Archive for March, 2012

Race pace?

Posted: 29/03/2012 in Uncategorized

Feels like an age since I’ve posted – well, I missed Tuesday. I did go for a run, but I’ve had a bit of a cold, so it turned into a series of mini-runs that joined up to make a dispiriting trip out. To be honest, I just wanted to forget about Tuesday’s run, so I figured I wouldn’t blog. However, Thursday is another day (as they say), and I ran this morning.

It’s now just over a week until the North Tyneside 10k, my first actual proper race. I’m concentrating on getting to the end, not the time, and I know I tend to hare off like something not right. So I figured a nice slow run, lets call it “race pace” and be done with it. Last time I was in my “I could keep this up all day” place, I was running around 9:40/mile, so I figured that would be a good place to start. Off towards Tynemouth and the hills at the Priory. These are the two hills that feature in the race, and I was wondering how they’d feel today in my still-a-bit-sniffly condition. The last (first) time I tried them, I got up the first one without too much ado, so much so that I ended up walking from surprise rather than knackeration.

Straight from the off I had to hold my pace back – I was heading for 8:40 territory, and I know that’s not sustainable over the longer term. So I consciously told myself to hold it back, go a bit slower, look at the scenery, etc. etc. It seemed to work and soon I was hitting 9:40 and keeping to it.

It was a fantastic day out for running – nice and sunny, but not too hot, with a little breeze to cool you down. I (not quite) whizzed my way to Tynemouth, finding that holding back the pace meant I wasn’t feeling pooped like usual. A couple of folk overtook me, but I didn’t let it bother me – I reckon the weren’t aiming for the Hills Of Death like I was, and so could afford to fritter away their supplies of energy early on.

Right – arrived at the hills, and I have to say I’m starting to almost enjoy going downhill now – it’s been a bit of a tricky thing for me, how fast, how controlled, etc., but I think jarring my brain on the trails at the weekend has done wonders – I just let my legs get on with it – keeping an eye out for cars, and the downhill took care of themselves. A little twinge from my ITB as I got to the bottom, just to remind me it’s there in case I’ve forgotten.

Now along the riverside path to the Fish Quay – maybe a mile all told – there is a huge buoy on a pedestal, so I ran around that to mark my turning point then back we go.

Psychology in running is interesting – I’m not claiming to be an expert, or know much about it other than my own vague ramblings, but I had just successfully lied to myself. Feeling a little tired, I’d said that when I got to the turn-around point I could have a little walk and a drink and wouldn’t that be lovely. However, when I arrived there, I revealed the awful truth – I’d been lying and there was no walking to be had, hah! But my legs didn’t mind, they just stoically accepted and got on with running. I think it works because of something I heard in relation to raw food diets (or giving up any kind of food or habit, I guess) – it’s not about thinking “I can’t have that”, it’s about thinking “I don’t really want that” – as in I could have walked, had I wanted, but I didn’t want to – it wasn’t that I wasn’t allowed to do it at all…

Back along the riverside path, and I approach the Hills Of Death. Another runner overtakes me, but I cannily spot that he’s going to run to the end then turn around, no death-hills for him, and so I can continue on my smug little way, pride intact.

First hill, the steeper one I reckon, but the shorter of the two. Small steps, same cadence. Bippety-bippety-bipp and I’m at the top – that was easy, what’s going on? Learning from my last mistake, I remember to keep running on the dip between the two hills and reach the second, bigger hill up past the Priory. Small steps, same cadence. Flash, bang, wallop – what a picture. I make it up – I was even able to summon up a wave to another runner coming down the hill – he ignored me – and suddenly I’ve reached the top. Wowzah.

There’s something about reaching the top of a hill and it levelling out that’s just lovely – your legs can stretch a bit, it’s not so strenuous and best of all, the hill is behind you. Now it’s the simple matter of running back along to Whitley Bay to make up the remainder of the 6.11 miles to give me a 10k. At about five miles in, I get a bit woozy, don’t know if it’s the hills hitting me after all. Luckily I’d stashed a gel in my pack ages ago, and found that. Now I know gels are supposed to take 15 minutes to take effect, or something like that, but the placebo effect heads straight to the brain, as it doesn’t need time to be absorbed. With that in mind, I feel a bit refreshed and canter my happy way to the end. In the sun. By the sea.

Got home to discover a letter from the Council, not a final demand, but this:

Stats:

Time: 58:52
Distance: 6.12 miles
Av. Pace: 9:37/mile (aiming for 9:40)
Climb: 184 ft

What an ace morning.

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…oh hell, they are – and they’re BIG!

What a terrific day – the weather was perfect, painting has been put on hold until next week when I’m off, and it’s time to go running. My cunning training plan suggests that if I take the distance I ran last weekend (7 miles), add one to it (8 miles) and run that, then a half marathon, or even a marathon will be child’s play by the time I come to run them. (Waits for bolt of lightning, but nothing happened – not even a roll of thunder – maybe the gods agree with the plan?)

