Archive for June, 2015

So you probably thought I’d given up when I reached ‘b’ for ‘biscuits’ in the search for things to eat while running unfeasibly long distances and trying not to have unbelievably bad stomachs, puking or well, let’s not go any further gentle reader, eh?..

But no, in the interest of being of service to every other half-arsed vegan ultra-runner who could never get a plan together either, I’ve been out again.

This time I went a bit more refined, a bit more cultured. I went for the exotic far eastern food-belt-delivered heaven that is sushi. As a vegan, I stay away from the fishy variety, the meaty variety, the eggy variety and any of the others than have mayonnaise.  Fair play when you’re making it yourself (and I can, after a fashion – though my sushi rolls tend to look more like a big green carrots, rather than the perfect cylindrical masterpieces you see on the conveyor), but a problem in most sushi places.

We sometimes go to Yo! Sushi (or is it Yo Sushi! – the grammar is too confusing) and I tend to have cucumber maki. If you’re not familiar with the types of sushi (hi mum!) then this is the fella we’re talking about:


What you’re looking at there is this; a thin strip of cucumber in there middle (with a few daring sesame seeds, why not), surrounded by lovely sticky sushi rice, all encased in a fabulous carry-all tube of sushi nori, which is seaweed if you want to get technical about it. [Which reminds me of a joke, why did the octopus come on to shore? Because the sea weed. Thank you very much, I’m here all night.]

I know you’re all crazy statistic-fans, so here’s the run down on the numbers:

  • Calories: 93 kCal per serving (six of the tiny morsels of fun)
  • Fat: <0.5g
  • Saturates: <0.1g
  • Sugar: 3.3g
  • Salt: 0.67g

I have no idea if they’re good or bad numbers – Yo! Sushi label them all as “low” apart from the salt which is “medium”. From a running perspective I’m thinking they’re about as good as a gel maybe?

They’re easy to transport, as the seaweed holds them together pretty well, a quick dash of soy sauce and they’re ready to go. I’m not sure they’d hold up to repeated jolting around in a bag, it worked OK tonight, but I only went a few miles…

They’re tasty – honesty, I ran six miles, ate them then ran back. They’re nice at the best of times, but not exactly the strongest of taste. However, after six miles they’re bloody lovely – just about perfect on the “restart the taste-buds, Captain” front. The little salty hit from the soy sauce is nice too.

They go down well, they stay down well. Both of which are pretty vital. There were no particular or peculiar side effects.

In short, I plan to use ’em! I reckon they’re more of a drop-bag snack, something to whip out and eat when you take a minute. I don’t plan to have wasabi with them (it’s like ultra-hot horseradish) as I think this would tempt fate a little much. Pickled ginger I’m not so sure about, it is an adaptogen after all, and that might be handy, eh?

I’m also secretly hoping to start a trend to more refined dining at drop stations – you never know, it may catch on and one day you might see a swan carved out of ice, on a dining table, surrounded with high-backed chairs and a silver-service. You never know.


Right, so, here’s the thing…

You know all those things you’re not supposed to do with shoes? Like get a new pair just before a race, significantly change the profile of the sole, anything that will affect your running form. You know, those things? 

Occasionally you hear tales of woe of people who’ve tried it – blisters, sore knees, legs flying off mid-race, you know. Chafing, even.

Well, I think I’m about to join that queue of idiots, and her’s why… (Sort of).

Back in the mists of 2012, before I’d been running for a full year, I hurt my knee. It was (thinking back) probably just an overuse thing, combined with a bit more bulk than now. At the time, it felt like a big deal. I nearly went to see a podiatrist about it, but my doctor got in there first and gave me the sage advice that has stood me in good advice all these years later, “really go for it”.

At about the same time, I discovered minimal shoes and slowly transitioned into using them.

The knee got better, the running continued, and to this day I almost exclusively run in minimal shoes, namely Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail shoes. These beauties:


Doesn’t matter if it’s road, trail or fell, Parkrun or ultra marathon, these have done the job. On longer runs I get sore feet, which is the downside, and sometimes a bit of joint pain after lots of road or shingle.

