Posts Tagged ‘Vibram Five Fingers


no internet no problem…


For the last 2 weeks, I have been unable to access the internet from work. Most people would immediately think that must be a bit of an inconvenience – not being able to catch up on the news at lunchtime or browse stuff on Amazon when things get quiet but it actually meant that it was almost impossible to get any work done at all. No emails. No access to online job systems means not being able to log jobs, raise Purchase Orders, close jobs down or raise invoices. I felt like I was suddenly being given work but with no means of getting it accomplished. What would normally be reasonable deadlines suddenly become very tight once you take away the luxury and speed of almost instantaneous electronic communication and the ability to send large files at the click of a mouse. The only way around it was to take to working one day at work and the next from home – ensuring that if I was at home, I could catch up on the previous days emails and jobs without too many distractions and hopefully get myself a little ahead so that the following day spent back in the technological dark ages did not inconvenience me too much.

The upside of this was the time that was normally taken up with my morning commute was instead used for a 10 – 11km run first thing. I would arrive home from my run, fire up the laptop, shower and be “at my desk” for 9am. Safe in the knowledge that the days run was complete and I was feeling focused and ready for the day . And, after almost 2 weeks of this, to go back to an hour’s commute each morning and the struggle to squeeze in a run was beginning to slowly gnaw away at me.

So on Sunday morning, I was up and out and determined to get a decent run in. It was fairly quiet out and I decided to forgo my usual route and instead head out on a route that I was using this time last year whilst training for the Berlin Marathon. An 18km mix of woodland trails and pavement that takes me out to the town I grew up in, around and back. It was the furthest that I had run in a few months and by the time I had finished I felt suitably weary but happy. So much so that I have just entered the Ware 10 Mile run which takes place in just under a month. The race is local to me and I have wanted to tackle it for a few years now but have always had to give priority to other things. This year, there was space in the diary and I am very much looking forward to it. Part of the course is very familiar to me although approximately 50% seems to be through areas that I do not know. It will be nice to discover some new routes to run whilst enjoying the fun of an organised race. I’ve the feeling I may need a few more long Sunday runs between now and then…



So, that’s it then. My Summer holidays are done for another year… And that has been why there has been so little posted by me in the last month. There was a gradual psychological winding down prior to my holiday which weirdly coincided with an upturn in work related stresses and general “stuff-to-do”ness. So I got my head down and got on with it. And then went on holiday…

Which was fabulous and I managed to run every 2-3 days. We stayed on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands so my runs had to be done first thing in the morning before the temperatures got too high. I would get out about 7.30am and run for about 45-50 mins – my route taking me out in one direction to the edge of the desert and the Corralejo Nature Park before looping back into town and down to the port. A distance of between 8 and 9 km depending on slight variations in route. But in terms of landscape I would go from holiday resort to desert, past extinct volcanoes and then back in to town and to the sea in under 10kms!

It is easy to see why runners and cyclists flock to the Canaries to train – the terrain takes in everything and the combination of steep, volcanic hills, long smooth roads and the ocean make it perfect for tri-athletes, runners and cyclists. The weather is always pleasant – rarely dipping below 20 degrees – but in August it can touch 50 degrees during the day when the breeze drops. Even getting up early and trying to get the run completed pre-8.30 am, I would still find that the temperature would sometimes be in the high 20’s by the time I returned from the run. I did see a few hardy (or foolish) souls setting off to run mid-morning although by then it was way too hot for me. The other thing I noticed is how tiring it is running in that heat. Ordinarily, I would think nothing of going out to run 10-15km but with the temperature there, I was find 9km a struggle. And I suppose that is another reason why people go there to train. Imagine running repeatedly in 25-30 degrees and then switching to a milder climate – It must seem like a pleasant stroll without the oppression of the heat. And over the weekend, I was able to test my “temperature” theory. 2 runs in the UK –  one of 10.7km and the other of 12.5km and both significantly less tiring than 8 or 9kms in the heat of the Canaries.

