A Stella Run

Stella

I’ve practically turned teetotal.
Unfortunately for today’s run there is heavy emphasis on the word practically.

For a daily Stella swigger, practically teetotal currently equates to 4-5 alcohol free days. That is quite a turn around and a sign of my commitment to the challenge of the marathon.

Today was a break day. The start of a long weekend and the end of a tough week – the perfect conditions for a cool glass of amber nectar. 3 cans later, I remembered my commitment and dragged my sorry, squiffy, self out for my regular hilly loop of the neighbourhood.

Ugghh!

I used to do this post bevvy run quite regularly but my body seems to have turned into a soft, squidgy temple. The last hill at 3k was an almighty great struggle and I felt every last drop of that beer sloshing around. I lost a minute off my pace but probably learned a good lesson about the benefits of abstinence during a training program.

Should any of you wish to encourage me to remain on the straight and narrow en-route to the London marathon, do feel free to provide some motivation by way of my Samaritans charity page. Thanks.

Day 9 and the Muddy Face Plant

Wandle Trail

Quite early on in the run I decided I was a lazy shuffler.

I think the epiphany came 750m into my long run when a dandelion root and a barely lifted foot, sent me sprawling head first into a muddy verge. Any further into my run along the Wandle River and I would have created quite a splash, so I should be thankfull for small mercies.

It’s also a very good job that I’m a yellow belt in Judo as I was able to roll quite magnificently and almost ended up back on my feet. And while I’m counting mercies, the walking poles that I’d strapped to my backpack, in case of knee related emergencies, only garotted me slightly.

Yes indeed, the run started well.

I was listening to the marathon talk podcast as usual, having only recently discovered it, I have a very welcome backlog to work through. Today I was engrossed in the interview with the running guru – Prof Tim Noakes of the Lore of Running fame.

He was fascinating but also quite conveniently started discussing the plight of the slow runner. His recommendation was that anyone expecting to take 5+ hours to finish an event should encorporate walking into their training, and not just a bit of walking but a full mile of walking every 6 miles or so.

I had just passed the 6km point along the Wandle Trail and very gratefully took the cue to walk til the 7km buzzer sounded. It set a bit of a precendent I’m afraid and although my total distance recorded was 14.5 km at least 3 were at walking pace. Still, I was happy to complete it pain free and as is usual on my long runs I was particularly happy to be picked up at the end and ferried home without any fuss.

I felt rather rough at the end of this run. I’m coinciding Janathon with a low carb diet. The sort of diet that kick starts a weight loss program fairly well but doesn’t sit too happily with endurance events where you cry out for a bit of glycogen. I ran on water and plain peanuts and by the end I felt sick and lethargic.

Still, I felt sufficiently righteous after my longest run since GNR, to take a break and treat myself with the first stella of the week – a truly marvellous recovery drink.

9 Top iPhone Apps for Runners

athlete diary

I’ve been running with my iPhone for a couple of years and I think I have now got a fairly stable armory of running or health related apps that I would be prepared to recommend. I’ll split them into 4 sections and go from there.

The Running Logs

The iPhone is my ever present mobile computer. It bothers me that my training logs are locked away on the laptop at home, or worse, spread across a few online logs like Garmin Connect, Adidas miCoach and Fetcheveryone. Surely when someone asks me how my training has been going for GNR or VLM, I ought to be able to pull out my phone and demonstrate with a pretty chart or a weekly distance log. It’s taken a bit of effort but I can now do that. Of course no one has asked how my training has been going for a while.

Athlete Diary (web link) (iTunes Link)

So for example I have set up a few keywords such as wt, Avg HR, Shoe 1 etc. Each keyword can be defined as total, avg or non-numeric which determines how it is shown on the charts and summaries. As far as I know there aren’t any limits to the number of keywords you can have but it does pay to think about it at the start so you can build up a consistent data set as you go along.

