8 miles followed by a quick shower

I can say unequivocally that I did not want to run, such that I sat in the sun drinking coffee and avoiding it for a couple of hours this morning.  The excuses that I offered myself included a stiff back from an uncomfortable night bivouacking Thursday, exacerbated by bending over a craft table mounting & framing ten of Karen’s photos yesterday for her exhibition which opens near Old St tube next week; a dodgy-feeling left knee which is probably showing accumulated strain from running with a rucsac for the last few weeks; a general sense of tiredness.

At the end of the day though, none of these feature in the Sussex Men’s League list of allowable excuses so I finally got with the programme and launched myself out the door.

Since I had worn my battered old runners on Thursday night, for the sake of prudence, this was the inaugural outing of my new Saucony splodge.  I wore my thicker spring/autumn socks to pad them out to give them a good trial (based on the likelihood of slightly swollen feet in the Alps)… and quickly forgot that I was wearing them!

Other than pausing to say hi to BeerMatt, m route was unremarkable, following the pavement for the oft-followed five miles to the other side of Hassocks… without any hint of a rucsac to give my back a chance to recover.  I wasn’t exactly running quickly and it took me 47 minutes to get to the turn marker.

My body felt as if it has relaxed a little on the return leg and I began to focus on landing on my outside heel and pushing off from my big toe as physio Andrea Wright taught me… not that I was running any much quicker.  Around the 8-mile mark I ran into a very late April shower and within a few paces I was drenched through, such that my phone became as slippery as a bar of soap!

I ran on regardless of the impulse to soap-up and reached home in 45 minutes.

So 10 miles in 1.32, my back feeling looser, but left ankle having come out in sympathy with its adjacent knee and still feeling generally tired.  So what’s new!

Nighty movers

Three of us ran off into the gathering darkness last night and re-emerged this morning, slightly damper and not so very refreshed from a questionable night’s sleep!

We gathered at Dai’s place in Patcham for a weigh-in last night with both Daren’s pack and mine showing 7.8kg.  Dai’s was 1kg lighter, but then he’s not in training for the TMB!

We ran along to the Ditchling Road, following paths that lay to the East of it to the top of the Downs and then on up to Ditchling Beacon.  Once the last glimmer of light disappeared from the sky there was little to see beyond the limit of the light from the head-torches, or night vision alone where the going was more regular.  We were aware of the hills around us, but the gradients seemed flatted out which made for relatively easy running.

Thus we made reasonable progress, despite the darkness and the weight, making it the 7 miles to Home Hill in about 90 minutes.  Here Dai had previously scoped out a place to bivouac, although it took a little time to find in the scrub.  With firewood collected and a neat fire burning, we rolled out our Gore-Tex bivvy bags and drank hot chocolate cooked on a tiny gas stove.

Then Dai disappeared into the scrub, reappearing minutes later with a bag containing French cheese, Ardennes Pate, Nairn crackers, chocolate and a bottle of red wine!  He had driven up earlier in the day to stash this surprise feast, along with a Basher sheet to make a small shelter.

We feasted merrily around a roaring little fire and agreed that this is about as good as life gets!

Up to this point there had been only random drops of rain in the mildness of the evening, but sometime after bedding down for the night the heavens opened with a vengeance!  In itself this might not have been a problem, but we were trying out three variants of bivouacking fully clothed but sans sleeping bags.

Dai had a sleeping mat and was dry beneath his makeshift shelter, but cold and uncomfortable nevertheless.  Daren had a new lightweight blow-up mat, but this turned out to be a problematic pneumatic as every time he blew it up, it gently let him down again.  Thus he was left cold, uncomfortable, wet when the rain came in through the opening in the bivvy bag… and deflated to boot.

Meanwhile I had borrowed a pre-used Blizzard bag from Pete, which is kind of like a couple of mummy-sized crisp packets inside each other.  It was initially too warm so I lay on top of it within the bivvy bag, but around 2am, with the rain coming down and the Gore-Tex wet to my cold touch, I climbed noisily inside.  It was certainly warmer and dryer, but sadly no less uncomfortable on the hard and bumpy ground and the rest of the night passed very slowly indeed!

When we finally decided to get up just before 6.00am, the rain was on pause and it was a close and misty morning.  In agreement about the extreme level of overnight discomfort, we breakfasted meagrely on tracker bars and more hot chocolate, packed wet gear into our rucsacs and ran off into the morning gloom.

The more direct route back took us past the Chantry memorial, looking beautiful in the mist, and on down to Dai’s place, the 3.3 miles taking us 38 minutes.

