Category Archives: Fuel

“And it’s Not About You Joggers that Go Around an’ ’round an’ ’round…”

To quote the Blur song from way back when, but today it was certainly about going round and round and round. 

My training programme called for 12.5 miles and I didn’t want to go off on a wild run around London for that distance. Too much planning to get the right distance for a circuit. 

Instead, I chose to run to “The Regent’s Park” and do loops to meet the goal. 

The park was two miles from my hotel and, after completing the first loop, I found it was about 2.7 miles in circumference. Therefore, three loops and the run back should make my target (near enough). 


Regent’s Park is home to London Zoo and you can hear the noises of the animals as they wake in the morning. There were also some reindeer out in a separate enclosure that were looking at me strangely as I ran by each time. 

There were plenty of other runners around in the park as well as gangs of cyclists doing circuits and riding waaaaay to close behind cars in an effort to draft them. If you are there for the exercise, surely drafting is a folly? Something to think about, cyclists?

The park is a nice place to run but the outer path has quite a busy road next to it that does leave you tasting the fumes a bit. It was nicer running on the inner pathways, but you cannot do that around the north end by the zoo. 

There was one runner there with her tiny dog (some sort of terrier) that looked like you wouldn’t want to run with it as you’d think t would be too slow. But, bugger me, it was a fast little thing and they easily blew past me and kept on going for quite a time before they stopped to rest. I was really surprised. 

By mile ten I was tired and the lack of fuel was beginning to slow me down. I was glad to be heading back towards my hotel and the free breakfast. 

Running back along Oxford Street at prime opening time was treacherous and often required me to skip into the bus lane to avoid laying out some poor pedestrian. 

I wasn’t far off in that estimate and ended at 12.2 miles. Damned if I was going to do that last 0.3 just for the hell of it. 

The route wasn’t picturesque so no photos again today. 

I did find a track at the northern edge of the park that I didn’t know existed. This will be good as I need to do 10 x 200s as one of my runs this week… I guess that will be tomorrow but I’m pretty sore right now. 

One other good thing about London: my meeting today was down in the theatre district and so I’m enjoying a warm beer in a classic London bar (Porterhouse) and soaking up the atmosphere while staring into my phone and typing frantically. 


Low ceiling and illuminated beer cases abound at Porterhouse. Along with a very wide range of beers. 

Off in search of food next: curry. Yum. 

A British institution. 🙂

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Boxing Day Marathon: Summary

On Monday I returned to Valley Forge National Historical Park for my sixth Boxing DayMarathon attempt.


The first few years I did it by doing two half marathons in a day; one early in the morning and another late in the afternoon. I soon realized that this is actually harder than just running the total distance in one go. If you split the distance you’ll find your legs start to lock up during the day and it is really hard to get back out again.

This year, despite being very under trained, I went with the all-out straight-up marathon approach.

And it was very, very difficult!

Last year I took around 3 hours and 45 for this run. This year it was closer to 4:45.

So, what went wrong this time:

  1. Valley Forge Park is hilly. This shouldn’t be news to people that have been there before, but including circuits of the park in a long run is not such a great idea when you are under trained. I chose to start in the park, with a five mile loop, spin out for a run along the Schuykyll River Trail, and then come back for the seven mile outer loop around Valley Forge. The seven mile loop is even hillier than the main loop.
  2. Not enough training. Over the previous couple of months I had barely run. Perhaps ten miles per week in many cases, and in others less. Normally I would be up at 30 to 40 miles per week in preparation for the run.
  3. Not enough snacks. I didn’t have quite the right combination of snacks for the run and tried to put something together, but it wasn’t really quite right.
  4. Carrying extra weight. The reduced mileage and increased seasonal snacking left me carrying about 5-7 extra pounds for the run this year.

The first five miles went by quite smoothly and it was at 5.5 that I met up with my friend Ed. He joined me for 9.5 non-stop miles along the Schuykyll River Trail and the Betzwood Trail. This is the longest distance he has run without doing a walk-run combo and it was great to have the company along the route.