Having set up the keywords I can head back to the search facility and select the date period covering the last year, select running as my sport and perhaps select the training type as race. If I now look at the log it will show me all the running races in the last year. Moving to the summary sheets the same applies – running races in the last year. If I now choose the chart option I can select the keyword of interest so for example max HR to show the variation across the selected events. If I selected a specific keyword in the search facility such as Shoe 1 my log and summaries would show all the runs where I wore shoe 1.

It is such a customisable application that is very nearly worth £11.99

The feature that makes me so particularly happy about my purchase is the import/export functionality. The designers have gone to huge effort to enable you to get all your data into the log. It’s a bit of a faff and I had to wipe the database clean and start afresh a few times before I got the hang of it but I do now have every single run from the last 4 years loaded up. I pulled data out of Sporttracks, Garmin connect, Fetch and others, faffed around with it in excel to get the right format, converted to a text file, emailed it to my phone and the copy and pasted it directly into the import screen of Athlete Diary – Genius!

It’s hard to believe how happy that makes me. All my data inside my little phone. The Athlete’s Diary – Stevens Creek Software is well worth the initial investment in time and money.

HRM Log FM (web link) (iTunes Link)
Before I came across the Athlete Diary I was convinced that the answer to my problems was an app that synced with Garmin Connect. Admittedly I don’t have all my runs on there, I had a life pre-GPS and sometimes I run on the treadmill but in recent times it is fair to say that most have been uploaded to Garmin Connect. Garmin Connect is a terrible website though and it doesn’t help me get the stats and data on my phone.

After a lot of searching I came across HRM Log FM. As an app it doesn’t do a lot, you can’t add runs or modify data in any way but it is a perfect way to view data stored on Garmin Connect. The sync is fairly painless and new runs are added to a calendar view, clicking through enables you to view the details – summary, lap details and a pace and heart rate chart. The route map isn’t shown unfortunately but it’s still very useful.

The GPS Apps

I am not a big fan of the GPS apps but then I have a Garmin Forerunner so why would I bother?

The GPS reception is not as good as the purpose built watches and the effort drains the battery far too quickly for my liking. The last time I used it I nearly found myself stranded at the end of the Wandle Trail with no juice left to call for my pick up vehicle.

Having said that I have tried a good few and have been impressed with two: Adidas miCoach and Nike+ GPS. I’ve previously reviewed the Adidas mobile miCoach app and you can read that here.

Technical Running Stuff

PaceCalc (web link) (iTunes Link)

A very simple little app. There are many websites around that will perform the same function but it’s handy to have it wrapped up in a stand alone program.

You enter your time for a race or a custom distance and Runner’s PaceCalc FM returns a screen with pace and speed conversions in metric and imperial and then on another screen it displays projected race times on the basis of your entry. It also provides a series of recommended training paces.

Cadence (web link)

This is perhaps a bit gimmicky but I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about efficient running styles at the moment. I don’t have one but would like one and apparently one of the ways to get there is to shorten your stride length and increase your step rate or cadence. 180 steps per minute is the holy grail apparently. Seems unattainable to me but I’m happy to give it go.

This app is just a running styled metronome, I set the rate to 180 (or some other number) and the little feet beat out the pace for me to follow.

That’s all there is to it.

Diet and Weight

Some runners and particularly this one, need to keep on top of their weight, or more accurately chase after it like a hurtling runaway train.

I’ve got two favourites weight logs, True Weight and FatWatch.

True Weight (web link) (iTunes Link)
I’ve used True Weight for a long time, it’s very simple and uses the Hackers Diet principles to show the “true weight” after all the fluctuations have been smoothed. The display is clear and you can view the actual weight recorded as well as the trend line.

I have to admit that unfortunately, these figures are not mine.

FatWatch (web link) (iTunes Link)
I recently moved over to FatWatch as I wanted to record both my weight and my fat %.

It uses a very similar method for plotting the trend and allows you to set a goal and show your progression (or lack of) against it.

Both applications enable you to export your data via email so you need never lose data to a locked in app again.

As you can see I have an unfavourable divergence between the green (target) and red (trend) line so it’s time to take remedial action and start the calorie controlled approach for a while. This is where the last app comes into it’s own.