So a run over about 10.3 miles in 2.08 truncated by some night manoeuvres… I’m very glad to be back in the warm & dry and nursing my third quadspresso.

And please don’t be surprised if you walk past me today and find me asleep at my desk and with a smile on my face… I’ll be warm and comfortable and almost certainly dreaming about the sumptuous feast from last night.

New Splodge

I visited RUN in Hove on FosterRuns 4th birthday last week (it always seems like an appropriate birthday treat) and Kurt very kindly ordered me in a pair of Saucony Progrid Guide 4’s, which I picked up today.

So, despite finding it really hard to choose between the numerous different opinions as to the shoes to wear on the TMB, including half a dozen most highly valued ones around the dinner table at Cliff’s last night alone, I’m finally all splodged up ready for the forthcoming trip.  And for a test-run-and-bivvy night which is somewhat closer at hand… eeeek!

At least I shan’t be going hungry (probably for a few weeks) between the totally delicious XXXXXL-sized portions that Vanessa served last night, a rather large lunch at Brighton University Business School today and the Moussaka which is currently in the oven for good measure!

Sounds a bit like new splodge in more ways that one!

And Repeat

The run this morning was a repeat of last week, running to the Beacon & back with my 10lb+ pack.  The pack seemed quite a bit heavier as I started out and whilst it might have had a couple of additional things in it, I think it was just me finding it hard to get going.

It was also a little muggier than last week, which meant that I was hot way before I reached the bottom of the Beacon, although when I got to the top I was strangely not as melted as last week.  It took me the same 53 minutes to reach the Beacon, where some amateur radio hacks had set up camp and although I didn’t feel the need to remove my pack, I did stop for two or three minutes before starting the return leg.

Running back was harder work, although not in a wanting to stop kind of way… in fact I took 53 minutes to get back as well, although this was a few minutes slower than last week.

So 10 miles in 1.48 and certainly starting to feel stronger ahead of the TMB.

Congratulations to Mark Johnson today, who completed Marathon number 50!  That’s a pretty dedicated training programme for his 51st marathon which he should be able to fly in, say… what, 3.15 Mark?  Good lad!

PS, readers, that’s a stretch target for Mark, as he normally saunters around without really pushing himself in somewhere over 3.30 and, shocking as it might seem, sometimes considerably more… lazy git.  [that should stir him up a bit!]

FosterRuns is FOUR!

Happy Birthday to Foster Runs!  Once again, this post is more a mental note for myself, but you might also find it interesting.

Number of years: FOUR!  I doubt if Dai Thomas expected it to still be going after four years when he helped me start it back in 2007!

Number of posts: 83 (110 in year 3, 102 in year 2, 156 in year 1 – I’ll report the figures this way around below to make it easy to see any progression). There have been less posts as Kim & I have seen fewer films (and I have also got out of the habit of writing about them and other non-running items) and I have been commenting on Management Today and HBR… which you can follow via Disqus.com/David_J_Foster if you’re interested. I’ve also recently started a new ‘blog’ at EnglandGardenGang.org to follow the fortunes (or otherwise) of a micro-movement designed to improve our shared urban areas.

Number of runs: 72 (92, 63, 67) including 12 short ‘day-after’ runs earlier this year as I started to increase my mileage

Mileage: 653 (726, 538, 512)… no marathon training but still quite a bit more that the first two years

Hours spent running: 113 (113, 84, 87)…er, obviously running quite a bit more slowly than last year then!

Average run: 9.4 miles in 1.34 (7.89 in 1.24, 8.14 in 1.20, 8.07 in 1.31). This helps explain the slower pace, more so if I exclude the 12 machine runs of 1 mile which makes the average run 10.7 miles in 1.51.

Average speed: 5.8mph (6.38, 6.05, 6.15) which is not surprising in view of the increased (age and) average distance… in fact 26 (36%) of my runs this year were over 2 hours, whilst 45 (62%) were greater than 10 miles.

Average minutes per mile: 10.4 (9.4, 9.9, 9.65) Slower than a slow thing!

Worst month distance: 31.6 in December 2010 (10.4 May 10, 13.6 Jan 09, 22.3 Feb 08).

Best month distance: 68 miles in Jan 2011 (157 in March 10, 62 Apr 09, 68 Nov 07). This was surprising, but you can see that there is less variance in the months… in fact the average monthly mileage was 52 (against 61, 40 and 44)

Total mileage to date since start of blog: 2432 miles… yikes, imagine if I hadn’t kept running around in cicles!

