The Road to Tipperary

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20130118-121940.jpgFinding myself unexpectedly in the City of Londinium, I very nearly allowed an impromptu tour of the local Porter houses to scupper my Janathon attempts.

It started with an extremely fine pint of Guinness in The Tipperary.

I always think of Guinness as a horribly bitter drink requiring at least one shot of blackcurrant to make it palatable. This glass was a delight of creamy smoothness and if hunger wasn’t spurring me on I’d have had another and another.

We moved off in search of a Chop House but instead fell into the Longroom at Smithfield Market where we sampled porters and salt beef.

I was attracted to the Espresso stout but it was truly disgusting – think of used coffee grinds steeped in cold water. It became, what I think is, the first unfinished pint of stout.

20130118-122418.jpgI followed it closely with a half of Black Isle Porter which proved to be a treat of creamy beeriness. It’s a potential winner in my month of stouts.

By the time I got home I was ready to fall into bed but the guilt of Janathon played on my mind. In the end I pressed play on Day 2 of Insanity and ended the evening on my hands an knees in a sweaty heap of pain.

The cat maintained his dignity throughout the 40 minute ordeal. He watched me through squinted eyes and maintained the illusion of sleep despite being bounced up and down by the heffalump attempting power squat jumps.

I made very good use of my Give Me Tap water bottle that I’d been sent to review. The concept is simple. Buy a bottle, fill it with tap water, repeat. An ever increasing number of shops and cafes are coming onboard and offering free refills so you should never be far from free water. There is a charitable element to the scheme with half the proceeds from the bottle sales going to fund water schemes in the third world. Apparently 2 bottle purchases can provide one person with water for life.

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The Insanity Test

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My knees have been suffering since the weekends run so I’ve decided to focus on some core training.

If I had any guts at all I’d be enrolling myself for a foundation course of crossfit but I’m sadly lacking in that department. Instead I have pulled out the Insanity DVDs so that I can sweat and groan behind closed doors.

20130115-234558.jpgFor those that haven’t heard of it, Insanity describes itself as a max-interval, extreme workout. Which means that your intensity is high for a large portion of the workout, interspersed with short recovery breaks. It’s high intensity circuit training for the home.

I’ve started back on Day 1 of the 60 day intense regime and that’s means the fitness test. 25 minutes, 8 exercises where you aim for as many repetitions as possible within 1 minute.

The exercises include a lot of jumps – vertical squat jumps, burpee jumps, globe jumps etc and a few nigh on impossible push up based exercises.

They are remarkably cruel but I quite like feeling sick after a workout.

As it was only 25 mins long I thought I might attempt a 3k on the treadmill as well. That was until I swooned in a pre-faint as I approached the machine. I think one insane session a day is good enough for Janathon.

I struggled with today’s Stout after the workout. So it’s just as well that it wasn’t worth finishing. Meantime London Stout from Greenwich has an iron filing scent, a weak flavour, possibly of bonfires and a lingering sourness. Flat and uninspiring. So that will be avoided in the future.

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Stout Only

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There was a shameful lack of true exercise today. My intentions were good for about 15 hrs of the day but they just floated away by about bedtime.

Guilt made me swing the kettlebell before I laid down but I had to cut that short as the cat was threatening to leap into the path of the iron weight. I shall consider closing the door next time.

While exercising proved tricky, I had no bother with the Stout-Athlon challenge which is clearly proving to be no challenge at all.

I’m resurrecting my paleo diet as a means to focus on some weight loss and Lynn is dabbling with a wheat-free detox so we opted for a Sam Smiths Oatmeal Stout. Probably not very Paleo but is at least wheat-free.

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Jolly nice it was too.

Stoking the Furnace

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I mistook the absence of snow for evidence of a gloriously mild morning. It is easy to make meteorological errors when assessing the weather conditions from under a warm duvet. The truth revealed itself pretty quickly when I set off on this morning’s long run.