Last week, I won the monthly shoe giveaway at my local Parkrun. I was amazed, and very, very pleased. But what to do – the voucher was for Sweatshop and so I needed to pick from their range – they don’t see Vivos, and the shop seems to be full of Nike and Karrimor all of a sudden, neither of which are really up my street.

A bit of checking, and they do sell a few Salomon shoes, including a few trail shoes. I’ve always liked the idea of their shoes, but they’re too expensive and too waffle-icious for me. But for free???

I went down to the shop, I also had a mild worry in my mind that if I didn’t act quickly, then the ace Gibside Parkrun team might decide there was someone else more deserving. I had a look at the shoes. I tried a couple of shoes. I had a bit plod on the treadmill. I felt for the position of my big toe, I tried a size larger. I fended off some minor-league upselling. I decided that I still thought Gore-Tex in a shoe is a silly idea when you end up in puddles and streams. I bought these.

I also bought some shorts, because I felt mildly embarrassed to get a £100 pair of shoes without producing my wallet. They didn’t have any of the ridiculously coloured ones in my size so I had to get black.

They’re like marshmallows to my feet, used to barely a sliver of rubber between me and the ground. I can feel the  drop from the heel to the toe, which is an odd sensation.

However, I’ve had them out a couple of times now, one average six-mile jaunt and one three-mile Parkrun dash. And they’re canny. No additional pains, less foot soreness. The only downside to date, other than I notice my Achilles’ tendon more simply because it’s not fighting against other aches. Which might be just what I need with a 65 mile run in a fortnight, something to cushion the feet a little?

But it’s a risk – it could go wrong, my leg might fall off, I could end up running in circles. Who knows? 

So I’m planning to get a slightly longer run in before then and that will be the clincher – if they still feel good then I’ll be doing the St Cuthberts Way Ultra in them, if not then I’ll stick to the Vivos and the sore toes.

Fingers (and toes) crossed, eh?

Blaydon Race 2015

Posted: 28/06/2015 in Uncategorized

The used to advertise McEwan’s Best Scotch as ‘The One You’ve Got To Come Home For’ in the North East. I used to like a bit of McEwan’s Best Scotch, though to be honest I probably liked Exhibition Ale a little better, or Newcastle Amber Ale (as opposed to Brown Ale).

The Blaydon Race is a bit like that, only not at all. It’s the one race I’ve run every year since I started running, it’s one of the only road races I’ll always try to enter. What other race has dancing and singing at the start, bands along the route and then pickled onions and beer at the end (and tripe and black pudding if that’s your bag).

There are many philosophical questions around the Blaydon Race – what colour will the commemorative t-shirt be (fingers crossed not day-glo again like in 2013)? What will serial run-streaker Lord Smythe be wearing (caveman this year – think it was a jockey last year and cupid the year before – no, cupid, I didn’t mis-type that)? Will rain make the sandwiches at the end soggy?

It was proper cracking weather, a bit of sun, but not outrageous. A couple of trips to the loo, then down the Bigg Market and past Balmbras. Into the club runners pen opposite the Cathedral and wait for the start. There was a minor delay – someone further down the course was getting medical attention, so much more important than hitting a clock.

Then we’re off!

The start of the Blaydon Race is amazing – running through the streets of Newcastle with hundreds of other people is something else. You probably need to try it – the nearest I can get to it is if you’ve ever been on a march or parade.

I felt like I was doing pretty good, after a mile there seemed to still be a lot of club runners around me. Two miles and heading along the Scotswood Road and still the same story.

It always surprises me the number of people who come out to watch and support the race – there isn’t much of the course that doesn’t have folk cheering, shouting and high-fiving. 

At the end of Scotswood Road, over the bridge and the new route along the dual carriageway instead of through the industrial estate. Once again, you never know how hilly a bit of road is until you run on it, and this bit was a harder slog thanI’d thought.

Then the run along Chain Bridge Road and into the finish – I looked at the clock and figured it must be wrong – it looked like I was under 45 minutes after last year’s 48 minute speed-fest. I got my t-shirt and picked up a pickled onion and back to the car – my phone already had a results message 42:37 – flippin ‘eck!

I have no idea how I can live up to that next year… 😬