And for the first time in a long while, I have no planned races in my calendar. This time last year, Hauling My Carcass and I were in the final throes of training for The Berlin Marathon… perhaps it’s time to get a few races scheduled…


pain in the…


I’d been wary of going out for a run since last weekend when I had the beginnings of a migraine whilst cycling back from Cambridge and then a proper go-to-bed-in-a-darkened-room one the following day after a relatively easy 11km run.


What if this was it? What if this was how it was going to be from now on? I did plenty of research (for “research” read “googling”) and the mid / post run migraine seems to be a very common occurrence amongst runners. Theories range from a lack of salt, to dehydration to the musculo-skeletal – all of which could have been contributing factors last week. Certainly I didn’t feel dehydrated at the time but the amount of liquid I felt I needed to drink on the Sunday evening would suggest that I was at least partially dehydrated. And I had had a nagging pain in the front of my shoulder which seemed to slowly spread to my neck as Saturday’s ride progressed. Or it could be the Thunder storm that was rumbling around and finally broke just as we were on the home stretch.


Anyway, Monday and Tuesday were spent with my customary post-migraine thick head. Not so much an actual headache, more a nagging, dull throb – mostly barely perceptible but lean forward and BAM! there it is, pounding at the inside of my temples. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were so hectic at work that I would arrived home ruined, have something to eat and then find myself hankering to go to bed just after 9pm.


So Sunday morning, I drank plenty of water as soon as I got up, bumbled about for a bit until the big grey clouds dispersed a little and then I headed off. Almost exactly the same route as last Sunday’s Father Day Migraine Inducing Run but the difference was this time I felt fine. Spritely, almost. Legs, rested for a week, felt strong and springy, my lungs opened up and I was breathing easily, towards the end of the 11km, the sun began to break though and I would have been happy to carry on were it not for the fact that I needed to get home in time to go and collect SonNumberOne from his Nan’s.


So, feeling much better having shrugged off the psychological shackles of the running induced migraine, I also seem to have rediscovered or re-invented my running mojo a little bit. This week at work promises to be a little less hectic than the last few so maybe, just maybe, I can treat myself to a few mid-week runs instead of just a hastily executed weekend dash.



Seasons Greetings

Without wishing to jinx anything, it appears Spring might have just about arrived in the UK. Waking up, squinting out of the window again this year. We have a 150km training ride planned for 2 weeks time and breaking into a grin is a sure sign that things are looking up weather wise. Saturday and Sunday were both just about perfect for a run and a cycle and I was able, as I got up and out of the house early enough, to squeeze in both this weekend.

Saturday’s morning of sunny spells was perfect for a run and I completed 16.6km – certainly not at a pace that would set the world alight, but steady. I had had an odd “injury” after a few of my previous runs – the day after a run, my foot would “creak” when I flexed my toes. It wasn’t especially painful but it is quite worrying when your foot feels like a rusty hinge. A quick bit of Googling informed me that the cause was usually mild tendon inflammation – so wanted to see if slowing down and concentrating on my form would help. Which it appeared to do. Sunday came around and there was no pain and no creaking. Hurrah!

So, creak free on Sunday morning, I jumped on the singlespeed and just headed off. I planned to cycle for 2 hours – basically one hour in one direction chosen at random and then turn round and head back. I set off through the Hertfordshire countryside and managed to pick out and unusually hilly route to Barnet along country roads. I love my singlespeed and have never suffered “gear envy” before but on Sunday I found myself up out of the saddle and grinding my way up hills only to be passed by roadies in lycra calmly overtaking me, legs spinning and looking relaxed. One even informed me as he passed that he “wouldn’t want to be riding a singlespeed up this hill”. Thanks.

Still, it is all good training for when Hauling My Carcass once again tackle the Dunwich Dynamo but for now, this ride would blow some of the cobwebs away.

