Sunday, 28 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: Post-Kanye Nine Miler

A tough nine miler this morning on the Thames loop via Chiswick Bridge and Hammersmith Bridge. Tough because it was muggy. Tough because I enjoyed steak, chips and three delicious pints in the Princess Victoria last night (was that Tom Parker Bowles and his aunty next to us?). Tough because of that bottle of Hardy's Aussie red I needed to dull the pain of Kanye West's headlining show at Glastonbury until midnight. 
I ate a banana and a gel, took the running belt and got round thanks to the SIS electrolyte and a short pause for a dry heave after emerging from the subway under the A4 on Black Lion Lane. 
First run on that route since they mowed the river bank between Thames Tradesmen's and Tideway Scullers. Always a sad sight - summer already drifting away.  
I rehydrated with a protein shake before an unexpected outing to 12.30pm Mass with Grace. I didn't have time to eat before I left so I was weak and dizzy every time I had to stand or kneel. Made good with a fry-up as soon as I got in.
Relaxation and recovery not helped by work calls about cancelled shows, a dark control room, a fake ISIS flag and an imminent Grexit. Finally recovered with a sunshine snooze in the garden while being serenaded by a nearby outdoor karaoke party. 
The left foot is still red around the toe joint but now virtually pain free, thank goodness. Let's hope the rest me is tomorrow morning. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: My First ParkRun

Wormwood Scrubs
I did my first 5km ParkRun at Wormwood Scrubs this morning. The colchicine worked its magic overnight just enough to allow me to walk and trot gingerly in the garden with endurable discomfort in the gout-addled joint of the second toe on my left foot.
So I cycled to the Scrubs and met up with a friendly bunch of 57 souls, most of them ParkRun veterans but a few newbies like me among them. Most distinctive of all were a team who'd opted for convict stripes and fun police uniforms in homage to the famous prison on the border. They were celebrating one of their number's 50th run and had travelled all the way up from Basingstoke. Apparently it's a thing to run in as many ParkRun venues as you can. Good on them.
It was Go at 9am in perfect sunny conditions and after a bit of watch fumbling I found myself on the edge of the leading group of elite runners and running rapidly out of puff. The first few metres were unexpectedly up hill across the grassland and I struggled to get a good breathing rhythm together.
In fact I couldn't believe how heavily I was breathing until a glance at my Fitbit watch revealed my pace was sub-seven-minute mile; too quick for me. I eased off and let the big boys gradually disappear into the distant flowering blackberry bushes.
By the end of the first of two laps of the bone-dry Scrubs I'd settled down and felt like I was running on my own with just the chiffchaffs for company. But as I trundled up the hill for the second time I heard heavy breathing behind me. It gradually got closer until with about half a mile to go a bloke overtook me almost apologetically. Then a young teenage boy. I couldn't go with them. I was just glad to take the welcome applause from the quickies at the finish line and kept moving until I could breathe again.
I was pleased with the time - 22:45 with an average pace of 7:24/mi. That was later upped to 22:53 by the official timer which took into account my pensioner pressing of the wrong button on my Fitbit at the start and having to set it up again.

The Strava summary (above) listed some new PBs: 4:21 for 1km, 7:07 for the mile and 14:40 for two miles. Not bad considering the foot pain and the, er, dehydrating effects of the hardcore drug. I don't suppose last night's bottle of red wine helped much either.
I rewarded myself with a protein shake followed by a sauna and a soak in the jacuzzi. Then it was time for the traditional Saturday fry-up with a less traditional colchicine tablet on the side.
The impressive ParkRun set-up texted me my time and later an email linked to the full results; I finished 15th in the race and second in my age category with a grade of 63.95%.
A decent start and something to aim for next time - minus the bloody gout.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: My Left Foot