Mile 16 was where I started to have issues. My legs just stopped wanting to move. I tried fueling a little more and kept walking to give my legs a chance to recover. This is quite early in the run to be having issues. Once the food kicked in I was able to run again and kept going to about mile 19 where I took a bathroom break and refilled my water bottles (no, just no).

Crossing the new Sullivan’s Bridge I stopped to take a picture for someone who was half way through their first long ride since having some shoulder surgery.

The last seven miles were around the outer loop of the Park and it has many hills and is mostly non-tarmac trails. It starts with a long and steady climb. At mile 21 it started to hurt again, so I decided to switch to a walk/run strategy. This got me through to about mile 24…

At that point I had to just walk. I had nothing left in the tank at all. I felt like a bit of a sham walking around the park in my running gear but I had no choice.

At mile 25.5 I started running again and tried to keep going to the end… my car was waiting for me at 26.7, half a mile past the marathon mark.

I was sooooo glad to make it to the car. I got my thermal blanket out of the back of the car and wrapped myself up as all the walking had made me much colder than running would have done. It was done for another year. 

Next year I will prepare more. My thanks to Ed for the company during the marathon as that really helped early on.

Beware Chains

Today I ran twenty-three fabulous miles up the Perkiomen trail and into and around the park at Green Lane. Lovely. 

The early morning was a suitably cool 69F with a gentle breeze, and the trail was nicely in the shade. But, of course, the temperatures didn’t stay that way for long. 

On the way up I was in quite a chatty mood and greeting everyone that I passed on the trail. There is one lady I’ve seen quite regularly running in the opposite direction to me and she clearly does very long distances too as we pass twice at quite distant places on the trail. 

As we passed I asked her how many miles she was doing today. Her response was that she was only doing ten as she did eighteen the previous day. Like I said, she clearly runs a lot of miles. 

I was focused on adding extra miles to my route by running through the whole of Green Lane Park as I’ve not done that before. Generally, I’ve either turned at the entrance or about a mile in. 

This time I ran through the park and ended up at the bandstand. As I approached it looked like there were toilets on the side so I decided to take advantage of those and headed towards them. 

They were at the top of a slope so I run towards it and … Ouch… There was a freakin’ chain across the slope. I thin light chain with no sign on it. Against the light concrete it was next to invisible. 

While I didn’t go flying over it, it bloody hurt and startled me. 

As the evening is progressing the bruising is coming out:


The other leg has a matching one although not quite so dark. 

Fortunately it didn’t affect my return run home. I ended up having to walk for half a mile as the temperature slipped into the 80s. Other than that it was quite a strong run. 

Ah, I did get overtaken by a very slight lady on my return. I rarely get overtaken so it stood out. I had caught her earlier on the trail but then she accelerated and stayed on my tail for two miles. I eventually had to rest for water and snacks and she went past me and I didn’t catch her again. She turned around after four miles though, so I’m going to tell myself that she was running less distance than me and that’s why she took me. (Naa, she was just faster).

A coke icee and a large bottle of Gatorade later and I felt great. 

My food strategy was better this time although I did lose count of the number of shot bloks I’d eaten. At least I didn’t entirely run out of energy this week. 🙂

Enjoy your running and keep cool as the temperatures are rising. 

Every Cloud Has One

This was the view that greeted me on the return leg of my Monday morning run. I’m pretty sure that the sign is a warning for cars to slow down for children, but it looks like a indictment of my running prowess! Everyone’s a critic. 

Rather a splendid view of the sun rising for a second time over the low clouds giving that silver/golden lining effect. Stunning. It left me with little images of the sun burned into my retina for the next five minutes or so.

Today I got up early and headed out into the fog that was a 75F day with 100% humidity. Oh, boy, was that sweaty! The windows of my house were all fogged over which is always a sure sign that it is going to be bad outside.