Tap&Track (web link) (iTunes Link)

This app gets reviewed all over and has proved to be incredibly popular because its so intuitive and smooth to use.

You start by entering your height and weight details and after setting your weight loss goals it determines your daily calorie allowance. By the grace of god or perhaps metabolism, you can increase your daily allowance by logging some exercise. I’ve just this minute bagged 30 mins on the treadmill so that I can polish off half a bottle of bubbly without having scale anxiety tomorrow morning.

Tap & Track -Calorie Counter is a typical food, exercise and weight log and works on the principal that if you diligently record everything that you eat, you might just think twice about putting it in your mouth. I find it quite effective but you have to be strict and record everything.

Like most of these logs it has the American bias but it does still seem to have a lot of foods available locally (including Sainsburys and Pret a Manger) and besides its an absolute doddle to enter your own items which you can then save to your favourites list. I don’t mind doing this, when I go on a diet I tend to eat a rotation of very similar foods so after a fortnight I’ll have just about all the options covered.

I read reviews where people doubt the accuracy of some of the nutritional entries, I’ve found a few problems as well so its advisable to sense check new items or enter them yourself from the label.

It doesn’t seem to handle alcohol particularly well. I’ve entered the details for Stella manually but it doesn’t have a section for alcohol content and so the nutrition chart doesn’t include a piece of pie for the proportion of calories that comes from alcohol. That’s a bit of a shame for me but maybe something they could easily add as an update.

Despite a few niggles, this app is a joy to use, very well designed and so far it seems to be helping me towards my goal.

So there you have it, 9 top iPhone apps for runners, have I missed any must have apps? Let me know.

Alcoholics View of Energy Drinks vs Sports Recovery Drinks

My recovery drink of choice is Stella.

When I’m on the treadmill I count my distance off in Stella Can Equivalents (SCEs). Last night’s 5.58 km run saw me well into the 2 large can zone, which made me happy.

In my mind energy drinks are worse even than empty calories, they are Stella deficit calories. As a result my usual choice of energy or workout drink is water. 100% effort converts to 100% alcohol which has a satisfying ring of efficiency to it.

I was most unhappy to turn up at the gym the other evening to find that they had stopped selling bottles of water. I had to resort to a bottle of blue Powerade, packing 100 calories or 0.5 SCEs. That’s a quarter of my workout wasted.

Yesterday I spotted a new entrant to the sports drink market – Lucozade Lite. It does have more calories than water but at only 50 per bottle I can begin to see the benefit of isotonic hydration. It tastes pretty good too so I think this could be the perfect choice for the recreational runner who appreciates the calorie burning benefits of sport – however they choose to replenish them.

While I’m on the subject of sports drinks I should take the opportunity to mention Orbana. I was sent a sample of this healthy energy drink last month. It takes the form of a small bottle with a sample of white powder at the bottom. You are supposed to add water, shake and then consume within 20 minutes.

I tried it and felt a bit uneasy about the white powder. It tasted like pineapple chunks and so was probably ok and not class A material.

Orbana is packed with vitamins and no doubt they remain potent for longer by being packaged in the powdered rather than diluted state but I don’t quite get the concept of the bottle with powder. Why not just sell the powder in sachet form so we can add to our water bottle or hydration pack?

However they package it, it’s probably better for you than Stella.

Swimovate Watch

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Entries for next years Great Swim series are open already. Christmas is not a great time to start contemplating squeezing into an overly snug wetsuit, the annual quality street box is already half empty and the strawberry creams are not improving my silhouette.

Christmas is a time for trying out new gadgets though so it’s time I reviewed my latest toy.

IMG_1481

I was sent a swimming watch from Swimovate to try out for a week. It promised to count all my laps for me, freeing my mind to concentrate on higher level issues such as “what should I cook for tea?” and “did I remember to put any Stella in the fridge?”

It does more than that of course, storing my lap history and providing historical data such as distance, stroke rate, calories and efficiency.