So, 8 miles today – could almost make a film, eh? But because I’m nothing if not random, I decided a bit of trail would be nice – I’ve been planning to get out to Hadrian’s Wall for a little while now, and that seemed like the sensible option – after all, it takes the best part of an hour to travel there, so when else will I get the chance? However, I had also found a nifty little (eat them words later) eight mile run up at Thrunton Woods near Rothbury – there’s a trail and everyfink, even some hilly bits.

To Thrunton then! Saddle up the riding beasts and away! Well, it took a while to get there, but that’s fine – and I think we’ll just scoot over that bit, nothing to see here. Arriving at the woods, my first problem was that I realised the trail goes the opposite way to the direction I thought it went, not a major issue, but if I wanted to follow the markers (which I did), then that would be the way I’d have to go. The map board reckoned 10 miles, which confused me – I’d got 8 for the same trail, but hey. The woods looked pretty keen – see here:

Not bad, eh, all sylvan and so on.

On I popped. Now, I’m not saying that I’m fast by anyone’s standards (although I would point I’ve been out for a coffee between the last sentence and this one, and you never noticed) but hills slow me right down – on a gentle hill I can get the small-steps thing going and that works, and for the first part of the run, through the woods, that was pretty much OK. Miles 1 & 2 went pretty well, then somewhere near the start of mile 3 the track became a bit muddy and a bit downhill, and suddenly I’m running through springy, boggy heather with a total lack of certainty as to what the next footfall would bring.  The descent deepened, until I got the the point that I was running like a loon, flapping my arms to stay upright and trying not to hit a wonky bit of ground and take my ankle out. Much fun.

I reached the bottom of the hill, and looked at the imposing hills opposite – lucky they’re not the ones I have to run up, right? Oh. Took a picture…

Lumee, that’s quite big, eh? So big that I felt another view was required…

No so much a hill, more of a ‘range’, I’d say, and frankly a little steeper and higher than my map had led me to believe. Still, as you’ll have figured out by now, it takes a lot to get me down when I’m running, so to prove what a joyful idiot I am, I took another photo…

Like I haven’t got a bleedin’ clue what I’m about to do, only I do. I can see it – it’s a rock-strewn path straight up the mountain – it’s only lack of brain power that stops my jaw from dropping.

Along a bit further to the far end of the hills, well, you wouldn’t want to start part way along and miss out on the fun, would you? Up the path. I’ll be honest, I walked most of it. In fact, I stopped a number of times for a breather. I listened to my heart, it went “what do you think you’re doing?”. I stopped caring about pace, or distance, or time, and just became sure of the facts that:

  1. I wasn’t going to turn around and go back
  2. I didn’t want to die half way up – if that was going to happen, then let it happen at the top…
  3. The view from the top must be pretty cool

I think it took me about ten minutes to get up that hill – I’m not making any apologies either, as my first proper trail run with a hill of any proportion, and given that it’s over ten years since I’ve been near a hill walking, I think I did OK – I was wondering whether my 500ml of chia seeds was going to cut the effect of the lovely, but warm sun given the bucket load of sweating I’d just done, but it was too late for doubt at this point, I was victorious! Just checked, mile 4 took 28 minutes, which included the 1.09 mile climb of 342ft. If it had been a lovely tarmac road without the rain-cut channels and rocks, it would have been a Class 4 climb, according to MapMyRun.

Now along the top – nice, in a “this is what running on the moon would be like, only with less air and heather” sort of way – there were rocks everywhere, and I chanelled my inner Killian Journet to leap nimbly (no, honest) as I plodged along. Actually, it looked quite nice, so I took another photo.

(See them woods down below? I ran through them on the way here…)

Up to the high point, at Coe Crag (named after Sebastian, I’m sure) – and that strangest of Northumbrian wildlife – the bemused hiker. Two girls at the top, asking if I’d passed a group of walkers. Nope, I hadn’t passed a soul since I started, and I told them so. The said they’d checked the path they’d come (which was my route off the hills) and couldn’t see anyone, so that only left the third path off the far side of the hill.  Apparently they’d been a bit behind their group, who’d knicked off without them. That’s just poor – you don’t leave people, you just don’t, unless they’re totally aware of the route, and where to go and so on. They headed off, I headed off, that was that. Except for another quick photo…

(Taken just before the peak and the lost-girls incident)

Now onto the downhill – and it’s longer than the uphill, as it doesn’t build over a couple of smaller peaks like the ascent – as straightforward 425ft descent of narrow rocky rainworn trail. I looked at it from the top, and figured I’d have to be demented to run it – if I could hold onto both my ankles ’til I reached the bottom I’d be immensely lucky.

I ran it.