I planned to run a ten mile out and back but hadn’t thought that it would be that humid. Because of the weather I loaded up with a bottle of water (something I wouldn’t normally bother with for a run of ten or fewer miles) and I was very grateful for it when I reached the five mile turn around point. 

When I got back to the house I had lost 3.5 lbs through sweating! That’s insane for such a short run. My clothes were all soaked through. 

Breakfast and a couple of glasses of water later and I was ready to take on the day!

In other news, I got an email from a project I’d sponsored to say that they were getting ready to ship. The Lumo Run device is a gadget that you clip onto the middle of the waist band on your shorts (at the back) and it gives you lots of interesting data about how you are running. It can track foot strike times, the orientation of your body, whether you are twisting your torso as you are running. It gives live suggestions to improve your running style as you go… Well, that’s the theory. I guess we’ll see what it is like when it arrives. 🙂

From their website it looks like the device will support the things I already use like my fitness pal and map my run. I’m excited to get it soon and see what it is really like. 

As a wise Jedi once said…[blog title]

Eventually, My Legs Gave Out. 

And that sums up today’s run pretty well, so I’ll just end there.

What, you want to know more? Well, okay then!

I planned to run twenty plus miles today and headed out in the shade of the Perkiomen Trail. It was a lovely cool 67F when I hit the trail and all was well with the world.

There were plenty of cyclists out in the early morning light and they were all courteous. There were a few runners out there including several people who looked like I hoped I look (I know that I don’t as these people were perfect physical specimens and I was just lumbering along). In my mind, I was running like those elites. 🙂

All was going fine. I started slightly earlier on the trail to give me more miles before hitting the end. I then ran a bit further and when I clicked over to eleven miles, looked for a turn around point. I don’t like to just stop part way on the trail and like to find something to use as a turning marker; a sign, a junction, a gatepost, etc. 

At this point I was all the way up in Green Lane Park and the day suddenly got a lot warmer. The temps were soon close to 80F and I had a whole lot of miles to get back through.

I also hadn’t brought enough snacks for the extra distance which is something I only realised once I was out at this point. Why I didn’t think that before I set out, I don’t know. One Clif bar. 6 Clif shot blocks and a bottle of water. Nowhere near enough for this distance. Bugger. 

In the woodland trails I had a moment where a stunning Buck appeared on the trail before me. He stood there and assessed me, then decided he should duck under the trail railings and disappeared down towards the river below. A beautiful moment, albeit only briefly.

Eventually I knew I would run out of food I was was trying to eat slowly, but I needed to keep hydrated. Then I realised that my route went past the back of a bicycle shop; perhaps they’d have water. Indeed, they had a soda machine (alas I had no funds) but on the side of the building I found a hose.  I ran it until all the warm water stored in the hose had gone and then filled my bottle. At last, water! At this point I still had four and a half miles to go.

I headed on down the trail and drank the water. Soon I had emptied the bottle again, but I knew there was a water stop at a toilet block on the trail at the two and a half mile mark. Once there I filled up again and rested briefly. I was out of food and starting to feel out of energy. I continued on for another mile or so and then had to stop and resort to walking the remainder. 

I started walking at the 20.6 mile mark and had 1.4 miles left to go. It felt bad having to walk the last bit, but I had no energy left to run that last bit. So, I soaked in the morning sun and enjoyed natures abundance; squirrels, chipmunks, people boating, cycling and running… Ah, someone overtook me that I’d passed earlier. Boo. I tried to run a little but soon decided that there was no chance I’d get past them, so I switched back to a walk.

Eventually I arrived at the car and scooted around the corner to the local Dunkin Donuts to get a very large icee drink. Lovely. And a couple of donuts, too, of course. Yum.

It was a fun morning run but I now know that I need to plan the water fill-ups a little more and take more food for that distance. The half bottle of red wine the evening before probably didn’t help much either…bad Rex Goliath!

Even after all the walking at the end, my average pace for the 22.25 miles was 9:19 which is still pretty reasonable. 