I was repeating last weeks circular route from Putney Bridge to Barnes Bridge and back. The icy wind, channelled along the Thames and ripped through my summery shirt and my barely clad extremities suffered greatly. I was squealing for about 30 mins before my inner furnace kicked in and was able to roll up my sleeves and revel in the hot, toastiness of a long distance runner.

It turned into a lovely run, I knocked 5 minutes off last weeks time by sticking religiously to my 3min run 1min walk strategy and listened with fascination to another Marathon Talk interview with Tim Noakes, this time discussing low carb nutrition and the paleo diet. I’ve never heard that guy give a dull interview.

I spent the afternoon washing and polishing my beloved Bonneville as it needs to be sold. I start a new job in February, I’ll now be working at the local hospital which means my opportunities for motorbike commuting are severely curtailed. Still, I now get to drown my sorrows with a motor inspired bottled of Stout: Old Engine Oil. A truly viscous, treacly brew with a massive flavour hit. A creamy, bitter treacle in a disappointingly small bottle. It packs a punch and I was surprised it only came out at 6%. The bottle recommends it to be served with black pudding which sounds perfect but I’ll be spending the evening at the cinema watching Les Mis so will have to make do with popcorn.

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Best Laid Plans

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While a number of Janathoners were embarking on their first park runs (jogblog and femmerun), and others were trying new park runs (Travelling Hopefully), I’m afraid to admit I was still lying in bed. I was awake enough to witness the pre-parkrun hubbub on twitter but not sufficiently awake to do anything about it. By the time I stirred into action it was 11:30 and we were close to missing the first badminton match of the year.

We speed marched down to the Brixton Rec, rubbing sleep from our eyes and clutching our brand new Xmas rackets.

On the court I stripped down to my court gear, and released my pro racket from its sheath, only to discover a great big security tag slap bang in the middle of the strings. Nothing screams Looter like a security tag in the middle of Brixton.

We went home dejected, with one speed walk and one sulky walk notched up for Janathon.

20130112-233141.jpgThings were looking up though as Sports Direct decided we looked honest enough to release the tag without a receipt and we popped into the local retro junk store to find the worlds best seed/map drawer which will revolutionise my allotment life.

I was so inspired by my bargain find that we managed to squeeze in a trip to the gym to rattle off a 5k on the treadmill. Hardly a scenic parkrun but it gives me an excuse for a beer so who’s complaining?

Today’s stout was a can of Murphys complete with widget in the can. It gave a perfect creamy head and an interesting bubble action so its a shame the taste is rather flat and nondescript.

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Accidents are Inevitable

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Kettlebell

I can’t write a great deal as I appear to have wrenched my arm out of its socket.

It may have something to do with my latest fad.

It’s a recycled fad which previously dislocated multiple vertebrae so I count today’s Janathon exercise as an improvement.

The stout was a success but you surely can’t go wrong with a Guinness even if its the export variety. It was sort of sweet with a long bitter after taste and something else, something quite out of place. When I got half way through the bottle it clicked, it was either Ruby Port or Sherry.

Very nice though, I approve.

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Ten Green Bottles

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Ok, it’s 21 and they are brown but regardless, they represent the challenge still ahead. Another 21 days of jogging, logging and blogging and another 21 bottles of stout.

Given the mad January dash of treadmill running and cushion jumping its hard to believe that we’ve ticked off barely a third of Janathon. Its been a successful one so far though and if each bottle were to be offset by a small treadmill offering of 3k, I would break the 100k mark for the month. Looking back over my logs I can see that I’ve only broken that barrier twice in my running life, so its something worth aiming for.

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20130110-224021.jpgI missed yesterdays blogging but you needn’t fear, I’ve stuck with the program and tried out two new Stouts, both from the Bristol Brewery.

Yesterday’s was a fine Irish Stout, simple flavour with a strong bitter aftertaste, certainly very pleasant but not really worth the staggering price tag – £5.10.

Today’s Milk Stout was the first bottle that I would consider trying again after the end of January. It smooth and creamy with the perfect balance of bitter and sweet notes.

It’s called a milk stout as lactose is used to sweeten the stout without the risk of the sugar being converted to alcohol during the brewing process as apparently the yeast won’t work with lactose. At the beginning of this challenge I had to suffer my way through a series of sickly sweet stouts but this one has got it just right.

