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A Stretch Challenge for Day 4 and 6

I have overuse niggles from the waist downwards. Tender spot on my hip, tight hamstrings and a couple of shin splints for good measure.

I basically haven’t yet recovered from my very long walk almost 2 weeks ago.

It’s been quite fortuitous that while I’m in need of some rehab, James Dunne of Kinetic Revolution has just released a 30 day challenge to make me a better runner.

The challenge consists of 15 min exercise sessions mixing up stretches and balance routines. I’ve been working on my hip flexors and hamstrings so far and have loved the one-legged slo-mo sprinting.

There are a glut of 30 day challenges doing the rounds for June. Lynn has signed up the Ab Challenge which I think she might regret on Day 30. It looks like a recipe for an injury or two to me.

20140606 083405 30845239 A Stretch Challenge for Day 4 and 6

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Running with the Foxes

I went out for a solo run this evening. Just me, the dope dealers on the hill, and a load of foxes.

The dealers remained in their BMWs, exhaling aromatic compounds from the windows but the foxes criss-crossed my path the entire way round.

On my third loop, 3 small fox cubs tumbled out across the path and started playing on the verge. They eyed me warily, but despite me plodding along in my massive Hoka’s and breathing like an exhausted asthmatic, they stayed put while I passed.

It was too dark for photographs so instead of a cute image of frolicking fox cubs, you’ll have to make do with an image of my route from Strava. The image in the left was the route recorded by my top of the range Garmin 620 and the one on the right using the free Strava app on my iphone. I feel a little robbed.

20140605 230421 83061712 Running with the Foxes

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A First Strava Crown

I downloaded Strava to my phone this morning, half expecting it to nestle between the many other unused GPS run logs that do little more than clog up my iPhone memory, but while reading a few Juneathon blog posts before work I was intrigued to see that @BandTRuns was coincidentally mentioning Strava Segments.

It seems that Strava segments are snippets of routes that you can monitor yourself against. These segments can either be private or public and if they are public you get to see how you fair against other local runners.

It sounds like a rather intriguing concept and provided sufficient motivation for me to leave the treadmill behind and head out for a late night circuit of the local posh houses. Lynn joined me and we did 3 loops, actually managing to keep running to the top of the hill on each circuit as well. My heartrate was drifting with each additional loop and may well have maxed out if I’d tried for a  fourth.

20140604 003214 1934872 A First Strava Crown

I chose to use my Garmin 620 rather than the Strava iPhone app so I could monitor heart rate as well as pace and would worry about the connection issues between Strava and Garmin later. It did in fact prove to be more of a faff than I’d hoped. The Garmin Communicator doesn’t work with the latest Garmin 620 and unfortunately Strava doesn’t work with the wifi upload or Garmin Connect mobile device.

DC Rainmaker came to the rescue with his instructional post on automating the upload and syncing of training devices and fitness sites and I am currently 65% of the way through a major synchronisation using tapirik to link Strava, Garmin Connect, Sporttracks and Dropbox.

I uploaded today’s run manually so I could check out the segments and was a bit miffed to see that there were none in my circuit. I have created a tiny segment now though and am currently the fastest and only runner to have completed it. I believe I now have a crown.

Long may it last.

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Reluctant Running in Happy Valley

I had planned an early night followed by an early morning session on the treadmill but then Happy Valley intervened.

We started with a quick episode before bed but one thing led to another and episode 4 happened.

If you’ve seen episode 4 you’ll understand the havoc it plays with any desire to sleep or at least any desire to lie down in a darkened room. Adrenaline was buzzing so we slipped into episode 5 hoping for some relief.

At 1:30 am we ran out of episodes and finally went to bed.

That brings me to my 7am alarm and an extremely low desire to get up and run.

Being made of especially stern Juneathon stuff, I did of course get up and drag my reluctant body down to the treadmill for a short and unimpressive plod.

I went from running in Putney yesterday to running through the Forests of Maine today.

20140602 090300 32580347 Reluctant Running in Happy Valley

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A Juneathon Recovery Run

I’ve had my feet up for most of the past week, recovering slowly from the after effects of the London2Brighton walk.

Today was the 1st of June and that means an end to bone-idleness, masquerading as recovery, and the start to Juneathon – a month of running and ever more tedious daily blog posts. Apologies in advance to any subscribers.

We got up early and headed to Putney, to run 6k around the Thames.

We set off at a remarkably spritely pace until my shin splints appeared and the pain in hamstrings re-asserted itself. I considered stopping and heading back but I slowed down and by the time we’d reached Hammersmith I was beginning to feel rather comfortable.

So that’s my first Juneathon of the year completed and I’m looking forward to a few more runs ahead of me.

20140602 004831 2911454 A Juneathon Recovery Run

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London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

20140526 171035 61835429 London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

I’ve done quite few of my long training walks in my hiking boots but none of them were considered successful. I decided quite a long time ago that the London2Brighton 100k Challenge would be completed in my super cushioned Hokas’ with my Inov8s’ held back for the second half when my feet would likely have swelled.