Not fast, not with good form, but I did, and not in a hold-back way either, more that the dancing around the uneven trail meant I couldn’t get much of a pace up. Wheeeeeeee!

Into the trees, a switchback, and I’m still headed downhill towards the forest road. I can hear noises, which I think is a grouse up in front – it’s not, it’s (wait for it) a walking group shouting for their missing members. That would be… yes, you guessed it – the couple right up on the top of the crags that I left about a mile ago and heading in a totally different direction. Brill.

I ask one of the ladies if they’re looking for a couple – they say yes, we establish it’s the right pair. None of them have a phone. I have a phone (just in case, you know) and there’s a signal – ace. They don’t know the other girls’ numbers. Magic. They suggest they might go back to the car park (a good couple of miles away) and get phones, and one says they might head off after the other two. Without a phone. Now if you’ve watched Scooby-Doo, you immediately know that’s not a good idea, however I offer them my printed map to help in the search. They decline, as none of them can read maps either. If I’d had the energy by this point I would have thrown my arms in the air. To round up:

  1. A group of them came out walking
  2. They allowed two of their members to fall far enough back that they couldn’t see the main group
  3. The other couple didn’t know the route
  4. No one had phones
  5. No one had a map, though that’s fine as none of them could read one

I don’t mean to go on, but they shouldn’t be allowed out the front door – I learned what a poor choice splitting a group is when I was 16 doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award – we though one of the lads group who’d hurt his knee had joined the girls – they turned up in the evening saying they’d not seen him – we bricked it, until the course leader produced him out of the minibus – he’s been with the girls, but we had just assumed, and essentially left him to fend for himself. Just plain bad, and not something I’m proud of, but I was 16 and stupid(er), these people were in their 30’s if I’m any judge.

Rant over…

I left the walkers, ran down to the forest road, hitting mile 6, and then up the slight incline on the back straight – and hit a wall, I just had to walk, I came over all tired. As I had a High 5 gel stashed in my bag, I took that, and a bit more of the chia mix, and that seemed to help, but I think the big hills were taking their toll on me now – also the fact that I’ve only run a max of 7 miles before, and that was pretty flat. At this point, my Soleus GPS is saying 7 miles, and that’s cool for an 8 mile run, but a way to go for a 10. I’ve got no way of knowing how far back to the car park, so I start to jog along – turning out a respectable 9 minute mile (gel taking effect). I was just enjoying the trot through the woods when lo and behold the car park reared up in front of me – 8 miles on the nose. Job done, then, but a desperate desire to get a sharpie and change the mileage on the map board…

Back to car, collapse, take off shoes, eat banana, collapse, drink rest of chia seeds, collapse, stretch a bit, collapse and then back in the car for the hour long drive home. Worth travelling that far? Every bloomin’ minute. Do it again? Maybe when it’s my week to do 16 miles… 🙂

Stats:

  • Distance: 8.03m
  • Time: 2:03:36 (yikes, but the stopping for near-death, lost hikers and photos does mount up)
  • Pace: 15:23/mile (not as bad as I expected, to be honest)
  • Ascent: 866ft – now that’s a decent climb… especially when you figure there was a descent to go with it too… 🙂

In retrospect, think I could do it quicker with a bit more hill practise and less messing on with lost walkers. I was failing towards the end of mile 7, but a gel pepped me up (always a bit worried to take gels when I’m any distance from home, just in case of side effects) – a more full-on 8 mile than originally planned, but a very enjoyable one.

Have to say, the OMM Ultra 6 bag did a stellar job:

I honestly hardly noticed I was wearing it – the non-regulation bottle jumped out at one point on an especially frenetic downhill and I had to go rescue it, but I had that, my wallet (in case their was a pixie gift shop), phone (in case I came across any lost walkers, let’s say), a long sleeve in case it was cold on the top of the crags – it wasn’t, a banana in a BananaGuard (it’s like kevlar for fruit) and with my car keys and a gel in the fab side pockets. I did have a set of waterproofs in there instead of the long-sleeve to begin with, but I figured there was no chance of rain and ditched them in the boot. I had my Canon A-1 film SLR to bung in as well, but decided against the weight and opted for the iPhone camera instead. Proper good bag this – just about right for a day out.

2 Atoms In A Molecule

Posted: 23/03/2012 in Uncategorized

– Noah and the Whale

A quick run along the Links this morning – nothing too out of the ordinary, though it is the first time I’ve worn my “Vegetarian Cycling & Athletic Club” vest for a run. Thank goodness it seems to fit quite well and doesn’t chafe, as it’s my weapon of choice for the upcoming “proper” runs when I’m not toting the Medecins Sans Frontieres vest when I’m being charitable. Was aiming to do a bit of speed…

Stats:

Time: 29:03
Distance: 3.43 miles
Av. Pace: 8:28/mile (flippin’ heck)
Climb: 82 ft

Look at that – 8:28 min/mile – where did that come from? I know I was chuffing along fairly briskly, but my usual pace is nearer 9:40/mile. I have this feeling that running pace is a bit like chemistry in school – you know how atoms can only have certain energy states and jump from one to the other? I think pace is the same – I can tank out a 9:40, an 8:50, and now an 8:30-ish. Not sure I could manage an 9:25 though – think my legs would get confused. Seems like depending on how hard I push and how I’m feeling, I get to one state or another and need to put more effort into jumping to the next.