It was the counting bit that appealed most to me though. I am always surprised at how inept I am at counting lengths. I start well enough, reciting 1, 1, 1 in my head til I reach the end and turn. Of course I then move on to 2, 2, 2 cos I’m bright and can count but I’m also easily bored so I start adding variety like 2, 2 and the next lap will be 3, next is 3, next is 3. If course when I get to 3 I think blimey that number is familiar I’ve already counted it. Then I have to go through the odd even calculation and match it to the direction of my travel. Basically I never get as far as 10 laps before I’ve stressed myself out and felt the need to re-enrole in kindergarten.

So it’s a lap counter, but a pretty good one. Beyond the first button press you don’t have to bother again until it’s time to get out of the pool. The motion sensors apparently pick up on the drift portion of the stroke at the change round. It will pick up tumble turns and your more sedate stop and turn technique. Provided you don’t change strokes within a length it will supposedly maintain accuracy.

I did my best to fool it but it was 100% accurate up to 16 lengths, beyond that I’m sure the watch maintained its accuracy but I didn’t and decided to just free my mind of the counting. Swimming with a blank mind is really rather freeing, it feels so much more like running.

It’s given me an efficiency rating of 73 which equates to below average which I suppose will be about right. They measure efficiency in terms of distance covered per stroke and I’ve always felt that I swim on the spot anyway.

IMG_1484

It would be quite useful to monitor efficiency gains if you were trying to work on your stroke but I didn’t get to play with it long enough to see how responsive it was to minor improvements.

The battery is supposed to last for 1 year after which you have to send it back to the company to be replaced. I suppose that shouldn’t be a big problem provided they have a quick turnaround.

You can’t currently use it as a distance monitor for outdoor swims because it multiplies pool length by laps but I have picked up on some internet murmurings that suggest that might be about to change.

It could do with an overhaul of the user interface, moving through the history screens required me to pull out the instruction leaflet twice but all in all it’s a pretty good adition to the sporting gadgetry world and costs around £69 from Swimovate.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

Great North Swim 2009

Screen shot 2011-10-24 at 23.06.25

So the big day arrived, not quite the day that every girl dreams of, but as days go it was big enough to require the same sort of dietary preparations. 6 weeks of off and on Stella abstinence brought me to a point where I was prepared to at least attempt a public shoe-horning of my wobbly bits into the rubber encasement.

Sunday was a hot day and the combined sweat of 2402 lady swimmers had condensed on the marquee roof and was starting to drip onto the dressers below. Other peoples sweat, wet skin and rubber only combine to create more stress and more sweat. I successfully directed my right foot into the wetsuit but then started hopping around and cursing my full English breakfast as I tried to squeeze my left leg through my left arm hole.

There was no time for this sort of faffing, we were late and were already supposed to be sitting in the lake “warming” up. Despite expecting the seams to burst at any moment leaving me pink and vulnerable like a lizard shedding its skin, I did actually manage to yank up the zipper. After patching all my grasping finger nail holes with a puncture repair kit I waddled out in full glory looking like a fat, black, naked lady with a severe nicotine withdrawal problem.

Not exactly my best look but here we go – that’s me next to the tall skinny guy, who I will not be swimming with next year. I’m going to find myself some fat friends.

GNS Yellow Wave

As per last year I secreted myself towards the back of the pack in a vain attempt to avoid mid-lake battles. This year though I wasn’t swimming in the last wave and had to cope with the chasing hoards of sub 30 minute swimmers.

I had a few new strategies for this year’s attempt at the Great North Swim. Firstly I was going to remember my nose clip and then stick my head in the water, I wasn’t going to bother much with my legs as they’d proved useless in unscientific pool timing tests, I was going to wear shoes (?) and finally I wasn’t going to get asthma.

The nose clip really helped as you’d expect and I’m still sure that legs are overrated in swimming; I tried to observe every swimmer that passed me and a good deal of the sub 30 minute swimmers did not appear to be kicking with their legs. Of course they may have been kicking like crazy up til that point but its good enough evidence for me.

