Office Space Race

I haven’t been exercising much recently, in fact I managed to lurch from the Autumn Wolf run to the Winter Wolf run with only 4 training sessions between the two seasons. If I let that sort of lackadaisical attitude continue I’ll have to stop calling myself a running blogger.

FlexiofficeWith that in mind I’ve been thinking about resurrecting the running commute. It’s the perfect way to sneak in exercise without having to commit too much additional time. It is however, a logistical nightmare and extremely difficult to look cool, calm and professional at the work end when you drag a crumpled shirt and packet of wet wipes out of a sweaty rucksac. Flexioffices contacted me last week to let me know about the #OfficeSpaceRace, a short run route designed to be completed in your lunch break.

Lunch break running has got to be the perfect alternative to the running commute and the midday blast of fresh air and energy offers so many performance enhancements. I rarely take a break at lunchtime but when I do it really improves my mood and the midday run adds to my ability to concentrate.

Soreditch Street ArtThis OfficeSpaceRace involved joining a series of flexioffice buildings in Shoreditch, creating a manageable 1.5m route ideal for sprint or interval training.

It’s not quite as scenic as running alongside the Thames but Shoreditch has its own unique appeal in the form of street art and impressive architecture. The streets are pretty wide too which is a huge bonus if you hope to be able to run in a straight line during the lunch break.

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Roundshaw parkrun

Sometime after my 3rd failed ultra, I smartened up and decided to re-focus my efforts on less lofty goals. Shorter goals.

I have therefore embarked on a program designed to drag my 5k time back to a value I might be prepared to publish on the blog.

Roundshaw parkrun

This is week 2 and my second parkrun and so far the program is not working. We’ve just tried out our local run at Roundshaw Downs and I managed to record my worst ever time for a parkrun event. I will not be sharing my time.

Roundshaw parkrun has been going for a few years but it is still a fairly small event, run on an undulating course of mostly grass and a bit of trail through woodland. It has a striking view over Croydon to the London skyline.

I found the course to be a bit of a struggle, it could have been last nights curry or the near bottle of wine that accompanied it but I do need a better excuse than “undulating course” to explain my pitiful performance.

It is some consolation that having coincided a new event with my worst ever performance I managed to get both a PW and a PB for the same run.

Bushy parkrun 10th Anniversary

IMG_5969.JPGWe set off in a massive, diverse crowd. I was initially worried that I may trample on the toddler stood in front of me but that soon turned to concern that I might not actually be able to keep up with her.

That set the tone. I battled it out with the youth and the elderly and pretty much lost to each one. I comforted myself by the thought that one lad whizzing past me was at least 37 years younger than me. The fact that made him about 6 years old shouldn’t really matter.

With a record turn out of 1705 runners, the finish funnel was a challenge even from the perspective of a straggler. We soon made it out the other end though and met our favourite Surrey Housewife who was characteristically spotted with 3 glasses of champers.

It was absolutely lovely to share in the Bushy parkrun 10th anniversary. I was introduced to the institution back in Feb 2007 where I came 195th out of 196. I credit the wonderfully inclusive community with turning around my health and social well being, so very happy birthday parkrun.

Happy Birthday parkrun

Maxi-minimal Running Shoes – Can Altra replace Hoka

Having been a committed, t-shirt wearing, fan of Hoka ultra-cushioned running shoes for more than 2 years, I’ve recently started to consider the options and allowed my eyes to wander. It’s not that I’ve become disillusioned at all, in fact I want to find something very similar to a Hoka, just perhaps, a bit better.

Hoka Mafate 3

By better I mean:

1. Cheaper than a Hoka
2. More durable than a Hoka

But I want to keep the similarities, so they must be:

3. As cushioned as a Hoka
4. As comfortable as a Hoka

When I first came across the Hoka they were these uniquely outlandish clown shoes. They seemed to be completely against the trend for minimal barefoot shoes (even though they had minimal heel to toe drop) but now we have a host of thick soled running shoes to choose from. I call them maxi-minimal running shoes to describe the huge soles with barefoot style, minimal, heel drop.

Maxi-minimal running shoes

Ranking of cushion thickness

Maxi-Minimal Running Shoe Comparison

I’ve shown the RRP for each of these shoes but Hokas are increasingly available in the UK with good discounts available. I’ve been impressed with Millets who seem to stock the full range of Hoka Ultra running shoes.

Despite loving the feel of running in Hokas, I was becoming alarmed at the amount of money I was spending to accumulate a mound of worn out platform shoes. The Hokas are the most comfortable shoe I have ever run in and enabled me to run free of the fear of knee pain but they do have a tendency to wear out at a shocking pace. My first pair of Hokas had to be sent back within a month because I’d left half the sole on the streets of San Francisco – blog link and the while the later versions had more durable soles they started to wear very quickly on the heel tab and this resulted in heel blisters long before the shoe ought to need replacing.

