31 December 2011

Tightrope walker

Rye Meadow was slippery this morning. I wore trail shoes, having found last week how little traction huaraches have: I joked before the start that barefoot might be best, as one could dig in with one's toes, and maybe that was more right than I meant it to be. Along the riverbank and through the meadow I slithered all over the place (as did everyone else). On the tarmac I did OK, and at the end the Garmin data show that I managed a respectable turn  of speed, but I have lost 20 seconds since last week and am a minute off my personal best for this course. Time for some serious New Year's Resolving ...

30 December 2011


I'd have considered this anathema once - not only because the motor industry paid my salary, and more cars was irrefragably better, but also because of my personal preferences - but now it delights me to read that the godless institution in Gower Street has produced a report for the Department for Transport arguing for a revolution in our relationship with the motor car.

UCL's godlessness (which, to be fair, was originally with a capital G) evidently extends to rejection of the cult of the automobile, and the report provides recognition for the romantic notion of self-propulsion, though I suspect the report doesn't use Caballo's words. A nice piece of joined-up thinking, connecting health policy with transport policy, though the suggestion that we (or any other country, I suspect) has a transport policy worthy of the name is verging on fantasy. A policy built around using the appropriate form of transport for each journey would be a sound one, and any transport policy that recognises the true cost of using cars so much should be applauded - provided it also puts in place a public transport system that can effectively replace those car journeys, like a bus from here to the station to connect with a train that will get  me to work on time. And one back in the evening. But only for those days when cycling, or running, is out.

29 December 2011


A breakthrough run, simply because it has been so often postponed. And even then it had to be done in the dark, with a blustery side-wind threatening to push me into the road and oncoming cars dazzling me so I could not see the path. The Watch ran out of power half-a-mile from home, but I didn't.

A daily 10K might be an ambitious target (I wonder whether Murakami is still doing them), but it's not completely out of sight.

24 December 2011

Run Rudolph Run

My concession to today's Parkrun being a fancy dress one was to dress as a raramuri, from the ankles down. Not very clever. Next year - if there is a next year - I will take up someone's suggestion and adopt the rest of the outfit.

I guess the conditions in the Copper Canyon are different to those in England at Christmas - mild though it is. Where the path was worn, it was rather slippery: trail shoes might have been a better choice than huaraches - but I have to take the opportunity to fly the minimalist flag, don't I? And it was my hands, not my feet, that were cold: after all, my feet were working (and they work more with huaraches on than in cushioned shoes, I'm sure).

Anyway, even throttling back on the slippery sections (about half the course) I beat my time from the last outing (last week's run having been cancelled because of freezing conditions - not because the participants were not up for it, I'm sure, but because we'd have had people in the river at the lock where the path was too slippery). Only by about 10 seconds but I'll take that - 40 seconds to go for a course PB. I finished with quite a satisfying turn of speed - not a sprint by any standards, and it didn't leave me feeling like death, so there was definitely more in the tank, but all in all a good run. Nice to see Martin, in heavy disguise, though it would have been nicer still to finish closer to him - although I was first man in my age group.

11 December 2011

Tell all the people

Another experience of that wonderful institution, the Parkrun: my sixth, not my fastest, but a good feeling. An institution that needs to be even more widely known, I think.

At home I wondered whether compression tights and long ordinary running tights would be too warm, compensated for them with a short-sleeve teeshirt, put a fleece on top to get me to the start, added my running hat and then as an afterthought put running gloves in my pockets. But I had forgotten that we have our own microclimate and the Thames Valley can have completely different weather. It's just as well that I decided against huaraches ....

Rye Meadow was white with frost, and my choice of conventional footwear was fortunate - though several friends enquired about the sandals. How mad do they think I am? I was only out for a gentle jog, anyway, as my resolutions about getting fitter and faster always seem to run into that hard-to-overcome barrier called "work". It's an inevitable consequence of portfolio working - though this week I finally unloaded one of my six jobs, one that was fun at times but never remunerative. That ought to leave a little more room for the three new ones that I added to the portfolio this year.

I put the fleece aside so I had a layer (half a layer) to put on when I finished, but kept all the other stuff on, as John's photo shows. I plodded round at an erratic pace, as the splits show - when I spotted John at about the 4K mark I put on a turn of speed for the benefit of the camera, which might account for why mile 3 was so much faster than mile 2 (which was all about consolidation, I suppose): mile 1 is all about ensuring I'm not going to be blocked later on by optimists or inexperienced runners who've set off too fast, meaning that I have to set off much too fast. As things settled down after the initial rush to get onto the narrow riverside path in a good position, we left the bright winter sunlight in which we'd started: the eastern end of the course was in shade. Cliff, a few yards behind, was moved to exclaim, loudly. The conditions certainly weren't ones to hang around in. Maybe that explains my splits too: mile 2 was the sunny part.

I spent the rest of the day as a white van man, which is fun occasionally. Last weekend it was a nail gun, this weekend we hired a Transit. Perhaps I should go through the whole gamut of fun things to hire.

04 December 2011

A Little Bit More

This time last year we were up to our knees in snow. This year trees are putting out buds and daffodils are reportedly blooming. There are flowers still out in the garden. They are likely to get a shock soon: but despite the unseasonal mildness, when I ventured out of the door this morning - rather later than intended, too - it was surprisingly cold. So I ventured back indoors to find a fleece - and bright green hat and gloves.

I rarely run with more than a single layer of clothing, but I didn't expect to be burning up the trails today. In fact, I wasn't even expecting to be doing more than perhaps three miles: I was expecting that the loop I used to do when I first started running, well over 20 years ago, would be quite enough. But at the southern end of South Row, where I might have headed back towards the village, I was trotting comfortably, and by the time I passed the field I was quite ready to decline the offered lift home and press on to complete what used to be my regular10K (very approximate), 1 hour Sunday morning (and subsequently other mornings too) run.

There was nothing really exceptional about it. A modest pace, grey weather, only a few people out exercising their dogs on the Ridgeway. My left knee felt slightly uncomfortable at one stage, and I gave careful attention to how that foot was striking and that problem went away: my right Achilles was also a little stiff at some points of the run, but the discomfort passed. My feet are much stronger than they were, I am sure, from the new posture I have been training myself to adopt - and I ran the entire distance today without once landing on my heel. Thanks to my compression tights, there are no ill-effects in my calves, unlike the last run recorded here!

Over the last mile or so I kept up a much faster pace, really running and not just jogging as I must admit I had been earlier on. But, before I get too carried away, I didn't even hit what six years ago was target half-Marathon pace. An unexceptional Sunday morning run, then, but even so - how good it felt to be out there doing it.