Probably the most significant decision in my overall performance was to give the asthma a wide berth. No idea how I did that, I took on heavy quantities of caffeine in the run up to the event, stuck my head in cold water a few times but there also seemed to be less motor fuel hanging around on the surface of lake this year and that may have had something to do with it.

Camp Finishing Run

So all in all, I had another pootle round a stunning lake, positively enjoyed myself for a few hundred metres and came home with a new pb, knocking 10 minutes off last years time and dragging myself out of the bottom 1% and well into the top 96% of all competitors. Result!
The only disappointment was that I managed to look decidedly camp in my sprint finish photo, not that I need to share that with anybody.

Actual stats:

Time – 1:01:57
Overall – 4392/4579
Age/gender – 366/385

As Dan can’t be arsed to keep a record of his times, I will jot them down here for prosperity:

Time – 0:44:14
Overall – 3148/4579

Oh and I got a new t-shirt.

Bald Penguin Preservation Society

Ralph

The Great North Swim is now only a matter of weeks away. I’ve been swimming regularly but to be honest, the distance is the least of my worries.

I pulled the wetsuit out of the cupboard last month, dusted out the moth balls and then attempted the big squeeze……
Not good.
I forced the zip up but couldn’t straighten my arms and panic ensued within 30 secs. With no body glide I was falling all over the bedroom trying to trap the rubber under something solid so I could fight my way free.

I immediately pulled out my spreadsheet and started the calorie controlled route to a not so snug wetsuit but four weeks later I’m scouring the spreadsheet for dodgy formulas. Something must have gone wrong somewhere because I’m only about 2 ounces down.

I’m running almost daily and have now stepped into the serious measures zone. Stella has been eradicated (apart from Blog writing evenings) but if the scales don’t start playing fair I’ll have to join the bald penguin preservation society.

If I slice off both arms (rubber ones obviously), I’ll be able to move my shoulders and I’ll provide a new skin for at least two bald penguins, maybe even four, if they’re short.

As that seems an increasingly likely option at this late stage I thought I better get used to some cold weather swimming. So today I finally managed a trip to Tooting Bec Lido.

At 93 metres a length its practically open water swimming and the temperature was shocking enough to remind me that freezing mountain lakes will be unbearable without full body rubber protection.

I better make sure I don’t write too many blogs between now and September 13th.

Two Common By Half

Two Commons

The new accessible job arrived and sucked away all my handy exercise avoidance excuses…..time to resurrect the running commute.

My first attempt was an unwelcome struggle, my head was in a seriously moany place and my feet were doing that teenage scuffing thing. I made it past two commons lurching in a stop go fashion and finally quit at Somerfield in order to replenish the Stella supplies.

Today’s run was a bit more exciting, I’d heard a rumour that the non runner may be catching the 5:18 train. Thereby giving me approximately 25 minutes to hot foot it down the high street and nonchalently drape my sweating being across the bonnet of her car to ensure a lift half the way home.

Needless to say I made it. Amazing what you can pull out of the bag for an easy ride.

true weight

I got an iPhone recently which has proved mighty useful for navigating me through some commutimg crises but will unfortunately result in a decline in photo quality for my blog.

I’ve been checking out the promisingly named “50 Awesome iPhone Apps for Runners” blog post, they don’t all have very good reviews on iTunes but I may check a few out. High on my list will be True Weight – 3 months of idleness has not done me any sartorial favours and I need to get back in control.

In the spirit of
1. getting back into the swing of things
2. jumping in at the deep end, and
3. acquiring more t-shirts
I’ve signed myself up for an assortment of events.

First on the list is the London to Brighton bike ride which has been on my wishlist for some time.

Then it’s time for a re-run of the British London 5k which promises to be particularly exciting – at least in terms of the location of it’s post race champagne reception. Stay tuned.

Finally (at least for now), I’ve gone and signed myself up the scary Great North Swim. I’m hoping to be able to finish it without the asthma attack this time, which probably means a little more training…

Brompton World Championships – 2008

I am such a social cretin before an event and watching the city boys arrive at the coach station in their pin striped suits and titanium s-bar bikes didn’t go anyway towards making me feel at home.

