Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Why does no-one smile anymore?

On the whole, I enjoy my running. I say on the whole because, like most of us, I occassionally have a day when it just isn't fun. Some days you really feel like putting your feet up in front of the telly and having another glass of wine or there are those days when you're out running but for whatever reason it is just not happening; you feel sluggish, tired and not overly keen on the whole thing.
Running is, however, my chosen pastime and so I do it because I enjoy it. When I am out running I am usually in a happy place in a strange pain filled kind of way.
It would appear however, that many of my fellow runners do not share this joy - for example:
I was running into work this morning and as usual, having to follow the less than scenic route down to Anniesland Cross, along Great Western Road and in through the West End to my office. On the way I passed several other runners of various sizes, shapes and abilities. When I pass another runner I will look across at them, raise my hand and say "hi" or "morning" or some other similar single word greeting. Without fail, not one of them returns my salutation. The responses range from a look of horror that I have had the cheek to speak to them to complete embarassment that someone has spotted them out running. Not one of them even smiles or acknowledges my presence.
Now I'm not looking to engage them in a lengthy conversation or ask them some personal question, it is merely exchanging pleasantries between two like minded individuals. A common acknowledgement of a shared experience.
Do these people not enjoy what they are doing? Are they all enduring some terrible internal pain that renders the whole process so unbearable that they can't even raise a smile - Stop running then! Stay at home and be miserable in front of the telly.
One thing I can't accuse my fellow ultra runners of is a lack of friendlyness (?) There is a camaraderie between runners when you've been out for 6 hours and your goal is merely to get to the end. There is no competetive sneering or dirty looks but there is always an encouraging comment or a warm hand shake and, of course, a smile!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Pain, suffering and baby oil!

When you think of the word "massage", what thoughts spring to mind? A warm welcoming atmosphere, soft, soothing hands gently carressing the cares and stresses of your day away. Perhaps some fragrant aromatherapy oils and some relaxing music playing in the background as you drift between wakefulness and sleep in a blissful sensation of pure realxation.
Now put the word "sports" in front of massage and it's a whole different ball game. As is my want, I popped into Achilles Heel in Glasgow this week for my regular "sports" massage in an attempt to keep some semblance of flexibility in my lower limbs.
The massage starts off gently enough with a firm pressing of my quads which are generally OK and don't tend to suffer from much in the way of stiffness. I turn over and Christine works on my hamstrings which again are usually OK but can tighten up occassionally. The first sense of foreboding comes as she moves onto my calfs which are usually fairly tight, a condition I put down to my use of orthotics and nothing to do with my usual stretching regime which a best can be described as negligable.
As she works away trying to loosen the tension in my calfs, there is the occasional twings of pain as she identifies a tender area and like a boxer who has just noticed an opponents weakness, starts to focus on that spot until the pain and tension eases. So far so good; then she utters the words that strike fear and terror into my very soul. Words that have grown men flinching in anticipatory pain and onlookers covering their ears and averting their gaze............
"Just roll onto your side and I'll do your IT Bands!"
Now if anyone has had there IT bands massaged they can sympathise and for those of you you haven't, consider yourselves very lucky. I am regularly advised that although they give me no specific problems, my IT bands are usually as stiff as pieces of wood and so Christine finds this a personal challenge to try and produce some minor flexibility and suppleness back into them. This process can involve, elbows, knuckles, forearms, heels of the hand and pretty much anything she can lay her hands on. I am not ashamed to say that this is possibly one of the most painful experiences I have to endure in my day to day life as I lie there gritting my teeth and trying not to blub! Christine usually asks me some fresh questions at this point to try and distract my thoughts but any response is usually restricted to few stifled grunts and groans.
At the end of this process it has to be admitted however that my legs do feel good. There is a warming glow about them and they feel loose and free and any niggles and stiffness I had been feeling have gone. It is therefore incumbent upon me to get back out running, ignore my stretching and undo all the good work done by Christine in order that I can put myself through the whole process again a couple of weeks later.
So - who's for a massage?

Monday, 19 January 2009

Monday morning bike rage

This weekend saw me down in Chester at my sister-in-laws 40th birthday bash and so I had to forego my usual Sunday morning run. We got back up the road at about 5pm last night and after a look through the telly pages it was clear that there was nothing sufficiently exciting on to prevent me from getting out for a run.

It was actually quite a good paced 8 miles I did in the end although it was later than planned so I didn't get back to the house till about 10pm. I decided at that point that I would bike into work today and so I packed my bag and put out my cycling gear before going to bed.

Monday mornings are always hard to wake up to but this morning felt particularly so due in part to my late nights down south over the weekend and my late 8 mile tempo run the night before. However, undeterred by the rain on the window I knew I had committed myself the night before and so I got up, had a quick breakfast and geared up for the wet 7 miles into work. If there's one thing worse than riding a bike in the rain and dark, it's doing it in competition with the 7:30am migration of 4x4's from Milngavie into Glasgow.