When I looked at the alternatives the only real competition seemed to come from Altra. Sketchers and Adidas both do a highly cushioned model but the Sketchers has a massive heel to toe drop and the Adidas Boost was an entirely disappointing shoe that gave me none of the liberating joys associated with the Hoka range.

Looking at the price point of the Altra shoes, I’m surprised I went ahead and ordered them, they barely come in any cheaper than the Hoka. In fact when I opened the box with the Altra Olympus I nearly sent them straight back as they have a very cheap feel and at £125 I don’t think that’s warranted. The Altra Torin was much more pleasing from the outset, they didn’t necessarily look like Hoka competitors but they were cool looking.

Altra vs Hoka

Altra Torin Maxi-minimal running shoeAt the outset I said I was looking for a similar shoe to the Hoka (Mafate 3 for trail or Stinson for road use) that was preferably cheaper and more durable. The Altra Torin doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the similarity requirements, I don’t see it as a maximal shoe at all. It is however incredibly comfortable, it has a firm sole and a roomy toe box and its actually the shoe that I now spend the most time in. I don’t run in it very often though – it is too barefoot style for me nowadays but I do walk in it everywhere and its holding up remarkably well to the abuse of the daily commute. I pull them on and off without use of the laces and 4 months in, it is still showing no signs of wear.

Altra Olympus Maxi-minimal running shoeThe Altra Olympus ought to be a real competitor. The spec charts suggest that this model has a thicker sole than any of the Hoka range although it doesn’t feel like that on the foot. Like the Torin, the Olympus has an incredibly wide toe box which immediately makes you feel less constricted than in the Hoka range. I can’t say that it is a more comfortable shoe though. The sole seems to squirm underfoot in a quite a disturbing manner. You feel as though you are teetering on a mass of jelly and I can’t claim to have enjoyed my running experiences in it.

In terms of durability, I can’t yet call it. Despite having had both pairs of Altras for about 4 months I barely ever wear the Olympus – I’d much rather reach for any of my Hokas.

When they eventually wear out I will replace the Altra Torin as my near permanent walking and play shoe but I won’t be touching the Olympus again. The Hokas are still my number one choice of running shoe although I am still thinking about the perfect maxi-minimal running shoe that might have the sole of a Hoka Mafate but the toe box of an Altra Torin. I wonder if it exists?

For a great comparison of the Hoka range, showing cut away photos, see the excellent article on fellrnr.

Panasonic Action Camera meets The Wolf Run

The Wolf Run is becoming a bit of habit. We skipped summer but by the end of the year will have dragged our way across Woods, Obstacles, Lakes and Fields in 3 out the 4 seasons on offer.

Last weekend was The Autumn Wolf and it didn’t disappoint – muddy hilarity for the whole 10k.

Despite being held in the same location as The Spring Wolf the organisers had managed to shake things up a bit. The obstacles were tweaked, with some new additions and the sunny weather turned the trail sections into runnable tracks rather than the quagmires of Spring. It felt like a totally different event.

Panasonic HX-A500 Action CamI was sent the latest wearable action camera, the Panasonic HX-A500 to try out on the day and it held up to one heck of a battering and still managed to produce some fairly impressive footage from the day. I had considered buying the GoPro but I didn’t like the idea of having it attached to a chest harness. The Panasonic action camera, comes in two parts with lens attached to a light headband which is then attached by a cable, to the camera sitting in an armband. I found this to be the perfect setup. It felt really comfortable to wear and the camera was easily accessible so I could switch the recording on and off for every obstacle.

The Panasonic has a load of different settings of ever increasing quality, culminating in the headline 4k. I don’t really know what that means other than its a lot of pixels and I’d need some special viewing device to take advantage of the ultra HD-ness. I shot my footage of The Wolf Run at Full HD instead, so I didn’t risk filling my memory card before the event was over. The camera is waterproof to 3m but I didn’t really imagine it would stand up to the battering of this sort of event. It’s repeatedly submerged in muddy water and gets bashed, a lot.

The footage from the turbo charged water slide makes me flinch every time I watch it but its a good example of the battering the camera had to endure (and me and the poor woman I hit).

The video capture from the entire event was fantastic with realistic colours, crisp images and a relatively steady shot. See what you think of both the camera and the event by viewing our footage from the day. Video was edited by Rubysmileslikeanerd.

