So you mean this is a running blog?

Here’s a tiny update to go with my titchy tiny run for today. It was short and slow but I’m not going to analyse it too deeply, at least I’m back out there and still breathing at the end of it.

It’s been about 4 weeks since my last run, I fell into a deep motivational rut that coincided with killer back ache and just as my physio sorted me out enough for me to stand unaided I got girl flu. Then that flipping lingered until it turned into another motivational rut and even the latest copy of runnersworld couldn’t drag me back into the fold.

Fortunately I’ve been getting harassed from the sidelines and so today I finally managed to push myself out of the door, slap bang into the face of a force 9.

Next weeks half has been cancelled due to the complete lack of training and the following weeks 10 miler is in the undecided zone. I’m off out again tomorrow for a slightly extended run so I’ll have better idea how much fitness I lost over the last month.

New Shoe MoJo

I cut last weeks long run short to attend pressing matters at the allotment so this week I thought I’d reverse my priorities – head to the plot first and then leave the afternoon free for running. After a few hours of digging in the wind I couldn’t decide if I was more in need of back stretching run or a luxurious hot muscle soak waiting at home.

Asics Gel Kayano 14

A mere 2k into the run and the muscle soak proposition was a clear winner, I was seriously considering a sharp left manoeuvre even though it might have been hard to try and pass off the short 5k loop as the weeks long run. Fortunately by 2.5k my spirits were soaring, I seemed to have discovered my new shoes. The run started to feel like a gentle jaunt across a sea of fluffy clouds and I was beginning to wonder if I could extend the run.

Don’t you just love new shoe days?

I’ve always run in Asics, I started with 2120’s but after a spate of problems with my ITB, a visit to the physio and a trip to the local specialty shoe shop to have my gait assessed, I moved up to the shockingly expensive Asics Kayano 13 model. I love everything about this shoe, except for the price, so when the Runnersworld Spring Shoe guide came out last week I poured over it in search of an equally comfy shoe at half the price of course it still nedded to be ideal for the overweight over-pronator. I found the ideal shoe but it wasn’t half the price, in fact I think it was a touch more expensive – Asics have brought a new Kayano model, the Asics Gel Kayano 14 and if possible it seems to be an improvement on my existing shoe.

So if I’m not prepared to settle for a cheaper shoe, I need to find a cheaper source for my fancy running shoes. I’ve just ordered from a new online retailer,, who were offering the Kayano 14’s at £88.99 with free delivery. Mine arrived the next day, so I’ll definitely be using them again.

Back to the run, I was springing along the track, realising that my mojo had returned. Full of the joys of running, I was back to sweating, puffing and grinning as the usual Richmond Park breeze did it’s best to flatten me.

Richmond Park

I was still smiling at 9k so when I noticed the offroad track that has tempted me for the last couple of months, I cut across the road and headed for the hills.

I love it when running feels like this – when pace seems irrelevant and the spirit of adventure grabs you, I wasn’t even worried to dirty my new shoes.

I think I’ll be saving these for the Wilmslow half so I can look forward to a morning of running on clouds.

Distance: 12.36 km
Time: 1:43:19

Great North Run – Race Tips

This time next week I ought to be sitting in a South Tyneside pub celebrating the end of a half marathon. I’m pretty apprehensive about the event, the travel arrangements are just mind boggling and both me and OGB have decided to just arrive and hope we get dragged in the right direction. Every time we read the official magazine and try and get our head around the details we end up quaking in our running shoes. At least we will get to Newcastle though, my dad has kindly offered to drive us there at the crack of dawn.

I didn’t run at all last week, I thought it was more important to ensure I got over the cold than attempt any endurance training while I was ill.
Now I’m not sure what to do with this week – cram in a long run mid week or just aim to keep the legs ticking over with the mileage low? I suppose I’ll play it by ear and just try and relax.