Does that sound mad? It almost makes sense to me, some kind of link between heart, leg length and goodness knows what else. Biorhythms, I guess. 🙂

After almost five months of being very well looked after by my iPhone and Runmeter, I have got to the point where I’d like to be able to see my pace as I run, and not need to take my phone if I don’t want to. Having decided that a GPS watch was required, I had a bit of a features list the I was looking for:

  • Must have GPS – footpod just doesn’t work for me, and as I like trail running and intend to do a lot more, I’d heard that footpods just don’t cut it as your stride varies much more than on a road.
  • Must sync to my computer in some way – I’m a stat-geek, and I like to blog and share what I’ve been up to – some way in which to do this is essential.
  • I like to know how much climb I’ve done, especially on the trails, and while I recognise that my iPhone is decidedly random in its altitude measurement, it’s still something I’m keen on.
  • Must be idiot-proof because, well, I’m an idiot and if it isn’t simple I’ll get confused, annoyed and tetchy.
  • Cheap, must be cheap – not necessarily knock-down cheap, but I can’t afford a £400 watch, no matter how much I might like the look of it.
  • Heart rate monitor – am I fussed? I thought I was, but I think it’s a nice-to-have, and to be honest I don’t know what I would do with it, other than generate extra numbers to play with.

With those thoughts in mind, I set forth through the internet, Runner’s World forum and various magazines. I came up with a couple of options, with the fall-back of being happy to be persuaded by something entirely different if it ticked the boxes. My two thoughts were the Garmin 110, which seems to be the world’s choice, and the Soleus 2.0 which is a new device, and about which I could find not one single review. There’s a Soleus 1.0 that does pretty much the same but without the option to upload to a PC, and that has a few decent reviews, so I was happy to take a look.

On the Garmin, there were reviews and opinions aplenty, including a whole slew talking about misted up screens, tricky connectors and customer service problems – I don’t normally pay too much attention to that sort of thing, figuring there are plenty picky people out there and I’m a fairly easy going chap, but the number of those reports was worrying me a bit.

With this valuable information in hand, I headed to Northern Runner in Newcastle, knowing that they stock both the Garmin and Soleus watches, with my bank card in hand and a glint in my eye.

Talking to the chap in the shop, it became clear that I’d pretty much nailed the options in that price range – there were Suunto watches and Timex watches, but not one with a GPS, which pretty much ruled them out for me (I also like looking at the maps from runs on Google Maps, it feels like more of an achievement). I checked my list against the watches, the Soleus doesn’t show altitude (though more on that later), and the 2.0 doesn’t have a heart rate monitor (the 3.0 does), but will download to my PC (which the ultra-reasonably-priced 1.0 doesn’t) so ticks 99% of my boxes. The Garmin comes with a Heart Rate Monitor, may or may not show altitude – the chap in the shop reckoned not. When I asked about the misted screen phenomenon, I was told that they had some customers who had reported that problem. In my mind, electronics and moisture do not mix, so it reinforced the choice I’d already made and I handed over my pennies for the Soleus 2.0.

(Picture from the Soleus website)

What do you get?

In the package there’s a watch, nice and compact you could wear it as a wristwatch without anyone noticing. It’s black, and mine has orange detailing – there’s a silver/gray detailing version available too. The strap works well, it’s comfortable to wear and the addition of a little nub to lock the strap in place is clever. There are six buttons on the watch, three to either side, and they’re easy to operate. That they’re placed up the side of the watch, towards the face rather than towards the back reduces the chances of you actually pressing them while moving around. The different Soleus watches have a motto printed on the back – the 2.0 says “Leave the passed behind” – it made me smile, which is never a bad thing with electronics.

You get the connector doo-hickey, which is a black bulldog clip with a USB cable on the end – the clip has four pins and a locating bar, which you have to line up with the four connectors on the back of the watch – it was a bit fiddly at first, but after two or three goes I got the knack, and I can’t see it causing any future problem.