Panasonic HX-A500 Action Camera
Pros

  • Excellent quality footage
  • Eye level lens so you shoot what you see
  • Hands free design so it doesn’t interfere with obstacles
  • waterproof and mudproof
  • battery survived for longer than the 2.5 hour event
  • incredibly easy to use while on the run

Cons

  • Quite hard to clean – need to ensure all the grit is clear before closing or the seal may be damaged
  • At £379.99 it’s expensive

The Power of the Playlist

running playlist

We got a swanky new treadmill recently, so despite the horrendously hot weather conditions I am choosing to do most of my running indoors, without air con and without a fan.

Within 5 minutes I have wilted terribly and my chances of staying on to complete my usual target of 5k are slim.

It is in these conditions that I need to unleash the power of the running playlist – the power to sweat and endure.

The Vision treadmill comes complete with an iPod adaptor so I can link up the iPod nano that I got from Argos and blast out my Top 5 motivational running tunes:

  1. Roar – Katy Perry. I have to play this first as I need to yell “Hear me Roar!” along to the chorus and I lose my puff very quickly.
  2. On Top of the World – Imagine Dragons. For some reason I try to dance with my arms thrust into the air when this plays. Very dodgy on a moving treadmill.
  3. Pompeii – Bastille. We’ve just come back from a trip to Pompeii so this has to be on my current list, even though I can’t forgive him for his pronunciation of “close”. Weirdo.
  4. I Kissed a Girl – Katy Perry. Not that I have a thing about Katy Perry but frankly, no other song has the power to make me bounce.
  5. Breathe – Melissa Etheridge. Because by song 5, it does “only hurt when I breathe”

 

A Juneathon Triple

I’ve had a mini streak.

3 days jogged and logged but I’ve fallen at the blogging hurdle.

Each run has been just a tiny bit worse than the last one. It started on Friday with a late night run after an “end of exams” celebratory evening. I valiantly tackled the hilly, round the block, circuit with a half chicken and 3 bottle of Sagres inside me.

They did their absolute best not to stay inside me.

Sunset over Putney Bridge

On Day 14 (a Saturday) I slept in til 11:30am and therefore missed all parkrun opportunities and risked a repeat of last weeks midday sun showdown. I opted for an easier life and relaxed until sundown before embarking on a Thames loop with Lynn. I only had a light salad for tea so there was no chicken tapping desperately on my stomach wall but I felt pretty wretched nonetheless. I gasped my way around a shortened 6k loop and grasped at hypochondriacal straws.

Today I thought I’d remove any meal obstacles, so I could neither blame half chickens or light salads for my running malaise. I rolled out of bed at 9am and hit the treadmill without even a coffee passing my lips.

I opted for a 20 minute HIT session and would like to say I killed that routine. Rather predictably though, it came closer to killing me.

Lets hope Juneathon Week 3 welcomes a fitter me.

Canvas Prints of Event Photos

If you follow me on twitter or facebook you would have been seriously tempted to unfriend me last week. Having just completed in the “best obstacle race ever”, I proceeded to jabber on about it. Incessantly.

Canvas photo from The Wolf RunI’ve been wearing the finishers bracelet at work and the big Wolf Run hoody at all available social events and it’s safe to say that the family, my work colleagues and quite possibly the world, are bored by my tales of mud and glory.

This weekend I think the hoody will need to pay a trip to the wash basket but fortunately I will continue to be reminded of the day’s enjoyment due to the arrival of this wondrous canvas.

Canvas Design contacted me last week to see if I would like to try out their service.

The folk at Canvas Design are keen sports folk and regularly partake in triathlons themselves. They’ve started to create framed canvas montages for triathlon and running events and I was very happy to receive my canvas from the Wolf Run.

Canvas Triathlon Photo

The process is extremely simple. Just requiring you to upload a photo or photos of choice and then select the canvas size you want. They can do custom sizes and the construction and delivery is extremely speedy.

The finished article is really impressive. The canvas print is stretched over a sturdy pine frame and all the required fixings are included in the pack.

I love the 3D effect you get from the canvas prints wrapping around the frame. As you walk into the room you get the effect of the picture coming out from the wall and in this case it means seeing Lynn bursting through the finish line of her first event.

It strikes me as the perfect way to capture the pride and glory of finishing an event.

If you’ve got any photos from your latest sporting event and would like to convert them to a canvas print, you can use the voucher code BLOG15 to get 15% discount on your order at canvasdesign.co.uk.

The Wolf Run: The Aftermath

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This weekend we took part in our first Obstacle Race – The Wolf Run. A 10k trail run through Woods, over Obstacles, across Lakes and finally through Fields. Our team photo says it all, it’s wet, muddy and results in belly aching hilarity.

There are many obstacles, ranging from tyres, cargo nets, monkey bars, water slides and log walls but the natural hazards of clay river banks, lakes and bogs keep the race real.