As for the race itself, I haven’t much of a clue how to play this either. Still not sure what pace to aim for, I’m thinking it’s going to be so crowded back in my race pen that I should just aim to keep going and not stress too much about hitting any specific splits, I can leave that for the *next* half mara. I’ve picked up some great psychological tips for dealing with the Great North Run from the runnersworld forum. XL-man kindly let me repeat his 4in1 race strategy here:

Run 1 – 5 miles (8 km). (DON’T think about anything further) Huge crowds, great atmosphere, bands. Take it steady, not too fast, you’ve run five miles or further loads of times. Enjoy the spectacle, and remember you are part of it. Those inspirational pictures of thousands running across the Tyne Bridge? You’re in them this year. Yes, you’re in the Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon. Enjoy!

Run 2 – 3 miles (5 km). Forget the 5 behind you, they’re done. Think only of the next three. Three miles? Piece of cake, you’ve done 9, 10, 11 .. much more in training. These three are all downhill, wheeeeeee !! Great news for those of you after PBs for the event, or even if it’s your first time and you have a target. Go for it here, within reason. Unfortunately, the road narrows, so you may notice it feeling a little more congested. Be careful.

Run 3 – 3 miles (5 km). SLOW DOWN. This is where you need your mental toughness and/or your MP3 player. It’s a bit of a slog up the John Reid Road etc and there’s not much to enjoy, but hey, if it was easy, the medal wouldn’t be as important to you would it? If you’re a run/walk person this is where you may want to be taking extra walks, and psych yourself up, but don’t start thinking about the finish yet. Just get to 11 miles

Run 4 – 2.1 miles (3 km) That’s nowt! Of course you’re tired but you’re nearly there. Now, start to tell yourself that you’ve done it (almost) the goody bag is waiting for you, go and get it. The last mile and a bit up the sea front is fantastic. Huge crowds yelling at you, the end is nigh. Let your spirits fly, even if you’re knackered. You can stop soon. If you’re after a time, push, you know you are fit, you have prepared well, and as knackered as you will feel when you cross the line, the elation will speed your recovery. Well done, you’ve finished the GREAT NORTH RUN 2007

Good stuff eh? Now do I switch the garmin to miles so that I’m in-sync with the road markers or do I stick to what I know?

Tag You’re It!

Oh dear, I’ve been had, EatDrinkWoman tagged me the other day and although I did my best to ignore it, I now notice that Kathy got in on the act and tagged me too. Clearly no escape, I have to answer a list of questions, boring you all senseless in the process and then make folk like JogBlog and NoWetsuit Girl repeat the chore – I’m sure they’ll love it.

Jobs I’ve Held: Newspaper gal, fruit picker, sandwich maker, factory worker, care assistant, packer, merchandiser, van driver, supply chain assistant, SBO analyst, SBO manager, data analyst, web master, personal tutor, management accountant. A little eclectic selection of jobs many of which all of which have been carried out between studies. So in addition I’ve been a medical student, a chemistry undegrad and a postgrad astrochemist.

Movies I Can Watch Over & Over: None, I can’t imagine anything more torturous than watching a film I’ve already seen. I might come back to this though, there is perhaps something I’d be prepared to watch again. I’ve been to see the musical Blood Brothers 3 times if that counts?

My Guilty Pleasures: Gadgets and Stella, and for a very guilty pleasure I might combine gadgets, stella and a box set of the L Word – joy for a week!

Places I have lived (in order): Aldershot, Cyprus – Larnaca & Limassol, Bridlington, Sheffield, Nottingham, London

Shows I enjoy: L Word, Desperate Housewives, The Apprentice

Places I Have Been on Holiday: Good grief, I can’t imagine anyone would be interested in this stuff! Cyprus, N. Spain, S. Spain, Portugal, France, Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland (I know, I should have just put W. Europe and be done with it), San Francisco, Madeira, Borneo

Favorite Foods: Chilli, Spag Bol, Curry, chilli prawns, listen I’m salivating now and this list could go on for ages, how about we say I like every type of food except Celery!