Nice toenail

I'm injured again. It feels like gout or arthritis in the joint of the second toe of my left foot but the fact that it flared up a couple of hours after my second personal trainer session this morning makes me wonder. 
The 8am session was great. A really good hour of body conditioning; burpees, tyre jumps and flips, round-the-world push-ups, battle ropes - all brilliantly demonstrated by Yasmine. She's good at encouraging and cajoling without overdoing it. I huff and puff and feel ashamed of my bony girl arms but I can feel myself getting stronger. 
I went home feeling pleased with myself and got to work just as news was breaking of a terror decapitation in France closely followed by a tourist massacre courtesy of a lunatic jihadist in Tunisia. 
It was straight into organisation mode; getting Hala on the road to Lyon, sending updates to Max on air in Berlin, shuttling between the Newsdesk and the gallery, scrambling writers and briefing programme teams and Atlanta bosses. 
But I still felt fit and good. I even printed out my ParkRun barcode thinking I could do my first 5km run at Wormwood Scrubs tomorrow. 
The toe joint twinges started about an hour later and got gradually worse. By 12.30pm I'd popped a couple of ibuprofen with my Leon chicken tagine and I was starting to limp. By 4pm the familiar pain was pretty constant and the drugs weren't working. 
The rolling coverage meant I also had to biff an evening dash to Henley to watch Joseph's boat attempting to qualify for the regatta next week. A big blow on a lovely summer Friday. 
Did I tweak something during the session, could it have been stress related or was it just a routine acute explosion of gout? I limped out of the office at 7.30pm and despaired all the way home via the 207 bus to avoid the walk from the tube station. 
And now I sit with an ice block on my foot having swallowed a couple of colchicine tablets while enduring the lamentable Mark Ronson massacring The Smiths at Glastonbury. 
 I really hope the tabs kick in tonight. If not it's a weekend without training but I'd rather it happened now than the Friday before the marathon. 
And the best news of all - Joseph did it. Yay!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: Work-Training Balance

Trafalgar Square today

It's sometimes tough to fit in the training schedule around the full-time job. Yesterday was a good example. I had to be at work at 8.30am and I didn't fancy a 6am run even though I knew I wouldn't have any time for a workout during the day.
The Calais migrant story meant I didn't leave the office until 9pm and went straight to The Clachan with the editorial team for a couple of celebratory pints of Meantime London Pale Ale before heading home. So no training. 
This morning I took revenge. I went to the 9am editorial meeting, set the news wheels in motion then ducked out for a five-mile run along the Thames. It was fabulous. Warm and sunny, running into a cool breeze on the way out on the south bank and running back with the light wind behind me. 

I felt out of puff in the final mile but my right foot felt fine and I returned to the office by noon with a lightly-perspired white shirt and a mood buoyed by the summer sights of a golden Parliament and the imperious London Eye glinting in the mid-June joyfulness. 
It was also a pretty quick run - one of the miles was around 7'30, so go me. 
I headed back to work, revived and refreshed, via a photo-op in a sun-kissed Trafalgar Square. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: The Spin Zone

Back on track with a booze-free rest day yesterday but the top of my right foot still felt a bit wobbly today so I opted out of a scheduled 40-minute run and in to the 45-minute 7.35pm spinning class at the Virgin Active cycle zone with Dean. 
Dean is cool. Strength of a sprinter and the grace of a panther. In spinning classes I've been to before the instructor sits on their bike at the front, over-modding into their lip mic over blaring pump thump noise. 
Dean is different. He circulates, he encourages, cajoles, calls the tap-tap-tap rhythm at pedal level and makes his orders clear. 

I'm still struggling to make spinning work for me, though. I give it my best shot and work up a decent sweat but the Fitbit stats suggest I'm not working hard enough. I'm outside the peak cardio zone and trundling along in the slow lane. I obviously need to ramp up the resistance and boost the cadence. I'll give it another go soon. 
The eternal effort to cut eat healthily is going well, though. Muesli for breakfast and salads for lunch and dinner so far this week. Only a delicious Magnum let me down tonight. And it was worth it. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: My Gel Hell