There’s an instruction manual. For the multi-lingual, there’s loads of information – it just happens to be the same relatively light instructions in many different languages. It tells you how to charge the battery, how to set up the watch (very briefly, with no detail of what the sub-menus do or how they work), how to acquire a GPS signal, how to start/stop/save a run, how to customise your information, how to view your run data, how to download to a PC (not clear if it works with a Mac) and a cautionary note about water resistant not being the same as waterproof. If there’s one thing that lets the package down a little, then it’s the instructions; for me at any rate as I like to know what all the gubbins do before I do them. Saying which, I’ve since fired off a few e-mails to Soleus about various features and they have always responded stunningly quickly – longest response was still on the same day – that’s pretty fantastic return speed and they answered the query everytime in a helpful manner, so I’m much more comfortable knowing I can ask a question and get an answer, even though I’d prefer it right in front of me from the start, or clearly available on their site. If the instruction leaflet is a minus point, then their customer services are a double-plus. [EDIT 22/03/12 – there’s a 2.0 quick start guide on the web site that gives you instructions on the different functions]

Soleus’s website lists the main features as:

• GPS: high-sensitivity receiver
• Distance: current & total in Miles or Km
• Pace/Speed: current & average
• Interval Timers: set up to 5 individual timers
• Data Upload & Storage: USB pc upload and 100 lap memory
• Calories Burned: current & total Kcal burned
• Chrono: 1/100 second resolution
• Data Storage: 100-lap memory
• Water-Resistant: 3 ATM
• World Time: 106 cities covering all time zones
• Rechargeable Battery: USB rechargeable lithium-ion
• Weight= 2 ounces

Then what?

I was planning on a longer run this morning, and having my shiny new toy (and good weather), I decided to try out seven miles, using the watch for pace, time and distance. I also carried my iPhone with Runmeter chugging along in a pouch so I could compare the two afterwards.

GPS acquisition – it took maybe three minutes to acquire a signal. Not too bad; I may be a bit more bothered about it if we were back in the depths of winter. I read a suggestion elsewhere that you could always leave the watch on a windowsill before you go out and it will be ready to rock and roll. That sounds like a good plan. For reference, I live by the coast, so I start my run with in excess of 180 degrees of uninterupted horizon, and only low buildings around the rest of the circle. It’s shorter than my trekking Garmin etrex takes, so I’m not going to grizzle about it, and as it was I had the opportunity to look expectantly out to sea for a brief moment.

So, GPS acquired, start run. I think there is some smoothing of pace going on – and that’s a good thing. When it first started (and was not benefitting from the smoothing) there was randomness a-go-go, with the pace leaping about like a drunken lord. However, after a handful of seconds it settled down into a nice 9:40 pace and pretty much hovered there for the first mile. I don’t know if this happens on other watches or not (the starting randomness bit), but when I reviewed the GPS tracking on the map afterwards, it was all good, so no worries.

Seven miles later, and I’m back to where I started – the watch has measured my distance, given useful pace times and how long I’ve been running. You can customise the displays to show pace, speed, calories, clock, timer and distance. The fields are changed by using the View/Enter button, press to change the bottom field, press and hold to change the middle field. The top field shows the timer, and I don’t belive it can be changed. There’s a nightlight for night running, which is a pleasant indigo – I haven’t had to use it yet, but I suspect it will do well – it also has an auto light feature which I would guess is linked to the clock, so it will light up if you pass a mile (or km) at night. You can alter the contrast if you need a bit more easily visible display, I found the factory setting to be just fine.

To compare with Runmeter, eh? Well, I’m happy to report there was 0.03m miles in it over 7 miles, that’s a 0.04% difference, or essentially naff all. I should try a measured distance some time, but as a comparison my iPhone has pretty much nailed distances I’ve pre-measured on the map, so I figure the watch is also as spot-on as I could need.

Getting home, I downloaded the Soleus software from the website to download the data – it’s important to start the software, THEN connect the watch, otherwise the connection doesn’t work – simple thing to remember. I also found it easier to connect the cable to the watch, then plug it into a USB port. Once you’ve done that, a little window appears asking if you want to download data, and once you’ve done that, it asks if you want to delete the data from the watch. All good, but what about the software?

Well, it’s OK – it doesn’t make you coffee while it works, but it does the job – and I get the impression that it’s something that will have added functionality in time, remember, this is a new watch, so it’s early days. You have a few screens to choose from – the raw data (with an overview and the each-second data), lap times (the watch can auto lap at 0.4, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 miles – or km if you’re using km) or you can press the Start/Lap button to manually start a new lap,  and weekly and monthly roundups. There’s also a Google Map tab, that displays the map of a chosen run, very handy for me, and a print map tab. There are backup and restore tabs, a download tab and finally (and most excitingly) a MapMyRun tab. Using this MMR tab generates a TCX file of your run data that can be uploaded to MMR without all the messing about manually entering stuff.