Websites I Visit Daily: The pages that open automatically on my browser are: admin pages for my blog, iGoogle,Bloglines which then leads me to read as many of your updated blogs as I can manage, Flickr, Facebook, Runnersworld and PhysicsDiet. I couldn’t live without Bloglines and facebook though.

Body Parts I Have Injured: Skin and right side from hip to toe. Nothing to really moan about though.

Awards I’ve Won: got a few judo medals in my prime and the odd consolation academic award

Nicknames You’ve Been Called: Deathwish, warriorwoman and Wolfie – take your pick!

Gadgets & Gear

sennheiser pmx680i

I’m a self-confessed gadget freak and another close shave with eBay and a ridiculously expensive but absolutely essential running watch has triggered the creation of this page – my homage to sports gadgets (mostly running gadgets), gear and utilities that you can almost not afford to live without.

There is a link to most of my gadget reviews on the side bar but here are my top picks for essential running, swimming and strength equipment, software, books and resources.

Some of the product links are affiliate links, if you use these and then buy a product it will help towards the upkeep of my blog and make me grateful. A lot of the products have been sent to me to review but I also spend a lot of my hard-earned cash on gadgets, I try to indicate the source of the product in my gadget reviews but rest assured I will tell you the truth about product regardless of the source.

Activity Sports Watches

The sports watch seems to be my running gadget of choice and to date I have tried and reviewed many from the likes of Garmin, Polar and Timex, ultimately settling on the Garmin Forerunner series as the de-facto runners watch.

Forerunner Evolution

I’ve been through all of the above (and more) but as a stat loving but frankly useless runner, I’ve recently decided that the latest breed of activity trackers with GPS suit my needs very well. They blur the boundaries between lifestyle and athletic watch in my favour.

Garmin Vivoactive HR vs Fitbit SurgeIt was a close battle between the Fitbit Surge and the Garmin Vivoactive HR but if running and activity logging are your main requirements, you can’t go far wrong with the Fitbit Surge. It’s not as flash as its younger Garmin challenger but it does the job perfectly and Fitbit is undoubtedly the most socially connected platform around.

If you are a more serious runner, you are likely to be more tempted by the high end forerunner series. Whether you opt for Forerunner 630 or 735XT will depend on how seriously you take other sports such as swimming and cycling (and your bank balance). It’s well worth checking in with DC Rainmaker to read his extremely in-depth reviews on the latest available gadgetry before making your final choice.

And if you are and outdoor rugged type who hikes or climbs as well as everything else you may consider splashing out on the hugely expensive Fenix 3 HR. That’s where my gaze is cast at the moment.

Running Shoes

I’ve trialled a good many shoes over the years and ridden the waves as fads come and go. I started out with the traditional Asics Kayano but then moved through barefoot, to minimal to maxi-minimal, to plain weird and I am now stuck somewhere towards the middle of that journey, wearing a pair from each genre depending on the conditions.

Maxi-minimal running shoes

On the treadmill I wear Cloudflyer from On Running, the soles have strange rubber ‘clouds’ and they seem to offer the perfect level of spring. For serious mud running and OCR events I wear Inov8. In hot weather and holidays I tend to pull out the super-minimal barefoot shoes, such Vibram fivefingers and my goto daily wear are Hoka One Ones.

Hoka One One

In the photo above you have two pairs of Altras followed by three pairs of Hokas. Between them the two companies have owned maximal running technology. The first pair of Hokas I owned were Hoka Mafates and I loved them with a passion. Huge, heavy and deeply, joyously comfortable. They are not for everyone, they have relatively tight toe boxes and don’t last very long but I still love for the protection they offer my quads on downhill runs.

Hoka have expanded their range and no offer much lighter weight versions but I think they lose the essence of Hoka-ness and I avoid them. If you prefer a much more roomy toe-box, try the Altra. The shoe on the left is the Altra Torin 2 and is a shoe I literally live in. I walk everywhere in these and I’m sure the flat soled comfort has improved the strength of my feet.


For trail running you can’t go far wrong by sticking to inov-8.