I cheered up a bit on arrival at Blenheim when friendly faces appeared out of the crowd and I was reassured that Emma’s Dave hadn’t abandoned me to do the race on my own. Shame Trinny and Susannah weren’t there though; they would have been able to advise me that the short and dumpy tie style wasn’t going to do much for my physique. They might also have mentioned that a thick woollen jacket wasn’t the best sporting wear for the hottest day of the year.

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I had received tie training lessons some months ago, in a pub and even through the Stella haze I could remember some of the specifics of the double Nelson knot. Or maybe it wasn’t a Nelson, that sounds like a wrestling move and that was another night and a completely different sort of pub. Anyway, my tie, it ended up in some form of quadruple knotting affair which may even have been stylish if only I were tall and lanky.

BWC - The Start

So with the race about to start we’d had to lay out our bikes in the folded position, on numbered markers. I was going in the first wave, with Dave two waves and 4 minutes behind me. With the horn sounded we ran to the Bromptons, unfolded, pushed to the track and then set off.

I can’t believe that I’ve gone to so much trouble, practically having my gps surgically embedded in my wrist, and yet “forgot” to set the flippin thing off for the race. Now you are just going to have to take my word for it when I say it was HILLY. Big, long hills!

I may have mentioned before that I don’t do hills, not uphills anyway, but with Dave a mere 4 minutes behind me I didn’t have a lot of choice and had to keep pushing. When I finished the first 6.5km loop I came really close to throwing up on the corner, I thought it would be a slip hazard though and with Dave still behind me it could be seen as unsporting.

One of the guys in my wave had a video camera on his helmet and captured some of the beauty of the course. I was breathing so hard, sweating gallons and concentrating too much on the waves of nausea that I didn’t notice my surroundings.

It’s a bit noisy so I suggest you turn the volume right down, but before you get bored, pull the slider across to 4 minutes and wait for me to appear like a bat out of hell. He managed to capture almost a full minute of my backside flying down the hill with my coat tails flapping in an aerodynamic fashion.

BWC - Goody Bags

I crossed the line in front of Dave but the gap could be measured by Brompton lengths rather than minutes but we both looked rather worse for wear.

The results are just in:
Lap 1 15:48
Lap 2 16:57
Total for the 13km 32:45 (Dave’s time was 30:26)

In terms of positions I’m 268/364 overall or 21/44 for the women. So I’m actually in the top 50% for a sport! It beats swimming.

Running Over Old Ground

The race packs seem to be dropping thick and fast through the letter box this week, after the painfully slow 5k at the weekend I came home and opened an envelope to discover I was entered in the Great Capital 10k in just 2 weeks time. Goodness knows when I signed up for that, I hadn’t bothered to note it in my diary anyway.

I’m thinking that’s its probably impossible to turn around the worst ever 5k race time within the space of 2 weeks given a backdrop of 5 months of lacklustre training, but I’ve got to do something to ensure I don’t collapse before the finish line. I’ve therefore embarked on a 2 week anti-Stella campaign to be combined with regularish running commutes.

JogBlog is not the only one completing an old new running commute, I’ve shifted jobs yet again and am right back where I started with the very first running commute of 18 months ago. Happily I’ve picked up a bit of local knowledge over the months and can now get from asylum to home with barely any need to run on the grotty streets, it also seems to save me 500 metres which is no good as it ruins my perfect 10 k route.

Garmin Forerunner 405

Running along the edge of assorted waterways provides plenty of opportunity for water related incidents and playing around with the forerunner 405 touch bezel does not reduce the likelihood. I stumbled over some barge docking related paraphenalia but managed to steady myself in a rather sturdy clump of stinging nettles. I’m still itching but I did discover a rather cool new screen on the forerunner.

It the HR graph option and shows your heart rate displayed on a backdrop of HR zones. Quite neat but probably only useful if you are doing intervals, for most of my run it appeared as a flat line between zones 4 and 5. The photo was taken after I stopped.

Distance: 9.58km
Time: 1:22:00