I woke up on Saturday to an apparently relentless deluge and there followed a huge shoe dilemma. I bundled an assortment of shoe options into the boot of the car and developed a strategy that would hopefully give my feet a fighting chance.

20140526 171036 61836977 London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

As Accuweather suggested a potential bright spot around lunchtime, I started in the trail shoes, hoping that Lynn would meet me at the 25k mark for a switch to the Hokas.

The rain came and went, just long enough for me to take off my waterproof jacket and then started again. It was a bizarre weather day and walkers would emerge from woods into bright sunshine and visibly steam as the rain evaporated from their hot bodies.

20140526 171840 62320712 London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

@kabukisnyder

The rain and the 3000 runners & walkers played havoc with the trail. The off-road sections looked like segments of last months Wolf Run, as if the organisers had piped in extra mud to add to the challenge and my planned shoe change became a reluctant boot change.

I started the London2Brighton challenge an hour later than last year. It was my intention to spend an hour or so walking in the dark before reaching the main rest point at 57k. That way I would remove a potential hurdle to continuing – fear of the dark. Despite actively planning this stint in the darkness I made a huge packing faux pas. I put my main torch in the car to retrieve at the midpoint and popped the Petzl head torch in my rucksack. I knew the batteries would be low so put triple A’s on Lynn’s shopping list, again for the midpoint.

When I tripped over the first root in a dark, foreboding, wood and reached for my emergency Petzl, I was less than impressed to discover the most insignificant glow from the lamp. Completely useless and I was at least 4 hours away from batteries.

I had a glow stick but it wasn’t working and I ended up edging my way forward, gripping onto my poles for dear life and seeking out the breadcrumb trail of glow sticks that marked the route.

I wasn’t completely alone, other walkers came and went but I couldn’t hope to keep up with them. It was a pretty lonely place to be.

A generous chap took took pity on me stumbling over a stile in the dark and lit my way until we reached a road section where there were more walkers.

There was only another 10k before the major rest stop at Tully’s Farm but I was pretty despairing of my ability to get there. I was limping and silent sobbing. It was pretty darn pitiful but I felt like I was torturing myself.

With about 7k to go Lynn managed to find me on a quiet road and thrust batteries in to my hand before driving off again.

20140526 171037 61837646 London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

My world looked ever so slightly brighter with a functioning Petzl on my head but it didn’t stop the weeping. I seemed to be stopping at every available tree stump in order loosen my boots and attempt to rub some life back into my swollen Achilles. It is hard to fathom quite how slow those last kilometres were. I sent Lynn a text saying that was it, I was bailing at the next stop. I didn’t actually think I could make the last 2k and when I finally crossed the line I fell into Lynn’s arms and started crying again.

I don’t feel as though I let myself down on the event. I gave it my all on that trail, leaving myself physically and emotionally broken. I can now say that I am finished with this challenge, London2Brighton has beaten me and unless I can commit to working on my body and my diet I will not consider this again.

I’m an extremist. If my exercise doesn’t have that extra edge I just can’t be bothered with it. For the next year I’d like to work on creating a body that has strength and resilience and that earns it’s place in such a challenge.

This is a great event and I have huge respect for everyone that started, and even more for those that managed to push themselves beyond Tully’s Farm and on towards Brighton.

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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.

20140513 130555 Canvas Prints of Event PhotosI’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.

20140517 154558 Canvas Prints of Event Photos

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.

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The Firefly Recovery Device Review

An invisible, yet relentless reflex hammer appears to be beating out a rhythm on my knees. Both legs are twitching, one then the other and back.

20140511 174311 The Firefly Recovery Device Review

I’m trialling a new running gadget, the Firefly Recovery Device which is designed to reduce lower leg DOMS in athletes and weekend warriors alike.

My weekend marathon across the London Underground network was tough on my legs. By the time I got home I was barely able to support my own weight and it was clear I’d be suffering for days on wobbly pins.

Time to unpack the Firefly Recovery Device.

The Firefly recovery device comes packed and sealed like a clinical instrument. Stripping open the foil pouch reveals a small strap with a raised button, presumably hiding a tiny battery. You peel off the plastic backing (make sure you keep this safe) and then apply the impressively sticky strap underneath your knee cap. There are detailed fitting instructions in the pack but I found the online video the most useful in ensuring optimum placement.

You are aiming to get the line of arrows over the head of your fibula, which is a knobble on the outside of your lower leg, just below the knee. I think the aim is to apply optimum neuromuscular electrical stimulation to the peroneal nerve, so if you don’t get the placement quite right you won’t feel the same kick. You can shift the device around a bit though so it’s not vital to get it right first time. The adhesive is strong and I’ve been whipping the device on and off quite a number of times so far.

You then press the button to switch the device on and it starts pulsing, you have a number of settings which you cycle through by pressing the button again and each increment increases the intensity. The effect isn’t painful but it is odd. I first noticed a slight twitching in one of the tendons of my right foot but as I moved the strap around and then increased the setting I got a very noticeable spasm in my leg. The video above illustrates the twitching I achieved – I have got my legs raised to accentuate the effect.

