My plan yesterday morning was to start off slow so that I didn’t run out out of puff further round and see whether this would improve the overall time.  Nick arrived with a cold and a wine-induced headache, which helped me convince him it was a good plan.  Alas, the slower start only lasted for five minutes by which time his faculties had magically reappeared (BOING!), but it at least gave me half a chance to warm up!

The going was wet in places and downright slippery on some of the little wooden bridges that we cross, but otherwise it was a mild and pleasant morning.

On the return leg there is a downhill section that is always hilarious in the wet.  Both Nick and Daren always max it down there, irrespective of the conditions (which reminds me, I really must write a review of the marvellous book Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith – don’t bother finding out what it’s about, just buy it and dive in!) and today I took their lead and chased Nick down the hill.  Risky strategy, which could easily have ended in tears, but I managed to hang on to just enough grip to change direction in all the right places before I ran into anything.

After that there’s a gentle uphill, where Nick slowed considerably, I’m guessing to gather his energy for the faster uphill drag by the station.  Somewhere in this slower section Nick almost took a pearler (alas unnoticed by me), but at the last minute remembered that I didn’t have my camera so managed a recovery to save it for another day!

We hammered up the rise to the top of the town, after which it’s all downhill, which was a good thing as I was all-in! 

In the same way that Nick doesn’t warm up, he doesn’t cool down towards the end either!  The last 400m is tarmac and gently downhill and here he generally stretches out ahead of me, slowing towards the end to allow me almost to catch up.  Today I hung onto his coat-tails sufficiently that in the last 100m I could sneak strategically into his slipstream, enabling me to sprint past him to the finish.

It was a pyrrhic victory as I was then pretty much speechless for a couple of hours while I tried to breathe normally again!

Deliberately following the same route as the last two runs meant that there was a time to beat, which is an interesting exercise (especially for adrenalin junkies!) but detracts from some of the enjoyment.  We’ll go a different route next week.

Oh, and the time?  54 minutes, which beat both the previous weeks by a good margin.  Now, how do I persuade Nick to let me have a slightly longer warm up?

Ironing hydrogens


Picture this, if you will.  It’s half past three in the afternoon and I’m sitting with my feet up on the sofa, facing the heat of the logs a-turning into charcoal and then to ash; laptop on lap.  I may have loads of weekend chores to do, but I’m dug in here now for the duration!

Kim read something to me about tempo running yesterday – I can’t say that I understood it completely, but it was basically talking about warming the muscles up gently with a jog for 15 minutes before running harder than your normal speed, but not flat out, for 2 to 4 miles and then slowing down before the end.  Sounds pretty much like a normal run to me (gasping for breath the whole way round and running out of energy at the end) so I’m obviously missing some key details.  

The missing detail is something to do with lactate and hydrogen ions, which form in your muscles as a result of metabolism.  These normally build up to form lactic acid, which stops the muscle working properly.  Pushing the lactose threshold means that the muscle gets used to using these by-products, allowing you to run faster and further.

With this in mind, my loose plan this morning was to warm up gently, then run a bit harder than normal, before slowing down before the end.  It was also to run from Jack & Jill back to the house.As we pulled into the car park at Jack & Jill, so a clearly well-seasoned runner was warming up to leave.  I hoped to get parked before he left, to get some company up the hill, but he legged it off.  

It’s funny, but give me a boy-racer at the traffic lights and I will pull gently away and let them get on with it: give me a hill with a runner up ahead and the testosterone kicks in!  So much for the gentle start then.  

Half way up the hill and I had reeled him in a little when some walkers asked about my circuit, so I paused for a moment to explain my plan – they laughed when I said I’d just started as I was panting so hard!

Off again and by the time he had got to the next gate at the top of the rise and I was almost there myself… he was kind enough to pause and hold it open and we ran on together.  Meet Mark Johnson, pictured above – oh yes, I went into MCL yesterday and Daniel helped me figure out how to send an email from my phone.

Mark wasn’t running at a huge pace, but he gave the clear impression that the sea anchor devise would not have affected his pace in the least… he had a really purposeful style and had I not slowed him down on the hills, I’m sure he would have just kept the same tempo regardless.

There is no doubt that chatting to another runner is a great way of helping the miles off with their jackets, allied to which the tendency is to keep going at times where you might have walked on your own.

We were having such an amicable run that I ignored the turn I was planning to take to the north and carried on with him to the outskirts of Lewes, with a new plan to peel off on the return leg.  This was where I realised how deceptive and consistent his pace was, as the going is uphill for quite a way and he just hacked away at it as before.

Despite Mark slowing for me, the pace was fast enough for me to feel knackered and as we reached the top of the rise the desire to slog it home to the north evaporated.  Which just left the slog back to Jack & Jill to contend with.  It seemed rude to suggest he run on ahead so I resigned myself to just having to go with the flow.

