this is fine for me.  Has to be said people there often encourage me to join properly and put my name down for the next introductory course on the water.  Instead I occasionally go to the Thursday evening training which is different each week.  Sometimes we go running (yay! Something I'm not bad at) other times it is more "gym" focussed and involves building up core muscle strength (not so good in my case).  My daughter, Hannah, seriously outperforms me with these things!

Actually the last training session was running, a kind of fast-slow interval training.  We, as a group of about 15, ran from the Boat House to Golden Riddy, Linslade which was a little under a mile away.  We then raced each other around the block, as shown in the map below.  Then the fastest was paired with the slowest, second fastest with second slowest etc.

Once we were paired up we ran in opposite directions with the faster runners sprinting until they met the slower runners who were jogging.  When we met each other, we 'high fives' each other and then turn around to run back the other way, alternating the fast run for the jogging.

This then is the interval training i.e. taking your heart rate right up for a few minutes and then jogging to allow recovery and bringing the heart rate back down.  Don't ask me what the heart rate is as I don't have a monitor but I dare say I push it to the limit, but only for a short burst each time.  Felt great afterwards!

As you can see this then adds up to be 5.7 miles; all good fun and it never seems that much when you do it with others.

With Hannah doing her kayaking on the water each Saturday morning allows me to have a 10 mile run along the canal tow path.  It seems to be working pretty well like this but having said that I need to get things organised so I could have increasingly longer runs in preparation for.....

The MK Marathon
Yes I have again entered this race, having enjoyed it so much before and especially as I ran a sub 4:00 hour time before (but only just).  This is in early May and ordinarily I would be happily trained by then without too much difficulty.

The issue is that I seem to have picked up an injury which is incredibly rare for me.  In fact the only injuries I have had to date have been short lived and minor.  This time one of my left calf muscles is complaining little when I run and more so on the following day.  I am fairly sure this is due to my running form changing a little and the shoes not compensating.

So my solution is to have a gait analysis done with a view to new shoes as being the most likely solution.

The probably cause is indeed how I have outlined it but digging a little deeper I think it has been exasperated by the increased miles I have been running - so far I have run 158 miles since 1st January and in the last 10 days of 2014 I ran consecutively every day.  So I might have over-done it and now I'm paying the price.  I must surely view this as a temporary set back as I cannot face the thought of backing off from running.

Other things
So much to tell you about and I hope to get myself a little more disciplined and blog more regularly.  Talking of being disciplined, I heard today about my friend Andrew who is truing for the Wales In A Day bike ride in September (this is a hilly 190 miles).  While he is already fit and a strong rider, he apparently has been getting up at 5:00am for a turbo training session in his garage.  Something I must surely be doing!