Welcome to Summer

Hellooooo summer. 

I suddenly realised I hadn’t made any blog posts for 15 days. Where did that time go? 

Well, I’ve been steadily increasing my mileage at the weekends again after taking a short break. I think it is key that even ‘experienced’ runners be very careful when they start to return to higher mileage. It is tempting to just crank up with distance as ‘you know you can do it’ but this path leads to injury by going further than your body is currently trained for. 

The answer is just to increase a little each week. I did 10, 13, 15, 17 and this week, 20. 

Running in the summer presents its own unique set of issues:

  1. Finding somewhere with good shade. Getting out of the full sun is important if you are planning for longer runs. 
  2. Get out early morning. To avoid the full heat make sure you get out early before it gets too much. If you have a long run, get out even earlier. 
  3. If you are going long, take water and plan a route that will take you via water stops so you can refill. 
  4. You will sweat more so you will need gels to replenish your body. I use clif shot bloks as I don’t like liquid gels. 
  5. Expect to get some chafing. This is something I’m experiencing for the first time this year following using the new shirt I got from the recent 5k. It is a material that feels more like cotton (although it is 100% polyester) but somehow it didn’t work well for me last week. Perhaps using it for the first time on a 17mile run was a bad idea? Any way, expect more of this when you sweat more in summer months. 

What else is going on? Hmm, well, the guy I run with on Monday mornings is looking to get a husky. This is a great running dog, but it will also be good to get him out even more than he already does. 

We saw an eagle out on the Schuylkill River Trail the other week. It landed on a pylon above us watching the rabbits. Here’s a pic for you from my friends phone. 

My Brooks Glycerine’s reached their 400 mile mark with today’s run. I have already purchased some new shoes as one of the big stores had a massive sale the other week and Brooks Ravenna shoes were 35-65$ a pop. This is less than half price so I bought two pairs. Perfect timing and this means that I will now be solely in Ravenna’s for the coming future. 

The Glycerine’s were great shoes. They have slight holes in the tops around my big toes and the left foot has slight wear on the outside back edge of the shoe, but other than that they held up really well. 

Here they are slightly dust after today’s run. 

The Perkiomen Trail was superb today. Quite a few runners and walkers about, plus some groups of pleasure cyclists (the nice polite casual riders). 

20 miles with an 8:15 pace isn’t too bad for the time of year. 

Feeling pretty groovy now and looking forward to a lazy Sunday afternoon. 

Take care out there and enjoy those summer trails. 

Recovery Catch-up

After taking it *slightly* easy for the last couple of weeks, I decided to knuckle down and do another marathon this weekend.

I hadn’t, however, reckoned on there being ridiculously strong winds in our area and a temperature drop back down into the 20s!

The British word “Bugger” seems most appropriate.

However, once I’d mentally committed to the distance I saw no reason to bail and went ahead with the run.

Again I pointed my feet in the general direction of Skippack, PA., and just kept on trucking. The wind was terrible for the first fifteen or so miles. At times it was like leaning against a wall. I was continually buffeted hither and thither as I tried to make slow progress along the road. The temperature drop meant that the chill really bit as the wind wound up. Brrr!

I decided I would take a slightly longer route back to my home as that particular trail was more shielded from the wind. This would mean that I would have to walk a little at the end of the marathon to actually reach my front door and, perhaps most annoyingly, the last two miles would all be uphill. The uphill part is inevitable to get home, but saving it all for the last two miles rather than spreading it across the last seven was a pity – however, needs must and the wind had to be avoided.

The last 14 miles of the run were all on the Perkiomen Trail from Schwenksville down to Oaks. Very pretty and somewhat protected from the wind. 

I completed the 26.22 miles in just a shade under four hours which shows how much of an impact the wind actually had on my performance. The walk home was a just over half a mile which was actually quite a nice way to let my legs relax a little. 