There’s a lovely point on the return trip where you mount an oh-so-gentle summit and Jack and Jill sit below you… pure joy to behold!  The going underfoot for the first part of the descent is soft and springy and here my gait lengthened and I relaxed into the freefall.  We crunched down the last path, managing to avoid a couple of startled walkers who were looking at us over opposite shoulders while they tried to get out of our way, each pinned by the other’s shoulder going in the opposite direction. 

Kim and I used this route, with some minor variation, when we were training for Berlin in 2004 and it used to take us two and a half hours; so it took some time for the 1 hour 51 minute time to sink into my skull!  On the map I realised that I hadn’t been quite as observant as I should, so I’m not certain where we turned, but I make it a minimum of 19.75 km, or 12.3 miles, making for a 6.65 mph speed.

Interestingly, this is more or less the pace I ran at Berlin, coming home in a thoroughly depressing four hours, two minutes (having stopped to pee five times), but that was on flat tarmac whist this was anything but!

Overall a really lovely run on a beautiful morning and with great company… thanks Mark!

Note to self: introduce Mark to Pete and Cliff – he has a strange desire to cycle some of the Tour de France sections and also to compete in La Via Marenca or Mont Blanc Ultra next year!

Second note to self – figure out where I went wrong sending the photo from the phone, as it didn’t arrive! (got the photo now, after sending four messages!)

Third note to self – don’t write blog on Mac.  And if you do, don’t edit it on there.  Remember, you lose ALL the formatting every time you open it!

Nick’s runners… by special request


Nick took this photo of his runners when they arrived back at the house the other morning… some minutes after he did: that’s how fast he was running!

I had to clean the photo up a bit as you couldn’t see the trainers for all the smoke that was coming off of them.

I’ve just been reading about how the Inuit in Greenland used to hunt Whales in the 12th Century from kayaks and umiaks (small, skin boats).  They clearly couldn’t kill a whale with a single hand-thrown harpoon, let alone hang onto it on a rope afterwards, so they developed a harpoon that released itself on impact leaving behind a barb with an air-filled bladder attached.  As the whale tired of this extra drag, so it would surface and the Inuit hunters would repeat the exercise, and again, until the whale was so exhausted that an umiak could pull alongside and a hunter could kill the whale.

This puts me in mind of a sea anchor, designed, I guess, to float upstream or upwind in a driving sea and slow the craft down, making it more stable in otherwise difficult conditions.

Where I’m going with this is, well, think of a bath towel, rolled lengthways, with the ends secured to stop it unravelling. 

Now think of a cord, say a metre in length, at each end attaching it to one of the trainers pictured above. 

I reckon this kind of contraption might just slow the Bok down sufficiently for me to keep up.  What do you think?

Heavy air

As excuses go, it’s not a bad one: believe me, having employed thousands of freelance staff over the years, I have heard a goodly few reasons why people can’t do something.  What sets this one apart, aside from the fact that I’ve not heard it before, is that the Bok ventured it as the probable reason why I was not running so well this morning.  This is a third-party excuse, making it far stronger.

He is such an amazing friend that he completely ignored the scientific control group: the fact that he was breathing the very same heavy air and yet, if anything, appeared to be faster than ever!

It’s fairer to say that I didn’t run on Sunday, that I had a glass of wine last night and went to bed late.  But then he didn’t run Sunday either, probably had a bottle of wine last night and got woken from his slumber several times by his sons.

He’s just faster and there’s an end to it!

It was lovely to run in the warmth again though – a whole 9 degrees (Centigrade I hasten to add!) and although the sun didn’t really break free until we were back, it was a bright morning.  What was very different was the amount of standing water present en route and by default, mud!  It’s a great workout for the core stability muscles and they were well used today: I had one moment and Nick had at least two that I saw, but neither of us even came close to hitting the deck.

Give it time though as the mud only gets thicker and more tricky as the autumn progresses!  I hope it’s a day when we have a camera with us… whoever it is that goes down!

We proved that we were rubbish at cattle herding on a narrow bridge, where we just couldn’t get the bovines to pass us.  Instead they stood in our way for as long as they dare before turning around and fleeing from the two strangely dressed bipeds!

In the end we ran the same route as Friday in 58 minutes – three more than I thought it took before, although Nick’s watch, very conspicuous by its exhausted absence today, had claimed it took us 57 minutes last time round.  The mud was definitely a factor in this, but I suspect it had more to do with my walking at several points while the Bok could have bounded on!

Different tactics will be applied next time out in an attempt to experiment and we’ll see if we can’t get the time down a little (ergo, speed me up a little!).  Watch this space for the results!

No run Sunday

We were honoured to have our good friend Tarat, an eminent businessman from Thailand, staying with us this weekend.

