Archive for September, 2011

27
Sep
11

two things at once

After my little run around Ashtead common, it was time to get down to the serious business of training for the Maidstone Half Marathon. If the truth be told, the prospect worried me a little. I’ve not run more than 10k(ish) since June and the Ashtead 10k felt like a long way on these under-used legs. The other dilemma was that I desperately wanted to get back into running in the VFF’s. I wanted to combine the two, but knew that going out and immediately running longer distances in the Vibrams was a recipe for disaster.
So my initial couple of forays were in the Vibrams – the first a trifling little 3kms to see if I could still run in them. Yes… no pain, no blisters and no sore joints in the feet. So feeling a little more confident, I set off a couple of days later on a 6.5km run which took me out into the country, up a huge hill and then back down the otherside. Still no ill-effects so I was feeling pretty pleased with myself and my little body that has fixed itself.
But still there was the worry that in under 3 weeks I am supposed to run a Half Marathon and the kms were still lacking. Nothing for it but to get up early and head out first thing for a (not very) swift 15kms. Not being brave enough to attempt this distance in the VFF’s just yet, I pulled on the lovely Saucony Kinvara 2’s and went for a scamper around. It was foggy out so had to pair the bright yellow Sauconys with a flourescent yellow gilet so motorists could at least see me if they tried to run me down. I must have looked very fetching. It was a good run, but all the while I had iliketocounts cautionary tale floating around in my head. Fortunately, I returned home intact 1hr and 26 minutes later with 15kms in the bank. Another run in the VFF’s planned for later in the week (perhaps upping the distance to 10k this time) and then a longer run on Sunday…

Soundtrack to this post: Polar Bear – Tomlovesalicelovestom

20
Sep
11

ashtead 10k race report

“Congratulations! First man over the line in bright yellow trainers” was hollered at me as I finished. An endearingly eccentric thing to shout as someone completes a race but that kind of summed up the whole event. Endearingly Eccentric.
Which, in itself doesn’t sound like high praise… but it is. In this age of corporate sponsorship and timing chips, it’s nice to come across a local race that is impeccably organised, friendly but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Reviews on Runners World are consistently positive so I was looking forward to this…
Numbers are not sent by post, instead have to be collected up on the day but this is a relatively simple process, tell the staff at the scout hut your name – they give you your number. Pins are provided if you have forgotten and then it’s a short walk to the start. We congregate at the start and are shouted at by a man whose loudhailer has broken. He tells us the first and last kilometre is uneven so to be careful, that the kilometre markers this year are actually accurate and then, intriguingly, proceeds to lead us into a rendition of God Save The Queen before the race itself starts. That was a first for me.
A quick countdown and then we are all off. The first kilometre is, as promised, “uneven” but once leaving the grassy area of Ashtead Common, we head off onto tracks and bridle paths which undulate through the Surrey countryside giving occasional glimpses across rolling fields and farm land. It is an out and back course and at 5km there is a stake in the ground with the sign “5km – turn round here” and then it’s back along the same route you have just run. Back past the same enthusiastic marshalls who are just as supportive and vocal on your way back as they were on the way out. The downhill at 2-3 kilometres is now a short sharp uphill between 7 and 8 kilometres but once that is negotiated, it is a long, gentle slope downwards to the finish. Support at the finish is great with children at the line itself waiting to high five you and hand you a commemorative coaster. I finished in 54 and a bit minutes which is about what I expected after a long absence and little training. Once through the finish, and here comes my only criticism, I find that they have run out of water but grab a handful of complimentary jelly babies and a jaffa cake and then collect my finishers technical race top which, another nice touch, has the names of all the registered competitors printed on the back.

You can also see photos from the race here and a video here.
So, a good race. A small, local race attempting to be a great small, local race with character. And succeeding.