For snacks I had a bottle of Gatorade cut with 50% water, a Clif chocolate mint bar and a six pack of shot blocks. Just about enough to survive the distance.

Of course, once I got home I got an email from my running buddy requesting that we increase the length of our Monday morning run to seven miles. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger so I agreed… And it wasn’t tooooooo bad. Although, I did ask that we didn’t do any fartleks as my legs just wouldn’t have managed that.

Given that March has now past I checked my numbers for the month & year… 170 miles for March (pretty darn good) and 411 for the year to date. Now to eat my body weight in mini-eggs…

Good Estimation

As I geared up to leav the house for my run this morning, my wife asked, “how far are you going to run?”. I thought about it and said, “somewhere between ten and twenty-four miles.”.

Looking back this seems like quite an odd statement for anyone to be able to make. My back has a slight kink in it currently after I fainted jumping out of bed on Friday morning (see the lovely black eye photo inserted below), but other than that I felt okay.  

 I ran twenty-two miles last Sunday but didn’t want to just run the same route and add a mile – that would be boring. So, I conjured up a new route that had me going out along a route I did a few weeks ago (8.5 miles), coming back in on the route I did last week (11 miles)… And the unknown bit in the middle joining the up would make up the difference. 

Turns out that my estimating skills are pretty darned good. Went I reached my driveway I’d clocked 24.3 miles. Nice. 

Running through Evansburg State Park, Skippack township, Perkiomen Trail, back through Evansburg State Park and then towards home. Very scenic. 

Everything feels fine although the last couple of miles consisted of a little more plodding that I would have liked. 

Now I’m doing this sort of distance in a training run where do I stop? Do I keep just adding 10% each week and see where it takes me? It is starting to chew up a lot of time on a Sunday morning…

Any way, now to each as much of anything I like. Need to reload with calories starting with the family bag of Twizzlers that I bought yesterday on the off chance I’d need them today. 🙂

Random Distance; Random Route. 

When I set out today for my long slow run I had no real plan for distance or route other than doing more than fifteen miles. I like days like these as it is good to not feel beholden to any particular plan. 

The temps were just below freezing at 29F and the sun was low in the Eastern sky as I topped the first hill and emerged into the orange hue of the morning light. 

I started along one my my regular routes out towards Skippack and eventually stumbled upon a new trail: Zacharia’s Trail. I’ve run parts of this out the other direction but I guess they must have extended it (or I just hadn’t noticed it before). 

The trail skirts a creek which looked beautiful in the early morning light. 

Eventually I came to a car park and saw that the trail continued across the road, so I kept heading in that direction… And half a mile later the trail just petered out with a six foot turning circle. Boo. I was enjoying that. 

 After backtracking to the car park I turned and headed up towards Skippack. 

I took a bathroom break at a Wa-wa and then decided to head off down a road I hadn’t been on before.  I was suitably far out that I had to resort to following route numbers to go back in the right general direction. 

A few miles down this road I came to a pedestrian crossing that I recognised from another trail run I do, so I took this and started heading back to civilisation. 

As I came through Evansburg State Park there were a couple of other runners in front of me (for a short time) as they were doing interval training. 

Then I caught sight of another with only three miles to home so I accelerated to try and race him a little. I know it is unfair to race someone when they don’t even know you are doing it, but I figured the 15 miles already under my belt were probably more than they had run that morning. 

I eventually caught and passed him. 

As I came into the last mile I chose to run the extra hilly route back just to finish off with a bit of a burn. 

All in all a nice nineteen mile run that was suitably random. I managed a clean negative split with an average pace of 7:49 overall at the end. 

Not bad seeing as I ran with only a special-k breakfast plus a clif mint choc bar and four shot blocks. 

As a bonus, this run actually pushed me over the final threshold of my company’s health care rewards plan (Virgin Pulse) earning me forty bucks (on top of the $60 I have already earned this year). What to spend the rewards on… Cake? Shoes? Both? 🙂

  

My musical entertainment today was a compilation of my own tracks from yesteryear; a blast from the past. Some mellow and some rock. A fun trip down memory lane. The picture above is of me and my best friend and co-writer/performer at the top of the Empire State Building, taken on a disposable film camera; those were the days. 

