Bloody Freezing – Week(ish) notes 1

As threatened in my end of year review I’m giving the weekly notes format a trial.

Admittedly the term ‘week notes’ is not overly accurate given it’s early Feb as I write this but “Notable stuff since the last time I posted” doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.

Guess where Christmas was

Back on the wagon

After a lazy and over-indulgent Christmas I took a few weeks to get back into the swing of my training. This was intentional as I went at it pretty hard the second half of last year and a complete rest was overdue. I’m now back into my groove and building things back up to train for my immediate goal of 3 hours 30 mins at the Manchester Marathon in April.

One thing I’ve come to realise about myself is that I like the routine of following a training plan. I like how it gives me structure to my week, how it informs my dietary choices and indeed makes me think twice about having that beer or staying up too late. I also like having a tough target to reach; it means I push myself past what I might otherwise do *avoids eye contact with beer and pies*.

Brrr

I’ve completed a winter training cycle before, for London 2016, but I’ll admit that I’d forgotten how hard it can be to get out of bed at 5:30am and drag myself out of the door for a 1hr+ training run when it is both a) really dark and also b) properly ‘kin hell cold.

This year the snow has been a new twist making a couple of my long runs pretty grim. I’ve ending up back at base with (wet) feet like ice.

The upside is that this time around I’m a tiny bit more experienced and I have tried & tested layering options for all elements. I’m now able to check the weather the night before and have the the correct clothing ready to not be too cold or – equally important – avoid getting too hot as well as being able to stay (mostly) dry.

My “I could still be in bed right now” face

Kit Recommendation

Big shout out to two items of clothing that have kept me going so far this winter.

Helly Hansen Lifa 1/2 Zip Base Layer

It feels heavy and thick & I wasn’t initially convinced I could manage more than 5 minutes with this on but it’s now my go to base layer in winter. Yes, I might sweat a bit more initially but because it’s dual layered that moisture gets mostly captured and wicked away. I stay warm and because it’s partially Merino I can wear it a few times without it stinking.

It is an absolutely superb piece of clothing. The zip is essential too as if I do get too hot I can unzip it as well as my over garment to vent heat. When I’m boiling hot inside but it’s -3 degrees Celsius ambient temperature, a nice balance gets reached pretty quickly!

Gore Mythos Windstopper Waistcoat

Running in the freezing cold when there are strong winds is a particularly exquisite type of hell. Add in some sleet and things get hilarious.

This waistcoat over my HH top makes things bearable so the elements don’t lacerate me. It’s soft-shell material so is probably waterproof too, but that’s untested as I also carry a light & breathable rain coat for when it’s wet. I have the neon yellow version of this waistcoat so I don’t need to wear additional hi-viz for my runs around the North Shropshire country lanes in the pitch dark.

Eating on the hoof

Last year after the Chester marathon I decided that I was done with gels for ‘fuelling’ (that’ll be eating food to the non-initiated). I’ve been playing a lot more with actual food and so far the signs are promising. I am fortunate that my constitution seems to be quite strong so I can eat whilst running pretty comfortably and have not (yet) had any unfortunate ‘gastric issues’.

So far dates and dried banana chips are working well as my half-hourly snack on longer runs. Gram for gram the amount of carbs in dates are similar to the ‘Bloks’ I used to consume. I’ve also tested wraps containing PB and jam which I’ve been able to eat as I run, the best bit here is that they satiate my actual hunger as opposed to just giving me the fuel that I’ll need to avoid the dreaded ‘bonk’ later in the run.

I am at the point that I can go out for over an hour and a half in the early morning on an empty stomach and if I do get hungry I can simply eat as I’m running to head off any hunger pangs. Not having to get up earlier to eat and then allow time for digestion before a run is extremely convenient.

The real test will be whether I can get enough calories into me whilst avoiding the gels to sustain me at race pace for 3 hours or more…

The nutter’s handbook

I’m doing an ultra

Which leads me nicely on to the fact that I recently signed up for Race to the Stones. A 100km ultra marathon in July ­čś▒. There is the option to spread it over two days and camp overnight after 50km, but I’ll be doing the straight through version.

I did the research and the reports are that it is a well organised ‘entry level’ ultra with aid stations every 10K and it’s not too hilly. My own experience tells me that long distance running is in large part a mental challenge. So whilst this one is going to push me way past my current physical limits, at least I will be able to keep my mind clear and not concern myself too much with logistics or navigation.

I’m following a 24 week plan from the most excellent Relentless Forward Progress which includes a few training runs at marathon distance that neatly match up with my April marathon as well as other races that I have planned.

The longest training run is around 30 miles and the weekly mileage peaks at around 50, both of which I’m comfortable with – as comfortable as one can be on 50 miles per week anyway – with no ill effects. The difference is that I need to keep the training intensity up for 5 more months without getting injured.

It is safe to say that I’m being very careful with my icing, stretching, recovery, nutrition and rest.

Mostly Vegan

My wife and I have been veggie for around 18 months but since Christmas we decided to try the Vegan/January thing and it went well enough that we are going to stick with it.

It is definitely a lot more inconvenient when out and about, hence the ‘mostly’ get out clause. As I transition fully it allows me to accidentally buy the odd bit of prepared food that might have hidden egg or cheese in, it also allows me to eat all the remaining stuff still in the freezer that our (carnivore) kids won’t eat.

Most importantly the dietary change has not affected my training at all, though this isn’t really a surprise. The reality is that I am really only cutting out feta cheese and some eggs. I had already cut out anything cow derived a few years ago.

From the author of Reasons to Stay Alive

#TimeToTalk

I was very heartened by the Time to Change mental health awareness campaign last week. It was well executed and it was great to see lots of people sharing their stories in such a supportive environment.

Whilst it must seem rather odd to ‘normal’ people that others are sharing this stuff so publicly, I can say from my own experience of just a few years back that knowing other people are out there experiencing similar things to you and that one is not alone makes such a huge difference.

If it had not had not been for the similar Geek Mental Help campaign three years ago I might still be very unwell.

Goodbye office

My company Siftware is now fully remote again \o/

We had a lease on a place in Shrewsbury which we used as a central hub. This was essential as I grew the team but as things have matured it became surplus to requirements and then started to become a complete waste of money.

Thankfully there was a break clause in our lease at three years which we successfully invoked just after Christmas.

New Website

We shipped the newest iteration of Siftware’s website┬á over the last week or so. It’s not completely finished with some less visited content still needing work but it’s finally getting to a place that I’m comfortable with.

It has been hard trying to explain what we do without presenting a sea of text. The design breaks that up and the copy that I’ve been tweaking for months now is getting there. The feedback I’ve had is still “a lot of words” but from where we were it’s much better.

Still very much a work in progress.

I’m organising a thing

On 3rd May in Shrewsbury I’m curating an evening of talks loosely related to exercise and the outdoors┬áthen the next day a few of the attendees and myself will be running up and over Shropshire’s biggest hill, The Long Mynd.

When I saw there was a Star Wars themed trail running event called May the fourth be with you┬áI thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to get all the geeks I know who are also runners together to do it’. Like most people I have regular brain-farts of ideas that then sit on paper and don’t get anywhere but with this one I was determined to make it happen.

So far it’s going well. Everything is booked and the very high quality speakers are confirmed. The generosity of some very busy people never ceases to amaze me as all are giving their time for free to come and speak to us.