These are sturdy shoes designed for the British countryside and all it has to offer in the form of mud, wet and tears. I particularly like the inov-8 roclite 315 (wiggle) which is a unisex model designed for all terrain types (except road).

I’ve also tried the inov-8 mudclaw but I found the shoe a little too narrow. The Roclite 295 (wiggle) is another great trail running shoe and has a softer upper and wider fit for a greater level of comfort with no need to break the shoe in.

Vibram FiveFinger

I’ve caught the barefoot running bug and have now built up an armoury of minimalist shoes.

I don’t recommend that the inexperienced barefoot runner throws away the standard running shoe in favour of either skin on tarmac or minimalist shoe running but there is a place for barefoot running in most peoples training routine. Just take it slowly to avoid injury and you should reap the benefits of increased foot mobility, strength and better running form.

The defacto standard barefoot running shoe is the Vibram Five Finger and my particular favourite is the Vibram Five Finger Speed (wiggle) with its cool laces – perfect for attaching a foot pod.

Softstar Run Amoc

Barefoot or minimal running can become almost a spiritual experience where you begin to feel part of the landscape and the track you are running along. It’s a much more involved and gentle way to interact with the trail.

To me, these RunAmoc moccassins (Sofstar link) from SoftStar are the perfect “at one with nature” style of barefoot running shoe. They are hand-made in America and can be customised to your preferred colour scheme. I opted for the plain black version but asked for a slightly thicker sole (still only 5mm though) so that I could use it for trail running.

I really do enjoy running in these shoes, I may look a little bit crusty in them but I feel free.


Running Headphones

I’ve worked my way through a fair number of headphones in my running career, I’ve tried in-ear, over-ear, banded, wireless bluetooth and mp3 earpieces. For the last few years though I’ve always returned to the same manufacturer and have now settled on a specific model which I can happily declare to be the best running headphone ever!

Sennheiser PMX 680i Rugged Neckband Headset with Integrated Remote and Mic

I first came across the PMX680i when I was at an Adidas miCoach launch event. Adidas have paired up with Sennheiser to produce a branded product that offers significant improvements over the earlier Sennheiser models. Note that there are two Sennheiser PMX 680 models, the PMX 680 and the PMX 680i, the addition of the i does add nearly £14 to the product but with the addition of a microphone in the volume control it adds so much versatility. I use mine to take calls while out on a run, I can press the yellow button and chat away without breaking stride (admittedly I can be hard to understand while puffing away). I can press the yellow button for a little bit longer and trigger the voice control feature of the iPhone which then enables me to control the gadget remotely – “Play Amy MacDonald” and it usually does, “call Lynn cos I’m tired and need a lift home” usually results in the iPhone lady telling me “calling Charing Cross A&E Department”, which is sometimes more appropriate.

I was really upset last week when my first set of PMX680i headphones failed on me, it was hardly a product flaw though, I tend to leave them dangling from the treadmill and the cats can’t resist chewing on the cable. With visible gnaw marks and loose cabling the sound quality was somewhat impaired and it was time to buy another pair. There was no question of me buying a different set, these are the best I’ve ever come across, they fit extremely well, they don’t cause any discomfort, sound quality is excellent (so long as you keep them away from the cats) and they are waterproof. The volume control and mic unit is very light as well which means you don’t suffer too much with an irritating  unit that bounces on your chest as you run.

The only downside that I can see about these headphones is that headband style does restrict your headwear options, so they aren’t any use under helmets or headbands.

Running Books

I’m always on the look out for running inspiration and I devour running books at a blistering pace. Here’s a selection of my favourites but if you need more I usually have an Amazon recommends list on the sidebar where I add other books I’ve enjoyed.

Born to Run

This book filled me with excitement and has obviously had the same affect on many others as it’s often cited as having inspired the world’s obsession with barefoot running.

In parts it’s a hugely exciting tale of ultrarunning adventure, in others it’s an evangelical barefoot bible.

Here’s the link to my review for a full synopsis of Born to Run.