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Sickness and Recovery

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I’ve been ill for a couple of days now so you could call today’s Janathon offering either heroic or lame, depending on your sympathy levels.

I’ve been drawn to a video by kinetic revolution showing standing jumps as an ideal exercise for improving knee alignment an reducing patellar femoral pain.

20130108-211517.jpgIt’s basically the standing block jump that you see the more athletic competitors from the Bigger Loser partaking in.

I am embarrassingly pants at jumping. I have been known to stand in front of a low bench at the gym for a good 5 mins, psyching myself up for a plyometric leap. Even then I usually wimp out with a one legged hop or worse bail completely because someone walks by.

Today I’ve been practising in the privacy of my own home. Leaping with a perfect double legged formation onto a cushion.

Yes I have leapt approximately 2 inches high……but the form was perfect.

I progressed to the bottom step of the stairs and managed two leaps before the bookcase wobbled so ferociously that I had to stop to steady it.

After all that exertion I moved on to some medicinal stout. Starting with a bittersweet Irish Stout but moving rather rapidly on to a St Peter’s Cream Stout as the malty brew seemed to improve my constitution.

I’m a fan of the Cream Stout, it has a fairly ropey smell but the texture is truly creamy and the flavour, although odd – I’m thinking syrup of figs, is entirely delightful.

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Cloudtec On – The Cloudsurfer Review

On Cloudsurfer

On CloudsurferI’ve been sporting a trial pair of On Cloudsurfer running shoes for the duration of Janathon. They are the odd shoes with built in clouds, otherwise known as the CloudTec system, in the sole. You look at these shoes and either think fad or innovation. When they first came out I probably veered towards the former assessment but since my adoption of Vibram Fivefingers and then Hoka One One I’ve become accustomed to the more extreme end of the running shoe market. It’s interesting that the more innovative or trend bucking shoes seem to be associated with the ultra running scene.

20130106-175255.jpgI opted for the rather classy black and lime green version of the Cloudsurfer which inspired whoops of delight from one of the teenagers in the house who wanted to try them on immediately. My SoftStar RunAmocs did not generate the same level of response from the Yoof.

The On concept is fairly simple – the firm clouds deform or compress on impact thereby providing vertical and horizontal cushioning. The front pods compress fully for take off with the teeth meshing together to form a firm push off point. You can see this very well from the series of animations that On include on their homepage and On claim that their design ensures that you have cushioning only where required and full efficiency is maintained.

I was expecting them to be super bouncy but they have a relatively normal running sensation. I am probably far too heavy for the shoes and as they compress even when I’m standing as delicately as I can manage and as a result I will not experience the cushioning levels of a “standard” sized runner.

20130106-175531.jpgMy first impressions on the run were good, especially for steep downhills where I felt sure and steady. Then I went out one dreary damp night and felt very unsteady on my feet – the soles do not appear to have good wet weather grip. I didn’t exactly slip but I had the sense that I could. Yesterday I went for a 13k run in them along the Thames where they had a variety of surfaces to deal with from tarmac, cobbles, hard trails and thick, deep, gloopy mud.

They didn’t cope well with the ankle high mud but then not many shoes do and they weren’t as bad as I expected. They did attract an awful lot of mud into the pods which made a complete mess of the treadmill this morning but I stayed upright through it all.

I will be wearing these in the future but I’ll probably restrict them to dry conditions and treadmill running.

Other reviews from the blogosphere:

  • American Peyote, loves them but has concerns about long term durability of such an expensive shoe.
  • Ransacker also noticed the lack of traction in wet conditions.

Janathon update:

I had a pre-work trog on the treadmill to satisfy the Janathon gods and another 3k logged.

Stout-athlon update:

I was looking forward to the bottle of Marston’s Oyster Stout. I remember it as one of my all time favourite ales. It poured well with a deep, dark burgundy but the head disappeared before I had chance to take a snap. It turned out to be a one-dimensional brew, with a flat smell and more of a sensation than a taste. It wasn’t unpleasant by any means, it was just a very easy, if uninspiring tipple.