Time spent running since start of blog: 400 hours (50 eight-hour days)

Visitors according to Clustermaps: 1722 (1479, 1496, 2906 for year 1, the first year being higher as a by-product of my work with Qype.com).  My aim is to increase the number of visitors this year, so please recommend it to anyone you think might find it interesting!

From number of countries: 44 against 38 last year

Generally speaking this has been an even more enjoyable year for me than previous ones, despite (in fact, probably because of) the increased average distance. One reason for this is the absence of races, but I am clearly also becoming a stronger runner.

To those of you who have stopped by at FosterRuns.com to read my inane blabbering’s, thank you and please stick around to join me vicariously on my onward journey!  Even better, come and join me for a run!

To those with whom I have run in this and previous years, it’s been an honour and I sincerely hope that I’ve portrayed you well!  Let’s run some more!

Hey, leave me a piece of birthday cake!

Very very very very brave

‘Very, very, very, very’, the nice lady in the bright pink sock near the top of Ditchling Beacon paused momentarily to find an adjective which might not offend me, settling on ‘brave’.  Stupid would have been closer to the truth.

The morning had started slowly, with me sleepily escaping to the tea house with a quadspresso to read the Economist.  I ate a banana rather than having some more meaningful fuel as I vainly expected to be out running before too long.  By the time Kim offered me breakfast, over two hours later, I was starting to get peckish, but instead of joining her I finally made it out the front door.

The ruscsack remained unchanged from last week and despite its comparative lightness at 4.5kg, it still felt pretty heavy as I started running.  In fact I could easily weigh that much more without anyone noticing anything odd.  Sadly it looks likely that the final TMB pack will be more than twice as heavy so I’m going to have to ramp up the training weight sometime… just not today!

I hadn’t decided where I was going until I made the turn at the bottom of the road… it was right, so only then did I realise I must be running to the Beacon.

It was a pleasant day for a run, though strange for August becuse of the muddy puddles on the path either side of Oldlands Mill.  Running up the Beacon I realised that I was experiencing no particular pain, just a lot of heat, hence the comment from the nice lady was probably a reflection on the colour of my face, which was in turn was probably a reflection of her pink socks.

I made the top of the Beacon in 53 minutes, which at 5.67mph is a perfectly acceptable time for me without the pack, but I allowed myself three minutes to cool down before I made my way back down.  In many ways going down with the additional weight was harder work than going up, but it was still not painful and I made it safely down the tricky path.

I chose to run down past Sporting Cars and along East End Lane to rejoin my outbound route at Boddington Lane, where the sharp ascent of Home Hill really did tax my legs… such that I paused at the top to take photos.

Then it was a short run back home via Oldlands Mill gleaming with seemingly fresh paint in the sunshine.  I arrived back in 49 minutes, or 6.1mph which is very pleasing for a largely off-road track.  Overall, 10 miles in 1.45 gave an average, including my half-way pause, of 5.71mph.

Still not feeling wiped out I got out to cut the grass (and the green across the road) and then the hedge, but now I AM feeling wiped out… such that I can hear the sofa calling gently to me!  Zzzzzzzzzzz

My goodness, you’ve put on some weight!

At the end of our run on Monday, there was a short exchange that has set some very particular wheels in motion. Well, legs really. Up until that exchange, Daren had been looking for someone mad enough to run the Tour d’Mont Blanc with. ‘Nuff said?

Bearing in mind that the TMB route is circa 120 miles long, with about 10,000m of height gain and height loss (greater than climbing Everest from sea level), it may seem strange that I wasn’t out on the Downs this morning doing some hill work.

Actually, part of the reason was that I had been edging grass verges yesterday (see England Garden Gang) and also felt as if I’d put on a little weight (more of that later). Rather than get injured in early training, I thought I’d stick to a flat route.

I set out at 8.25am to get the run over before it got too hot and made my way down the road route that I’ve run frequently… down to Wiveslfield Station, along to the London Road and then South towards Hassocks. It’s a good route for thinking about stuff and because I know where the mile markers are, I’m able to gauge my pace to a certain extent.

Despite not feeling as fleet of foot as normal, I made good time and was surprised how consistent my pace was at 9 minute miles. This is not the fastest I’ve run down here (which is an average 7.9 minutes per mile), but more recently I’ve struggled to run it this quickly.