Almost precisely 2 hours later, I was back home, just shy of 50km in the bank. It was not even 11a.m. Which left me with that fabulous smug feeling that you get when you know you have done what you needed to do and have the rest of the day to relax in the sun.


hatfield broad oak 10k race review


Bank Holiday Monday and an unusually warm and sunny morning. Hatfield Broad Oak is a few miles from Stansted Airport but the sleepy, villagey feel and the lack of plane noise makes this feel more rural. The race is timed to coincide with the local Flower Show so there are stalls in the church grounds, a hog roast outside the pub and what seems like the entire occupancy of the village out on the streets to enjoy the sunshine and the events.


Runners mingle with locals prior to the race, the race HQ is buzzing and with 5 minutes to go, everyone gets themselves to the start. Bang on time the race starts and we are off through the village, the streets lined on both sides with cheering crowds filling the pavements. The village is soon left behind and the field thins out as we make our way along country roads and through the beautiful Essex countryside. The course for the first 4k is mostly flat with a few gentle undulations. Just before 5k, the route heads back towards the village and dips down. We see the front runners coming back the other way and then veer right and head off up a long slow incline between kilometres 6 and 7. So we know what lies ahead of us…


A water stop at 5km and then we too are on the route back out of the village and up the slope. It is tougher than it appears, partly because it is now very warm and partly because it is what the have been referring to in the Giro D’Italia as a “false flat” – it is a continual gentle upward slope which flattens out periodically before slowly, almost imperceptibly rising upwards again. At about 8km, I am gritting my teeth and hoping that the end will come soon. I start mentally ticking off the distance… 2kms to go, 1500 metres to go…


At 9km, the course plays it’s nastiest trick of all and suddenly steepens. This is made worse by signs at 200m intervals telling you that it is 800m to go, then 600m to go. But those 200m increments seem to be very slow in coming. With 200m to go, you still cannot see the finish and it is only with 100m left that you reach the brow of the hill, see the crowd and the finish and have a 100m sprint on wobbly legs to the line.


Orange slices and water after the finish line and then a slow queue for the (admittedly very nice) red race technical t-shirt and to have timing chips removed.

Post race, I bought myself a slice of home made cake from inside race HQ before accompanying SonNumberOne and SonNumberTwo on the free kids Fun Run. A mile run around the village on streets closed to traffic.

Al in all a very nice day. A great, friendly event, a scenic route and good support from the locals who all came out to cheer us on



maas half marathon race review

The previous day, when we’d collected our race numbers, I’d tentatively asked if there was anywhere we could store 4 bags each whilst the race was on. I explained that we had cycled to Vise and had all our bags with us. I feared the worst – I have run races in the UK with no baggage storage at all (yes, Rat Race, I am talking about you) so felt asking to stow 4 bags was pushing it. I was told it was not a problem and we could put all our luggage in the baggage room on race day.

The organisation surrounding the event was phenomenal, there were a number of races all starting at intervals – a full marathon, a kids race, a 9.1km (??? no, me neither) and the Half Marathon we were taking part in. Race HQ was easily navigated and the staff spoke English. Toilets were plentiful with little or no queuing and the whole event was expertly managed. What seemed like the whole town were out on the streets to cheer us on and at 11am we set off with a 1km lap around the town before heading off out towards and along the banks of the river Maas. Marshalling was frequent and good, support at the inhabited sections of the route was loud and positive. It drizzled a bit and there were headwinds alongside the river but this is a fabulous race. I was running in my Vibrams and even a couple of kilometres of cobbles couldn’t dampen my spirit. Water stations with drinks, slices of orange, halves of bananas and slices of cake are at 5k intervals around the route and the support for the final 2k was fabulous. Cheering spectators, a sound system, drummers, everyone there encouraging and willing you on, lifting you through the final stretch.