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In Need of a Bath

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A friend commented on my blogging the other day and said that while she was completely fascinated by my route maps and device obsession, what she really wanted to know was what I think about when I run.

I think she was being polite and was really asking, “Why do you do this running thing? and when will you stop filling my newsfeed with such drivel”.

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I’ve spent a good portion of my recent runs trying to think about what I’m thinking about, which is always a fairly futile task involving much tail chasing.

I was pretty convinced that I was always focussed “on the now”, consumed by the elements but always fully in the present. Having done a few test runs I’m not so sure at all. It strikes me that I go all over the place.

I compose stuff, mostly blog posts…… the most marvellous blog posts that you never get to read as I can never remember them by the time I’ve finished. I plan stuff and commit myself to wild and wacky schemes that if I’m lucky will also be forgotten by the time I finish. It’s a really creative time actually. Today I was planning a book that I fancy writing, I was dreaming of the software required for the task and even prepared a few quotes to kick me off.

While I seem to be creative and inspired (if a little forgetful), it is clear that I’m also a bit thick. There must be a left-brain, right-brain divert when I run because I cannot perform even the most simple task of mathematic reasoning. I think my logic centre gets starved of blood from the moment I press start on the Garmin. I test myself regularly with simple pace queries:

if I maintain an average 10 minute per kilometre for 100 km, how long would it take me to complete the London2Brighton challenge.

I just can’t do it. I can’t compute and run.

It does appear that I am almost always future focussed and positive when thinking and running, except of course when I get lost, which happens often. Then I get rather grouchy and miserable. The last time I got lost was in Wimbledon Common – it almost always is in Wimbledon Common. I was doing my thinking about thinking thing and was suddenly thrown in to the here and now as a rather unexpected Windmill came into sight and I realised I wan’t where I expected myself to be. Dark clouds assembled but then I spotted the car and it dawned on me that I’d arrived back at the start point a good 3k ahead of schedule and quite fortuitously there was a cafe right in front of me. I accepted the gift of silver linings and stopped off for a latte.

Coincidentally I just read a section from Tim Noake’s bible: The Lore of Running, discussing the different thought patterns of runners and walkers:

…..I learn how different the worlds of the runner and walker are. Compatible as we are, when we walk, we frequent two different worlds. When I run my mind is elsewhere, full of everything but that which I am doing at the moment. Perhaps I am vainly trying to understand humanity, or writing this book, or planning some new experiment that will finally explain all of exercise physiology. Only occasionally does my environment impinge on my activity – usually when I need a rest.

I was in the run/walk section of The Lore of Running as I’m sure the only way I’ll get round my 100k challenge is to mix in the two. I’ve therefore been dabbling on my training runs with different ratios of run/walk intervals. Today I was out for my long-ish run around the Thames and opted for a 3min run followed by 1min walk break. It’s pretty relentless but I was comfortable throughout, finished 15 mins ahead of my previous time, which I recall was a horror of a run, but nevertheless I was faster this time.

It was a drab ole day today but perfect conditions for a cool run around the river. I extended it beyond the planned route as I was feeling so spritely and finally racked up 13k for Day 6 of Janathon.

A few hours later and I am now feeling shattered after my efforts and all I want to do is to crawl into a lovely hot bath. The challenge is not yet over though and so the closest I will get to that for a while is an an equally warming bottle of Bath Ales Dark Side Stout.

I was initially disappointed by the Dark Side, it seemed a bit thin, with a weak aroma and a correspondingly bland flavour. A little dusty malt coming through and a poor head. In the end I came to appreciate its smoothness as it was so different from the rest of the stouts. I did a little research on the difference between Stout and Porter and it seems the historical difference is mainly related to strength with stout meaning strong but nowadays it seems to be down to the brewers choice when naming. Historically this one would have been a Porter but Bath Ales have gone to great lengths to adopt the stout nomenclature suggesting the smoothness of flavour is “a hallmark of exquisite stouts”.

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