I turned in Hassocks at the four mile marker and ran back to the outskirts of Burgess Hill, before returning to the Hassocks turn point a second time, now six miles. In late February when I first ran this route, the guys from Crawley Community Payback were busy doing the verge edges on the outskirts of Hassocks and it was still really clear the short stretch that they had completed. The balance of the way down the road, the path is getting narrower between the encroaching verge on one side, which is breaking up the pavement, and the encroaching hedge on the other. Bearing in mind this is both a footpath and a well-used cycle path, I think it deserves a little more care, not that people in the Council care what I think!

I retraced my steps back via Wivelsfield Station and up Junction Road making it to the end of the ten-mile run in a shade less than 1.30… 9 minutes per mile or 6.67mph. Despite being pretty red in the face compared to normal, it was a nice run and good timing to boot… rather than getting hotter, it was actually raining lightly as I charged up the road towards the end and within ten minutes of getting back the rain was coming down like stair rods.

But wait a minute… or rather, weight a minute. The reason I felt heavier this morning was because I was wearing a rucsac weighing 10lbs, or 4.5kg and I still ran faster than the last time I did this route! It’s likely that the TMB pack will be more than twice this weight, but I feel reassured… nay, as Phil Stupples would probably say, I feel GOOD, nah, na na, na naaa, I knew that I would now, la, la la, la laaa!

Tank Tracks (Alternative) route

There are many downsides to being currently underutilised workwise, but one major upside is being able to run with friends on a beautiful weekday morning… a little like a male version of the ladies who do coffee, but without the challenge of parking prams in the coffee shop.

The run this morning was also a little more poignant as our very good friend Penny’s dad Brian passed away suddenly last week and he has touched each of our lives. I’ve known Penny since Primary school and Brian was like a bright red, fun thread weaving its way through life’s rich tapestry.

Probably like most people, I regret not spending more time with my family and friends, but thankfully my last memory of Brian is only from April this year and is a great way to remember him. He was standing in their flat with the sun streaming through the open doors, chatting comfortably with us about an irrepressible burst pipe, whilst wearing only his underpants. He was a sensibly uninhibited man endowed with the loveliest of families, a real sense of fun and, well, let’s just say that he was clearly, well, well endowed! Too much information, maybe, but that’s good memories for you!

So four of us met for a run at Jack & Jill in the high humidity of a bright, sunny morning… Daren, Dai, Henna and I. Dai was keen not to do any hills so we gratefully followed his lead (though maybe it was really Henna’s lead)… which took us down the hill to Clayton, along Underhill Lane and up the path to the right of the Tank Tracks. Having reached the top we decided the correct notation should be Tank Tracks (Alternative), as it’s almost steep enough to be a climbing route!

At the top we turned left and ran towards the Beacon, with much conversation about how to stay more or less on the flat stuff. There’s a small pond alongside the path and it being hot, Henna suddenly hurled herself in to cool down… some people are just born crazy! Then Dai led us to the flat South, down towards Patcham and around in a grand sweep of hot, dry hills back to Pyecombe Golf Course and the cars.

Opinions varied as to the distance, depending on whether the satnav had been started at the car park, or five minutes into the run at the bottom of the hill, but we finally agreed that it was 6.3 miles, which we had covered in an amiable 1.23.

We did discuss elongating the run as we had done on Sunday, but the new MUM rule (Made Up Mileage) states that we can only do that if the distance is over the .5 mile mark. Frankly it’s a fairly elitist rule though, as without a satnav I generally have no idea how far I’ve run in the first place!

Bitten Bok bottom

After weeks of running once a week and on my own, I’ve now run with two different friends in three days.  This morning I met the Bok at 6.30am (eeek) for a quick run around the local area… and quick it was too.

We ran 7 miles in 1.01 which actually equates to an average speed in excess of 7mph if you take out the time spent trying not to be eaten by two big, poorly behaved dogs.

I actually felt teeth on my elbow at one point as the two dogs jumped angrily around us, whilst the Bok came away with skin missing on his butt… it was a really scary moment and difficult to erase from my mind so I really hope that he doesn’t inflict the view on anyone else!

I suspect that what happened was the owner saw us running up the field behind her and called her dogs to her, fearing for our safety… the dogs heard the fear in her voice and misinterpreted it.  Easily done, as we humans know all too well and no harm done, bar the lingering picture of a bitten Bok bottom!

Our route, for the memory banks, was out past Ote Hall and the pyjama-llamas, down Hundred Acre Lane and back down the Magical Path to the Bok sanctuary.  We were deep in conversation the entire way around, such that I was surprised both by the distance and the speed… and whilst I didn’t even think to take any photos, it actually felt like a walk in the park.  Must do that again… sans the dog bite, obviously.