It has to be said that he was quite prepared for us to disappear off for a couple of hour run, but the combination of speed circuit training on Wednesday night, being run ragged by the Bok on Friday, two car journeys into the heart of the capital on Friday and Saturday night and an early morning Heathow run (in the car!) tomorrow, meant that I had as good an excuse not to run as I could think of.

So please accept my rainy-day apologies… no run today!


Rupert Goold’s production is clearly non-standard Shakespeare fare and the first inkling that you get is when you sit down in front of Anthony Ward’s gaunt and clinical Soviet set, reminiscent of a mental hospital or seventies comprehensive school.

Further proof is demonstrated by two of the stranger characters: a larder fridge, which is given a sinister aura by use of the soundtrack of an ageing fluorescent light; and a serving elevator, which serves as the portal for all the more important entrances.  Both play supporting roles throughout the production that are quite simply chilling.

More menacing still however are the three witches who open the first scene portrayed as matrons, the transformation betwixt heralded by a cold change of light and sound… the hairs on my neck bristled at this and each subsequent transformation.

Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Macbeth is utterly superb and his characterisation of the subtle transformation from warm-hearted to evilly-possessed is inspired, matched competently by Kate Fleetwood’s scheming and troubled Lady Macbeth.

This is a true contemporary masterpiece and if you like Shakespeare (and can get hold of tickets between now and the 1st December close) is a totally-must-see production.

Warm toes


It was SO cold out this morning that it seemed appropriate to roll out my new woolen Thorlo’s for their inaugural voyage!  And before I get distracted with other matters, let me tell you they were FAB…. really toasty!  Although the real test, I guess, is when they get wet and there were no puddles at all this morning… just lumps of ice!

Nick and his additional X pounds of weight had returned from Oman and after yesterdays false start, he duly arrived this morning at 7.30 and we ran off into a wonderfully crisp, clear morning.  I think that he must have called in a favour with the National Coal Board, as his power-hungry watch-thingummy was fully charged and rearing to go.

We ran out to the Royal Oak, then along the magical path where I always seem to have more energy, then down and across to Wellhouse Lane, past the water tower and back along the railway.  As always with the Bok, it felt hellishly quick and very much like he was dragging me along most of the way.  When we were almost back he muttered something about having got me to carry his extra weight around for him, hence the reason that he was able to bounce along like his jacket was filled with helium, whilst my legs felt like lead… I almost think that he wasn’t joking!

Our circuit this morning was 6.5 miles according to the digital navigator, but having given us that great news it then changed its mind (or Nick’s eyes started functioning again as they warmed up), deciding it was only 6.3!  No matter, at 55 minutes (by my reckoning) the overall speed was 6.87mph.

Nick kindly took a couple of photos on my mobile to show how beautiful the morning was… I’ll upload them with the ones I took the other day when I figure out how to send emails on it!

A heavy frost but no show

At 6.40am when I dragged myself out of a warm dream, there was a heavy frost on the world outside. 

As I supped my morning coffee in my reading chair, there was a tinge of regret at having agreed to go running again this morning with the no doubt suntanned Nick, freshly returned from Oman.

There was a rush of joy then when I received his blow-out text a few minutes later. 

But don’t tell him yet… let him wallow in the guilt of crying off for a while longer!

Circuit training

I joined Burgess Hill Runners at the Lewes track last night for their monthly session there.  Despite being an interloper (this is Kim’s club) I was once again made to feel very welcome indeed… they truly are a wonderful bunch of people and Stuart is an excellent coach!

I warmed up with a gentle 1600m, although when I say warmed up I mean just my muscles – my hands started to get incrementally colder with every passing minute from the moment I got out of the car!  It was fweezing!

Next came hops, skips, jumps, scissors, running backwards and a stretching session to create a little pliability from the part-frozen bodies present.  This was followed by a session where we ran slow until the whistle, then fast until the next, slow, fast, turning round to run the other way when it sounded twice.  This enabled everyone to run at their own pace without stretching too far around the track.

The main course of the evening was the interval session, with 1,000m sprints followed by 200m walks, or staggers in my case as the session progressed.  I started by trying to hang onto Stuart’s coat-tails but quickly found Jo’s pace (a few seconds slower at 3 minutes 55) more to my liking… at least for the first three intervals.  The last two intervals I hung onto Jo until the 500m mark, then fell away to come in 100m back and then only 50m back.

Next came all-out 100m sprints with teams of three relaying.  600m later and I was very grateful when the circuit lights were extinguished!

We stretched out comprehensively by the light of the swimming pool (they looked oh SO warm in there!) and it’s a testament to Stuart’s stretches that I can still walk this morning!  My hands even got warm again.  But only after about 20 minutes in the car on the way home!

I’m already looking forward to the next session – if my behaviour in the meantime is good enough to get invited again!