The Wolf Run water slideLynn followed me on the water slide. I should have warned her that this was not a good order. I have been plagued all my life with an inability to descend slides. I grind to a halt mid-way down. Depending on the nature of the slide, I’m either wedged by the sides or I’ve created a dam that stops all water flow and all associated downward motion.

As anticipated I created a dam and Lynn ploughed into the back of me. I tried a breast stroke manoeuvre to get the flow going again and miraculously it worked. Within a few arm strokes I was off and building momentum. It turned into an incredibly scary ride. I probably hit 40mph with a bank of fairy liquid suds in my face. I started a tail spin and began to panic about how this was all going to end. I was convinced that I was going to reach the end of the plastic sheet and continue the sleigh ride across the farmers field, stopping only after I’d scattered half the field of runners.

ISayLynn in the meantime was having far more of a struggle. She never recovered from the early hiatus and found herself bothered by a stray slider for the whole of the descent. Photographic evidence suggests she enjoyed it far more than is decent.

The Wolf Run managed to perfect the trail running to obstacle ratio. I don’t think we ran more than a km before hearing the telltale screams ahead of us, that indicated an evil hazard lay just round the corner.

Wolf_Run_WallI spooked myself with this obstacle the moment we arrived in the car park. It was looming just yards from the finishing line and I sauntered over to analyse the threat before we started. It was perhaps an 8ft vertical ascent using ropes and teeny cm wide strips for the hint of a toe hold, followed by monster straw bales requiring leaps down, and then up, across chasms.

I got up the wall reasonably well, there was admittedly some assistance, both Lynn and a marshall had a foot each and were forcing it to remain stable on the toe holds but if I didn’t look down I could pretend that I conquered the wall, warrior style.

After that my warrior instinct escaped me. I stood and teetered on the high straw bale looking across at the next terrace.

Runners came, jumped and went.
Lynn shouted and coaxed but still more runners came, jumped and went.
We could see the finish gantry but I was frozen on a straw bale.

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Dan attempted to demonstrate how simple the task was but put a little too much effort into his jump. He overshot the first bale and couldn’t get enough purchase to propel himself upwards to the next ledge. He face planted into a wall of straw, chinning himself on the way down and landed in a heap. He did a great act of shaking himself off and looking nonchalant but I’m fairly sure he’ll still be wearing a neck brace.

In the end I made it across. Lynn and a marshall offered me their arms and as the sun began to set I leapt across to grasp their heroic hands. They pulled me across and I landed on my knees and wept.

It was not quite over though. Our team rallied for one further obstacle before collapsing in the beer tent for a glamorously muddy glass of champers.

A great team spirit and a marvellous event.

Today I ran for Ben.

 

Crawling along the Vanguard Way

The Vanguard Way is a bloody wonder.

Who would have thought that in this day and age you could walk from the coast to London city passing through an entirely rural corridor.

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I was dropped off near Forest Row, quite a way up from the coast and set the challenge of making it home before the kids had eaten all the Easter eggs.

I wasn’t too concerned. I had money in my daysack and thought I could pop into a village shop for a sustaining creme egg if the need arose. I hadn’t factored in quite how isolated this route is. After 7 hours of walking I had passed not a single shop, pub or local convenience. I survived on a bag of sherbet pips and a bottle of coconut water but by the end even the snails were looking tasty.

The Vanguard Way was soggy this morning but I had a waterproof jacket and a plastic bag to keep my sweets dry.

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The damp air didn’t deter me or the animals. Easter bunnies were frolicking, grouse and pheasant were screeching at me from the hedgerows and lambs were being born as I squelched across the fields.

Today’s pace was painfully slow, I felt fairly fresh and healthy but the hilly terrain and the littering of stiles had the effect of stopping me in my tracks, repeatedly.

I cannot abide stiles. I reckon land owners design the most evil, wobbly contraptions to deter invading walkers. One field I passed through had passed an electric cable across the handrails and it was only the occasional buzz that warned me to attempt a handsfree ascent to avoid a shocking experience.

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As I approached Croydon across the North Downs I thought I’d stumbled upon the escape route from a local escargot farm but it seems the Romans brought monster snails to the Southern counties as well as Burgundy and these were free range Roman Snails enjoying the chalky environs of the North Downs.

I couldn’t bring any home for tea as they are an endangered species in the UK and it is now illegal to harvest them. I don’t think anyone was too disappointed.

The Vanguard Way

  • 66 miles from Croydon to Newhaven
  • There is a fantastic resource for the route available at http://www.vanguardway.org.uk/
  • Colin Saunders has produced extremely detailed route descriptions that you can download in sections and the GPS for each section is available to download. I downloaded the GPS and followed the breadcrumb trail as my printed booklets soon disintegrated in the rain.