I'm struggling with energy gels. I just can't get the blighters open.
It came to a head halfway round my long eight-mile run yesterday. I took a Science In Sport lemon and lime job in my belt with the intention of a quick hit to help me through the last three miles. 
I took hold of it at Barnes Bridge. As usual, the gel foil was slippery and my fingers were sweaty meaning I couldn't get enough grip on the little tear-off strip. I tried my teeth, wiped my fingers on my non-absorbent Welsh Castles Relay shirt but all to no avail. In the end I had to stop, dry off and do it properly which was irritating. 
I once raised the issue with SIS in a Twitter Q&A. They recommended the teeth method. The one time that did work for me the foil jagged on one of my comedy 70s tooth fillings and sent an electric shock down to my vaselined toes. Nobody else seems to struggle so I guess I need more practice but if you've got any tips send them my way. 
Once open the gel always gives me an extra yard but there must be an easier way. 
The run was otherwise uneventful; cool and cloudy conditions along the Thames on the longest day of a summer that hasn't really got going. My glutes were still complaining for the first mile after Friday's lunges and there is definite metatarsal discomfort in my right foot. I may need more than one rest day this week to give it a chance to recover. 

I rehydrated with an excellent SIS Rego shake and lunched on poached eggs and beans on toast again. Then all the good work was undone by a couple of lunchtime pints of Dark Star Hophead at The Bree Louise in Euston and a Fathers' Day Nepalese feast at the Monkey Temple in Shepherd's Bush.  
Don't tell my PT. 

Berlin Marathon: 2.4km Sprint Test

My personal trainer set me a test: run 2.4km as fast as you can on a treadmill and tell her the result next week. That's one-and-a-half miles.
A quick Google search suggests that's the mandatory fitness test for the armed forces and the police; 12 minutes seems to be the maximum time allowed. 
So I headed down there and got on that goddam treadmill. I warmed up for five minutes at a 1% gradient and faffed about with the controls to get it up to a decent speed. I started at 4'30 per km and gradually quickened minute by minute. I got it up to 4'10km in the sprint finish and ended with a time of 10'58. Sweat all over the machine. I was pleased with that as a marker but I think I can go quicker. I was breathing heavily but still had more in the tank. 
My main concern was discomfort in my right metatarsal area. Maybe a warning that I'm overdoing it again. Need to keep monitoring that carefully. 
My PT has also given me some sleep and eating diaries to fill in. Should be fun. 
I feasted on poached egg and beans on toast then headed to watch big Joe in his final at the Marlow Regatta at Dorney Lake. Moody weather for June 20. 

We got back home in time to enjoy a bottle of red wine and a felafel pitta bread. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: 1st PT Session

I've taken the financial plunge and hired a personal trainer. One session a week between now and the marathon at £45 a pop - that's on top of the £75 a month it costs to not go to the Virgin Active very much every month. Try not to think about it.
Yasmine is an endurance running specialist. She's run a marathon in Germany and done plenty of halves. It turns out she finished a few minutes behind me in the Hackney half last month. I'm looking forward to seeing what difference she makes. 
The first session began with a warm-up on a ski-ing machine I hadn't used before followed by a reintroduction to some of those horrible exercises I stopped doing years ago because they were so annoying: squats, lunges, walking lunges. There were also a few new ones - the sumo squat with a 12kg kettlebell, tyre flips, medicine ball throwing and plyo box jumps. 
It was a tough workout. I worked up a sweat and really felt the leg muscles straining. I was glad to shuffle off into the steam room and jacuzzi after a challenging hour. 

I lunched on poached eggs and beans on toast then rehydrated for the rest of the day with my visiting brother: a couple of Oliver's Islands under the swifts at The Blue Boat on the river at Hammersmith, a couple of DNAs a bit further west on the hot and steamy patio of The Old Ship and a pale ale for the road in the sun-drenched Eagle beer garden in Askew Road.  
All Fridays should be like this. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: Doing The Strand

Tried a new route for the easy five miler today. Started near the Virgin Active on the Strand on a warm and sunny morning. Jogged down the north side of the Embankment, over Westminster Bridge, west on the south bank past Parliament, over Lambeth Bridge and onto Millbank then along the Embankment over Vauxhall Bridge. 
The route back was similar but I made the mistake of staying on the south bank after Westminster Bridge which meant a lot of tourist and school trip dodging around the London Eye. 

Enjoyable route nonetheless and I was glad to hydrate with a protein shake in the changing room. 
Rounded off a pretty active day by heading to the Village Underground in Shoreditch to watch the excellent Go! Team via a couple of pints of London Pale Ale in The Clachan and a couple more Hackney IPAs in the Crown and Shuttle opposite the venue. Recommend the £6 shish kebabs at the grill on the corner next to the pub. 
Warning: avoid the over-priced aeroplane-style tins of Tiger beer inside the VU. Bleurgh. 