The Firefly is said to improve an athlete’s recovery by stimulating the muscles in the lower leg which increases blood flow and therefore accelerates the removal of metabolic waste products. It is claimed that it can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) within 24 hours.

I didn’t conduct a particularly scientific test and chose not to leave one leg as an untreated control. As a result the outcome is highly subjective but I’m still going to claim it as positive. I wore the device for about 20 mins on two separate occasions. I was banned from wearing it in bed due to the lower limb convulsions but even my relatively brief adherence to the device resulted in noticeably less stiffness and I could just about summon up the energy for a 20 minute jog the next day. That was much better than I expected.

Although the Firefly is designed to be used to promote recovery after vigorous activity, I plan to use it for some mid-event recuperation. In less than two weeks time I’ll be embarking on a 100k hike – The London2Brighton Challenge. At the mid-way point there is a planned break for food and blister treatment but I will also be whipping out my Firefly devices to see if they can encourage my legs to go a bit further this year.

Although the Firefly is officially marketed as a disposable device it’s battery life is quoted to be 30 hours which will see me through quite a number of recovery sessions. The adhesive is quite capable of coping with a number of re-applications (especially if you remembered to keep the plastic backing) but you can also buy a Velcro knee strap which keeps the device very secure.

At £29 for a pair it is fairly pricey and I probably wouldn’t have considered it if it had been a once only unit. As it is I’m very excited to see how it fairs on the big day, if it can re-invigorate my legs after 50k I’ll be ordering a years supply.

Other notable reviews of the Firefly Device

20140511 174258 The Firefly Recovery Device Review

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In my quest to complete at least one 100km challenge this year, my weekends have been given over to long and usually dreary walks. In an attempt to stir things up I thought I’d try a home-brew challenge. Inspired by the last issue of Outdoor Fitness magazine which ran an article on DIY challenges, I resurrected my interest in The UnderRound initiated by Rory Coleman.

The UnderRound is a challenge requiring you to travel approximately 42km above and below ground by visiting the platforms of 42 different London Underground stations. The official route takes an anti-clockwise rotation starting and finishing at London Kings Cross. In case you are in doubt, you must use the stairs wherever they are available resulting in about 3000 feet of ascent on top of your marathon.

Screen Shot 2014 05 05 at 19.16.43 536x284 The UnderRound Challenge   A Marathon of Selfies
I started the day in a fairly leisurely fashion, sneaking the first of many selfies at 10:30 am.

I was off, striding purposefully towards Euston ticking off 7 platforms in just over a mile stretch along the Euston Road. I’d guess it took me about an hour to clear that mile but the distance travelled underground could easily have added another two to the tally.

It was a glorious hot Sunday and my above ground stretches were positively mediterranean. It hurt me to walk past all the street cafes offering long, cool, glasses of lager and I think this torment may have added to the increasingly grumpy faces. I only managed one smile through the whole ordeal and that was only because I’d spotted “the best ice cream” shop at the entrance to Queensway. I deserved it after ascending 123 steps of the spiral staircase.

I started the day counting every step but I got completely fagged off with that idea by about station 4 and then just relied on the excessively cautious warning messages at the top of each staircase “WARNING – 83 STEPS. USE ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES”

20140505 193357 The UnderRound Challenge   A Marathon of Selfies

My Selfish View of the UnderRound

My least favourite stretch was Knightsbridge to Gloucester Road which was long and littered with hordes of shambling sightseers. At this stage I was not interested in adding any extra steps by weaving in and out of bodies so I was probably at my all time arsi-est here.

From Sloane Square to Cannon Street, a stretch of 9 stations, 7 of them were closed for planned engineering works. This of course had the huge benefit of preventing me from descending to platform level but it began to feel like cheating and did result in a fairly deserted final quarter of the event.

If I were to do the event again I think I’d try the clockwise route, so that I hit The City sections earlier in the day. At 8pm on a bank holiday Sunday the place was deserted. I walked miles in desperate need of the loo and every pub was shut. I eventually reached a tiny oasis by Farringdon station where a solitary pub provided blessed relief and the second smile of the day.

20140505 224456 The UnderRound Challenge   A Marathon of SelfiesI reached the final station, Russell Square at about 9:30pm and you can probably imagine my joy to see the sign at the top of the stairs.

All in all it was a noble challenge, but as with all DIY challenges it is sadly lacking in post-event bling, I’ve had to make do with one slightly battered travelcard, now stuck on the fridge door, to remind me of the ordeal.

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The Wolf Run: The Aftermath

20140430 192544 The Wolf Run: The Aftermath

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.

20140430 192047 The Wolf Run: The AftermathLynn 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.

20140430 192100 The Wolf Run: The AftermathLynn 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.

20140430 192130 The Wolf Run: The AftermathI 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.

20140430 193056 The Wolf Run: The Aftermath

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.

 

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