Running on Empty

I’m drawn to ultrarunners, I find their pain so intoxicating and it certainly helps me put my 5km woes into perspective.

Running on Empty (amazon) is hot off the press and covers Marshall Ulrich – the 57 year old guy who surgically removed his toenails as they were getting in the way of his running – as he runs across America. 3063 miles in 53 days. Nuts!

It’s a fascinating story though and there’s a bonus at the end as its polished off with details from Ullrich’s training and nutrition diary. I love that sort of thing.

Run Less Run Faster

This isn’t my usual inspiring read but anything training plan that suggests I can run less is going to attract my attention and this particular book is a nerdy runners dream.

The Furman Institutes (FIRST) method is based on a 3+2 schedule called Run Less, Run faster(amazon), not to be mistaken with “Train Less, Run Faster” because although you only run 3 times a week you are supposed to take part in some fairly energetic cross training on 2 other days in the week.

The key to the success of the FIRST plan seems to be related to the nature of the 3 runs. Each one is very specific and targeted at improving a key element of your running fitness. Key Run 1 is a track repeat session, ideally suited to treadmill workouts, Key run 2 is a tempo workout and Key run 3 is the Long Run a familiar staple of any marathon plan.

I’ve put together a whizzy spreadsheet that will spit out personalised FIRST trainings schedules for full and half marathon distances and is based on 5km paces from 15 to 40 minutes, so even the slow runners are catered for here.

Running Software – PC, MAC and iPhone

SportsTracks (PC)


If you’ve got a gps unit then you need SportTracks, don’t worry, this one is free so you definitely can afford it. Even it you don’t have a gps I reckon its still worthwhile having as your dedicated training log – it just won’t look so pretty without the route maps.

This screen shot just shows the basic activity screen but there is stacks more hidden away – weekly, monthly and yearly reports; splits; athlete stats including weight and injury/illness status. Again the blog is littered with examples.

Unfortunately it is not mac compatible so I’ve had to move away from the best training log available *weeps*.



BPTT Update for 24th February

I didn’t have the best pre-race prep, unrestrained alcohol and dodgy curries aren’t usually recommended in the books. As expected I was suffering a little bit before I set off for the Bushy Park time trial, the early morning ride through Richmond Park perked me up a little bit though.

BPTT 240207 by Funkin

The grass doesn’t look too bad in this starting shot but by the time I arrived there, about 270 runners back, it was a quagmire and the gel trabucos were not proving themselves to be exceptional grippers. This is always going to be an occupational hazard for back of the pack runners.

I won’t include a shot of myself in this run, as it is too frightening for words. Without the rain of my BPTT debut, I soon began to overheat and I was running with my rucksac, so the overall look fell a long way from aesthetic. In the final stretch a whole load of folk from the runnersworld forum started shouting “come on warriorwoman” which was a lovely buzz and inspired a sprint finish along with a record topping max heartrate of 184.

Final result: 5km in 36:19 (no PB)
Positon: 264/269

My hip has been playing up again after this run, it started in the iliac crest as usual but has now shifted a little towards my buttock. Quite uncomfortable. I’m a little concerned that it may be triggered by my recent change of shoes, but its concerning if I really am going to be tied down to one style of shoe forever. Imagine the boredom.

Running – The Purists Sport?


Originally uploaded by warriorwomen.
Running is normally considered the minimalist sport, much favoured by purists who just like to pop on a pair of shoes and head out of the door to freedom. I somehow manage to thwart this image and see a necessity in spending the best part of a months salary on “essential” running clobber.

This snap shows a representative sample of the gear I require to push one foot in front of the other. Its amazing I can even move under the weight of all this gear.

Dr Nick asked me, a few entries back, whether the GPS actually improved my running performance or whether it was just the gadget factor. Thats quite a toughy really. It has undoubtedly improved my running but only really by providing me with the incentive to get out there and run.

I suppose the actual question he wanted answering was “will it improve my running?”. This again is a tough question. I tend to think if it was going to work for you, you’d have one by now.