For a stat-geek like me, the MMR link is heaven – I like to have everything in one place, be able to analyse it a shout about it, and generally log the life out of my activities. Remember I said I wanted altitude data? Well, MapMyRun provides this – I think from it’s own internal basemap, but what the heck, I get an accurate height map of my run, total ascent and a swanky grading system that tells me how many ascents of what grade I’ve done on my run. More than perfect. So, if you’re a trail runner, hill runner, fell runner, or you just live somewhere hilly, you can get that information from using a Soleus 2.0, via MapMyRun. Checking on a back-and-return run, it pretty much gives a mirror image, which is what I’d expect, and better than my iPhone used to give, with sudden leaps in height in peculiar place. I’m planning to take it out on more a significantly hilly run soon, and I’ll update with how it copes with that (and trees, just for good measure). The other good thing about MapMyRun is that you can generate a Google Earth 3D fly-by of your route. That’s got to be worth having, I reckon – I certainly enjoyed it.

Overall summary

The Soleus 2.0 is a cracking watch at a cracking price – I’m very glad I chose it. If you don’t care about uploading, get the 1.0. If you really want a heart-rate montor, get the 3.0. They seem to be based on the same chassis, with different extra bits enabled and the required peripherals (two-way data cable, HRM for the 3.0) included.

Positives:

  • Lightweight and low-profile. Looks neat on the wrist.
  • Accurate measurement.
  • Links to MapMyRun means altitude data can be seen.
  • Customer service is brilliant.
  • Great price.

Negatives:

  • The manual gives you the bare essentials to get going, it doesn’t give you the depth of all the features – maybe an in-depth article on the website would do the job?
  • The software is in its early days, but it does do the job, and I’m sure it’ll be a process of continuous improvement – the week/month summary doesn’t give the right figure at the moment, but Soleus tell me they’re aware of the issue and are working to resolve it. [EDIT – 26/03/12 : There’s a new version (v.1.0.4) that Soleus tells me solves the week/month issue. However, before you install it (if you’ve got an earlier version) BACKUP YOUR DATA – there’s nothing to tell you to do this, but installing the new version will wipe all your runs – I only lost a week or so’s worth, but I wouldn’t have liked to do this after a month or two… I’m hoping (‘cos I suggested it) that they put a message by the download to warn people to backup first, apparently my data would have been fine if I’d done that. Will update on whether the new version works once I’ve done another run… EDIT – 30/03/12 : New software v.1.0.4 seems to work just fine with the weekly and monthly data]

UPDATE: March 2013

Ok, I’ve had my Soleus for a little while now, and generally I’m quite pleased with it. It locks on relatively quickly, though sometimes has a bit of a fit and takes a few minutes. Best to stand still while it’s getting it’s bearings, and the more open the view of the sky, the better (as with any GPS).

I have been using it a bit less recently – I traded up to a Mac, and there’s no software to download on a Mac. If I want to upload my watch, I have to ferret out a netbook hiding somewhere in the house, charge it up, link to that, download the data, turn it into .TCX files and then upload to MapMyRun.  Just reading it you’ll get why I don’t do it that often.

On the plus side, the watch will charge up from the Mac’s USB port, which is helpful.

Soleus posted on Twitter that they were partnering with Strava and that it would be possible to upload from their watches directly to the site, therefore the Mac/PC issue would disappear. That was in February, and they reckoned it would be done by the end of the month. At 14th March, still no sign. I’m being charitable and assuming they meant end of March, but it’s coinciding with me thinking about getting into some heart rate training. That means either a Soleus 3.0 or another watch – could even go for a Garmin 110 and get that functionality. A question on Twitter asking if there was an update has been met with silence, so it looks like the 110 is winning at the moment.

Just to reiterate – I still like the 2.0 very much, I just find the faffing around to get it to work due to the lack of Mac compatability puts me off. Just had a look and found there are 11 runs on there, going back to January that I haven’t bothered to upload.

Road Runner (meep meep)

Posted: 21/03/2012 in Uncategorized

Another lovely morning, another time I managed to get up at 6am, and so another run – once again flouting my Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday rule. I think I’ve just instigated a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday  two-week cycle. As what now amounts to “marathon training”, I reckon that’s a decent start.

Just a short run this morning, about four miles, along to Tynemouth and back – I’m enjoying watching my pace as I run, and it’s interesting to watch as I flag about on the way back – that’ll be the stamina then, and something I need to work on ahead of the Kielder Marathon in October. Or, in fact, ahead of the Hadrian’s Wall Marathon in June.

What? I hadn’t told you? Well, I entered a half marathon trail run in June, on the theory that it would be good training heading towards October. Which is weird – previously, the thought of a half-marathon in June would have given me the heebie-jeebies, but now I’m seeing it as a stepping stone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still mildly bricking it at the thought of running 13.1 miles (currently topping out at a record 7 miles), but I reckon if I up my long run mileage by half a mile, or a mile a week, I should be there in plenty of time. Allegedly.

Got the arm-pendulum thing working again today, but again the moment I actually thought about it, it stopped working. It’s a funny thing, but I certainly noticed I was going faster while it was working that when I was just swinging my arms like a tired baboon.