Boxing Day Marathon #4

It is done. In the bag. Completed for another year. 

In the past I have had to run on icy trails while being pounded by hail stones and snow, but this year was an entirely different story.

Today it was the perfect weather for a marathon. 51F. Little wind. No rain. No sun. Just steady temperatures and a grey sky. 

I chose to base my routes around the Betzwood River Trail location as this gave access to fully functional toilets and ample parking, plus lots of other people on the trails (which is a good safety thing if the marathon attempt goes to crap).

This year I was joined by my Monday morning running buddy for the first six miles of the route. For this section we headed out towards Phoenixville along the SRT. The trail has a gentle incline out of Valley Forge National Historical Park and the dives back down to run right alongside the river. At the three mile point we looked for a trail marker (in this case a bridge), ran to it, and turned around.

All this meant that the time we got back to the cars we had 6.4 miles under our belts. I grabbed a hat and my headphones and started out. My friend, Ed, ran a little further with me, then bailed at the end of the Betzwood lot. It was nice having someone with me for the first part of the run.

My plan was to do the next ten miles as a five mile out-and-back run through Norristown. This part of the SRT is quite pretty and goes past lots of riverside homes as it passes through Indian Head. There have been some issues for people in the past as they go through Norristown but I’ve been fortunate enough never to have issues. In general, I would advise women not to run alone through this area, but there were a few doing that today (well done them). 

The five mile turnaround point was part way through one of my favourite pieces of the trail when riding a bike… A fast and gentle downhill out of Norristown Railway station. On a bike I can hit over 30mph on this stretch, but today it was a more leisurely pace.

By the time I got back to the car I had 16.4 miles under my belt and felt fine. At this point I switched out my water bottle for a mix of water and Gatorade, grabbed another Clif mint chocolate bar, and a spibelt with two extra packs of Clif shot bloks in case I started having issues with cramps.

Then it was straight back out on the trail towards Phoenixville again, this time running all the way to the Reynolds Dog Park. I turned around when the trail hit the road and my legs were still feeling fresh. Distance-wise I was a little short at 4.8 miles out, but making up the last little bit by running around the car park is sort of a tradition on these… You don’t want to end up having to run further!

Through the last few miles my legs did start to tire, but they didn’t have any cramps or muscle issues at all. I think running with the Gatorade really helped on this front. As I spotted my car I still had another 0.7 miles to run, so I headed up to the far end of the car park, ran around to see the work on the new trail bridge over to Valley Forge (very nearly completed) and then turned back towards my car. As I reached the car I got the twenty-six mile announcement and had to go a little further to get to the final number. I did feel a bit of a lemon doing this, but I see other people doing this sometimes too.

Sitting in the boot of my Mini and drinking rather remainder of the Gatorade I felt really good. My legs weren’t too achy, I had some mild soreness from my shorts rubbing (my fault and not the shorts), I had only eaten one and a half Clif bars and six bloks, but I didn’t have any cramps or real fatigue.

I did run at a far slower pace (8:50) vs. the marathon I raced three weeks ago (7:50), but that was my plan so I don’t feel too bad about that. I didn’t use a music playlist but instead listened to podcasts for a more relaxing experience.

My weight before was 147 lbs and after was 146 so I think I did a good job with the nutrition and liquid intake. Here’s a recovery photo. Apologies for the unshaven wreck.

  
All in all, I finished in 3:51:44 and feel fine. Not a record run but the first time that I didn’t have to stop and walk near the end. Small improvements all add up.

There were a lot of people out on the trail today and most of the runners said “hi” and, in general, the cyclists also announced their passing and also acknowledged me. That’s nice.

Now to enjoy some of the xmas trappings that I had to avoid on Xmas day; bring on the wine and beer!