Soundtrack to this post: Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood

12
Sep
11

disobedient legs

I’ve now run 4 times since returning from holiday and am finding it difficult. Over 2 months of non-running has allowed my legs to become lazy and disobedient. When asked to perform, they reluctantly go through the motions like a moody teenager and then, as soon as I’m not looking, begin to slack off. And they feel TIGHT. The calves, the quads and hamstrings seem to have siezed up. During Juneathon, the running came comparitively easy, the movement fluid… At the moment I’m sure that if I removed my headphones whilst running I’d hear the joints in my hips and knees creaking like rusty hinges. None of this is helped by running 5kms virtually daily whilst on holiday and then, once home and with the Ashtead 10k on the horizon, I have halved the frequency of my runs but doubled the distance because in my little brain, I’m not actually working any harder (3 x 10km are the same as 6 x 5km, right. Right?), although my legs beg to differ. And I know deep down that 3 x 10kms are obviously not the same as 6 x 5kms but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when, after 5km, I’m grabbing my ankles and stretching at the side of the path when I should still be running.
So, the Ashtead 10k this Sunday should be, ahem, interesting. I’m looking forward to it very much as it is Hauling My Carcass’s hometown race and I have heard and read lots of good things about it. I am hoping that the sense of occasion and anticipation allow me to run it easily and enjoyably. And apparently there are no hornets to avoid this year.

Soundtrack to this post – Nucleus Roots – Sunrise

02
Sep
11

what we did on holiday – saucony kinvara 2 review

After a 9 week forced hiatus due to injury, I decided that I would return to running whilst on my Summer Holiday. 1 week before my injury, I had received a pair of Saucony Kinvara 2 running shoes… I was desperate to try them out but my abstention from running meant that I could only admire them from afar… occasionally taking them out of the box to feel how light they were (incredibly light, by the way. 218 grams according to the Saucony website. So light that, when they first arrived, I thought I had received an empty shoe box in the post)

As you can see, the pair I was sent were a fetching yellow – I have mentioned before about my dislike of white running shoes, so the bright yellow / green trim combination was perfect for me. They even look fast.

I’d decided to start my rehabilitation slowly, sticking to relatively short distances, walking if there was any sign of a twinge and sticking to level, solid surfaces until I felt confident. Initially, I planned to stick to the roads and paths that hug the coast of Fuerteventura. It makes for great running as the pathway is mostly traffic free and gives you the chance to view surroundings like this.

Owing to the heat, I had to get out and run early in the day – I would try to be out by 7.45 and even then the temperature was in the 20’s, leave it any later and it starts nudging 30 degrees. My first few runs were tentative – a 2.5km the first day and a 3.5km the second. From then on, I was doing 5km each morning and trying to mix up my routes and running surfaces as my confidence grew.

So, how did the shoes perform? I wasn’t sure how easy I’d find the transition back from VFF’s (which I had been running in exclusively for Juneathon) into a more traditional running shoe. The Kinvara 2 is from Saucony’s Minimalist range so aims to give a less cushioned, more responsive feel than a regular running shoe. I was surprised at how much I could feel through the soles of the shoes – the surface is felt beneath the sole but all the extremes are smoothed out. This was perfect for me as I was wary of jarring my foot. The shoe is very light and flexible and makes running feel smooth and easy. The heel to toe ratio is only 4mm which meant that the “barefoot” runing style that I had been working on worked perfectly, allowing for a fore/mid foot strike. I find traditional running shoes, with their built up heel actually encourage heel striking as the heel is so large that it is very difficult to run without the heel being the first thing that strikes the floor. Over the course of the 2 weeks, I ran in the Kinvara’s 11 times, over a variety of surfaces (pavement, tarmac, sand, gravel, volcanic rock) and found them to be great – light and responsive enough to feel the ground beneath but cushioned enough to confidently be able to run over more testing surfaces.
Once I arrived home, I was keen to get out onto my regular 10km route and see how the shoes fared and they did not disappoint – pavement, grass, towpath, gravel were all tried and tested. And another thing, these are the first pair of running shoes that I have used that have not given me any blisters in the first few outings.
And now the dilemma… What could be improved? Surely the whole point of a review is to give you both sides of the story. A balanced account detailing the pros and cons. I wracked my brains on the flight home trying to think of things that needed improvement, design tweaks that would make the shoe better… and the only criticism I could come up with was that there appears to be an extra lace hole at the top of the shoe that seems needless – unless you have the worlds skinniest ankles I can see no need for it. And that’s the only thing I could find. Without wishing to slip into embarrassing hyperbole, these are probably the best running shoes I have ever tried – immediately comfortable, light and well designed incorporating everything that makes a good running shoe with no gimmicks or unnecessary flourishes. Simply great.




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