My right leg iliotibial band is a bit snarky again, not much, but I may roll the bejeesus out of it tonight to try and fix it. Left hip is still playing up when I’ve run, reckon that one’s a watch-and-run-through affair, it’ll sort itself or drop off.

Interesting weather – I was wearing a long top over a tech tee, and I reckon I’d have been slightly nippy with just the tee, whilst I was a little warm with the long top on. Oh, decisions – it must be spring.

Stats:

  • Time: 38:21
  • Distance: 4.11 miles
  • Av. Pace: 9:19/mile (nice!)
  • Climb: 128 ft

I reckon the following should link you to:

The workout details

That’s the theory – if you click on the big map, then you can also get a snazzy 3D fly-by, very nice!

Next run is Friday, and I have a cunning plan, depending on what’s going on at work…

 

I don’t normally run on Mondays, not because I’ve got anything against them, unlike The Boomtown Rats, just that I’ve always run Tuesday, Thursday and either Saturday or Sunday.

However, the weather was looking nice this morning, I was feeling (mildly) energetic and there seemed little excuse. A word about my high-fallutin’ training programme, perhaps?

The Programme

See, it’s so good it’s gets capitals and bold – that’s a proper training programme right there.

As I’ve stupidly entered myself for the Kielder Marathon in October, I thought I’d better take this running lark a bit more seriously now – so I’m planning on a longer, slower run at the weekend, and maybe a bit of pushing my pace on shorter runs during the week. The idea being that this two-pronged approach will make me a leaner, meaner running machine. Apparently.

Today was faster run #1, and I set off, complete with my shiny Soleus 2.0 GPS watch – the review is coming, but enough to say I’m pretty chuffed with it – I can see my pace a marvel at how fast (or slow) I’m going at any given moment.

It was colder than I thought, and I suddenly doubted the sense of my shorts-and-vest combination – perhaps a long top would have made more sense – the Met Office fooled me with the promise of it being 12 degrees outside – think it was nearer freezing with the coastal wind-chill. Suffice to say I saw a few patches of frost on the route, so it can’t have been 12.

Straight off the blocks, and I was caning it at 8:40/mile – that’s some pretty fast speed, sportsfans. I usually tank around 9:50/mile, so it was “a bit of a push”, but could I keep it up for more than ten feet?

Well, yes, as it turned out, I ran a brisk sub-9 all the way up the Links and to the turn off to the lighthouse. It’s a bit of an incline, though only a gentle one there, and my pace dipped above the nine minute mile. I was also feeling a bit pooped, and my left hip was starting to ache. This is a new ache, only had it a couple of weeks, and it the post-run deep bone ache of my hip has invaded my sleep, working day and all the bits in between. I reckon, like all the other aches and pains, it will fade if I push through it, but there’s a niggling doubt in my mind that my whole leg might just grind to a halt.

It’s been interesting to notice that the aches and pains have gradually moved up my legs from the early days of shin splints, to the agony of wonky knee and the masochistic pleasure of treating my iliotibial band (it’s in the thigh) with a foam roller. I reckon after I get the hip sorted it’s pretty much run out of areas to inflame, unless it moves to my back – god don’t let it move to my back – I’ve been gloriously free of frequent back pain since I took up the crackers sport in November, and long may it remain so.

Back to the run, and I turned back along the cliff-tops, running a bit slower on the undulating grass of the mini golf course. Down the side of the stream, up a hill and onto the promenade that runs along the top of the beach. Quick breather and a drink here, and on I went, back up the hill at the dome and along the top path to the finish. Genius.

With the advent of the new watch, I’ve migrated from lovely, friendly Runmeter with it’s to-the-blog automated routes and stats, and now funnel my runs through MapMyRun, which I’m coming to terms with and am not sure how to set up so people can see. You don’t mind, do you? I pretty much run the same routes all the time, so it’s not like I’m innovating something special…

A word about arms

I realised today that rather than my usual lacklustre arm action, if I move ’em in a pendulum type affair in time with my legs, I go faster. That’s brill, but I also can’t do it while thinking about it, so it just has to happen. Once I realised it, I tried to synchronise my arms with my legs and nearly tied myself in a knot. Maybe I should try to synchronise my legs with my arms instead, but the ol’ legs seem to be getting the hang of running, so I don’t want to put ’em off. Felt right athletic, it did.

Stats:

  • Time: 31:54
  • Distance: 3.58 miles
  • Av. pace: 8:54 min/mile (woo-hoo, a sub nine average!)
  • Calories burned: 472 (howay, Runmeter would easily have reached 800 here – grr!)
  • Ascent: 95 ft

Post-run, and the ol’ hip is playing up – a bit of wonkiness in the knees, but I reckon it will all play out. Got me a plan for a longer trail run one day soon – watch and see…

Seven Mile Madness

Posted: 17/03/2012 in Uncategorized

In my seven-league boots…

Two things drove me out of the house this moring, one was the lovely (dare I say Spring-like) weather, and the other was the obsessive-gear-geek desire to try out my my new Soleus 2.0 GPS running watch. More on that later, and I’ll post a review of how the watch performed, and my views on how well it is going to fit into my running obsession, but for now back to the run.