About a mile and half into the ride I stopped at the traffic lights (serious bug bear - cyclists who don't obey traffic lights!) and staying clipped in I held onto the railings by the side of the road waiting for the green light. As soon as the lights turned green, I stood up on the pedals for my customary sprint away from the traffic when there was a sudden bang as my chain snapped, my foot fell forward and I wobbled across the path of the following traffic. My annoyance was compounded by the driver of the car behind who decided to honk their horn at me for slowing down their 20mph progress along the road so I stopped where I was turned around and explained in a very loud voice exactly where I would like them to go!

There then followed a 1.5 mile walk back home in the pouring rain pushing my bike like a forlorn 10 year old whose friends don't want to come out to play.

By the time I got home, had a shower, and drove into work it was 9:30am and I was in a great mood?!?

Listening to the radio in the car, I heard them say that apparantly, today is the most depressing day of the year due to the dark days, post Christmas credit card bills, the length of time until the next holiday - oh, and broken bike chains and twats in cars!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Concerns for my mental health

It's official, running can seriously damage your health - or at least your sanity!
Take this weekend for example. Sunday morning, my alarm goes off at 6:00am and I lie there listening to the wind and the rain battering against my bedroom window. It's warm and comfortable where I am and yet I decide to get up, tip toe around the house putting on waterproofs, gloves, hat and a headtorch before heading out into the darkness to run 18 miles on my own! No-one is forcing me into this, there is no gun pointing at my head and my loved ones safety has not been threatened if I fail to go out - why then would a sane, mature individual choose to do what I now find myself doing?
I question myself time and time again as I head out of Milngavie onto the WHW peering into the 10 feet of illuminated darkness that my headtorch provides with every foot fall landing in either a puddle, or mud or both. I reach the Beech Tree Inn and it's still dark and as I turn onto the main road to head up onto the Water Board track along the base of Dumgoyne, the full force of the wind; which until now had been at my back; hits me in the face and the rain stings my cheeks as I battle into the relative shelter of the woods once again.
Three hours later, I plod back through my front door, soaked to the skin and shivering to find my wife emerging from the bedroom, sleepy eyed, asking me if I enjoyed my run!
Did I enjoy my run? well, actually yes.
You see, I told you I had concerns for my mental health!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

1500 Not Out

Well, the New Year is now fully underway and I am delighted to say that I managed to complete my 1500 miles for the year. Actually it was 1501 to be precise.
I went down to Shrewsbury for Christmas and ran in the Stiperstones Dash on Boxing Day which is a 3 mile thrash up and down a local hill. The weather was glorious and it certainly cured my slightly thick head from the previous days excesses.
The following day I got out late afternon and managed a brisk 8 miles through the country lanes leaving me with 20 miles left and 4 days to complete them.
Back home on the Sunday and I was out for another 8 miles on Monday afternoon and so on the last day of the year I had 12 miles left to do so I got up early and completed a nice off road 13 miles in the dark to hit the 1501 mark.
I realise reading some of the other blogs that 1500 miles is not a particularly impressive total but, all things in perspective, I'm not exactly comparing myself against your average punter!
So the year has started well, I was back to work on Monday and despite the economic turmoil we have a healthy order book and a new Surveyor has boosted my employees up to 12. I managed a spectular 8 miles last night through my usual country back roads and the moon and stars were so bright that I didn't need my head torch.
The start of a new year is generally a time for reflection and so looking back over my running last year I feel very pleased with my achievements. My main success of the year was staying relatively injury free which meant the biggest challenge of actually getting to the start line of a race was achieved. Here is a summary of what I did:
  • March - The Mighty Deerstalker - a bit of a novelty event which although listed as 10k was actually just over 9 miles. My second year of running it and I've booked up for this year again
  • April - The Highland Fling - 11 hours 22 mins: generally used as a training race for the WHW but I think this devalues it as a great race in it's own right. This years race will be the biggest yet and I'll be on the start line.
  • May - No races but a great long weekend cycling in the Vercors in southern France up some seriously steep and long cols.
  • June - West Highland Way Race - 24 hours 46 mins. - My first attempt at this and although my gold medal target was sub 24 hours I was slightly disappointed in my performance. I'll be back again this year and aiming for 23 hours. Also ran the Milngavie 10k which is a great wee race on a very tough, hilly course. A small turnout meant I managed to sneak in for a top ten place.
  • July - R&R
  • August - No racing but building up the miles for a busy September.
  • September - Started with the Glasgow Half Marathon (1 hour 34 mins) and then two weeks later ran the Dundee Marathon (3 hours 29 mins) and then two weeks after that ran the Longmynd Hike (50 miles in 11 hours 44 mins). Anyone not familiar with this race should have a look at the Vasque Ultra Series Web Site. It's a great race which I have doen two years in a row now and includes 8,000 feet of ascent

That was the end of my racing for the year. I don't tend to race a lot but I do enjoy the ones that I do.

My plans for this year have been mentioned in a previous post but added to to that, I would like to do a couple of hill races, some more cycling and hit 1750 miles for the year.