I enjoy the post run analysis more than the actual running. If I forgot the garmin – I just wouldn’t bother running, it has become the most important feature to me. I run to feed its little data banks. If you were just such a data fiend I reckon you wouldn’t have any difficulty rationalising the expense.

Here’s my list of “essential” running gadgets and utilities from 2006:

  1. Garmin Forerunner 305 – see above for my sad addicts confession. Here for a review and comparison with other speed and distance monitors. Plenty of other bloggers have seen the light as well and adorn their sites with the maps and stats acquired en-route: Steve’s Running, Trail Runner, Celeste and Getting Buff
  2. SportTracks – Training log software. I’m tempted to put this in at number 1 as it is the reason that the garmin forerunner is such a dream gadget. Without SportTracks the gps system would be seriously emasculated. SportTracks is available for free download and I can’t recommend it strongly enough for anyone with a gps unit. It is by and far the best sports diary I have come across. Whats more it continues to be a work in progress, with the developer working closely with the users to make it increasingly brilliant. Most of the stats I dsplay in this blog are cut directly out of SportTracks.
  3. Runners World Marathon schedules – I’m not up for the marathon yet but these have been made available as downloadable schedules for the garmin forerunner. You can select the schedule based on standard predicted finish times or alter each for your specific target. I’ve been playing around with these schedules as part of the testing phase and have found them to be excellent. Even without completing the full program I now have a load of training routines to add variety to my runs.
  4. iPod Nano – I don’t run with this all the time, sometimes its a joy to hear the birds and the rowers. The good thing about running with music though is that it adds an element of bouncing fun and it stops me hearing my gasping breath. It also stops me from hearing the fattist abuse hurled from white vans. I haven’t been tempted by the Nike+ phenomonen, mainly because I have the forerunner, but you can see some interesting Nike+ paraphenalia at Booyaa.
  5. The Filter. One of the reasons I don’t use the iPod too much while running is that I struggle to develop suitably stirring playlists. I just can’t be arsed to dedicate that much time to iTunes. My latest discovery is another free download and seems to be working wonders for my playlist doldrums. I can highlight a few songs that typify the mood I’m after and then press a magic button on The filter console and watch it search through my library to propose a whole new playlist. Apparently it learns from its mistakes and takes into account both my preferences and those of the online community. It seems pretty good so far.

Ignoring Heart Rate

As I was running along this morning, dreaming that my pace might actually increase enough for me to one day consider entering a marathon, it occured to me that I only ever run at one pace, regardless of distance. Yesterday I was using Jeff Galloway’s race predictor to determine my potentail marathon finish time – 6 flippin hours! Grief! I can’t think about entering a marathon until I could complete it in 5, preferably 4 hours and something (I would happily replace the something for anything in that last sentence) but 6 hours is seriously gruelling.

I’ve just surfed on by the runnersworld website and found myself attracted to an article discussing the advantages of heart rate training and particularly the system designed by Phil Maffetone. The link to the article is here, but I think you might need to be a subscriber to view it. The point that attracted my attention was that Phil made the comment that most beginners make the mistake of running all runs at the same pace regardless of duration. He suggests a period of running slowly in order to speed up and recommends a base training period of at least 2 months at a heart rate of 180 – (age), providing you are fit, healthy and have been exercising recently. For me that is a heart rate of 145 bpm, which seems very low for me. I currently find a reasonably comfortable run, averages about 164 bpm. Tomorrow I will make a point of checking out how slow I need to run to stick at 145 bpm.

Other people who have tried this method also found the prescribed heart rate to be painfully slow but those that stuck at it seemed to notice speed benefis in the long run. One woman improved her marathon time from 4:05 to 3:31 which is a major benefit.

I find these radical programs really intimidating. I run really slow as it is, suggesting I run at 145 bpm would see me practically walking and then I’d be back at square one. On the other hand, I see that my current heart rate is pretty damn high for an easy training run and maybe I would really benefit from trying something new. Hay ho I suppose this is what makes sports science so interesting – no hard facts – its all trial and error.