After Thursday night’s fairly short night run, I figured I should be pretty well rested, so what to aim for? A bit of distance, I thought, as I am now officially in training for the Kielder Marathon in October. I’ve done six miles a few times, so it had to be longer than that – I’d had a quick look at eight miles and thought I might die, so seven seemed about reasonable. I could also do it without headphones to tell me when I’d covered 3.5 miles thanks to the watchy on my wristy, rather than the ol’ iPhone-in-my-pocket. Result, and if I took the iPhone along for the ride, I could compare the results of the two GPS units and see how close (or otherwise) they were.

Right, out of the house, down to the sea front and ready to go. Or not, the watch took a couple of minutes to lock onto the satellites, so I got to have a look at the sea and the marauding seagulls getting ready for a day of ice-cream nabbing. #beep# Signal acquired, so off we go. From a standing start I clicked both the phone and the watch on, and started.

In the great book of starting-your-run technique, I don’t think I’ll make it near the front, unless it’s as part of a cautionary tale of eating out at Wagamama the night before, or maybe drinking too much beer. Unsteady is frankly charitable as description. Rubbish is nearer the mark. Still, I’ve learned that if I can put up with looking like a hippo with shin splits for five minutes then all will come right.

The sun was out, the clouds were 89% fluffly and the breeze was like a zephy from the gods to cool my fevered brow. Shorts and vest are now the order of the day, though I need a better vest, the Karrimor one I’ve got has peculiar holes for the arms – maybe it’s my burgeoning musclature, or maybe it’s just odd holes, but they feel like they’re not quite big enough.

I tanked past the Dome, along to Panama Dip and noticed that I was apparently running a 9:40 mile. That’s pretty bloomin’ good for me, but I wasn’t going to let on in case it faded away. Up to the turn for the lighthouse and around the caravan park – bit of an incline here, and my calves were feeling the burn – a number of notes were passed up to my brain asking for the rest of the day off. Needless to say, they were dispensed straight to the waste-paper-basket of faint memory, and on I plodded.

Up to the roundabout at the entrance to Seaton Sluice, and I’d fooled myself (and my calves) by telling them I could cut down my usual route back along the headland and all would be Easy Street. Not so, and with a maniacal cackle that frightened a dog walker, I headed into Seaton Sluice. I’d never noticed that the entrance to Seaton Sluice is a high point, and that (no pun intended) it’s all downhill from there. I noted it now, in the manner of someone currently running down the hill, in a casual, almost airy fashion.

Turn off the main drag and along the top of the cliffs – noticed a pillar just off the coast – must come back with camera at some point, then on along the road. Got to the end, and realised I was at 3.4 miles, not time to turn back yet, or I’d miss my 7 mile goal, so I headed off on the headland towards the pub and then off onto the trail. At this point, I was rapidly running out of land, and just made 3.5 miles before I would have plunged into the sea to my actual death. Result there, then.

Turn around.

The sad truth of downhill on circuits hit me at this point – I was going to have to run the 3/4 mile uphill incline to get back to the roundabout – hadn’t really thought about it before, but I did now. Well, there’s nothing for it, as the only option would be to get the bus, but I had no money, and with the Kielder Marathon beckoning I thought it would be best to avoid that kind of controversy from the start.

Phew, back out of Seaton Sluice (no offence Seaton Sluice, you’re alright in the sun) and down to the headland by the Lighthouse. A little bit of a trail, lord know I love a bit of a trail, and then back onto the cliffs above the beach at Whitley Bay. This is my proper home turf (literally), and I carved along there like a majestic but chronically scuppered galleon. Down onto the promenade and past Panama Dip and the skate park, along to the end and up to the Dome from the cafe at the beach. I’m essentially done here, 6.4 miles in the bag, and just a gentle jog along the path to get back to where I started.

Just for a bit of a distraction, I started worrying about running into the sun for the last half hour – was I burning? My face felt quite hot, but that’s as likely just the running. Post-run investigations show that I’m not red like a tomato, but I’m also not bone-white like an Englishman either. Another result.

Right, seven miles down, and I stop (which is weird, I usually stumble about, I’m not used to actually stopping) to finish the run on both the phone and the watch to avoid messing up the distance comparison.

Now for the stumbling, back home, drinking chia like it’s god’s own pint and smiling like a buffoon.

The watch? I’ll talk more about it when I review, but it worked really well – very happy with my purchase… even sorted out my one gripe with it, but I’ll save that for the review.