I wasn’t sure how I’d fare in a Half Marathon after almost 400km of cycling but I came in 2:02:20. Delighted with the time, I met up with HMC who had finished a couple of minutes earlier and headed to Race HQ. There, we were given goody bags, a race branded back pack, a long sleeve technical t-shirt, water, apples, a couple of candle holders (?!) and the usual leaflets and bumph that fills post race goody bags. Most amazingly, the organisers had laid on a free buffet for all competitors with cheese rolls, cake, fruit, water… as much as you wanted. This was a complete eye opener for me especially as the race entry was only 10 Euros. So, if a race in a medium size town in Belgium can do all this and also get all the other race facilities and organisation so right for 10 Euros, why are there far worse races here with £40+ entry fees?


And so with a successful trip and a phenomenal Half Marathon completed, all that remained was to get ourselves home. A quick scrub up, the ceremonial binning of the Vibram 5 Fingers that had seen better days, and we were loading our bags back onto the bikes for what was to be our final leg of the journey. 21km cycle into Liege, a train from Liege to Brussels, Eurostar from Brussles to St Pancras and then the final train home. I was back in time for the 10 o’ clock news.


The whole experience was great and the memories will stay with me a very long time. The Jack Wolfskin waterproof and HMC’s GPS mapping were both worth their weight in gold and made the trip far slicker and more comfortable. HMC made a great companion and his time and effort in the bulk of the organisation and booking of the trip is enormously appreciated (you can read his version of events here). Everyone who we met in Holland and Belgium were lovely and couldn’t do enough for us and the race itself was up there with the best of them.

I went with the expectation of an enjoyable trip and another Half Marathon notched up but returned with so much more. So how do we top this for next year?


Hertford 10k race report


Or what used to be known as The Hertford Charity Run – I have run this race a few times now and I still really enjoy it. It could be the proximity to my house (I walked to the starting line from home – took about 15 minutes). The picturesque, well marshaled route – out along the Cole Green Way and then through a number of small, Hertfordshire villages before rejoining the Cole Green Way to head back to the finish. Or it could be the finish itself – a tough uphill that sees many give up and walk before a big finish right in front of County Hall and the crowd of cheering spectators.

I did get caught up a little at the beginning, positioning myself too far down the field before the start, meaning I had to try and pick my way through the runners on the narrowest and most congested part of the course. So the first mile or so was spent in a bunch of 6-6.30mins/km paced runners when I wanted to be doing 5.30mins/km. Also, I was running in Vibrams along a bridle path so needed to try and keep a little distance between me and the runners in front to ensure I could see enough ground in front of me to avoid landing on any stones of bits of tree branch.

Once out onto the road, the race opened up and the sun/breeze combined to create almost perfect conditions – if a little windy on the exposed sections. Marshaling, as always, was frequent and encouraging with an added water/Jelly Baby station just before 5km.

Because I have run the race before, I am aware of the big hill at the end. Subsequently, I began to slow (not sure if it is consciously or unconsciously) around the 8km mark and a handful of people slowly overtook. I think I have some inbuilt mechanism that tells me to ease up and conserve energy for the hill at the end. Once at the hill, many of my “overtakers” end up just ahead of me and walking up the hill. Some were run/walking. I am always intent on not stopping to walk, although my legs and lungs protest. The encouragement from the crowd and the knowledge that the end is imminent make it bearable but it is still one of the toughest and most satisfying finishes.

My only criticism from a few years back was that the race used to be “approximately 10k”. I am not sure if the organisers have taken heed and tweaked the route to find and extra 500m (the race used to be about 9.5km) or whether my Garmin had mis-measured, but Sunday’s distance showed as 10.11km

Incredibly, this was my first race this year and therefore not as quick as previous years (approx 3 mins slower than last year. Also, I think the combination of mixed training I have been doing (forsaking some runs for longer cycle rides) and getting stuck for the first 1-2kms contributed to the slower time. It’s still a great race though and I’ll be back again next year.

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