A sluggish 40-minute tempo run down to the Thames and back after work. Felt hot, thirsty and bloated after a potsu late lunch in Itsu. Managed a reasonable 7'47 pace but never felt happy. Weird how that happens sometimes. I think I'm more of a morning runner. Warm enough for a rare alfresco salad tea on the decking. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: Lebanese carbs

Up at 6.30am for an easy half-hour around cool and cloudy Acton Park then 20 press-ups before breakfasting like a king on a protein shake. Yesterday's sports massage has paid off.
Jon Pertwee today
Carbed up at lunchtime by sharing a Lebanese meze in Soho with visiting Vince. Washed it down with a quick visit to the Old Coffee House in Beak Street. 
Vince: "Do you serve coffee?"
World-weary barmaid: "No."
"But it's called the Old Coffee House."
"It used to be a coffee house. Now we sell proper drinks."
We settled for a pint of Brodies' Kiwi and a glass of lemonade. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: Sports Massage

Rest day in the first full week of training and STILL feeling a bit stiff post-Wales so I cycled down to the Park Club for a luxury sports massage.
Richard was recommended by a friend who's having physio on his injured knee. He charges £35 for half an hour lying in a small, warm room listening to the pumping cardio class in the studio upstairs while he works his magic.
First up some firm pressure on the hips before attention turned to the thighs and ITBs while we compared football notes. The Manchester City badge on my tracksuit top gave me away. He's a United fan but he promised not to be too harsh on me. 

Back of knee selfie

The back quarter-hour was the best. Warm, repeated massage on those tight hamstrings and some almost-painful work on calfs which I didn't even realise were tight. It ended with some ankle flexing and a welcome glass of water to flush out those Richard-released toxins. 
The vastus lateralis glowed, the gluteus relaxed and the tibialis anterior sighed softly into the white towels. I had a new mini spring in my step when I headed back to the bike rack. 
I'll be back. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Berlin Marathon: 14 weeks and 6 days to go


I took a week off running after the buttock-burning 13 miles of the Welsh Castles Relay last Saturday so this weekend is the first couple of days of focused training for the marathon on September 27. 
I'm following the Bupa intermediate plan with the intention of using a personal trainer at the Virgin Active club once a week. 
It was the Reading Regatta so I dropped Joseph off at the course at 8am, helped to assemble the boat club marquee then jogged alongside that lovely, leafy stretch of the Thames for an easy six-miler in the drizzle. 
Swallows, common terns, whitethroats, swifts, blackcaps, red kites - just some of the reasons I never listen to music while I run. I love the scenery and the sounds all around me. I ran west along the path towards Pangbourne. Flat as a pancake until the third mile when it diverted up a steep metal bridge over the railway then up a steeper hill through a housing estate sounding of chiffchaffs. Me and my glutes were happy to make the turn back. 
I misread the watch on the run home and thought I'd nearly finished when I still had a mile to go. No problem. The goslings and swans near the chandlery were a marvellous sight. 
I rehydrated with a SIS protein shake and paid £2.35 to shower and change in the Rivermead Leisure Complex. 
A decent enough return to the orange Asics trainers (I left the Brooks out in the rain on Friday night) but I'm still sore from that monster hill at Llanfair Caerinion. I need a foam roll and a soak in the jacuzzi. 
One of the parents chugged me into running Berlin to raise money for the boat club. It's a good idea. A lot of people will be getting unwelcome sponsorship emails. 


Woke up dehydrated after an evening at Tim and Tracey's party. A few too many Heinekens and Sols to go with the Pride at the regatta and the Brewers Union beers in the garden. The impromptu dad dancing may explain the stiff thighs but it's more likely to be yesterday's run. 
I hauled myself off to the gym and ran in the rain around Acton Park for an easy half an hour. That hill still makes me groan every time I run up it. Three and a half laps then back to the gym for some powerpad planks, a sauna and a jacuzzi. 
This just might be day one of the ambitious no-booze-at-home plan for the duration of the training. So far so good. We'll see. Rest day tomorrow.